The North Carolina General Assembly is supposedly coming back to meet for a two-day session and take up a “stimulus” bill that would appropriate federal money for COVID-19 relief.
Alex Granados highlighted this brief session and its expectations in an article posted yesterday on EdNC.org. It is an important piece of reporting.
Granados specifies the following is in that bill:
- $325 checks to families with children,
- Expand the Opportunity Grants,
- Expand ESA’s availability,
- “Hold harmless” state budgets for districts that are hurt by attendance issues due to the pandemic,
- “$35 million in flexible operational grants to child care centers,”
- “$20 million in grants available to help” in opening community centers for remote learning,
- “$10 million for student connectivity,”
- “$20 million for personal protective equipment,”
- “$17 million for exceptional children students,” and
- $30 million “to increase broadband internet in ‘economically distressed’ counties.”
Remember that this an “all-encompassing” bill and the people who constructed the bill and are pushing it to be passed are the same people who made sure to not have a new budget passed before the pandemic.
These are the same people who a couple of years ago passed a budget through a committee using a “nuclear option” without any amendments or even a tinge of debate.
And now that there is no super-majority in either NCGA chamber (unlike two years ago) this bill represents a rather heavy-handed “game of chicken” cloaked with a heavy coat of electioneering.
Why? Because Gov. Cooper could veto this and have the votes in both the House and Senate to sustain it.
Look at the items in the bill. Berger and Moore are waving the “hold harmless” item as the big prize. It is a most necessary step to help out the public school system. But there is a catch. In fact, there are many.
This bill also expands the voucher system in North Carolina by raising the income threshold for families of 4 or more to $72,000. In essence, this bill seeks to use tax-payer money to help the public to expand the privatizing of public education. That money would go to private entities. Many of those very entities received PPP funds.
As Kris Nordstrom notes:
Oh, and there is no “time limit” on this part of the bill. If it passed in this edition then it would be the new normal for vouchers.
The same type of thing would happen with ESA’s which allow low-income families to seek help for special needs students through private routes. ESA’s are Educational Saving Accounts. They already have their shortcomings in the way NC uses them.
And there is no one who will blantantly say that receiving monies for things like connectivity, child care, and PPE is a bad thing.
But the amounts are minuscule in the reality of what is actually needed. My school system alone researched what was needed to safely reopen schools under a Plan B just for one school system.
It was almost $30 million.
There are 114 other public school systems in the state.
So what is happening? Berger and Moore are holding hostage the “hold harmless” provision.
That’s what they think of public schools. They’ll hold them “harmless” while taking money to expand avenues that allow them to funnel more students to private schools using a pandemic as cover.
Oh, that $325 per family? It will be taxed. And Trump is trying to delay payroll taxes until 2021. Will take more than $325 to be able to pay for that later on.