We have seen a lot of governors in this country campaign on mainstream issues such as jobs, education, and efficient government. But once elected, these same politicians switch to an extreme ideology, including a slash-and-burn approach to government and privatization of our public schools. This deceptive approach has been apparent in Wisconsin, Maine, Ohio, and Virginia, but it is being taken to new levels in the great state of North Carolina.
North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory was a likable candidate from the very urban and sophisticated city of Charlotte. He had been the mayor and a successful executive of one of the largest employers in North Carolina. His rhetoric is smooth and silky, but his actions are dangerous and are now undermining a state that has been known as progressive and a model for the nation. His leadership, or lack thereof, has served to enable the most extreme politicians in our state. To say that there are thousands of voters in North Carolina with buyers’ remorse is quite the understatement.
Educators know his deception very well. He campaigned as a supporter of public schools and teachers; yet he signed an appropriation bill that cut over 5,000 teachers and almost 4,000 teacher assistants, eliminated pay to teachers who earn a masters degree in the future, and refused to provide a pay increase to the state’s teachers, despite the fact that they are close to being the worst paid in America. Governor McCrory supported legislation that reduced textbook funding to $15 per student even though a reading textbook in elementary school costs $35. Hundreds of millions of dollars were cut from programs that affected the services of students directly.
Now here is where he is truly the master of deception. Initially, he blamed these cuts on the high costs of Medicaid rather than on the millions of dollars in tax cuts to the wealthy and corporations. When that explanation did not work, the Governor’s spin machine churned out messages about historic funding for public schools, messages proven false by the media. This deceptive governor used the smoke-and-mirrors trick of school budget comparisons that did not recognize inflationary costs or the fact that North Carolina adds thousands of new students every year. When attempting to justify public school cuts, he did not immediately disclose that he had signed voucher legislation that took $50 million from the public schools to give to private schools. Shortly after his decimation of public schools, he appeared before a business conference on education and touted a new $30 million education plan to give 1,000 of the 97,000 Tar Heel teachers a $10,000 bonus for being ‘master teachers.’ His deception is served with sappy and false charm and a southern drawl, but North Carolina educators know the difference between southern lovely and southern ugly.
Voters are also taking note of his deception as they learn more about the voter ID bill that he signed. Governor McCrory talked about wanting everyone to vote and everyone’s vote to count. He wanted to eliminate fraud. Of course, he did not acknowledge that voter fraud in NC is so small as to be a non-factor in elections. The bill he signed and defends will disenfranchise tens of thousands of citizens. The bill limits early voting, eliminates same-day registration and voting, ends pre-registration for high school students, and limits IDs to government-issued ones only, excluding student IDs. It is not fraud in NC that precipitated that bill; it was fear of the rising number of voters. North Carolina had the largest voter increase from 2004 to 2008 of any state in the nation. NC’s ranking for voter participation has risen from 47th in 1991 to 11th in 2012. When all Americans vote, deception cannot win, and extremist politicians know and fear that.
Deception permeates the actions of Pat McCrory. He signed a bill on reproductive rights, claiming it would make abortions safer, but the bill was really about closing down health clinics for women. The women who use those clinics were largely using them for primary care, not just reproductive choices.
The Governor talks about efficiency in government, but he appoints his cronies to government positions, cronies with little experience or academic preparation. The media have reported the hiring of two 24-year-old former campaign staffers to whom he gave 35 percent raises. Their salaries are now over $85,000 each. Later he said that the increases were not raises but salaries attached to promotions. One might ask why state employees with much more than seven months of experience were not promoted. To make matters worse, a 24-year-old teacher makes about $31,000. What are the values of this Governor?
The Governor talks about jobs and says that he is adding employment opportunities. He has created fewer than 10,000 private sector jobs, but he has eliminated over 10,000 public sector jobs. The unemployment rate is rising in NC. His ideas are deceptive, and people who are looking for jobs should not apply in North Carolina.
Finally, the poor may be the biggest losers in this game of deception. The Governor eliminated the earned income tax credit. The Governor refused a half a billion dollars from the federal government for Medicaid expansion, even though NC is touted as having one of the best-run Medicaid programs. For poor children, public elementary and secondary schools and colleges are their tickets out of poverty, but this Governor is systematically shutting down those opportunities.
We can pray for North Carolina, but prayer may not be enough. Those who have benefited from the past greatness of North Carolina and those who have moved to NC for the opportunities afforded in the past must demand that this deceptive politician lead a restoration of the programs that gave the state its good name or step aside and let someone else lead. If Governor McCrory doesn’t change, then change will come with the next election. No one who has participated in or supported this deception should be re-elected.
North Carolina’s motto is Esse Quam Videri---to be, rather than to seem---a sad irony these days, and one voters can recognize and correct.
The opinions expressed in John Wilson Unleashed are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.