The Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Board of Education won’t be among the scores of North Carolina school boards adding their names to a legal challenge to the state’s controversial plan to allocate millions of public education dollars to a private school voucher program for “poor” students.
The North Carolina School Boards Association has filed suit to kill the plan, which would give “poor” students vouchers of $4,200 to help pay private school tuition. Republicans, who have had it out for the public school system for some time, largely favor allowing public money to be used for this purpose, but, surprisingly, a number of African Americans and Democrats also favor the plan. They argue that it would give poor and minority students the option of attending private school – an option long enjoyed by the well-to-do.
The School Boards Association has asked local school boards to support its suit, not as co-plaintiffs but with a mere show of solidarity. The local board was having none of that, however. Though there was bipartisan support on the largely Republican board to give the challenge support, the Winston-Salem/Forsyth County School Board will sit on the sidelines and watch how this one plays out. The decision stung many. Some teachers view it as a slap in the face, as they should.
It is the School Board’s job to promote and safeguard PUBLIC schools. By not doing so, members are implicitly stating that the public school system is somehow inferior. The board’s refusal to take a stand for public education is akin to mutiny – treason, even. It is like Bill Gates conceding that Apple products are superior to his Microsoft line, Verizon acknowledging that T-Mobile has better coverage. If this bunch was on a Board of Directors rather than a School Board, they’d be bounced higher than a ball during a Globetrotters game.
Let senators and presidential candidates debate the merits of private schools versus public ones! There should be no debate for School Board members, who are elected to protect, serve and preserve our public education system, which is being attacked on many fronts.
Public schools are not perfect. Their problems are vast and growing – hence the popularity of charters and private schools. But now is not the time to divert funds away from the public school system. You throw money at problems, not away from them. Legislators wreaked the public education budget last summer and poured salt into the wounds it caused with this voucher program.
Lawmakers have seemingly given up on the public education system. School Board members should be as outraged as parents, students and teachers; instead, they are cowardly captains – abandoning a sinking ship and leaving the passengers to fend for themselves.