The self-fulfilling prophecy is a wonderful way to exercise power — and to maintain it. Because what is the point of being in power if you can’t keep it, perhaps forever?

There is no finer application of this technique than the current political attack against our state’s public school system.

Republicans hate public schools, even Republicans who would never send their kids to one and especially those who don’t have kids. They all fail, in their myopia, to see the benefits of a vast, free system to educate our youth and prepare them to operate in the grown-up world, whether they personally use it orr not.

Nor do they contemplate the alternative: There are more than 120,000 students in Guilford and Forsyth public schools alone. What else should those kids be doing all day?

Other public-school detractors might have their eye on its funding, which even in its emaciated state is still one of the largest tranches of state spending, about 35 percent of the General Fund, second only to Health & Human Services.

It’s true that North Carolina public schools are in decline and having trouble keeping up with the national average on several fronts. We can trace this directly back to the Leandro decision, which in 1994 found that the state was underfunding schools, largely in Black neighborhoods, by millions, establishing a spending plan to rectify this violation of the state Constitution.

It should be noted that the Democrats were in charge back then, and they were the ones who initially kicked the Leandro can down the road, slow-rolling its implementation.

But it was under GOP rule that we pared down teacher pay, further cut funding and accelerated charter schools that stripped even more money from the public-school pot. This way, Republicans can point out that our schools are underperforming without going into details as to why. And it gives an opening to propose a solution that accomplishes the goal for which the self-fulfilling prophecy was instigated.

Our current solution is a voucher program that lets families opt out of the public system, reclaim some of what the state would have spent on the student and apply it towards tuition at a private school. This, proponents argued, would help low-income students the most.

This plan assumes that outcomes from private schools are better than those in public schools, which is not always the case. And it doesn’t seem to be solving the stated problem: our troubled public schools. In 11 states that have enacted voucher programs, the real winners are not students, but the private school themselves, most of which have religious affiliations and none of which must meet the standards of public schools.

That the solution doesn’t solve anything — except how to drain money from public schools — is of no importance. In crafting the new budget, the NC Senate just voted to expand the voucher program to about $800 million a year by 2031. Because it’s the solution!

You’ve got to act fast on the self-fulfilling prophecy, which works best when people aren’t paying attention and their media has failed them. By the time they figure it out, if they ever do, it’s already happened.

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