Census Bureau: NC near the bottom nationally in per-pupil spending

Report reveals the toll that a decade of disinvestment has taken

According to a new report from the U.S. Census Bureau, North Carolina continues to lag near the bottom of the pack (44th) nationally when it comes to per-pupil spending on K-12 schools.

In 2020, North Carolina spent $9,958 per student on public education — more than $3,500 (or 26.2%) below the national average of $13,494. Only seven states — Florida, Tennessee, Mississippi, Oklahoma, Arizona, Utah and Idaho came in lower. And the advantage over Florida and  Tennessee was very small — just $21 and $62 respectively.

North Carolina’s per-pupil spending was even significantly outpaced by states like West Virginia ($12,375)  South Carolina ($11,532), and Alabama ($10,116). North Carolina came in $996 (or 9%) below the average reported for 17 southern states.

When one adjusts for inflation, the 2020 figure also represented a real dollar decline from the amount our state spent a decade ago, at the start of Republican rule at the North Carolina General Assembly. The per-pupil figure for North Carolina in 2010 — the year GOP majorities assumed control of the legislature — was $8,409. At the time, this was $2,206 (or 20.7%) below the national average of $10,615.  According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics inflation calculator, $8409 in September of 2010 was worth $10,020 in September of 2020 — $62 more than what the state actually spent.

U.S. School System Current Spending Per Pupil by Region: Fiscal Year 2020[Source: U.S. Census Bureau]

In other words, not only did the state fall farther behind the rest of the country during the past decade, it actually suffered an absolute decline in the total inflation-adjusted per-pupil investment.

And, of course, this decline took place during a period in which North Carolina was subject to a constitutional mandate to provide every child in the state with access to a sound basic education — something that repeated court orders in the landmark Leandro case have determined requires significantly larger public investments.

The bottom line: While appropriations obviously don’t explain everything, it’s hard not to see this new report as just the latest in a long line of damning evidence that North Carolina is failing its children — especially in this era of large budget surpluses that would make it relatively easy to raise investments to (or even well-above) the national average.

UNC-Chapel Hill a finalist for national “most secretive public agency” award

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill is a finalist for a dubious national honor — an award recognizing the most secretive public agency or official in the country

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Investigative Reporters and Editors (IRE) announced the five finalists for its annual Golden Padlock Award this week. UNC-Chapel Hill made the list for
“a pattern of secrecy that includes paying hundreds of thousands of dollars to fight cases involving open meetings law violations and the disclosure of documents detailing campus sexual assault cases.”

IRE also cited the school’s investigation of its own faculty over a leaked donor agreement, a story first reported by Policy Watch last August.

From IRE’s announcement:

“This year, the university targeted a coalition of its own journalism faculty after members filed formal requests seeking the university’s donor agreement with Walter Hussman, an Arkansas media magnate who gave $25 million to the journalism school and who also lobbied against the university’s hiring of Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Nikole Hannah-Jones. The university rejected efforts to release the donor agreement for months, and after it was leaked to a reporter, officials launched an investigation into the source of the leak. As the school was renamed in Hussman’s honor and faculty members pushed for details, records released earlier this year showed the university attempted to access data on the hard drives of faculty without their knowledge. The names of those journalism faculty members, and the rationale for accessing their computers, was redacted.”

Other finalists for the award include the Arizona Senate, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, Utah’s Department of Corrections and the City of Huntsville, Alabama and its police department.

The winner will be announced at the  IRE22 conference on Saturday, June 25, in Denver, Colorado.

UNC-Chapel Hill’s inclusion on IRE’s roll of dishonor is the latest in a series of public black eyes for the university.

In late April, the American Association of University Professors released a scathing report on the UNC System that could lead to sanction by the national group. The report’s sections on UNC-Chapel Hill focused on some of the same controversies cited by IRE.

Earlier this month, a national accrediting group officially downgraded the accreditation of the university’s journalism school, citing diversity and governance issues.

Pennsylvania Senate nominee’s lesson for Dems: A clear brand and coherent message wins every time

Pennsylvania Lt. Gov. John Fetterman [Pennsylvania Capital-Star photo by Cassie Miller]

You’d be hard-pressed to find a Pennsylvania Democrat who didn’t think that Lt. Gov. John Fetterman wasn’t going to come out at the right end of Tuesday’s nationally watched primary for U.S. Senate.

And even if he did lead in the polls heading into election night, the comprehensiveness of Fetterman’s win — he carried all 67 counties, and beat second-place U.S. Rep. Conor Lamb by a little more than 32 percentage points — was no less eyebrow-raising.

There’s been no shortage of speculation in the days since Fetterman’s win on whether the Allegheny pol represents the future of the Democratic Party.

Unsurprisingly, a decent part of the analysis has focused on Fetterman’s personal style, which, as I’ve previously written, has devolved into a kind of intellectual shorthand: He’s tall, wears shorts no matter the weather, just like your stubborn 8-year-old, has a bunch of tattoos, is gruff, and isn’t your garden-variety politician.

All of that is true.

His look is certainly unconventional. And, as The Atlantic’s David A. Graham noted on Wednesday morning, he has a distinct vibe and a connection with voters that has served him admirably during a campaign where control of the U.S. Senate, and with it, whatever’s left of President Joe Biden’s domestic agenda, is absolutely on the line.

But, as unorthodox as Fetterman appears on surface, if you roll up the sleeves on one of his Carhartt work-shirts, and look beneath the tattoos, you also get a deeply conventional Democratic politician, with an old-fashioned work ethic, whose rise has as much to do with the stewardship of his brand as it does the message he’s selling. Read more

Federal judge allows continued Title 42 migrant expulsions at the border

Misinformation, violence and a paper shortage threaten midterm elections, officials say