Editorial: Support public schools. Don't drive kids away

Posted July 29, 2020 5:00 a.m. EDT
Updated July 29, 2020 6:17 a.m. EDT

CBC Editorial: Wednesday, July 29, 2020; Editorial #8568
The following is the opinion of Capitol Broadcasting Company.

State Senate leader Phil Berger probably thinks he’s talking a good game about school spending. But he’s not fooling anyone. He sounds like he wants to give up on public education and send kids to private schools or privately-run schools – and use taxpayer dollars to do it.

“Private Schools Are Open. Here’s How to Apply for an Opportunity Scholarship,” he proclaimed. “The public school establishment is failing the very children it is supposed to serve.”

What? Phil Berger IS the “public school establishment.” He as much as anyone in North Carolina’s government leadership – including Gov. Roy Cooper or Superintendent of Public Instruction Mark Johnson or House Speaker Tim Moore – is responsible to the degree that our public schools deliver on their mission or don’t. And we don’t understand why Berger seems to demand a one-size fits all solution over the flexibility Cooper’s plan offers local districts.

Regardless of his pronouncements on school spending, the reality is North Carolina fails to deliver on its constitutional promise to the children of North Carolina.

It isn’t any pie-in-the-sky aspiration. Nor is it a random opinion.

It is a fact, determined after years of litigation and argument by evidence as ruled upon by our state’s courts.

Berger’s been big on telling public schools what to do and how to do it – and it’s too often been misguided and underfunded.

Why would Berger be pushing the private school voucher program rather than supporting the public schools he’s responsible for properly funding so, when it is safe and healthy, there are the facilities and staffing appropriate to a quality public education?

The lack of accountability and transparency of the state’s voucher program doesn’t require the same standardized tests that public schools use to measure student achievement. Nor does it provide assurances the state money actually goes to the students' classrooms. Further, the program allows money to go to schools that discriminate on the basis of faith and sexual orientation.

While Berger’s quick to send students and money away from the school’s he’s obligated to support, he refuses to acknowledge and adopt a thoughtful and comprehensive roadmap to improve public schools developed by the plaintiffs and defendants in the landmark Leandro case.

Want to know what is needed for a quality education? Just read the Leandro Report. The action plan filed with Superior Court Judge David Lee is a clear path to a “sound basic education” for every child. That statement, “a sound basic education for all” isn’t a platitude. It is a guarantee – too long unmet -- in North Carolina’s Constitution.

It has been clear since March that the COVID-19 virus would have an immense impact on every aspect of life in the state. Yet legislative leaders have squandered more time and effort on opportunities for unproductive partisan extracurriculars rather than working to develop coordinated and effective approaches to educating children and working to keep them – and their classroom teachers – safe.

If Berger wants to provide leadership for quality public education, as our state constitution requires, he needs to be the loudest voice for adoption of the Leandro road map.

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