- Enrollment changes generally foretell changes in public school staffing levels.
- Since 2015, enrollment in North Carolina public schools is down nearly 12,000 students
- Despite these declines, the number of state-funded teachers, instructional staff and total employees is higher now than in 2015.
North Carolina is one of the fastest growing states. For years we’ve heard the stories and seen the numbers. However, did you know that — aside from one small increase in 2016 — enrollment in North Carolina’s traditional public schools has declined in four of the last five years? In 2014, enrollment in North Carolina public schools stood at 1,456,330. By 2018-19, enrollment had declined to 1,444,537, a drop of almost 12,000 students.[i]
Student enrollment is the single biggest factor in determining staffing needs, including how many teachers are hired. Teachers in North Carolina are usually employed by the state, federal or local government. Historically, about 75 percent of teachers are hired by the state.
How did the downturn in enrollment impact the staffing and the number of teachers? According to data from the Department of Public Instruction, the total teachers in North Carolina in 2015 was 94,566. Of those teachers, 81,702 were employed by the state.
|Year||State-Funded Teachers||Total Teachers||State Funded Employees||State Instructional Support Staff (FTE)||
Total Inst. Sppt. Staff (FTE)
Source: Highlights of the North Carolina Public School Budget, Published by the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction.
How has the enrollment decline impacted other staffing levels? Again, an examination of the Highlights of the North Carolina Public School Budget, for specific years is helpful.
While overall enrollment in the public schools is down about 12,000 students, since 2015, the state has added almost 1,600 new employees in the public schools.
The number of state certified personnel (central office administrators, principals, assistant principals, teachers and instructional support) is up 797 employees. While the number of central office administrators declined, the number of principals largely held steady. 143 new assistant principals were added, along with 542 new instructional support staff.
Regarding non-certified personnel, the story is similar. While overall enrollment has declined, the number of state-funded non-certified employees (e.g. teacher assistants, technicians, clerical staff etc.), is up 801 statewide.
Also, worth noting is the number of state-funded instructional support staff (e.g. guidance counselors, librarians, social workers etc.) increased during this period. Total instructional support staff FTEs increased from 10,179.1 in 2015 to 10,482.8 in 2019, an increase of 2.9 percent. This figure runs in contrast to the May 1 protestors’ claim that the schools are being starved of these categories of staff. While the number of state teachers increased by about two-tenths of one percent during this time period, the number of state-funded instructional staff increased by 2.9 percent, while the total number of instructional staff increased by 6.2 percent.
The increase in instructional staff indicates a declining student population does not necessarily foretell lower teacher or staff levels. In addition, the growing numbers of instructional staff suggest the competition for public education dollars will become more intense. More reason to know exactly how and where educational dollars are being spent.
[i] Highlights of the North Carolina Public School Budget 2019, p. 6. Published by the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction. Available online at: http://www.ncpublicschools.org/docs/fbs/resources/data/highlights/2019highlights.pdf