Sen. Deanna Ballard’s “Credibility Crisis” – Concerning Her Press Release on Teacher Salaries

Yesterday in response to the Public School Forum of North Carolina’s report on “average” teacher salaries, Sen. Deanna Ballard issues a press release in an attempt to debunk the PSFNC’s findings.

In short, it was a failure of an argument.

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Here is the text:

Credibility Crisis: Average Teacher Pay Suddenly Doesn’t Matter to Liberal Activists
 
After complaining for years about average teacher pay when attacking Republicans, they now say average teacher pay is a bad metric
 
Why? Because Republicans have increased average teacher pay from 47th to 29th in the nation
 
Phony “non-partisan” orgs don’t care about teachers or pay – they care only about attacking Republicans.
Raleigh, N.C. – For years, far-left activist groups like the North Carolina Association of Educators (NCAE) and the Public School Forum have used North Carolina’s average teacher salary ranking to attack Republicans. But now that Republican have increased average teacher pay, the phony organizations are saying the metric is no longer valid.
For example, back in 2016, Keith Poston, president and executive director of the “nonpartisan” Public School Forum, used average teacher pay to attack Republicans:“Average teacher salary still ranks 42nd nationally. In 2001 we ranked 21st. North Carolina ranks dead last in teacher salary growth over the past decade. Today, all states bordering North Carolina have higher average teacher salaries.”
Poston also attacked Republicans for failing to increase average teacher pay enough in 2015, and cited low average teacher salary rankings as a main reason for his call to “direct adequate resources to public schools, teachers, and leaders.” 
But in a flagrant example of the left’s credibility crisis, that very same person argued today in a WRAL editorial titled “Debunking the Average Teacher Pay Myth” that using average teacher pay as a metric has “bothered me for some time.” 
This sudden and bizarre change of heart makes it clear that liberal activists like Poston and the far-left NCAE will ignore their own words and previous reasons to attack Republicans as soon as the facts no longer fit their deceptive narrative.
They had no problem using average teacher salary when it backed up their argument that Republicans are “bad” for public education, but now that it no longer does, they conveniently say it is not an accurate metric. 
Everyone, including the national teacher’s union, uses average teacher salary as the primary metric when gauging teacher pay. The teacher’s union even publishes a report on average teacher salaries every year, and in this year’s report, North Carolina was ranked 29th, up from a low of 47th.
The fact is, legislative Republicans in North Carolina have shown an unparalleled commitment to raising teacher salaries and have also invested record sums in public education. But rather than applauding these advancements, liberal activists choose to move the goalposts to continue their anti-Republican attacks, making their lack of credibility on this issue abundantly clear.  

It’s rather ironic that for years the very NCGA that has touted their “historic raises” has used the very report on average teacher salaries for their own arguments that Ballard claims as the metric for “liberal” bias. If the NCGA wants to come up with its own metric, then they are free to do so and allow that to be presented for scrutiny.

And it’s rather ironic that Sen. Ballard attack a report that specifically shows the differences between “average” and “actual” in such a way that further exposes the hypocrisy of the NCGA’s actions of the last eight years.

Why? Because lawmakers like Ballard who want to make the argument about what is seen on the surface of the matter intentionally neglect what is the root of the problem. In this case, that means how that “average” has been manufactured.

For Ballard to make a real argument in this case, she would need to not only explain the differences between “average” and “actual,” but she will need to admit how that “average” came about in the first place. And she won’t do that. Why? It would destroy her narrative and create a “credibility crisis.”

“Average” does not mean “actual”. But it sounds great to Ballard who doesn’t want people to understand the math.

The last eight years have seen tremendous changes to teacher pay. For new teachers entering in the profession here in NC there is no longer any graduate degree pay bump, no more longevity pay (for anyone), and a changed salary schedule that only makes it possible for a teacher to top out on the salary schedule with at 52K per year.

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So how can that be the average pay in NC be over 53K when no one can really make much over 52K 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)?

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.

Just ask the counties that Ballard represents. Here are the average salaries of teachers within each of the counties in the Public School Forum of NC’s report including the local supplement provided by each system in parentheses.

Alleghany – $51,173 ($500)
Ashe – $51,777 ($600)
Surry – $51,644 ($1,388)
Wautaga – $55,357 ($2,355)
Wilkes – $50,694 ($2,261)

All of the average salaries in those counties except Wautaga are below the state average. All of the counties have lower than average local supplements.

Now if Ballard can explain how those averages can be sustained with the “unparalleled commitment” to teachers she claims to have, then she can issue another press release, but what she is really doing is further proving the Forum’s findings: that the “average” pay in NC is skewed and that “actual” pay should be addressed so that the “average” pay is not so intentionally skewed. And that will be a major issue for Ballard because when local supplements come into play, smaller more rural counties will have a harder time recruiting teachers.

But it is worth addressing Ballard’s “unparalleled commitment” to public school teachers when she is a primary sponsor of a bill that would expand the eligibility of those who could take public money away from the public schools and fund vouchers for private schools.

From a May 13th post on the Reflector.com:

Sen. Deanna Ballard, R-Watauga, one of the bill’s sponsors, pointed to an N.C. State report that shows the annual median income of households applying for the Opportunity Scholarship program was just more than $16,000.

“We are just trying to allow more of those working families who live on that uncomfortable income level the opportunity to assess and determine the best school options for their students needs,” Ballard said. “I’m not in a position to assume what that best need is, and I think as politicians we should leave that decision to the parents.”

Ballard said the bill addresses concerns from parents over accessibility by expanding eligibility and by lifting the cap on students entering kindergarten and first grade.

The odd thing here is that her math on median income for recipients was not correct because of that “actual” versus “median” issue.

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NC State had to correct their report.

And the idea of Ballard claiming that the argument over “average” teacher pay is a strictly partisan attack on republicans in the NCGA? Well, she can say what she wants, but when it comes to partisan politics, Ballard probably should look in the mirror.

From May 23rd’s Winston-Salem Journal:

A bill headed to the floor of the N.C. Senate would make the three Surry County boards of education partisan, despite opposition from those boards.

Senate Bill 674 was introduced as a local bill Tuesday by Senate leader Phil Berger, R-Rockingham, and Sen. Deanna Ballard, R-Wilkes, who represents Surry among five Northwest N.C. counties. A local bill cannot be vetoed by the governor.

It was recommended by the Senate Redistricting and Elections committee a day later and by the Rules and Operations committee on Thursday. It could be heard on the Senate floor as early as Tuesday.

That sounds democratic.

And about “average” for Sen. Deanna Ballard.