At what point do politicians lay aside an ideology and apply common sense to an issue?
It would be nice if this was that point – if this year was the year that partisanship took a back seat to working together on a fiscally responsible spending plan that funded education without any discretionary gimmicks.
But how foolish of us – it’s an election year.
And voters in North Carolina would much rather listen to conservatives and liberals lob blame at one another over who is destroying schools, the state, the country, what have you.
The fact of the matter is that education has suffered years of budget cuts under a Republican-led N.C. General Assembly and under Democratic leaders who controlled the legislature prior to 2010.
For those with short-term memories, the state has been treading water under a long-lasting recession, which continues to drive cuts to education.
The reason those cuts haven’t been more noticeable is thanks to the federal stimulus package, which temporarily has kept many teachers in their positions.
Last week, dozens of school superintendents called on the N.C. State Board of Education to press the case for restoring funding to education.
Since 2008-09, there are 5,134 fewer public school teachers and 22,122 more students statewide.
The last of the money from the federal stimulus package that has preserved teachers’ jobs – $250 million – runs out this year, leading to more warnings of more job cuts ahead.
Gov. Bev Perdue’s solution is a nonstarter for Republicans: a statewide sales tax increase of three-quarters of a cent. Unless Republicans have a better idea of how to save jobs, they should come to terms with the simple notion that sometimes a budget is best balanced with a mix of spending cuts and tax increases. This just might be one of those times.