Superintendent June Atkinson is traveling North Carolina with fellow Democrats saying Republican budget cuts have led to increased class size and less learning. Despite only anecdotal evidence to back up her claim, Atkinson is sticking to her statement.
Is Atkinson correct? Enrollment and teacher figures can provide a rough estimation of student/teacher ratios (i.e., class size). The table below lists student enrollment and teachers for the years 2009-10 through 2011-12. The year 2009-10 was the last year of Democratic control. The two most recent years, 2010-11 and 2011-12, represents years when Republicans controlled both Houses of the General Assembly and exercised major influence over the budget process.
|Numbers are from Highlights of the North Carolina Public School Budget for years 2012, 2011, and 2010. The 2011-12 student figure is for allotted students|
Has Republican leadership contributed to a dramatic increase in class size (i.e. student/teacher ratio)? If you look at the numbers, you have to say there has been an increase. However I suspect Superintendent Atkinson’s claims imply an increase significantly greater than 1.3 and 1.2 percent increase for 2011 and 2012 , respectively.
Also, it should also be noted that in 2010-11 the Republicans set aside approximately $61.6 million in 2011-12 and $62.7 million in 2012-13 in the state budget for class size reduction programs in grades 1-3. The money was designated to hire 2,200 teachers over the next two years.
According to state personnel records, there are 915 fewer teachers than the year before. School personnel records indicate the state picked up the cost for about 2,100 teachers, most of whom were scheduled to lose their jobs with the expiration of stimulus and Edujobs funding. The expiration of federal funding – not state budget reductions represents the biggest contributor to job losses. There were 7,400 fewer federal school employees than the previous year and over 2,000 fewer local school employees. The losses were moderated by the state picking up the salaries of over 4,600 employees many of whom would have lost jobs becuase of the expiration of federal funding (For more information on this topic see: Behind the DPI School Personnel Numbers). It’s clear to see that the major influence on job losses was changes in federal funding — not state funding. Claims that changes in the state budget precipitated increases in class size and job losses are contradicted by the facts.