For years, when Democrats controlled the legislature, Republicans criticized education spending as nothing more than building an education bureaucracy. They said they wanted to put more money directly into the classrooms. Now that Republicans are controlling the budget, we know they were just blowing smoke.
In reality, public education is not much of a priority for the GOP, even though it’s a top priority of voters. Quite clearly, their top priority is cutting taxes for business and the rich and the rest of their agenda is built around funding that. They only started caring about public schools when the outcry got loud enough and their polling showed it a liability.
Last session, when they were even more full of piss and vinegar than they are now, Republicans ridiculed teachers and blamed them for our education woes. One convoluted story line went that Democrats never fully funded education and they denied teachers raises so, somehow, everybody should be fine with the GOP making deeper cuts. What was obvious then and is even more obvious now is that Republicans don’t really have a plan for public education. They are just making decisions on the fly to satisfy their wing nut factions and to keep the tax cuts for their wealthy benefactors.
When the GOP enacted the voucher system, they were playing mainly to their religious base that wants the public to subsidize their fundamentalist private schools so we can raise a generation of children who believe dinosaurs lived with humans. Their move last week to end Common Core was less about implementing any reliable standards than it was about holding on to the Greg Brannon wing of the party that thinks Common Core is a plot by Obama to indoctrinate our kids. And Phil Berger’s argument that eliminating teacher assistants is backed up by research is just cherry-picking data to justify a bad bill instead of letting research drive public policy.
It’s clear that the GOP has no comprehensive education policy. Instead, they’ve passed a mishmash of legislation designed to appeal to their base and spend as little as possible. Their priorities are clear: 1) fund tax cuts for the wealthy and big corporations; 2) mollify their right wing base; 3) keep the general public off their backs by appearing to give a damn about public schools by offering teachers raises while slashing resources in the classroom.
All of their goals are politically motivated, not policy driven. The losers here are our kids.
Thomas Mills is the founder and publisher of PoliticsNC.com. Before beginning PoliticsNC, Thomas spent twenty years as a political and public affairs consultant. Learn more >