Average per-pupil supplies funding less than $50

Published 8:00 pm Thursday, September 14, 2017

Psst … can I borrow a pencil?

Borrowing, not buying, school supplies seems to be a more plausible avenue today, and what’s not borrowed is either donated or done without. Educators face the prospect of providing more services with fewer resources, and the 2017-18 school year is no different.

For years, per-pupil spending in North Carolina, as well as education spending in general, has been on the decline. In some counties this year, teachers’ use of supplies must be “approved” first, and everything down to copy paper is regulated and rationed.

“We’re going to be working with the General Assembly over the next few years to focus on the return on investment,” state Superintendent Mark Johnson told The Associated Press. “More of the same year after year has not provided the results we need for our students.”

In Beaufort County, schools are allotted funds for “classroom materials and instructional supplies” from two sources — state and local money, according to Beaufort County Schools Finance Director Willie Carawan. This does not include the per-pupil spending for Exceptional Children programs allotted by the federal-level Title I program.

Beaufort County’s state-level funding for materials and supplies comes out of a PRC-61. A PRC, or program report code, is essentially a funding plan for a particular objective, in this case classroom supplies.

Carawan said the three-year average of the state’s per-pupil funding of classroom supplies for Beaufort County is $18.36. In this year’s budget, Beaufort County Schools has it listed at an estimated $20.

School officials must compile a budget often before state funding is put in place, and before student enrollment numbers are in. Officials use the three-year averages to estimate what funding will likely be secured.

At the local level, the three-year average is $28.82 per student for supplies. The school district budgeted $23 per student this year from this pot of money, according to Carawan. Because enrollment numbers are not finalized, and the district’s enrollment has trended downward for multiple years, Carawan said he initially budgeted for well below the average.

“Until we get everything in with the state allotments, I held back a little bit of money,” Carawan explained.

As of now, between the state and local sources of money, Beaufort County Schools estimated and budgeted $43 per student this school year.

Such a tight budget inevitably trickles down from the state level, to local government, and eventually to individual educators. Every year in Beaufort County, teachers spend money out of pocket to provide needed classroom supplies. Some even recently held fundraisers to purchase items.

“They spend so much money out of their own pocket, and we have a small budget to give them for supplies,” John Small Elementary School Principal Kelly Makepeace said in a previous interview. “Even a box of Kleenex means the world to teachers at this point in the year because they have come out of pocket hundreds and hundreds of dollars.”