Senate budget: a disaster for public education

How would you react if someone poked you in the eye? Or slapped you in the face? Or punched you in the gut?

After the initial shock of the assault, after an ouch! or an expletive or two, you would probably respond as forcefully as possible. That’s where educators are this week after Republicans in the N.C. Senate poked, slapped and punched public education with a diabolically political state budget plan that, without major changes later in the legislative process, guarantees staffs will be cut and services to children will suffer.

Statewide, the Senate budget would slash teacher assistant positions and cut funding for school nurses, transportation personnel, driver’s education programs and central office support.

Unless changed, this budget plan will cost LCPS nearly $2 million in lost state funds for FY 2014-15 and eliminate at least 43.5 jobs — 13.5 teachers and 30 teacher assistants. It also puts in jeopardy LCPS’s 1:1 technology initiative; paying for that important change, which would put iPads in the hands of every K-5 student next year, depends largely on state funding at the current levels.

And what have you heard about this budget proposal? That it gives public school teachers a humongous pay raise. That increasing teacher pay is the centerpiece of the Senate budget.

There’s something malicious in irony of such depth. It’s as if Phil Berger and his assault troops, after seeing the strong reaction of voters to the slights leveled at teachers by Republicans last year, hatched a plan to force teachers to make a desperate choice between higher pay and job protection and to punish public school systems and their administrators for standing up for their employees and the reputation of public schools.

True, the pay raises are big, but the costs are bigger — and losing teacher tenure is just the tip of the iceberg. Check out these links for details about the budget plan and more opinion in support of public education: a news report from the News & Observer http://tinyurl.com/nnngb2g; a budget plan breakdown http://tinyurl.com/o4mcf4y; the N&O editorial from Saturday http://tinyurl.com/orzyxvd; reaction from N.C. Policy Watch http://tinyurl.com/oppadnq.

Educators in North Carolina’s public schools have good reason to feel they are swimming upstream. As the General Assembly heaps on the mandates and meddles with the curriculum, the Senate serves up a bait-and-switch budget like this. The best hope for restoring sanity to the process lies in the N.C. House, which is working on its budget plan now.

Lenoir County’s representatives are John Bell, a Republican, (919-715-3017 and John.Bell@ncleg.net) and George Graham, a Democrat, (919-733-5995 and George.Graham@ncleg.net). If you think public schools are important, that a strong system of public education is essential to progress in this state, contact them and tell them so. And tell them the Senate budget says otherwise.