Fitzsimon File

Real distortions dot com

The folks on the Right in North Carolina are awfully worried these days and they ought to be. The more people find out exactly what the extremist Republican General Assembly has done in the last year, the less they like it.

The Republican legislative majority has an approval rating of 16 percent and much of the disapproval is based on the budget passed last summer that slashed funding for education, early childhood programs, human services, and environmental protections.

This week two of the pillars of the Art Pope Empire, the Civitas Institute and Americans for Prosperity, launched a new website, N.C. Real Solutions, and produced a television ad that tries to defend the budget decisions on education, most prominently by claiming that the Republicans added state funding for 2,000 more teachers.

Don’t buy it. The actual numbers tell a different story.

The fact check button on the website leads you to a statistical profile page for public schools on the website of the State Board of Education and Department of Public Instruction.

It shows that there are 93,964 total teachers across the state this school year, 24,264 teacher assistants and 175,630 total school personnel when you add in other staff like principals, librarians, and counselors.

When you click on the tab at the top of the page you can call up the same numbers for the 2010-2011 school year. There were 94,879 teachers, 26,306 teacher assistants and 180,470 total jobs.

That means that this year because of the Republican budget there are 915 fewer teachers in classrooms and 2,042 fewer teacher assistants. Overall 4,840 jobs in education were slashed by the budget that is described as a real solution to our education challenges.

What the Civitasers and Americans for the Prosperous want you to do is only look at the state funded teachers, which increased over last year. But local funding for teachers fell because of budget cuts made by the General Assembly and federal stimulus money declined significantly too.

Budgets passed by the Democratic majority in 2009 and 2010 relied on federal stimulus money and a temporary sales tax increase to keep thousands of teachers in the classroom.

The hope was that state revenues would recover by 2011 to replace the federal money and to allow the temporary sales to expire.

But that didn’t happen and efforts by Governor Bev Perdue and others to convince Republicans leaders to leave part of the temporary tax in place to keep teachers and teacher assistants failed.

They chose instead to cut taxes and slash almost 3,000 classroom jobs. And now they want to parse their budget actions into neat little categories to hide it.

It is a lame attempt. Their own fact check shows there are fewer teachers and fewer teachers assistants in schools across North Carolina because of the budget the Republican leadership put together.

That’s not news to parents and students across North Carolina. They see the larger classes and the shortages of supplies like textbooks in their children’s schools. It doesn’t matter to them which pot of money pays for what.

Their schools and their children are now worse off than they were last year. And it is the Republicans’ fault, pure and simple. They can produce as many slick websites and misleading ads as they want.

They slashed funding for teachers and schools this year, period.

They ought to at least rename the website. Real distortions.com would be more appropriate.