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Leaked Audio: Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson Told Group He Wants to Defund Public Education

SourceNews & Observer

North Carolina may be in the bottom five in the nation when it comes to education funding, but it sounds like Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson won’t be content until we are dead last in all the rankings.

According to audio obtained by The News & Observer from a speech Robinson made in December 2023 at the East Wake Republican Club, he believes that our schools are receiving too much funding. That’s right, the Republican nominee for governor thinks that our schools, which don’t have enough money to offer competitive salaries and can’t even afford to provide teachers with the materials needed to do their jobs, are receiving too much money.

Robinson told the club that “it has already been proven that school systems get better results on less money,” and that “cutting the fat” out of the education budget would be “essential.”

It should be very concerning to voters that Robinson, who serves on the State Board of Education, can see that North Carolina spends $5,000 less per student than the national average (48th in the nation), spends less of its Gross State Product on public education than every other state (dead last in the country) and ranks 46th in beginning teacher pay, and still thinks there’s no reason to increase the public education budget.

“Our education budget is fine right where it is,” Robinson said. “We don’t need more dollars, we need to redirect dollars. We need to redirect dollars from bureaucracy.”

As with most of Robinson’s policies, it doesn’t seem that he has any kind of a plan to cut education funding, nor does he know what “fat” needs to be cut.

When reached by The N&O to clarify his comments, Robinson’s spokesperson told the newspaper that education spending “already takes up a huge portion of the state budget” and that “The problem isn’t the money, it is the bloated bureaucracy.”

The spokesperson then went on to say that Robinson believes parents should get to have “a stronger voice in their kids’ education.” He also said, “As governor, he will work to make sure more taxpayer dollars actually fund students, teachers and schools, not bloated bureaucracy. This includes expanding opportunity scholarships.”

Opportunity scholarships are what Republicans call private school vouchers and, thanks to a Republican-passed law that required a legislative override of Gov. Roy Cooper’s veto, wealthy families are now being allowed to use vouchers to send their children to private schools. Our tax dollars are now going toward covering the cost of wealthy kids to go to private, mostly Christian schools that get to operate without the regulations required of public schools. 

The legislature plans to spend more than $4 billion over the next decade in taxpayer funding on unregulated private school vouchers. What’s more, just in the first year, private school vouchers could siphon more than $200 million in state funding from public schools, resulting in some school districts losing up to 8 percent of their operating revenue to private schools, according to the governor’s office.

Before the Super Tuesday primary, Robinson filled out a questionnaire for The N&O. One of the questions they asked was “In what areas, if any, do you believe state government is wasting taxpayer money?

Robinson’s answer included that favorite campaign buzzword – bureaucracy – but once again didn’t define what he meant.

“We need to tackle the bureaucracy that’s holding our education system back. Education funding should focus on students, not bureaucracies and politics,” Robinson said.

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