by John Grooms
The war over education funding continued in Raleigh yesterday when Gov. Bev Perdue vetoed two education-related, GOP-sponsored bills. One of the bills would have required teachers and state employees to pay much more for their health insurance. "Now is simply not the time to cut teachers' pay, yet again," Perdue said, according to Raleighs News & Observer. "This bill is in effect a tax on teachers, who have not received a pay raise and have effectively seen their pay drop for the past three years. In 2008, North Carolina ranked 25th in the nation in teacher salaries. By 2011, we have dropped to 45th.
The other vetoed bill would have allowed local community colleges to refuse to offer low-interest federal loans. GOP leaders said the bill was intended to provide more local control, while Democrats argued that it would primarily hurt low-income students who are trying to improve their lot in life, and could even force some of them to turn to loan sharks. Our favorite defense of the bill came from Senate President Phil Berger who said that allowing community colleges to refuse to make low-interest federal loans available to students who need them would be a big plus for individual freedom. You see, explained Berger, a student who could not get a needed low-interest loan at his or her local community college could simply exercise his or her individual freedom, pack up, and move to another county where the community college offers them. Individual freedom lovers will no doubt be disappointed that Gov. Perdue has taken away their freedom to be forced to move. Perdue, in vetoing the bill, said N.C. needs to look for ways to make community colleges more accessible, not less so.
Also yesterday, the N.C. Board of Education Chairman, Bill Harrison, said the state could wind up 50th in the nation in per-pupil funding if proposals made by GOP House budget writers are passed. Harrison said the proposed cuts would result in a bare-bones education system. State Superintendent June Atkinson added, "This budget positions North Carolina schools to operate in only the most limited fashion." Which, of course, would reverse a century of improvements and growth in the states educational offerings, not to mention N.C.s reputation as one of the more progressive Southern states. More importantly, perhaps, folks in South Carolina who have traditionally claimed Thank God for Mississippi as their state motto reflecting the fact that S.C. is usually 49h in every measurable department while Mississippi is usually dead last will be able to humiliate their neighbors to the north (i.e., us) with their new slogan, Thank God for North Carolina. Seriously, if the paleolithic bunch now running the General Assembly want to push the state that far downhill, or rather that far backward, they should just go ahead and do away with public schools altogether, declare that its now the 19th century, secede from the Union again, and be done with it.