A strong democracy requires fully funded public schools.  What would fully funded North Carolina public schools for learners in grades PreK-12 look like? 

According to the North Carolina Association of Educators, this includes funding to hire additional school counselors, nurses, social workers and psychologists to support the mental and physical health of students; reduction of meal debt and universal access to breakfast and lunch for all of North Carolina’s students; and robust pay raises for public school employees as years of salary loss have long left educators under-compensated. In order to achieve this end, the combined local, state, and federal per pupil spending amount required is $15,000. 

While some in our state sing the praises of “school choice,” claiming that private schools and charter schools provide a better education, studies by notable sources such as the Fordham and the Brookings Institutes show that “traditional public schools in North Carolina continue to provide larger annual academic gains for their students than charter schools.” Also, charter schools and private schools remove sorely-needed funds from public school budgets. For instance, if a parent decides to remove a child from a charter or private school and return to public school after the school year starts, that student’s funding does not follow them to the public school.

It is important that schools include mental and physical healthcare professionals on staff.  Some learners come to school from home environments where they experience hunger, physical abuse, or face other traumatic life events.  Public schools can offer support to these children, but they need personnel in order to do it.

Teachers’ salaries have been stagnant for years and many teachers are leaving the profession for better paying jobs. While legislators claim North Carolina does not have the funds to provide teachers a 10% salary increase, they ignore the surplus in the state budget, funnel funds into school vouchers, and refuse to honor the state Constitution which promises our children a right to a free and fair public education. North Carolina’s leaders have shirked their responsibility to support the state’s students and educators far too long, and the potential cost of their inaction is daunting. For the second year in a row, CNBC identified North Carolina as “America’s Top State for Business,” citing North Carolina’s educated workforce as one of the state’s winning data points. Strong and vibrant public schools ensure the “Old North State” remains business-friendly and competitive on the world stage. The time for fully funded public schools is now!

Karen Puckett