What the Liberals Don’t Want You to Know about K-12 Spending in North Carolina

Anyone paying attention to debates about K-12 education funding in North Carolina will likely detect a trend coming from apologists for the education establishment.

“For the 2016-17 school year, state funding per student remains 8.1 percent below 2008 pre-recession level,” declares the far-left NC Policy Watch. The Higher Education Works Foundation likewise chimes in with “An analysis … found that after adjusting for inflation, state expenditures still haven’t recovered to pre-recession levels” in K-12 per pupil spending.

And of course, the Raleigh News & Observer joins the choir: “per-pupil funding in inflation-adjusted dollars has not returned to its pre-recession level. In 2008-09, it was $6,237. Today, it is $5,616.”

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If the Left does one thing well, it is read from the same script. But why the emphasis on using “pre-recession levels” as the baseline for per pupil spending comparisons?

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The reason is simple: FY 2008-09 represented an all-time high in per pupil, inflation-adjusted state funding for K-12 education in North Carolina.

Does anyone else find it somewhat intellectually dishonest and misleading that none of these analyses using “pre-recession levels” of funding say word one about the spending trends that preceded that high-water mark of spending?

The purpose of the chart below is to provide the data that the Left doesn’t want you to know about education spending in North Carolina.[i]

Following are the key takeaways from the data:

·         Even after adjusting for inflation, per pupil spending nearly doubled in the 25 years leading up to the 2008-09 recession

·         In constant 2016 dollars, per pupil spending in FY 1983-84 was $3,337. In FY 2008-09 it had climbed to $6,308

·         Nominal spending per pupil (i.e. not adjusted for inflation) rose from $1,445 to $5,703, meaning actual per pupil spending was nearly four times as high in 2008-09 as it was 25 years earlier

·         During the same time, cumulative inflation was 131 percent, meaning that per pupil spending grew at nearly twice the rate of inflation during this time

The sharpest rise in per pupil spending occurred in the seven years between FY 1983-84 to FY 1990-91, in which per pupil spending – adjusted for inflation – exploded by a whopping 59 percent.

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