Kneejerk anti-education crowd gripes about CMS' good news

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Anyone else remember when Charlotteans were overwhelmingly pro-schools, pro-teachers and pro-education? I’m starting to think I imagined that era, that’s why I’m asking. Today’s news features a local headline — CMS adding 500 jobs this fall — that once upon a time, would have been generally greeted as great news, especially considering that CMS made 320 employee cuts at the end of the last school year. And a good number of people are celebrating the public school system’s more-money news, but as always in these weird times, the fact that CMS is hiring more people after making earlier, draconian cuts is the perfect chance to gripe. That’s right, gripe. State Sen. Bob Rucho, R-Grouchville/Matthews, co-chair of the Senate Finance Committee, accused CMS of playing politics by warning of school system layoffs while the GOP was cutting school budget money. County Commissioner Bill James has, for some time, accused the school board of overstating its money woes in order to grab more county dollars.

Read the story linked above and it becomes obvious that the real problem comes from the screwy budget process, in which CMS must estimate how much money it will get from the county and state before those bodies have even made their decisions.

These days, however, right-wing carping is almost to be expected. The sad, and frankly disturbing truth is that American conservatives seem to have evolved over the past few years into a new species plagued by kneejerk anti-education reflexes, and, like it or not, a strong dose of nihilism (think of Tea Party types who want the federal government to default so it will “bring the house down” — "treason," anyone?). When it comes to today's angry right, teachers are the new bad guys, and the value of public education itself is questioned — for a classic example, check out this January commentary by national right-wing warhorse Phyllis Schafly arguing — believe it or not — against promoting college education.

Locally, school board member Trent Merchant apparently reacted to the criticism of CMS' good news with the same kind of “are you shitting me?” shake of the head I had: "I think we ought to be celebrating, not wondering why we didn't fire more people," Merchant said.

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