Raleigh’s Education Cutters Won’t Take Improvement For An Answer

Chris Fitzsimon of NC Policy Watch takes NC Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger to task over claims that cuts to the education budget will not harm classrooms and that NC's low high school graduation rate proves that the system is broken. With teachers and assistants losing their jobs to budget cuts every day, Fitzsimon writes, "... any superintendent or principal can tell him that his talking point about protecting teachers is off base." Furthermore [links added],

A report released Tuesday by Education Week proves that Berger's assertion about the state's graduation rate is also false. Berger claims almost every day that the state's ranking of 43rd in the percentage of students who graduate from high school shows that recent investments in schools have not paid off.

The Education Week report, "2011 Diplomas Count," finds that North Carolina's graduation rate is now 72.8 percent, ranking 25th in the nation, not 43rd, and is now above the national average for the first time in the state's history.

The report also shows that North Carolina's graduation rate improved more in the past 10 years than in all but one other state.

The graduation rate for African-American female students led the nation at 79.5 percent, and the rate for African-American students overall was third-highest at 72.3 percent.

Much still to do, Fitzsimon adds, but steady improvement is steady improvement. The study covers the years 1998-2008, and so doesn't examine the effects of North Carolina losing 10,000 public education jobs this year, falling to 46th in the nation in per-pupil spending.

Berger questioned the report's dropout figures as "inconsistent with other dropout figures he has seen." Fitzsimon responds that past reports in the "Diplomas Count" series "often have been cited by conservative legislators and right-wing think tanks alike when the results pointed out the struggles of North Carolina schools." Since Education Week's methodology for evaluating results from 50 states produced higher graduation rates than those issued by the NC Department of Public Instruction, one such think tank, the John Locke Foundation, called the "Diplomas Count" numbers "suspect." Yet the John Locke Foundation (effectively) conceded that both methods show the same rising trend in North Carolina high school graduation rates over the past five years. The State Board of Education uses a four-year "cohort rate." A press release from the department reports that the rate for 2009-10 was 74.2 percent.

As the video above shows, North Carolina is not alone in facing the budget axe.

(Cross-posted from Scrutiny Hooligans.)


Here's the money graph(s) from the Independent Weekly:

According to Governor Perdue:

Perdue's office, meanwhile, pushed out a press release emphasizing that, while the nominal difference in education funding between the Governor's budget and the Republican's budget is about $300 million, in fact the REAL difference is a lot more — according to Perdue, it's a $561 million education spending gap.

The reason the real gap is bigger is because, while the GOP budget "gives" about $11 billion to education (versus the Governor's budget, which "gives" $11.3 billion), it doesn't actually allow the schools to spend all the money they're given. The required give-backs make the education gap bigger.

I'm guessing Perdue will have more to say soon (after a veto, one hopes), but it would be great if someone in the Governor's office would put out chapter and verse about these give-backs from the NCGA budget. Otherwise Republicans will go around saying "our K-12 education budget is just 0.5% smaller than the governor's," and nobody will be able to respond.