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Huge change for schools, or not really

A provision in the new N.C. budget that changes how growing school districts are funded might be the most significant shift in school funding in decades. Or it’s not a big deal at all.

Which is it? Lawmakers need to figure that out.

Here’s what’s different: As part of the new budget, the state legislature will no longer automatically fund growth in public school enrollment. Growing school districts had counted on that funding when they began planning each spring for the new teachers they might need.

Now, they might have to wait until fall – when fewer good teachers are available – to see what the state will fund, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools Superintendent Heath Morrison told the Observer. Morrison also is worried that instead of that funding increase being automatic, it will be weighed against other school expenses and become less of a priority.

That’s not insignificant. In fact, Department of Public Instruction Chief Financial Officer Philip Price called it the “largest change in the budget” in his lifetime.

But Eric Guckian, Gov. Pat McCrory’s education policy advisor, said in a Thursday statement that the change is “minor” and “has no impact on enrollment growth funding.”

There was little if any debate on the provision before it was passed and signed by the governor. Perhaps that’s because the 200-plus page budget was plopped on lawmakers’ desks just hours before they voted.

Regardless, if there’s such stark disagreement on the impact of this provision, it deserves more discussion than it got. Morrison expressed confidence Friday that the topic would be revisited. We hope so.

An end to stupid?

Are Republicans finally following Bobby Jindal’s advice?

The Republican Louisiana governor famously said in 2012 that the GOP had to “stop being the stupid party” and that “dumbed-down conservatism” was getting them nowhere. It was a message tea partiers and much of the Republican base didn’t want to hear. But with fringe candidates repeatedly costing the party control of the U.S. Senate and perhaps the presidency, Jindal’s remarks were spot-on.

Two years later, it appears the message might be getting through. More-moderate Republicans are six-for-six this year in Senate primary challenges from their right. Sen. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee and Sen. Pat Roberts of Kansas each survived tea-party backed challenges last week.

On Friday, Rep. Paul Ryan urged his party to do more than criticize President Obama and other Democrats. To win Senate control this fall and the presidency in 2016, Ryan said, Republicans need to offer new ideas and real solutions to tough problems. “It is not enough for us to simply criticize,” Ryan told the Republican National Committee.

This is bad news for Democrats – and good news for the nation. We are all better off with two parties earnestly debating conflicting but sincere policy prescriptions. Republicans being “stupid” the past few years has undercut more than just their own electoral prospects.

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