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On February 1, 2013, I used NC Department of Public Instruction data to show that the number of public school personnel has been on the rise over the last three years.  What happened next will make the hair on the back of your neck stand up…

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The NC Department of Public Instruction released school personnel data for the current (2012-13) school year on Friday, February 1, 2013.  Later that day, I posted a short summary of the data on our Locker Room blog.  The post, titled "Eeeeeevil Republicans fund over 3,000 more public school jobs in 2012-13," listed full-time state-funded personnel positions for the last three school years.  Subsequently, Dr. Bob Luebke of the Civitas Institute examined public school personnel growth from state, local, and federal funds in a Civitas Review blog post titled, "Did the state budget produce big job losses in education?"  Both blog posts came to the same conclusion — there have been no catastrophic decreases in public school personnel.  Rather, personnel data from the NC Department of Public Instruction shows that the number of positions is trending upward.

A week later, I began receiving unusual emails from legislators and legislative assistants at the NC General Assembly.  They forwarded me an email from Rachel E. Beaulieu, Legislative & Community Relations Director at the NC Department of Public Instruction (DPI).  The subject line of the email was "DPI Response to JLF post."  Attached to the email was a document called "Key points regarding Terry Stoops column." 

Ms. Beaulieu sent the email to all North Carolina’s state legislators and two state education officials.  Despite the fact that the entire purpose of the email was to respond to my blog post, I was not included in the email.  Thanks to the thoughtfulness and generosity of a handful of legislators and legislative staff, I received it a few hours after DPI sent it.

If you would like to read the full DPI response, I have included it in the Facts and Stats section below.  Here are a few responses to their rebuttal of my response to their personnel data:

  • DPI says that the data "does not illustrate what the General Assembly funded, it is how the local education agencies (school districts) chose to use their state resources." This is a curious remark. It suggests that DPI would not hold the General Assembly responsible for a decrease in public school personnel.  After all, school districts may have chosen to use their state resources to fund other priorities. You can’t blame the legislature for districts’ choices, right?
  • According to bullet point two, "The numbers in this chart do not account for the fact that teacher allotments increased in some districts because the number of students increased. Because numbers increased does not mean they increased as they would have before the cuts of the Great Recession."  This means that schools can no longer staff schools in the same buckwild manner they did before the Great Recession.  That’s correct.  Times have changed.  The Great Recession forced all of us to reevaluate our spending decisions.  Why should public schools be any different?
  • My blog post does not mention professional development, mentors, literacy coaches, textbooks, and other non-personnel expenditures.  Why?  (Hint: I used the phrase "public school jobs" and not "non-personnel expenditures" in the title of my blog post.)

The above discussion brings to mind a related issue.  The NC Department of Public Instruction and the State Board of Education have a serious messaging problem.  On the one hand, state education officials lament that North Carolina’s public schools have fewer resources for professional development, mentors, literacy coaches, textbooks, and "extras."  On the other hand, they celebrate the fact that last year North Carolina had the highest high school graduation rate and lowest dropout rate in the history of the state. 

If schools are suffering at the hands of the wicked Republican General Assembly, then why are public schools throughout the state producing unprecedented results?  Could it be that increasing flexibility has allowed school districts to use state funding in more effective and efficient ways?  Wouldn’t this suggest that the state should place fewer restraints on school district finances?  Discuss.

Finally, as a follow-up to last week’s newsletter, the media continues to ignore the personnel data altogether.  I appreciate DPI’s willingness to ensure that the issue remains fresh in the minds of our state legislators.

Facts and Stats

From: Rachel Beaulieu [mailto:[email protected]]

Sent: Friday, February 08, 2013 1:26 PM

To: Rep. Alma Adams…

Cc: June Atkinson; Philip Price; Rachel Beaulieu

Subject: DPI Response to JLF post

Importance: High

Dear All,

On behalf of the Department of Public Instruction, it is with pleasure that I share with you several key points rebutting the post as cited below.  Please see attached our response to Terry Stoops’ column.  If you need any further information, please feel free to contact me at any time.

Sincerely yours,

Rachel E. Beaulieu

Legislative & Community Relations Director NC Department of Public Instruction


[email protected]

[Attachment; link added]

Key points regarding Terry Stoops column:

  • The chart is mislabeled. It does not illustrate what the General Assembly funded, it is how the local education agencies (school districts) chose to use their state resources.   Districts have flexibility to move funds in many cases.
  • The numbers in this chart do not account for the fact that teacher allotments increased in some districts because the number of students increased. Because numbers increased does not mean they increased as they would have before the cuts of the Great Recession.

For example, student numbers increased by approximately 10,000 students since 2010-11, so there should be additional teachers provided to serve the additional students. This does not mean that North Carolina school districts are able to staff their schools as they did before the Great Recession. We have not maintained class size rules for grades 4 through 12 because local districts need flexibility to help them locate the funds that they are required to return to the state for the negative reserve of $360 million.

  • There are many areas in which local schools have been cut dramatically. Needs are not being met as they used to be. For example, all funds for professional development have been eliminated.  Retirements and other turnover means that approximately 10 percent of our teachers are new every year. We have no funds to address professional development. No other significant industry or business fails to provide this if they want to be modern and competitive. North Carolina has provided professional development over the past two years only because we sought and received competitive federal funds through Race to the Top.
  • All mentor funds have been eliminated. Mentors used to provide an important function to help brand new teachers get off to a good start in their new profession. These funds used to provide an experienced teacher to mentor beginning teachers in their first three years.
  • All literacy coaches have been eliminated.  These funds used to provide support to students and teachers in proven methods of literacy in our struggling schools.
  • The $100m funding for textbooks was reduced to nothing — zero – in 2010-11 and has only been funded at 50% in 2012-13.  This line item is clearly not providing the classroom materials that the teachers need.
  • Local districts are using reserves, raising class sizes at grade four and above, and cutting many "extras" in order to fund their basic education needs. This can be an effective way to deal with short-term budget problems, but it is not a sustainable plan for success.
  • Important to remember that Central office remains a mere 1% of the State Public School Fund leaving 99% of our funds to be used at the school level. 

Education Acronym of the Week

NCGA — North Carolina General Assembly

Quote of the Week

"Dorothy Wainwright: Fine, get rid of them.
James Hacker: What?
Dorothy Wainwright: Get rid of the Department of Education.
James Hacker: I don’t understand you.
Dorothy Wainwright: Get rid of it! Abolish it! Remove it! Expunge it! Eliminate it! Eradicate it! Exterminate it! Get rid of it!
James Hacker: Get rid of it?"

– "Yes, Prime Minister" The National Education Service (1988)

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