$200 grant for classroom books is barely a drop in the bucket
State superintendent takes credit for Read to Achieve initiative he had nothing to do with
RALEIGH — State Superintendent Mark Johnson made an elaborate show of announcing a $4.9 million grant giving K-3 reading teachers $200 for new books, personally signing an oversized check which the “boy wonder” used as a prop for a press conference on Thursday.
One problem with that? Johnson didn’t have anything to do with the grant, which was passed by the General Assembly in 2016 (under Johnson’s predecessor, June Atkinson) as part of the Read to Achieve initiative.
The more serious problem? Giving $200 to K-3 reading teachers — but absolutely nothing to every other teacher in the state — represents barely a drop in the bucket compared to the huge amount of classroom funding which North Carolina lawmakers have siphoned out of public schools over the past several years to give massive tax cuts to billionaires and big corporations.
Adjusted for inflation, North Carolina currently invests $500 less per student than before the Great Recession began in 2008-09. The state spends 40% less per student on textbooks compared to before the recession, and 50% less on other classroom materials.
In many classrooms, students have to share textbooks because there aren’t enough to go around. In many others, textbooks are so out-of-date — discussing countries that don’t even exist or scientific theories that have long since been updated or disproven — that they may as well be worthless.
And while Gov. Roy Cooper proposed to give every single teacher (not just a small portion) a $150 stipend to help pay for classroom supplies in his 2017-18 budget proposal, lawmakers refused to help teachers offset their out-of-pocket costs of buying classroom supplies.
“Mark Johnson may be too young to remember when North Carolina teachers had the funding they need to give our children the education they deserve, but educators across the state haven’t forgotten how lawmakers have abandoned them,” said Gerrick Brenner, executive director of Progress NC Action. “Lawmakers need to get serious about improving classroom funding for ALL teachers, instead of continuing to pad the pockets of corporate CEOs with tax breaks that do nothing for our schools and our economy.”