North Carolina is an unusual state. It’s a battleground state that’s frequently in the news, has really strong universities despite a weak public school system for earlier education due in part to largely apathetic state institutions most notoriously it’s own state-level General Assembly, was on the news for both the notorious “Bathroom Bill” and an attempt by state Republicans to pass orchestrated “Voter ID” laws which were criticized by various groups and decried as a restriction meant to impede the ability of African Americans and other people of color to vote in North Carolina. I wanted to take some time today to clearly identify and criticize North Carolina’s greatest embarrassment: it’s General Assembly.
North Carolina’s Greatest Shame Is It’s General Assembly:
North Carolina’s greatest shame is its legislative branch: the General Assembly. Most specifically it’s Republicans. I know this sounds like a partisan attack and I have no issue with this because I have facts to back it up. Each of the terrible bills in North Carolina that caused us as a state to appear in the news on a national level has been sponsored and supported by Republicans. Whether it’s the “Bathroom Bill” which was sponsored primarily by Representative Bishop, Representative Stam, Representative Howard, and Representative Steinburg, all Republicans. Or the Voter ID law which was sponsored primarily by Representative Samuelson a Republican representing District 104 who recently passed away, and a gigantic number of Republican Representatives from all over the state. And now the latest example of NC’s General Assembly foolishness being led by Republicans was their overt attack on Democratic school districts last week.
Some Much Needed Background:
Very early morning May 12th 2017 is eventually going to go down in North Carolina’s state history. It was during a late night session which began May 11th and ended early in the wee hours of May 12th that North Carolina State Senate Republican leaders engaged in what is probably the most petty legislative act I can think of that’s occurred during my lifetime: they brazenly and systematically targeted school districts in areas represented by Democrats for defunding. The exact context of this truly stunning event was that on May 11th and into May 12th the State Senators in North Carolina’s General Assembly were engaging in a budget debate that ran late. At about 1 in the morning it’s reported that Republicans (specifically Bill Rabon, the Senate Rules Chairman) called for a break and went into private conversations presumably to find ways to bring their late night to an end. When they returned at 3 in the morning a Republican Senator (Brent Jackson according to an article from The News & Observer) had come up with a seemingly bipartisan proposal to put money (1,000,000 dollars) into combating the Opioid epidemic. Unfortunately this came with a breathtaking twist: in order to get the money to fight the epidemic it would take money from educational programs located in Democratic counties.
The ways education in Democratic districts would be impacted by this are: 2 early-college high-schools are losing over 300,000 dollars in funding in Senator Smith-Ingram’s district, and if this were to become law it would prevent the state from funding a STEM program in eastern North Carolina. This is not yet law but it’s truly remarkable to think that this was what NC Senate Republicans want to pass. What’s also stunning to learn is that Republicans in North Carolina’s State Senate recognize the importance of education so much that they reportedly changed counties in a program that offers stipends to teacher assistants who want to become fully licensed teachers and are going to school to get their degrees and licenses from 7 counties which are represented by Democrats, to counties that are represented by Republicans.
Also: two Democrats apparently voted to approve this but it appears that they were unaware of the exact details of the bill because it was 3 in the morning and people wanted to go home, and this was rushed into the Senate and meant to bring end to the day’s long legislative session. And in case you’re wondering: it would have passed without their votes anyway. NC’s state-level senators are overwhelmingly Republican with 34 Republicans to 16 Democrats. Thankfully this isn’t law yet, and hopefully NC’s House Of Representatives will propose a more moderate proposal which doesn’t inflict harm on NC’s teachers, students, and schools but that’s not something anyone should depend on after reading the earlier parts of this article and looking at the sources I used.
The quality of education you receive and your access to resources shouldn’t be dependent on your political representatives. And politicians should know that the only times they discuss education, teachers, and funding for schools and educational camps should be to discuss ways to IMPROVE them not use them as crude pawns in rough political games and as a way to inflict harm on voters in other districts who decided to vote for members of another political party. Our state-level Republican senators ought to be ashamed of themselves.
It’s Time For A Change:
This is… in my opinion it’s breathtaking. This is some truly intense partisan pettiness that we’re seeing coming out of North Carolina’s General Assembly. I cannot imagine the level of conservative hate that this would receive if it were coming from the Democrats and they were the ones weakening and stealing money from Republican school districts. Can you imagine the amount of attention this would be receiving if Democrats had tried to push through this partisan act of cruelty? The main reason this hasn’t been talked about more is because the Republicans right now can get away with this thanks to the big orange distraction currently seated in D.C. pretending that he’s the “greatest jobs president God ever created”. But this is distraction is being maximized by state level Republicans nationwide who know they can count on the controversy loving corporatist who is making out with conservative Evangelicals and theocrats even as I type this to keep the press off of their backs.
North Carolina deserves better than this. I am tired of my state being in the news for these objectively awful reasons and what can sometimes be even worse: when few media outlets cover events like this because it slyly encourages Republicans to continue to play these games with state budgets thanks to a lack of national recognition. I am tired of being floored by news like this. This is what fuels my desire to go into politics and to get involved with my local community and our local Democrats.
This doesn’t have to be the way that our state operates and gets national media attention. We have a choice. We can continue to elect these inept and often cruel state representatives or we can go a different way: we can elect respectfully people of either party who actually care about our state. I don’t want anyone reading this to think that I’m painting Republicans with a broad brush but I think we can all agree that elected officials who engage in this sort of behavior have no place in our political life. I want Republicans to have a higher quality of candidate than this but I also understand that as of this moment they don’t.
North Carolina deserves rational, compassionate, dedicated officials who deem certain things as understandingly sacred, including funding for schools, and who govern with the best interests of the entire state in mind and not just their constituents and people who voted for members of their party or locations where they won the local elections. In 2018 when we can elect new men and women to our state senate let’s get rid of this current batch of Republican senators and elect new Senators who actually care about access to education and making sure that schools have the needed funding to continue operating at a level both our students and teachers deserve.
Demand quality members of our General Assembly. Let’s do better, not only for ourselves but for our entire state.