Defending Democracy, Education

Registered Republican and classroom educator: Our Students Can’t Afford Costly Amendments

Editor’s note: With much confusion surrounding the constitutional amendments on the ballot this fall, we’re inviting folks to chime-in on the Progressive Pulse blog to share with us their thoughts on the ballot initiatives. Today’s submission comes from April Lee, who describes herself as a registered-Republican and president of Johnston County Association of Educators.

With North Carolina schools already struggling to keep classrooms a vital place for learning, teacher Justin Parmenter is concerned with what passage of the proposed constitutional amendments could mean.

Three of the six amendments on the ballot this November (income tax cap, voter ID, and Marsy’s Law) threaten to bust a huge hole in the state’s already tight budget, with a combined fiscal impact reaching into the billions. Such a massive hit will require trade-offs for other priorities, including a fix for North Carolina’s severely underfunded K-12 classrooms. Funding is 8 percent lower — per pupil — today than it was in 2007.

“We’re charged with teaching our students 21st century skills, and yet we have a lot of schools where multiple students share one laptop,” says Parmenter, who teaches 7th grade English at Waddell Language Academy in Charlotte. “If these amendments pass we won’t make progress in those areas where we need to — and we need to in our schools.”

North Carolina Policy Watch reported in June that a confidential fiscal note estimates that Marsy’s Law, among the proposed amendments, would swell the state budget by $30 million a year. The amendment requiring ID to vote would add another $12 million, according to experts at the Budget & Tax Center.

This $42 million in new spending would slam the state budget at the same time an amendment to lower the tax cap would lock in losses of $2.4 billion in annual revenue compared to what could be raised without it.

All North Carolinians will be on the hook for this spending and tax giveaway to the wealthiest interests. But North Carolina kids could end up paying the highest price.

“As teachers, we’re in the business of trying to create opportunities for our children,” Parmenter says. “These amendments are the opposite of what we need to do to create a brighter future for them.”

I agree, which is why I’ll be voting against these costly amendments in November.

As a registered Republican, I demand smart fiscal policies. As a middle-school teacher in Johnston County, I’ve seen firsthand what happens when policymakers are allowed to run amok at the expense of North Carolina’s priorities.

I spend hundreds of dollars of my own money to make sure my students have what they need for success. But my packed classroom lacks consistent infrastructure and, despite my best efforts to create a safe and productive environment for my students, high temperatures and humidity have become a consistent distraction. Dank air and mold are constant worries.

I’m told these types of air quality issues are a county-wide problem. Looking at my sample ballot, I’m also told by my lawmakers that they’d rather push costly proposals than help fix these concerns.

North Carolina, and its students, can ill-afford these unnecessary amendments.

April Lee is the president of Johnston County Association of Educators. She lives in the McGee’s Crossroads community in Johnston County.

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