Commentary

Dan Forest, GOP to take credit today for school program Republicans voted against

Lt. Gov. Forest

Not that it comes as any great surprise, but Lt. Gov. Dan Forest’s perpetual campaign for higher office will be in full swing today when he and some Republican politicians descend on an Alamance County high school to claim credit for connecting all of our state’s schools to high-speed broadband. The folks over at one of Forest’s chief P.R. firms — the John Locke Foundation — published an article in their Carolina Journal newsletter last Friday informing us of the plan:

“North Carolina is the first state to connect all K-12 classrooms to high-speed broadband. Lt. Gov. Dan Forest and FCC Chairman Ajit Pai will host a celebration of this achievement  Tuesday, May 22, at Graham High School.

State Superintendent Mark Johnson; Alamance-Burlington Superintendent William Harrison; Rep. Stephen Ross, R-Alamance; and Rep. Dennis Riddell, R-Alamance, will also attend.

‘Connecting all of our public school classrooms to high-speed broadband will bridge the education divide allowing opportunity for an excellent education to all public-school students,’ Forest said.

Through the School Connectivity Initiative, every public school in the state has high-speed broadband access. SCI was created in 2007 to support the enhancement of technology infrastructure in public schools. Funds were appropriated for broadband access, equipment, and support services.

While it’s great to expand broadband (indeed, one wishes Forest and his fellow conservatives would stop stonewalling plans at the General Assembly to let local municipalities do just that) there is a rather glaring omission in the Locke puff piece that deserves to be noted. It turns out that the 2007 School Connectivity Initiative mentioned in the article was a program launched by a Democratic General Assembly and the administration of former Gov. Mike Easley in the 2007 budget bill. What’s more, as can be seen here and here, every Republican legislator except for one (including Phil Berger and Tim Moore) voted against that bill.

Maybe Forest and Representatives Ross and Riddell (none of whom was serving in Raleigh in 2007) would have broken with Republican leadership at the time to vote for the Democratic budget and the investments contained in the School Connectivity Initiative, but it seems like a distinct longshot. An Internet search produced no evidence that any of the three men were critical of the “no” votes at the time.

But, of course, strange claims of credit are nothing new for Forest, a politician who, as Lt. Governor, long kept a running total on his website of jobs created in North Carolina during his tenure in office, even though he had noting of note to do with any of them.

The bottom line: Let’s hope today’s event signals that arch-conservative North Carolina Republicans are turning over a new leaf when it comes to bipartisanship and a commitment to investments in essential public infrastructure and that maybe they’ll even give Democrats the credit for launching the program they’ll be lauding today.

The advice from this corner, however, is not to hold your breath waiting for such a turnaround.

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