The Last Summer of Public Schools

This is it, folks, the last summer of public schools in North Carolina.

No, I don’t mean there’s no more summer school to come. I mean that if NCGA leadership is allowed to continue, unbridled, down their current path we won’t have public schools to kick around anymore. They won’t exist.

As Chris Fitzsimon put it:

Add it all up and it’s impossible not to see a theme. The folks currently running things in Raleigh are willing to use taxpayer dollars for almost any scheme—vouchers, achievement school districts, virtual charters—that diverts resources from the traditional public schools they refuse to adequately support.

Even the Senate’s election year raise for teachers is partially paid for by cuts in other funding for public education.

This isn’t about teacher’s salaries anymore. Our students and their education are at stake. And our students deserve more.
Public education has reached a tipping point. And now is the time to speak up. Before public schools are so underfunded they are forced to close. Now is the time to speak.

GOP leadership is determined to convert tax dollars devoted to public education into a revenue stream for private businesses. What a racket! There will always be kids. They will always need to be educated. Public dollars for that purpose creates a sustainable revenue stream going as far into the future as the eye can see. Can you say, Greed?

And this summer sees a raft of legislation supporting that goal.

Let’s start with increased funds being given to charter schools. Even money the Feds provide public schools to off-set the costs of bus transportation and school lunches will have to be parsed out to charter schools WHICH ARE NOT REQUIRED TO PROVIDE EITHER SERVICE! That is outrageous. It is blatant theft from traditional public schools. You want equity between charters and traditional public schools? Then either take the regulations off of the traditional schools or apply all regulations to the charter schools. Then there will be a level playing field.

Add to that, increased funds for vouchers. About 90% of vouchers go to religious private schools that turn your tax dollars into support for another church’s Sunday school program. Inappropriate.

We have money going to Virtual Charter schools, which have shown disastrous graduation rates and extremely high drop out rates in other states. NCGA leasership wants to loosen the few rules that govern virtual charters. Yet, even the Walmart Foundation has reported the ineffectiveness of these ‘schools,’ reporting that a year in a virtual school is like a year with no school at all. But NC legislators plow ahead. This isn't about the kids, it's about the money.

They have created an A-F ranking for each of our public schools (but not for the charters or virtual schools, mind you, we shouldn’t know at all how they are doing). This isn’t really about test scores but is a set-up for taking over traditional public school funding and giving it to charter companies.

And they are now creating a so-called achievement school district and plan to start moving elementary schools with grades of F into that ASAP. At first, only 5 schools will be taken away from local control, but that opens the door to increases in the future. Schools will then be handed over to charter management companies--even if the parents don’t want that to happen. This bill says the school district may not transfer students out of a school designated to be in an achievement district. So much for ‘parental choice.’ That was only lip service, in any event, to cover up the real motives of privatization and re-segregation.

On top of all this we face the prospect of a so-called Tax Payers Bill of Rights (TABOR) being on the fall ballot as a constitutional amendment. Shrinking the state budget as much as possible this year so a TABOR amendment would cap it at a level as low as possible seems to be their goal.

Imagine, if you will, that every current public school in North Carolina were a private school or a charter school. Thousands and thousands of them. All with different curriculae, different yearly schedules, a different focus, different populations of children, different qualifications for teachers and staff, different salaries, different facilities built to different standards, different offerings....

If a company transferred employees here, how would those parents go about deciding which school to take their children to?
Would they be able to find schools on the same calendar for their children of varying ages?
Would all the kids in their family have the same holidays?
How would the parents be able to set up child care for kids not in school and all on different schedules?
Would one spouse have to quit working to drive the kids to and from schools and contend with some charter's requirements of parental volunteering?
How would the family cope with a loss of income if one can't work in order to drive kids around?
How will high schools cope with any kind of sports schedule, debate team schedules, or any other activity's schedules?
Has NCGA leadership forgotten that in 59 of our 100 counties, the public school district is that county’s largest employer?
Do they really believe charters and private schools will replace that financial investment in a community?

Can we recruit business to move to our state by saying, Education? You’re on your own!
What are we doing to ourselves?
Should the profit motive take precedence over the common good?

Our electeds in Raleigh seem intent on teaching our children that there is no value In learning from the mistakes of others. We know these schemes only succeed in diverting public monies into private pockets. If these education ideas are so great, they should create a new, dedicated revenue stream to fund them rather than steal money from a long underfunded system. The example they set is deplorable.

Once we tally up all the funds given over to experiments that have failed in other parts of the country, funds for which NCGA demanded no accountability, our current GOP leadership will go down in history as the most wasteful spenders ever elected to this august body.

Those who support public education are attending a rally this coming Wednesday. At 4pm on Jones St., outside the Legislative Building. Please attend. Wear Red for Public Ed.