This week’s emotional public hearings about closing one of the state’s three residential schools for deaf and blind students has exposed more than just the hypocrisy of the Republicans now complaining about the schools in their own districts being closed by a budget they supported.
It is the latest example of the discomfort many Republicans seem to have with the reality of their own political philosophy.
The Republican budget ordered the Department of Public Instruction to decide which of the schools for deaf and blind students to close. House Appropriations Chair Harold Brubaker said that lawmakers had to close one because there wasn’t money to fund all three. Of course that is true only because Brubaker and his colleagues decided that cutting taxes was more important.
Brubaker was also upset that the Department of Public Instruction held public hearings about their decision. The hearings included emotional testimony from the students and their families and it wasn’t supposed to be that way.
The Republicans wanted to close one of the schools to save money but they didn’t want people to know they did it. They wanted the public to be angry at the officials at DPI who were choosing which school to close.
The public hearings make that sleight of hand more difficult. People now understand that a school will be closed because of the Republican budget, not because education officials want to close it.
And the saga of the special needs schools is not the only cowardly attempt by Republicans to shift responsibility for the damage their budget is inflicting.
Another obvious example is the layoffs of teachers and teacher assistants across the state. Republican legislative leaders continue to claim they funded every classroom position even as they slashed $800 million from the public schools budget in the next two years.
House Speaker Thom Tillis and his colleagues are now feigning surprise that teachers have lost their jobs and are blaming local school officials for the decision to fire them even though the school systems had no choice given the magnitude of the budget cuts.
It is true with health care too. The Republican budget takes more than $2 billion out of the health care economy when you add up the state cuts and the federal matching dollars they will cause North Carolina to lose. And it counts on savings in the Medicaid program that state officials say privately are wildly unrealistic.
The budget orders state officials to considering slashing benefits if the projected savings don’t materialize, services like dental and vision care that seniors need to lead productive lives.
When those services are cut, lawmakers are hoping the public will blame the agency that cuts them, not the legislators who approved budget that made those cuts inevitable.
It is gamble that Republicans are willing to make because they know they can’t really shrink government and cut taxes without slashing important services and hurting the people who rely on them.
They know the public would never support that. Otherwise, they would stand up and close a special needs school and cut off dental care to seniors in the budget they write, not tell other state agencies to do it.
But they don’t want do their own dirty work. They’d rather take the cowardly way out