The N&O today gives its readers another thoughtless, fear-mongering piece about the state budget. For such a brief article, it contains many small-minded and ridiculous claims.
We know the toll that’s beginning to be taken on various state agencies thanks to severe state budget cuts. We also know, and there’s simply no avoiding continued references to it, that in stubbornly refusing to continue a 1-cent-per-dollar sales tax increase, Republican lawmakers passed up a chance at a relatively painless $1 billion annual source of revenue that would have saved jobs and services.
“Relatively painless $1 billion” source of revenue? Relative to what? Oh, that’s right, in the eyes of state worshippers like the N&O editors, loss of private sector jobs – you know, the lowly subjects – are meaningless compared to any slippage in power from the ruling class. And again they bring up the notion that taxing $1 billion out of the economy somehow “saves” jobs. It may “save” some government jobs, but by definition will destroy others. On net, the best this transfer can do is change the mix of jobs, but can not create or save jobs overall. Realistically, this process hampers the wealth creation-process by politicizing more of our resources rather then allowing them to be guided by consumer preferences.
The N&O editors then ramp up the “eduction is taking a leap backwards” fear-mongering with this:
Since 2008-09, North Carolina’s public schools have lost nearly 17,000 positions, two-thirds of them being either teacher jobs or teachers’ assistants. Jobs have been eliminated that will mean larger classes and reduced access to nurses and counselors, among others. And consider this stark fact: North Carolina has not cut teacher positions at a time when enrollment was growing since the Great Depression.
This passage is in reference to this DPI report. Unsurprisingly, the N&O’s one-sided commentary leaves some pretty relevant information unmentioned and unquestioned. As my colleague Bob Luebke noted, the 17,000 number is positions, not actual people laid off. Actual layoffs is about 6,100 people – but the N&O chose not to make that distinction for readers because explaining all the data may lesson the impact of their propaganda. They intentionally muddle their argument by leading their article talking about “saving jobs” but then shift gears to talking about “positions.” The discrepancy between positions eliminated versus actual people being laid off is significant because that means almost two-thirds of the eliminated slots were vacant. Often times positions are vacant for long periods of time, meaning the system functioned just fine without it – and therefore the position is eliminated.
Furthermore, the DPI report covers four budget years – but the N&O editors focus their scorn on the new GOP leadership, ignoring the previous three budgets approved by the prior leadership. I wonder why that is?
There is also the detail of the hundreds of millions of federal stimulus dollars that were available to temporarily fund education positions in previous budgets largely no longer available in this year’s budget. The federal dollars enabled prior budget writers to simply kick the difficult decisions down the road to this year.
The Great Depression reference leaves quite an impression, but fails to provide adequate context, such as how many years has the state increased teacher positions while enrollment decreased? The intellectually uncurious editors don’t care to investigate that. They also fail to mention that the current correction in education funding merely follows a well-established trend over the past 30 years.
The underlying premise for the N&O, of course, is that protecting and expanding the government education establishment status quo is the primary goal. They continue to live under the false premise that the next batch of taxpayer dollars will be the magic bullet to turn around the woeful government schools. In reality, North Carolina (and the nation in general) has drastically increased the amount of money spent per pupil; shrinking class sizes and expanding the number of non-classroom personnel. But the results have not materialized. The real problems are institutional. A centrally-managed, top-down, one-size fits all monopoly is destined to yield poor results regardless of how much you increase the expenditure on inputs. Most goods and service providers seek ways to produce more and higher quality results by using fewer resources. The government education establishment does the opposite.
Lastly, it is amazing to me that in an age when more people have free access to more information and knowledge than any time in the history of the planet, that somehow people still believe educating children should cost more than ever.