In April 2023, one of the most important bills of the legislative session was released with little response from the media. Sponsored by three powerful Republican budget writers, S670 would radically overhaul North Carolina’s school funding system. The North Carolina Justice Center has produced a brief explaining why this bill is harmful to North Carolina’s students, increasing the already vast gap in equity.
The bill would replace the state’s current system of funding allotments—sometimes referred to as a “resource allocation funding model”—with what’s known as a weighted student model. Unfortunately, this shift will do little to address the challenges our schools are facing. If anything, it will make things worse.
- S670 would radically overhaul North Carolina’s school funding system from a resource allocation model to a weighted student model
- The new changes fail to address North Carolina’s biggest challenge: a lack of adequate funding
- The proposed system worsens funding equity by generally shifting funding out of small, rural districts and into urban districts
- The plan is less equitable for Black students, economically-disadvantaged students, and students with disabilities
- North Carolina students would be much better served if lawmakers instead implemented the research-based and community-supported Leandro Comprehensive Remedial Plan
The Right Way to Create a Weighted Student Model
S670 was formulated behind closed doors with no public input. It is unclear how the bill sponsors decided on formula weights. But the resulting formula bears almost no relation to the cost factors necessary to ensure that all students have an equal opportunity to meet state academic goals. There are well established methods for developing a weighted student formula that the authors of S670 are apparently unaware of. Developing a reasonable weighted model requires three steps:
- Determine cost factors: Policymakers should first identify the student and district characteristics that affect the costs of providing every student with equal opportunity for academic success. S670 identifies a few of these factors (economic disadvantage, disability, English proficiency, district size), but ignores other important factors (e.g., county tax capacity, concentration of poverty, homelessness/student mobility).
- Estimate necessary spending levels: Statistical models can then be used to estimate the amount of spending necessary for each district to meet state academic goals by analyzing the relationship between cost factors, spending, and student academic outcomes.
- Determine weights: Based on the statistical analysis, determine the appropriate weights that provide each district with the resources necessary for all students to have an equal opportunity to meet state academic goals.