Bottom line: State Needs To Do More for Public Schools
Rep. Michele Presnell has claimed that she has increased the overall investment in public schools over her 2 terms. In actuality there is now $1.2 billion less for education and an increase of 43,700 students in the state's schools.
Most people get bored drilling down deeply into budget numbers, but it’s important that voters take a few minutes to look at some simple budgetary truths.
Number one among those is that Haywood school officials are right that salaries and benefits have eaten up the majority of the increase going to public education. This isn’t because teachers are paid too much or have gotten raises, it’s just a reality of incremental salary increases and the higher cost of benefits.. Personnel costs have gone up, but at the same time more is being demanded of teachers as assistants and other costs were cut.
Here are the numbers: from 2008-09 to 2014-15, the state increased funding to public schools by $60,214,282 (from $8.70 billion to $8.76 billion). During that same time period, salary and benefits for public school employees increased by $1.3 billion. Do the math and that means there is $1.2 billion less for everything else associated with education, and those are just real dollars that don’t take into account any inflation or the increase of 43,700 students in the state’s schools.
So, yes, the GOP-led General Assembly has returned some the money to the public schools that was cut — originally by the Democrat-led General Assembly — due to the recession. However, the increase has not kept up with teacher salary increases and more students, so schools don’t have more money.
But here’s a much more telling number, and it is more relevant in terms of the commitment by state leaders to public schools. In 1999-2000, the state’s leaders were committing 41 percent of the general fund to public schools. In 2014-2015, the legislature committed 37.8 percent of the general fund to education. The lesson: the state is committing a lower percentage of its dollars to education.