Republicans in the North Carolina legislature are trying to reconfigure how public schools are funded in the state. The constitution says that school funding is the responsibility of the state, but the GOP wants to pass the buck to local government. To do it, they’re passing unfunded mandates that put financial pressure on local schools and force difficult choices that will adversely affect students. They may also be handing Democrats a potent political issue.
The GOP-controlled legislature has ordered schools to reduce class size in grades K-3 but have failed to offer funding to pay for new teachers and classrooms necessary to meet the requirement. Instead, they’ve told local school systems, “You figure it out.” To do so, systems are looking at increasing class sizes in higher grades, ending non-academic classes like music, art and PE and making teachers trained in other subjects teach the lower grades with lower class sizes. The law could also result in last minute student re-assignments, always a contentious issue.
Republicans have been cutting public school budget since they took power in 2011. To make up for the loss of revenue and to meet the new class size regulations, schools are turning to local governments. It’s a way to pass school funding responsibility to school systems. It may cause pain for students and schools systems now, but it will likely cause pain for Republicans at the ballot box in 2018.
Voters in North Carolina are well aware that state government is responsible for the quality of our public schools. We’re not a state that forces local governments to bear the brunt of funding. When kids are reassigned, music classes cancelled and more classes are held in “mobile classrooms” (otherwise known as trailers), parents will take out their wrath on legislators, not school board members.