(1) General and uniform system: term. The General Assembly shall provide by taxation and otherwise for a general and uniform system of free public schools, which shall be maintained at least nine months in every year, and wherein equal opportunities shall be provided for all students. – NC State Constitution.
There is one thing that the current powers in the North Carolina General Assembly fear most.
It is not unclean water.
It is not a budget deficit.
It sure as hell isn’t climate change.
It’s not even maps, although all of those weigh in the equation.
It is having a well-educated general public – one that would not allow current lawmakers to be in a position of power to continue to promote an agenda that absolutely favors a few over those they should be helping. And their actions over these last four to five years have been a recipe in ensuring their policies remain intact.
Many of those have been very apparent. There is the current debacle of gerrymandered legislative districts. Even the redrawn maps have shown a more-than-obsessive addiction to hold on to majorities in Raleigh.
There is the voter-ID law that was struck down in the judicial system. A determined effort to water down minority voices might have been one of the most open secrets in this state.
But those unconstitutional actions coincided with other egregious acts that have weakened public education to a breaking point – one that makes next year’s elections so very important. Those actions have been assaults on public schools coated with a layer of propaganda that keeps telling North Carolinians that we need to keep reforming public education.
What once was considered one of the most progressive and strongest public school systems in the South and the nation all of a sudden needed to be reformed? What necessitated that? Who made that decision? Look to the lawmakers who saw public education and the allotted budgeting for public education dictated by the state constitution as an untapped reservoir of money to funnel to private entities.
The public started to see test scores that appeared to be less than desirable even though what was being tested and the format of the testing was in constant flux.
The public started to see “school performance grades” that did nothing more than track how poverty affected student achievement. The “schools were failing” to actually help cover up what lawmakers were refusing to do to help people before they even had a chance to succeed in the classroom.
The teaching profession was beginning to be shaped by a business model that does not discern a public service from a profit minded investment scheme which changed a profession of professionals into one that favors short term contractors.
But there are two large indicators that voters in North Carolina should really pay attention to when it comes to the NCGA’s relentless pursuit to quell their fears of a well-educated general public – money spent per pupil and tuition costs to state supported universities.
Below is one of many different data tables that shows how willfully the NCGA has made sure to keep public schools from thriving (from the NC Justice Center’s July 2016 analysis).
And how that per pupil expenditure truly affects schools becomes even clearer when you read reporting that clearly shows how funds are used (and stretched) by school systems. Take Kris Nordstrom’s piece entitled “As new school year commences, shortage of basic supplies demonstrates legislature’s failure to invest” (http://www.ncpolicywatch.com/2017/08/29/new-school-year-commences-shortage-basic-supplies-demonstrates-legislatures-failure-invest/).
This table should be easy to decipher.
Simply put, this is a great example of truth-telling and an equally fantastic exposure of the very fear that the NCGA has of thriving public schools. Nordstrom states,
“When adjusting for enrollment and inflation, school funding has been cut in the following areas since leadership of the General Assembly switched hands in 2010 (a time period in which the state was already struggling to find resources as a result of the Great Recession): classroom teachers, instructional support personnel (counselors, nurses, librarians, etc.), school building administrators (principals and assistant principals), teacher assistants, transportation, low wealth schools, disadvantaged students, central office, limited English proficiency, academically gifted, small counties, driver training, and school technology. Funding streams for teacher professional development and mentoring of beginning teachers have been eliminated completely.”
- Don’t we have a state surplus?
- Don’t we spend millions on validate vouchers that have shown no improvement in student outcome?
- Don’t we spend millions in legal fees defending laws that are unconstitutional?
The answer is “YES” to all of these.
Remember, our lawmakers are bragging that we are economically thriving. So who is profiting?
The Pew Research Center for U.S. Politics & Policy conducted a national survey on the attitudes on whether higher education has had a positive or negative effect on our country (http://www.people-press.org/2017/07/10/sharp-partisan-divisions-in-views-of-national-institutions/). It’s rather disturbing.
More disturbing is that it is not surprising.
While one might think that Joel Osteen’s antics to protect his tax exempt megachurch from actually serving the Houston public in a Christ-like fashion during the devastating hurricane would change the first set of data points, it is the last category that is the focus here.
Inside Higher Ed highlighted the Pew survey. Paul Fain in his report opened up with this:
“In dramatic shift, more than half of Republicans now say colleges have a negative impact on the U.S., with wealthier, older and more educated Republicans being least positive”(https://www.insidehighered.com/news/2017/07/11/dramatic-shift-most-republicans-now-say-colleges-have-negative-impact).
Might want to see who controls policy in Raleigh.
And those “wealthier, older, and more educated Republicans” who are in control in Raleigh have also enabled state-supported colleges and universities to become more expensive.
At the beginning of last year, WUNC published a report called “Incoming UNC Students Likely To See Tuition Increase” (http://wunc.org/post/incoming-unc-students-likely-see-tuition-increase#stream/0). In it there is a data table that shows the steady and steep increase in tuition costs for UNC undergraduate resident tuition.
And yes, we are still a bargain compared to other states, but that is an over 70% increase that does not include housing, board, food, supplies, books, travel, and all of the other expenses sure to accompany a college experience.
Is it supposed to make sense that rising tuition costs should accompany lower per-pupil expenditure in public secondary schools all the while boasting of a state surplus in a state that currently has racially gerrymandered legislative districts and an increased investment in a rather robust effort to privatize public schools?
Apparently “yes” to many in Raleigh.
Which is why they say “no” so often to people.