Thumbs up for Dist. 54 mayors’ support for public education

My letter to the editor published in Chatham News and Record, Feb.1, 2012:

I want to applaud Siler City Mayor Charles Johnson, Pittsboro Mayor Randy Voller, Goldston Mayor Tim Cunnup, and Sanford Mayor Cornelia Olive for supporting Governor Bev Perdue’s proposal to restore some $800,000 in state funds for our public schools.  While I am not generally a supporter of increased sales taxes because their impact is “regressive” (lower income households pay a higher percentage), I would support restoring a 3/4 cent increase if that was the only politically feasible way to adequately fund our public schools. Obviously, I would prefer those who can better afford it to pay a higher percentage burden of any tax increase than the numerous retirees, blue collar workers and unemployed in Chatham and Lee counties.

Since the 2008-2009 budget year approximately 6,108 NC public school employees have lost their jobs, 76% of whom were teachers or teacher assistants.  Although our local schools have done a good job of keeping those numbers down, we still have lost a significant number of positions, including completely eliminating Chatham’s middle school Spanish program. And while the Chatham Board majority did not actually cut their dollar contribution, they also did not provide sufficient funds to maintain the same per pupil funding, based on increases in student enrollment. Commissioner Sally Kost and I lobbied for these funds because we both considered not providing them as a funding “cut”.

I also support President Obama’s American Jobs Act, in large part, because it will provide North Carolina sufficient funds to restore or retain a total of 13,400 education jobs.

Any increased educational funding should be focused on classrooms and direct educational services.

Research clearly shows that the most important factor in improving a state’s and local community’s economic development and prosperity is public educational quality. Thanks to our state legislature’s misguided cuts to education, North Carolina has dropped to 46th in per pupil state funding. We are now below Mississippi and South Carolina. That is embarrassing.

It is time we put our future – our children and grandchildren – first.  I don’t have all the answers to the best way to fund education but I am willing to do my part and pay my share to make it happen. I hope you feel the same.

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