As you may already know, one of North Carolina’s many nick names is “The Rip Van Winkle” state. “In 1819, Washington Irving published his short story “Rip Van Winkle,” in which the character of Rip Van Winkle goes off into the mountains and falls asleep for twenty years — missing the American Revolution and all of the changes it brought. Many North Carolinians were beginning to feel that time was passing their state by just as it had Rip Van Winkle. The state’s leaders were committed to a small government and an agricultural economy. But with poor transportation, no public education, and little economic opportunity, thousands of North Carolinians left the state each year seeking a brighter future elsewhere. “(An excerpt from the on-line education site, Learn NC.).
Fast forward to 2013 and the legend of Rip Van Winkle comes back to life. The above title of this column could very well be tomorrow’s headline. Our State legislators with its majority extremist views threatens to take North Carolina backwards to a time and place where children are taught in a one room school house, economic activity is stagnant and only the privileged few are able to afford college. This sounds like a fairy tale, but unlike Rip Van Winkle, this could become a reality if our state legislators don’t place people, education and jobs before partisan politics and personal agendas.
Looking at the proposed NC budget we can see the following. It eliminates at least 8624 jobs including 4000 teacher positions and 3800 teacher assistant positions. In addition to the teacher cuts, public education is further gutted by ending tenure, ending pay increases for master’s degrees, phasing out the NC teaching fellows program, phasing out the NC center for Advancement of Teaching, cutting in half the slots for pre-K, cutting UNC need based grants and providing no teacher raises.
North Carolina's public education system is being gutted in order to fund a radical assault on education. Our economic viability is being put on the line with education and job cuts that will undermine our ability to recruit new business and retain the ones that already call Gaston County home.
Tell me what business will want to move to the “Rip Van Winkle” state which places education as an afterthought? How can we prepare children for a global economy when we can't properly fund our schools or teach them science and technology? Currently Gaston County Schools ranks 112 out of 115 school districts in North Carolina in funding. How can we continue to cut jobs and education and then believe there will be no dire consequences down the road? Gaston County continues to have an unemployment rate higher than the state. Gaston County deserves better. Our schools deserve better and our local economy deserves better.
Let our state rep's know that education and jobs must come first. When you finally get their attention, convey to them that you don’t want North Carolina to be known as the Rip Van Winkle state. North Carolina can’t afford to slumber any longer. The legend of Rip Van Winkle needs to be in the literary pages not our new state motto.