Viewpoint

First NC Republicans hurt education. Now they are misleading the public about it

North Carolinians disagree about the effectiveness of the state’s Opportunity Scholarship program.
North Carolinians disagree about the effectiveness of the state’s Opportunity Scholarship program. Observer file photo

Desiree Zapata Miller’s recent op-ed in the Charlotte Observer entitled “Republicans are working to help NC schools“ (Aug. 4) is a gross misinterpretation of what has actually happened these past six years to the N.C. public school system. In fact, she offers only one correct item: “Education must be a non-partisan issue.” Ironically, the rest of the op-ed is nothing but partisan campaigning.

Miller states: “Democrats focus on pushing their autocratic and nationalized education agenda that moves decisions about a child’s education further away from parents and local educators who know the needs of the student best.”

Oddly, this past May more than 20,000 of those local educators (and many parents) “who know the needs of the students best” marched in Raleigh to tell the legislature that what has happened in the past six years is not good for students and schools.

She continues: “Republicans in North Carolina’s General Assembly are developing policies like school vouchers, school choice and innovative lab-type schools that will shift the power of decision-making back to parents instead of leaving it in the control of bureaucrats.”

Does Miller mean the same bureaucrats who hold special sessions to construct unconstitutional legislation, pass budgets without amendments or debate, fund vouchers that have not proven to raise student achievement, and deregulate charter schools?

It would be nice if she could refute or explain conclusions of the Duke University study released last year which was a rather damning report on the Opportunity Grants. Or maybe the recent NC State University study that concluded our voucher program suffers from lack of transparency. And concerning charter schools, Miller needs to show or at least refer to empirical research.

Then she gives a list of really bad claims:

“Did you know that the budget for the upcoming fiscal year increases public education funding again with an additional $700 million?”

“Teachers will receive an average 6.5 percent raise for the upcoming school year on top of the 15 percent increase over the past four years.”

“Principals will receive an average 6.9 percent pay increase.”

“$35 million has been allocated to keep students safe in NC Public Schools, and $241 million in lottery funds are allocated to build or upgrade school facilities.”

Miller fails to explain that the increase in budget still does not raise the per pupil expenditure average (North Carolina is a fast-growing state and prices do go up). She fails to tell you there is a difference between average raise and actual raise across the profession. She fails to tell you that the principal pay plan actually hurts a lot of already-successful principals. She fails to tell you that many parents she claims to speak for wanted a $1.9 billion school bond for construction, which is a lot more than $241 million.

And that idea of getting “a voucher for $9,172 per child per year and choose the school your child would attend” because that is what is spent on each student? That figure is not what the state spends on each student. It includes local and federal dollars both of which have guidelines on how money is spent. It also shows an ignorance of how schools are funded. There have been schools that have been threatened or even shut down because too many students were drawn away from them because of these “common sense” reforms.

Ultimately, Miller fails to explain how her claims actually adhere to Article IX of the NC Constitution, which guarantees all students a sound, fully-funded public education.

Until then, what Miller has presented is pure electioneering without regard to substance.

Egan is an English teacher at West Forsyth High School in Clemmons, NC. Email: caffeinatedrageblog@gmail.com
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