NC Justice Center

Altered state: Amid the gloom, rays of hope

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But only a unified front will release us from bondage:

As we’ve seen, there’s good reason for hope. But progressives would also do well to recall that much of the Right’s undeniable success in working its will on state policy is the residue of design. For decades now, conservative funders, politicians, think tanks, religious activists and corporate lobby groups have worked diligently and spent mountains of cash in a coordinated fashion to roll back the clock and to resist the social and economic changes that progressives champion and conservatives fear. They will not go quietly or painlessly back into the minority. It will take the sustained commitment of tens of thousands of activists, organizers, lobbyists, litigators, writers, bloggers, researchers, thinkers, business people, funders, politicians and voters to turn things around.

And that last part is doubly relevant as the clock winds down on candidate filing for the 2016 General Assembly election. GOP leadership has made numerous missteps in the last few sessions, that have left many (even in their base) wondering what the heck is going on. But if we don't provide an alternative for them to vote for, we'll never know if that confusion has morphed into dissatisfaction in the minds of voters.

Paving the way toward privatization

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The hemorrhaging of education dollars is increasing:

Before the voucher program began, there was little concern about the low level of state oversight of private schools because they received no public money. The voucher money is flowing now — $11 million this year, with $24 million budgeted for 2016 — but private schools are subject to minimal requirements for student assessment and none at all for curricula, instructional staff or financial viability. The schools can choose the pupils they want to admit and are free to provide religious instruction.

The hypocrisy of those on the right over this issue is mind-boggling. They wail about accountability and waste in our traditional public school system, and yet don't believe government has any business monitoring those very same things when taxpayer dollars are funneled into private and charter schools. And their predictable reaction to requests for more funding of struggling public schools, that "throwing more money" at them will do no good, is exactly reversed with charters and private schools. We need to direct more state and local funding in that direction, and every failure of one of those schools is blamed on a lack of monetary support from the government. It's amazing they can tie their own shoes without tying them together and then falling on their faces.

NC Policy Watch series continues: Starving the schools

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And squeezing blood out of the teachers:

Staffing isn’t the only dwindling resource in the classroom — so are classroom supplies. Carter and other teachers dip into their own pockets to buy supplies and to meet emergency student needs. Carter said she typically spends $500 to $600 a year. Compared with 2008, the state has reduced the public schools’ classroom supplies budget by 52 percent.

“Let me be clear,” added Carson, the school’s principal. “Our teachers have been back and forth to that Wal-Mart across the street purchasing their own supplies for their classrooms.”

This is not a new, unforeseen problem, General Assembly members have been aware of this issue from day one. And they've made a conscious choice to hold back needed funding and put that burden on teachers, many of whom are under financial strain even without these added expenditures. It's contemptible, and even more so when you consider the bond package we're looking at now, which will spend hundreds of millions on University-related Capital projects most of these unfortunate students will never be able to touch. Scientia potentia est, and to withhold it from some indicates weakness and fear of their potential.

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