In North Carolina, Republican candidates for the General Assembly and statewide offices have been told that their policies are to blame for the fact that fewer high school graduates pursue teaching careers.

Their political opponents argue that school and teacher accountability, differentiated pay, school choice, and other reform efforts are discouraging high school graduates. In this view, the changes signal a “lack of respect” for public school teachers and an affront to the idea of public education and an educated electorate generally.

Naturally, the preferred course correction requires voters simply to elect teacher-union-backed, typically Democratic candidates who generally support massive tax increases, repeal of substantive accountability measures, and the abolition of popular alternatives to the traditional district system.

The truth is that the supply and demand for teachers depend more on economics than politics. Nearly all states — both “red” and “blue” on the political spectrum — have seen fewer college students choose education as their college major.

The Center for American Progress, a liberal Washington, D.C.-based think tank, recently published an analysis of the supply and demand of teachers across the nation. In “Educator Pipeline at Risk: Teacher Labor Markets After the Great Recession,” researchers Lisette Partelow and Christina Baumgardner examined enrollment trends in teacher education programs and found that in all but three states — Washington, New Hampshire, and Utah — institutions of higher education enroll far fewer students pursuing a teaching career than in the past.

According to federal data, North Carolina’s education school enrollment dropped by 15 percent between 2008-09 and 2013-14. Our state’s decline is trivial compared to the 79 percent drop in Oklahoma, which is the largest percentage decrease in the nation.

It is also relatively small compared to other states in the Southeast. South Carolina had a 50 percent enrollment decline, while colleges and universities in Tennessee saw a 40 percent drop. Virginia’s 8 percent decrease was the smallest in the region and one of the lowest in the nation.

Nevertheless, these figures do not tell the whole story. In their October 2015 brief, “Missing Elements in the Discussion of Teacher Shortages,” researchers from the National Center for Analysis of Longitudinal Data in Education Research pointed out that the production of teachers is cyclical and has grown steadily since the mid-1980s.

Research suggests that college students select their course of study based on their perceptions of economic conditions. Regardless of the political party in charge, college students tend to pursue degrees that maximize earnings and employment opportunities when economic conditions are poor.

That may account for why fewer college students earned education degrees during the Great Recession. But that does not necessarily mean that recent economic downturns have undercut the supply of teachers.

The production of teachers has been on the rise since the mid-1980s. Between 1984 and 2013, the aggregated number of degrees issued in education fields increased by around 125,000. Even so, schools hired only around half of newly credentialed teachers. (This does not account for Teach for America, Troops to Teachers, and other lateral-entry programs that bring qualified but noncredentialed individuals into the teacher work force.)

In other words, the number of candidates for teaching positions includes both new college graduates and candidates who did not obtain a teaching position immediately after graduation. When considering both groups, CALDER researchers conclude that the overall supply of teachers will outpace hiring. In some districts and regions, however, shortages of math, science, and special education teachers may continue.

In the end, enrollment in teacher education programs hasn’t dropped because Gov. Pat McCrory and state legislators do not “respect” the teaching profession. More importantly, recent declines in education school enrollment are not as dire as politicos would like voters to believe.

Dr. Terry Stoops (@TerryStoops) is director of research and education studies at the John Locke Foundation.