Sometimes, the Republicans in charge of the North Carolina General Assembly make us wonder, “What are they thinking?” Or perhaps, “Are they thinking?”
Sometimes the answer is that they’re thinking they’ll do whatever they want unless and until a court says they can’t.
That seems to be the case with the latest effort to weaken traditional public schools in the name of promoting choice. The state House has approved a measure to give a private group $1 million of the taxpayers’ dollars to help start charter schools in rural counties.
Have Republicans now grown so arrogant that they’re writing checks on the public’s account for a million bucks just because they can? This is preposterous, when the state has a Department of Public Instruction to do this job.
This group, Parents for Educational Freedom in North Carolina, advocates more charter schools, and it would be able to give out state money to new charters to help with start-up costs. Charters, of course, run on the public’s dime and are public schools, though unfortunately some have not done well when they’ve operated as if they were private schools. And charters also draw money from the public education budget, which is why there should be a limited number of them.
That was the idea, anyway, when the charter movement got kicked up more than 20 years ago. The schools would be laboratories, free of some of the constraints and requirements of regular schools and their successes then would be incorporated into mainstream public schools. The vast majority of people in North Carolina send their children to regular public schools, by the way.
And some of the same Republicans who are pushing so hard for more charters also are pushing for things like vouchers, or public funds, to go to some parents who want to send their kids to private school.
The GOP would do better to focus on more investment in public education instead of looking for ways to undermine it.