Teacher Firings: Disappointing 'Discrepancy' Continues
Republican legislative leaders know that the majority of voters in North Carolina did not want teachers in their children's schools fired.
That is why they are trying so hard to deny that they have fired them.
The denials are nothing new. House Speaker Thom Tillis was already in denial mode on June 3, a couple of weeks before the budget received final approval, telling reporters that predictions that classroom personnel would be fired were simply wrong.
"We have a budget that restores all the K-12 education funding for teachers and teacher assistants," Tillis said. "The minute this budget gets signed, those folks don't have to worry about being out of a job three weeks from now."
Tillis was half right. Teachers and teacher assistants' jobs were affected almost the minute the budget was approved. Hundreds of them were fired.
The latest numbers from the Department of Public Instruction show that 534 teachers and 1,260 teachers assistant have been laid off so far because of the budget cuts. Several thousands more kept their jobs thanks only to federal stimulus money that will disappear next fall.
That is the same federal stimulus funding that Tillis and his fellow Republicans blasted Democrats for using the last two years to keep many teachers in the classroom, hoping the state revenue picture would improve enough to keep them.
It didn't improve enough and the Republicans who now control the General Assembly decided that cutting the sales tax was more important than public school teachers' jobs, not to mention the thousands of other state employees that were fired because of the cuts.
Tillis' response when confronted with the indisputable facts that the budget he supported fired teachers has varied slightly in recent days.
In Wilmington last week, he told a laid-off teacher assistant that he was "disappointed by the discrepancy" between what he promised in June and the reality for her and hundreds of others and said he needed clarification about what happened.
It's hard to understand what sort of clarification he wants. The budget forced school systems to lay off teachers and teacher assistants by cutting more than $800 million in education funding over the next two years.
Most local school systems don't have enough money to pay their teachers and teacher assistants, so they laid them off. That seems perfectly clear.
Tillis' only other response to questions about his absurd denials about the budget is to claim that Democrats predicted many more teacher layoffs.
But those predictions were made about an earlier version of the budget and Tillis is the one who promised that no teachers or teacher assistants would lose their jobs and almost 1,800 have - quite a disappointing discrepancy indeed.
Almost as troubling is that Tillis seems to be getting away with denying the fact that the budget fired so many teachers and teacher assistants.
That's what needs clarification, the vague and disingenuous statements that Tillis has been making about education funding since before the budget passed.
They were not true then and they are not true now, as all the teachers looking for a job can attest.
Chris Fitzsimon is executive director of N.C. Policy Watch. Contact him at email@example.com.
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