Remember last February? That’s when a “fix” for the class size mandate was “agreed” upon by both chambers of the North Carolina General Assembly that was presented as a welcome outcome.
On the surface, it was a victory for parents, advocates, and schools in that the mandate will be pushed back for a while and some extra funding for “specials” teachers is being given.
But during that press-conference in which Sen. Chad Barefoot announced with carefully prepared and partisan comments the “fix,” he negated to tell North Carolinians what else was attached to the bill that NC democrats were never privy to (http://www.newsobserver.com/news/politics-government/state-politics/article199207129.html).
That link not only gives you a video of Barefoot’s press conference; it also links to Lynn Bonner’s report that further explores HB90’s reach.
Long-sought help for schools struggling to lower class sizes is now tied up with a controversial Atlantic Coast Pipeline fund and a power struggle over control of elections boards.
A bill proposed Thursday would take $58 million that energy companies building a pipeline through Eastern North Carolina are expected to give state government as part of a deal Gov. Roy Cooper negotiated, and distribute it to school districts in eight counties the pipeline would run through. Cooper calls it a mitigation fund to offset environmental effects of the pipeline, but Republicans repeatedly called it a “slush fund.”
House Bill 90 also makes changes to the state elections board. The changes are the response to Republicans’ recent loss in the state Supreme Court in a ruling that said their earlier attempt to reconstitute the board was unconstitutional. In the latest iteration, the elections board would have nine members, including one member not affiliated with a political party.
But to Barefoot and other GOP members of the NCGA, the day was really about bragging about a class-size fix. A short-term solution to a problem that was manufactured and lied about.
Throughout most of the last calendar year people like Barefoot, Berger, and Moore have been yelling that the class size mandate has been funded in the past, yet there was absolutely no proof of that. One only has to read the work of Kris Nordstrom and see that those claims were not only baseless, but now are revealed to be the very smokescreen for today’s announcement.
What happened was that the GOP education reformers took credit for a temporary solution to a problem that they purposefully used to position themselves to pass partisan legislature to help them remain in power despite the gerrymandering and doublespeak.
And yes, it is politics. But public school kids were the pawns. They made it look like they were listening to the public, but it seems more than orchestrated.
Think of Craig Horn’s statements earlier in 2018 that a “fix” was coming only to be rebuffed by Berger. That is until more came out about the ruling of the state supreme court on the state elections board. They needed that time to figure out how to allow a fix that they have been holding in their back pocket to a problem they originally created could be used to offset their political loss.
And again, the kids were the pawns.
They have been all along.
And class-size chaos is coming back. That fix was temporary. The problem could be permanent. Because it was an unfunded mandate to being with and because the 2018 NCGA sessions ramrodded bills through like the Local Municipalities Charter bill (that allows property taxes to be used more in funding schools), local LEA’s, school boards, and county commissioners will be having to fight even more to help fully fund schools.
Remember the statements from Mark Johnson’s “less than stellar” op-ed from a February 2018 issue of News & Observer ?
And some of those tasked with making schools better are more focused on preserving tired partisan wedges….
Nothing was more partisan than what the people who empower and enable Johnson (who never has really said anything about the class size mandate) did last February.
Now that the next session of the NCGA has convened without the veto-proof majorities that were in place for many years, class-size chaos can be fixed permanently – by fully funding the mandate, keeping specials in the schools, and stopping the use of students as political pawns for a partisan agenda.