The men behind the curtain

by | May 18, 2018 | Editor's Blog, Education | 15 comments

To look at GOP graphs explaining public education funding, you’d think that the legislature didn’t start paying for public schools until 2008. Every one begins with a downward trend for two years and then a dramatic upswing when Republicans took control. Like Oz the All Powerful, they don’t want you to pull back the curtain and see what’s really going on.

In the decade before the Republicans took over state government, Democrats funded public education substantially better on virtually every metric. The only time they didn’t give educators a raise was when the economy tanked and revenue dried up during Bush’s Great Recession. Democrats froze pay in 2009-10 and 2010-11. Republicans did the same in 2011-12.

The difference, though, is that Democrats had a goal to keep up with the national average, even if they fell short. In contrast, Republicans came into office criticizing teachers and calling our schools broken, implying that teachers were somehow responsible. The schools weren’t broken, even if they were struggling like the rest of the country in the midst of the Great Recession.

So what did Republicans do? They started “reforming,” their euphemism for cutting. They eliminated teacher assistants from classrooms. They reduced funding for basic school supplies like textbooks. They shifted funding from traditional schools to charters and private schools without requiring the same level of accountability. Per pupil funding and teacher pay plummeted compared to other states in the region and country.

Republicans claimed they’ve reformed our schools without any significant improvement in outcomes. Schools in more prosperous areas continue to perform very well while those in poorer areas still struggle. Republicans reforms are more about ideology than outcomes. They want schools to do more with less, since they believe all government programs are wasteful. They want their conservative evangelical base to have the option to send their children to religious schools and are willing to subsidize them with government funds. And they want to keep cutting taxes for the wealthy instead of making investments in public education.

In 1992, Jim Hunt became a governor with a mission. He wanted to improve public schools and provide children with the tools to succeed. He started Smart Start to better prepare children from disadvantaged families for first grade. He made a commitment to get teacher pay to the national average. He substantially reduced class size, especially in elementary schools. He wanted to reduce the dropout rate to produce more high school graduates. His goal-oriented philosophy drove the Democratic agenda for the next sixteen years.

Republicans have a different goal. They want to shrink the size of government, cut taxes and reduce regulation. They care less about the big picture of society than they do individual rights. The GOP doesn’t want to pull back the curtain to show the progress North Carolina made under Democrats from 1992 until the Great Recession hit in 2007. They want to pretend that history began with the crash and their mediocre investments in public schools are more substantial than they really are.


  1. Jim Aycock

    Boiled down to simplest terms: conservatives are resistant to change, liberals are open to change. Since change is inexorable and cannot be stopped, there is a systemic adversarial relationship for which there is no cure.

    • Rick

      your thesaurus must be worn out

      • Rob

        “Rick,” perhaps you might actually add something of substance to the discussion, rather than showing your discomfort with someone’s employment of a vocabulary and sense of syntax which rise above the default eight-grade bar. This sort of shallow faux sarcasm is rampant in public discourse now, accomplishes nothing, and should be consistently called out for the thoughtless cheap shot it is.

  2. Morris

    “Republicans have a different goal. They want to shrink the size of government, cut taxes and reduce regulation. They care less about the big picture of society than they do individual rights.”
    And there you have it. That’s why this ex-Democrat, now Libertarian, is forced to vote Republican these days. I don’t believe they care as much about individual rights as I do, but if they resist the socialist “big picture of society” that’s better than nothing.

    • Deeto

      We live in the wealthiest and most powerful nation in the world and there is a reason that we are NOT called the Individual States of America. There are things which we, the people can do much cheaper and more efficiently together, through our government. The Republican party has been taken over by fascists, starting before the election of Ronald Reagan, pretty much beginning with the Powell Memo. But since the election of Reagan, the Republican party has been working on dismantling the government of, for, and by we, the people. They are in the process, through A.L.E.C., of getting the states together to convene a constitutional convention. If that happens, every right that you have can be tossed. They only have six states to go before this is a reality. The fascists already own 98% of our media. That is why you never hear about these things.

    • Ebrun

      You’ve got that right—liberals are collectivists while conservatives are individualists. Neither is morally superior, it’s just a difference in human values and preferences.

      Webster’ Universal College Dictionary defines Collectivism “as the socialist principle of control by the people collectively, or the state, of all means of production or economic activity.” That seems a somewhat narrow definition of collectivism to me as collectivists’ values are concerned with much more than economics.

      The same dictionary has several definitions of individualism the first or most common of which is “a social theory advocating the liberty, rights or independent action of the individual.”

      When reduced to basic definitional principles and values, it can help advocates of either philosophy to understand the other’s.

      • Troy

        “We the people….” Not ‘I’ the individual.

        • Ebrun

          Ah yes, a liberal’s guide to political hegemony. Quash individually, clone politically-correct minions, create a collectivist nirvana.

          • Troy

            Individuality is the word you were looking to use.

            Congratulations! I think you’ve used every Fox News punch word from at least the last 10 Trump tweets. Yes, that’s right. The entire notion of “We The People” brought to you by none other than Thomas Jefferson. Are you really that much of a partisan prole you want to trash the concept and ideals of the Declaration with stupid phrases like “…quash individually (sic)…” “…clone politically correct minions….”

            Concepts made up and introduced solely by you in this conversation.

          • Ebrun

            Troy, you ascribe way too much credit to me. First off, if you scroll up through the comments on this thread you will see that Morris first introduced the concept of “individual rights”to this thread.

            But regarding the larger concepts, it was our nation’s founders who first introduced the concept of individualism to American political thought:

            “This is the ideal that the American Founders set forth and sought to establish when they drafted the Declaration and the Constitution and created a country in which the individual’s rights to life, liberty, property, and the pursuit of happiness were to be recognized and protected.”

            Introducing Fox News and Donald Trump to this discussion is a cheap attempt to score partisan political points and has no relevance to the philosophical concepts that I was referencing.

          • Troy

            Eb: That’s not true either. Morris was quoting from Thomas’ article; so he introduced nothing except a quote and then went on to comment about his own commitment to the ideal.

            Yes, the founders wrote about individuality. It wasn’t a creation of theirs though. They also knew that as with any society or power, unless there were strict guarantees for those individual freedoms from the collective, there would be no individual freedom either. And that freedom certainly didn’t extend itself itself to all individuals either. Not until Andrew Jackson was President did it lend itself to “…practically all White men…”. Since at the inception of the nation, only if you were a landowner were you afforded the ‘right’ of being able to choose your representative by voting.

            Philosophy? Pray, tell me what is philosophical about what you wrote? Collectivism and Individualism? Odd. Since philosophies are non-empirical, you tried to go the distance in order to prove your points on the differences and why one is desirable over the other. You were quite adroit in pointing out that “collectivism” is pointed as being conceptually “socialist” in nature.

            What you might recognize yet fail to point out is that while eluding to the ability of the adherents of each potentially understanding each other is that they don’t have to be at odds with each other. An individualist does not have to be at odds with society nor does the collectivist be the antithesis to individuality. There is nothing wrong with each working hand in hand with the other; it doesn’t have to be an either/or proposition.

            So that failure on your part coupled with, “Ah yes, a liberal’s guide to political hegemony. Quash individually, clone politically-correct minions, create a collectivist nirvana.” prompted the Fox and Trump observations. You don’t miss a chance assigning your own labels so wear yours with pride; you earned them!

  3. Lee Nackman

    I disagree with your statement that Republicans care about individual rights. They say that they care about individual rights, but like much of what they say, that is a lie intended to make the public think that they are working to help us. They really care about (1) imposing their view of right and wrong, based on their religious beliefs, on the rest of us; and (2) cutting public services so that we can return to the good old days when there was a small, wealthy aristocracy and a bunch of people living like serfs doing the bidding of the aristocracy.

  4. Adam

    “They care less about the big picture of society than they do individual rights.”

    I don’t see the problem with this. There is no such thing as collective rights. If corporations aren’t people (and they aren’t), neither are societies. Only individuals have rights, and rights don’t trump other rights. That’s not how rights work.

  5. Peter Harkins


    “You can fool all of the people some of the time, …”. Yeah, old and tired quote. From an early Republican, I think?

    I must wonder though ’bout my fellow North Carolinians. Hope in the next clause, “… and some of the people all of the time, …” *some* turns out to be in the minority this fall. Else NC’s recovery will be at least a decade in the coming. Added to the past eight year, that will cover a generation of children though what use to be a pretty good public school system.

    Ever optimistically,

    Uncle Grumpy

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