Senator Thom Goolsby
September 5, 2013
As North Carolina schools crank up for another year, the de facto teachers union (NCAE) and its media lackeys continue to bash Republicans with outright lies and disinformation.
One big falsehood is that the GOP-controlled General Assembly increased classroom sizes. This is yet one more example of the length to which the Raleigh educrats (education bureaucrats) are willing to go in order to distort the facts.
For many decades when the Democrats were in control, the General Assembly established a one-size-fits-all mandate for classrooms across our state. This year Republicans removed the classroom size mandate and gave local school boards the authority to make these decisions. This devolution of power is based upon the belief that superintendents, principals and teachers have a much better sense of their local resources and where these resources should be focused. What a novel concept!
Legislative Republicans have enacted a major policy innovation inconceivable to the Democrats: they have actually given power to local school authorities. If there is one thing the big government educrats will not tolerate, it is local leaders making decisions. The NCAE’s power comes from centralized, not decentralized authority. Republicans trust local leaders.
With local control, is it possible that class sizes could increase? Yes — for instance, a local superintendent may desire to increase class size in one grade in order to hire an additional teacher in another. The new law gives local authorities the power to decide what is best for students. By effectively targeting local resources, school leaders can enhance flexibility and protect programs that individual districts consider more essential.
How has the NCAE distorted the empowering of local authorities to set classroom sizes? The teachers union has declared that Republicans have increased classroom sizes and a willing liberal media has been happy to run with this fabrication.
But that’s not the only lie. Another fairytale concocted by the Democratic Left revolves around tuition vouchers. In this case, the misinformation breaks down into two claims.
First, educrats hint that tuition vouchers will go to wealthy kids whose parents could pay for their education. Second, they claim that these Opportunity Scholarship grants will take money away from public education.
Neither one of these claims is based upon the facts. Republicans, for the first time in state history, created a new pilot program that rewards Opportunity Scholarships to 2,000 low-income students. Far from going to rich kids, these grants can only go to children who already qualify for the Federal Free and Reduced Lunch Program.
It does not take a math teacher to calculate savings to public education for each underprivileged child who leaves the public system and uses an Opportunity Scholarship. We know that it costs $8,757 a year to educate a child in a public school. The Opportunity Scholarship grants will be in the amount of $4,200. When a child checks out of the public system, $4,557 additional money will be left in the public school system and there will be one less child to educate. So, you may ask, where is the loss to public education?
Regardless of the truth, the education establishment has roundly bashed the Republican voucher system for underprivileged children. This criticism flies in the face of locally-based private scholarships that have already worked very well in North Carolina.
Opportunity Scholarships aim to replicate these successes at the state level. One example of past success is the Charlotte Children’s Scholarship Fund. It benefits predominantly African-American, low income children. With the help of these scholarships, student performance in reading and math scores increased by six percentage points after just one year in the program!
As with giving more control to local education leaders, tuition vouchers offer yet another blow to the tightfisted grip of educrats and the teachers union. These big government Leftists desire centralized control so they can call the shots. They hate the fact that the GOP is eroding their power base and putting the Tar Heel state on the road to real educational reform. It is no surprise that the NCAE will resort to lies and misinformation to bash reform-minded Republicans in the union’s desperate attempt to cling to power.
Thom Goolsby is a state senator, law professor and trial attorney. He serves as a chair of the Judiciary 1 and Justice and Public Safety Committees.