Commentary

Gridlock starts to grip NC schools as lawmakers…head out on vacation?

Two stories really symbolize the state of North Carolina state government this morning on the first day of Fiscal Year 2016:

The first is the gridlock that’s starting to grip the state’s public schools. With a final state budget agreement light years away and few clear indicators from state leaders as to where things are headed — other than perhaps slashing thousands of teacher assistants — Raleigh’s News & Observer reports this morning that “At least one-third of North Carolina’s school systems are suspending their driver’s education programs this summer until they learn whether they’ll receive any state money to help pay for the classes.”

Meanwhile, the second part of the story is crystallized in yesterday’s edition of the Fitzsimon File in which my colleague Chris Fitzsimon — who has closely observed North Carolina politics for the past three decades — explained how extraordinary the latest inaction by the General Assembly is:

“House and Senate leaders couldn’t meet their budget deadline of June 30, the end of the state fiscal year, so they approved a continuing budget resolution this week to give themselves 45 more days.

Next week they will be on vacation and two weeks after that many Republican lawmakers plan to be in San Diego for the annual meeting of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC).

It’s true, as supporters of the General Assembly have pointed out, that not having a final budget by June 30 is relatively common. Lawmakers have passed continuing resolutions many summers while they hashed out final budget details.

But the resolutions usually come after some effort at negotiations between House and Senate budget writers and the extensions are usually for 10 days or maybe two weeks, not a month and a half.

And there’s never been a case when lawmakers gave themselves 45 more days and promptly took the next week off. It’s especially noteworthy coming from Republicans, who promised a more transparent and efficiently run General Assembly when they won control of the House and Senate in the 2010 election.”

In short, state legislative leaders — who promised to “run government like a business” — are instead fiddling, Nero-like, while core state services they have already badly undermined crumble around them. All in all, it’s quite a mess. Perhaps the business they had in mind was Enron.

Happy Fiscal New Year!

3 Comments


  1. LayintheSmakDown

    July 1, 2015 at 7:54 pm

    Well, I have been in several different businesses that don’t finalize their budgets until a month or two into the budget year. Life goes on and business continues. Just like the government continues on a similar spend path to last year. Trust me, the schools are not hurting, this is just the usual PR move to make it seem like the sky is going to fall. Besides….this, again, is nothing the democraps did not do in the past…and the world did not end back then….and there was likely no screeching here either.

  2. Susan

    July 2, 2015 at 6:09 am

    “The schools are not hurting” reminds me of “corporations are people”.

    That type of depersonalization might make senate members feel a little less guilty (hope they still have that capacity of empathy) but it makes them appear like they do not care.

    The ONES who are hurting are the Teaching Assistants who are having to spend the next few weeks or possibly months worrying about will they loss their jobs and benefits.

    Most teacher assistants make below the level of “poverty” already and the stress of having to worry because elected officials appear incapable of the ability of negotiation and/or persuasion is disgraceful.

    It is difficult to understand why the Senate mentality appears to be much more destructive toward education and perhaps they should remember if they can so callously terminate thousands of positions they will be “fired” when the next election occurs.

  3. LayintheSmakDown

    July 2, 2015 at 11:28 am

    Susan, you are confusing two things. The schools are indeed not hurting. Most of them have plenty of reserves to get them to a budget number for several months until the uncertainty is gone.

    Getting rid of TA’s is a different story if they are really needed and that crucial, then maybe local districts need to fund them…especially if as you say they make so little. All they have to do is get rid of a few of he overpriced executives at central office and make a few other cuts if it is a priority. This is done in many cases with teachers, where a number of them are totally local funded…my mother used to be one of those before she retired so I know.

    The senate is not destructive with education, they just have to make tough choices. Schools are already pretty much the largest line item so what would you do to bridge the gap to your school nirvana? Decrease medicaid one of the other largest items? I can imagine the hysteria here. Would you decrease courts, or transportation, or law enforcement? Or how about the scenario to raise taxes to your nirvana…do you think this state could afford a $30 or 40 BILLION or more budget? You do know the middle class and poor would have to pay more in that scenario as there are not enough rich to tax to get to that level. I have posed the challenge to Cedric (which has been ignored) to come up with the budget that funds all the progresso wishes at the level that would stop the hysteria here…I think it is unlikely as you guys know none of the things on this web site are viable when you think of balancing your dreams in the real world.

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