Editorial: Supt. Mark Johnson’s new website “lies to and misleads North Carolinians”

Superintendent Mark Johnson – Image: NC School Finances website

This morning’s lead Capitol Broadcasting Company editorial on WRAL.com reiterates and expands upon the analysis provided by education policy expert Kris Nordstrom last week on the main Policy Watch site (“Superintendent Johnson uses new website to gaslight educators”).

The editorial (“N.C. education ‘transparency’ dashboard misleads, is fatally flawed”) explains how Johnson’s new site is anything but transparent and, in fact, inaccurately manipulates key data.

The website database is part of a larger $6.4 million taxpayer-financed project. There is no breakout of the costs for Johnson’s “dashboard.”

No matter the exact cost, in its current form, we’ve shelled out a lot of money for something that is so significantly misleading as to be worthless. The specific “facts” presented may be in and of themselves accurate. But they are displayed in a way that lies to and misleads North Carolinians.

It must be fixed. Until that is done, the misleading and distorted information should be taken off line.

What’s wrong? Ask North Carolina’s 6th graders (who are required, as part of the state’s “standard course of study” to know the difference between median and average).

For starters, when it comes to teacher pay the comparisons are misleading, and incomplete.

Johnson uses statewide “average” public school teacher pay (a troublesome number to begin with and we’ll get to that) and then compares it to “median” household income and wages. The figures are then repeated in similarly misleading fashion for every county in the state.

As the editorial notes, when the math is applied properly, things look a little different.

Here’s the truth. Instead of teacher pay running ahead of household income, it is REALLY running way behind. Johnson’s rosy picture of teacher pay wilts – with a $15,548 deficit (average household income is $70,523).

And that deception doesn’t even begin to address the shift-shaping in the calculations of the state’s “average” teacher pay.

The $53,975 figure misses the mark. It is cobbled together with money most teachers DO NOT RECEIVE, to fit into a national association’s effort to look at how teachers are paid nationwide.

Nearly two-thirds of the state’s public school teachers make LESS than the average. Without the local supplement, state-funded average pay is $49,371. And another reality, only 12 of the state’s 115 school districts offered pay supplements last year that were AT OR MORE than the average supplement.

The editorial notes in conclusion:

Educators didn’t flood Raleigh last week because they were having a hard time spending the money General Assembly appropriated for public education.

They understand addition and subtraction. They know the differences between “average” and “median.” They can discern the truth (“I forgot to do my assignment”) from fiction (“The dog ate my homework.”)

They also have the ability to distinguish between propaganda and transparency. Taxpayer funds need to be spent to present information enlightens and empowers citizens – not distorts and misleads to further entrench public officials.

Mark Johnson, take down your dashboard.

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