By Linda Daves
Chairman, North Carolina Republican Party
Bev Perdue likes to make claims about how she has worked with teachers and public schools throughout her long career in state government. But what kind of results has she received from her efforts? One in three high school students in North Carolina public schools are failing to finish high school. Meanwhile, Bev Perdue has been in Raleigh for 22 years. She has been on the State Board of Education for the last eight years. If she has a plan to save public education, what is she waiting for? How many more of our students will fail before she unfolds this magical plan?
Bev Perdue stands for only more of the same in education. Her magic bullet: more money. No surprise there. Typical of a liberal, Raleigh mentality, there is no problem Democrats can't claim will be fixed by more state spending and a few tax and fee increases. The truth is we are already spending more money than ever before for public education. K-12 appropriations have risen 42 percent since the year 2000 or by more than $2 billion total, but the state's graduation rate has seen no improvement. (Luebke, Dr. Robert, "2008-2009 State Budget: Education," August 13, 2008)
To deflect from her own dismal record on education, she is now running attack ads saying Pat McCrory will take away money from public education. This claim is not only false; it is a deliberate attempt to manipulate the facts and engage in scare tactics. First, Pat McCrory has announced no such plan. Second, school choice plans have time and again proven to increase, not decrease, the per student spending in public education systems. School choice programs have already saved hundreds of millions of dollars for public education systems in Maryland, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New Mexico, South Carolina, and Utah. (Enlow, Robert C., "Analysis: School Choice Improves Public School Funding," June 1, 2005)
The word "voucher" is generally seen as a dirty word in politics. But what do vouchers do? They send public money to a private school, but that's not all they do. They also send a public school student to a private school. Since private schools operate in the free market, they spend their education dollars more efficiently and are able to do more on smaller budgets. This saves the state money for each public school student that is sent to a private school. In addition, the public school student is able to get a higher quality of education in a private school as opposed to remaining in a failing public school. Since school choice programs save money for every student sent to a private school, that savings is then pumped back into the public education system. This allows public schools to spend more money on each student, to increase teacher salaries, and to reduce class sizes, all factors that are attributed with bettering academic performance. The surest, cheapest way to increase per student spending in public education is to promote school choice. Bev Perdue likes to talk about providing an opportunity to every student in North Carolina. However, what kind of opportunity are we providing a student in a failing public school? If Perdue really cared about opportunity and not in courting the big money of labor unions, she would come out in support of school choice today.
We already know Bev Perdue's plan for education. More of the same. And it's not working. Until Bev Perdue stands against teachers' unions and special interests in Raleigh and chooses to stand up for our children, she is only paying lip service to true reform in public education. Our children cannot afford for us to continue advocating the same failed strategies when it comes to education. We need new solutions to fix lingering problems. We need a change in leadership in state government.