Commentary, Education

Scathing editorial blasts Phil Berger’s attempted evasion of responsibility for public schools

Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger

Be sure to check out this morning’s Capitol Broadcasting Company editorial on WRAL.com entitled “Supporting public schools isn’t done by driving kids away,” which takes state Senate leader Phil Berger to task for recent irresponsible statements about North Carolina’s public schools.

Berger, who’s gone all in with the Trump line of late by urging schools to reopen as if the COVID-19 pandemic didn’t exist, recently cited the fact that some private schools are opening and then touted the state’s controversial school voucher program as the path that parents should pursue.

This is from the editorial:

State Senate leader Phil Berger probably thinks he’s talking a good game about school spending. But he’s not fooling anyone. He sounds like he wants to give up on public education and send kids to private schools or privately-run schools – and use taxpayer dollars to do it.

“Private Schools Are Open. Here’s How to Apply for an Opportunity Scholarship,” he proclaimed. “The public school establishment is failing the very children it is supposed to serve.”

What? Phil Berger IS the “public school establishment.” He as much as anyone in North Carolina’s government leadership – including Gov. Roy Cooper or Superintendent of Public Instruction Mark Johnson or House Speaker Tim Moore – is responsible to the degree that our public schools deliver on their mission or don’t. And we don’t understand why Berger seems to demand a one-size fits all solution over the flexibility Cooper’s plan offers local districts.

The editorial then goes on to detail both the lack of accountability in voucher schools and the fact that the state has failed to adequately support public schools — two phenomena for which Berger bears great responsibility after having served as one of the state’s most powerful political leaders for more than a decade. Here’s the conclusion to the editorial:

While Berger’s quick to send students and money away from the school’s he’s obligated to support, he refuses to acknowledge and adopt a thoughtful and comprehensive roadmap to improve public schools developed by the plaintiffs and defendants in the landmark Leandro case.

Want to know what is needed for a quality education? Just read the Leandro Report. The action plan filed with Superior Court Judge David Lee is a clear path to a “sound basic education” for every child. That statement, “a sound basic education for all” isn’t a platitude. It is a guarantee – too long unmet — in North Carolina’s Constitution.

It has been clear since March that the COVID-19 virus would have an immense impact on every aspect of life in the state. Yet legislative leaders have squandered more time and effort on opportunities for unproductive partisan extracurriculars rather than working to develop coordinated and effective approaches to educating children and working to keep them – and their classroom teachers – safe.

If Berger wants to provide leadership for quality public education, as our state constitution requires, he needs to be the loudest voice for adoption of the Leandro road map.

Click here to read the entire editorial.

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