Local Feature

Rep. Blust: Don’t add even more bureaucracy to NC education

Next Tuesday, the NC General Assembly Committee on Education will debate House Bill 466, which would require that 65% of state funding for education be used on “classroom instruction.”  I’m providing a link to the bill, but for now, at 15 lines, its still poorly defined–it doesn’t, for example, say exactly what is and is not “classroom instruction.”

Without having a clear definition for what is and is not classroom instruction, its not clear how big of an impact this legislation would have.  That having been said, the bill doesn’t make much sense in the context of the way NC education funding works — right now, there are three classes of funding:

1) “Position funding,” which pays, according to a formula, the salary of teachers and principals

2) “Dollar funding” is allocated district by district for different line items, like teaching assistants, administrative staff, textbooks and classroom supplies

3) “Categorical funding” is an amount given to address the needs to specific populations, based on the number of students within a school district to fall into a certain category (like gifted, disabled, or limited English proficiency)

Duke Democrats would definitely stand behind increasing teacher salaries, something that this bill would likely do (right now, North Carolina is almost exactly middle-of-the-pack with respect to cost-of-living adjusted teacher pay).  A McKinsey report found that top performing nations in education have much higher pay for teachers, which dovetails neatly into a strategy of recruiting the bulk of their teachers from the top third of college students.

That having been said, its not obvious that how funding is being allocated isn’t already Pareto efficient–that is to say, within the context of current allocations for education, that there obvious places to make cuts.

Broadly speaking, this could either do two things: (1) not very much, if about 65% of state funding is being used according the Blust formula, or (2) a lot, in a way that could dramatically unsettle school systems in less than a year (it would apply to expenditures in the 2012-2013 school year).

Anyone interested in the state of NC schools should keep a close eye on this legislation.

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