North Carolina: The Anatomy of How Sham “Research” Becomes Bad Education Policy

First, count on the media: An Orwellian (read: misleading) headline, North Carolina Senate approves funding equality bill.

Add an equally Orwellian lede: “North Carolina senators passed a bill Monday night that would push public schools toward more equitable funding.”

And then stir in the kicker, sham “research” from a bogus university “department”: “North Carolina charter schools receive 83 cents for every dollar traditional public schools receive, according to a study by researchers at the University of Arkansas. Bill proponents say this is unfair.”

The study? Bruce Baker concludes in a review:

The University of Arkansas Center for Education Reform’s report on charter school funding inequities proclaims large and growing inequities between school district and charter school revenues, even after accounting for differences in student needs. But the report displays complete lack of understanding of intergovernmental fiscal relationships, which results in the blatantly erroneous assignment of “revenues” between charters and district schools. A district’s expenditure can be a charter’s revenue, since charter funding is in most states and districts received by pass-through from district funding, and districts often retain responsibility for direct provision of services to charter school students—a reality that the report entirely ignores when applying its resource-comparison framework. In addition, the report suffers from alarmingly vague documentation regarding data sources and methodologies, and it constructs entirely inappropriate comparisons of student population characteristics. Simply put, the findings and conclusions of the study are not valid or useful.

This toxic formula of naive and/or biased media plus the erosion of scholarship into mere think-tank advocacy resulting in Orwellian public policy isn’t unique to NC, but nonetheless, shame on political leadership in NC for allowing yet more bad policy to dismantle public education.

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