In order to address the state’s growing budget deficit, Governor Beverly Perdue has called on state agencies to reduce spending and develop new ways to stretch tax dollars. At the same time Perdue, a former teacher, has come out against any further education cuts. The Governor has also stated her opposition to any budget proposals that will “cripple the classroom” including provisions to increase class size, reduce teacher pay or layoff teachers.
Regrettably, the Governor conflates all education cuts to “classroom cuts.” This is fallacious. With $8 billion in spending, K-12 education comprises 38 percent of all state appropriations. However, to exempt all of public education from reductions forces other state agencies to make disproportional budget reductions. The governor’s premise should be opposed. Prudent reductions can be made in the K-12 education budget without jeopardizing the public school classrooms.
BUDGET REDUCTIONS ARE MANAGEABLE, SOUND AND NEEDED
- A five percent reduction in noninstructional support staff (clerical assistants, custodians and substitute teachers) will save $20 million. Even with cuts, over 40,360 noninstructional support staff remains.
- Increasing class size by 2 saves $184 million (2009-2010) and $264 million the following year. This change will reduce the need for 6,000 teachers, about 6 percent of current state teacher workforce.
Research on Class Size is Not Conclusive. North Carolina has spent millions to reduce class size. Test scores do not justify continued investment. Major studies supporting smaller class size are flawed. Research shows student achievement is more tied to teacher quality than class size.1
NOT ALL CUTS ARE CLASSROOM CUTS
Increasingly, Money is Spent Outside the Classroom. The Department of Public Instruction spends 37 percent on programs other than “Instructional Personnel and Related Services,” compared to 33 percent just 4 years ago.
Growth in Instructional Support & Administrative positions (Non Teaching): North Carolina schools continue to add instructional support and administrative positions at rates that exceed enrollment growth. Since 2000, ADM (average daily membership) enrollment increased 15 percent. From 2000 to 2008, the number of instructional support personnel increased by 37 percent and administrator positions increased 21 percent.
Hidden Personnel Staff. More and more public school personnel are hidden in nebulous categories such as “assistant principal non-teaching” and “other professionals”. From 2000-2007, the number of “assistant principal (non-teaching)” increased 20 percent to over 2,800. Over the same period the number of “other professionals” increased 51 percent to over 5,400. This category includes consultants, social workers, speech therapists, attorneys, and other non-instructional staff. There are enough “other professionals” to provide each of North Carolina’s 115 school districts with 48 “other” professionals.
Pupil/Staff Ratio. North Carolina’s pupil to staff ratio (7.3) has been declining since 2003 and is lower (i.e. meaning more actual staff) than the national average (8.0). 2
Spending Trends & Student Performance: Since 2000, spending on public schools has increased 44 percent. What kind of performance does all that money buy?
- NAEP reading and math scores are flat or show only slight improvement.
- Only 69 percent of schools met AYP target goals.
- Only 27 percent of public schools made “Expected Growth” targets under ABCs.
- Only 70 percent of North Carolina eight graders graduate within five years.
MORE TAXES TO SAVE JOBS? GOVERNOR’S NUMBERS DON’T ADD UP.
The Numbers. Budget provisions estimate the loss of 6,000 teachers, 4,000 teacher assistants and 1,000 non-instructional support staff. Saving all the jobs mentioned would cost the state approximately $517.5 million, far short of the $1-$1.5 billion estimate the governor says is necessary to save educator jobs (See note for calculations3 ).
Other Options to Save Teacher Jobs: Many employees have been offered the option of accepting a pay cut to save other jobs. Why shouldn’t teachers have this option? An increase of 2 students per class in grades 4-12 will save the state approximately $184 million but also result in the loss of several thousand teacher jobs. The same jobs could be saved if teachers agreed to reduce pay by approximately 3.6 percent 4
Job loss estimates are as follows Teachers – 6,000; Teacher Assistants – 4,000; Noninstructional staff – 1,000. Teachers cost to employ = $48,000 average salary + 14,400 (benefits) = $62,400 x 6,000 =$374,400,000; Teacher Assistant Cost to employ = $21,000 + $6,300 (benefits) = $27,300 x 4,000 = $109,200,000; Noninstructional staff cost to employ – ave. salary = $26,074 + $7,822 (benefits) = $33,896 x 1,000 = $33,896,000. Total cost to employ all three categories $374,400,000 +$109, 200, 00 + $33,896,000 = $517,496,000.