RALEIGH (April 26, 2024) – What would it take to create a state school system where every student from any background or circumstance can access the educational opportunities that prepare them to thrive economically and socially in college, career, and life? How much would such a system cost if it could offer the resources and programs needed to help students overcome the challenges they face inside and outside of schools?

A new report focusing on North Carolina seeks to answer these questions.

The North Carolina Justice Center, University of Colorado Boulder School of Education’s Place-Based Partnerships, and the National Education Policy Center’s report, “Pursuing an ‘Every Child Thrives’ Public School System in North Carolina,” presents a set of 12 recommendations for North Carolina’s public schools to provide an equitable education for all students.

Drawing upon research and recommendations from a panel of North Carolina education experts and stakeholders, the report recommends:

– A well-prepared, high-quality, and supported teacher in every classroom

– A well-prepared, high-quality, and supported principal in every school

– A finance system that provides adequate, equitable, and efficient resources

– A reliable and reasonable assessment and accountability system

– Full support to low-performing schools and districts

– Equitable and high-quality pre-kindergarten and early childhood learning systems

– Alignment of high school to postsecondary and career expectations for all students

– A strong system of supports for special education

– An empowering system of supports for linguistically diverse learners

– A strong system of wraparound supports and community partnerships

– A robust and multifaceted family engagement system

– A positive school climate and system of behavior supports in every school

Starting with an analysis of North Carolina’s public schools, the report finds that the cost of true educational opportunity in the state would be $36.6 billion to $43.4 billion annually. This funding would move the per-pupil spending from one of the worst in the U.S. (approximately $11,300), to one of the best—at roughly $23,600 to $28,000 per pupil.

“This report shows what the educational resources and opportunities would look like for North Carolina’s families if the state put forth an aspirational vision of what our children deserve,” said Matt Ellinwood, Director of the Education & Law Project at the North Carolina Justice Center. “Unfortunately, the state has chosen to defund public education, prioritize funding for wealthy families with children in private school, and ignore the minimum constitutional standards set forth in the Leandro Plan.”

The North Carolina study is part of a larger project called “The Price of Opportunity” that looks at the role of politics in creating and perpetuating racialized poverty and concentrated poverty. The report posits that politicians sometimes talk of schools as the “great equalizer” for young people but have never provided the necessary resources to accomplish this goal. In addition, the report explores how experiencing poverty inflicts severe harms on the nation’s children and creates a situation where school funding must cover the cost of mitigating these harms. In the case of North Carolina, double the current level of funding would be needed to address the impacts.

Read the full report.