No new ideas on school equity

The Chapel Hill Herald reports that yet another joint meeting of our local school boards and commissioners passed without any signficant agreements about how to proceed with equalizing school funding. Is it even possible that some progress can be made on this issue during this heated budget season?

After Orange County Schools (OCS) district residents voted down the idea of a district tax, the OCS board went ahead and asked for a 19% budget increase. The Chapel Hill-Carrboro City School board isn't going easy on the commissioners (or taxpayers) either, asking for a 10% increase and as a kicker requested that if necessary 100% of it come from their local district tax. The county manager's going away present is recommending a 11.29 cent tax-increase, but as usual the school districts both say it wouldn't fully fund their needs. Meanwhile, the commissioners and OCS are fighting over who should pay for the new OCS middle school and enhancements to existing schools.

Will we ever make progress on this issue? I don't want to open up a new thread that rehashes the same old arguments about merger/equity/district taxes/etc., but I'd love to hear from anyone who sees a way through this mess. The budget hearings are May 30 and June 1, and I'm hoping that some citizens will have some ideas that might push our representatives to make a clear move.



Hi Graig,

The recording of the School Funding/Taxation Work Group meeting yesterday is available on

In that meeting, it became clear that reducing funding differences still comes down to: 1) Where the money would come from - by current law practically all of the taxation to alleviate the funding differences will come from OCS. 2) If it is to come from OCS, then does the political will exist to levy such a tax?

The Work Group came up with no new solutions, though they did have some useful discussions, particularly about upcoming capital challenges.

Most of the increase request by CHCCS appears to be directly attributed to the state-driven increase in teacher salaries and the opening of the new high school, as well as increased energy costs.

Let's be clear that in several meetings I have attended or listened to via podcast, CHCCS has made it perfectly clear that they would prefer the budget be funded by the ad valorem, but have requested the district tax to leave that option open if the commissioners need to exercise that option for some of the funding. I think that it is the CHCCS BOE's job to give the commissioner all available options and it is up to the BOCC to decide if the political will exists to change the status quo.

Also, I don't think the increase stated in the cited N&O article is the final one. The final budget proposal (still can be tweaked by the BOCC) is to be released tomorrow night at 7:30pm.

I am reading John Link's comments that there are severe budget increase pressures this year that makes this a hard year to work on the differences (but when is?).


I think it's great that the discussion seems to have moved past the rhetoric and the search for silver bullets. There is open realization and honest discussion that any additional funding has to come from OCS residents, and that it's ultimately up to them how they want to spend their money. That's the path toward progress.

How do lottery funds play into our local school budgets, or do they?

Under the lottery legislation,100 percent of the net proceeds of the North Carolina Education Lottery goes to education programs. The overall use of each lottery dollar as assigned in the lottery legislation is broken down below. The General Assembly estimates that $425 million will be produced by the Education Lottery for education purposes in the 2006-07 fiscal year.

The net proceeds of education flow as follows:

* 5 percent goes to the Education Lottery Reserve Fund to be used when lottery proceeds fall short of target. The Reserve Fund may not exceed $50 million.

The Commission shall distribute the remaining net revenue of the Education Lottery Fund

in the following manner:

* 50 percent of the total remainder shall be used for reduction of class size ratios in early grades to 18 children per teacher and for prekindergarten programs for at-risk four year olds who would not otherwise be served in high-quality settings.
* 40 percent of the total remainder shall be used for school construction. Roughly 65 percent of this total shall be distributed to each county based on total school enrollment. The remaining 35 percent of this total shall be distributed to each county with average effective county property tax rates above the state average based on total school enrollment.
* 10 percent of the total remainder shall be used for college scholarships for students who qualify for the federal Pell Grant. These scholarships can be used at North Carolina public and private universities and community colleges.

Vaunted goals.

By the way, I have a bridge, priced dirt cheap, if anyone is interested.

The Chapel Hill Herald and N&O report today that the county manager is recommending a 7-cent increase in the ad valorem tax with no increase in the CHCCS district tax. Lottery revenues keep the tax 2 cents lower than it would have been. The schools would get a $161 per pupil increase, which covers mandatory increases only. The OCS budget would be underfunded by $4.1 million and the CHCCS budget by $1.8 million.

Interestingly, he also recommended setting aside an additional $800,000 that could be used for "fair funding" initiatives such as funding school resource officers, social workers, or nurses. Although this idea has been floating around for a while, I hadn't seen a $ amount attached to it before.

I'm not sure how I feel about this set-aside. I'd like to know more specifics about what it would fund. Why not just send the funds to the districts and let them figure out how to use it? Maybe because it will provide the political cover of doing something about funding equity while continuing to underfund both district's budget requests.

I'm more impressed by Link's recommendation to stand firm on the CHCCS district tax. That may keep school board members and the public from arguing about whether the district tax hurts OCS or not. A positive consequence may be deeper conversation about what each district really needs and how to meet those needs.

I took notes of the meeting tonight and placed them on a post in Squeeze The Pulp (for the record, I don't live in Carrboro and am thus not a disgruntled annexee, so the generalization made on another thread is not supported for all individuals)

How do lottery funds play into our local school budgets, or do they?

OC is planning on getting $2.4M to apply to debt service of schools started after Jan 2003 and for future school construction, per state law.

The lottery money does NOT affect the operating budgets (based on discussion tonight at the budget presentation).

Mark, did they have the figures for how much money is freed up from not paying the debt service?

The gap in funding for both schools points to the weakness of over reliance upon the residential tax base. Where the revenue comes from to pay for the schools along with the other budget pressures, such as medicaid and mental health funding are slowly coming to collide in Orange County. The assumption that the community can rely upon a structure where only 14% of the general fund revenues come from retail is misplaced and dangerous at best.


I really wish our elected leaders would realize we don't want a school merger. And rural voters have already stated they don't want more taxes.

OCS is a *good* school system. Look around our state. We're not lagging behind. I really wish everyone would stop insinuating that it's Deliverance outside of the town limits. It's led to my peers at UNC calling me the town literate -- not an accurate picture when OCS are better than many of those own people's school systems.

So what do we know?
1) Chapel Hillians don't want to water down their tax money with a merger.
2) County residents don't want a Chapel Hill dominated school system. It's the only thing in the county we have a say in.
3) County residents don't want to have to sell their homes like recent annexees in Carrboro to pay their taxes.

I'll let y'all come to the natural conclusion -- one the BOCC and crew have ignored.

I've heard horror stories about the pressures kids face at CHCSS high schools. Sounds like too many overworked, overly competitive, overly cliquish kids for my taste. I'm sort of dreading high school for my kids already. So if I were in the Orange Cty system I'd probably be trying to keep my system in order to keep the mental health of my children.

Chris, you make a lot of generalizations. In particular, that's the first I've heard of people in the annexed area selling their homes b/c of the taxes. There's been enough controversy on the annexatin that it seems appropriate for you to back up that statement or say that you don't know it to be accurate.

Chris is also confident that Jame Daniel is going to get elected to the County Commissioners and asserted on the ESP Show last week that Fred Battle's people would be supporting him in the general election. Fred went to lunch with Jamie as a courtesy, as I'm sure he would go to lunch with anyone, but he is not endorsing Jamie nor telling his people to.

So take it with a grain of salt...

I have seen no evidence that the county as a whole is opposed to merger (or any of the other things that Chris "knows"). Recent elections indicate ambivalence at best.

There has been no referendum on merger, however it is pretty obvious to many that a clear majority oppose merger.

That isn't at all clear to me, Mark.

Where does merger fit in? I didn't think it was part of the current equity discussion.

Short of a major change in how we fund schools- based on income or funding state wide or some other state initiated change- we will continue to need more money for schools. We could change our expectations for the schools and reduce the number of programs or somehow significantly reduce expenses.

Under the current system, more economic development would help generate more money for the county. How much development would be needed and how much are people willing to tolerate?

I agree with Mark Peters on the merger issue. If the BOCC thought a merger referendum would pass it would have been on the ballot by not.

My comments were not in support or in favor of merger. They were only mentioned to highlight an ever growing problem in the county, a lot of needs, and an a pie of revenue that may be slightly increasing or not at all. That pie is produced by the residential tax base. I am not advocating the recruitment of pollution causing industry either. What I do want to see is a focused long term plan for increasing the commercial tax base.
The schools are just one area where more revenue is needed. There are human resource issues that are going to come to the forefront as more of our population ages. Many sections of the county need community centers and libraries and or both. Merger is not going to solve those pressing needs.

Hey Joan, how about merging of other departments or agencies outside the schools? Libraries and recreation for example. I am open to hearing the pros and cons.

I do agree that the commerical tax base has to grow but I see little to no leadership from our elected folks in that direction. I shop outside of Orange County and the reason is because I work in Durham and my traffic patterns do not cross many Ornage County businesses. Plus with the price of gas I try to combine my trips to town.

Speaking of school equity, is this situation as described in today's Herald-Sun article.

Parents from FPG, however, didn't much like that idea.(moving students from Scroggs to FPG)

They came out in droves to tell the school board the move would lower the socioeconomic status of the student population of the school, putting a toll on teachers, staff and resources. The school already has more than enough students who are on free and reduced lunches, they said, taking up teachers' time, taxing the school social worker and nurse and making it difficult for the school to perform well on state mandated tests, parents told the school board earlier this week.

"Frank Porter Graham is united in that most parents, teachers, staff don't want that school redistricted," said Alex Duncan, a parent of a kindergartner, during the school board meeting. "[The staff] are not only concerned about the challenges of having a lower socioeconomic average to work with. They are gravely concerned about their at-risk children."

Doesn't sound very good for the FPG parents. I understand having to pass the state mandated tests, but specifically saying you don't want students because they will be "lower" socioeconomically?

That isn't what they said Robert. They said their school is already struggling because of their high number of economically disadvantaged (ED) students. According to the most current NC Report Card,, FPG tested 265 students, 85 of whom were ED (32%). Scroggs, the school with the overcrowding--just around the corner, tested 322 students, 45 of whom were ED (14%). The number of ED students assigned to FPG during the last redistricting increased despite some creative mapping to ensure SES balance. So it seems pretty natural for those parents to assume that the creative mapping might be lost in yet another redistricting.

All I'm saying is that it sounds bad to say you don't want kids that live right down the street coming to your school because they are ED - which still means poor right?

I doubt we would be so respectfull of the parents opinions if they said they didn't want them because they had too many African-Americans, or latinos, of Jews. When poor Americans stand up and realize that poverty, not race and religion is their defining characteristic, it will be a good day for our society.

The issue should be doing whatever we can to make these kids thrive, not trying to shunt them around until every school has an equal number of ED. To me, that just makes it seem like its okay if they fail, just so long as we don't have too many of them in one school and bring down that school's status.

This being Chapel Hill, I'm Sure that isn't the case. But, appearances matter in situations like these, if not in much else. On the other hand, there is always an other hand, if Scroggs moves say 30 ED students (the story doesn't say how many kids, how many ED), then that leaves the school pretty darn NON-ED. Which I also don't think is a good idea.

Question. When Scroggs was built, was it supposed to serve ONLY SV? It seems based on the size and the overcrowding that it must have been. The cure to this seems to be the creation of a new elementary school, or perhaps a couple new schools.

Why is it that we are creating more programs to serve those who are upwardly gifted when at the same time we have schools that can't meet the demands of their economically disadvantaged students?


It's not a status issue for the FPG parents, it's about all children receiving an equal opportunity for excellent education. FPG is losing good, experienced teachers because they have class sizes that are too big, especially given the SES diversity within those classes. CH-Carrboro isn't a community that has mixed income developments. Your own SV looks pretty darn white and middle to upper class in my eyes, thus the 14% ED students at your school. Both FPG and Carrboro elementary both serve large portions of the communities hispanic population as well as older suburbs like mine that are simply not as affluent as SV. Lower income and non-native english speakers need more services in order to help them perform at the same academic levels we expect for the upper income kids.

This is the same issue as the school merger/district tax debate IMHO. Schools with upper class parents have more resources--from parents who can afford to stay home or take off work to volunteer in the schools to larger contributions to the PTA or pay additional taxes. Children from lower income families should not be penalized academically for the wealth of others. I don't want to go as far as Raleigh and bus kids around income brackets, but I do think a redistricting should make every attempt to achieve economic and racial balance.

I think we actually agree on this. My only point is that we shouldn't have teachers leaving FPG because their class sizes are too big or because they have too high a percentage of low-SES students. We should be giving the teachers and the students whatever it takes to make them a success.

I couldn't agree more with you about SV. Which is why I question the building of a school that could only service SV and not any (much) outlying areas. At the same time there are no requirements for low-income housing or affordable housing of any sort in SV, so in essence we built a school that was destined to have nothing but upper-middle/lower-upper class students. As for diversity, I think there is a decent mix (in the neighborhood, I can't speak of the school itself) of cultures here, but not of SESes.

I think that Terri B. has gotten the FPG folks off the hook but I would like to go a little further and point out that the FPG community has historically shown far more graciousness about their challenges than some school communities that enjoy more enviable circumstances.

A key concern at FPG was that some of the spot redistricting plans would send some of their ED students elsewhere. Having built a relationship with these children, they felt it was important to keep them at FPG rather than ship them off and have another school "turf off" its ED children to FPG. As Liz Carter mentioned at last Thursday's BOE meeting, it is these children who are constantly being used like "pawns" in some sort of board game. And, of course, these are children who need this type of disruption in their lives the least.

The FPG group was absolutely right to complain about he first plan to be generated (Elementary A). This plan estimated the FPG would have a 23% ED population versus a district average of 16% and compared to ED populations in the 12-13% range at Scroggs, McDougle Elem., Rashkis, and Seawell. Given FPG's enrollment of just under 600 students, this 10-11 percentage point ED gap means it would need to meet the needs of an extra 60 or so ED students compared to Rashkis or Seawell (which are of comparable size). Furthermore, this plan still left FPG over capacity while Scroggs, McDougle Elem., and Rashkis would have been under capacity.

The FPG concerns were driven by a desire to fulfill its mission for all of its children rather than a desire to reshape itself as an upper-middle class school or to avoid the challenges of educating at-risk children. And, had the plan they opposed gone through, many OP posters would be asking why so many economically disadvantaged children were being shipped to an elementary school with significant infrastucture issues and a lack of personnel to meet their needs.

It sounds like to me that we need another elementary school near where Carrboro High will be built? Yes?

Here's the delima for FPG...If you move the children closes to McDougle to MES, the SES lowers and FPG loses many volunteers and a group of parents who can financially help support the PTA and school. That leaves the "fragile" neighborhoods to move which consist of a group of children to whom FPG has invested a lot of time. So the question is how to you relieve the overcrowding w/o hurting FPG? If you think you have a solution, please email the redistricting committee. You can manipulate the school assignments on the CHCCS website yourself and see if you can come up with a better plan. click on Elementary school redistricting and then current data and give it a try. But hurry...the committee is meeting at 7:00 tonight.

I don't know if you are associated with the process, but it would be nice on the excel documents to have the "limits", so one could tell how far over "the limit" each school was. Also, it seems like a tough nut to crack without maps that show how many students live where.

Robert, colum B titled E0506 gives you the number of elementary students in that segment. Also, you can click on Segment analysis at the bottom and you can see each segment broken down into lots of different catagories. Colums G, H, I have this years enrollment by school level, J, K, L are the projected numbers for next year. I believe the Total numbers at the bottom of the scenerio chart (top right of the spread sheet) have the ideal numbers for SES, FRL, and Proficient students with an 8% allowance. The only number missing is the capacity of each school. They are : Carrboro-563, Ephesus-472, Estes Hills-549, FPG-570, Glenwood-445, Scroggs-609, MES-596, Rashkis-619, Seawell-498.

Is "equity" the same as "equality?"

If it is, short of merger, there will never be equity as long as Chapel Hill/Carrboro school district residents chose to tax themselves an extra 18.4 cents and the vase majority OC schoold district schools residents refuse to pay even one extra cent.

I'm not saying that OC school district residents are right or wrong, just that that is way things are.

What happens to school re-districting if either Carrboro or Estes Hills, or BOTH, fail to make Adequate Yearly Progress (NCLB)? Then parents can ask to move to a passing school. Won't that make any kind of planning/redistricting difficult, if not impossible?


Can they ask to move into a school that is already over capacity?


If anyone can move a child, that could be a mess. Families could use AYP as a pretext for going elsewhere even if their child(ren) are adequately served and not even part of the subgroups that fall short of NCLB goals. The plot thickens. I also believe the district is on the hook for transportation if anyone uses AYP to transfer. Yikes.

Robert P.,

Scroggs and FPG are currently closed to any would be transfers from Estes Hills or Carrboro as they are over capacity.

As for your earlier question, based on what Steve Scroggs said at the last BOE meeting, Eubanks Road might make lots of sense for Elementary #10 as he expects the greatest future population growth to occur in the NW part of the district. Even if the next elementary were placed near CHS to help alleviate crowding in FPG, Scroggs, and Carrboro, the next comprehensive elementary redistricting would still be fun and games on par with the 2002-03 process.

Paul--No, “equity” the not same as “equality.” Equality means equal regardless of anything; equity means fair. OCS has never asked for equality--only equity. And equity is something all progressives should be supporting.


Correction: “equity” is not the same as “equality.”

Frank--as I understand it--one does not need to be in the group that didn't pass--ANYONE can leave. AND the schools ARE "on the hook" for transportation.

Interesting times....I'm glad I'm about finished with Public School. What a long, strange trip it's been!


I always believed that NCLB was a disguised attack on public education. As the plot unfolds, it looks like NCLB could cause considerable mischief in this district. I can only imagine the havoc it will wreak (is wreaking) in truly troubled school districts across the country.

Terri, you say that equity is not the same as equality, that equity means "fair".

How does one judge what is fair? That's pretty subjective, whereas equality is objective, with both systems getting the same per pupil.

I don't know how anyone can say what is "equitable."


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