N&O’s verdict: NC Real Solutions ad is true, Perdue’s press ‘gaggle’ claim is false

The new NC Real Solutions ad has ruffled a lot of feathers and inspired the comment from Gov. Beverly Perdue that “there are fewer dollars in the public school system today than there’s ever been.”

The News & Observer puts the competing claims to the test. The original ad?

The ad is true – as far as it goes. The ad’s claim that the budget added 2,000 more state-funded teachers doesn’t represent the whole picture. In the end, the number of teachers in the state decreased this school year by about 1 percent. The ad could leave viewers with a false impression.

Or it could correct a false impression perpetrated by state budget critics. Those who would point to the lower number of teachers overall statewide ought to explain why one-time federal money ever was used to pay for ongoing teacher compensation expenses. Instead they’ve bashed Republicans and created a false impression that the state budget itself — regardless of local decisions made with local flexibility — slashed teacher jobs.

What about Perdue’s claims?

Perdue’s claim from her news conference is false.

Please follow the link to see how the governor’s handlers created an after-the-gaffe “clarification” designed to show that K-12 spending will make up 37.3 percent of the state budget next year, “the lowest percentage going back to at least 1969-70.” True or not, and the N&O gives the governor’s office the benefit of the doubt by labeling the clarification “partly true,” the percentage of the state budget devoted to education tells us nothing about the actual level of education spending itself. Education’s share of the total budget pie depends on the amount of resources devoted to all other state government expenses.

Mitch Kokai / Senior Political Analyst

Mitch Kokai is senior political analyst for the John Locke Foundation. He joined JLF in December 2005 as director of communications. That followed more than four years as chie...

Reader Comments

  • Terry Stoops

    It is worth noting that, as a percentage of the General Fund appropriations, public schools accounted for 38.5% of the budget this year. This was higher than the 2010-11 (37.4%) and 2008-2009 (37.7%) school years. (See Highlights 2012, p. 2)

    Changes to the state budget are inevitable, so I do not make much of the “clarification” offered by Gov. Perdue’s office.

  • Mitch Kokai

    That’s good information to have, Terry. Thank you.

    It’s still important to note that the percentage of the budget devoted to education tells us nothing useful about the actual spending level.

    If Medicaid spending is skyrocketing, then even strong growth in education funding would lead to a smaller share of total spending on education. The part of the budget with the fastest growth rate will take up a growing share of the overall budget.

    Plus neither of us has yet mentioned an even more important point: Educational success is not linked particularly closely to spending levels. As your own research reminds us, North Carolina already spends more per pupil than most of the world’s industrialized nations, but that spending doesn’t translate into exceptional performance.

  • Terry Stoops

    Amen, Mitch! Inputs, such as spending, are important insofar as they help us achieve a desirable (and measurable) outcome. In other words, what is the return on investment in public schools? Do we use taxpayer money in productive ways? I hope that Gov. Perdue takes these questions seriously during her upcoming “spend more on education” tour.