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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

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In case you missed them, check out this morning’s lead editorials in Raleigh’s News & Observer and the Charlotte Observer — both of which tell it like it is on the matter of our state leaders’ ongoing assault on public education.

In “A basic math lesson for N.C. lawmakers,” the Observer puts it like this:

“Here’s what the Senate and House budget plan, set for a vote this week, does to N.C. schools:

It cuts education spending by almost $500 million in the next two years, including a decrease in net spending for K-12 public schools.

It invites bigger and more chaotic classrooms by removing the cap on some classroom sizes and cutting funding for elementary school teacher assistants. Read More

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School vouchersIn 2012, many of the politicians who now control the North Carolina General Assembly ran on pledges of “fiscal conservatism” and reducing government spending. Indeed, many prominent members of the current majority continue to style themselves as “common-sense fiscal conservatives.”

There’s a disappointing lack of common sense, however, in the proposed “Opportunity Scholarships” program included in the current House budget. The program would provide school vouchers—up to $4,200 each—for K-12 students to attend private schools instead of traditional public schools. The current budget proposal appropriates $10 million for the program in the first year, and jumps to $40 million for the second. In a time of huge cuts to our public school system, there is no common sense in taking much needed resources from our students and teachers and asking them again to somehow do more with less.

Instead of being fiscally conservative, this voucher scheme is fiscally irresponsible, since it will cost the state money every year after the first. In fact, the larger the program becomes, the more money it will lose for North Carolinians. Read More

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The next time someone asks you how it is that North Carolina’s elected leaders are undermining the public education in our state (not to mention the basics of democratic governance), direct them to this morning’s lead story on the main NC Policy Watch site by Education Reporter, Lindsay Wagner. Here’s the lead:

For two years now, Arapahoe Charter School in Pamlico County has been fighting the State Board of Education for approval to expand from a K-8 school to a K-12 school. After the Board denied its request, Arapahoe appealed, and the case remains pending before the state Office of Administrative Hearings.

Rather than wait for that process to play out, however, Arapahoe’s director, Tom McCarthy, tried a different approach. Read More