Schools are for learning, not battlefield for 'culture war'

Published February 9, 2023

By Capitol Broadcasting Company

The data on the status of public education in North Carolina is shocking.

These dire circumstances plague school districts large and small, urban and rural. No school, no system is immune.

What kind of urgency do our state legislators bring to this crisis?

None. They’re obsessed with waging their so-called culture war.

When the state Senate Education Committee held its first meeting last week, making sure North Carolina’s children has access to a quality education – a right guaranteed by the State Constitution – wasn’t mentioned.

In a state where there aren’t enough teachers for every classroom, the first topic on the agenda was legislation to prevent teachers from talking about certain subjects.

It isn’t as if there wasn’t an opportunity to address the truly pressing matters facing North Carolina public schools. Just a day earlier the Public School Forum of North Carolina offered up a clear education agenda worthy of immediate attention in the General Assembly.

Many of the concerns, now at the crisis state, have unfortunately been of the legislature’s own making.

The Forum’s top education issues:
  • Prepare students for the world they live in.
  • Grow, retain and diversify the teacher pipeline.
  • Implement, monitor and evaluate the Comprehensive Remedial Plan.
  • Address the root causes of mental health and school safety crises.
  • Ensure fair and competitive compensation for educators.

In the last decade legislators have made teaching a less attractive profession by failing to improve working conditions, reduce benefits and choke the pay scale by diminishing the rewards for those teachers with the most experience and training.

They’ve failed to provide an environment that encourages young people to become teachers by abolishing the state’s highly successful Teaching Fellows program. It has since been revived, but at a much-diminished level. Enrollment in the UNC System schools of education has dropped by the hundreds over the last decade.

The legislature has nickel-and-dimed school construction – again a situation where diverse districts across the state face crumbling, inadequate facilities. While Gov. Roy Cooper’s called for a bond issue including $2 billion for local school construction needs – at a time when interest rates were low and it was a wise way of financing -- the legislature came up with merely a fifth of that for selected school districts.

The plaintiffs and defendants in the long-standing legal battle over making sure the state fulfills it obligation to public school students have come together and developed a long-range plan to bring a quality education to every corner of the state.

The court has ordered implementation of this consensus plan and it is time for our state’s leaders – including those in the General Assembly – to get behind it.

Regretfully, North Carolina’s legislative leaders choose to play politics with their partisan base. They promote a facade of parental involvement while short-changing the schools their children attend.

Stop the rhetoric and antics. End the disruptive tactics and start now to make the prudent decisions and investments in the education of students, the quality of those who lead their classrooms and the resources these students and teachers need so they have the quality learning opportunities they’ve been promised.