Penny Rich for County Commissioner

How Orange County is Fighting GOP Cuts to Education


Orange County is synonymous with strong public education. It is why so many people have chosen to live here. Ensuring that all our residents have access to a solid public education is one of my core values.

Unfortunately, Republican leaders in Raleigh don’t share our values. Over the past decade, our state has seen a strategic assault on public education. Republicans took over both chambers of the North Carolina General Assembly in 2010, on the heels of the Great Recession, and have been relentless in their cuts to our schools.

  • 2010: The beginning of budget cuts gutting public education
  • 2016: Unfunded class size mandates – class-size chaos with no funding to support the changes. 
  • 2017: Tax cuts for the wealthy resulting in a $3 billion a year deficit for school funding including teacher pay, operations, and capital needs
  • Expanding a Private School Voucher Program that takes tens of millions of dollars away from public schools each year
While the NCGA cuts school funding with one hand, they hand our schools unfunded mandates with the other, resulting in a consistent strain on the county budget to fill the gap. 

Our county values public education and we do all that we can to step up and fill the gap. As a commissioner, I have voted for additional funding for our schools every single year since elected in 2012, and I am proud that Orange County offers the highest funding per pupil for education in our State. The county budget is roughly $220 million with a target of 48% set aside for both school districts. We also fund School Resource Officers (SROs) as well as nurses, and this past year we also funded equity training for all school employees. This brings the total allocation for schools to more than half of our annual budget.
As Chair of the Commission, I have made education a priority, and I will continue to fight for the fair and equitable funding we deserve if re-elected. But there is only so much we can do with our limited resources. After state and federal mandates for the Health Department, Social Services and Emergency Services, we are left with roughly 15-17% of the budget for operations and additional allocations county wide. A child’s success doesn’t just depend on the six to seven hours they spend in school – we need to build safe and healthy communities to truly support them. Whether it’s our libraries, our parks, our transportation services, or affordable housing, everything we do aims to build opportunities for children and families.
In previous letters on transportation, climate, and social justice, I have stressed how we need action at the local, state, and national levels of government. Education is no different. 

·       On the local level, I am committed to continued collaboration with the school boards and staff to prioritize urgent needs and to create a path forward with a maintenance plan that will allow us to address school facilities. I believe we can overcome our recent challenges and work in a much more cooperative manner.
·       At the state level, I will continue to advocate for the NCGA to take education seriously. I serve on the 2020-21 Legislative Goals committee and will introduce the following for our state representatives consideration; parental leave for all school employees; restoration of capital improvement funds; teacher pay raises; and flexible calendar schedules. 
·       Politically, our public schools, teachers and facilities are our valued treasures and must not be targets of the Republican NCGA. That’s why I’m committed to working with our Democratic caucus to win back legislative seats across the state and return to a General Assembly where education is a priority. 
As someone who moved here to give my sons the best opportunities possible, I know how important education is to our county. I hope to earn your vote for re-election and I will continue working with you throughout the year to take back control of our state budget by flipping seats in our NCGA. I hope you’ll support my campaign by visiting the links below. Keep scrolling for important voting information. Let friends and neighbors know that our Primary Election Day is almost here, held on March 3, 2020.

With gratitude,

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