Republicans are turning mathematical somersaults denying they did what they did in this legislature: take a chainsaw to public education in North Carolina.
Clearly, they don’t have the courage of their convictions. They ran for office saying they’ll cut government. Now they deny they did it, and they run for cover.
They say: Education spending went up 5 percent. But that’s not nearly enough to keep up with inflation and growing enrollment, let alone enough to keep up with the growing demand for better education in a competitive, globally competitive and technologically advanced economy.
Think of it this way. Suppose you had a young, growing child. Suppose he grows by 10 percent of his body weight over one year. Suppose you only fed him 5 percent more. By the Republicans’ logic, he got an increase, so he shouldn’t complain. Tell the child that.
What Republicans did – and are afraid to say they did – is show their total lack of respect for teachers. To them, teachers = unions = enemies to be punished.
So they eliminated teachers’ assistants. That’s a cut. They cut class sizes. That’s a cut. They took away extra pay for teachers with masters’ degrees. That’s a cut. They shredded the Teaching Fellows program. That’s a cut. They began opening the floodgates to funnel public money to private schools and charter schools. That’s a cut. They made it easier to fire teachers for arbitrary reasons. That’s a cut. And they let teachers’ pay fall farther and farther behind their peers in other states. That’s an insult.
Most of all, they made teachers feel disrespected. Second-class. Unappreciated.
Then Governor McCrory popped up – after the session – with a scheme to pay more money to about 1,000 out of 95,000 teachers. That’s the political equivalent of a plate of chocolate chip cookies.
For 20 years, North Carolina supported, encouraged and rewarded teachers. It worked. That’s why graduation rates are up among students who started school almost 20 years ago.
You don’t have to be an education policy genius to know that good teachers are the key to good education. Everybody who had a teacher who encouraged and inspired them knows it from experience.
Now Republicans are trying a new strategy: treat teachers with contempt, not respect. There’s no way they can pass that off as smart for North Carolina.