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PANEL HASN'T FOUND CURE FOR INEQUITIES IN EDUCATION

PANEL HASN'T FOUND CURE FOR INEQUITIES IN EDUCATION

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A legislative panel studying inequities among North Carolina's school systems will not be making any proposals for the legislative session beginning May 21, a subcommittee chairman said Wednesday.

``We just don't have enough information yet,' Sen. Richard Conder, D-Richmond, said after a meeting of the legislative research commission on education. ``It's a complicated problem.'Conder heads a subcommittee looking into the discrepancies in funding and curriculum between wealthy counties and poor counties.

North Carolina divides its funds for education on a per-student basis, meaning that bigger systems get more money than smaller systems. In addition, larger systems tend to have larger tax bases, which means local school officials can use local funds to augment state salaries and improve curricula.

Conder said the subcommittee's work would parallel a yearlong study by the N.C. Public School Forum, a non-partisan, not-for-profit private research group based in Raleigh.

``We have about 35 or 36 counties that are poor, but doing about all they can on their own, given their tax base,' Conder said. ``But there are maybe 10 to 20 more that are poor and really not doing anything.

``I don't know what we can do in that situation, except maybe go in and take the schools over. It's a situation that's going to need a lot of study.

``But you know when Jackson County is offering 116 fewer courses than North Durham,' he said, ``something is out of whack.'

Disparities between rich and poor systems in the past few years have led to lawsuits in Kentucky, Texas and other states.

In Kentucky, the state Supreme Court essentially wiped out the state school system and ordered the legislature to completely revise its system for funding and governing schools by July 1.

``From what we are told, our system is pretty good compared to the Kentucky situation,' Conder said. ``But we want to go ahead and try to work things out on our own.

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