John Locke Update / Research Newsletter (Archive)

Perdue: Bad public education is a birthright

posted on in Education


Happy new year! I hope your holiday included many opportunities to catch up with friends and family, as well as time to read every newsletter in the John Locke Foundation research newsletter archive.

Bulletin Board

  • Calling all school board members! On January 14, 2011, the Civitas Institute and the Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools will be sponsoring a half-day seminar on state and local education budgets. Content is designed to enhance an understanding of the budget process and help members develop strategies to minimize the impacts of expected budget reductions on the classroom. Speakers include John Dornan, former president of Public School Forum, Inc.; Kerry Crutchfield, former chief finance officer of the Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools; and Dr. Terry Stoops, director of education studies with the John Locke Foundation. The seminar is scheduled from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Education Building (4801 Bethania Station Road, Winston-Salem, NC). Cost of the event is $30.00 and includes lunch. After January 7, the cost is $40.00. Register online at For additional information call Bob at 919-834-2099. School board members who attend can count four hours toward professional training requirements.

  • The E.A. Morris Fellowship for Emerging Leaders continues to accept applications for the 2010-11 class. Applicants must be between the ages of 25 and 40, reside in North Carolina, and commit to a yearlong program of activities designed to examine, develop, and enhance their leadership skills. There is no cost to individuals accepted into the program. For additional information, please visit the E.A. Morris website at

  • The North Carolina History Project would like educators and homeschool parents to submit lesson plans suitable for middle and high school courses in North Carolina history. Please provide links to NC History Project encyclopedia articles and other primary and secondary source material, if possible. Go to for further information.

  •  Become a member of JLF’s Freedom Clubs! We have seven regional clubs covering every part of North Carolina, so there is one near you and your like-minded conservative friends. For more information, visit


In a recent interview, Governor Bev Perdue drew a line in the sand between the education establishment and parents. She remarked,

Is it safe just to tell everybody that here is a pot of money and it’s going to be tagged to the child and the child can use it everywhere the child wants to go to school? That doesn’t sit well with me because I’m from eastern North Carolina and if I’m a poor kid, and you remember back in the day I was a poor kid, and I couldn’t have afforded the good private school.

I think the word "safe" is the key to this interesting passage. Gov. Perdue argues that limiting parental control of education dollars keeps poor kids safe from, I suppose, predatory private schools. Apparently, Perdue and her political allies (see photo below) believe that it is better for poor kids to remain in failing and unsafe district schools than be able to use taxpayer dollars to attend a "good private school," such as the one in New Bern that she wanted to attend but her family could not afford.

(Photo courtesy of the governor’s office via Gov. Perdue’s flickr page.)

Perdue continued,

I don’t think you could do it that way and guarantee equity and our constitution guarantees equity. I mean, we were one of the few states in America where our constitution says it’s a birthright to have a free and public [pause] it’s a birthright. So, I’m looking, but I am not going to be the one who takes that birthright away from poor kids. It’s not going to happen on my watch.

Perdue’s concerns about the constitutionality of school choice are unfounded. In a 2006 report published by the North Carolina Education Alliance, Institute for Justice attorney David Roland concluded that school choice is consistent with the Constitution of North Carolina. Regardless, Perdue declares that she will not allow legislative leaders to expand school choice on her watch, even if the General Assembly complies with constitutional guarantees.

I believe that Perdue is sincere about improving the plight of the poor, but using government coercion to force poor children to stay in an "unsafe" school is shameful. At minimum, it violates the spirit of the constitutional provisions that establish a general and uniform system of free schools to promote "good government and the happiness of mankind." Parents, particularly poor ones from eastern North Carolina, should be able to use taxpayer money to choose a school that provides an educationally, physically, and emotionally "safe" environment for their children. Moreover, that choice should be the birthright of every North Carolinian.

Facts and Stats

According to NC Division of Non-Public Education statistics for the 2009-10 school year, 96,421 students enrolled in North Carolina’s 691 private schools.


I would like to invite all readers to submit announcements, as well as their personal insights, anecdotes, concerns, and observations about the state of education in North Carolina. I will publish selected submissions in future editions of the newsletter. Anonymity will be honored. For additional information or to send a submission, email Terry at [email protected].

Education Acronym of the Week

CC-RSG — Career and College – Ready, Set, Go! Initiative

Quote of the Week

True education makes for inequality; the inequality of individuality, the inequality of success, the glorious inequality of talent, of genius; for inequality, not mediocrity, individual superiority, not standardization, is the measure of the progress of the world.
— Felix E. Schelling, Pedagogically Speaking: Essays and Addresses on Topics More Or Less Educational (1929)

Click here for the Education Update archive.

As Vice President for Research, Dr. Stoops oversees the research team’s writing and analysis across the spectrum of public policy issues. He specializes in pre-K-12 education. Before joining the Locke Foundation, he worked as the program assistant for the Child… ...

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