A new BTC Brief digs into the details of a recent data release by North Carolina’s Department of Public Instruction, which confirmed what many educators and parents around the state have sensed: recession-era budget cuts at the state and local levels have eliminated thousands of public school jobs across North Carolina.
The results of the NC DPI survey of 113 of the state’s 115 school districts found that, in the last four years, North Carolina public schools report having eliminated 16,678 positions, nearly one in ten positions compared to 2008 staffing levels.
The personnel cuts have fallen most heavily on the classroom. Of all the positions cut during the past four years, more than one in three were teaching positions. Teacher assistant positions accounted for another one in three positions eliminated.
Relative to school systems in other states, North Carolina arguably had much less room to cut personnel and other expenditures from pre-recession levels. According to US Census statistics, North Carolina was far below the national average in terms of state and local spending on public schools. As of 2007-08, North Carolina ranked 45th nationally in state and local per-pupil spending on public schools, spending $2,200 less per pupil compared to the national average. Specifically on administrative spending, North Carolina ranked 49th nationally in per-pupil spending on general administration and 38th in school-level administration.
The cumulative impact of four years of job losses is to hold back the recovery in local communities across the state while also impairing the ability of North Carolina’s schools to provide the state’s children with the high-quality education necessary to compete and succeed as adults in the long term. Research has consistently shown that smaller class sizes and higher levels of instructional support staff (e.g. guidance counselors, librarians, technology specialists) lead to better outcomes for students.