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Photo: NC Public School Forum

In case you missed last week’s Fitzsimon File on the ridiculous and partisan demise of the state teaching fellows program, click here to read it on the website of Raleigh’s News & Observer where it is — even at the height of March Madness — the #1 trending story.

Seems safe to say that the column has touched a nerve with North Carolinians. Now, if only the troubled souls running our state would pay attention for a change.

NC Budget and Tax Center

As my colleague highlights in a recent blog, the governor’s proposed budget for the next two years fails to meaningfully reinvest in critical public structures, such as public education, that drive the state forward. This reality becomes much clearer when placing the governor’s budget into broader context.

Consider state funding for textbooks and other classroom-level resources for public schools. The governor’s proposed budget for FY2016 provides a small boost of $35 million in state funding for textbooks and other classroom-level resources. This spending increase partially restores harmful cuts state lawmakers have enacted since 2011 and is a step in the right direction. However, this is a textbook example of how the state can spend more but still fall short of what is needed to catch up and keep up with the needs of a growing student population.

Even with the proposed additional spending for textbooks, classroom materials, instructional supplies, and equipment, total state funding would be around half of the state’s investment level prior to the recession (see chart below). Furthermore, the proposed funding boost provided in the Governor’s budget is barely half of what the Department of Public Instruction requested on behalf of children in the classroom.

 

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When presenting his proposed budget last week, the governor acknowledged that his budget is “still extremely very tight” and that tough choices had to be made. This is the result of his decision to sign into law tax cuts that are costing upward of $1 billion per year – a self-inflicted reality that continues to drive underinvestment in public schools and other core areas of the state budget. North Carolina’s public schools play an important role in building a workforce that can compete for good-paying jobs in a dynamic 21st century. Failure to adequately invest in core public structures today will have a direct impact on the state’s future economic prospects.

Commentary

People_16_Teacher_BlackboardA new study, conducted by Mathematica Policy Research indicates that the much-debated Teach for America program (TFA) is not creating more effective or successful teachers. The study shows that test scores for students taught by TFA teachers in their first or second year of teaching  are on par with those taught by traditionally certified teachers. These data contradict previous studies which had indicated that students taught by TFA teachers scored higher in math than their peers taught by traditionally certified teachers.

The Mathematica study was conducted in order to evaluate the program (which recruits college graduates and trains them to work in low income schools) in the years since it received federal funding to expand in 2010. The purpose of the TFA program is to expand the pool of highly intelligent and motivated teachers, thereby increasing the opportunities for low income students. The trouble, however, is that TFA teachers are given only five weeks of training and then often thrown into classrooms with little or no administrative support.

The new study shows that TFA teachers don’t have a problem with teaching but are very unsatisfied by their influence over school policies and the lack of support from school administrators. Also, in perhaps the most damning finding, researchers found that most TFA teachers have no intention of sticking around past their two year commitment to TFA. The study shows that 87.5 percent of TFA teachers in their first two years say that they do not plan to spend their career in the classroom. Twenty-five percent said they planned to quit at the end of the current year. While TFA has never released figures, its leaders have always insisted that the majority of teachers finished the two year program and many stay on past the program. This study definitely tells a different story.

Read the study in its entirety here http://www.mathematica-mpr.com/~/media/publications/pdfs/education/tfa_investing_innovation.pdf

NC Budget and Tax Center

Students in high-poverty schools across North Carolina are showing up to class each day with food in their stomach and ready to learn thanks to an initiative known as Community Eligibility.  As part of the nationwide Community Eligibility Program (CEP), schools within 54 school systems across the state are providing breakfast and lunch to all students free of charge. Some districts have adopted CEP in all of their schools.

North Carolina is the fifth hungriest state in the country, so providing healthy school meals at no cost to students and families is especially important for children – particularly those in our most distressed communities. As North Carolina continue to face the challenges of persistent poverty and ensuring that all students are afforded a high-quality education, access to nutritious school meals serves as a positive step forward.

The initial rollout of CEP in North Carolina has been promising. Nearly half of all public schools eligible to participate in CEP adopted the initiative for the current school year, representing more than 310,000 students (Click here to see a list of CEP-eligible, participating schools). This is wonderful news! Only two states in the south – Tennessee and Georgia – have more students attending schools that are participating in CEP. Read More

NC Budget and Tax Center

Last week, Governor McCrory unveiled his two-year budget proposal for July 2015 through June 2017. He has since touted how his plan reinvests in the public services and programs that are essential for economic opportunity and quality of life. However, a close look at his 2016 fiscal year (FY2016) spending plan reveals that he fails to reinvest in a meaningful way in the critical public structures that benefit us all. Genuine progress will continue to be hampered until state lawmakers build a tax system that can adequately match the needs of a growing economy.

Governor McCrory’s proposed budget for FY2016 increases year-to-year spending by nearly $439.8 million, or 2 percent. This is in sharp contrast to past recoveries when state investments were far quicker to return to, and advance beyond, pre-recession levels. Enrollment growth in public schools, the UNC system, and the Medicaid/Health Choice programs is estimated to exceed the year-to-year increase in spending in the governor’s proposal, totaling nearly $442.6 million in FY2016. That means every new dollar increase, on net, is dedicated to funding enrollment growth (see chart below).

It also means that non-enrollment expansion items in the proposal are made possible by cutting or allowing spending to expire for other vital programs that are already stripped bare from previous underinvestment. That’s like rearranging the deck chairs on a sinking ship. Read More