The propaganda machines on the Right are spinning furiously these days trying to convince people that the folks currently in charge in Raleigh are big supporters of public education.
It’s a tough task, not only because they don’t have many actual facts to work with, but the key spokespeople can’t even get their talking points straight.
WRAL-TV reported this week that Governor Pat McCrory welcomed teachers back to school this fall by bragging about the average pay increase of 5.5 percent that the General Assembly approved this summer.
But House Speaker Thom Tillis keeps talking on the campaign trail about a seven percent increase. And many veteran teachers received far less than that with some receiving a pay hike of just 0.29 percent.
Dozens of news stories have quoted teachers who have received the tiny raises and even worse for the political flaks, many parents know the teachers personally who have barely received a raise at all.
That speaks to the biggest problem for the spin doctors on the Right and their disinformation campaign about public schools.
They are busy massaging and distorting education budget numbers to refute the correct claims that they have slashed education funding, increased class size, woefully underfunded textbooks, etc.
But this is not just a political back and forth about abstract numbers. It is not a complicated debate about the size of the labor force and the growth in public and private sector employment and the theoretical impact of cutting the corporate income tax.
It is about what is happening in classrooms across North Carolina. People do not have to trust either side’s budget numbers. They can see the reality where their children go to school.
Last year the second grade classes most likely had a teacher assistant. This year many of them don’t. Parents know that their son or daughter also has more kids in their class this fall competing for the teacher’s attention.
Their middle school child doesn’t bring a math textbook home to do homework anymore because there aren’t enough textbooks to go around for middle school math.
And maybe most importantly of all, parents talk to their children’s teachers. They know there’s not enough funding for classroom supplies because the PTA is holding fundraisers to buy them because the General Assembly didn’t appropriate enough money.
They also know that their daughter’s favorite teacher who has been working at the school down the street for twenty years and maybe taught another child in the family is not getting much of a raise at all this year.
Parents see that the schools buses picking up their kids are older. And they know that the counselor who was there last year to help kids who were struggling is gone too, another victim of the budget cuts from Raleigh.
Parents and community leaders also know the principals and maybe the school district officials personally. They talk to them about the damage the budgets of the last four years have done to their schools and how much harder it has made the jobs of people who work every day to help kids learn.
It’s a tough time to be a propagandist on the right. No matter how many quasi-reports and misleading white papers on education funding the conservative think tanks produce and how many blackboards the politicians stand in front of in their campaign commercials boasting of their support for public schools, people across North Carolina simply see a different story, the real story, every day.
And they hear the disturbing truth about the education cuts from teachers, school officials and other parents—people they trust far more than politicians and slick PR professionals.