Notes from the classroom: May 27

Parents hope to influence state legislators

About 30 Union County parents converged on Raleigh May 24 in an effort to influence state legislators to support extending the one-penny sales tax, currently due to end on July 1, in hopes of reducing the impact of pending state budget cuts on the Union County Public Schools.

Remona Griffin, who has two children in UCPS, said she drove to Raleigh to ask for bipartisan thinking on extending the tax and in making budget cuts to the public schools. “It’s about knowing that one penny can make an $18 million dollar difference in the education of my children,” she said. “If my children are going to be competitive with everyone else across the country when they graduate from the Union County Public Schools, the school system is going to have to be funded.”

Griffin told one legislator the general public would not notice an extra percent sales tax in their pocket even if the tax were not extended. “It’s such a small difference to a family of four, it’s kind of insane not to renew it,” Griffin said. “If they would extend the tax and use the money directly for the schools, I think there would be only a small number of people who would oppose extending that.”

North Carolina Representative Frank McGuirt was the only local legislator who voiced support for extending the sales tax. “We should keep the one-cent sales tax,” McGuirt said. “You’re talking about less than 25 cents per day or $89 a year for a family of four. On the flip side, if that one-cent is cut, it’s not going to find its way back into the consumer’s pocket.”

North Carolina Senator Tommy Tucker attempted to explain to parents why there is little support for extending the tax.

“When it expires, legislators would have to vote for a tax increase to extend it,” Tucker said. “Every one of us ran on the fact that we were not going to raise taxes. North Carolina is the 20th highest taxed state in the US. We’re the highest taxed state in the Southeast. We’re losing businesses and jobs because of our income tax, so we’re not going to raise taxes.”

Representative Justin Burr had similar comments. “We’ll have to agree to disagree on the penny sales tax,” he told parents. “I pledged that I would not raise taxes or extend the temporary tax. I have more people in my district asking me to do away with the temporary sales tax than are asking me to keep it. I don’t believe it is to the detriment of our children.”

Antioch Elementary School parent and PTO president Andrea Smith said she was disappointed that legislators were so adamant about not extending the tax. “We came to fight for extending the one-cent sales tax,” she said. “I didn’t realize it was already dead in the water.”

Representative Craig Horn tried to encourage parents that even though the school system will suffer budget cuts, it would remain a good system. “Do I believe this will be Armageddon for education as we know it in Union County? I do not believe that. Do I believe we will take a hit and it will hurt? Yes. But even if that tax stays, you’re still going to get a hit. There is just not enough money.”

– Article provided courtesy of the Communications Office of the Union County Public Schools

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