When Facts Get In the Way: “NC Real Solutions” public education budget claims fall apart

UPDATED: How does a loss of 915 teacher positions statewide magically become 2,000 teacher positions added? The answer: budget trickery. A video from Americans for Prosperity and Civitas called “NC Real Solutions” claims that the 2011-13 state budget managed to cut taxes for working North Carolinians, stay balanced, and add 2,000 teachers to North Carolina’s public schools. The Budget and Tax Center disputes the truth of each of these claims. Here are the facts on the state budget and teacher positions, and we’ll follow up throughout the day on the real impact of the budget’s tax cuts as well as what makes a balanced budget – and even more importantly, what doesn’t.

Line 5 of the 2011-13 public education budget annotated committee report (page F-1) appropriates $62 million in FY2011-12 for “Class Size Reduction in Grades K-3.” The line states that this appropriation will fund 1,124 “additional” teacher positions. If you add that position number to the 2012-13 appropriation in the same line ($63 million, for 1,144 teacher positions), you get 2,268 teacher positions – but only hypothetically. In order for these appropriations to result in the expansion of teacher position, there would need to be no other reductions in state funding that supports teacher positions, regardless of how they are funded. Unfortunately for NC Real Solutions, that simply isn’t true.

On the very same page, line 4, “LEA Adjustment,” made a $124 million unspecified cut to North Carolina’s school districts in the current school year (2011-12). Coupled with a major unspecified cut made to the public school budget in the 2010-11 state budget which didn’t take effect until this year, LEAs statewide must return nearly half a billion dollars in state appropriations to the General Fund before establishing their operating budgets. That fact alone outweighs, and undoes, any smaller line-item expansion in funding for classroom staffing in public schools, from the mountains to the coastline.

What the video may want voters to focus on is a small-picture statistic – the number of state-funded elementary teacher positions that grew by 2,000 from 2010-11 to 2011-12. But the number of federally-funded elementary teacher positions fell by 1,400 from 2010-11 to 2011-12, as well as a decrease of about 120 locally-funded elementary teachers. Overall, the DPI data shows just about 500 more elementary school teachers in North Carolina’s public schools than last year, far less than the 2,000 claimed.

This change is undermined by the cuts to teachers in other grades. Taken as a whole – which is the only way to gauge the classroom impact of these decisions – there are 915 fewer teacher positions in the public schools this year than last year.

North Carolina’s public schools have been doing more with less - educating more students with fewer teachers and other school personnel - since the start of the Great Recession. Even hundreds of millions in federal recovery funding couldn’t balance out the loss of more than 16,000 school positions statewide during this difficult time. Data from the Department of Public Instruction derived from the statewide public school payroll - the same data cited by NC Real Solutions – clearly shows the magnitude of position losses made across the state’s LEAs. From 2010-11 to the current school year, 915 teachers and 2,125 teacher assistant positions were eliminated completely. Across all categories of positions, 4,500 public school positions have been eliminated since the current legislative budget took effect.

6 Comments

  1. gregflynn

    March 16, 2012 at 12:49 pm

    A few other thoughts. The budget moved $80 million of lottery funds from construction to teacher salaries. That represents a loss of 2,280 construction related jobs (based on AGC data). The budget also had a hole from the absence of temporary federal funding RttT $200 million and ARRA $670 million.

  2. Gary Vincent OMalley

    March 17, 2012 at 11:37 pm

    BS on all counts boys and girls. We were over hiring teachers and administrators for a decade.Those “lost positions” were caused by the NC Democratic Assembly accepting “stimulus” funds from the Federal Government with all of the strings attached. This massive hiring splurge was never paid for by the stimulus. Your number of children per teacher has dropped, NOT expanded since 2005. It still is lower than it was in the 70′s! You said since the great depression. Facts? Hardly just cherry picked facts.. What about “we are broke” don’t you understand?
    I home school precisely because of your b.s. you tried to feed my kids in school. If it were up to me, you boys and girls would drop your diversity global community b.s. NOW.. I’d go through your curriculum with a comb to weed out the communist/socialist crap you feed our kids. They’d actually learn how to read and write before college too. Yes, you make me sick. :-) Now for my Scotch. whew, I think I’ll have two. . Father O’Malley

  3. Gary Vincent OMalley

    March 17, 2012 at 11:43 pm

    By now, many of you have heard about the launch of a new educational campaign discussing the 2011-12 state budget. The project is a joint venture between the Civitas Institute and Americans for Prosperity-North Carolina called NC Real Solutions, and includes a television advertising campaign set to hit airwaves soon. To learn more about it, click here.

    It didn’t take long to get a response. The NC Democratic Party responds here.

    Perhaps they should have taken a little more time crafting a response. Some predictably contrived and false shrieks of the ads being filled with ”lies” and demands that it should be taken off the air are included.

    So, what “lies” did they uncover? Well, that would be none. For as many accusations of the ad being filled with “outright lies” you’d think they could come up with at least one.

    Their fake indignation centers around two claims. First is regarding teachers. The Real Solutions ad clearly cites data on state-funded teaching positions, but the NCDP ignores this and plows ahead with the assertion that on net there was a net loss of 4,500 total education positions. So not only do they switch from discussing teaching positions (that was discussed in the ad) to total education positions, they also switch the argument from state-funded positions to overall positions (local, state and federally funded). And the net loss of overall education positions was something that Civitas pointed out nearly two months ago.

    Their second claim is even more pitiful. Their “fact check” on the ad’s assertion that the 2011-12 budget lowered taxes doesn’t even discuss taxes. Instead, they change the subject to fees.

    For an ad that is “a despicable distortion of the truth” that should be “removed from the airwaves immediately”, you’d think they could actually come up with something that wasn’t true.

  4. gregflynn

    March 18, 2012 at 11:45 am

    NC Public School Full-Time Certified Teacher Positions

    ——————– | State | Federal | Local | Total

    2012 Teachers | 81,020 | 8,791 | 4,153 | 93,964
    2011 Teachers | 78,963 | 11,443 | 4,473 | 94,879
    2010 Teachers | 81,746 | 9,245 | 4,386 | 95,377
    2009 Teachers | 86,447 | 5,699 | 6,952 | 99,098
    2008 Teachers | 85,575 | 5,878 | 6,223 | 97,676
    2007 Teachers | 83,319 | 5,988 | 6,235 | 95,542
    2006 Teachers | 81,118 | 6,390 | 6,621 | 94,129
    2005 Teachers | 78,424 | 6,108 | 6,125 | 90,657
    2004 Teachers | 76,314 | 5,660 | 5,973 | 87,947

  5. [...] both cut taxes for working North Carolinians and balanced the budget. The Budget and Tax Center has already disputed the truth of the video’s claim to add 2,000 teachers to North Carolina’s public schools despite massive tax and spending [...]

  6. Brice Horton

    March 22, 2012 at 11:08 pm

    I’m really not sure what to believe? I’m a Junior Middle Grades Education Major (Science & Social Studies) at UNCW. I have applied for the STAR scholarship which will help me land my first teaching position. When it’s all said and done I plan to enter a Master’s program in Instructional Technology. I hope I’m not making a big, expensive, mistake!