Gov. Pat McCrory has been on a media blitz lately, with four news conferences in the last few days, one to fear-monger about refugee children, one to announce State Budget Director Art Pope was stepping down, one to sign the budget and one to announce the new director of the State Bureau of Investigation.
The budget transferred the SBI from the Department of Justice overseen by Attorney General Roy Cooper to the Department of Public Safety that is part of the McCrory Administration. It’s probably just a coincidence that Cooper has announced he is likely to run against McCrory in two years.
McCrory said that the children relocated to North Carolina after fleeing dangerous and abuse situations in Central American countries did not receive health screenings and may be a threat to North Carolina children. He sounded ominous warnings about the lack of background checks of the sponsors providing the children their new home.
But the children do undergo health screenings and the sponsors do undergo background checks. McCrory could have found that out by simply visiting the website of the office of Federal Office of Refugee Resettlement.
When confronted with the information that background checks are done on the sponsors of the children, McCrory said they were not the kind of background checks that need to be done. He didn’t provide any clarification and seemed caught off guard by pointed questions.
It’s worth noting that he didn’t have his talking points about the refugee children in front of him the second time he talked about it, when he was challenged on his remarks. That came at the press event to announce the departure of Pope.
McCrory’s demagoguery about the refugee children promoted widespread criticism, including frustration from charities reaching out to help the kids. That shouldn’t have surprised him and he may not even care.
His aim was not to make any meaningful policy statement, it was to inflame the emotions of the Republican base and distract the public from the confusing teacher pay raise and overall chaos of the legislative session that drones on with skeletal meetings because House and Senate leaders can’t even agree on how to leave town.
A Charlotte Observer editorial summed up McCrory’s performance at one of the media events with a sentence that fits all of his appearances during the week.
When McCrory speaks, it’s frequently hard to discern whether he’s being disingenuous for political reasons or truly believes what he says but is surprisingly uninformed of reality.
That was especially true of McCrory’s comments about education funding at an event to announce the new SBI chief.
McCrory was asked about comments by Charlotte-Mecklenburg School Superintendent Heath Morrison that his school district will have to slash 90 teacher assistant jobs because of a $2.6 million cut in the state budget.
McCrory replied “that has nothing to do with our budget. We are supplying the exact amount of money — regarding if they use the money that we sent them.”
Tortured syntax aside, it’s simply not true. That’s why the superintendents of Wake County and Winston-Salem/Forysth schools made similar remarks this week. They lost funding in the state budget for teacher assistants too.
The top financial officer for the N.C. Department of Public Instruction, Philip Price, told N.C. Policy Watch that the budget actually spends $105 million less on teacher assistants than originally budgeted for 2014.
And that comes on top of last year’s budget that slashed more than 3,000 teaching assistants and more than 5,000 teacher jobs.
McCrory either doesn’t understand what the budget actually means for schools or is trying to mislead the public about the cuts it makes.
It’s back to the choices the Observer presented to describe McCrory’s comments. They are either disingenuous or surprisingly uninformed of reality.
Either way, the people of North Carolina deserve more from their governor.
Chris Fitzsimon is executive director of N.C. Policy Watch.