“Bears, Beets, Battlestar Galactica” : Fact Checking Former Sen. Jeff Tarte Claims on Public Education

From The Office:

Jim Halpert: [imitating Dwight] “Fact: bears eat beets. Bears, beets, Battlestar Galactica.”(From “Product Recall episode 2007).

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Former Sen. Jeff Tarte has taken great exception to teachers advocating publicly for public education.

He recently released this tirade of pre-packaged “facts” on a Facebook post to the public. Apparently along with Phil Berger and other stalwarts in the NCGA, Tarte has a very loose handle on the “facts.” In fact, all Tarte did was to copy Berger’s facts from an earlier press releases and Berger’s website www.ncteacherraise.com. and pass them off on his Facebook page.

But that’s what happens when are simply a mouthpiece for someone else.

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What Tarte says in his post is in bold. Further facts to lend perspective on Tarte’s “facts” follow each “fact.”

The state of education in North Carolina:

Fact: NCGA provided teachers with the third-highest pay raise in the entire country over the last five years. (Source: Fiscal Research Division analysis of National Education Association data)

This is true in the sense of “average”, but those raises have heavily been on the front end of the teacher scale. That means fewer dollars can affect a greater change in the percentage of pay increases. And Tim Moore recently admitted that previous pay raises have been for beginning teachers. Moore said, 

…that previous pay plans focused on teachers earlier in their careers because lawmakers were hearing from the state Department of Public Instruction that those were the ones most likely to leave their jobs. Now, things have changed, he said.

“Now we want to go back and do more for our veteran teachers,” said Moore.

Fact: NCGA have increased education spending every year since 2011. (Source: N.C. General Assembly budget documents).

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.

What many in Raleigh want to pat themselves on the backs about is that we as a state are spending more on education than ever before. And that’s true. Just listen at the many examples to come from legislators looking to get reelected last year to the NC General Assembly LIKE TARTE yet passing a budget through a nuclear option to avoid having to answer questions about the facts.

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.

What many in Raleigh may also want to pat themselves on the back about is how much of the state budget is spent on public education. It’s about 56% now.

But we are supposed to. It’s in our constitution. In fact, in the past we spent more of our budget on public education.

Fact: North Carolina ranks 14th in the country on the ratio of students to counselors. (Source: U.S. Department of Education)

Fact: North Carolina is better than the national average on the ratio of students to librarians. (Source: U.S. Department of Education)

Fact: The ratio of students to nurses has been better every single year since 2011 2000, the last year for which data is available. (Source: N.C. Department of Health and Human Services)

Let’s deal with those all together because that’s what Berger did in another press release that Tarte is simply pilfering from.

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Did Tarte just put a price tag on our students’ lives? Yep. Based on “averages.”

The numbers of students committing suicide, experiencing mental health issues, dealing with depression and other maladies is skyrocketing.

Didn’t Tarte support HB2? The very bill that had Lt. Gov. Dan Forest saying the following?

“If our action in keeping men out of women’s bathrooms and showers protected the life of just one child or one woman from being molested or assaulted, then it was worth it. North Carolina will never put a price tag on the value of our children. They are precious and priceless.” – Lt. Gov. Dan Forest on April 5th, 2016 concerning HB2 and PayPal’s announcement to not expand in Charlotte.

So now Tarte is saying that we put a price tag on children?

·Fact: The 2018-19 education budget is the highest in state history. (Source: N.C. General Assembly budget documents)

Tarte is literally just repeating his first “fact” with different words.

Of course it is. Our population is the highest it has ever been. We are supposed to spend more when we have more students in schools. And prices for materials tend to go up. But did Tarte talk about per-pupil expenditures?

Nope.

That would pull the rug from his argument here.

Fact: Graduation rates are up by 8.4 percentage points since 2011. (Source: N.C. Department of Public Instruction)

Along with “student test scores” and “student achievement,” “graduation rate” might be one of the most constantly redefined terms in public schools. Does it mean how many students graduate in four years? Five years? At least finish a GED program or a diploma in a community college? Actually, it depends on whom you ask and when you ask. But with the NC State Board of Education’s decision to go to a ten-point grading scale a few years ago (after 2011) in all high schools instead of the seven-point scale used in many districts, the odds of students passing courses dramatically increased because the bar to pass was set lower. That drastically affects graduation rates.

Add to that, it takes fewer credits to graduate  than it did years ago, and in many cases students are taking more classes to pass fewer credits because many systems have adopted the block schedule. In fact, most all high school teachers are teaching more classes and more kids because of removed class size caps and overcrowding in schools and altered schedules.

Fact: The gap in graduation rates between black students and all students has been cut in half since 2011 (from 6.4 percentage points to 3.1 percentage points). (Source: N.C. Department of Public Instruction)

Then Tarte might want to praise teachers and public schools for this.

Fact: The number of adults with a Bachelor’s degree has increased by 27 percent since 2011. (Source: U.S. Census Bureau)

Does that mean that those very people got their degrees in NC? Did those people grow up in NC?

Might want to look at the population increase in NC in the last decade – huge! With as many people coming here because of the massive tax cuts to businesses, they tend to bring lots of college graduates in to work for them as well.

Notice that he does not say the percentage of people with a bachelor degree in North Carolina from 2011 to now. And if you look thosepercentages, the percentage of people with a bachelors or higher grew 1.2% in that time.

Fact: The number of African American adults with a Bachelor’s degree has increased by 39 percent since 2011. (Source: U.S. Census Bureau)

Probably would be an easier thing to measure if they provided the percentages of African Americans who had those attainments in 2011 versus now.

Fact: Over the course of a 30-year career, a teacher will earn $237,000 more because of recent policy changes to pay raises compared to the old plan. (Source: Analysis of N.C. General Assembly budget documents)

Misleading. First, the $54,000 salary cap is designed to make sure that veteran teachers do not stay in the profession. Secondly, this projection is not taking into account that the current retirement system may change. Look at all of the changes that have occurred in only the last six years. Imagine what might be planned for the next thirty. Oh, no longevity pay. If Berger wants to make that claim, then he needs to explain this as well:
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The last budget just prior to 2011 cut state K-12 education funding by 5%, or nearly $400 million. (Source. N.C. General Assembly budget documents)

While no one party is immune from criticism, but it is interesting to point out that Tarte and other lawmakers really never point to the GREAT RECESSION. No one got raises in any government jobs in the years between 2009 and 2011. 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.

 

What this really sounds like is sour grapes for being defeated in the last election on the part of Tarte. But he will be remembered for this:

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He literally was trying to get the state to fund schools in his district in a hotly-contested 2018 election cycle through a non-profit that takes a portion of the funds for overhead.

Fact: DonorsChoose.org does not actually condone this type of “fundraising.”