Helen F. Ladd: Faulty comparison

August 17, 2013 

Faulty comparison

In his Aug. 14 letter “How Republican actions strengthen NC. Schools,” Sen. Phil Berger asserted, “We appropriated $360 million more for our schools – a 5 percent increase over last year’s budget.” According to the nonpartisan Fiscal Research Division – which provides information to the senator and other lawmakers – that increase is based on invalidly comparing the 2013-14 Enacted Budget to the 2012-13 Enacted Budget.

The Enacted Budget figures do not include distributions from reserves for pay increases for school personnel or for increased costs of retirement and medical benefits. Such adjustments are particularly relevant for 2012-13, which was the second year of the two-year budget cycle.

To know the change in resources available to public schools, the correct comparison is between the 2013-14 Continuation Budget and the 2013-14 Enacted Budget. By that measure, the budget for public schools fell this year by 1.49 percent.

In the past five years, the authorized budget for schools has fallen by more than 5 percent overall and by more than 7 percent in per pupil terms. If one were to adjust the figures for inflation, the declines would be even larger.

I understand the desire of politicians to spin the figures in ways that serve their interests. But they have no right to use figures they know to be invalid.

Helen F. Ladd

Sanford School of Public Policy, Duke University


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