Ex-senator: Republicans have gutted education

To the Editor,

A recent op-ed from Sen.Danny Britt on school funding was misleading at best. Cuts certainly had to be made everywhere in the budget during the Great Recession but that is in the past and the state has funds to restore all the cuts made and more to education since then.

When I served in the Senate, I saw the Republican majority cut education in numerous ways. Class size has increased, per pupil spending has decreased (we now rank 39th in the nation), teacher pay has not increased sufficiently or across the board (we now rank 34th in the nation), and the general attitude has been one of disrespecting our teachers and public schools. Even the so-called teacher pay raises were unfair, giving most to beginning teachers and often reducing or eliminating them for veteran teachers. I spoke with a 30-year teacher after one of these “raises” who, because of other things being eliminated, made less after the “raise” than the year before.

I and my colleagues tried to raise the amount of funding for education, put back the masters pay for teachers that had been eliminated, and numerous other bills to restore what had been taken away but to no avail. I often hear that the budget for education is larger now but that is only because there are more people in the state and in our schools that require it, not that education has been better funded.

When inflation is figured in, our teachers make nearly $10,000 less than they did 10 years ago despite a recovering economy and we’re still spending less per student than before the Recession. Meanwhile, as our schools and students get left behind, taxes on corporations have been slashed, making less money available to fund education.

Gov. Roy Cooper has proposed a responsible alternative, freezing scheduled tax cuts for corporations and the most wealthy. These are true middle-class tax cuts and nearly every dollar of the money saved goes towards public education. This win-win means no one faces a tax increase, families earning less than $200,000 will receive a tax cut, and North Carolina can get to the national average in teacher pay in four years.

Let’s do what’s right for our schools.

Jane Smith

Former senator

District 13