Citizen-Times Op-Ed: Ramsey Has A Record Of Not Support Public Education
In an op-ed published today in the Asheville Citizen-Times, Dr. Raymond Stone, a key figure in the development of North Carolina's outstanding Community College system, says that any lawmaker who voted for the reckless tax cuts can't say they support public education. Rep. Ramsey, in particular, claims to be a supporter of public education, but his vote for the tax cuts mean that our schools will potentially lose billions in funding due to lost state revenue. So far this year the state is reporting an over $200 million shortfall from the year before. From Dr. Stone's op-ed,
In a recent letter to the editor, Buncombe County School Board Chairman Bob Rhinehart praised N.C. House Rep. Nathan Ramsey (R-District 115) as a “strong supporter of public schools.” Unfortunately, his viewpoint really misses the forest for the trees. While Rep. Ramsey pays plenty of lip service to education, his voting record in Raleigh is sharply different. By voting for reckless tax cuts for big-money corporations and very wealthy individuals, Ramsey and other state lawmakers who voted for radical tax cuts are underfunding our children’s education.
Examples of underfunded public schools are everywhere. The budgets for textbooks have dropped nearly 80 percent since 2009, forcing students to share books more than a decade old. This year, Buncombe County will have only about $14.26 per student for textbooks, but the average textbook costs $60. Per student state education funding is still 46th in the nation. Money for teacher assistants has also been cut sharply, leaving Buncombe County with no choice but to cut dozens of TA positions. Then of course, there is the teacher pay raise, which leaves veteran classroom educators with 30 or more years of experience with a salary increase of less than one-third of one percent. Budgets are slightly larger than last year, but they clearly are not keeping up with inflation and enrollment growth.
The bottom line boils down to inadequate funding for our children’s schools. When our schools don’t have enough textbooks for students to take home for homework and when teachers must work second jobs to make ends meet, clearly our schools need more funding. Despite claiming to champion public schools, what have our state lawmakers done about funding?
Politicians have imposed reckless tax cuts that benefit people at the top. These tax cuts are now leading to less state revenue. In just the first two months of the new fiscal year (July and August), state officials report tax collections that are $200 million below the same two months a year ago. They acknowledge that decisions by state lawmakers to radically cut income tax rates are largely to blame. Because of these radical tax cuts, some forecast that the revenue losses could top $5 billion over the next five years. If projections come anywhere near that number, the consequences for our public schools could be devastating.
While supporters of these dramatic tax cuts claimed that subsidizing millionaires would spur job growth and create new revenue, the exact opposite has happened. It’s the old “trickle down” bromide that has let us down time and again. Meanwhile, the cost of those tax cuts continues to rise, leaving less money for teachers, textbooks and TAs. Does that sound like “strong support” of education to you?
When a business looks to relocate, the quality of the public schools is almost always a major factor in a final decision. If the quality of our public education declines, businesses with good-paying jobs will go elsewhere. Property values will eventually suffer. Education is the best economic investment our society could possibly make for long-term job prospects.
True supporters of public schools know that our children will only be able to compete for good jobs if they have a good basic education. And the reality is that we cannot maintain a strong system of public education on the cheap. Education is an investment.
If our politicians are going to truly champion public schools, they need to do more than claim we are doing the best we can with the funding we have. They should stand up against radical tax cuts that are disproportionately benefiting people at the top and bleeding our schools of the funding they need for our students to succeed.
We as voters must realize that taxing decisions and school funding are absolutely linked. We must hold our elected leaders accountable. Don’t let politicians get away with claims of supporting our public schools while they recklessly slash taxes needed to adequately fund them.