Get facts about teacher pay, performance

To the Editor:

Having lived in North Carolina for a year, I’ve noticed that low teacher salaries are a hot topic. (For the record, I teach in a private school where we earn even less than the public sector). But I follow the debate with interest because the rhetoric is flung around thickly.

Here’s a quote that was highlighted in an article in the June 18 issue of The Smoky Mountain News: 

“If given the choice, would you enroll your child in a state that is 48th in per pupil spending?”

What is implied by that question (Which is actually NOT a question but an assertion masquerading as a question)?

You have to spend a lot of money to educate a child well? Money is the number one predictor of good education? 

What don’t we know?

• Whether all 50 states actually spend close to the same. What if N.C. truly is 48th in spending but the variance among state budgets is pretty narrow?

• Whether the quality of students graduating from secondary schools and universities is a problem.

• What the end product (i.e., students) is like in states that spend the most.

• What the difference in dollars goes to in states that spend more.

• What ‘per pupil spending’ actually includes. What goes into that figure? Does more money go directly to teacher salaries? And if so, is there a correlation between better-paid teachers and quality education as measured again by the end product?

Here are some facts to consider:

• The city of Washington, D.C., spent an average of $29,349 per student in 2010-11, and 81 percent were not proficient in either reading nor math.

• North Carolina spent $8,433 per pupil during the 2012-2013 school year.

• The average among all 50 states was $11,068 for the same 2012-2013 window.

Here’s what I would ask those making the case that we are in trouble in N.C.:

• What does the average home-schooling family spend per pupil?

• How much is the average private school tuition?

• What about online schools that are growing in both accessibility and quality?

Here’s the bottom line for any issue: You can’t have a useful discussion without taking time to flesh out hidden assumptions and facts!

Thanks for your paper. We read it each week and enjoy keeping up with local issues.

Maria Cochrane


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