by Dr. Terry Stoops
Former Director of the Center for Effective Education, John Locke Foundation
Did the state education budget surprise or even shock you? If so, you have not been paying attention.
Less than 24 hours after the Republican leadership of the NC General Assembly released the state budget conference report, the North Carolina Association of Educators (NCAE) threatened to file a lawsuit.
That’s how good the budget is.
In all seriousness, the collective outrage over the various education reform provisions in the budget ignores a critical fact — nothing in the education budget is a surprise.
Since 2010, Republican legislators have made it clear that their policy agenda included a handful of core education reforms — expansion of parental choice, elimination of teacher tenure and certain pay supplements, implementation of a school grading system, and development of a performance pay system for school personnel. This budget is the culmination of an agenda that was no secret to anyone who pays attention.
I suspect that public school advocacy groups, in particular, are angry because they expected Republicans to bend under the pressure of Moral Monday protests and associated activities, rather than pursue their education reform agenda aggressively. They expected wimps. They encountered warriors.
Responses from the Moral Monday sympathizers followed familiar patterns. As mentioned above, the NCAE has threatened to file a lawsuit. When all else fails, sue. According to WRAL, the lawsuit will question the constitutionality of the scholarship proposal. (I hope they include North Carolina pre-kindergarten programs in the lawsuit. After all, that is a huge voucher program that funnels public dollars to private and religious institutions.) In addition, the lawsuit may dredge up some Leandro-type challenge to the K-12 education budget. Surely, their complaint will take issue with the plan to eliminate teacher tenure.
Superintendent of Public Instruction June Atkinson released a statement about the budget yesterday. She remarked, "For the first time in my career of more than 30 years in public education, I am truly worried about students in our care." After years of portending that the state budget will produce doom and destruction, however, these kinds of statements have little effect. How many times have we heard state education officials proclaim that the budget would jeopardize "progress" or weaken the state’s economic standing? We’ve heard the Chicken Little routine too many times to take this latest statement seriously.
Of course, coordinating political theatrics, filing lawsuits, and predicting catastrophes is easier than engaging in earnest debates about the advantages and disadvantages of implementing a given policy.
Facts and Stats
Stay tuned for a summary of the state budget by John Locke Foundation fiscal guru Sarah Curry!
Education Acronym of the Week
NCGA — North Carolina General Assembly
Quote of the Week
"Everyone has a breaking point and today state leaders of NCAE decided they had had enough! President Rodney Ellis, Vice President Mark Jewell and Executive Director Scott Anderson, along with several members, participated in the Moral Monday event on Halifax Mall and prepared to be arrested as they stood up for public education while denouncing the devastation that is being caused by the General Assembly."