Gross Funding Inequality for Carrboro High School

According to the latest available figures from the CHCCS budget ...

If Carrboro High School was funded at the same level PER STUDENT as the other two district high schools, Carrboro High would receive $2 million more a year.

Carrboro High students are budgeted 52% less PER STUDENT than the larger high schools.

It is important for the resources of this district to be shared fairly among the high schools.

The per-capita spending breakdown across the three district high schools:

*Carrboro High School: $5211 per student *              ($4,387,568 for 842 students)

*Chapel Hill High School: $7977 per student *           ($10,809,095 for 1355 students)

*East Chapel Hill High School: $7417 per student*    ($10,940,122 for 1475 students)

If you drill deeper into the line items on the budget, you’ll see the following expense breakdowns on a per-student basis:

   * FIELD TRIPS: CHS = $3; CHHS = $6; East = $6
   * STAFF DEVELOPMENT: CHS = $5; CHHS = $12; East = $11
   * INSTRUCTIONAL SUPPLIES: CHS = $42; CHHS = $95; East = $92
   * TEXTBOOKS: CHS = $13; CHHS = $80; East = $79

Here are some links, if you’d like more information:

CHS_Forum Google Group:
To e-mail school board members:


I am at a loss to explain this inequity.  I do have my suspicions, however, and they're not pretty.

For many, probably most of us, the biggest benefit we get from our tax dollar is the public school system.  Since there's considerable argument about those tax dollars, these days, shouldn't we at least attempt to ensure an equitable distribution of school funding?


Does CHS have the same faculty payroll as the other two, especially in terms of salary bands?  That might explain a lot if their teachers are not at the same levels of seniority.  If so, you are not comparing apples to apples.GO HEELS!

Ceratainly that is a plausible explanation.  If true, of course, that explanation would beg the follow-on question: why are the ostensibly most-talented and experienced teachers not equitably distributed amongst the several schools?No matter how it's spun, it's ugly. The large per-capita gap is too big a figure to sweep under the carpet.  Somebody looking at buying a home here, if interested in doing so because of the schools, would immediately gravitate towards a property in the East Chapel Hill High district.  That school garners the most awards, has the best facilities, and gets the best mix of tax dollars to pay for them.  Why?I pay the same district tax rate that people in that school district pay, but my kids go to Carrboro High.  This gross and demonstrable school resource inequity is simply more concrete fodder for my "property tax is too high" argument.  Moreover, it's yet another thread woven into the time-honored 'Carrboro as Second Class Citizen' political tapestry.

... a posible explanation to your "I am at a loss to explain this inequity."  The explanation is not offered as a value judgment, and I'm sure you realize who the people are who can try to answer this.  Many of them, for various reasons, don't participate here.From prior budget experience, however, I would caution you on trying to get the apples and oranges to match up as your comments above suggest.

Your break-down doesn't break out salaries... which would be the place to start, in order to find out if Fred's onto something or if Carrboro is somehow being shortchanged in "quality" teachers.  Also, Carrboro is the newest of all these schools, raising possibilities that it's still finding its way in negotiating the financial ins and outs.  That could explain why the 4 items you highlight (field trips, staff development, instructional supplies, and text books) aren't on a par.  (Yet?).   In that vein, I also would want to see a breakout of things like heating/cooling costs, etc.  It might only be a small difference, but is it possible their plant overhead isn't as high as the older schools'?  I hate to see a jump to "ugly" assumptions based on bottom-lines before looking at all of what goes into them, as well as the context.  If your suspicions are borne out, you're on firmer ground raising heck about it if you really do know that the faculty is less talented or can show how the distributions are rigged, exactly, to penalize Carrboro students.    Finally, although I never agree with, let alone support, this position, you're going to find some who argue that spending for education doesn't equal excellence.

The differences in salary/benefit allocations are enormous:  CHS - $4,896; Chapel Hill - $7,333; East - $6,776.  Some of this can be attributed to the more experienced -- and therefore higher paid -- staff at the older schools.  But the difference is still enormous.  Regardless, there's no rationale for the disparity in other areas.  Allocations for staff development, for example, should be higher for a new school with inexperienced faculty.  And field trip money should definitely be in the same ballpark.

Free/Reduced Lunch:  CHS - 24.4%; Chapel Hill - 18%; East - 13%**In raw numbers, this means that CHS, with 842 students, has more 13 economically-disadvantaged than East, which has 1475 students (75% larger than CHS).ESL Student Enrollment:  CHS - 12%; Chapel Hill - 6%; East - 8%**This means that CHS has 20 more ESL students than Chapel Hill, which has 1355 students (61% larger).These populations require MORE resources, rather than LESS, which is what they have been given under the current budget arrangements.

Appreciate the added information.  Now, to whom should questions/objections be addressed with an expectation of actually fixing things?  Presumably, the schools themselves prepare budgetary requests and submit them to district and board, correct?  Sorry not to know the chain of events here (it's been more than a decade since I had a student in the system), but if allocations are badly imbalanced, how/where in the process did this happen, and how do you get it fixed once you've called attention to it? 

First, I don't have a dog in this fight other than being a taxpayer. The textbook and supply difference do concern me. Why are these two so out of balance? Something that may impact those numbers is the courses offered at each school, just a thought.On a different note I saw where one of the possible budget saving ideas for the Chapel Hill/Carrboro System was to have core teachers teach 5 classes a day instead of the 4 classes now. My question is how many class periods are there now?

Some of the figures in the budget packette were incorrect and thus the conlusions drawn from those figures above are also incorrect.  The district has now corrected the data and provides it on the district website here.  The only substantive difference in funding between the high schools is in the salary lines for the reason explained below.    

The Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools recently received claims that
funding given to the district's three high schools has not been
distributed in an equitable manner.  These claims were based on
erroneous information that appeared as supporting documents in the back
of the Superintendent's Recommended Budget for 2009-2010.  We apologize
for any confusion or misunderstanding this may have caused.  We are
posting this spreadsheet that accurately reflects the funding provided
to the three schools.  Please note that differences in the salary and
budget lines reflect variations in years of experience (and higher
compensation for those with more years of experience) held by staff
members at the different schools.


You're always on top of so many things, and good to know this was just an error and not nearly as evil as it appeared.

Thanks for the data Mike, and glad to see you here.  We used the acronym "FRUE" for situations like this: "First Reports Usually Erroneous."  Note that in this sense, "FRUE" is the opposite of TRUE!

Why was a more thorough explanation of the source of the 'errors' not offered?  Those original figures were wildly different; how is such an error possible to have gone unnoticed in a public document?  Who makes sure these new figures are correct?  How is any of it provable?    Until there's a suitable, independent audit, I can't blindly accept somebody's 'Magic Excel File' update as a fix for the originally reported figures.For example:  The spreadsheet posted as having the 'corrected' figures lists "commencement expenses" as a line item for Carrboro High.  That's interesting.How many students have graduated from Carrboro High? 

This is the Superintendent's recommended budget for 2009-2010. What is there to audit in a proposal? Will not CHS hav a graduating class in 2010?  Are you looking at this as a historical accounting?

Here is an explanation of how the errors occurred from Todd LoFrese, Assistant Superintendent for Support Services.   

The document in the budget booklet represents a compilation of current information, historical information, and formulas that have been manually pulled from reports and printouts that are meant to give the Board of Education an overview of the variety of programs and areas which make up the Superintendent's recommended budget.  The historical information used at the program and school level was not completely updated for our actual expenditures at those same levels for this year (2008-2009).  Particularly, for Carrboro High the projected salaries for 08-09 and 09-10 were extrapolated based on salary and benefit increases and did not include the added teacher salaries for the senior class.  This combined with some spreadsheet formula errors resulted in inaccuracies in our projections for 2009-2010 at the individual school levels.  The budget projections are based on proposed changes to the allotment formulas. Once the budget is adopted and approved, personnel and dollar allocations are made to all of our schools in a equitable manner according to the Board approved allotment formulas for the school year.

The district is audited each year.  You can review a description of these audit reports in the board agenda items on the district website.  They have always been unqualified (meaning no major problems).  We will get the 2008-09 audit report sometime in the late fall or early winter I believe.    

Even if the revised numbers are accurate, the school board and administration are in denial about the inequities at Carrboro High School.  There are still questions about:* breadth of course offerings* too many combined classes (ex: French 2/3 taught together)* overloading teachers with too many courses* teachers working outside their specialties* demographics of the schoolIn the end, the school still receives fewer resources (although perhaps not to the magnitude that it previously appeared) -- in spite of the fact that small schools require greater resources per student AND in spite of the alarming demographics of the school.Currently, 12% of CHS students are English as a Second Language, compared with 8% at East and 6% at Chapel Hill.  These students enrich our community, but they are higher risk of dropping out and require more resources at the school.  Yet, we still have less funding. Further, 24.4% of CHS students receive free/reduced lunch.  Some quick math
says that for every 6 or 7 students who transfer to other schools, that number of students will increase by about 1 percent.  So it wouldn't be surprising if the free/reduced lunch rises to 30% next year.  And clamping down on the transfer policy still wouldn't fix the problem, which is that students who are not getting comparable opportunities at Carrboro High School want to go elsewhere. For you budget hawks out there:  I'm not saying spend more money (although that might be inevitable), I'm saying share the plentiful resources of the district with this school.

I know you cited Mark Russin as the source of F&R lunch numbers but they are not correct according to data from the district that I incorporated into a response to your letters to the local newspapers. 

Finally, the letter writer noted that Carrboro High School has a higher proportion of students receiving free and reduced lunches. The location of Carrboro High School in the southern part of the district made the assignment of students to the new high school relatively painless. At the public hearing on the redistricting plan in 2006, there was not a single speaker who commented on the high school reassignment plan. The proportion of students receiving free and reduced lunch assigned to Carrboro High School in that plan was projected to be approximately 18 percent with 17 percent and 14 percent being assigned to the other schools.

This year’s Opening of School Report shows the percent of students enrolled in the free and reduced lunch program at Carrboro High School to be about 18 percent, with the other schools being 16 percent and 13 percent, nearly identical to the planned enrollment. This distribution of students enrolled in free and reduced lunches is well within the target range of less than 5 percent variance from the district average and far less variation than most other school systems including Wake County, which is often viewed as a model for balancing schools by socioeconomic factors.

As students have moved into and out of the district during the course of this school year and the economic downturn has affected family finances, the proportion of students receiving free and reduced lunches has increased at Carrboro High School to 21 percent.

Carrboro High School has reached its capacity, due in part to students who have sought its smaller size and new facilities. Should a redistricting be necessary to prevent overcrowding, the school board will follow its recently amended student assignment policy that continues to include a goal of achieving a balance of students by academic achievement and socioeconomic status among the schools.

I believe resources follow English Language Learners so if the ELL numbers are correct (I did not ask to check them), then CHS may be receiving additional resources in the form of ESL instructor positions.  None of our schools are identical to any other school but they are as equitable as possible.  

Mike,We are not seeking perfection.  We are asking for comparable education opportunities -- both academic and otherwise -- for our students . When the new high school was proposed, many people voiced their concerns that a smaller school would not have the same course selection and opportunities as its larger siblings.  To imply that these concerns are new -- or that we should have fought redistricting -- is simply not true, or relevant.  We are asking that the school board and administration find ways to mitigate the differences between the schools, rather than deny they exist.  The "small schools" movement touts the advantages of smaller school in terms of leadership
opportunities for students, higher graduation rates, better relationships with the staff and faculty, and a sense of "belonging." 
But the academic research and literature are very clear that smaller
schools require more resources to offer a comparable education.  Right now, the administration is applying the per-student formulas that work well for our large high schools to a school that is about 45 percent smaller, rather than looking for creative ways to offer comparable opportunities (and not all of them cost more money). Carrboro High School is a good high school.  But unless it offers better teacher support, broader course selections and appropriate art, music and theater classrooms, it will lose its best and most creative students and limit the opportunities for those who stay.  As important, the community will have lost an
opportunity  to build a great school from scratch.  And that will be tragic.

The community made a decision through the school board to build a smaller high school.  That occurred in 2002 or 2003, perhaps before.  I was not on the board at that time but do not recall there being much dissention on that point.  I vaguely remember the decision to make the school a comprehensive school rather than a themed one.  There was much discussion about selecting a site for the school in the southern part of the district and took about two years to find a site.  Perhaps there was more extensive discussion about school size back then but once that decision was made, we all have to live with it. The district has provided additional resources to Carrboro to allow some classes to "make" that ordinarily would not including AP classes and language classes.  The development of that plan included a meeting with concerned parents on Aug 15.  A total of 2.6 additional teacher allocations were made.  A review of the number of AP classes showed there were 19, 19, and 16 AP classes at the three high schools.  Carrboro does not have AP Japanese, AP German, or AP Physics B.  Both AP Japanese (East and CHHS) and AP German (CHHS only) have low enrollments so there is no guarantee they will make for next year when the minimal class size may well be higher. CHS does have AP Physics C (8 students; I was told by a parent that they had AP Physics B but not C but this is the opposite of what was presented to the board). The only other AP class not available at Carrboro is AP European History, which is offered only at East.  Additional accommodations were made for individual students where appropriate.  When course selections are available again this year, the same process will repeat, starting with Principal Batten. The school will be full and the senior class will be larger so I expect more classes to be load-bearing.  Mr. Batten will discuss the allocations with the central office as needed.  As noted above, however, I suspect the minimal class size to make a class will be higher at all schools.  I addressed the arts wing above.  It is in our CIP for 2009-10.  We are ready to build it as soon as funding is available, which is provided by the county commissioners.  I asked again on Thursday that the existing two theater  complexes be shared and was told by Denise Bowling that discussions between the art departments at the three schools were to be held shortly.   The school board and administration have recognized Carrboro's needs and responded.  We will continue to do so, though everyone is likely to have less next year.  If you have other concerns or suggestions, I would be happy to hear them. 

Redistricting is relevant.  Our district uses redistricting as the primary method to balance schools by SES rather than the Mecklenburg County method of redistributing resources.  Resources do follow children for ELL and EC services.  At the elementary level, there are also federal funds for the low wealth schools but the high schools are all relatively close. 


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