Civitas Review

Teacher Shortage? Not According to NCTQ



In recent months news outlets have been awash with stories about a teacher shortage in North Carolina as well as nationally (see Education leaders address NC teacher shortage crisis and Fewer NC students seeking teaching degrees).

Anyone who has been watching the education landscape knows this dominant narraative. There is a teacher shortage (largely because the experts and media say there is) and we need to do something about it. A number of people are starting to challenge such thinking. Most recently Kate Walsh, a very bright educator at the National Center on Teacher Quality. Earlier this week Walsh opined  Are Big Teacher Shortages Around the Corner? . In it Walsh referred to data comparing new graduates to available opening showed 42 of 50 states actually have an oversupply of teachers. Using the same data, North Carolina had 18 percent more graduates than jobs (2012-13 data).  Walsh writes:

There are real shortages of ELL, special ed and secondary STEM teachers. Som rural schools also face serious staffing problems — even when it comes to elementary teachers. But the truth that the headlines bury is that we have been systematically overproducing teachers in most subject areas for years.  Here's some of the supply and demand data we have collected for the most recent year available (2012-13), comparing the number of elementary teachers who are prepared with how many are needed (for the full table, see here). . . .

If government projections are even remotely accurate, the drop in teacher prep enrollment isn't likely to lead to general shortages, not at their current rates. Further, a decline is not necessarily a bad thing, provided it isn't the better perspective candidates who are making other career choices.  While universities might like the resulting tuition revenue, it's not healthy for a profession to systematically overproduce, and not only because it suppresses wages. 

Teacher shortage? It's more a problem of chronic under-supply in specific targeted areas. That declining enrollments in certain areas are always seen as a bad thing — and not part of the natural process of market correction —  is a problem. Getting past such thinking is a necessary part of the resolving some of the long-term current challenges.

One More Time: Medicaid Coverage Does Not Equal Access to Care


The Asheville Citizen-Times reports on a study from the RAND Corporation showing that emergency room visits are on the rise:

Visits to hospital emergency rooms are on the rise in the Carolinas and around the country, with experts pointing to the physician shortage and Obamacare as possible reasons.  

One in five Americans goes to the ER at least once a year, according to RAND Corp., an independent, nonprofit think tank.

Nationwide, three quarters of ER doctors said that patient volumes increased in the past year, according to a new survey from the American College of Emergency Physicians.


It's often hard for patients on Medicaid-managed care plans to get appointments with primary care providers, with median waits of two weeks, though more than a quarter waited a month or more, leaving them with few options besides the ER, according to the American College of Emergency Physicians. The group also pointed to the nationwide physician shortage.

"America has severe primary care physician shortages, and many physicians will not accept Medicaid patients because Medicaid pays so inadequately," said its president, Dr. Michael Gerardi. "Just because people have health insurance does not mean they have access to timely medical care." (emphasis added)

I have often pointed out that coverage does not mean access to care. Progressive liberals advocating for Medicaid expansion never want to address this fact. Medicaid in NC is already overcrowded, with far too many patients chasing too few doctors.

North Carolina's Medicaid program has added more than 600,000 people in the last dozen years. At the same time, the number of NC physicians treating Medicaid patients has fallen. Expansion, by some estimates, would add another 400,000 to 500,000 to the Medicaid rolls. That would mean a million new Medicaid enrollees since 2001 – competing for access to a shrinking number of doctors.

If the radical Left gets its way and as many as half a million more people are stuffed onto NC's Medicaid rolls: who will these people see to get care? Medicaid enrollees already struggle to access care in a timely manner, just imagine how bad the problem will be with 500,000 more people in the program.

Progressive liberals want to wish this problem away, and never answer the question.

Construction Crony: Raise Taxes to Benefit My Company!


At a conference in Winston-Salem last week, government officials and minority business owners discussed the issue of minority-owned businesses receiving a larger share of state government contracts. When discussion turned to a potential $2.8 billion worth of bonds being proposed for state buildings and roads, one of the representatives from a business seeking to benefit from government largesse made an honest statement about his self-interest in seeing the bonds being passed.

During the conference, Calvin Stevens, director of businesses development and diversity at Balfour Beatty Corp. of Charlotte, said minority- and women-owned businesses could take advantage of additional state contracts if the N.C. General Assembly decides to schedule a special election in November for a $2.8 billion bond referendum.

The money would be used for new roads and renovate or repair state government buildings.

Let all vote to raise our taxes, so we will have something to build,” Stevens said to the audience. (emphasis added)

Yep, tax everybody so I benefit. That in a nutshell sums up the 'concentrated benefits and dispersed costs' portion of public choice theory explaining why special interests and lobbyists wield so much power in government. Each individual taxpayer's taxes may only go up a small fraction to pay off the bonds, but construction companies lobbying the government for fat contracts stand to benefit immensely.

House Passes Crony/Pork Laden Budget


Late last night (or early this morning, however you want to look at it) the NC House passed its budget plan for the next biennium. Dozens of amendments were debated, and 42 passed. Some of the relatively more significant changes made from the original version include:

  • Several DMV fee increases were reduced from 50 percent to 30 percent
  • Expansion of the tax deduction for medical expenses
  • Elimination of the R&D tax credit
  • The film production grant program was reduced from $60 mil per year to $40 mil

Overall, the plan would spend $22.16 billion. Current year actual spending is projected to come in at $20.85, so the spending plan would mark a 6.3% increase.

One of the Amendments passed approved $1 million of taxpayer dollars to fund refrigerators and shelving for small convenience stores in "food deserts" – a proposal that was featured as a Civitas Bad Bill of the Week. Another amendment that would have sunset the renewable energy tax credit was defeated.

Outside of the two exceptions noted above, all of the pork and cronyism noted in this Civitas blog post earlier this week remains in the budget passed by the House. Other additional items included in the final House budget plan worth mentioning include $367k in the UNC budget for a 4-H Camp in Columbia NC, and an additional $190k a year in Commerce for extra staffing to administer the historic preservation tax credit program. This last item is yet another hidden expense to taxpayers of crony programs of political privilege – the additional gov't workers require to administer the program.

The budget will move to the Senate next week where it is expected to undergo major revisions.

California school case attracting a lot of attention



Valerie Strauss is a perceptive education columnist for the Washington Post, who many times sees things coming before they happen. Earlier this week she blogged  about a heavily-watched lawsuit in California that may portend a massive shift in education law. Lawyers representing students and teachers are claiming that since trauma impacts a child’s ability to learn and academic performance, school districts that fail to address these needs are in violation of federal law.

The suit was brought by Public Counsel, the nation’s largest pro bono law firm, and filed against the Compton Unified School District in California. Why Compton? The web site Trauma and Learning, which has written about the case, speaks directly to those concerns on its web site:

Although trauma is widespread and affects children in all communities, complex trauma is particularly ubiquitous among Compton schoolchildren like students and plaintiffs. Compton is among the most socioeconomically distressed cities in Southern California, and it experiences attendant high rates of violent crime:

  • Compton's poverty rate is twice the national average and its murder rate is five times the national average. 
  • Violence, poverty, and discrimination are so pervasive that in any Compton classroom, the only reasonable expectation is that a significant number of students are likely suffering from complex trauma.

Yes the second bullet raised my eyebrows. The statement …. “the only reasonable expectation is that significant number of students are likely suffering from complex trauma,” gives the reader much to think about. Unfortunately, a factual basis for the lawyer's claims is not on the that list.

No doubt trauma impacts learning. The courts are being asked to determine who will shoulder the long-term costs associated with trauma. Another question the courts might want to consider; Are students merely products of their environment? The decision on the former question– which is likely to be appealed by the losing party – will have massive consequences not only for California, but likely North Carolina and elsewhere. Stay tuned.

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