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Shifting more of the responsibility for funding schools to localities, as some North Carolina lawmakers are advocating, would trap many children in underfunded schools and force up property taxes.
 
Our K-12 public schools are already suffering from significant cuts in state funding made by the legislature in recent years. For the current school year, state funding per student is 11 percent lower ($653 less) compared to six years ago, taking account of inflation. This has meant fewer teachers and teaching assistants in classrooms, larger class sizes, less money for textbooks and other instructional material, and an average salary for North Carolina teachers that ranks 46th among states.
 
Further reducing the state’s commitment to our school children would make these troubling trends even worse, particularly in poorer school districts, and turn our education system into one of haves and have-nots. That’s because state money helps schools in areas with few local resources fill in the gaps, allowing children who live in those communities to have some of the same opportunities as children who live in wealthier communities. Read More

North Carolina has the 10th highest poverty rate in the nation—down from 13th last year—with more than 1 in 4 of its children living below the federal poverty line. Our state also faces widespread income inequality and less economic mobility than the nation and the southeastern region. Rather than pursue a mix of tax and budget policies that boosts economic security for middle-class and low-income families, state lawmakers instead enacted a tax plan that shifts taxes away from the wealthy and towards the bottom 80 percent of taxpayers, on average.

The tax plan drains $525 million in available revenue for public investments over the next two years—a figure that balloons to at least $650 million within five years.

Consider what could have been done to help improve a child’s shot at the American Dream if state lawmakers didn’t choose to cut taxes for the wealthy and profitable corporations. Over the next two years, these dollars could have been used to provide a package of poverty-busting and mobility-lifting investments such as:

  • Eliminating the waiting list for the North Caroline pre-Kindergarten program;
  • Keeping and strengthening the state Earned Income Tax Credit, which helps boost the income of families who work in low-wage jobs;
  • Maintaining the income tax deduction for contributions to North Carolina’s 529 college savings plans (which was eliminated in the tax plan); and
  • Maintaining funding for the 10 nonprofits that promote economic development in economically lagging and distressed communities across the state – these entities include the Institute of Minority Economic Development and its Women’s Business Center

Despite lawmakers’ assertions, academic research simply lacks consensus on whether cutting taxes is an effective strategy for boosting the state’s economy and creating more jobs.  However, an established and growing body of research exists that show the value of public investments, which serve as the building blocks of a strong economy and family economic security. Read More

Another “must read” from over the weekend is this essay by Duke University Divinity School professor, Amy Laura Hall in the Durham Herald-Sun. In it, she make the forceful and on-the-money argument that all the talk of a “broken” education system is akin to the scare tactics employed by the evil Mr. Potter in the the classic film, It’s a Wonderful Life:

“’Broken?’  Think about it.  Is that the right word for the man who mopped up vomit when a second-grader overindulged in Halloween candy?  Or the woman who remembered my daughter’s cafeteria account number when her little fourth grade mind was otherwise engaged, busy wiggling her newly loose tooth?  Or the cop at the high school who has to deal with one more confounded fender-bender resulting from teens ‘checking one another out’ rather than carefully backing out? To borrow from a cute pop song, the public school system’s ‘not broken, just bent.’  The question we ought to ask is this: Who bent it? Read More

In case you missed it over the weekend, the Greensboro News & Record published an excellent editorial entitled “Keep our teachers.”

“It takes two hours to drive from Greensboro to Salem, Va.

How many Guilford County teachers made that trip Friday or were on their way this morning?

‘I’m hearing an awful lot,’ Liz Foster said Wednesday. She’s president of the Guilford County Association of Educators, and she’s worried about the state of her profession in North Carolina.

On the other side of the Virginia line, this is a time of opportunity. A consortium of 20 public school systems ran ads in small North Carolina newspapers touting a teacher recruitment fair at the Salem Civic Center Friday and today. For teachers interested in relocating, it said, a state education official would be there to provide licensing information.

Why would this be inviting to North Carolina teachers? For one thing, on average, teachers in Virginia are paid $4,000 a year more. In fact, teachers in almost every other state are paid more. It’s disgraceful how poorly North Carolina educators are paid.

But that’s not the only reason teachers are unhappy with their circumstances here….

Read the rest of the editorial by clicking here.

Snowy roadsCentral and Eastern North Carolina experienced what is, at least by our standards, a significant amount of snow Tuesday evening and on through Wednesday morning. It was at least enough to cancel public schools in impacted counties and districts, though it often doesn’t take even that much snow to cancel or delay school around here. Sometimes even the threat of snow is enough or, as we saw recently, brutally cold weather.

My friends and family from the north often laugh at the way we respond to winter weather, but it makes perfect sense: as a rare occurrence, we simply don’t have the equipment and resources to deal with such weather. Even if it’s just a light dusting, it’s much safer for everyone involved to shut down business as usual, including school, and let it pass. Better safe than sorry, the old saying goes.

Much safer, that is, for everyone except our teachers, not to mention other public school employees. Rather than allowing teachers a “snow day,” North Carolina puts “absences” due to inclement weather under the category of vacation leave. Read More