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I previously wrote a post about the powerful multimillionaire Art Pope, who controls Tea Party politics in North Carolina. The New Yorker’s Jane Mayer profiled him and showed how he cannily used his fortune to defeat moderate Republicans so Pope’s ideological allies could gain control of the party and push it to the far right. Pope funds the John Locke Foundation, which espouses his views. When Pope ran for office, he was defeated, but he was appointed state budget director by Governor Pat McCrory and set the priorities for the state, which reflected his own views.
One of his many allies is John Hood, who is former president (and current chairman) of Art Pope’s John Locke Foundation. Hood has been placing articles in the North Carolina press, boasting of North Carolina’s progress in reforming its school system. As is by now well known, the Pope battalion in the legislature has cut education funding and launched charters, vouchers, and online charters. Not many would view these “reforms” as a boost to the state’s students and teachers. But John Hood does. Indeed, his last article was titled “How to Pay Teachers More.”
Stuart Egan has been writing open letters to John Hood on his blog. Egan does not have the access to the media that is granted to the powerful Mr. Hood. In Egan’s latest open letter, he takes apart Hood’s false claims, one by one, to show how the public has been hoodwinked by the John Locke Foundation and the state government.
Hood claims that the state enjoys a budget surplus because taxes were cut, and the economy boomed (the old supply-side mantra of the Reagan administration).
Interestingly enough, that budget surplus was created by a tax revenue overhaul crafted by none other than Art Pope, who not only serves your mentor and boss, but also served as Gov. McCrory’s first budget director. You may claim that we have had lower tax rates than we did before McCrory took office, but there’s more to it.
While tax cuts did come for many, standard deductions were greatly affected. Many of the standard deductions and exemptions that were once available to citizens like teachers no longer exist. In fact, most people who make the salaries commensurate of teachers ended up paying out more of their money to the state, even when “taxes” went down. Why? Because we could not declare tax breaks any longer. Who designed that? The budget director.
Furthermore, there is now a rise in sales tax revenue because many services like auto repairs are now taxed. So to say that the surplus just appeared because of spending limitations is a little bit of a spun claim. In fact, most of those spending limitations in public schools came when we saw increased enrollment and costs of resources rise.
Hood goes on to boast that the state had eliminated salary increases for teachers who acquire additional degrees. Of course, North Carolina wants to have teachers who do not invest in continuing their education.
He also boasts that the state is embracing merit pay. As Egan points out, no merit pay program has ever produced better education.
So eliminating pay increases for more education and introducing merit pay is supposed to translate into higher pay for teachers? Scuttling North Carolina’s successful North Carolina Teaching Fellows program, which produced career educators, and replacing it with TFA is supposed to improve the workforce?
Egan points out that Hood is engaging in election year rhetoric:
McCrory’s claim to want to raise teacher pay looks more like pure electioneering. It is synonymous to a deadbeat dad who shows up at Christmas with extravagant gifts so that he can buy the love (or votes) of his children.