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McIntyre hits Rouzer on education spending

Posted August 30, 2012

— The most recent advertisement from U.S. Rep. Mike McIntyre's campaign says that state Sen. David Rouzer "has failed the test" on education.

McIntyre is the Democratic incumbent. Rouzer is a Republican challenger. 

From the script of the ad: 

"Take David Rouzer: He's cut $980 million from our schools. Rouzer's votes mean 6,000 fewer teachers."

We asked the McIntyre campaign to back up those claims. 

On the $980 million in cuts:

The campaign first pointed to a National Education Association report that says "the North Carolina General Assembly approved a 2011 budget that cut $800 million in education funding."

That raises a red flag because McIntyre's commercial is clearly talking about K-12 education. To get to $800 million in cuts in the 2011-12 budget cycle, you have to look at cuts in K-12, community college and the university system. Gov. Bev Perdue, a Democrat and no friend of Republican legislative leaders pegged the actual K-12 budget cut in 2011 at $459 million.

In a fact check earlier this year, WRAL found that General Assembly lawmakers added on another possible $30 million in cuts, if their budget is viewed in the worst possible light.

Still, that doesn't get you to $980 million in cuts. Even taking a N.C. Budget and Tax Center number of $190 million in cuts for 2011-12, you wouldn't get to $980 million cut in education.

The problem here seems to be one of adding apples and oranges, mixing up total education spending versus K-12 education spending.

That said, this is more a math error than anything else. McIntyre could have made a plausible case that that Republican budget writers -- and therefore Rouzer -- cut $649 million in K-12 education spending from the K-12 budget, which would have still backed up the commercials central theme and been a pretty big number.

On the 6,000 fewer teachers: 

To back up this claim, McIntyre points to a Department of Public Instruction news release, which reads in part, "North Carolina public schools have lost 16,677.9 positions and laid off 6,096.7 people since the 2008-09 school year in response to state budget cuts."

That's problematic for this ad because Republicans were not in charge of the budget in 2008 through 2010. Rouzer himself didn't start serving in the General Assembly until 2009 and voted against the budget in 2009 and 2010.

Also problematic: all 6,096 people were not teachers, they were school employees. They included support personnel as well as those who taught. 

According to a DPI spokeswoman, statistics on the number of public school employees aren't available yet for this year. However, if you look at a report attached to the press release referenced by the McIntyre campaign, you can see the number of school personnel fired as a result of the 2011-12 budget was about 2,400. The budget eliminated a total of 6,382 positions, but many of those were empty and not all were classroom jobs. According to DPI, 1,260 teachers lost their jobs as a result of the 2011-12 budget, with a total of about 2,282 teaching positions lost. 

Again, those are eye catching numbers, just not as big as the ones McIntyre used in his commercial. 

Discussion: 

The larger point of the ad is that Rouzer voted for budget that sent less money and provided for fewer teachers in the state's public schools. However, the numbers that the ad relies on are wrong and it over-states the cuts for which Rouzer voted. It would also be fair to note that the Republican position throughout their tenure has been that the state needs education reform, not simply more spending. 

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  • faperrigo Aug 30, 3:27 p.m.

    So, did the NEA lie? Or did they report the number the NCAE gave them? I've heard a couple of candidates use the '6000 teacher lost their jobs' claim. They don't thrown in the fact of it being a multi-year number. Or, that the number includes non-teachers. And, they don't mention that many of those positions were cut by Democrats.