Senator Tillis helped orchestrate cutbacks to public education in North Carolina which have created a “gloomier picture” of the state’s public education system and “an education system where student achievement is lagging, teacher quality is dropping and many students are being left behind,” a new News & Observer analysis of a groundbreaking report found.
According to the court-ordered, non-partisan report, “Cutbacks that began during the Great Recession, beginning in 2008, and much deeper legislative cuts over the last few years” – including when Senator Tillis was Speaker of the House – have “begun to undermine the quality and equity gains that were previously made.”
Senator Tillis last year said, “If I could wave a wand and do everything we did in North Carolina up in D.C., we’d be even better off.” But a look back this week at his record – starting with an education legacy that failed students, teachers, and families – reveals North Carolina is still picking up the pieces from his failed leadership.
As Speaker of the House from 2011-2015, Tillis passed a budget that eliminated 9,000 teaching and teaching assistant positions, contributing to teachers fleeing to other states like Texas and Georgia. Tillis’ budget also cut roughly $115 million for textbooks and instructional supplies and laid the seeds of North Carolina’s “class size chaos” by increasing student-teacher ratios.
Other policies implemented by Tillis have failed, according to the report:
- Ending the N.C. Teaching Fellows Program, which provides scholarships to students who agree to become teachers, contributed to the state moving from “having a very highly qualified teaching force” to “one that is extremely uneven.”
- Giving schools A-F grades, which went into effect in 2013-14, is “biased and unfair” and has “made it even more difficult for high-poverty schools to attract high-quality teachers.”
- Lifting the cap on charter schools, along with providing private school vouchers, has disadvantaged traditional public schools and cost “school districts funding while leaving them with fixed costs.”
Even senior leaders serving with Tillis admitted that Tillis’ priorities hurt public education. “Yes, you can go back and say if we didn’t cut taxes we would have money for education,” the co-chairman of the teacher task force said at the time.
News & Observer: NC GOP promotes ‘incredible strides’ in education. Report says things have worsened.
By T. Keung Hui
January 7, 2020
- North Carolina Republican lawmakers say they have transformed the state’s education system in the past decade. But a recently released independent report paints a gloomier picture of the state of public schools.
- The report from WestEd, a non-profit research group, contends that insufficient state funding has contributed to an education system where student achievement is lagging, teacher quality is dropping and many students are being left behind. The report, which was publicly released in December, criticizes several of the education changes that the General Assembly has made since Republicans gained the majority in 2011.
- “Cutbacks that began during the Great Recession, beginning in 2008, and much deeper legislative cuts over the last few years have eliminated or greatly reduced many of the programs put in place during the 1990s, and this has begun to undermine the quality and equity gains that were previously made,” according to the report.
- But WestEd says that when adjusted to 2018 dollars, per-pupil spending in North Carolina has declined about 6% since 2009–10. The report also says that, based on 2017 dollars, average salaries for the state’s teachers that year were lower than compared to 2003 or 2009.
- This level of education funding, according to the report, has led to problems such as fewer teachers employed, “stagnating salaries” and “underfunded” high-poverty schools.
- In the 1990s, WestEd says North Carolina had virtually eliminated teacher shortages and had the greatest gains in students achievement. Since then, the report says the state has gone from “having a very highly qualified teaching force” to “one that is extremely uneven.”
- WestEd points to factors such as how the legislature ended the N.C. Teaching Fellows Program in 2011 before bringing it back in a smaller way in 2017. The program provides scholarships to students who agree to become teachers.
- The report also points to cuts in state funding for training and support of teachers. As a consequence of the various changes, the report says disadvantaged students have less access to experienced and effective teachers.
- Since the 2013-14 school year, every North Carolina public school has received an A through F letter grade based largely on how many of its students passed state exams.
- But WestEd says basing the grading system on passing rates is biased and unfair because research shows high-poverty schools don’t do as well academically. The report says the letter grades have made it even more difficult for high-poverty schools to attract high-quality teachers.
- Lawmakers lifted the cap on the number of charter schools in 2011 and are now providing vouchers to help families attend private schools.
- But WestEd says these policies “contribute to the effects of cumulative disadvantage” in high-poverty traditional public schools. The report says the loss of students to charter schools is costing school districts funding while leaving them with fixed costs, such as paying for buildings and transportation.
- “In effect, charter schools can reduce the amount of funds available to HPSs (high poverty schools) through a loss of per-pupil allocations and district expenses for their operations,” the report says.