Plowing through a snowstorm

The only warmth Republicans in the North Carolina General Assembly share with public schools comes from the strong gaslight fueled by unfunded mandates.

It’s ironic that those lawmakers most pounding the tables for in-person instruction to resume are the same folks who have been absent from Raleigh for nearly the entire first semester of the school year.  They chose not to return to Raleigh’s legislative building to offer support to more safely reopen school buildings during a pandemic.  

School buildings have reopened despite those missing pieces.

To help the good people of North Carolina understand the disdain NCGA leaders Sen. Phil Berger, Rep. Tim Moore and their posse have for our state’s public schools, let’s superimpose their response to public schools during a pandemic onto a snowstorm scenario to help folks understand the absurdity:

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Despite the consistent presence of snow for months, there has been no additional investment in snow plows.  Instead, parents and districts are handed shovels.

When communities ask for snow plows to more systemically address the problem instead of individually navigating the storm, their request echoes for months through the empty legislative chambers in Raleigh.

In the past, special sessions have been called to address natural disasters and in 2016 a hurricane relief session included passing bills to reduce the Governor’s power.  Yet an unusual natural disaster of unrelenting snow apparently does not merit attention from the NCGA.

There’s over $1 billion in the state’s “rainy day” fund yet the NCGA treats that fund as a trophy instead of a tool.  Much of that fund was built by shortchanging students. “Besides,” legislative leaders would smugly retort, “it’s not raining, it’s snowing.”

School districts and families are left to their own devices to wait for the snow to melt to resume typical work and school routines.

Pressure mounts from absent lawmakers for communities to reopen school buildings despite the snow. But they receive little assistance from those same lawmakers to make it safe and practical to return.

The state has supplied salt for districts to begin clearing paths for a return to buildings, but it’s not nearly enough to meet safety guidelines.

Local districts find themselves in a no-win situation when advocating for state support of their needs. 

If they use all of their salt to maximize safety in the short term but ask for more later to maintain conditions, state lawmakers will accuse them of wasting salt and using it inefficiently.

If they use less salt than is needed to stretch resources because of a lack of trust it would be replenished, they’ll be accused of not maximizing resources provided.

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Meanwhile vitriol spewed at educators escalates as folks project their anxieties of the moment onto the nearest target, local districts and their employees, instead of a more distant and mostly absent state legislature. 

Some lawmakers join the choir in questioning the dedication public school educators have for children, as though they have no role in supporting those same students.

Pressure mounts for educators to venture across ice to demonstrate their love of children.  When educators request the support of skates for safer passage, they’re rejected and chastised for their greed. 

Instead they’re directed to implement many protocols to help both themselves and their students avoid slipping on the ice.  And expected to do so with greater than 99% adherence to avoid accidents.  And provide students with quality instruction.

Our current s—tstorm is not a snowstorm but it is a manufactured crisis on top of a pandemic.

Lack of state support isn’t new to North Carolina’s public schools but many parents are waking up to our state legislature’s shortcomings.  They’re on full display with the misguided bills receiving priority that make demands on local districts but fail to offer the resources to implement the mandates.

As more North Carolinians pay attention to see if our legislative leaders will support public school students, let’s hope they push back on legislation full of hot air and call out the gaslighting. 

Our students deserve to be back in buildings – safely.  They deserve a state legislature committed to supporting that effort.

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