Editorial: Legislature short-changes N.C. school kids with unfunded mandate
Posted April 19
A CBC Editorial: Wednesday, April 19, 2017; Editorial # 8150
The following is the opinion of Capitol Broadcasting Company
The current leadership in the General Assembly loudly proclaims that North Carolina is, at last, being run like a business. The evidence, however, is sadly lacking.
The failure to provide adequate funding and other resources for our public schools is, unfortunately, example number one of their mismanagement.
Look at how legislators address public education needs:
- North Carolina teachers and school principals are among the worst paid in the nation. This ranking is no accident. It takes work to be near the bottom. This is intolerable and needs to change to bring pay to the national average.
- There are 101,000 more students in North Carolina classrooms now than a decade ago, but fewer teachers, teacher assistants and other education personnel. Our public schools are this state's greatest resource. Classrooms need to be adequately staffed and legislators know it.
- Tens of millions of taxpayer dollars are being spent on private school vouchers without any transparency or accountability to demonstrate that students are learning or that the money is being spent directly for education in the classroom. Just as the legislature demands of other non-profits, taxpayers should be assured that their dollars are being spent as intended and students are achieving.
- Enrollment in the state university system’s schools of education is falling. Reopen the teacher pipeline and fully funding a state teaching fellows program at the level it was before the legislature abolished it. It's an important first step.
- Funding for textbooks, classroom technology and supplies is embarrassing, many kids are without textbooks and their teachers are using their own money to provide classroom basics.
- The legislature’s enacted a reduction in class size for the lower (K-3) grades but failed to adequately fund the mandate. Schools now face dramatic cutbacks in other areas of instruction and increasing class size in the upper grades. Additionally, the legislature failed to consider the significant added costs of building the necessary new classrooms.
So, when it comes to education, the legislature’s effort seems aimed at running the business into the ground. Local school officials throughout the state already are warning that layoffs are coming. Notices are being distributed now. Schools are in a desperate quest to find ways to avoid laying off as many as 4,500 music, art and physical education teachers around the state.
A House-passed bill (HB 13) would make adjustments to the class-size mandate and has backing from many local school officials around the state, but the state Senate is balking at it.
For the short-term the state Senate should quickly pass House Bill 13. Then the legislature should embark on a comprehensive assessment of ALL the needs tied to any class size reduction mandate -- to, at last, understand what the mandate really requires.
While the General Assembly dithers, North Carolina’s public schools deal with reality. The current school year is winding up. Local schools are getting prepared now for the new school year, waves of additional students and as yet undetermined legislative mandates – funded or unfunded. This is no way to run a business!
A successfully run business focuses its mission and resources on its employees. It provides competitive salaries, benefits and training; opportunities for advancement; and experienced managers. There is a constant focus on quality that infuses pride and generates teamwork. It is the company’s determined board of directors that makes sure its employees have the resources to get their jobs done well.
North Carolina’s board of directors is the legislature. It is into giving out letter grades. For stewardship of our public schools legislators get an F at the midterm -- and long way to go to make it even close to a final passing grade.