The truth about state budget cuts to education lies somewhere in the middle ground, between the extreme poles staked by political attack ads.
What’s true is that the state is allocating less money for K-12 education now than it did in 2008-09, and that we are underfunding education based on ongoing needs and projected enrollment.
Our new state budget eliminated funds for more than 5,000 teachers statewide and almost 4,000 teachers’ assistants, and gave a $115 million haircut to funds for textbooks and supplies.
A WalletHub study released earlier this week named North Carolina the worst place to teach in the country. Every public school in the state is feeling it.
Guilford County is answering a $46 million cut that goes back five years with a proposed 1/4-cent sales tax which could raise as much as $12-$14 million a year if passed by voters in November.
It’s no big deal to kick in another penny every time we spend $4, especially if it’s for the children.
Of course, the initiative is listed on the ballot as a “sales and use tax,” not a word about education, though “County Commissioners committed to use the money for public education when they voted to put the referendum on the ballot,” according to quartercentforschools.com, a website from the coalition that has formed around the issue.
Giving the benefit of the doubt here that this tax increase will actually go to schools, with the full understanding that it will almost certainly pass and despite the fact that most of us will probably vote for it, we still don’t like it.
When the state government hacks away at money intended to educate our children, it sends a strong message of de-prioritization. In counties like Guilford, relatively wealthy in a state steeped in rural areas and smaller economies, we just raise the taxes a little. That’s not likely to happen in Wilkes County.
And because every child in North Carolina has the right to a “sound, basic education,” according to our state Constitution, these budget cuts tread on dangerous ground.
They also come with the implied goal of dismantling our public education system. Who benefits from that?