Led by a multitude of gutsy teachers, thousands of people flooded downtown Raleigh today for the biggest Moral Monday protest yet. Showing opposition to the state GOP agenda, the large crowd topped off the legislative session that ended Friday, and reinforced just how angry and motivated the GOP's political opponents have become since Tea Party nihilists and their mascot, er, governor made North Carolina the poster state for ass-backwardness.
Today's Moral Monday protesters were particularly riled about what the General Assembly has done to the state's public education system. And with good reason. Republicans in the legislature moan that they just "didn't have enough to fund all the educational needs," as Sen. Jerry Tillman, co-chairman of the Senate Education Appropriations Subcommittee, told the News and Observer. Gee, Jerry, wonder how that happened? Could it possibly be that your party's tax cuts for the rich and for profitable businesses (90 percent of the individual tax cuts go to the state's wealthiest 5 percent) - and the $524 million in lost revenue over the next two years they caused - could have picked up the tab for "all the educational needs"? Lucky for you, Jerry, the policy wonks at the N.C. Budget and Tax Center created the handy chart shown below - and they even quoted you!
As the BTC chart makes clear, the $524.4 million in tax cuts for people and companies that don't need it could have kept the state educational system in reasonable shape, if not build it back to its status as a national model. As John Wilson, who writes a blog for Education Week, put it, "Once known for having the most innovative and progressive public school system in America, North Carolina is now on a trajectory of backwardness." McCrory came into office pledging to focus on the "Three E's" - economy, education and efficiency - but he apparently forgot about the middle E. Either that or he was lying. Finally, here's another chart for you, this one from educator Erica Speaks' TeachingSpeaksVolumes website. It shows the change in average public school teachers' salaries in the 50 states and D.C. during the past decade. Guess where North Carolina stands? Read it and weep.