November 2, 2012
By Chris Hill
Recently the media reported that in 2010, Wake County School Board member Debra Goldman reported a theft in her home. News accounts mentioned that Goldman kept jewelry in a “ratty pink backpack.”
While the story about Goldman is salacious, nothing is more scandalous than what North Carolina students face after the latest rounds of state budget cuts.
First, even if students had “ratty pink backpacks,” there would be less to put in them. The state legislature cut the textbook budget for the 2011-12 school year by $92.6 million, an 80% reduction. For the 2012-13 school year the legislature cut what little money remained for textbooks by an additional $3.7 million.
If that student with the lighter backpack goes to a bus stop, she will be waiting for a bus that is driven by an overburdened bus driver and is not well-maintained. State legislators cut funding for bus drivers and maintenance by $10.5 million, and they cut the budget for school bus transportation by $56 million, which is 35% of the total school bus replacement budget.
If that student is in second or third grade, she may enter a class where there is no teacher assistant, which means less support and one less person to care about and help the student and the teacher. North Carolina schools lost 2,042 teacher assistant positions as a result of the 2011 budget.
North Carolina is 45th in the nation in terms of how much it invests in its students. This state cannot cut its education budget and get a better public education system. North Carolina, however, can raise revenue to properly fund and improve public education. That is the least we can do for our students, their parents and the future of this state.