North Carolina is on a roll winning new – and future-oriented – business. We’ve seen big job announcements over the past year from household names like Toyota, Apple and Google.
We should be proud of that.
Between the Triangle and the Triad, we see an emerging corridor that will focus on the growing electric vehicle industry and even supersonic flight.
Gov. Roy Cooper and legislative leaders deserve credit for assembling the right incentives for these companies. CNBC even named North Carolina the No. 1 state in the country for business, citing that bipartisan collaboration between the Democratic governor and the Republican legislature.1
And we should be proud of that.
The business climate is obviously excellent. The business tax structure is advantageous. Our universities provide an abundance of talent. Quality of life – from our climate to sports and the arts – is excellent. Our citizens are good folks who don’t mind work.
SO WHY CAN’T WE be No. 1 in education as well?
The two go hand-in-hand – the tech jobs pouring into our state demand an educated workforce. Higher levels of education correlate with higher income and better health. We must continue to invest in public education if we want to remain No. 1 in business.
Yet North Carolina ranked 49th in the percentage of its gross domestic product (GDP) the state devoted to public education in 2018, according to the National Science Foundation.
In 2009, the state directed more than 3% of its GDP to education. But by 2018, that percentage had shrunken to 2.5%.2
That’s no small difference – half a percentage point of a state GDP that’s now more than $500 billion is another $2.5 billion a year that might have gone to educating our children.
If we are to supply workers for the companies coming here – familiar names like Apple (3,000 jobs), Toyota (1,750), Wolfspeed (formerly Cree, 1,800) and Google (1,000), as well as less familiar ones like VinFast (7,500) and Boom Supersonic (1,760)3 – we need to make a course correction.
NORTH CAROLINA’S K-12 PUBLIC SCHOOLS opened this year with 11,000 teacher and staff vacancies,44,400 of them teachers.5
K-12 teachers received an average raise of 4.2% this year – less than half the rate of inflation.6 In fact, when adjusted for inflation, average pay for North Carolina teachers has actually declined since 2012.7