In 2010, Republicans swept control of the Legislature in North Carolina for the first time in a century. Two years later, a Republican governor was elected. Since then, the Republicans have sought to shred any safety net for anyone who needed it.

 

In this post, Chris Fitzsimon details the determined and successful efforts of the Republican majority to destroy public education and every other public institution in the state, turning the clock back many decades.

 

He writes:

 

With all three branches of government securely under their control, the ideological shift left few areas of state policy untouched. People who were already struggling have been hurt the most — low-wage workers, single mothers, people of color and immigrants. Vital life supports, such as child care subsidies, pre-K programs, unemployment insurance and food stamps, have been slashed.

 
And there’s been more than a loss of basic benefits. People living on the margins have been demonized in the last five years too, blamed for their struggles, penalized for their inability to find jobs that don’t exist, and cruelly stereotyped for political gain. The folks now in charge of Raleigh haven’t just made government smaller, they have also made it meaner.

 

Most of the money they saved from slashing safety net programs hasn’t been reinvested in education or job training or infrastructure. Instead, even as tax revenue has risen as the state recovers from the Great Recession, the savings have been given to corporations and the wealthy in a series of massive tax breaks.

 

Thanks to the anemic budgets of the last five years, North Carolina now spends almost 6 percent less on state services than in 2008 in inflation-adjusted dollars.

 

Now the folks in charge are pushing to lock in the woeful recession-era level of public investment by adding arbitrary spending limits to the state constitution in the misnamed Taxpayer Bill of Rights. In Colorado, the only state that has adopted it, it has been a disaster.

 

Nowhere have the cuts hit harder than in public schools, where rankings in teacher pay and per-pupil funding have spiraled toward the bottom of the 50 states.

 

Once recognized across the country for its commitment to public education, North Carolina now is making headlines for how much of it is being dismantled, with teachers fleeing to other states because of low salaries and the culture of animosity and disrespect from state leaders.

 

The meanness is evident here too. The nationally recognized Teaching Fellows program has been abolished, even as the state struggles to recruit bright students into the profession, merely because of its ties to prominent Democrats like former Gov. Jim Hunt.

 

Low-income kids and their families are the biggest losers in the attacks on public schools, but there are winners in the ideological assault: new for-profit companies that run charter schools, private and religious academies that now receive taxpayer funding and sketchy online institutions that are raking in state dollars.

The new ruling class in Raleigh, while professing a commitment to reduce the scope of government, increased its role in people’s personal lives and health care decisions, interfered with local issues in communities across the state, and pushed to resume executions even as two men were freed from prison, one from death row, after serving for more than 30 years for a murder they did not commit.

 

They made it harder for some people to vote but easier for many people to get a gun and take it into more places — bars, restaurants, parks and playgrounds. They have systematically rolled back important environmental protections, undeterred by the massive coal ash spill into the Dan River in 2014, the worst environmental disaster in the state’s history.

 

The radical transformation of North Carolina has prompted a passionate response in protest, as thousands have marched in Raleigh and across the state in the NAACP-led Moral Monday movement.

 

For all these reasons, the Network for Public Education will hold its third annual conference in Raleigh on April 16-17. Our keynote speakers include the leader of the Moral Mondays movement, Rev. Dr. William Barber. There is some scholarship money available for teachers and student activists.

 

Join us to speak out against the destruction of public education and the denial of basic human rights, in North Carolina and across the nation.