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One of the things people rightfully dislike about their government is when they are not told the truth. Sadly, in the ongoing debate about North Carolina’s new school voucher plan many politicians have been doing just that.

In an apparent effort to lessen the controversy, some legislators have been claiming that that it is “essentially a pilot program.” It is not. The “Opportunity Scholarship Act” is a full-blown government program similar to ones that have failed miserably in several jurisdictions. It has no expiration date and its sponsors have made plain their intention to expand it.

In explaining the education budget, one state senator wrote:

In regards to the Opportunity Scholarship Act, this is a pilot program for low income families.  Many children in low income families are forced to attend low-performing schools because they do not have the opportunity that wealthier families have to move to better schools.  We simply want to make sure that everybody has the same opportunity to succeed; it is by no means a sign that lawmakers lack confidence in our public schools.

At least four obvious responses deserve mention: Read More

Dr. Bill Anderson of the nonprofit MeckEd — a pro-public education group in Charlotte — published a fascinating, chart-and-graph-filled editorial/report this week about the status of North Carolina’s public schools. You owe it to yourself to take some time to review it.

“North Carolina was once considered a leader of K-12 public education in the Southeast. A few years back, during the tenure of Governor Jim Hunt, who was referred to on the national stage as the “Education Governor,” teacher salaries, academic achievement, and accountability increased significantly. The unfortunate reality of change, along with an extreme and prolonged recession, has resulted in painful adjustments due to significant reductions in education funding. 

This editorial is intended to provide an accurate and objective picture of these changes since 2006. It provides data on student population growth, academic achievement, the reduction of full-time instructional personnel, teacher salaries and how N.C. fares when compared to national teacher pay scales. It also shows what the outlook could be for traditional public schools in a state that once valued public education as an investment in the future. So much has changed and is being “reformed” very rapidly this summer. Some legislators believe our public schools are “broken” and need to “be fixed.” Hopefully, by understanding these developments with annual data points, the citizens and legislators of our great state will now have an accurate understanding of how far North Carolina has slipped in regard to funding and valuing the importance of public education.”

 Click here to read the entire piece.

McCrory ed summitGov. Pat McCrory unveiled his latest vision for public education this morning at the NC Chamber of Commerce’s Education Summit. The plan includes a $30 million “Education Innovation Fund” that would come from federal Race to the Top grant money and a call to reduce excessive testing.

McCrory also reiterated his belief that funding for North Carolina’s public education system was not cut in the budget he signed into law last week.

Beginning with an assertion that protestors and newspaper writers are wrong about the facts around the education budget, McCrory said that “at $7.8 billion, this is the largest K-12 budget in North Carolina’s history.”

Actually, that’s not at all an accurate representation of what the education budget looks like.

As I reported previously, North Carolina spent $7,714,429,569 on K-12 public education in the 2008 fiscal year budget — the last budget to be adopted prior to the onset of the Great Recession. But when you adjust those numbers for inflation, that amount would be $8,402,393,062 in today’s dollars. Read More

You don’t have to be a rocket scientist or a high-powered university economist to understand that North Carolina has been a destructive pattern of underfunding public education for some time now.  Just walk into any public school in the state and ask the teachers and administrators and let them tell you about their falling salaries, growing classes and inadequate facilities. 

This is not a partisan attack — leaders from both major political parties have participated in the process. As NC Policy Watch reporter Lindsay Wagner reported last week:

“Let’s examine the numbers. In the 2008 fiscal year budget, North Carolina spent $7,714,429,569 on K-12 public education. But when you adjust those numbers for inflation, that amount would have been $8,402,393,062 in today’s dollars.

The 2014 fiscal year budget will spend $500 million less than the 2008 inflation-adjusted budget, in the amount of 7,867,960,649. Read More

You know North Carolina has jumped off the cliff into the abyss when even two conservative figures with close ties to the John Locke Foundation are deriding the latest budget and tax policy choices made by state leaders.

Here, for instance, is longtime Locke Foundation Board member Assad Meymandi in Saturday’s edition of Raleigh’s News & Observer:

“Some 60 years ago, the founding fathers of the new North Carolina – transforming an agrarian society into an educational, technical and industrial state – folks like the late Bill Friday, Archie Davis, Gov. Luther Hodges and others saw the future salvation of our beloved state by heavily investing in education.

Their efforts have produced, among other things, a very strong UNC system of 16 campuses, parallel with the creation of the incomparable network of community colleges. They also advocated a strong N.C. Symphony, N.C. Museum of Art and other cultural and artistic institutions to attract educated and culturally inclined people to the state. Investing in education has paid off. N.C. economy has thrived because of its excellent public universities. UNC-Chapel Hill alone brings in annually around $900 million in research money and grants. It is truly frightening to see what the legislature is doing to the budgets of UNC system, N.C. community college system and UNC-TV. Read More