Somebody in Raleigh doesn’t much like Guilford County, in fact a whole bunch of folks must not like Guilford County judging from House Bill 241 which if passed would put a referendum for a $1.9 billion bond for statewide education construction on the ballot in 2020, but wouldn’t do much for Guilford County.
According to the bill $1.5 billion would be divided up amongst the 115 public school districts in the state, $200 million would go to community colleges and $200 million to the university system.
The bill lists the amount each public school system in the state would receive of the $1.5 billion. The amount is based on a formula that takes into account the size of the school district, the growth rate and the economic condition of the area.
The formula is supposed to be weighted in favor of low wealth counties that don’t have the tax revenue available to maintain and build schools.
But the big winner in the whole bond package is the largest and one of the richest school districts in the state. Wake County with 157,000 students would receive $109.6 million far surpassing the second largest school district Mecklenburg with 146,000 students which would receive $61.8 million.
But the big loser in this proposed bond package is number three. Guilford County, the third largest school district in the state with 73,000 students would receive a mere $12.6 million or almost $100 million less than Wake.
Guilford is a Tier 2 county according to the state while both Wake and Mecklenburg are in Tier 3 which means from an economic standpoint both of those counties are much better off than Guilford, but according to this bond formula Guilford either doesn’t need or doesn’t deserve much money.
It’s not just Wake and Mecklenburg that get a lot more money per pupil than Guilford. If you look at the neighboring counties Guilford fairs far worse than most on a per pupil basis. Alamance with 23,000 students gets $16.3 million. Davie with 6,000 students gets $10 million. Davidson with 19,000 students gets $14 million. Randolph with 17,000 students gets $20 million. Rockingham with 12,000 students gets $14.3 million. And Forsyth with 54,000 students gets $10 million.
Forsyth is the only county even close to Guilford in per pupil allocation and it still will receive more per pupil than Guilford.
It actually appears from looking at the entire list of school systems that the formula was devised to give Guilford County Schools the lowest per pupil allocation in the state. Maybe it’s not the lowest but it’s got to be close.
Wake is a little more than twice the size of Guilford, yet it is receiving over eight times as much money. Mecklenburg is almost exactly twice the size of Guilford but it is receiving five times as much money.
The school construction bond bill is a long way from being passed, because the Republican leadership in the state Senate is currently opposed to it.
The battle in Raleigh during this legislative session was supposed to be between Governor Roy Cooper and the Republican majorities in the state House and Senate. In the last election the Democrats won enough seats in both chambers, so that the Republicans don’t have veto proof majorities in either.
But as it looks like there is going to be a big fight between the Republicans in the House supported by Cooper and the Republicans in the Senate over school construction funding.
Republican state House Speaker Tim Moore and Cooper are in favor of a statewide school bond referendum. The Republicans in the state Senate are opposed to the bond and want to pay for school construction out of pocket. The Republican Senate leadership is arguing that with the current budget surpluses the state can provide $6 billion over a ten year period which provides more revenue and no money would be spent on interest payments.
Certainly the Republicans and the Democrats in the Guilford County Legislative Delegation should unite to fight this school construction bond bill, under the current formula.
A study recently completed for Guilford County Schools identified $1.5 billion in construction needs. For the state to officer $12.6 million to help with that goes beyond being unfair, it’s insulting.