Wednesday, January 25, 2012

North Carolina did not add teachers

The Civitas Institute (and others) are pushing selective numbers to try to show that the draconian K-12 budget cuts by the Republican legislature actually increased the number of teachers being funded by the state in 2011-12.

Civitas is taking its numbers from the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction Statistical Profile and focusing on the 2010-11 and 2011-12 school years. Below I show the figures for teachers from the 2008-09 through 2011-12 school years.

Full-time teachers in public schools
School year State-funded Federally-funded Locally-funded Total
2008-09 86,447 5,699 6,952 99,098
2009-10 81,746 9,245 4,386 95,377
2010-11 78,963 11,443 4,473 94,879
2011-12 81,020 8,791 4,153 93,964

Data from the NC DPI Statistical Profile.

Civitas is touting the fact that from 2010-11 to 2011-12, the number of teachers that were paid for through state revenues increased by 2,057 from 78,963 to 81,020. The figure that's relevant to children, however, is the total number of full-time teachers in North Carolina's public schools, which decreased by 915 this from 94,879 to 93,964 and which has decreased by more than 4,000 since 2008-9.

The claim that this is anything other than a loss is ridiculous. If I took $3,000 from your savings account and only put $2,000 of it back in your checking account, you wouldn't be thanking me for my "generosity."

Civitas tries to explain this discrepancy away by saying that the losses were really caused by the federal government, which started scaling back its stimulus funding resulting in a loss of 2,652 teaching positions. Decreases in funding by local governments also contributed to the decrease, causing a loss of 320 teaching jobs.

What Civitas overlooks is that the federally-funded teachers were originally state-funded teachers who were put on the put on federal revenues temporarily. In 2009-10 and 2010-11 with the availability of stimulus funding, North Carolina shifted nearly 6,000 teachers from state revenues to federal revenues. In 2010-11, shifts of teachers to federal and local revenues mostly offset shifts out of state revenues. In 2011-12, a third of these "temporarily-shifted" full-time teachers were shifted back to state funds.

Civitas also overlooks decreases in the other funding that the state has sent to local school districts. In 2011-12, these cuts were more than $300 million, on top of the $459 million reduction in other state spending.

When all full-time personnel are included, full-time employment in North Carolina's public schools dropped by 4,840 positions in 2011-12.

Full-time personnel in public schools
School year State-funded Federally-funded Locally-funded Total
2008-09 144,789 12,573 33,764 191,126
2009-10 128,540 24,715 29,684 182,939
2010-11 125,981 26,070 28,419 180,470
2011-12 130,594 18,650 26,386 175,630

Data from the NC DPI Statistical Profile.

Once again, personnel on state revenues increased but were more than offset by decreases in personnel on local and federal revenues.

Civitas goes on to claim that the 4,840 decrease in employment shows how mild the cuts were. As if.

First of all, the cuts compound cuts of nearly 11,000 full-time people in the preceding two years. Taking a pint of blood on one day leaves you woozy; taking pints on three consecutive days represents a serious health risk.

Second, the figures that Civitas uses (and that are shown above) are limited to full-time personnel and do not include part-time jobs. They also exclude pre-K positions. The schools estimate that when all of these positions are included that the employment loss was 6,400 jobs this year and 17,300 since 2008-9.

Third, the reports do not account for reductions in work days and work hours that occurred in about two-thirds of school districts.

More fundamentally, Civitas overlooks how unnecessary these cuts were. The legislature eliminated a tax surcharge on higher-income households, eliminated a temporary sales tax surcharge, and cut corporate taxes. These cuts led to the losses in positions in pre-K, K-12 and higher education.