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July 29, 2014

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Originally published: 2011-06-17 09:59:38
Last modified: 2011-06-17 09:59:48

Letters to The Rocket: Governor may not have a choice

Here’s a question for you: Which is more valuable to you, educating North Carolina’s children or saving three-fourths of one cent on sales tax?
That is the essence of the current debate over the Republican legislature’s budget that they have sent to our governor, Beverly Perdue.
Most of us in North Carolina, regardless of our politics, favor public education. We believe that teaching our community’s children to read, earn an honest living and be productive citizens is a good thing and that top-flight public schools, community colleges and universities are the way to make that happen.
For others, though, the answer is: “I’ve got mine, to heck with the schools.”  Not too patriotic. And how will firing 9,000 educators help North Carolinians get jobs or be trained for new jobs in this complex world economy?
North Carolina is at a crossroads: down the Republican legislature’s path lies underfunded schools, 9,000 fired educators and a place at the bottom of U.S. states in education.
Down the Democratic governor’s path lies a confidence in the American middle class dream of learning how to compete in this world, buying a home and raising children in a safe, educated and economically developed North Carolina. Our state’s founding fathers mandated that every citizen is entitled to a quality public education for a reason: it is the key to prosperity.
And yet, Gov. Perdue will take enormous criticism for defending our state constitution from the very same well-heeled individuals who have benefitted the most from an educated workforce.
Ironic, isn’t it? The same folks who have profited the most from having educated workers and customers holler the loudest about paying their share of what we need to have this quality of life here in North Carolina.
There is no common sense to the GOP budget’s cuts: our community colleges get slashed by the Republican budget, but those same community colleges are an essential re-entry point for unemployed workers looking for advanced training and a new career.
Our public universities are inseparable from our state’s reputation as a national powerhouse. The Republican legislature’s solution: cut them to the quick. Can our state survive this?
Our public K-12 schools have placed generations of us, our parents and our children on a competitive footing with students from any state in America.  Our much-imitated early childhood education programs, Smart Start and More at Four, bring more young minds into the lifelong practice of learning. The Republican legislature’s approach: cut public schools to the bone and then break the bones.
So what should our governor do?
She has already done more than any before her to consolidate agencies, slash unnecessary spending and, yes, to “right-size” government for these tough times. Her bold reforms make these massive education cuts entirely unnecessary. Gone is the bureaucratic redundancy. Preserved are the essential institutions that attract industry to the state and provide every family with an equal opportunity to move ahead, namely, public education.
Our regional competitors are licking their chops at North Carolina’s Republican leaders’ decisions to hobble our most precious education assets; Virginia, South Carolina and Tennessee have all maintained or increase education budgets this year. The budget that sits on Bev Perdue’s desk drops us to 48th in the country, above only Arizona and Utah.  Below South Carolina. Below Mississippi.
Meanwhile, new numbers indicate that North Carolina is second only to Texas in business recruitment, with our well-educated workforce being commonly cited as a primary driver behind that ranking. Do these Republican leaders simply not care about our people?
The Republicans have challenged this governor already, asking her to throw 47,000 unemployed North Carolinians to the wolves.  She tried to work with the GOP, but they would have none of it. So she entered an executive order to get those folks’ federally funded benefits to them without having to make a deal with the GOP to do so. Pretty smart, that Gov. Perdue.
So, should she veto the Republican legislature’s budget?  A better question might be: As a parent, educator, lead business recruiter for our state and sworn elected defender of our constitutional rights — does she have a choice?
David Parker
For more information and stories, see The Blowing Rocket.

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