Reading, writing and ‘rithmetic: Will N.C. go to the back of the class?

It’s called House Bill 200: “A bill to be entitled ‘An Act to Make Base Budget Appropriations for Current Operations of State Departments, Institutions, and Agencies; to Enact Budget Related Amendments; and to Reorganize State Government.’” (The short version is Appropriations Act for 2011.) It’s 279 pages long; it appropriates $19.3 billion for the 2011-2012 general fund; and among other program and policy changes, its cuts to public education just may send North Carolina to the back of the class. It passed in the House on May 4 by a vote of 72 to 47, and it’s now being revamped according to Senate preferences.

In the beginning, the N.C. Board of Education asked for $8.28 billion to fund kindergarten through 12th grade in the state next year. The governor’s proposed budget offered $7.57 billion instead. The House then set K-12 education funding at $7.16 billion. Now the Senate expects to show up the House by whittling away another $106 million, conceivably pushing the state — currently in 46th place — to the bottom of the list in national per-pupil spending. The Raleigh News & Observer actually calls it just that: “Rock Bottom” — the title of a pointed editorial published May 12 that characterizes the proposed education budget as “reckless” and declares it a “betrayal of North Carolina’s aspirations to be a better place to live and work.”

In the Republican-majority Legislature, the House bill passed along party lines and the same is expected in the Senate, which is aiming to complete its action by the end of this month. Republican Rep. Tim Moffitt of Buncombe County explained the House’s education budget in his newsletter by pointing out his belief that “throwing money at education” is not the solution. “This is about more than money; this is about reversing the trend of continued increased spending,” he said. Area Democrats didn’t agree. In the weekly “Ray’s Raleigh Report,” Rep. Ray Rapp of Mars Hill pronounced the additional Senate rollback “another legislative riptide.” And Rep. Susan Fisher of Asheville sent out a link to a Democratic Party video about the history of education in the state, featuring former Democratic Gov. Jim Hunt — and including a cameo appearance by Buncombe County’s Rep. Patsy Keever of Buncombe County, a retired teacher. (Setting aside partisan positions, the video contains some portraits of North Carolina over the years that evoke quite a sense of place.) Ultimately, as the video intimates, Democratic Gov. Bev Perdue is expected to veto the final outcome. It could be a lengthy legislative session.

WNC action pending this week

With the crossover deadline of June 9 on the horizon, several bills supported by Western North Carolina legislators are on the legislative hearings docket this week. Rep. Moffitt’s bill to institute district elections for Buncombe County Board of Commissioners, HB 471, which has cleared the House, will be heard in the Senate’s Committee on State and Local Government at noon tomorrow. HB 145 (Phoebe’s Law), is scheduled for Wednesday at 10 a.m. in the House Judiciary A. Sponsored by Rep. Rapp and co-sponsored by Rep. Fisher, the bill would establish a pilot program of electronic speed-measuring devices to detect speeding in highway work and school zones. And HB 762 (Landowner Protection Act), co-sponsored by Rep. Moffitt, will be heard tomorrow at 1 p.m. in the House Agriculture Committee. The bill would require written permission to hunt on the land of another and prohibit hunting from the right-of-way. (Its companion bill, SB 374, is sponsored by Republican Tom Apodaca of Buncombe/Henderson District 48, and co-sponsored by Republican Ralph Hise of District 47 (Avery/Haywood/Madison/McDowell, Mitchell/Yancey counties).

Rep. Moffitt has signed on as a co-sponsor of HB 823 (Governance of the Department of Public Education), which was discussed in NC Matters last week (”Under the Radar”). There will be a hearing on that bill tomorrow at 10 a.m. in the House Health and Human Services Committee. Moffitt is also co-sponsor of HB 585 (NC Energy Independence Study), which calls for a study of development of natural gas, oil, wind, solar, and other energy sources capable of energy production in North Carolina. That bill was placed on the House calendar for today.

Finally, Sen. Apodaca has seen his SB 321 (Surplus Lines/Premium Tax.-AB) pass the Senate and move to the House, where it was referred to the Committee on Insurance. The bill would conform provisions of N.C. and federal insurance laws and streamline applications for commercial purchasers.

by Nelda Holder, contributing editor


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4 thoughts on “Reading, writing and ‘rithmetic: Will N.C. go to the back of the class?

  1. LamontCranston

    Were North Carolina public schools ever in the first five rows?

    The future for our young will be for those who have the educational background that excelled today, and the not for those who missed out due to Republican backwoods political ideology.

    Thank a Republican for your kid’s ignorance, and for those that pray; pray for reason to come to the ignorant Republican politicians who rule the day in Raleigh.

  2. unkjwea

    Without a doubt, getting a good education gives one the best chance at “success” as measured by conventional society. Since 1981, since Prop. 13 with its offspring, since the religous right began their rule, education has suffered because federal funds evaporated. But there is more and it isn’t the fault of Republicans. Because there were so many new distractions taking hold, education was competing with self-indulgence and laziness. Computer games, videos, cable TV, cell phones and texting. This doesn’t even take into account the fact that because pro-big-business politics started the flood of jobs out of the U.S. wages became supressed.

    Suddenly families were financially stressed and less time and money was available for education.

    I would dearly like to blame the Republicans for everything, but NAFTA and GATT were under a Democrat and they have done more to harm the family than almost any other political inititive. Loss of income is more than just devistation to the family, the community, state, and nation suffer.

    Basically, the middle-class lost its voice sometime in the 60s under Nixon and with only the exception of Carter, they haven’t had an advocate in the White House since.

    Substantive change will not happen until a leader arises who can separate the corruptive influence of special interests from what is best for the majority of the people.

    It’s a bleak prospect. The best, cheapest, and most effective thing you can do is get rid of your TV, read to your very young children, encourage them to read. Keep them focused on achievment and away from the mindless consumer influences around. Teach them the value of work, saving, investing, and creativity. It isn’t easy. I’ve failed, at least partially, but I still try.

  3. Michaux30

    The scariest thing about the NC budget is not just who is driving it (though that is terifying enough) but the cuts to edcuation AND early education. Programs that have been proven to work like Smart Start and More at Four are being systematicly destroyed. Under the House versionof the budget, More at Four will be moved in to the Division of Child development and become a versionof subsidy rather than a high quality early childhood program for at risk children. Smart Start will have to give a significant portion of funding to subsidy on top of a 20% cut to funding (more than total public school cuts). This will mean a 40-50% reduction in funding for programs like Parents as Teachers, early childhood dental health, Child care health consultants, child care resource and referral, child mental health (SUNSHINE project), Kindergarten transition and more.

    Where are our voices? We hear that polls are showing more NC citizens are behind keeping the 1cent sales tax. Where are your voices and who are you calling out to? Legislators need to fix this and to do so they must hear from you!

    It is not a solution, but it is a start!

  4. Barry Summers

    I love this guy:

    “This is about more than money; this is about reversing the trend of continued increased spending,” he (Moffitt) said.

    “This isn’t about money; it’s about less money.”

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