Cary, N.C. — Former Congressman Bob Etheridge said Friday that Republican-led efforts to reform North Carolina schools will only hurt students and teachers.
Etheridge, a former state education superintendent, led a rally at Green Hope Park in Cary that he said was meant to sound an alarm and build opposition to bills winding their way through the General Assembly that would eliminate about 3,000 teaching assistants statewide, change eligibility requirements for North Carolina's pre-kindergarten program, allow state funds to pay for private school tuition and remove the cap on class sizes in elementary schools.
"Education reform is just another code word for cut, slash and burn," Etheridge said. "It's time for action. We cannot allow this to continue for our children. Make no mistake, our commitment to public education is on a downward trend."
People held up signs at the rally noting that North Carolina ranks 48th nationally in per-student spending – far below neighboring states – and 46th nationwide in teacher pay.
Jordan Shaw, a spokesman for House Speaker Thom Tillis, pointed out that it was a Republican budget last year that gave teachers their first raise in five years. He also called many of the legislative proposals "pragmatic education reforms," including one that would increase security at schools and invest more in classroom technology.
Shaw noted that some measures, such as the one allowing increased class sizes, likely would face opposition and change during the legislative process.