Systematically Tying our Financial Hands Behind Our Backs

Blogger's Note: I'm in a bad mood this morning.  I apologize in advance for the crankiness, but I won't apologize for speaking the truth about the increasingly crappy #edpolicy decisions being made here in North Carolina. 


In just another example of the illogical destruction of a once celebrated K-12 school system, the North Carolina legislature — led by conservative wing-nut Senate leader Phil Berger — pushed through a new budget last week that requires schools to be rated on A-F scales, reintroduces rigid promotion gateways that will lead to more student retentions, AND insists that local districts implement performance pay for teachers.

This all sounds great in theory, right? 

"It's about damn time," the argument goes, "that we start holding schools — AND those fat lazy teachers — accountable for something!"

And it fits right in with the "declaring war on teachers and breaking public education to pieces" approach to school reform (see here and here) being modeled in educational wastelands places like Florida and Tennessee — which rank 30th and 44th in a 2011 study of the states doing the best job educating their kids. 

But here's the hitch, Phil:  North Carolina ranks 45th in per pupil spending — ponying up an average of $8,409 per pupil, $2,200 LESS than the national AVERAGE of $10,615. 

That means theoretically that a large school like mine (which serves nearly 1,200 students) has $2.6 MILLION less to spend PER YEAR than schools of similar sizes in states that spend the national average on education — and $8.2 MILLION less to spend PER YEAR than schools of similar sizes in states like Vermont, which regularly stand atop the "best educated" lists generated by the folks over at


Shocker, huh?  Kind of hard to believe that individual schools — or districts or states — with MILLIONS and MILLIONS more to spend EVERY YEAR on schools, staffers and/or supplies actually outperform those of us who haven't got two nickels to rub together.


Thom Tillis — the North Carolina House's very own penny-pinching, tea-drinking, underinformed dribble spouting conservative superhero — recently said:

“We are open to ideas that promote public education and produce positive outcomes for students and teachers."

Glad to hear it,Thom.  Here's mine:  Either start providing our schools with the resources that they need to do the job by getting our per pupil spending up to the national AVERAGE or quit pretending to be shocked by the mediocre results that we're able to produce when you systematically tie our financial hands squarely behind our backs.

The moral of the story isn't all that hard to understand: Positive outcomes for students and teachers start and end with actually HAVING the resources to do the job that you're asking us to do.



(As an interesting aside for my local readers: Circumstances are even worse in Wake County, where we only spend $7,700 per pupil — almost $3,000 less than the national average. The way I see it, we're doing pretty well considering what we've been given.) 


Read more here:

 Related Radical Reads:

Why I NEVER Recommend Teaching as a Profession

The Straw Breaking My Professional Back

Tired of Being the Nation's Punching Bag

Whose Pockets are YOUR Legislators Lining?


8 thoughts on “Systematically Tying our Financial Hands Behind Our Backs

  1. Bill Ferriter

    Hey Ginny,
    Your dictionary and thesaurus conundrum is another example of having your hands tied behind your back because any student with a cell phone and a texting plan (read: probably 80 percent of the kids on your team) could text Google to get definitions and synonyms.
    So you dont even need dictionaries or thesauruses. You just need someone to give your kids permission to bring their cell phones to class when working on writing lessons.
    But we dont get to make those decisions EITHER.
    Anyway…hope youre well.

  2. ginnyp

    What a great post. You are fun when you’re cranky. AND right on, too. You have 2 computers? Wow. I don’t have any. Not that I’d have room, what with 34 desks and chairs plus bookcases. By the way, a set of dictionaries and thesauruses (i?) for language arts classes would be in order, don’cha think? I have enough so kids can share with a partner. THAT’S gonna help, huh? Then again, teaching “dictionary skills” aren’t in the common core lessons I’ve seen yet anyway. Guess it’s another year of being an ineffective teacher for me.

  3. Bill Ferriter

    Hey Joan and Bob,
    Im with both of you on the notion that more money doesnt always equal better results, but I find the harping of legislators who arent even CLOSE to spending the national average to be ridiculous. Heck, in my upper middle class suburban school, we dont even have enough money for copy paper or classroom custodians this year.
    Pair that with the 2 working computers that we have per room — they work, but theyre about 8 years old — and the 32-33 kids per class and its hard to imagine getting anything OTHER than mediocre results.
    I guess what Im saying is that legislators have to realize that to some extent, you get what you pay for. Its like car shopping — if youve got $30K to spend, youre in a whole different league than the guy who is looking at $8K clunkers. That doesnt mean the $8K clunker doesnt serve a purpose — but anyone who complains that theyre not getting $30K performance from their $8K beater is a fool.
    Thats how I feel as a guy working in a state that wants to hold teachers accountable while simultaneously shortchanging schools and underfunding budgets.
    Any of this make sense?

  4. Joan

    Along with Bob’s post, I wonder if there is a price point where we get diminished returns? In our area, our highest ranking public school (nationally recognized) also spends the most per pupil (well above national average). But, our second highest spends well below the first (though about 1K above national average) and they are nationally ranked too. There must be a point where more money wouldn’t make a difference and then all districts should be afforded that price.

  5. 07GT

    Agreed,if the money goes into the classroom and is not diverted by some know-nothing administrator.

  6. Bob Dillon

    Is there price point where we get diminishing returns for our investment? We are much closer to the national average, and we are still wanting more. Sounds like a mess in NC though.

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