The North Carolina Association of Educators (NCAE) is mad. And they want you to be too.
For the past several weeks, the organization has been decrying the impact of state budget cuts on schools around the state. Earlier this week John de Ville, a teacher at Macon County Schools and NCAE member, took his turn to say how bad things are. De Ville vented at lawmakers who failed to deliver on jobs, the state’s high unemployment rate, budget cuts and staff layoffs for the public schools. His scapegoat? The Republican General Assembly and the Tea Party. What a surprise.
Once the hot air clears, it’s hard to miss NCAE’s selective indignation. According to de Ville, an unemployment rate of 10.1 percent – the highest level in a year – is a sure sign that candidates who ran last fall as “job creators” haven’t been telling us the truth.
Evidently, de Ville believes that after only eight months in office, Republican leaders in the House and Senate have the ability to trump the policies of a Democratic governor, reverse years of reckless spending and jumpstart a moribund national economy. Of course, Mr. deVille conveniently forgets to mention that Gov. Bev Perdue vetoed numerous bills that would have done much to spur job creation. These included a balanced budget amendment, medical malpractice insurance reform, regulatory reform and energy jobs legislation.
In 2009, President Obama told us the federal stimulus plan was necessary to prevent the national unemployment rate from increasing above 8 percent. Two years and $787 billion later the national unemployment rate is 9.1 percent and above 10 percent in North Carolina. It’s puzzling why de Ville’s anger is targeted at the Tea Party and not at the failed policies of President Obama or Gov. Perdue. North Carolina public schools had significant budget reductions and layoffs in 2008, 2009 and 2010. Yet I wonder if de Ville or other NCAE members shared their opposition with the governor or the Democratic leadership in the General Assembly.
If you read the daily stories on the NCAE web site, you find the organization is opposed not only to the budget cuts, but also to how those cuts are made. De Ville feels legislators “punted” the tough budget decisions to local officials. Such a position tells you a lot about what NCAE and others think of local control.
When priorities have to be established and budgets reduced, does anyone really think state lawmakers can address those concerns better than local school officials? True, Macon County Schools, where de Ville works, was forced to return to the state about $2.8 million in funds over the past three years. The author fails to mention, however, the enhanced flexibility the legislature gave local districts to help manage budget reductions. Do teachers or school personnel really want budget and layoff decisions made by someone in Raleigh?
NCAE’s aversion to local control is something all parents and taxpayers should understand. Let’s face it, NCAE hates local control because it dilutes the organization’s influence. Instead of fighting big battles in Raleigh, the organization would be forced to fight battles in 115 different locations.
NCAE has beaten the drum on the adverse impacts of budget cuts on the public schools. However, its fixation on inputs and its tendency to cherry-pick facts are reasons why the comments of de Ville and others seem to fall on deaf ears.
What do I mean? De Ville is not hesitant about pointing out the budget and staff cuts Macon County Schools have had to endure. But what is left out is equally interesting. For example, from 2003-04 to 2010-11, Average Daily Membership (ADM) enrollment in Macon County increased a mere 209 students – an increase of about 26 students per year, or an increase of 8 percent over the period. However, over the same time, the district added 36 new teachers, or 5 new teachers per year, an increase of about 12 percent.
Despite cutbacks elsewhere, over the period 2003 to 2011, the total number of employees for Macon County Schools actually increased from 603 to 611. Total expenditures jumped from $29.1 million in 2004 to $38.5 million in 2010 (the latest year available). This is an increase of 32 percent or about 4.5 percent annually while per pupil support increased from $7,150 in 2004 to about $9,000 in 2010.
So what has happened in Macon County schools from 2000 to 2010? Simply stated; enrollment increased 8 percent, spending increased 32 percent and per-student spending went up 26 percent.
What did the residents of Macon County get for all this additional investment? The four-year graduation rate increased from 76 to 84 percent. However, scores on ABC End of Grade Reading and Math tests declined in every grade except one (third grade math). In 2003-04, 100 percent of Macon County Schools met Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) goals under No Child Left Behind. In 2010-2011, only 7 of the 11 schools – or 64 percent of schools – met AYP goals.
Citizens of Macon County, or North Carolina for that matter, did not sign up for schools whose costs increases are not matched by comparable increases in student performance.
Mr. de Ville’s comments reflect his commitment to perpetuating a failed system that is financially unsustainable. His aversion to policies that increase fiscal responsibility, accountability and enhance local control of schools reflect the wayward thinking of the organization of which he is a member. For those of you who think the interests of NCAE are synonymous with the interests of schools and students, think again.