The announcement that a group of business leaders has formed an organization to promote public education is probably good news. A similar group of leaders came together under the leadership of then-Governor Jim Hunt to support early childhood education in the form of Smart Start and, later, to commit to raising the teacher salaries to the national average. The current GOP leadership has no such vision or commitment. Maybe pressure from their business benefactors can change that.

We can cheer and applaud this group and give them the kudus they want. However, I’m a cynic. It’s not about helping North Carolinians. It’s about helping businesses. And that’s the only thing the motivates this Governor and General Assembly.

The Machiavellian in me says we should do whatever we need to get the job done. The idealist in me resents that our government will turn its back on the unemployed, refuse people health care, raise taxes on the working poor and attack our teachers and public schools until a group of wealthy business executives speaks up. And those legislators call themselves Christians. Lotta camels threading that needle (Matthew 19:24).

And their language gives me pause, too. Walter McDowell, a retired Wachovia executive who is chairing the group told the N&O, “We do not believe throwing a lot of money at public education is the answer.”

That’s the least of my worries. We have never thrown money at public education. In fact, we have consistently been at the bottom of the pack when it comes to per pupil spending. And we’re surprised and concerned when we get poor outcomes. Maybe if we tried throwing a little money at public schools we would get better results.

Regardless of my cynicism, having a bunch of rich white dudes and a couple of token African-American and white women pushing public education in an effort to help their bottom lines is probably a good thing for everybody. They will get better workers and students who are part of their “targeted investment” strategy will get a better education. It’s just a shame that everything is done in the name of profit instead of just being the right thing to do.


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