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« Lessig's talk | Main | Ask the experts! »

Mar 07, 2013


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Account Deleted

One of my closest friends leads an innovative arts/language/technology program in a primary school that has attracted national attention. His school board hasn't provided a raise for teachers in five years. He says he is thinking of going back overseas to teach in his field b/c he can make a higher salary and be provided a per diem for living expenses.


Given the current state of the economy, some folks might be happy with making the same as they did 5 years ago.

If you want nice things, you need to pay for them.
Yeah, the private school alternative pretty much proves that.
Account Deleted

Yea, fuck the future and the public good.


Are you implying that public schools haven't done that already?


Teacher pay, is a problem/issue that needs to be addressed. Not all teachers are underpaid as I know some that make pretty good jack. I do however believe at least some of our education dollars are misspent. Again, not necessarily on teachers. However, beginning a conversation with "I haven't been given a raise..." just might be off putting to folks who are under or unemployed or who actually may be making less than they did 5 years ago. Just sayin..

If your friend bolts for his European Utopia is he not doing exactly what you so eloquently noted above?


What is the staring salary of a teacher in NC? How does it compare to the starting salaries in other occupations? What is the probability of a recent graduate in education getting a job vs. the opportunity in other occupations? What percentage of the education budget is spent on teachers vs. administration?

Chris Watkins

Keeping the people dumb makes it easier to control them, like the plantation days.

NC ranks 48th lowest in the country for teacher pay.

A metric utilized to determine how many prison cells to build is the illiteracy rate of 3rd grader.

It is a lot cheaper to invest in education and create productive citizens as opposed to propagating potential prison inmates and dependents of social services.

Keeping the people dumb makes it easier to control them, like the plantation days.

And this is precisely the problem with our public schools. An education once meant one had learned, at the very least, something. It no longer does. And of course, this has occurred despite spending per pupil increases over any chosen time period.

So, forgive me for not being convinced that training people for a plantation existence is any better than being born into the same.


Evidence, Frog, of the inherent benefits of private versus public education, factoring out the impact of being born into a family with the resources to pay for private schooling? Also, factor out the influence of what happens in the homes of the two respective classes.

Then, explain how private schooling will provide free K-12 education for all.

You're excused if you'll cop to not believing in and/or not caring about ensuring everyone gets a minimal baseline education.

Back to NC teachers: Do NC school boards engage in the practice whereby they hire a lot of new graduates to one-year contracts? That allows them to dismiss those teachers after one year and bring in a new crop of newbies, keeping salary costs down and, of course, afflicting children with teachers who were themselves students 3 months earlier.

You get what you pay for.

David Hoggard

"So, forgive me for not being convinced that training people for a plantation existence is any better than being born into the same."

Some hyperbole there, but still.... I agree. The more we spend, the less effectively we educate the broad spectrum of public school students, it seems.

I am not one of those who blames public school teachers for the phenomenon, because they can't teach those not predisposed and motivated to learn. Neither can private school teachers for that matter, but they don't generally have to concern themselves with much of that.

I believe one of the main reasons that private schools and, to a lesser extent, charter schools excel over the average public school is because they are not under any obligation to baby sit. They can compel students to leave if they don't conform to behavioral standards.

Public schools don't have that luxury. They have to try and educate scholars right along side the yahoos.

Ed Cone

"The more we spend, the less effectively we educate the broad spectrum of public school students."

Data and definitions, please.

Not saying money is the only key variable, but interested in evidence for this sweeping statement.

David Wharton

The Department of Education says that "total education funding has increased substantially in recent years at all levels of government, even when accounting for enrollment increases and inflation."

And yet test scores have remained essentially flat since the 1970s.

Where is all the money going? A lot of it to administrators. We need fewer of them. The Friedman Foundation says, "...administrators and other staff experienced growth of 702 percent, more than seven times the increase in students."

Steve Jones

Here is the current salary schedule for NC public school teachers:

Note that the salary depends on years of experience, whether one has advanced degree(s) and whether one is a nationally board certified teacher. There may also be additional pay if one coaches and other duties, but that would depend on the system and school.

This isn't the whole picture, as many districts (but not all) give additional salary supplements that range quite a bit.

I'm an actual public school teacher and I'm still a frequent reader of this blog.
Steve, in Durham

David Hoggard

Left myself a bit of 'it's just a hunch,but' wiggle room with, "... it seems", Ed. Left it to the other David to do the heavy lifting.

As for definitions, I'm guessing that our new friend from Durham could define "yahoo" for us.

Steve. What say you? You have any trouble getting disruptive students out of your classroom?


I have no doubt we're throwing too much money at Public schools, but much of this money is not being spent in the classroom. As in DW post, a lot of this money goes to "studies" or training for Admins or teachers that does bupkis for the real problems. In underperforming schools, the real problem is poverty and lack of parental involvement. Kids come to school ashamed of their circumstances and unable to articulate their frustration or outright fear. I don't expect some to understand this because they feel comfortable in their little middle/upper class bubble.
I taught at both a private school and a public school. At the private school, probably 99% of the kids there had parents who were well off and involved in the school. Many of the moms did not work a job or if they did have a job it was one of those jobs where they could take off easily. The lunch was included in the tuition, so there were no hassles presenting a lunch ticket or having to "charge" lunch. Classrooms still had their share of disruption, but it was minor in comparison to the public school. Some kids who were troublesome were asked to leave and either had to go to another private school or attend public school.
My public school experience was nothing short of horrific. There were constant meetings and training sessions that amounted to nothing and kept you from concentrating on lesson plans or spending time with the kids who needed it. Parents were for the most part uninvolved and either threatened the child with physical harm if they misbehaved or defended the indefensible. I had no weekends to enjoy and felt I was drowning. Obviously I wasn't cut out for public school, but I wonder, who IS cut out for this?
Until we address the problems in our society of poverty, violence, and a general disrespect for learning, no amount of money thrown at the schools is going to help. These kids deserve better. Instead of fighting about how our schools are failing, a better approach is to quit blaming the kids/families/teachers in aggregate and address the real problems behind school failures.

Ed Cone

Test scores have remained essentially flat since the '70s.

Has the population of kids being tested changed? (SAT used to be taken by a very narrow slice, now by many more.) Have the tests kept up with changes in what kids know and need to know?

I'm no expert, asking these questions to learn more, but am skeptical of broad-brush statements about kids not learning and also more money never useful, while also aware that spending is no replacement for other important factors.

David Hoggard

More heavy lifting from Ishmael. Well said and thanks for your service.

Of course my simplistic 'yahoos' is Ishmael's: "Until we address the problems in our society of poverty, violence, and a general disrespect for learning, no amount of money thrown at the schools is going to help.

I'm guessing he had some trouble getting the disruptive students out his classroom, too.

Most of it stems back to some Supreme Court case several years back, I forget the name. It essentially blocked our public schools from attaining orderly classrooms. Caused all of the "due process" stuff that must now be undertaken. Students know their "rights" under this ruling, and exploit it to the detriment of the learning environment. I'll look it up.

Steve Jones

Disruptive students are not a big issue at my school, but we're small (<350 9-12) and not typical.

Ed has a good point about changing populations. We are educating far more students than we ever have (details in a moment). As we keep expanding the pool of students, its inevitable that we will get more and more students who aren't as strong academically. As David said, public schools don't have the luxury to kick out students because they aren't easy to educate for whatever reason, but private and charter schools do this all the time. Ishmael is also correct in that you cannot discuss schools without discussing poverty. Feel free to check the correlations of the income of parents and the test scores of students at any school.

This is the point, though, that I think that is always overlooked, and until recently I couldn't find a good source. Thanks, Pew Research!

57% of adults finished high school in 1971
88% of adults finished high school in 2011

In 1971 12% of adults ages 25 and older had completed at least a four-year college degree.
In 2012 31% of adults ages 25 and older had completed at least a four-year college degree.

In 1971 22% of adults had finished at least some college.
In 2012 57% of adults had finished at least some college.

As you greatly expand the numbers of people who have access to secondary and higher education, it's inevitable that you are going to have some decline in overall academic strength. Why wouldn't this make sense?



>>"...test scores have remained essentially flat since the 1970s."

Assumes test scores are an accurate and impartial measure of the effectiveness of public school teachers. That's an assumption I'm not prepared to make.

Children whose parents can afford to send them to private schools have obvious and significant advantages that no amount of statistical or ideological noodling can obscure.

In any case, comparisons should not be drawn between public schools and private schools for the simple reason that the prospects for providing a free and equal education for all Americans in *private* schools are effectively nil. Schools are either publicly financed and open to all, or they are privately financed for-profit enterprises open only to those who can pay their price. The former is a foundational element of any democracy. The latter is a manifestation of autocracy.



"The more we spend, the less effectively we educate the broad spectrum of public school students."

Data and definitions, please.

What if one of the largest school systems in the nation spends more per pupil than any other and only 20% of those who graduate can read? Graduate. What does "graduate" even mean to such a school system? Ask NYC. Apparently test scores don't matter.

It's not the number of graduates that matter, but the quality of their education. Otherwise we may eventually get to the point where we are not only not teaching those who have no interest but not teaching the majority of students anything at all.

In fact we are already there...

Consider this via CBS: Officials: 80 Percent Of Recent NYC High School Graduates Cannot Read

I am not particularly sensitive to this sort of thing but within the short article I noticed two misspelled words. I wasn't alone as the top comment made note of three errors.

Then there is the spending:

New York spends 83 percent above the national average, the business-backed group said. In 2010, New York spent $18,825 per pupil versus the U.S. average of $10,292.

Granted those numbers represent NY state and not the city.

So, here are some via CNN:

...which-places-spent-most-per-student-on-education/ Of the 50 largest school systems, New York City School District spent the most per student in 2010 at $19,597.

Andrew Brod

If we're going to be picky about data and definitions (and I think we should), there are a couple of things to note.

First, notwithstanding its headline (and Frog's link), the CBS story didn't really say that 80% of NYC graduates "cannot read." It didn't report that they're illiterate. If one reads the story, it appears that this 80% can't read at grade level, i.e. they haven't "mastered the skills to do college-level work." And that's bad. But "cannot read" is obviously an overstatement.

Second, Frog's spending-per-pupil figures don't mean much without context. As he notes, NYC's 2010 per-pupil spending was 90% higher than the national average. Sounds bad, right? But the city's cost of living is as much as 125% higher than the national average for metropolitan areas. Now, there's clearly some variation across the five boroughs, so the city-wide average is going to be less than 125%. However, the comparison here is to all metro areas, not the entire U.S. To make this apples-to-apples, we'd have to factor in rural areas as well, which would push NYC's relative cost of living even higher.

If we had better data, would it show that NYC's cost of living is more or less than 90% above the national average? I don't know. But in the meantime, it's only fair to concede that NYC's per-pupil spending could be close to the national average once one factors in cost of living. In any case, it's by no means obvious that it spends more.

Andrew Brod

Also in the interest of apples-to-apples comparisons, we'd want to use 2010 data for metro COLs.

Ed Cone

On the other hand, the publication of a false headline above a typo-strewn article, along with the tendency of some readers to swallow it whole and also to use one (incorrect) example as proof of a very broad concept -- not to mention the innumeracy of some of those readers -- may be indictments of our educational system.

Andrew Brod


I took a look at the CBS article because the claim that 4 of 5 NYC high-school graduates are illiterate is laughable on its face. One has to have a strong anti-NY or anti-urban agenda to believe that. The reality is disturbing enough.

Andrew Brod

And the race continues. At the bottom of this story about February's job numbers (236K new jobs, unemployment rate edged down to 7.7%), there's this:

"State and local governments cut another 10,000 jobs, mostly in education."

Steve Jones

According to the NEA, from 2002-03 to 2011-12, North Carolina was the only state to have its average teacher salary rise by a single digit (8.3%). The other 49 states and DC had increases ranging from 14.4% (Indiana) to 49.1% (Wyoming). See page 92 in this PDF:

As a comparison, from 2000 to 2008 "the [NC] Department of Correction budget increased 43 percent, from $918 million to more than $1.31 billion." Source: http://www.pewstates.org/research/state-fact-sheets/public-safety-in-north-carolina-85899432277

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