In education, GOP robbing Peter to enrich Paul

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If parents want to yank their children out of public schools and enroll them in a private or for-profit school, let them. But North Carolina lawmakers shouldn’t steal from public education to pay for it.

Across the country, Republican-controlled legislatures are pushing for private school vouchers paid for with public tax dollars to cover the cost of tuition. Florida and other states this year diverted some $343 million from public education to pay for private school tuition for nearly 129,000 students.

Louisiana recently shifted tens of millions in tax dollars out of its public schools to pay private industry, business owners and church pastors to educate children.

Republicans in North Carolina are also using their majority to try and push through similar private school expansion plans.

A bill by House Majority Leader Paul Stam, R-Wake, would let corporations divert their entire yearly state tax debt to help parents afford private school tuition. Tax diversions would increase from $40 million next year to $98 million in 2016, according to Stam.

The plan would allow those tax monies to then be used to create scholarships for students from low-income families to use to attend private or religious schools. Eligible families could receive up to $4,000 a year per student.

The typical tuition for a private K-12 school in North Carolina is $5,600 to $5,700, so $4,000 per student wouldn’t cover all costs for a private education.

Compare that to what it costs to educate each of the state’s 1.5 million public school students — some $8,414 each year. The assumption is that public schools cost more while they fail to deliver the quality education that many parents expect. Therefore, parents want more options.

However, this private school tuition plan is bad for two reasons. One, it opens up the door to letting companies pick and choose where they want their tax dollars go. That is the legislature’s job, and why we elect lawmakers.

Second, each time a student leaves a public school for a private one, that revenue per student — an estimated $5,000 from the state and $2,000 from Pasquotank County — leaves the local school system.

Thus, school choice means public schools will end up making public schools weaker. It’s a trade-off that shouldn’t have to be made.

“My concern is that this is really just a back door way of giving vouchers that corporations in North Carolina should be paying their full tax obligation to the state,” said Sheri Strickland, president of the North Carolina Education Association. We agree.

But taxpayer support for private school tuition isn’t the only front on which advocates of public education find themselves fighting in North Carolina.

A for-profit company wants to establish the North Carolina Virtual Charter Academy in Cabarrus County. The charter school would provide full-time public school services online, using curriculum and services from the for-profit company K-12 Inc., which would oversee the virtual school’s operations. Under K-12 Inc.’s plan, the online academy would enroll 2,750 students in grades K-10 in its first year.

Since a for-profit company cannot own a public school, a shell nonprofit is created to own the school, which then hires a for-profit group to manage the school’s operations.

That is how the loophole works for a for-profit business. Money would be channeled by the state’s coffers through the N.C. Virtual Academy and then to the for-profit K-12 Inc., which would be the exclusive curriculum provider and hire and train the charter school’s teachers.

Because of the potential threat to public education funding — the online charter school wouldn’t have brick-and-mortar costs but would be entitled to the same state and local monies traditional schools receive — the State Board of Education rejected K-12 Inc.’s request. An administrative law judge, however, overruled the state board’s decision, saying the board acted arbitrarily and capriciously in denying the request.

As a result, the state school board is now asking local school districts to support a legal effort to block K-12 from receiving a charter for its online school. Last week, the Elizabeth City-Pasquotank Public Schools obliged. Other area school boards are slated to consider the request this month. We urge them to also sign on to this effort to block this for-profit virtual charter school.

Bill Luton, a member of the Elizabeth City-Pasquotank Board of Education and currently the Democratic candidate for the state House seat in the 1st District, knows a thing or two about online education. He works as dean of business at Allied American University, an online college that specializes in providing higher education opportunities to U.S. military personnel.

Luton opposes K-12’s request for a charter for an online school, nothing that “this company in particular has a history of putting profit before students, and that’s not what North Carolina needs.”

Unfortunately, Republican lawmakers don’t seem too concerned about the potential impact the private school scholarships and online charter schools would have on public education. They’ve rejected all efforts to raise new revenues for schools — the revised $20.3 billion budget plan they approved last week ignored Gov. Bev Perdue’s plea for an increase of three-quarters-of-a-cent in the sales tax rate. It does, however, set aside $617,000 in state revenues in case lawmakers approve the private school scholarship program for low-income students.

Apparently GOP lawmakers’ plan is to continue siphoning off funds from public education to pay for these new initiatives. We’ll see how well that plan plays with voters this fall.

Comments

David Lichtenstein

So it is just business as usual. - David Lichtenstein

I have a hard time listening to this newspaper talk

about their supposed concern for children and education. The truth is you prove your lack of concern or interest in anyone in education who doesn't fit your particular definition of being worthy. Proof in point. An entire page is devoted in your paper to those area students who achieve the significant accomplishment of being Valedictorian. However, even though there are only a few private schools, the paper refuses to include the students in those schools in their profile piece. When asked why all area schools are not included as the achievement is no less noteworthy for a private school student-the paper through multiple sources claims that the paper just doesn't want to include the private schools. Are the readers and subscribers to this paper whose children attend non-public schools irrelevant to the paper and are these children any less worthy for their achievement?? Typical liberal hypocrites.

In education...

This movement is going on all over the country. Unfortunately, a can would not hold the worms that would squirm out of this idea...perhaps a 55 gallon barrel. Some of the motives are based on sincere beliefs in educational improvement. Some are from a desire to set up a system that might eventually reduce legislative financial responsibility for education while allowing funds for more favored use. Some would use interpretations of the measure for purposes not obvious on the surface. Some are rooted in pure lust for control. Those who are sincere in their belief that these changes would be positive are being deceived. One exalmple: If someone is persuaded that the private schools would not eventually be told what and what not to teach, what academic measuring instruments to employ, what disciplinary actions may be taken and what enrollment standards may established, then that person is living in a fantasy land. There are tons of other problems from physical/geographical logistics to litigation. These opinions are being humbly submitted from a husband/wife team with a combination of more than eighty years in central business office, classroom teaching and administrative positions in public schools. A side note of some awareness of the private schools...7 of 15 children/grandchildren/great grandchildren have attended private schools.

The "Poor" Poor

If the poor could have benefited from their usage as a pawn, they would no longer be poor. This is not an issue about the poor receiving better schooling and choices. This is about the rich getting richer at the hands of the poor and middle class. Think about how long the poor have been amongst us and how much has been spent to improve their status. There are more poor today than there were when the programs started. Conversely, there are more richer individuals now than there were when the anti-poverty programs began. (No scientific correlation exists). Thus, I must conclude that this is all smoke and mirrors. If it is for real, privately fund it and let me see the results in 3 years.

Some assumptions I wouldn't make

You're assuming that the dollars belong to public education, but I'm not sure I agree. Isn't the money actually supposed to be for educating our children, providing a good, decent education to kids as a access to better opportunities in life? Look at Sweden where students choose ANY school (municipal, non-profit, for profit) and the state (within certain guidelines) provides funding. http://www.cato.org/publications/commentary/how-sweden-profits-profit-schools http://www.fcpp.org/publication.php/1071 They found a way to provide backpack funding (and it was the left that did so). Why is it that in the US it's the left that believe the most egalitarian thing to do is keep kids locked to one school, regardless of their needs, the school environment, their schooling goals, and anything other than where they live. It's so strange that the right here is actually the side fighting to give the poor access to choices in education and access to different types of education. The framing of the issue here is so damaging; we're missing half the truth because of it.

Public vs Private Schools

Anyone who really believes the government can do anything well should have your head examined. I am the product of public school and I got over it and opened my eyes. Public schools teach nothing about economics and how the government is supposed to work so its graduates are dumbed down and become complacent workers until they decide to educate themselves. My child is in private school and frankly it is breaking us but he is learning how this country should work through history and math that will help him in college. I have seen first hand what the high schools in this area are teaching and the seniors cannot add fractions. I ask everyone that reads this to research how the economy works and buy yourselves a pocket Constitution and learn the government, stop listening to the talking heads on the idiot box. You might start to see that there really needs to be a fundamental change.

is it because you agree with

is it because you agree with the political leaning of what your student is learning that you find it to be better than what is taught in public schools? part of your comment would indicate that is the case.

Taxpayers Money Misspent

This editorial reminded me of the way Elizabeth City and Pasquotank County operate. The city takes money intended to increase the electric fund balance and pay our portion of electricities balance and gives it to landlords for weatherization. That is the robber barons at their worst. Only the people can stop these crooks. Giving money to non-profits seems like a nice gesture and is commendable when it is your private money. You should not take taxpayer money, that in some cases may even have been borrowed, and give it to your favorite charity. Council members and commissioners can encourage private donations but you should not give from the public coffers, especially when there are unfunded government needs.

Who Can We Believe and Trust

We decided to elect the Republicans, Tea Partiers and Conservatives so we have to accept all the pain they are going to deliver. With the addition of money from outside the state, corporations and the rich and powerful are going to rule the state and our lives. Greed and lobbyists will be the important factors in laws that are enacted. The Republicans probably already have the votes to pass this bill and the wheels are in motion. You can even get a doctorate degree online now from Universities that nothing more than an office for processing paperwork. The corporation tax credit is being perpetuated using poor and black children and parents as shills for the concept. A year after enactment, all of these initial groups will be gone and a high class, state-tax supported private school will have been established. We have got to learn that you can not trust any legislator more than 2 terms. The fourth estate will have to step up and lead with the truth and impartiality.

How is this a "Republican/Tea

How is this a "Republican/Tea Party" issue? This is about poor children who are not making it in public schools and whose parents simply want another option to help them succeed. After looking over the bill, it looks like there are numerous steps in place to ward off fraud and improper use. It comes down to people being afraid of change...but that fear is causing poor students to fall behind forever.

Options and Choices and Consequences

This corporate tax-private school bill becomes a Republican-Tea Party issue because they are the party in power and favor its provisions. I will agree that the public schools may not have been every thing for every child and parent. The same holds true for some private schools as well even after trying the public schools. Public schools have been adequate and better for the vast number of students and parents throughout the years. Though I do not believe that all of the failings of public schools can be linked to funding shortages, I do believe the loss of these tax dollars will severely hamper school systems ability to deliver quality service to the remaining students. I wonder who those students who have to remain in public schools will be? You know, the ones who do not have the difference between $4,000 and tuition cost. I wonder what they will grow up to be or where they will spend the bulk of their adult like? Choice is fine, and we should have them, but choice has cosequencess. Either use the public taxpayer schools or come out of pocket for private school.

I think you forget that parents of children

in private schools pay taxes. So whose money is it anyway?

There haven't been any

There haven't been any conclusive studies showing that the shift in dollars from public education to private for profit charter schools is making any difference in student acheivement. What is a concern for me, a public school graduate, are the many problems with lottery enrollements and tax dollars going to support private education agendas. By agendas I mean tax dollars supporting religous schools that are most likely to teach with a certain political slant. It's fine if you want your kid being indoctrinated by the right wing (and i'm sure all charter schools don't fit this bill, but certainly the ones promoted by Blackwater's Eric Prince's sister do) ideology, but my tax dollars shouldn't assist that brain washing.

But I am sure you have no problem with

my tax dollars being used in public education and all that "liberal brainwashing", right???? Key word in your first claim is, "conclusive" which of course is so subjective it makes it laughable.

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