If you live in North Carolina it seems like a never-ending chorus:
Liberals complain that schools are underfunded. Conservatives point to ever-increasing budgets.
So where is the money going?
The title of a new report by the Bellwether Education Partners helps to answer that question, Benefits Take a Larger Bite Out of District K-12 Education Budgets.
How much has spending on benefits increased? According to the report:
Spending on benefits increased dramatically from 2005 to 2014 for most states. In North Carolina, for example, the state’s K-12 spending increased by 2 percent after adjusting for inflation. Benefit spending, on the other hand, grew by 48 percent over the same period. Because benefit costs so dramatically outgrew overall spending, the state and its school districts effectively delivered $589 million less to classrooms.
In 2017, the average teacher in North Carolina has a benefit package worth nearly $17,000.
Those benefits have been growing over time.
Of the 20 largest school districts, 19 spent a higher percentage of their budget on benefit costs in 2014 than 2005. Of the 20 largest districts in the country, the district with the highest increase in benefit costs over that time period is Wake County Public Schools.
In 2005, 11.9 percent of Wake County District school spending was devoted to the cost of benefits. By 2014, the percentage cost of benefits had increased to 18.66 percent. The largest increase among the 20 largest school districts in the United States (See page 11 of the Bellwether Report).
Those numbers have not slowed in recent years. How do they impact the state’s largest school district, Wake County Public Schools?
In 2016-17, WCPSS spent $308,557,224 for employee benefits or $1,948 per student. Since 2005 the per-student cost of employee benefits has increased 83 percent (Source: Online Statistical Profile North Carolina Public Schools).
Remember that the next time you are in a discussion of education funding and teacher salaries.