When an NC lawmaker makes a claim about how well they have treated public education, the whole story may not be told – only a glossy version. In this season of electioneering and rather important midterms, it is important to know that the biggest part of the iceberg is under the water level where most people do not look.
Consider the following claims:
- “We are now spending more on public education than we ever have before. In fact, the new budget has much more.”
Well, that is true. We are spending more money on education as a whole. But why is our per pupil expenditure still lagging behind earlier years? Say in 2008, a school district had 1000 students in its school system and spent 10 million dollars in its budget to educate them. That’s a 10,000 per pupil expenditure. Now in 2018, that same district has 1500 students and the school system is spending 11.5 million to educate them. That district is spending more total dollars now than in 2008 on education, but the per-pupil expenditure has gone down – significantly to over 2300 dollars per student or 23 percent.
But when the average spent per pupil does not increase with the rise in the cost of resources and upkeep and neglects to put into consideration that the population of North Carolina has exploded in the last couple of decades, then that political “victory” becomes empty.
- “We are spending over 56% of our budget on public education!”
We are supposed to. It’s in our constitution.
In the past before the GOP’s current majority in the NC General Assembly began, the state spent an even higher percentage on public education because THAT IS WHAT THE STATE CONSTITUTION DECLARED. Those percentages of spending are not a badge of honor that this General Assembly gets to wear; it was earned many decades ago. The fact that the percentage is getting lower actually is not a positive sign. It is a reflection that the NCGA’s level of commitment to public education is wavering.
Here are a couple from Tim Moore’s office.
- “Over the combined period of 2014, 2015 and 2016 budget years, North Carolina gave the largest percentage salary increase to teachers in the United States, according to the data currently available” – http://speakermoore.com/north-carolinas-teacher-income-rising-faster-than-any-state-since-2014/.
That is the most recycled, spun statement used by West Jones Street concerning public education in the last five years. And it barely has validity. Why? Because this fastest growing teacher income designation is only true when it pertains to “average.” It does not mean “actual.”
Those raises Moore refers to were funded in part by eliminating teachers’ longevity pay. Like an annual bonus, all state employees receive it—except, now, for teachers—as a reward for continued service. Yet the budget he mentions simply rolled that longevity money into teachers’ salaries and labeled it as a raise.
Furthermore, why are NC teacher’s still 16% behind the national average in teacher pay?
- “North Carolina’s teacher salaries since 2014 are the fastest rising in the country, with average annual teacher pay crossing $50,000 for the first time in state history this year” (http://www.timmoorenc.com/education/).
So how can it be that the average pay in NC be over 50K when no one can really make much over 50K as a new teacher in his/her entire career unless they all become nationally certified (which takes a monetary investment by the teacher to start) according to the new salary schedule?
Easy. North Carolina is counting all of the veteran teachers’ current salaries in that figure. The very people whose salaries simply disgusted the former governor and the General Assembly to the point that they had to take measures to “lower” them are actually being used to tout this new wonderful “average.”
Furthermore, this average is counting on local supplements. This comes in the face of budgets that are allocating less money to each central office of each school system for administrative costs. Now each county has to raise more money to actually offset those costs and also allow for local supplements. And not all localities provide the same supplements.
- “Our Democratic predecessors had failed to plan ahead and ultimately furloughed many of the hardworking educators our students had” (http://www.timmoorenc.com/education/).
No one party is immune from criticism, but it is interesting to point out that Moore and other lawmakers really never point to the GREAT RECESSION. No one got raises in any government jobs. McCrory gave raises as state revenue started to gain momentum, but those raises came with a price.
And many teachers voted to furlough days back then – to save jobs for others.
- “Principals are receiving a pay increase.”
That new principal pay plan is not as well received as many may think. The model came from some political playbook used by ALEC-leaning bodies. The planning occurred behind doors without actual educators. The data that was analyzed involved monetary bottom lines. The math and the computational thinking come from entities that benefit from this pay plan like SAS. Explanations given have been broad and nebulous. There is no evidence. And lastly, a body of lawmakers that uses special sessions and secret meetings which shut out other points of view does not practice communication well.
- “Tenure is a bad thing for teachers to have.”
One of the first items that the GOP controlled General Assembly attempted to pass in the early part of this decade was the removal of due-process right for all teachers. Commonly called “tenure,” due process rights are erroneously linked to the practice that colleges use to award “tenure” to professors. Actually, they really are not the same.
Due-process removal actually weakens the ability of the teaching force in NC to speak up and advocate a little each year as veteran teachers retire and are replaced by new teachers who do not receive those rights.
- “Gov. Cooper vetoed a budget that would give teachers a raise.”
Actually, Gov. Cooper vetoed the entire budget, probably because lawmakers in power refused to listen to debate and hear amendments and passed the budget through a “nuclear” option. Cooper’s plan called for higher raises to be more evenly distributed across experience levels.
- “The recent budget is giving over $240 million to help reconstruct schools.”
Advocates for public schools wanted a $1.9 BILLION dollar school bond for the state to go on the ballot in November. That’s a lot more than $240 million and it would actually allow for the public to make the choice.
And with Florence and Michael having done so much damage…
- “Opportunity Grants are working!”
It would be nice if lawmakers could refute or explain conclusions of the Duke University study released last year which was a rather damning report on the Opportunity Grants. Or maybe the recent NC State University study that concluded our voucher program suffers from lack of transparency.
- “Charter School growth has been a great thing for NC.”
Where is the empirical date to make this claim? Most reports have talked about more segregation and lack of oversight of finances.
- “Public Schools are failing!”
Those who control the dialogue in North Carolina and in many other states only tell their side of the spin and neglect to talk of all of the variables that schools are and should be measured by.
All of the external forces that affect the health of traditional public schools generally are controlled and governed by our North Carolina General Assembly, rather by the supermajority currently in power.
When the very forces that can so drastically affect traditional public schools are coupled with reporting protocols controlled by the same lawmaking body, how the public ends up viewing the effectiveness of traditional public schools can equally be spun.
- “Poverty is not as big a factor in school performance as many would lead you to believe.”
Then explain this:
That is from the 2015–16 Performance and Growth of North Carolina Public Schools Executive Summary, NC DPI