Democrats have the right message on education and they need to stick with it. North Carolina is 37th in teacher pay and 39thin per pupil spending. Republicans in Raleigh let our public schools down, denying them text books, supplies and support staff. Instead, they’ve engaged in ideological “reforms” that have shifted money from public schools to private ones.
Republicans are pushing back hard with charts and percentages. As Mark Twain said, “There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies and statistics.” Republicans don’t want people to look too far back. All of their arguments begin in the middle of the Great Recession when the Democratically controlled legislature was dealing with a collapse of revenue. Many of the gains they cite over the last two years are the result of playing catch up to states that didn’t starve their schools as much as the NCGOP. Adjusting for inflation, we’re still far below where we were a decade ago in per pupil spending.
Too many Democrats want to argue with the Republicans over their talking points. Don’t take the bait and don’t let them control the message. Force Republicans to justify poor funding for schools and phony reforms that have resulted in little, if any, progress in outcomes but have diminished the educational experience of students and families across the state. Remind people that teachers are paying for school supplies out of their own pockets because the legislature won’t pay for them.
Government under the Republicans means lower taxes for corporations and the wealthiest among us and a sharp reduction in the ratio of revenue to GDP. The GOP would claim that reduction is good because it means we’ve shrunk the size of government. That’s only good if you weren’t dependent on the programs like public schools that got shrunk.
Republicans had a choice about how to govern and their choices reflect their priorities. They gave massive tax cuts to corporations and the wealthy at the same time they cut per pupil spending. In short, they chose the rich over our children. That’s the story Democrats need to convey. Anybody who has children in public schools knows that’s true and they know that all the happy talk from Republican politicians is just political BS. Stay on message. Don’t lose this argument.
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 >