North Carolina

Fair school funding systems ensure that districts, schools, and ultimately students receive significant additional funding according to their specific needs. Providing high-quality learning opportunities for students living in poverty, English learners, students with disabilities, and rural students requires additional resources.

According to The Education Trust’s State of Funding Equity, in North Carolina:

  • The highest poverty districts receive $615 or 6.4% more state and local revenue than the lowest poverty districts.
  • The districts serving the most students of color receive $1,106 or 10% less state and local revenue per student than the districts serving the fewest students of color.
  • The districts serving the most English learners receive $575 or 5.6% less state and local revenue per student than the districts serving the fewest English learners.

For more information about how these data compare with other states or district specific information, see The Education Trust’s State of Funding Equity report.

Learn more about
how North Carolina
funds students

According to EdBuild, “North Carolina has a hybrid funding formula incorporating both resource-based calculations and extensive program-based allocations. It determines the cost of delivering education in a district based on the cost of the resources, such as staff salaries and course materials, required to do so. It also allocates funding for a large number of programs and services for specific categories of students. The categories of students considered in North Carolina’s funding policy are students in specific grade levels, English-language learners, students in high-poverty districts, students with disabilities, students identified as gifted, students enrolled in career and technical education (CTE) programs, and students enrolled in small schools and districts.”

The Education Law Center’s 2023 Making the Grade Report rated North Carolina’s school funding:

  • F on per-pupil funding relative to the national average.
  • B on the percentage difference in per-pupil funding in high-poverty districts relative to low-poverty districts.
  • F on the PK-12 funding as a percentage of state GDP.

North Carolina

Student Enrollment by Race/Ethnicity, 2021-22

Per-Pupil Expenditures, Fiscal Year 2021


North Carolina


Per-Pupil Expenditures

How fair is North
Carolina’s Funding?

Using criteria developed based on research, best practice, and what we believe, we provide ratings for North Carolina’s school funding formula below. Our goal is for states to build a simplified, student-weighted funding formula guided by students’ different levels of need with the goals of eliminating achievement and opportunity gaps. We aim for states to create adequate, equitable, and transparent formulas that provide clear dollar allocations by assigning additional “weights” for students from low-income families, English learners, students with disabilities, and rural students.

For more on how we determined our ratings for North Carolina click here.

See our ratings across states, an explanation of the criteria we used to differentiate between state funding systems, and explanations of our specific state rankings here.

Meets Criteria
Partially Meets Criteria
Doesn’t Meet Criteria
RatingReason for Rating
The funding formula is
student-based, or weighted
The formula is resource-based
Per-pupil funding is adequate enough for all students to achieve average, national test scores
There is high percentage of students attending schools in inadequately funded districts
Formula includes a weight or additional funding for students living in poverty
The formula provides additional dollars to district based on district poverty levels, rather than funding based on individual students living in poverty
Formula includes a weight or additional funding for
English learners
The formula caps funding at 10.6% of the average daily membership, instead of being based on learning needs of students
Formula includes a weight or additional funding for students
with disabilities
The formula includes a flat funding amount and does not differentiate between disability, and it caps how many students are counted as needing SPED services
Formula includes a weight or additional funding for sparse and/or isolated districts
The formula provides increased funding for small school districts based on teacher salaries and a tiered allocation for eligible districts, instead of providing a per-student weight
Formula includes weights or additional funding for districts with high levels of concentrated poverty
The formula includes a weight for concentrated poverty and specfically supports districts w/ lower than average ability to raise local revenues
State caps how much local revenue districts can raise to limit between-district disparities in local revenue
The formula does not set a limit for how much local revenue districts can raise
State annually publishes information about how the funding system is designed to work in clear, plain language
The state education department publishes a manual that explains its policy for allocating allotments but it is not user friendly
State reports school spending data in alignment with equity-oriented principles
The state reports are not aligned with equity-oriented school spending reporting principles
Taxpayer funds are used to maintain and support public
schools exclusively
The state recently adopted a universal voucher program that open to all K-12 students
Sources: EdBuild

Who’s Who

in North Carolina

The North Carolina General Assembly is the state legislature of North Carolina. The bicameral body is composed of the State House of Representatives with 120 members and the State Senate has 50 members. The House has separate standing committees on K-12 education, community colleges, and universities. The Senate has one standing committee on both Education and Higher Education. In 2024, the legislature will convene April 24, 2024 and adjourn no later than July 31, 2024.

State Superintendent of Education
The North Carolina State Superintendent of Public Instruction is the elected head of the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction. The Superintendent of Public Instruction oversees the department and the PK-12 public schools of North Carolina. The Superintendent is a member of the State Board of Education and the North Carolina Council of State.

State Board of Education
The North Carolina State Board of Education sets policy for public school systems in North Carolina. The State Board is composed of 13 members including the Lieutenant Governor, the Treasurer, and 11 members appointed by the governor. Appointed members serve eight-year terms representing the state’s eight education districts. The Superintendent of Public Instruction serves as the Secretary and Chief Administrative Officer of the board.