Lindsay Wagner describes the devastation of public education in North Carolina, once the most progressive state in the south. No more.

 

Since the Republican sweep of the Legislature in 2010 and the governorship in 2012, public schools have been set up for demolition, and replaced by unaccountable charters, vouchers, and virtual charters.

 

Since taking charge in Raleigh, conservative lawmakers have been steering public dollars into a range of alternatives to traditional public schools that march under the banner of “school choice.”
Beginning as a trickle, but with the potential to become a flood, spending is growing for vouchers to pay tuition at private and religious schools; an expanded roster of charter schools run by for-profit companies; and two virtual charter schools operated by a scandal-plagued company.

 

Meanwhile, those same legislators are squeezing conventional K-12 schools with budgets that place North Carolina near the bottom of national rankings for teacher pay and per-pupil spending. A central rationale for providing these alternatives is that traditional schools fall short in educating children from low-income households and communities, children of color and children with special needs.

 

But even as they cite end-of-grade test results and other data to demonstrate the shortcomings of conventional schools, the legislators are requiring no such accountability from voucher programs and charters. So far, there is no evidence that at-risk children fare better on average in the alternative settings and an abundance of anecdotal examples in which they are clearly worse off.

 

Join the Network for Public Education in Raleigh, North Carolina, when we convene April 16-17. Our keynote speakers include Rev. William Barber, the great civil rights leader and founder of Moral Mondays, and Bob Herbert, former columnist for the New York Times and author of Losing Our Way.