JLF Memo
Feb. 21st, 2012: - johnlocke.org Manage Subscriptions

NC is 42nd (not 49th) in per-pupil spending
By Dr. Terry Stoops

View in your browser.

I have spent months countering the "49th in the nation myth," a talking point manufactured by public school advocacy groups to attack the budget approved by the NC General Assembly last year. At long last, the National Education Association (NEA) has released Rankings of the States 2011 and Estimates of School Statistics 2012, which should set the record straight. In this week's CommenTerry, I summarize the NEA's findings.

Bulletin Board

  • The John Locke Foundation and the Campbell Federalist Society will host national security policy experts Doug Bandow and Afsheen John Radsan for a discussion titled "The Targeted Killing of Anwar al-Awlaki: Policy and Law in an Asymmetric Age." The event will be held on Wednesday, February 22, at 12:00 noon at Campbell University Law School in Raleigh. To register for this event, please send us an email or call 919-828-3876.

  • Join the Civitas Institute on March 2 and 3 at the Marriot Hotel, Crabtree Valley in Raleigh for Conservative Leadership Conference 2012: Battleground North Carolina. This highly anticipated conference will train, prepare, and motivate the citizens of North Carolina with experts from some of the nation's most respected conservative organizations. Confirmed speakers include Charles Krauthammer of Fox News, Jason Lewis of the Jason Lewis Show, and Arthur Brooks of the American Enterprise Institute. To register visit https://www.battlegroundnc.org/register or call 919-834-2099.

  • Attend the Civitas Institute's Free Market Academy on Saturday, March 10, from 2:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. at the Fairfield Inn & Suites in Elizabeth City, NC. This workshop is inspired by Henry Hazlitt's classic book -- described by F.A. Hayek as "a brilliant performance" -- and explores several overlooked economic truths missing from today's economic debates. Essential for newcomers to economics and also serves as a great refresher for those already familiar with the subject. This discussion will better equip you to win debates on the economy and be a more persuasive advocate for economic liberty. Cost is $5.00. Register online at http://www.nccivitas.org/events or call 919-834-2099.

  • The John Locke Foundation is sponsoring a Citizen's Constitutional Workshop on Saturday, March 17, from 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. at Joslyn Hall, Carteret Community College, in Morehead City, NC. Historian Dr. Troy Kickler and political science expert Dr. Michael Sanera will discuss "What would the Federalists and Anti-federalists say about the current political and economic crises?" The cost is $5.00 per participant, lunch not included. Pre-registration is strongly suggested. For more information or to sign up for the event, visit the Events section of the John Locke Foundation website.

  • The North Carolina History Project would like educators and homeschool parents to submit lesson plans suitable for middle and high school courses in North Carolina history. Please provide links to NC History Project encyclopedia articles and other primary and secondary source material, if possible. Go to the NC History Project website for further information.

  • Live JLF's research newsletter archive.


Rankings and Estimates is an annual study published by the nation's largest teachers union, the National Education Association (NEA). For many pundits on the Left, the NEA study is the go-to guide for state-by-state rankings of educational inputs, such as funding, employment, and employee compensation.

I continue to have reservations about using unadjusted NEA data to compare states that have significant differences. Moreover, I maintain that per-pupil expenditure rankings provide little information about the relative quality and productivity of public education in these states because the relationship between spending and student performance is weak.

Nevertheless, my magnanimous nature compels me to put those concerns aside and agree to debate the Left on their terms. Do not get used to it.

So, how does North Carolina fare on the latest Rankings and Estimates report? According to the NEA study, North Carolina ranked 42nd in total per-pupil expenditure for the current school year. In other words, the oft-repeated, never-substantiated talking point -- "NC ranks 49th in per pupil spending" -- is simply not true. (For additional information, see NEA, Rankings of the States 2011 and Estimates of School Statistics 2012, pp. 54-55, 67 or Facts and Stats below.)

Furthermore, this year's ranking is higher than the state's rankings for the 2010-2011 (45th) and 2009-2010 (43rd) school years. This information is important to those who follow politics because Democrats controlled the NC General Assembly before 2011 (and before 1911, for that matter). They charged that last year's Republican takeover of the legislature led to a harmful and embarrassing drop in North Carolina's per-pupil expenditure ranking. Obviously, the statistics published in Rankings and Estimates do not jibe with that account.

For intellectually honest progressives, the latest NEA study should settle the question of where North Carolina ranks in per-pupil spending and discourage them from perpetuating the "49th in the nation myth." I suspect, however, that the myth will continue to be cited by Democrats and their enablers throughout the election season. The reason is simple. As Winston Churchill remarked, "A lie gets halfway around the world before the truth has a chance to get its pants on."

Random Thought

Are people still "getting' jiggy wit it?"

Facts and Stats

Go to johnlocke.org/site-docs/newsletters/images/PPEstateranks2009-12.jpg for a larger view of the table.


I would like to invite all readers to submit announcements, as well as their personal insights, anecdotes, concerns, and observations about the state of education in North Carolina. I will publish selected submissions in future editions of the newsletter. Anonymity will be honored. For additional information or to send a submission, email Terry at [email protected].

Education Acronym of the Week

NEA -- National Education Association

Quote of the Week

"The total amount to be spent during 2011-12 for current expenditures, capital outlay, and interest on school debt represents a 2.0 percent increase over comparable expenditures estimated for 2010-11 and a 46.2 percent increase over 2001-02. Adjusting for the effects of price inflation, the change in total public school expenditures is estimated at 13.1 percent over the decade."
-- National Education Association,
Rankings of the States 2011 and Estimates of School Statistics 2012, p. 83

Click here for the Education Update archive.


Upcoming Events

Wednesday, Feb. 22nd, 2012 at 12:00 p.m.
A Luncheon Forum
with our special guests Doug Bandow and Afsheen John Radsan
The Targeted Killing of Anwar al-Awlaki: Policy and Law in an Asymmetric Age

Monday, Feb. 27th, 2012 at 12:00 pm Noon
A meeting of the Shaftesbury Society
with our special guest Dr. Daniel I. Fine
"Shale Gas Wars: From Pennsylvania to North Carolina."

Tuesday, Mar. 13th, 2012 at 7:30 PM
2012 John William Pope Lecture
with our special guest Meghan L. O'Sullivan
"Making Sense of the New Middle East: The Dynamics and Their Implications for US Interests"

Saturday, Mar. 17th, 2012 at 9 a.m. - 3 p.m.
A Citizens' Constitutional Workshop in Morehead City, NC
with our special guests Dr. Troy Kickler & Dr. Michael Sanera
Workshop #2 in Morehead City: "What would the Federalists and Anti-federalists say about the current political and economic crises?"

©2016 John Locke Foundation | 200 West Morgan St., Raleigh, NC 27601, (919) 828-3876