Bless your heart to the people who jump to conclusions before knowing the background of things. And would rather bash...

A most shameful budget

Chris Fitzsimon

Chris Fitzsimon


Sunday, May 28, 2017

The most shameful thing about the disastrous budget passed by the N.C. Senate two weeks ago is not the vindictive 3 a.m. budget cuts to education programs in Democrats’ districts.

It’s not the paltry raise given to state workers after years of neglect or the cruel refusal to give state retirees any cost of living increase at all.

It’s not the dozens of controversial policy provisions snuck into the 362-page budget bill with no debate or discussion that cuts food benefits to 133,000 people, bans new wind farms, ends the certificate of need process for health care facilities, creates education savings accounts, and more.

It’s not even the latest installment of the Senate’s Robin Hood in reverse tax scheme that cuts taxes again on the wealthy and corporations, costing the state more than $850 million that the General Assembly’s own staff says will lead to a significant budget shortfall in a few years.

It is the decision in a year of a large budget surplus to make it more likely that thousands of at-risk children in North Carolina will struggle in their lifetimes.

Senate leaders chose to increase the number of slots in NC Pre-K by 2,350, which most media accounts will tell you is roughly half of the waiting list.

That means that almost 3,000 at-risk four-year-olds whose parents signed them up for the program will be unable to enroll.

But there really is no waiting list. It’s a figure of speech.

When a four-year-old from a low-income family is not allowed to enroll, they don’t get another chance next year. It’s too late. They are already in school without the additional skills and head start that the program provides.

And the mythological waiting list is not even the whole story. There are roughly 67,000 at-risk children eligible for NC Pre-K and less than half are served every year.

There is no debate any longer that the program makes it far more likely that the children will succeed in school. There is a study every year that confirms it.

Even conservative legislators are part of that consensus. We know for a fact that giving at-risk kids extra preparation before they start school vastly increases the odds that they will overcome the hurdles they face and do well.

Studies also show that NC Pre-K saves the state money in the long run, but it would be the right thing to do even it didn’t.

And yet the Senate budget only finds the money to pay for half of four-year-olds on the so-called waiting list this year. That cost $18 million.

For an investment of twice that then, Senate leaders could have made sure that at least every child who signed up for the program had the chance to benefit from it and not start school behind.

That wouldn’t be enough but it would be a start. Gov. Roy Cooper’s budget calls for eliminating the waiting list but the Senate had other priorities.

The tax cuts that flows primarily to corporations and the wealthiest 20 percent of the people costs $325 million next year and more than $800 million when fully in place.

Even a slight reduction in the unwise tax break would make sure that several thousand children have a brighter future.

Senate leaders keep boasting about their decision to put another $363 million in the state’s savings account, bringing the total in savings to more than $1.5 billion.

They could have decided to put $345 million in savings instead and used $18 million to make sure 3,000 children started school with a far better chance to succeed.

But saving $363 million was more important than saving the future of thousands of kids.

A state budget is at its core simply a list of priorities. Senate leaders, to their great shame, made it clear again this year that children in North Carolina are not at the top of their list—not even close.

 Chris Fitzsimon, founder and executive director of N.C. Policy Watch.


Humans of Greenville


Local photographer Joe Pellegrino explores Greenville to create a photographic census of its people.

Op Ed

December 18, 2018


lThe major chickenpox outbreak at a private school in Asheville is evidence of the bad things that can happen when parents think they know more than scientists and pediatricians.

At least 36 students at Asheville Waldorf School — out of a total enrollment of 152 children…

December 18, 2018

Farmers care about clean water. We want to preserve and protect the natural resources on our farms for our children, so they can pass it on to their children. We have a vested interest in protecting the land and water because most of us want our farms to stay in the family for future generations.…


December 18, 2018

Nobody likes UNC-Chapel Hill leaders' plan for the Confederate statue known as Silent Sam.

After the statue was torn down by protesters, university leaders had to figure out what to do next. Opponents of the statue want to see it relocated to the local landfill, or at least to a Civil War historic…

Colin Campbell

December 17, 2018

The Washington Post

U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos's proposed revisions of regulations governing how colleges handle allegations of sexual harassment and assault are now out for public comment and, not surprisingly, have generated a great deal of controversy. Some of the criticism, to our…

December 17, 2018

Are you frustrated with our political dialogue at the moment? If your answer is no, you are in a distinct minority in North Carolina and beyond.

For example, in an October poll conducted by High Point University, more than two-thirds of North Carolinians said that people were “more divided…

john hood.jpg

December 16, 2018

Republicans are beginning to jump the not-so-good-ship Trump, but in a most unusual and indirect manner. Instead of joining the cacophony chorus of critics emanating from Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigations, increasing numbers of Senate Republicans are discovering alternate ways…


December 16, 2018

The Washington Post

A federal judge sentenced Michael Cohen, President Donald Trump's former lawyer, to three years in prison on Wednesday. His misdeeds include criminal violations of campaign finance law, to which Cohen connected the president. Specifically, Cohen, in league with the National…

December 16, 2018

Last month's elections are not quite over.

In two states that chose Democratic governors, Michigan and Wisconsin, Republican-controlled legislatures are trying to nullify the results by passing bills in lame-duck sessions that handcuff the incoming chief executives.

In North Carolina, there's…

Steve and Cokie Roberts

December 16, 2018

Good news for the incoming House Democratic majority! They have something President Trump really, really wants: money to build a border wall. Trump is desperate for this money. Mexico won't give it to him. Only congressional Democrats can. Without their consent, he can't deliver on one of the key…


December 15, 2018

Throughout Donald Trump's campaign for the presidency, he repeatedly promised to build a high, impenetrable, concrete wall along America's nearly 2,000-mile border with Mexico.

And he further promised that it wouldn't cost American taxpayers one red cent, saying he would make Mexico pay for it.…

324 stories in Op Ed. Viewing 1 through 10.
«First Page   «Previous Page        
Page 1 of 33
        Next Page»   Last Page»