In disastrous moves for the state’s education system and Planned Parenthood, the North Carolina Senate voted late yesterday afternoon to override Governor Bev Perdue’s (D-NC) veto of the state budget, effectively clearing the way for the budget’s passage into law. The House of Representatives passed the bill by a two-thirds majority at a special midnight vote on June 15 with the help of five Democratic representatives.
On June 12, Perdue made headlines for being the first governor in state history to utilize the power of veto against the General Assembly’s $19.7 million, two-year budget. Her opposition to the bill derives from the significant cuts to education funding. “Now for the first time, North Carolina has a legislature that’s turning its back on our schools, our children, our long-standing investments in education and our future economic prospects,” Perdue said.
Instead of continuing the temporary, three-quarters-of-a-cent sales tax that Perdue has used to pay teachers’ salaries and support school programs since the state budget deficit emerged, Republicans refused to extend the tax and cut $800 million out of education funding.
Under the soon-to-be-passed Republican budget, the education system as a whole would lose 13,000 jobs, nearly 70 percent of those from public schools. Other cuts include $13.3 million from dropout prevention programs, $92.2 million from textbooks, $42 million from instructional supplies and even more funding from teacher training, student testing and support programs.
Although the cuts will be administered by each school district individual, a funding gap usually leads to larger class sizes, fewer teachers and less support for struggling students. Already, only one-third of eighth graders nationwide are reading at or above grade level. Only one-fourth of high school graduates are prepared for college, and one-third of all college students will end up in remedial classes. Those remedial classes are costing the U.S. education system around $5.6 billion every year, according to a recent report from the Alliance for Excellent Education.
For University of North Carolina system, however, the money for many of those remediation measures will no longer exist under the proposed budget plan. Republicans plan to cut 14.6 percent of the state’s funding for its public universities—an amount totaling $407 million. $35 million in cuts will be from the system’s need-based financial aid program, which currently affords underprivileged students the chance to attend a higher education institution.
But the public education system isn’t the only entity to suffer significant funding cuts under the Republicans’ proposal; Planned Parenthood of North Carolina will stop receiving all government funding starting this July 1 because of its association with abortion.
Although abortions only make up three percent of the health services that Planned Parenthood offers nationwide, and although the Hyde Amendment already blocked the use of federal money to actually pay for abortions in North Carolina, Republicans denigrated the organization’s character on the House floor in the debates over the budget bill.
Nonetheless, the budget’s ban on government funds going to Planned Parenthood will prevent the clinics from receiving their annual $434,000 in state and federal funds. As a result, the organization has announced that it must cut its teen pregnancy prevention and adolescent parenting programs. Low-income patients will also no longer be able to avail themselves of its free health services, but will have to pay, many times without the benefit of insurance.
“It’s the low-income, uninsured patients who don’t qualify for Medicaid that now will be falling through the cracks,” said Melissa Reed, the vice president of public policy for Planned Parenthood Health Systems.
These funding cuts to Planned Parenthood and to Education both demonstrate that the North Carolina Republicans in support of this bill are willing to sacrifice the underprivileged in order to stick to their talking points in favor of tax breaks and against abortions; with the economy the way it is, the state has just cut the programs in the short term that it will need the most to prosper down the road.
– Sarah Bufkin