Monday, December 16, 2013

NC Textbook Funding Cut 80% While State Administers More Tests Than Ever

A headline on this morning's News and Observer Website read: "NC Schools Deal with Fewer Dollars for Textbooks."  According to the article, textbook funding has been cut by 80 percent or more over the past four years. This cut, coupled with cuts in instructional supply money, teaching assistant cuts, among a whole laundry list of cuts makes it very clear that North Carolina public education is not a funding priority for our state legislature or governor. 

What is even more amazing is how our state is able to afford the largest increase in the number of state tests administered in state history, yet instructional materials and textbooks have been increasingly cut each year. What's wrong with this picture? Here's some points for thought.

  • The expectation in our state is that teachers will provide ever increasing levels of high quality instruction while doing so with less and less instructional tools for the classroom.
  • In the midst of it all, our state still manages to find funding to administer over 40 (the number depends on which tests you count and whose taking them) tests to all students during the course of the year. Now I realize the argument the testing and accountability supporters will make here is that "Testing is cost effective and that it just doesn't cost that much to give tests." Perhaps that's true, but if our state politicians and state level education bureaucrats were all that serious about providing a quality education for the students of North Carolina, then you would see the same level of commitment to provide adequate funding for textbooks, technology, and instructional materials for the classrooms. Why can't they muster the same enthusiasm and commitment for providing texts and classroom materials that they have for testing?
  • It is cheaper to test, test, test than it is to fund classrooms. That's the reality. The state can easily churn out a new test or contract with College Board to give one more test, but to provide adequate texts,technology and instructional materials for the classroom is costly. But the logic behind this fails me. If you really want to impact classroom instruction, then put the money where it will do the most  good: the classroom, not additional tests and the testing bureaucracy that goes along with them. The most recent survey done by Marketplace Morning Report found that 99.5 percent of teachers paid an average of $485 to stock their classrooms the previous year.
  • No teacher should ever have to spend their own personal money so that they can carry out instruction in their classrooms. Teachers are really dedicated people who work very hard for the most part. Many, many teachers spend their own money on school supplies for their classrooms just to be able to provide their students with engaging and meaningful learning. Yet, our state seems to always find funding to add a new test or develop some kind of new data program. Perhaps it's time to fund what really counts: classroom instruction.
I am not sure politicians or the state education bureaucracy entirely get it. They focus laserlike on teacher pay, as if that's going to fix it all. Sure, all teachers want fair pay, but what they really want is a state legislature and state education bureaucracy that puts its money where its mouth is and provides funding for more than just tests. They want funding for their classrooms too. North Carolina with its massive testing agenda goes out of its way to hold teachers accountable while inadequately funding the classroom. No wonder teacher turnover is rising even more.

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