RALEIGH, N.C. — The North Carolina House of Representatives is currently pushing for bipartisan legislation that would allow voters to determine whether or not to pass a $1.9 billion school construction bond referendum on the 2018 ballot.
House Bill 866 already passed in the House Education Committee with support from both Republicans and Democrats. It also received backing from public school advocates and groups such as the North Carolina School Boards Association and North Carolina Association of County Commissioners, even though the $1.9 billion will only be a portion of the estimated $8 billion in school construction demands over the next five years, according to North Carolina Policy Watch.
North Carolina’s current policy is that state government typically provides funding for classroom needs, while capital costs usually fall to local government. Due to swelling school building costs, state lawmakers are considering the first statewide bond to aid K-12 construction in more than two decades. All counties would benefit from the bond, but The News & Observer reported that money would be allocated using multiple criteria — including total enrollment, district poverty level, and county size — with some grants including stipulations that no local match be required.
The greatest school construction needs are largely found in districts operating in decades-old facilities — some that date back to the 1950s and require costly maintenance and upkeep. Other districts are facing rapid enrollment growth that requires new facilities be built in the next five years.
If approved, North Carolina voters would vote on the bond in November 2018.