Government schools

by | Jan 5, 2022 | Editor's Blog | 13 comments

Back when Democrats controlled the legislature, they threatened that if Republicans ever gained a majority, the GOP would harm public schools. Republicans angrily claimed that Democrats were using scare tactics and that Republicans were committed to “fixing” public schools. They routinely claimed that public schools were “broken” and that GOP policies focused on competition would set them straight.  

Now, after ten years of controlling the legislature, Republicans claim that public education is irreparably broken. If that’s true, they have nobody to blame but themselves. Despite denials, they have slashed per pupil funding while shifting funds to private and unregulated charter schools. As a result of GOP polices, teachers are fleeing the classroom because of poor pay and deteriorating working conditions. They have intentionally broken public schools so they can now claim that they should be scrapped.

Republicans have started to refer to “government schools” as a derogatory term for traditional public schools. They’re trying to attach a stigma to public education while pushing for more funding for voucher schemes that drain both resources and talent from public schools. Their goal is to increase demand for private academies and charter schools that have little oversight despite being largely funded with taxpayer dollars. They will continue to shift money from schools that teach our most vulnerable students and put it into schools that teach kids from more privileged families. 

As I’ve written before, the GOP is pursuing a modern day Pearsall Plan. In 2018, I wrote, “The plan would allow students to be exempt from attending court-ordered integrated public schools and would allow for tuition vouchers for students in areas with integrated schools to attend private ones.” Today, the GOP claims money should “follow the student” instead of funding the system. They call it school choice, but it’s really an attempt to dismantle the public school system by shifting resources from schools that provide services and opportunities to our most economically disadvantaged children to ones that serve our more prosperous families. 

Fortunately, the North Carolina Constitution demands that “The General Assembly shall provide by taxation and otherwise for a general and uniform system of free public schools, which shall be maintained at least nine months in every year, and wherein equal opportunities shall be provided for all students. In other words, the Constitution requires that money supports school systems and does not “follow the student.” If the GOP wants to change the Constitution, let them try. I suspect a vote on a constitutional amendment would lay bare their true objectives of public schools. 

The GOP’s attack on our public schools is part of a pattern of reversing the progress made on civil rights over the past 60 years or so. Just like they have largely scrapped the Voting Rights Act, they are attacking society’s commitment to public education. It’s, in part, radical individualism. They don’t believe in the concept of public good. And they don’t believe that any government programs can improve the lives of our citizens. I believe they are dangerously wrong.


  1. Steve

    The GOP also wants to destroy teacher unions because the unions are more supportive of Democrats. Yet, the teachers support Democrats because Democrats support public education more than Republicans. Instead of trying to garner the support of teacher unions, Republicans seek to punish them. What better way than to contend that the whole education system is broken? If all this were happening during the Cold War, most everyone would think that Republicans had been infiltrated by the Soviet Union in order to destroy the U.S.

    • cocodog

      Collectively, they see better pay, return of tenure and bonuses when little johnny or penny shows marked improvement of his or her reading and or math skills. Democrats are working on making them happy and the teachers work on improving little Johnny or penny so they can get a better job and earn more. At the end of the day everybody goes home happy. What could possibly be wrong with that outcome?

  2. Walter Rand

    Thomas, the legislature doesn’t have to change the NC Constitution to do what they want with public education. They just need to get the courts to disregard the constitution, as they have with gerrymandering, which the NC Constitution bans for our legislature yet the courts allow.

  3. Tom

    I am not a big fan of Charter Schools or voucher programs. However, if memory serves me correctly the Charter School Act of 1996 which created charter schools in NC was sponsored by both Democratic and Republican members of the General Assembly, it was passed when the Republican Party controlled the House and the Democratic Party controlled the Senate in a bi-partisan manner. It was signed by Governor Hunt who was hardly anti public schools. I also believe Governor Cooper and former Governor Purdue, who were in the NC Senate at the time, voted in favor of the Act. It was a bipartisan effort that created this problem and it will take a bipartisan effort to fix it

    • cocodog

      It would be interesting and add credibility to your statement if you could site a reliable source as to how the vote went down. (Although, I doubt most of those politicians are still in office) I have not found anything other than millions some republicans have received in political contributions to keep charters alive and running despite their less than stellar performance.

  4. cocodog

    Some how I believe we kicked his issue around several years ago. Lots of folks don’t understand the difference between a traditional public school and the charter school created by some guy in the Midwest to compete with traditional schools both in cost and academics.
    What do they have in common and what is the difference? The “turnkey operation” provided by the charter operator was officially called a public school as public money was diverted away from the traditional public school to fund their building and operation. Charters can be selective, choosing only students with no record of disciplinary or academic problems, The teaching and management staff do not have to all hold the appropriate licensure and educational background as in the case of traditional school and you can pay them less.
    Charters are not regional in the sense they are required to have the regionally elected Board of Education. In other words, the parents do not have a political voice in who sets the school policies. Any board of control is usually chaired by the turnkey company’s executive. Moreover, the student of a charter is not required to take the EOG (End of Grade) test.

    In North Carolina a recent article from “Public Schools First” found “ As of October 1, 2021, there are 204 charter schools in North Carolina serving 130,485 students. Approximately 8 percent of North Carolina’s 1.55 million school children attend charter schools. In the 2021 legislative session, $10.6 billion was allocated for public education with approximately $848 million going to fund charter schools. According to the 2020 Annual Charter Schools Report, since 1998, 48 charter schools have voluntarily relinquished their charters, one has been assumed by another non-profit board, 10 have been non-renewed, and 17 charters have been revoked by the State Board of Education. During the 2018-19 school year, approximately 25% (47) charter schools were identified as either low-performing or continually low-performing. Of the charter schools in operation, fewer than 50% (80) provide reduced-priced lunches and slightly more than 50% (108) provide bus transportation. In contrast, all traditional public schools provide reduced-price lunches and offer bus transportation.” Having this information in mind, perhaps parents would be wise to reconsider their opinion of the charter operation as a solution.

    • Rick High

      There has never been, and still is not, a teachers union in NC.

      • cocodog

        NC ranks among the states with the lowest paid “real” public-school teachers in the nation. Unionism may be a dirty word as republicans have made it so, but historically it has been the pathway to higher salaries and greater benefits. Not to mention, lower teacher turn over. (stability)

  5. Michael

    I was rather surprised when the GOP won the statewide Dept of Public Instruction office in 2016 and again in 2020. It seemed like for years Democrats ran on education and to see the Republican win the office seemed like a bit of a realignment.

    • cocodog

      I agree, perhaps it had something to do with how the charter system was setup and what folks know about it.

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