It was a point made last year in June when the Guilford County Commissioners passed a budget and also a point made at the commissioners meeting at the board’s Thursday, June 6, 2024, meeting as well – a meeting where the commissioners heard from a lot of school system advocates that Guilford County Schools is underfunded.

The message from the commissioners was this: Don’t look at us.  We are doing all we can. It is the State of North Carolina that needs to step up and help fund the schools.

Guilford County Schools, like school systems across the state, get funding from three main sources: the county, the state and the federal government.  Last year, Chairman of the Guilford County Board of Commissioners Skip Alston asked the cities and the towns across the county to start contributing money for schools, but that ask seems to be going nowhere.  They hope the new request to the state will go somewhere.

At the June 6 meeting during the board’s public hearing on the manager’s fiscal 2024-2025 budget, Commissioner Mary Beth Murphy read aloud the board’s united plea to state legislators requesting increased state funding for schools.

Murphy, a teacher in the  Guilford County school system, read the statement to a packed meeting room and an audience at home watching via television and livestreams.

“Since 2021, the Guilford County Board of Commissioners has made historic investments in public education by increasing local funding for K-12 schools by more than $115 million in just three budget cycles,” she read. “The manager’s proposed budget for FY24-25 would bring that investment up to $140 million, a 50 percent increase over 4 years…Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for the NC General Assembly. As costs to operate schools rise, and the needs of learners require additional investment, the NCGA [NC General Assembly] continues to fail to meet its responsibility to provide a sound education to all children.”

Murphy went on to point out that the state government has a constitutional mandate to fund the schools and the failure of the state to adequately do so has put local governments like Guilford County “in an impossible position.”

 The county, Murphy noted, has a mandate to build and maintain school buildings, but the county also has a multitude of other responsibilities – such as providing a Sheriff’s Office, Foster Care programs, Medicaid Expansion services, Emergency Services and lots of other essential services with constantly rising costs.

Murphy also pointed out that the resolution was bipartisan since it was a unanimous statement from the board.

“The shortfall in education funding left by the state has dire implications for both our students and County services,” she read to the highly supportive audience in the commissioners’ meeting room.

The unified message from the Guilford County Board of Commissioners said the solution is crystal clear: The NC General Assembly must start providing sufficient funding to help meet the increasing costs of education in the state’s public schools.

 The resolution also called on commissioners in other counties across the state to join Guilford County in this mission and adopt similar resolutions.

“North Carolina ranks very low in terms of state funding for public schools.” Murphy read.  “According to the Education Law Center’s ‘Making the Grade’ report, North Carolina ranks 50th in school funding effort and 48th in overall funding level. The state’s funding effort, which measures the percentage of state GDP allocated to education, is significantly below the national average. North Carolina’s per-pupil funding level is $10,791, which is $4,655 below the national average (Education NC) (Daily Tar Heel). This inadequate funding has led to numerous challenges, including insufficient staffing, outdated technology, and a greater burden on local governments to address the deficiencies.”