North Carolina Republicans’ latest attack against public education comes in the form of an expanded private school voucher program, which would strip away millions from public school funding.
An analysis from the North Carolina Office of State Budget and Management found that the proposed program would cut public school funding by more than $200 million. At the same time, the program would make the state spend $277.5 million more overall on private schools.
North Carolina is not the only state where Republicans are attempting to slash public education. For Florida, voucher programs resulted in students ending up in low-cost, low-quality charter schools that would go out of business with little or no warning.
In Ohio, Republican operatives siphoned off public school funding and directed it toward politically connected charter schools, resulting in the state’s education ranking slipping from fifth in the nation to 31st, according to The New Republic.
The highly controversial program proposed in North Carolina has been met with pushback from educators, advocates, and parents, calling for further investments in public schools.
“The greatest need for experienced and successful educators exists in communities with the least amount of resources to supplement salaries and we will never resolve these conditions by lowering taxes on the wealthy and sending public funds to private schools,” NCAE President Tamika Walker Kelly said in a statement last week.
Historically, state Republicans have long been hostile to public education. For decades, state Republicans have failed to adequately fund public schools, and have refused to implement the Leandro remedial plan to address long-standing unmet needs.
The remedial plan calls for education spending that makes investments in North Carolina’s early childhood infrastructure, educator and support staff pay increases, resources, and more.
State Republicans have also repeatedly passed state budgets with measly teacher pay raises; adding to the many factors fueling the state’s increasing teacher shortage.
“They have prioritized tax cuts for corporations and wealthy North Carolinians over funding working families’ education,” Sen. Rachel Hunt stated in a news conference. “They have shown us who they are and what they value.”
“(The GOP is) anti-public education, anti-teacher and anti-student,” Hunt added. “We have to look no further than the Senate budget, which proposes an additional $2.23 billion over the next 10 years to private school vouchers; a budget that proposes an average teacher raise of 3.7% despite inflation rising 6.5% over the biennium.”
State Democrats and Governor Roy Cooper have stood firm in advocating for the implementation of the Leandro plan, investments toward public education, and higher teacher salaries.
In his latest state budget proposal, Cooper has recommended an 18% teacher raise over the biennium. State Democrats also are pushing forth House Bill 885, which requires the General Assembly to fully fund Years Four and Five of the Leandro Comprehensive plan.
“This is where we can see clearly the priority differences between Democrats and Republicans for education,” Rep. Julie von Haefen stated in a news conference. “Republicans insist that their policies promote student and parental choice, but their decade-long refusal to comply with court orders to fund our public schools is depriving the children who have chosen to go to public school their constitutional right to a sound basic education.”