Image via Shutterstock. Public education funding
Image via Shutterstock.

A NC teacher says state lawmakers have been underfunding public schools since the 2008 recession.

In order for school buildings to reopen this fall, our students need both kinds of PPE – personal protective equipment and per pupil expenditure.  

North Carolina’s state coffers will be out billions of dollars in tax revenue this year, but don’t forget North Carolina’s students have already had billions of dollars taken from them since the last recession. 

The shortfall in per pupil expenditures began during the Great Recession and despite surrendering billions of dollars in tax cuts, our students still have not yet recovered from the last recession as we encounter a public health crisis that has triggered an economic crisis.

Forget peaking in high school – our commitment to funding their education peaked while they were in kindergarten and our state refused to make it up to them by the time they graduated.

This week, I watched my students cross a makeshift stage at our school’s outdoor drive-through graduation ceremony.  When we think of the trials the Class of 2020 has faced during their senior year, let’s also remember that North Carolina has been on the baker’s dozen plan when it came to funding their education – buy twelve years, get the thirteenth free. 

The year these current graduates entered kindergarten was the year with the highest purchasing power they would receive for the duration of their education.  Forget peaking in high school – our commitment to funding their education peaked while they were in kindergarten and our state refused to make it up to them by the time they graduated. 

Don’t let NCGA leaders like Sen. Phil Berger fool you when he blames coronavirus impacts as the reason for shortchanging our students – they’ve been shortchanged for their entire education career, most of it under Berger’s tenure as NC Senate President Pro Tempore.

As school reopening recommendations have been released this week in North Carolina, it is clear that we cannot create safe learning and working conditions without a commitment to pay for additional staff and resources to resume school in buildings during a pandemic.  

Putting measures in place to prevent our schools from contributing to community outbreaks should go beyond mere “recommendations.”  

Protecting public health is a mandate, not a suggestion.

We cannot balance our biggest challenges on our smallest backs.

Tasking school districts with protecting public health without state funding to cover the cost will break districts that have already been spread thin with perpetual Recession-era funding levels.  Our students need both forms of PPE from the state to keep their families safe and minds growing.

This fall, my daughter begins kindergarten.  We must stay vigilant to ensure what happened to our recent graduates doesn’t happen to another generation of students. 

Recently released “recommendations” for reopening schools are not so much signs of “flexibility” as they are red flags for future unfunded mandates.  One can label things like 6 feet of social distancing, smaller classes, and more cleaning as a recommendation, but reality dictates these must be in place to reopen school buildings while supporting public health goals.  

When we shortchange schools, we rob our students of the resources to fulfill the constitutional mandate of a “sound basic education.”  

We cannot balance our biggest challenges on our smallest backs.