Former State Superintendent blasts “senseless” proposals to cut education funding

michael-ward-phdDr. Mike Ward, who served as state superintendent of Public Instruction from 1997 to 2004, warns in a Wednesday editorial in the News & Observer that “the nation will witness the backslide” of North Carolina following a series of legislative proposals that undercut public education:

‘How sad we were to move back to Raleigh last fall and find some legislative leaders committed to a sprint to the bottom. After being far more competitive, North Carolina now ranks 48th in per pupil expenditure and 46th in how well we reward our hard-working teachers. And some in the General Assembly appear poised to make it worse.

Here’s just a sample of the proposed policies that stand to hurt our public schools and our students:

1.) Massive cuts to school funding. This means thousands of lost teaching positions. It means crowded classrooms and the loss of teacher assistants in early elementary grades, even though research shows that smaller class sizes help students, especially struggling students.

2.) Vouchers. If you want to know where money to pay for teachers is going, one place to look is at the proposed voucher legislation. Proponents refer to them as “opportunity scholarships.” Vouchers are bad public policy, snatching millions of dollars away from public schools that desperately need them. We support the choice of private education, but taxpayers will foot the bill for some parents to send their children to private schools. Legislators backing these vouchers will tell you that the vouchers are for disadvantaged students, but the bulk of these vouchers will go to middle-income residents – and you’ll get to pay their children’s private school tuition. Vouchers are an expensive, divisive program with virtually no record of improving overall student performance.

3.) Reduced funding for pre-kindergarten. This is a senseless and self-defeating proposal. Investing in pre-K is not just good for kids – it’s good for all of us. Research shows that quality pre-K returns $5-$13 for every dollar spent by reducing costs for remedial education, social services and criminal justice.

Just as the nation took notice during our impressive period of investment and progress, the nation will witness the backslide. High-end employers and investors will take their money elsewhere; no one wants to send their dollars to places that are weak on educational support and noted for social strife. The racial and economic divisions in our communities will deepen. Opportunity for those living at the margins will shrink. That’s not just wrong, that’s bad wrong.

This is not the North Carolina we have been or want to be. The good news is that it’s not too late for our legislators to do the right thing. Residents must study these crucial education issues and call their representatives in the General Assembly before these disastrous policy and budget proposals become law.’

To read the full editorial, click here.


  1. Sybil Austin Skakle

    May 29, 2013 at 2:43 pm

    Without money the state cannot do more than their funds allow!!!
    We’re in trouble. I won’t add to our legislators troubles by criticizing
    them. And, I don’t want to pay higher taxes either! It is a catch 22,
    isn’t it?

  2. Jack

    May 29, 2013 at 3:04 pm

    Coming into office the GOP said that “North Carolina’s public education system is broken.” So, instead of reviving the existing public education system to benefit everyone in NC the GOP allowed it to starve to death through defunding.

    In short order and without pretense the GOP instituted a voucher system to create, for those deemed worthy, a well-funded and separate educational system; while leaving the remains of the starving public education system in place for those deemed unworthy to make do.

  3. C.D.Sprunger

    May 29, 2013 at 11:29 pm

    Stop blaming politicians. Money has never been an issue in learning. Some of the greatest minds of history were schooled at home or in small one room school houses. Other countries like the old Soviet Union had the U.S. by miles in education. They were broke. Japan has spent far less per student and they run circles around us.
    I’m tired of hearing the same old Socialist crap about “We need more money!” No. You don’t. You need to teach the students the basics and let them learn. You need to teach the students good study habits. This goes for teachers and parents.

  4. NC Teacher

    May 30, 2013 at 6:29 am

    Mr. Sprunger,

    It’s not all about classroom funding and spending money on the students. It’s also about our pay. We try to better ourselves as educators by attaining a Master’s degree yet we are not rewarded for it. We try to better ourselves as educators by becoming a National Board Certified Teacher yet again,
    We are not rewarded for it.

    If these kinds of things happened in the coporate world, what do you think would happen? Yet, we teachers sit patiently and wait for things we’ve been promised but haven’t seen and may never see.

    The teaching profession is becoming a joke. We’re expected to do our best with no rewards at all and a minimal salary that is less than a shift manager at a fast food restaurant. Please try to understand where we’re coming from. It’s hard to boost student morale when teacher morale is constantly bea down by broken promises.

  5. Freddie

    May 30, 2013 at 8:21 am

    Republicans they want the electorate less well educated so they will keep getting in to office.

  6. Freddie

    May 30, 2013 at 8:25 am

    correction… (sorry)…
    Republicans want the electorate less-well educated so THEY will keep getting in to office. Simple.

  7. RJ

    May 30, 2013 at 11:09 am

    Merhinks this is more about who gets the money rather than how much it is. Privateers are asking to get what they paid for in getting this bunch in office, and the fact that middle-class local government employees (teachers) get screwed makes it an exacta for them.

  8. Jack

    May 30, 2013 at 12:52 pm

    C. D. Sprunger – How is being a capitalist being a socialist? We’re capitalist, money is what its always about. Money is how we deal with the world and its problems. You have a funny way of looking at the world.

  9. Larry P

    May 30, 2013 at 5:41 pm

    Yes, there is such a large pool of tax money in surplus that I just can’t understand why they would cut back on spending? It is a awful thing to budget and actually live within your means. I think the ones who desire more spending should volunteer to fund that spending because I am taxed quite ENOUGH !!!!!!

  10. Lynnette

    June 2, 2013 at 8:16 am

    My husband is still on a first year teacher salary years later and should be getting $200+ more. I have my Master’s degree and should be getting paid $300 more than I do. We are frightened to have another child because we are so afraid of even more cuts to our paycheck. We have decided to wait two+ more years in hopes that we can save money to afford another child, or that our state will wake up and pay us what we deserve to be paid. This is sad and it is going to drive one of us, or both, out of education! I love teaching, but if you can’t afford to live and support your family, what are you to do?

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