“Special interest’ education lobby is unfair to Republicans :: WRAL.com


The special interest education lobby will say just about anything to convince you that Republicans hate education and Democrats love it. They do this because their primary motive is to elect Democrats, and to do that they need to mislead you into believing that Republican education policies have harmed our state.

What the special interest education lobby won’t show you are the hard numbers that reveal the truth: Republican education policies are working. Don’t believe me?  Here are the objective facts and you can decide for yourself.

Over the past six years, North Carolina had the third-highest teacher pay increases in the nation.  In the last two years alone, Republicans increased teacher pay by 9.9 percent.  By contrast, Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper’s 2019-21 spending plan proposes increasing teacher pay by 9.1 percent over the next two years.

But, oddly, the education lobby still organized mass rallies to protest Republicans while praising Democrats.

Take K-12 education investments as another example. Republicans believe that every child deserves a fair shot to make his or her own success in life regardless of ZIP code, color, or family income, and that education is the great equalizer. Since assuming power in 2011, Republicans have increased annual K-12 school investments for seven consecutive years.  The 2018-19 school budget is the highest in state history, nearly 35 percent more than 2010 spending levels.  We’ve also made key evidence-based policy changes at the classroom, school, and district levels.

What’s happened to graduation rates in that time? High school graduation is up 8.4 percentage points since 2011.  Crucially, the gap in graduation rates between African American students and all students has been cut in half, from 6.4 percentage points to 3.1 percentage points.  Family background should not pre-determine a child’s ability to succeed in the classroom.

A recent study by EdBuild, a nonprofit, found wide funding gaps nationwide between predominantly white school districts and predominantly nonwhite school districts. That’s troubling, because color or ZIP code should not factor into a student’s ability to create his or her own success, and underfunded schools serving one group of people make that equality of opportunity impossible to achieve.

Here in North Carolina, though, we’ve bucked the national trend. In our state, nonwhite school districts actually receive seven percent more funding than predominantly white school districts.

But, regardless of funding levels, some students simply do not meet their full potential in a traditional public school setting. Parents, not politicians, deserve the power to decide which school – public, charter, private, or home – is best for their children.  To make sure family wealth doesn’t pre-determine a child’s ability to succeed, Republicans created the Opportunity Scholarship program, which provides low-income families with up to $4,200 per year to cover expenses at a school of the parent’s choice.

Since its creation a few years ago, the number of scholarship applications has more than doubled.

The numbers for post-secondary education are just as positive. From 2011 to 2017, the number of North Carolina adults with a Bachelor’s Degree has increased by 27 percent. And equality of opportunity means a fair shake for everybody, including historically disadvantaged populations.

The number of African American adults with a high school diploma has jumped by 17 percent since 2011, and the number with a Bachelor’s Degree has gone up by 39 percent, with African American women leading the way with a 42-percent increase.

Some students don’t believe they can ever attend college because of cost. To those young men and women, we say: Yes you can. N.C. Promise, which Republicans created in 2016, guarantees $500 per semester tuition at three public universities: Elizabeth City State University, UNC Pembroke, and Western Carolina University.

At the outset, we were accused of some sinister agenda. But the results are in: Enrollment at N.C. Promise universities is skyrocketing.

These numbers are objective. Facts don’t lie. The special interest education lobby wants you to buy into a reality that doesn’t exist; don’t be fooled.

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