Teachers, parents and students have all expressed concern about the impact of Republican budget cuts on public education in North Carolina. At almost every location it has been noted that North Carolina now ranks 49th in the nation in per pupil spending, below even Mississippi and South Carolina. Without fail, each time someone mentions this statistic, we hear a collective gasp from the audience. In Sanford, a local teacher called it embarrassing. We agree.
We have also heard outrage about the Republican budget’s elimination of dropout prevention grants. In New Hanover County, school board member Elizabeth Redenbaugh noted how these dropout prevention grants had been working and how they were seeing marked improvement in their graduation rates as a result. It is unconscionable and short-sighted that Speaker Tillis and Senator Berger cut this program. North Carolina gains a significant economic impact by placing more graduates into the workforce, this should be a priority of our state, yet the GOP budget decided to reverse this progress.
We were fortunate to be surrounded by an engaged group of high school students at Lumberton High School. The students were receptive and thoughtful. At one point, we asked the seniors in the room to raise their hands if they were considering becoming a teacher after college graduation. Rows and Rows of hands went up. We then asked how many had planned on applying for the North Carolina Teaching Fellows program and saw students raise their hands. It was painful to realize and share with these students that they won’t have the chance to apply to this wonderful program, as the Republicans completely eliminated it this year.
Time and again we’ve heard from Superintendents, School Board members and local teachers about the devastating education job losses that have resulted from the GOP budget. Republicans continue to look citizens in the face and claim they didn’t cut a single teacher or teacher’s assistant. From report after report they are simply playing rhetorical word games.