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RECORD BREAKING HEATWAVE: NORTH CAROLINA’S CHANGING AGE DEMOGRAPHY



April 6, 2016

Raleigh, NC. – Today, at an event hosted by the Parents for Educational Freedom in North Carolina (PEFNC), Dr. Matthew Ladner of the Foundation for Excellence in Education (ExcelinEd) released original research on the demographic challenges facing North Carolina’s education budget, entitled Record Breaking Heatwave: Baby Boomer Retirement, Student Enrollment Growth and the Future of North Carolina Education.

The analysis contains both research on the demographic challenges facing North Carolina and strategies for substantially improving the academic quality of the state’s K-12 schools at a price taxpayers can afford.

“Challenges loom large, but the possibilities are larger still. North Carolina has the opportunity to navigate the challenge of age demographic change through innovation,” said Dr. Ladner. “Policymakers should craft high-impact policies to create financial incentives that ensure students are prepared for success in college and equipped with marketable job skills.”

Many leaders have recognized how the impending retirement of millions of baby boomers is poised to deplete national and state public services budgets, particularly in health care. But what has not been actively discussed is how a growing elderly population, combined with a growing youth population and a shrinking American workforce, stands to eliminate any possibility of states maintaining current funding levels for K-12 public education.

“North Carolina has made remarkable progress in advancing student achievement. But bold and innovative ways to prepare today’s students for tomorrow’s challenges are still needed. This research could be the beginning of the strategic shift that will protect and preserve North Carolina from the coming storm of demographic change,” said Patricia Levesque, CEO of ExcelinEd.

The aging of the population between now and 2030 will profoundly impact all aspects of the financing and operation of North Carolina’s taxpayer-funded services.  The tension between health and education spending has already been playing out in North Carolina’s annual budget battles, and health spending is squeezing out other spending in advance of a rapidly growing elderly population. In 2014, the state spent 30.4 percent of the state budget on Medicaid and only 22.4 percent on K-12 education.

North Carolina faces a tough transition over the next 15 years. Between people moving into the state and North Carolina’s resident baby boom population aging, the Census Bureau projects the state’s elderly population will more than double between 2010 and 2030, increasing by more than a million people.  The growth in the elderly population has a variety of public policy implications—especially in terms of economic growth and state health care expenses.

The report suggests North Carolina’s policy leaders should consider:

  • High-Performing Charter Schools: Continue encouraging policies to help high-quality charter schools serve students throughout the state.
  • Private School Choice: Expand North Carolina’s Opportunity Scholarship Program, empowering more low-income families to send their children to private school.
  • Education Savings Accounts: Put private education within the reach of a larger number of North Carolina parents through Education Savings Accounts.
  • College & Career Readiness Incentives: Award school bonuses for the earning of college credit by exam and/or high-demand professional certifications.

“Dr. Ladner underscores the serious economic challenges ahead for North Carolina, and the proven role of school choice in delivering both cost savings and educational quality,” said Darrell Allison, President of Parents for Educational Freedom in North Carolina. “As we look to meet our challenges head-on, we must understand that education, both now and in the future, will function best when families can access the full complement of both traditional and nontraditional schooling options for their children. Moreover, as Dr. Ladner so ably demonstrates in his report, it behooves us as a state to act quickly to embrace the ideals of educational options and freedom, because we may not have a choice in the years to come.”

For more information on this report and the original Turn and Face the Strain report visit ExcelinEd.org/FaceTheStrain/.