Lest you be confused by the following story from N.C. Policy Watch, allow me to translate all this Republican rigmarole for you before we begin: “Sit down. Shut up. Keep your opinions to yourselves. We’re in control and we’ve already made up our minds. You have no power here! Begone, before somebody drops a house on you, too!”
NCPW has a great look into some North Carolina legislators’ responses to constituent contacts they received from students in Rutherford County.
At the center of the debate is a bill that would lift the cap on charter schools in the state, the effect of which would ultimately take away more funding from traditional public school systems.
The jesting began after a number of students from the Western North Carolina county emailed lawmakers about legislation affecting the state’s charter schools and the funding they get from traditional public schools. Some of the emails arrived with grammatical and spelling errors, and that became an opening to start joking about the failings of the state’s public school system.
“Are English and writing still ‘apart’ of our core curriculum in North Carolina?,” wrote Rep. John Blust, a Greensboro Republican, in response to a student who said he was “apart of RS Central,” a high school in the Western North Carolina county.
“From the emails we are receiving I would say no,” quipped Rep. George Cleveland, a Jacksonville Republican, in response.
Blust and Cleveland sent their March 9 remarks to an email chain that included bipartisan House education committee members who held hearing earlier this month on Senate Bill 8, a GOP-backed bill that could lift the 100-school cap on charter schools and allow charters more access to public funding streams and oversight outside of the N.C. State Board of Education.
In another exchange, Carlton Huffman, a legislative aide for GOP state Rep. Jonathan Jordan, forwarded a student’s email to the legislative aides for Republican House members with the comment, “More great grammar results from the public school system.”
Perhaps the worst exchange came from state Sen. Debbie Clary (R-Cleveland, Rutherford). Though she didn’t join in poking fun at students, her response — calling a polite, well-written constituent letter “disrespectful” — nonetheless shows just how little care she has for students’ thoughts and opinions on bills that greatly impact them. Read that student’s email and Clary’s response here.
Again, from NCPW:
State Sen. Debbie Clary, a Republican who represents the Rutherford County area, had forwarded some of the jokes made by legislators about the schoolchildren’s grammar to Rutherford County School Superintendent Janet Mason to show her what was being said about the schoolchildren and to urge the students to either stop writing or at least use proper grammar. (Clary doesn’t always stick to the proper grammar and punctuation and rules in her electronic communications, as seen in this email she wrote to a constituent that was posted on the anti-Senate Bill 8 site).
“To have children tell legislators that they have no respect for them at all is why most parents want their children out of the traditional public schools,” Clary wrote in an email to Mason and Bennett. “A lack of respect for adults, authority and teachers is being taught at your schools by your teachers and I am ashamed.”
Clary was referring to an email a 17-year-old high school senior had sent her, in which the student expressed concern that funding destined for charter schools could mean cuts to traditional public schools.
The student told Clary, “Mrs. Clary, I have no disrespect for you at all. But this Bill is way more than a document. The effects it will have on our school system are very damaging.”
Clary later said in an interview that she thought the student had sent her a well-written email, and that she was impressed with the student’s clarity and writing ability.