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Wednesday, 25 June 2014 13:58

Get facts about teacher pay, performance

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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

Balsam

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