Commentary

NC Senate floats yet another silly and simplistic education proposal

Senator Tom Apodaca

Senator Tom Apodaca

It is becoming increasingly clear that the single, best thing that North Carolina lawmakers could do to aid public education in our state is this: nothing.

Seriously, lawmakers would do our young people, educators, public education officials, employers, and the state at-large an enormous service if they would simply pass one bill each year providing the funding that our schools really need and then get the heck out of the way and check back in five or ten years. No more “ABC’s” of this or that or “Excellent Schools Acts.” Nothing, nada, zip. Just give our professionals the money and the mandate and let them do their jobs.

Unfortunately, the urge to meddle, micromanage and pass half-baked ideas that some lawmaker heard something about over dinner or on Fox News assures that this will never happen. For the most recent example of this apparently irresistible tendency, check out the proposal in the North Carolina Senate to “bill” local schools for the cost of remediation courses that students take in Community College. As NC Policy Watch reporter Sarah Ovaska reported this morning, one of the bill’s key sponsors, Senator Tom Apodaca, thinks this will make a difference:

The desire, Apodaca said, is to make sure the state’s K-12 system is turning out graduates ready to jump into the higher levels of education.

“We’re sending a message to our schools that we want quality coming out,” Apodaca said.

You got that? The premise of the law — as with so many other conservative education proposals in recent years — is that North Carolina can wring better results out of its public schools through sheer force. Rather than addressing poverty, providing universal pre-K, lowering class sizes or investing the money that it would really take to hire the teachers and counselors and other professionals who could perform the miracle of preparing millions of kids for the insanely competitive 21st Century economy (half of whom come from families too poor to afford lunch), the Senate would propose to get better K-12 grads by threatening to take away more money from their schools.

What a great idea! Maybe this can even set a precedent for other parts the education system. For instance, after this bill is passed, lawmakers can pass legislation that allows K-12 systems to bill pre-K programs (or parents) for the kids who show up needing “remediation. ” Another bill could force colleges and universities to pay for the young teachers who arrive in K-12 not fully prepared to teach.

After that, who knows where such an innovative idea might lead? Maybe North Carolina could enact a law that forces prisons to pay for the cost of recidivism or perhaps one that cuts the environmental protection budget each time there’s a coal ash spill. How about a law that docks legislators’ pay for poor state job growth? Yeah, that’s the ticket!

The in-all-seriousness bottom line: North Carolina is never going to make any progress in improving its public education system through a threat-based “big stick” model. The only real, long-term solution is to abandon such “divide and conquer” policies based on blame, recognize the complexity of situations like the issue of college remediation and move forward with the understanding that we are all responsible for educating our children and all in the public education business together.

9 Comments


  1. LayintheSmakDown

    March 26, 2015 at 11:04 am

    Well, you gotta do something. The schools and government have shown they cannot solve poverty, which is never going to be solved. Pre-K and lower class sizes have shown to be failed concepts too so really I guess nothing will work. So I guess your premise is a good one and we should just do nothing.

  2. david esmay

    March 26, 2015 at 12:35 pm

    More Orwellian conservative non-sense, “undermining education is actually improving it”. All the head roads that we made in the effort to reduce poverty and improve education have been slowly eroded thanks to conservative policies that began with Reagan. Among the things you can count on happening anytime conservatives control government are first there’s going to be a recession, followed by increases in poverty, homelessness, unemployment, and an over all reduction in the quality of life for most Americans, except for those at the top who will see an increase in wealth and power.

  3. LayintheSmakDown

    March 26, 2015 at 4:31 pm

    What is a head road?
    …..
    Seriously though, there has been no inroad made into poverty. The “great society” has been a complete failure, just like almost everything else the government does to “help”.
    …..
    And actually, if you look at the trends conservatives usually have to come in to clean up after recessions. Just since the ’70’s you have had Reagan and GWB have saved the day. And the Eisenhower years did not produce a recession. Your “logic” is just flawed….as usual.

  4. Gene Hoglan

    March 26, 2015 at 5:13 pm

    LSD, you really gotta lay off your namesake man. Eisenhower oversaw three major recessions, in 1953, 1958, and 1960.

  5. LayintheSmakDown

    March 26, 2015 at 6:43 pm

    I am not on LSD man, that stuff is bad for you. Just like I am for progressives.

  6. LayintheSmakDown

    March 26, 2015 at 6:46 pm

    And I would not put the 1960 recession as “major”. Heck the Obama economy is not much ahead of that time. As far as the other recessions during that time period, that had little to do with political decisions and more to do with re-establishing monetary policies post-WWII. The Fed basically caused those two.

  7. james realini

    March 26, 2015 at 6:50 pm

    What are the administrative costs for running the University System?

    The cherry picked idea (yes it doesn’t sound right) to allow the University to charge former school districts for not teaching sounds silly until you realize that no where in the application process do they deny admission to students who haven’t learned basic english skills, they accept them then complain?

    How many school administrators does it take to teach a student? That’s a more interesting question.

  8. Elaine Aber

    March 27, 2015 at 12:25 am

    As the parent of two college students, I’ve seen first how ill prepared kids are for college. As a public school teacher, I know why. So much pressure is put on administrators and teachers to perform on certain levels. What would all of you do to keep your jobs?! Yes, there is a huge element of fear of job loss. Teachers do their best to teach kids who come to school hungry, cold, needing medical attention, etc. The author was NOT saying to do nothing. Each grade and the subjects taught are building blocks to the next level. If curriculum, grading, testing, etc., are changed every year, as has been the case, neither teachers nor students are able to thrive. Everyone who complains, every legislator, every person employed in a position to affect education should spend extensive time with a teacher or in the classroom. Or with your child.

  9. Eric Brandon

    March 27, 2015 at 8:10 pm

    This is a really silly idea. The easiest ways for the high schools to avoid paying will be to make graduation from high school difficult. If the student can’t graduate, then they can’t go to college and take remedial or developmental courses.

    There are other ways to reduce remediation. In Tennessee and some other states, the community colleges are working with the high schools to do some remediation in junior and senior year before these students go to a community college. I’m all for more students taking math courses in junior and senior year where they actually do some real math. In North Carolina, too many students are taking stuff like Advanced Functions and Modelling or business math or tech math as juniors and seniors. These courses just warehouse the students. They are a waste of time.

    Instead, if these juniors and seniors worked on the math skills they need to avoid remediation at a community college, then they will be doing something worthwhile and might actually work hard at it.

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