NEW HANOVER COUNTY, NC (WECT) – $11.8 billion. That's the amount of money that is used for public education in North Carolina, grades K-12.
Some of that funding is federal and local money, but to put that figure into perspective - $11 plus billion is more than half of our entire state budget. State Senator Thom Goolsby says a lot of that money is being wasted and teachers and students are getting short changed.
"Why in the world are parents having to volunteer to run the phones at schools," said Goolsby. "Why in the world are teachers having to pay for supplies, and why are they not getting paid on a national average? So I just went and ran the figures, and what I found was pretty shocking."
If you use the figures provided by the Department of Public Instruction, North Carolina spends an average of $8,400 per student in our public schools.
If you multiply that number by 20 students in a classroom, you get $168,000. Subtract out $60,000 for that classroom's teacher's pay and benefits. Subtract another $8,400 for the average cost of feeding 20 kids for a year through the child nutrition program. Take out another $5,500 in transportation costs and $1,000 for books and supplies, and you still have $93,000 left over per classroom.
So where is all that extra money going?
The easy answer is overhead and administration. But Goolsby has a hard time understanding how all "this stuff out of Raleigh is literally half our budget."
"That's just crazy," said Goolsby. "That doesn't make any sense to me."
While this is an over-simplified version of educational expenses, Goolsby brings up some valid concerns about potentially bloated overhead costs. He says he's been asking the Department of Public Instruction for months about why so much is being spent outside the classroom, but has yet to get any meaningful answers about where the money goes.
"It is a maze of unbelievable proportions just to start digging in," explained Goolsby. "And you get stonewalled everywhere you go."
Goolsby says in inflation adjusted dollars, tax payers are spending 3 times as much as they spent in the 1970s on North Carolina public schools, and we don't have much to show for it.
Goolsby believes if you dedicated $8,400 per student to the individual school systems and let locally accountable school boards decide how to spend it, we might see some improvement teacher pay.
A call to the Department of Public Instruction to see if we could get any better grip on how they're spending the $11.8 billion has not yet been returned. The following links, however, are provided on its website to outline the resources and facts and figures.
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