Republicans want to have a debate about whether or not their budget cuts education. Don’t fall for it. It’s the wrong debate because it’s about semantics, not substance. The debate should be whether or not the budget adequately funds education. It quite clearly does not.

North Carolina has never funded our schools at the level they need. By the John Locke Foundation’s own reckoning, North Carolina has been in the bottom 20% of school funding since at least 1996. We should really be demanding a substantial increase in education funding.

Regardless, the impact on schools is the real issue. What’s beyond debate is that North Carolina teachers are among the lowest paid teachers in the nation and they got no raise. Pat McCrory said he needed to give his cabinet an 11% raise before they even started work in order to attract  and retain the best talent. The same strategy should apply to recruiting and retaining the best educators.

They’ve cut teacher assistants for elementary school kids at the same time they’ve lifted the cap on class size. They’ve cut money for supplies and technology. They’ve short changed our children at the same time they are lining the pockets of millionaires.

Republicans are going to defend their budget and try to spin the damage. Their argument is on full display on a website run by Rep. Susan Martin of Wilson. What’s clear in her defense is a disdain for the teaching profession. Apparently, they consider teachers part-time employees because of the length of the school year. There’s no acknowledgement that teachers work far more than a 40 hour week when school is in session or that they often use their own money to buy supplies when funding is short.

They also quite clearly believe that funding should be pushed to counties and municipalities, a wrong-headed approach in a state where 47% of the counties are losing population. This is more of the “let them eat cake” mentality of the current leadership. North Carolina gave primary funding responsibility for education to the state in the 1930s because of the huge income disparities in the state.

It’s why their voucher scheme is a bad idea. In essence, poorer counties who desperately need funding–and lack private schools–are subsidizing students in wealthier counties where private schools abound. If the GOP really wanted to give more local authority, why not fund all schools with state money and give local school boards the authority to provide vouchers?

Republicans want to argue about whether or not they cut the budget. Don’t take the bait. That’s the wrong argument. Fight about what the budget does. It reduces the number of teachers and assistants in the classroom. It increases class size. It discourages the recruitment and retention of good teachers. It cuts funding for vital classroom supplies. And it takes money from poorer counties and transfers it to wealthier ones to fund their voucher program. It’s a bad budget that hurts public schools and our kids. Who cares whether or not it’s more than last year?

Don’t believe me? Ask a teacher.

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