The right’s desperate education spin

Education cutsThere’s so much spin coming out of the far right camp these days about North Carolina’s declining commitment to public education that you’d think the Loony Tunes Tasmanian Devil had developed their talking points. Or maybe it was David Copperfield or some other magician who specializes in making things disappear when you’re not watching.

Whichever the case, the whole thing would be downright laughable if it weren’t so sad and the cuts to the classroom weren’t so painful and unnecessary. After months of tearing down “government schools” and claiming they were “broken” and “failures” and “in need of competition from the private sector,” conservatives are suddenly falling all over themselves to profess their love for public schools and to claim that their plans for a radical education overhaul weren’t so radical after all.

As Chris Fitzsimon notes in today’s column:

“Legislative leaders and the folks at the think thanks on the Right are getting very nervous these days as the truth about the education budget passed by the General Assembly this year is spreading across North Carolina….

The right-wing spin machine is in overdrive to explain it all away. There are overheated columns by a Republican Senator calling critics of the budget liars and demeaning teachers and education professionals by calling them “educrats.”

There are rushed talk show appearances by right-wing pundits to mislead listeners after parent and parent calls to express their frustration with the cuts to the classroom.

And there is a long, disjointed and meandering diatribe on the cookie-cutter websites of many Republican lawmakers that grossly distorts the budget numbers and blames everybody else for the education budget and the neglect of teachers—local governments, past legislatures, even teachers themselves.”

Fortunately (and sadly too, since it would be nice if we really could wave a magic wand and make the education cuts disappear) spin won’t make this mess go away. With kids headed back to school this month all over the state, the reality of what state leaders have wrought is becoming all too clear.  The months of attacks on public schools and the budget cuts they brought about are being felt across the state.   

As Chris notes:

“Expect more vitriol in the coming months, more name-calling and nasty remarks about “educrats” and plenty more manipulation of the numbers by lawmakers and conservative think tanks alike.

But here is the truth. The budget passed this year by the General Assembly hurts public schools and the students who attend them.

Don’t listen to the right-wing propaganda mills and don’t take my word for it either.

Ask your local school board member or superintendent. Better still, ask your daughter’s teacher or the principal at her school.”

9 Comments

  1. Tim Peck

    August 8, 2013 at 2:46 pm

  2. Doug

    August 8, 2013 at 5:53 pm

    I think you have it the opposite. The left is in hysterics but the facts don’t play out in your favor.

    For example, I would gladly advocate for going back to the democrat levels of spending, but you guys would have a stroke over that. Check out this graph that shows the 4.8% increase this year:
    http://nchousespeaker.com/education-expenditures.pdf

    How about your straw man about oh population…inflation.blah blah…here is the OMB projections….check out the negative growth projection of 5-18 year olds which are the major K-12 population.

    http://www.osbm.state.nc.us/ncosbm/facts_and_figures/socioeconomic_data/population_estimates/demog/statesingleage_2010_2019.html

    By golly the population goes DOWN! Well when you take that inflation is what 1.6% per year and population goes down then we are WAAAAAYYY over funding education.

  3. Frances Jenkins

    August 8, 2013 at 10:16 pm

    It is never about the facts or the truth. It is about regaining power for the Democrats. Bluepoint/Blueprint means to destroy the Republican Party and Rob and the gang are part that process.

  4. Doug Gibson

    August 8, 2013 at 10:54 pm

    Doug,

    I’m going to save Greg the trouble of responding to your comment on population changes:

    . . . there is no K-12 drop: There is a drop in K-3 ages in 2017 which corresponds with a 4 year decline in births before 2013 but other groups continue to increase after 2013. If you take all ages 5-18 there is a steady increase every year in spite of the 4 year blip that moves diagonally across the chart.

    Note, too, that your chart doesn’t address enrollment; it addresses population. Public school enrollment can change independent of the overall population of school-age children. So your chart is completely irrelevant to the discussion, and yet you take it as proof that we are over-funding education.

    So much for facts and truth, eh Frances?

  5. Doug

    August 9, 2013 at 8:50 am

    Douggy,
    Regardless of how you spin it, the increase is statistcally irrelevant. It is essentially a zero percent increase each year….open your excel and calculate the percentage changes and you get not one that can even round up to a 1% change and only one can round to 0.5%. That bascially blows a huge shotgun hole into the population change vs funding hysteria as presented here. That combined with an inflation rate that is 1.6% gets you to a generous funding model. I will spell it out for you:

    Inflation rate – 1.6%
    Growth rate – 1.0% (I will be generous for you guys so the next lines do not blow your minds too bad)
    Total required – 2.6% (this is the progressive argument…fund population + inflation)
    Total fund increase 4.8%
    Total over funded 2.2%

    So you guys are screaming even though there is a HUGE padding factor in the budget for errors in growth rate or a fluctuation in inflation.

  6. gregflynn

    August 9, 2013 at 9:31 am

    What about the 4.8 percent increase in public school funding? Where does that number come from?
    This percentage is from a comparison between the FY 2012-13 Budget Money Report with this year’s Budget Money Report ($7,865,960,649 vs. $7,506,553,067) — a 4.8 percent increase. The 4.8 percent increase reflects increases in the state retirement contribution, hospitalization costs, and the 1.2 percent pay increase that was provided to teachers and public school personnel in 2012-13 but not placed in the public school fund at that time. These three things make up $259 million of the 4.8 percent “increase” in the public school fund, but these dollars are either not new to schools or represent status quo funding only, and will not go to support the additional services or personnel needed to help students learn.

    The Governor’s Continuation Budget and the final budget also restored $72 million to line items that were over-expended (longevity, workers comp, unemployment, etc.). This restoration also explains part of the difference in the two Money Reports.

    Finally, the public schools’ student population grew by 17,192 students. So, without going line item by line item, the simple comparison between Money Reports from last year and this year would indicate a difference of $359,407,582, or 4.8%.

    When you take that amount and back out the salary and benefit changes for FY 2012-13 ($259 million) and the coverage for over-expended line items ($72 million), you are left with $28 million to serve 17,192 more students. By the way, the actual cost to serve these new students is more than $5,400 each but the amount provided in this budget is far lower, $1,629 per student.

    – MountainXpress

  7. Frances Jenkins

    August 9, 2013 at 4:08 pm

    How much of flex spending did the schools not return this year?

  8. Doug

    August 9, 2013 at 4:14 pm

    Gibson,
    True it does project population….if anything there will be fewer enrolles than projected. Thanks for helping me out because that pokes holes in greggy’s big green quote there. They are referencing population but I am sure a good percentage of those will not necessarily be in a public school.

  9. Doug

    August 9, 2013 at 4:26 pm

    And the increase 11-12 to 12-13 was 0.54%….quite flat indeed.
    Past year enrollment
    09 1,426,792 prior presentation had an anomaly which would be a real large decrease
    10 1,434,436 0.53%
    11 1,436,162 0.12% whoa……
    12 1,443,998 0.54%
    Average of just around 0.40%…..that is real flat….and shows we are keeping up with the growth in student population. I wish I could post a graph to show how flat the curve is. And you are lucky I did not look at that ’09 decrease of about 20,000 students.

    http://www.ncpublicschools.org/fbs/resources/data/