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By Fred Black

Are We Being Bullied?

By Fred Black Posted April 27, 2011 at 3:05 am

I suspect that no matter your age, at some time in your life you felt bullied. Sure, most of us endured the schoolyard or school bus bully, the playground bully and even the neighborhood bully that hardly anyone was willing to stand up to even on a good day. As we move through life, we find that the bullies are still out there. They just don’t go after kids; they care not about your age.

Lately, as I read the news from Raleigh I feel like I’m being bullied. As an educator and being married to an educator, I feel strongly about our schools. Our local K-12 system builds the solid foundation that prepares our kids for life. For some that might mean entering the work force and for others it means attending institutions of higher learning. The news about proposed state budget support for our school systems is not encouraging. I appreciate that money is tight, but I have to wonder if those engaged in a political war that has us all caught on the battlefield are bullying us.

Not let’s be clear. A budget is a plan to allocate resources. It tells us what they expect to take in and how they plan to spend it. When the state prepares a budget, it is clothed in the politics of the day. The governor has a proposed budget and in our case for 2012, the House has one too. Being from different parties sets the tone of the debate and each has tools to use to fight the budget war. At some point, they must reach an agreement on a balanced budget or the government comes to a halt.

So why do I feel bullied? It appears to me that the House wants to cut the education budget line so deeply that many consider their proposal unacceptable. “This budget would push our schools to a level of very bare-bones opportunities for students and for educational innovation,” State Board of Education Chairman Bill Harrison said in his news release.

The proposed 8.8 percent cut in the House comes on top of the discretionary cut built into the current recurring budget. This would mean larger class sizes in grades 4-12; the loss of support staff in schools; the elimination of teacher assistants in second and third grades; and reducing assistant principals by one-fifth.

This is grim indeed, in a state that is already 46th in the nation in education funding and 45th in teacher pay. In our Chapel Hill-Carrboro district, we have already made the easy cuts in each of the last three years. Administrators sometimes call these cuts the “low hanging fruit.” What’s left is the muscle in our system. Would our quality be as high if we have to eliminate 62 positions that contribute so much to the full academic and physical development of our students?

So why do I feel bullied? I have to wonder if this House proposal is on the table as part of some strategic ploy to force concessions on some other budget item in order to “save” school funding. If that’s the case, then in my mind that’s a classic case of bullying. School funding should not be part of some partisan political game. If it is, we all lose. If the House is serious, then we all really lose if their plan prevails. There’s absolutely nothing for North Carolina to rejoice about if we drop from 46th in the nation in education funding and 45th in teacher pay.

If you’re not keen on taking several steps backwards in education support in our state, we need to let the “deciders” know how you feel. I guarantee you, if we don’t, and it becomes a reality, some politicians will claim that they were just doing what the people wanted. Silence is the wrong answer for this test.

Now, those are my thoughts. What are yours? Comment below!

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