A war on education

Published 12:36 am Saturday, May 7, 2011

A provision in the recently passed state House’s proposed budget would shift responsibility for public-school layoff policy from local boards to the State Board of Education.

“The State Board of Education learned Thursday that if the House budget becomes law it will be charged with setting a statewide layoffs policy rather than leaving it to school officials to figure it out,” The Associated Press reported.

So much for Republican bluster about leaving things up to the locals.

“We just want them to put a policy out there that says the same thing,” Rep. Bryan Holloway, R-Stokes, told AP.

But what Holloway and many of his GOP legislative colleagues want č and have launched – is a full-scale war on public education in North Carolina. This layoff policy is a tacit admission of that scarcely concealed fact.

Legislative Republicans already have refused to extend a temporary sales tax that could save thousands of state jobs, including education jobs.

Faced with the grim possibility of steep cuts, school boards statewide have been preparing to move around local funds to save positions where they can.

Now, GOPers are in effect telling these school boards, “We want your money and your options.”

That’s like robbing a man then canceling his theft insurance policy.

And there’s more.

“The 279-page House budget also would strip the right of tenured teachers to be the first rehired after a layoff, and directs school administrators to consider ‘work performance’ when laying off people in similar positions,” notes AP writer Emery P. Dalesio.

OK, so the tenure system can lead to abuses, but we’d like to know if lawmakers can point to specific abuses as they move toward tenure reform.

And what’s all this got to do with the budget anyway?

The bottom line is certain legislators in Raleigh are hostile toward public education. These officials, many of whom are products of public schools, believe these educational institutions are bastions or liberalism and need to be punished.

They also believe public schools are failures when it comes to educating our children, though the picture is far more complicated than that.

In truth, there are many things that need to be improved in public education, but restricting the maneuverability of local school boards isn’t the way to get from Point A to Point B.

If legislators really want to help improve education in the Old North State, they’ll consult school-board members and launch a comprehensive search for solutions in cooperation with education leaders, something we’ve seen no evidence of to date.

We know Republicans promised to cut sales taxes and other taxes, but they also promised to let locals have a say in how their government runs.

Which of these promises should we take on faith?