There are very few things that most people will agree on these days. America finds itself in a partisan era where people are greatly divided on politics. One area however, that most tend to agree on, is that of substandard education. No one, outside from the disillusioned, will argue with the fact that our schools are producing the worst product it ever has. This is perhaps even an international truth, as Americans tend to score lower and lower compared with their globalized competition.
Where people differ on this subject is the solution to the problem. For liberal progressives, the answer is money. Their belief is that the shortfall in modern education is a dollar amount. It’s hard to tell if just one more dollar per student would mean the difference, but regardless, money is the answer.
The grievances are: teachers are under paid, facilities under funded, and students have to bring their own tissues. Yet every year for decades, more money is spent on education than the year before. It is estimated to cost around $9,000 per year for each student in public schools in North Carolina. A year of undergrad at UNC cost just $8340. This means you can get a year of higher education cheaper than you can teach a first grader basic math.
It is also often cited that North Carolina teachers are some of the lowest paid in the country. However, when the salary is adjusted for complete benefits, including teacher pensions, as well as the cost of living, NC teachers make more than the average teacher. The number is actually about $4,000 more per year than the average teacher, ranking 14th highest in the country.
Those wanting higher pay for teachers might want to look at those in administrative positions. Vice Principals are making about four-times what a teacher makes. This gives the incentive for those wishing to make money to leave the classroom. The best teachers stop teaching to make more money. When there is a teacher hiring freeze, remember that letting one administrator go could hire three or four more teachers for that school.
Then there is the staff in general. A report in 2009 showed that North Carolina was adding staff at a faster rate than enrollment growth. From 2000 to 2008, enrollment increased 13 percent while staff additions grew by 18 percent. This personnel includes: administrative, non-instructional, and instructional support positions. From 2003 to 2006, the pupil to staff ratio went from 8:1 to 7:1. As a comparison, in 1950, 73.6 percent of a school’s staff were teachers, while in 2006 it was just 68.1 percent.
To give some dollar perspective on things, in 2008 83 percent of North Carolina’s education budget went directly to salaries and benefits. It’s no wonder that students have to bring their own tissues. Only 17 percent of the NC education budget goes to classroom supplies, materials, etc. The cost of education is simply to run the process, exclusive of results.
Is money then really the issue? Or is the bloated nature of a public education system to blame? Over $9 billion was spent in 2008 to pay for a 7:1 pupil/staff ratio. Earlier the cost for attendance to UNC was cited, but it is much more expensive than other state universities. UNC-Asheville’s tuition and fees is just $3,473 per year. Perhaps we should pull the students from public education and send them all to four-year universities. It would be considerably cheaper, saving more than $5,000 per student.
Next week we will take a look at many other options to the education problem.