2018 is halfway over. Traditional public schools in North Carolina are on summer breaks and the North Carolina General Assembly is busily crafting legislation that deeply affects those very schools.
This past December, this blog published a post that outlined the top ten educational issues from 2017 that needed attention in 2018. Aside from the fact that only nine were published and that #3 magically never appeared, those items are still in play here in June of 2018 (https://caffeinatedrage.com/2017/12/29/the-top-10-public-education-issues-from-2017-that-need-our-attention-in-2018/).
But this is an election year and some other issues (mostly related) are at play. With NC General Assembly elections in November and hotly contested policies in public education, some new issues might need close attention this summer and fall.
So, here is a subjective list of possibly the 10 most important issues in 2018 so far.
- May 16th’s Teacher March and Rally
Over 20,000 people went to Raleigh. Over 40 of the state’s 115 school districts were shut down. Many people in Raleigh claimed that it was the largest protest ever in the capital city. Ironically, shortly after, the NCGA decided to pass the budget through a committee report and not a bill.
2. Nuclear Option on Passing the Budget
After thousands of teachers and education advocates marched on Raleigh on May 16th calling for better treatment of public schools, the GOP super-majority invoked what is akin to a “nuclear” option in passing its budget. Rather than allowing for debate on matters of money from elected representatives and the opportunity of amendments, Phil Berger and Tim Moore had the budget voted on in committee.
Simply put, there was no democratic process in the passing of the budget.
3. HB 514
This bill was enabled with a provision that allows for cities to use property tax money to fund local schools. It also allows for cities and towns to establish their own charter schools with enrollment preference for their citizens using taxpayer money. But it goes much deeper than that: it has the potential to raise everyone’s property taxes to pay for charter schools and other state mandates like the class size bill. Most importantly, it has the ability promote systemic segregation.
4. Cap on Income Tax Rates – TABOR LITE
GOP leaders in the North Carolina General Assembly have pushed in the past and are now making a proposal to place a constitutional amendment on the November ballot that would cap the income tax rate a 5.5% (currently it is 10%). That proposal is a political tourniquet, pure and simple. And just as limited blood flow would cause harm to the skeletal system in a growing body, this measure would cause our state’s infrastructure to slowly suffer when streams of revenue are compromised by a body bent on lowering corporate tax rates even more.
Makes that property tax provision a little more suspicious.
5. Class Size Chaos and HB13
It is no big secret that the claims made by Chad Barefoot, Phil Berger, and others that the class size mandate had already been funded were false. The class size mandate did receive a reprieve for a year this past spring, but it will be an issue that comes around again next year. At risk are how many new teachers, classrooms, and resources will be needed to fulfill the mandate as it is now worded and if “specials” like arts and P.E. will still be on the chopping block.
What makes this an especially interesting issue is that the provision in the budget to allow property taxes to be used to fund schools might be leveraged by the NCGA to make the mandate happen.
6. Virtual Charter Schools
Please do not confuse North Carolina’s Public Virtual School with the virtual charter schools financed by the state as well. They are completely different entities. The public virtual school has traction and much credibility. The two virtual CHARTER schools in NC are two of the lowest ranking schools in the state but are two of the most enabled.
In this year’s spring session, the NCGA extended the pilot window for the state’s two virtual charter schools by another four years. That’s a total of eight years. No explanation for the reason given at all.
7. Still %16 Below the National Average
Despite the rhetoric coming from the NCGA that passed a budget with a nuclear option teacher salary in NC is still no closer to national average for teacher pay.
In 2017 the average teacher pay in North Carolina was %16 behind the national average. In 2018 the average teacher pay in NC was STILL %16 behind the national average.
8. Red Herring Bills
Consider Rep. Justin Burr’s bill in the General Assembly to force local school boards to provide a list of all movies shown in any classroom in the district to the state superintendent’s office. It’s a bogus bill meant to draw attention away from the fact that Burr’s party has passed a budget that never underwent debate or amendments and clearly is less of a benefit for public schools than what Gov. Cooper proposed.
In May, four NC members of the Congressional Prayer Caucus Foundation introduced a bill to place a plaque with the words “In God We Trust” in every school in a prominent place.
Combined, both would cost taxpayers nearly a quarter of a million dollars.
For the first time in recent history, it seems that every NC General Assembly race for senate and house representatives is a contested one. With redrawn districts and voter-ID laws still being pushed through the current session, the fact that many incumbents are facing stiff challenges in their elections is indicative of the polarizing nature of how Raleigh has done its legislating.
10. Mark Johnson
This year, Johnson won a lawsuit over “control” of DPI. That only emphasizes the non-public way he has handled the office of helping “public” schools.
He never spoke against budget cuts given by the current NCGA that hurts DPI. He has spent money to hire people only loyal to him in DPI when in fact there were seasoned public servants already fulfilling those duties. He spent a million dollars to audit DPI to find those “wasteful” dollars being spent only to find out that DPI was underfunded to begin with.
Yes, there are far many more issues that could be on this list:
- Per Pupil Expenditures
- Statewide School Bond
And the list goes on.
But the most important aspect is that all of these issues should encourage North Carolinians to VOTE in November.