Making a better future for the next generation in North Carolina.

Education Stars of 2034? It Won’t Be the Children of North Carolina

by | May 31, 2023 | Education, Michigan, North Carolina | 0 comments

In 2023, the New York Yankees will pay their 25 players $278 million while the Detroit Tigers will pay their 25 players $128 million. That’s not a one year fluke. The Yankees outspend the Tigers by a similar amount each year. Which team will attract and develop the best talent? The Yankees have appeared in 40 World Series, the Tigers in only 11.

Money isn’t everything. There were plenty of years when the Yankees did not go to the World Series because management made poor decisions or the team had bad luck. But – as the averages show – money means a lot.

In the 2020-2021 school year, North Carolina spent $10,519 per K-12 pupil. In that same year one of the top-rated education states — Massachusetts — spent $21,529. This was not a fluke. Massachusetts outspends North Carolina by a similar amount each year.

Let’s go a little deeper.

As in baseball, higher levels of expenditures allow states to pay higher salaries and attract better talent. Here are the average 2023 salaries of teachers by state as calculated by the National Education Association:

  • Massachusetts             $89,538
  • North Carolina              $54,863

If you or I were a star teacher from North Carolina, why wouldn’t we apply for jobs in Massachusetts where our earning potential is $35,000 per year higher? On top of the earning potential, the higher expenditures allow Massachusetts to have an average student/teacher ratio of 12.3. Imagine how effective a star teacher can be with just 12 students.

The positive impact of spending on education accumulates from year to year. If there were no increases beyond inflation for the next 13 years, the two states will have invested this much in the education of a child who started kindergarten in 2021:

  • Massachusetts             $279,877
  • North Carolina              $136,741

Which state will have the best prepared students for careers or further education when they graduate high school in 2034? Unless educational leaders in North Carolina can perform miracles with skimpy resources, it won’t be the Tar Heels.

Who thinks that is a problem?

We all should. Certainly children, parents, and grandparents have the most at stake. Beyond them, all North Carolinians who would like a prosperous future should want a well-educated workforce. Instead of providing a competitive level of resources to get North Carolina in the game, though, the General Assembly is tinkering around the edges by diverting funds to private schools. It’s kind of like the Tigers keeping their low budget and hoping to beat the Yankees by outsourcing their coaching.

Is North Carolina among the states with the lowest funding per pupil funding because that is all it can afford? No. Massachusetts spends 3% of its gross domestic product – the best measure of its economy — on K-12 education compared to North Carolina’s spending of 2.4%. North Carolina’s low rate of education spending is a choice, not an imperative.

North Carolina’s adults are making the decision to skimp on education, but its children will pay the price in limited future opportunities. What will NC’s children think of us when they realize the resources they lacked?


You can find my spreadsheet with the calculations in this post here:

For more on the importance of K-12 education and what the future could be, take a look at:

Our Kids’ Brainpower Is the Best Investment for 2040

The Extraordinary Class of 2044: A Future History

For a great source on state-level education revenues and expenses, check out this report just out from the National Center for Education Statistics:

Revenues and Expenditures for Public Elementary and Secondary Education: FY 21




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