Terry, you’re generous to label the headline “at best misleading.” It is wrong — clearly wrong — so wrong that the story’s second paragraph tells you how wrong the headline is.

The headline: “NC education spending on decades-long slide”

The story script:

— North Carolina public schools account for the largest segment of the state budget every year, but that slice of the budget pie has been shrinking for years.

WRAL News reviewed budget numbers for the last 30 years and found that the percentage of general fund dedicated to K-12 classrooms has been on a long, slow slide, even as the total dollars for education increased. [Emphasis added.]

Let’s try the following thought experiment:

A millionaire liberal who owes most of his millions to the hard work of his conservative grandfather runs a foundation today. Let’s call it the Foundation of Undeterred Unapologetic Liberals. The FUUL is devoted in large part to left-of-center causes. Thirty years ago, the FUUL spent $10 million on the millionare liberal’s favorite group, Statists for Status Quo, along with $5 million on other groups and causes. (Assume SSQ has no other funding source.) In the past 30 years, annual funding for SSQ has generally increased from year to year, with an occasional dip in funding during tough economic times. In the latest budget year, the FUUL gave SSQ $15 million. Meanwhile, the FUUL also awarded $15 million to other groups and causes. (All numbers are inflation-adjusted, of course.) Thirty years ago, the FUUL spent 66 percent of its $15 million grants budget on SSQ. Today the FUUL spends 50 percent of its $30 million grants budget on SSQ.

Does this mean there’s been a “decades-long slide” in SSQ’s funding? Of course not. In fact, SSQ’s funding has grown by 50 percent over 30 years. The group’s share of total FUUL funding has dropped, but that says nothing about SSQ’s overall funding level. More importantly, the amount of funding says nothing about whether the organization needed any additional funding, nor whether there’s any ideal level (66 percent? 50 percent? 20 percent?) of FUUL funding that should be dedicated to SSQ.