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Letter: GOP rejects most important aspects of public education

Posted on  by Letters

Graphic by Lori Deaton

Jessica Wakeman’s excellent summary of the Aug. 17 Republican confab on public education in Hendersonville underscores how politicians can weaponize the most critical aspects of a child’s learning [“Education Battleground: Edwards, Republican Panel Talk ‘Leftist Agenda’ in Schools,” Aug. 24, Xpress].

Instead of emphasizing the importance of public education that embraces both facts and open discussion, critical thinking and creative problem solving, the political candidates on hand appeared to be lacing outright lies regarding parental access to school boards with attacks on anyone trying to salvage a public education system brutally defunded for years by the GOP.

The pathway to that defunding — what many teachers call a Republican “war” on public education — has been marked by billions withheld from school districts, especially in poor and rural areas. Our legislature diverts tax money to charter and religious schools, many run by for-profit corporations.

Further, the GOP’s strategy is to eliminate public K-12 education entirely, delaying remedial payments to promote school equity by dragging out funding cases in court. Another tactic: demoralizing teachers with firings, muzzling of advocacy groups and dismal pay. Today, for example, the National Education Association ranks North Carolina 34 in average teacher pay and 41 in per-pupil spending, coming in $3,308 lower per child than the national average. North Carolina public schools received a C-minus rating in the Education Week 2019 Quality Reports.

Concurrently, the state Supreme Court is debating the decades-old Leandro case filed in 1994 by needy public schools seeking equitable funding. Today the court is addressing whether the Republican-dominated legislature has the authority to withhold $785 million from public schools. “The legislature has added $500 million in budget reserve, but they’re choking public education by underfunding it until it dies,” said Jay Carey, an Army veteran running as a Democrat for state Senate District 48 against Rep. Tim Moffitt this fall.

The Republican confab in Hendersonville ignored the funding issue. State Sen. Chuck Edwards (District 48), best known for taking $1.1 million from the federal Payback Protection Program for his McDonald’s franchises, then introducing a bill to give himself and other lucky business owners a tax break, argues that parents need “school choice.” Edwards today is running for Congress in the 11th District. He wants to abolish the state Board of Education for being “unaccountable” and “bully[ing]” (his words) when, in fact, the General Assembly has bullied its way into sacrificing a public education system that once was the Southeast’s pride.

Amy Lynn Holt, Henderson County Board of Public Education vice chair, decried the “leftist agenda” of a local teacher who asked her students to read a New York Times article describing Donald Trump. Holt didn’t specify whether the students were asked to do fact checking or identify the writer’s sources. Edwards came up with the best either/or “false dilemma” nugget of the day. “We’ve got to stop talking about pronouns and start talking about protons,” he said. As though teachers can’t manage both.

Educational needs are complex. With 22% of high schoolers today identifying as not heterosexual, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, it’s reasonable to show respect by allowing some discussion of gender identity — if not in class, then in clubs or counseling. Complaining that Democrats don’t care about parental involvement in school boards is another convenient lie. Parents of every political stripe are on school boards in almost every district in the country.

And if Sen. Edwards wants kids to talk more about protons than pronouns, how about funding up-to-date science labs in our public schools staffed by decently paid teachers? Public education is a cherished American value. It’s not about aping parental bias or spitting back memorized facts: It’s about creating inquisitive minds and learning about a world beyond one’s immediate doorstep.

— Arielle Emmett

Medicaid Expansion

Medicaid Expansion will help hard-working, low-income families gain the security of qualityhealth coverage and get lifesaving care when they need it– without facing huge medical bills.Let’s close the coverage gap in North Carolina. 71% of our state’s voters across party lines sayhealth care is their top priority.We can increase access to affordable health care by expanding Medicaid in North Carolina.People who live in the “coverage gap” earn too much to qualify for Medicaid, but not enough toafford private insurance. If North Carolina closed the coverage gap by expanding Medicaid,over 600,000 people would get access to affordable, reliable health insurance. Medicaid Expansion will help hard-working, low-income families gain the security of qualityhealth coverage and get lifesaving care when they need it– without facing huge medical bills.

Let’s close the coverage gap in North Carolina. 71% of our state’s voters across party lines sayhealth care is their top priority.We can increase access to affordable health care by expanding Medicaid in North Carolina.People who live in the “coverage gap” earn too much to qualify for Medicaid, but not enough toafford private insurance. If North Carolina closed the coverage gap by expanding Medicaid,over 600,000 people would get access to affordable, reliable health insurance.

63% of people in the coverage gap are from working families. They are often farmers,fishermen, firefighters, veterans, childcare workers and small business owners– alloccupations that don’t offer affordable health insurance.A family of four earning $12,000 makes too much for the parents to qualify for Medicaid inNorth Carolina. But until they earn more than $25,100, they don’t qualify for subsidies onthe Health Insurance Marketplace. Medicaid Expansion will help hard-working, low-income families gain the security of qualityhealth coverage and get lifesaving care when they need it– without facing huge medical bills.Let’s close the coverage gap in North Carolina.

71% of our state’s voters across party lines sayhealth care is their top priority.We can increase access to affordable health care by expanding Medicaid in North Carolina.People who live in the “coverage gap” earn too much to qualify for Medicaid, but not enough to afford private insurance. If North Carolina closed the coverage gap by expanding Medicaid,over 600,000 people would get access to affordable, reliable health insurance.

Closing the coverage gap is good for our economy! Expanding Medicaid would bring $4billion dollars in additional federal funding into the the North Carolina economy every year. Without expansion, North Carolina will miss out on 43,314 potential new jobs and more than$21 billion in state business activity. Reliable health insurance makes a huge difference for avoiding foreclosures and evictions.In states that have expanded Medicaid, residents are 25% less likely to miss a rent or mortgage payment.When people can get the health care they need, they live healthier lives, and are moreproductive, reliable workers. Leaving people uninsured drives up health care costs for everyone. Health insurancepremiums for people who buy their own health insurance are 7% lower in states that haveexpanded Medicaid than in states that haven’t.
Our Economy: Expanding Medicaid helps our economy
We Are Down Home http://www.dhnc.info/Medicaid


North Carolina Medicaid Expansion (p.2)
30,000 uninsured veterans and an additional 23,000 spouses and children of these veterans are alsouninsured. More than 12,000 of these veterans fall within North Carolina’s coverage gap.In 2017, nearly 5% of North Carolina’s children had no health insurance – that’s 119,000 kids goingwithout the care they need to grow and be healthy. When parents have health insurance, they have healthier babies, are better able to stay healthy andcare for their children, and their kids are more likely to have and use health coverage.Closing the coverage gap would help fight the opioid epidemic by providing access to mental healthcare, helping families everywhere.NC ranks 39th in the nation in infant mortality. Across the nation, fewer newborns die in states thathave expanded Medicaid than in those that have not. The greatest progress is among African-American infants, who have the highest rate of infantmortality in our state.From 1999 to 2016, more than 12,000 North Carolinians have died from opioid-related overdoses. Ifwe closed our coverage gap, up to 150,000 people who need care for mental health or substance usecould get access to insurance coverage. Substance use treatment is expensive. When people don’t have reliable health insurance, they oftenhave no option to get the treatment they need to get their lives back on track. Over the past decade, more kids entered foster care due to an increase in substance use, includingopioid use, in their families. With Medicaid expansion, uninsured parents could get the treatmentthey need, and keep their families together.
Our Veterans: Expanding Medicaid would help veterans and their familiesOur Children: Expanding Medicaid protects North Carolina’s childrenThe Opioid Crisis: Medicaid Expansion directly addresses the impacts of substance use on ourfamilies, healthcare and economic systems
When people can’t afford basic care, they often wind up in the ER with preventable – and veryexpensive – health crises. When patients can’t pay for health care costs but have to seek care, hospitals often pay the cost.Hospitals often offset that loss by charging higher rates for insured patients and payers. This “cost-shifting” translates into higher premiums for every individual and employers who buy healthinsurance, as well as higher out-of-pocket costs for hospital services. Uncompensated care costsdrive up cost for everybody– individuals as well as medical facilities. Theses costs may be seen asdirectly contributing to the potential for our most vulnerable rural medical facilities to close theirdoors.The coverage gap disproportionately impacts people living in North Carolina’s rural communities,which are already underserved. Rural hospitals are 84% less likely to close in states that have expanded Medicaid.
Our Medical Systems: Expanding Medicaid protects our state health care systems
We Are Down Home http://www.dhnc.info/Medicaid


By Diane Lemieux

I am a retired teacher, administrator and college professor. These are my recommendations for Tim Moore’s House Select Committee/ Education System for NC’s Future.

1. Charter/Private Schools

They are more segregated than traditional public schools (TPS).  By race and also for religion. Public funds shouldn’t be used for religious schools.

They use public funds but are not required to tell anyone how they spend it.  Their budgets and books are not required to be transparent.

They have no required curriculum.  This will lead to a generation of students getting whatever skills and information they were taught instead of a generation where students graduated with similar skills.  One religious school decided to teach their students that there were no such things as dinosaurs. 

They have different criteria for meeting the standards than TPS.  In traditional schools, 80% of the students must meet the standard. In charter/private schools/vouchers, only 60% of the students must meet the standard. Comparing how many students meet the standard is comparing apples to oranges. 

They are sold to parents as a choice, when many of them funnel taxpayer money into private pockets, and their bottom line is profit, not students. End the voucher program and cap charter schools.


It is criminal that you and the NCGA have ignored the Leandro recommendations for 20 years.  You should be ashamed of yourselves for declaring that some NC students are more deserving than others. I am ashamed of you.

You are facing a teacher shortage currently and in the pipeline. Do you see teachers and superintendents fleeing? Your requests and demands of them, especially without adequate pay and benefits, are chasing them out the door.  Demands to post a year’s worth of curriculum, lesson plans and all materials online, when parents can access that material at school themselves, is outrageous. 

Adequately and equitably fund teachers, students and schools. We already have a blueprint for the future. Implement the Leandro Recommendations.


Your desire to make everything partisan has filtered down to school boards. Try to resist the urge to fire up your base with propaganda such as CRT.  K-12 schools simply don’t teach it.  Stop encouraging and training parents how to disrupt school boards over issues like CRT, book bans and masks and let them do their job. Stop using them to gain votes.  Let them follow science to make their decisions. 

Have you surveyed every parent in the school about masks, books to be banned, and their child’s history instruction?  Was teaching American history OK before 2018?  But now, apparently, it hurts some people’s feelings and shouldn’t be allowed. (Talk about snowflakes) Should we not teach civics, American history, Nazi Germany, civil rights, the constitution?

I want my children to learn about all history, so that we might learn from our mistakes, understand the hate that made some history possible, and to make the world a better place. Schools serve the greater community. Curriculum is designed through a statewide, transparent process. It is designed to create a well-rounded, productive member of society. State standards and curriculum should not be taken over by any small segment of the community or state. If parents want to oversee every curriculum decision and lesson plan, let them start their own school. 

Allow school boards to do their job in a non-partisan fashion for what is best for ALL kids, not just the ones with the loudest parents. 

Freedom to Vote

I live in eastern NC and I value the freedoms that we enjoy in our democracy and I’m sure you do too.  Without a functional democracy, we will all lose the freedom of the press, social security, public education, safe working conditions, fair wages and the right to have a say in our government.

The Freedom to Vote Act sets national standards for us to safely and freely cast our ballots, ensure every vote is counted, and elect people who will deliver for us. Our Senators need to deliver the Freedom to Vote Act to the American people, and to do that, they need to fix the Jim Crow filibuster which is blocking progress of this overwhelmingly popular and urgently needed legislation. The freedom to vote is under attack by extremist state lawmakers across the country who want to put up deliberate barriers to make it harder to vote — especially for people of color. 

The Freedom to Vote Act would protect our right to vote, end partisan gerrymandering, counter undemocratic and dangerous election sabotage efforts, and help to eliminate the undue influence of dark money in our elections. The filibuster has stopped the beginning of debate from happening on the Freedom to Vote Act.  The original Senate rules did not include the filibuster rule. The modern-day filibuster took root during the Jim Crow era, when racist southern senators used it to delay passage of important civil rights legislation. Our Senators need to represent us — their constituents — and these rules prevent change from happening. If we reform Senate rules and fix the filibuster, we have a real chance at: 

Protecting the freedom to vote and getting big money out of politics:

Immigration reform

Gun safety

Raising the minimum wage

Action on climate change

Police accountability and racial justice

Our Senators must do everything they can to pass the Freedom to Vote Act, including fixing the filibuster, to realize the promise of democracy for all.

Diane Lemieux

REALITY CHECK: Guilt vs Progress

Critical Race theory is not taught in our schools. What is taught is our history, some of which is exceptional and some not admirable. Those attempting to ban the teaching of our complete history would deny our children the opportunity to understand it and correct our mistakes, improving our country. Consider Texas textbooks that describe slaves as immigrants and workers. Or saying that an opposing opinion to the holocaust must be taught. Or Virginia, whose textbooks describe slaves as happy. These folks are trying to cancel entire cultures because it makes them feel bad when the truth is told. “Teaching CRT” is a Republican hoax, designed to whip up the base about a lie.

Teaching our history is not the same as “blaming your children”, who were not even alive. If a student feels sad about something done in the past, they could feel empathy, and work to ensure that all people are treated respectfully. Could there be some projection going on here? You feel guilty, so you’re assuming that your children will feel guilty too? Or maybe you just don’t want to admit that our white ancestors were wrong.

Our children are not going to turn on each other because they learn history.  Indeed, some children already exhibit racism, learned from their families, as early as 5 years old.  Children are never too young to be taught about race. Questions about race and all differences should be responded to in an accepting, constructive manner.

Whose history would you cancel next? Native Americans, who colonized NC before Europeans did and were then killed or had their land taken away? Japanese Americans, who were put in concentration camps? Witches, who were killed by men for their independent contrary views?

What books would you ban? Looking back over history, it is fair to say that our values have changed over time. Books are written to entertain, educate, and expand people’s thinking.

The NC Social Studies Standards preamble, written by NC Superintendent of Public Instruction, Catherine Truitt, states, “However, it is important to remember that history itself doesn’t provide the sole explanation for why we have injustices, racism, and discrimination today, be they institutionalized or localized. Our human failings have at times taken the form of racism, xenophobia, nativism, extremism, and isolationism. We need to study history in order to understand how these situations developed, the harmful impact they caused, and the forces and actors that sometimes helped us move beyond these outcomes.”

School discipline policies disproportionately impact students of color. School funding inequities persist; giving white districts $23 billion more than districts serving students of color. I understand that for some people, racism is hard to “see”. But rest assured that it exists.

REALITY CHECK: How Charter Schools Affect Public Schools in NC

The charter school movement began in earnest in North Carolina in 1997 when 34 schools opened across the state. There are now 200 charter schools in operation. The 1996 Charter School Act established the system of tuition-free, public schools that are not bound by many of the rules as traditional public schools. Democrats are more likely not to support them than are Republicans. 

Conservatives tout charters as school choice options that help families flee low-performing schools. Progressives say they siphon money and resources from traditional public schools, and have an advantage because they don’t have to follow the same rules as traditional public schools. Privatization of schools provides easy access to public funds and often lines the pockets of for profit schools and management companies. Public schools accept all children, while charter and private schools can be selective about what students they accept and have been used as vehicles for the resegregation of schools. And then since the schools don’t have the same populations, attempts at comparing their performance is invalid. Most people aren’t aware that the performance standards for charter schools are lower than (traditional) public school. And one last point, the Department of Public Instruction (DPI) required an entire new and separate administrative unit for charter schools, duplicating everything that they were doing prior to charter schools, and costing taxpayers twice the money.

What conservatives and progressives can agree on is that charter schools are likely here to stay for the foreseeable future. Here’s a by the numbers look at North Carolina’s charter schools according to the most recent data:

200 – charters operating in North Carolina as of Oct. 1, 2020

8.4% –  percentage of North Carolina’s 1.5 million school children enrolled in charter schools

47 – charter schools identified as low-performing/continually low-performing during the 2018-19 school year

$10.37 billion – amount North Carolina spent on public education in the most recent annual budget

$734.7 million – amount it allotted for charter schools 

108 – charter schools that provide bus transportation, or a little over half

24 – don’t provide transportation

73 – n charter schools that participate in the National School Lunch Program (NSLP). 

7 –  new charters that opened for the 2020-21school year

10 – scheduled to open in Fall 2021

33 – average number of charter school applications each year since 1996

25.28% – percentage of yearly charter school applications approved by the State Board of Education since 1997

48 – charter schools that have relinquished charters since 1998. 

17 – have had charters revoked since 1998

10 – charters not renewed by the State Board of Education. 

1 – charters assumed by another charter operator

Source: The NC DPI 2020 Annual Charter Schools Report, NC Policy Watch

Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson Must Be Removed from Office

Lee Nackman Lee Nackman/ October 9, 2021

President, Progressive Caucus of NC Democratic Party

In June of this year, N.C. Lt. Governor Mark Robinson referred to gay and transgender citizens as “filth” during a speech at Asbury Baptist Church in Seagrove, N.C.  When the Lt. Governor calls our LGBTQ+ citizens “filth,” he is talking about North Carolinian families – our sons, daughters, mothers, and fathers.  Calling any group identified by ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender, religion, or race “filth” is pure bigotry and has no place in our state government.  

Overt and outspoken bigotry by our elected officials cannot be tolerated.  Sexual orientation and gender are federally protected classes, and gay marriage is a U.S. Constitutional right.  Lt. Gov. Robinson took an oath to “support, maintain and defend the Constitution.”  Mr. Robinson cannot possibly fulfill that oath when he publicly proclaims hatred and disdain for our legally protected gay and transgender citizens.  

The Progressive Caucus of the N.C. Democratic Party unreservedly and absolutely condemns Mr. Robinson’s statements.  Our caucus calls upon his immediate resignation or removal from office. 

Mr. Robinson is the highest-ranking Republican in N.C.’s executive branch.  As such, he holds one of the highest positions of leadership in the N.C. Republican Party.  He is likely to be the Republican candidate for Governor in 2024.  Our caucus also calls upon N.C. Republican leadership to denounce Mr. Robinson’s statements and to demand his resignation.  Failure to do so can only mean that his prejudice and bigotry are accepted and welcomed in the N.C. Republican Party.  

Our caucus also asks that all N.C. citizens regardless of political affiliation denounce Mr. Robinson’s statements and hold Republican leadership to account for its acceptance of Mr. Robinson’s prejudice and bigotry within the Republican party.


Do these words scare you?  Read on…

We are living in a capitalistic society, where profit rules everything. Capitalism exploits workers to benefit shareholders. Taken to its extreme, profits for the wealthy become obscene while the lower classes become squeezed out of housing markets and are forced to have multiple jobs with inconsistent hours and no benefits to survive. True democracy offers everyone a voice through a representative system. While America is a democracy, many would argue that  many voices never get represented.

Democratic socialism is a system where ordinary people have a real voice in their workplaces, neighborhoods, and society. It is the optimum compromise between democracy and socialism and would include considering people as well as profits, like we did in the 40’s and 50’s, when unions had a seat at the table.  Workers need to have their voices represented in corporations.  After all, if you don’t have a seat at the table, you’re probably on the menu. 

Democratic socialism increases business investment and production and includes more women and minorities at the table. Benefits include an increase in profit, innovation, and communication between management and workers. Severe income inequality might be good for those at the top, but it is not healthy for our society and our economy. The last time it was this extreme was before the Great Depression.  

From SpendMeNot, 41.4% of Americans are classified as low-income or low-income families. The top 1% earns forty times more than the bottom 90%. From 2000 to 2018, the average salary for workers in America rose only 17% (while productivity rose 72%). Statista claims that “the average S&P 500 CEO made $15.5 million in 2021, 299 times the pay of the median worker, with Aptiv Plc boss Kevin Clark making 5,294 times his median employees’ pay”. 

In the last 40 years, productivity has increased 4 times more than worker pay. If unions were stronger and more people were properly represented, everyone would have enjoyed increases in pay.  

Those in power are working to ensure that they stay in charge by gerrymandering, purging opposition votes, and allowing dark money to elect similar candidates. They have no platform except to suppress the number of liberal voters. Democratic Socialists want reforms like universal health care, transition to clean energy sources, modified police budgets to include funding community support, a more just life for all Americans.

Most of us enjoy the social benefits of the FDR era, like highways, national parks and Social Security. I venture that none of us are in the 1%. We want a democracy and a society, powered by everyday people, that benefits us all.  The only way we can regain a larger voice is to elect democratic legislators.


White privilege doesn’t mean that your life hasn’t been hard. It just means that the color of your skin isn’t making it harder. Do you have white privilege? Recognizing it doesn’t mean that you have done something wrong. Awareness of it is the first step in doing your part to make our world a better place.

The dictionary defines privilege as “a special advantage, immunity, permission, right, or benefit granted to or enjoyed by an individual, class or caste”. It is an unearned power that has been systematically conferred upon you. There are many kinds of privilege in this world, but let’s look at white privilege today. Check off the ones that apply to you.

  • If I need to move, the color of my skin won’t be held against me.
  • If I am shopping, I won’t be suspected of shoplifting.
  • I’m pretty sure that my neighbors will act neutrally or positively to me.
  • My name isn’t held against me when I submit a job application.
  • When I read books, most of the characters are white.
  • When I select human emojis, most of them are white.
  • I can go out at night without fear of being stopped or reported because of the color of my skin.
  • I never had to worry about my next meal or a roof over my head.
  • My teachers and administrators were mostly white.
  • My political representatives are mostly white.
  • I have never been ”redlined” out of a mortgage.
  • I can count on my skin color not to work against the appearance of financial reliability.
  • I can do well in a challenging situation without being called a credit to my race.
  • If I ask to speak to the manager, they will usually be white.
  • I can easily buy posters, postcards, picture books, greeting cards, dolls, toys, and children’s magazines featuring people of my race.

So, let’s look at this as an opportunity to learn and be responsible so that we can work towards a more just and inclusive world. What actions can you take?

  • Educate yourself by reading articles, books, studies and other online resources.
  • Demand your workplace, school and other structured environments ensure inclusion and equity at every level.
  • End or re-evaluate relationships with white people who consciously self-segregate from people of color or express racist attitudes.
  • Hold public officials accountable for ending racial profiling, stop-and-frisk policies, police brutality and the shooting unarmed people of color.
  • When it’s clear that preferential treatment is given to whites over people of color in public accommodations, call for fairness.
  • Support commissions that research the effects of slavery on blacks in America and reparations for them.




Today more than 43 million Americans owe $1.6 trillion in student debt, a number that’s tripled in the past 15 years. The student debt in the U.S. is the size of Canada’s economy. While university endowments swell to billions, thousands default every day

Today, more than 7 million Americans owe $60,000; one million owe more than $200,000; one hundred owe over $1 million! 8 million borrowers are in default on their student loans, close to the number of people who lost their homes in the 2008 subprime predatory mortgage housing collapse, which caused the Great Recession. In recent years, despite a strong pre-pandemic economy, 3,000 people a day defaulted on their student loans.

Lyndon B. Johnson, himself a beneficiary of student loans, first argued in the 50s for the federal government to create a student loan program. These loans were small, affordable, and easy to repay. The program later evolved into a disaster. Here’s why:

By the 70’s, Congress created Sallie Mae, a government-sponsored enterprise that facilitated the loan process. Pressured by lobbyists, Congress agreed to cover 100 percent of defaults on student loans made by Sallie Mae, guaranteeing profits for Sallie Mae and its banking partners. Facing no risk, Sallie Mae made loans to almost anyone with a pulse: no credit checks, no determination of ability to pay, and no ceiling on loan amounts.

These loosened loan eligibility requirements increased student borrowing from $1.8 billion in 1977 to $12 billion in 1989. To make matters worse, in 2005 Congress amended the bankruptcy laws to block student loan borrowers from seeking discharge of their debts unless they can show undue hardship, which in practice has been almost impossible.

With the proceeds of these loans, now $1.6 trillion worth, flowing to colleges and universities, admissions levels exploded. Tuition costs are up 100 percent over and above inflation since 2000 with some schools jacking prices up three to four times the rate of inflation, dating back to the seventies. Universities have become cash cows seemingly desperate to find places to spend their rivers of government-backed tuition money. One study in 2013 counted $1.7 billion in capital projects at 92 schools, an orgy of building that leads even mid-level schools to look like mini-Taj Mahals! The creation of this student loan/industrial complex monster has harmed so many students and so damaged the economy that there is clear justification for cancellation of, not just $10K or $50K per student, but all federal student loan debt, and the reform of the entire student loan program going forward.               

Source: Josh Mitchell, “The Debt Trap.”