BTC REPORTS: What Does a Sound Basic Education Cost? It is Time to Find Out

April 10, 2008
By Stephen Jackson

Executive Summary

  • The gap in achievement between white and minority children, the higher dropout rates of minorities, and the prevalence of poorer-quality teachers in high-poverty and high-minority schools are clear evidence that North Carolina is not providing all children with a sound and basic education, as required under the state’s constitution.
  • The state has undertaken a number of initiatives in recent years to address these problems, including lowering class sizes in early grades, increasing availability of high-quality preschool programs, and targeting a small amount of additional resources to schools in low-wealth counties and to those with higher concentrations of disadvantaged students.
  • One important step that the state has not taken, however, is to review how resources are distributed to schools to determine if adequate resources are reaching the students most in need. This is a step that 39 states have used as a means of informing and guiding their education reform efforts.
  • North Carolina distributes resources to schools based on an archaic and overly-complicated system of funding formulas. The state is now looking to overhaul these formulas, but to do so in the absence of a comprehensive review of what is required to provide a sound, basic education to all children involves too much guesswork.
  • A comprehensive study that encourages widespread community and professional input should be conducted as soon as possible to establish what is required in terms of educational programs and methods, resources and staffing to provide every child in North Carolina with a sound, basic education.
  • Other states’ experiences with such studies suggest that a study is best initiated by the courts or a state entity, preferably the legislature, in order for the study’s recommendations to be implemented.
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