The most insidious lies that Republicans are telling right now are the ones about public education. It’s their Achilles Heel and they know it. In the 1990s and early ‘00s, Democrats pounded them for their opposition to higher teacher salaries, lower class size and early childhood education. People know that good schools lead to good jobs and strong economy. It’s been proven over and over in states across the nation.
So, the Republican minions, including Governor McCrory, are out gleefully spouting canned talking points. “Education spending is up 4.8% over last year.” “This year, public education makes up over 56% of total budget.”
In the real world, county school boards are looking at huge budget cuts that will adversely affect the quality of their schools. Teacher assistants are filing for unemployment benefits. And our best teachers are looking for jobs that pay a living wage or states that have more respect for teachers.
By every reasonable measure, education funding is down dramatically from pre-recession levels and the incidental increase this year over last is not enough to cover the increased enrollment or account for inflation. Regardless, we have NEVER paid enough for public education. By the Locke Foundation’s own numbers, North Carolina has been in the bottom 20% of school funding since at least 1996.
Republicans repeatedly say that we can’t fix our problems by throwing money at them. Well, the flip side of that is that you get what you pay for and we haven’t paid enough to get the quality of education our children deserve and our future demands.
It’s time to call a spade a spade. Republicans and the Locke Foundation are lying about public education. They’ve shown no respect for our teachers, our schools or our children. Ultimately, they want to dismantle our public education system by pushing the financial burden onto counties and cities or establish a publicly subsidized system of private and charter schools in which the children of privilege thrive and poor kids wither. It fits their whole free-market, social Darwinist theory that’s dragging our state toward Third World status.
So stop with the talking points. Tell the people what you really want to do. End this cynical ploy of cutting funding for schools and then criticizing them for not performing. Or prove me wrong and put your money where your mouth is.
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 >