Dozens of teachers and public education supporters donned red garb and gathered on the lawn of the State Capitol this morning to set the record straight about cuts to public education in North Carolina.
Bob Etheridge, former Congressman and former State Superintendent for Public Instruction, hosted the press conference, which was organized by Public Schools First NC, the North Carolina Association of Educators and Progress NC.
Etheridge countered GOP lawmakers’ assertions made during the past few weeks that public education received more funding than ever before and that the education budget requires no cuts to the classroom.
“That’s a cut!” shouted supporters in response to Etheridge’s list of items students and teachers will have to do without beginning this fall, including the significant loss of teacher assistant positions, no raises for teachers and cuts to instructional supplies.
Last week, Rep. Tim Moffitt posted on his website a lengthy diatribe  disputing the notion that public education was underfunded by lawmakers during the last legislative session.
According to Moffitt, North Carolina is spending more on education than ever before in the state’s history, and when one accounts for the benefits packages that teachers receive, their salary actually equates to nearly $60k/year on average, just for working ten months out of the year.
Some say Moffitt’s numbers are a misrepresentation of the facts.
Funding for K-12 education in the 2013-15 biennial budget falls $180 million short of the amount that is needed to provide the same service levels as last year, according to the Office of State Budget and Management.
Funding for teacher assistants was cut by $120 million, and the impact is being seen statewide  as those jobs are eliminated in local school districts.
Alan Trogdon, a retired math teacher who spent 33 years in Wake County classrooms, wore red to the press conference today.
“If I were in a room with Governor McCrory, I would tell him that every student in this state deserves the kind of educational opportunities that we have historically been able to deliver. But this budget doesn’t even come close to allowing us to continue on that path,” said Trogdon.
Etheridge told NC Policy Watch that it was sad that the press conference was even necessary. “Our schools are doing way better than they are given credit for. Our teachers are working hard, and I’m tired of hearing them trashed,” said Etheridge.
“When we punish our teachers,” said Etheridge, “what we are really doing is punishing our children, who are our future.”