Every year, we hear from public school teachers asking North Carolina lawmakers for more funding for their classrooms. And every year, the politicians in Raleigh give the same lousy excuses about how we don’t have enough money to raise classroom funding even to the national average.
But despite their excuses, every year the General Assembly somehow finds enough money to give huge tax cuts to big corporations and millionaires. This year is no different, with the politicians gleefully handing out tax breaks to the top 1 percent while teachers scrounge up pocket change and work second jobs to pay for basic classroom supplies.
As the mother of five students who have attended Durham County public schools, I see firsthand how my children's classrooms are already stressed to the breaking point. My 8-year-old son, Chase, just finished third grade at Club Boulevard Elementary School. I spent about $500 on classroom supplies for him over the last year, but many parents in Durham simply cannot afford that. And honestly, it's a hardship on me.
The supply lists are getting longer every year, and are filled with basic supplies like paper towels because schools can't supply them. Aren’t these the kind of basic supplies necessary to provide what the state constitution calls a “sound basic education” for all children?
The legislature is already not living up to its constitutional responsibility when it comes to school funding, but now they want to change the constitution to protect their tax cuts for millionaires and make it even harder to restore funding for public education. However, their scheme to cap the state income tax is really just a “Millionaire Protection Act.”
While low income taxes may sound like a good deal, if this Millionaire Protection Act passes then politicians will simply look for other ways to make up the lost revenue. They’ll just raise sales taxes and fees to take an even bigger bite out of the pockets of working families, just so the top 1 percent can keep their tax cuts.
The General Assembly’s priorities are all wrong. The legislature should live up to what is already in the constitution — "a sound basic education" for all children — before making constitutional changes to what is already there.
My son had 30 students in his third-grade class this past year, and half a dozen of the boys had ADHD. But the teacher had no teaching assistant. His second-grade teacher had no teaching assistant either. As you can imagine, this makes for a stressful classroom environment for teachers as well as students.
The legislature needs to get right with our public schools and our students. Our classrooms need more funding, and our teachers need more respect. We keep hearing the economy has recovered from the Great Recession, but it's like the politicians in Raleigh are forcing our schools into a permanent recession. And when we hear the legislature is considering even more permanent tax cuts for millionaires, it makes me very concerned.
The legislature’s priorities are morally and fiscally wrong. They need to focus on restoring public education funding instead of giving tax cuts to millionaires; otherwise parents like me will make sure to hold them accountable in November.
Karen Evans is a preschool teacher and mother of five public school students who lives in Durham.