Freshman Republican lawmaker Mike Stone says his daughter was “used against” him when a public school teacher instructed her and her classmates to contact elected officials in opposition to budget cuts.
The result: a hand-written note imploring Stone to “put the buget (sic) higher dad” so that her school wouldn’t have to forgo field trips, be unprepared for end-of-grade tests, and lay off teachers.
“The truth of the matter is, they baited my daughter on what to write,” said Stone, who represents Lee County in the North Carolina House. “It was totally inappropriate for an 8-year old to be used as a lobbyist in Raleigh.”
The Republican-controlled General Assembly passed a $19.6-billion budget last week that restored some funding to public schools, including preserving teacher assistant jobs, but Democrats have blasted the spending plan for its cuts and implored Gov. Bev Perdue to veto it.
Lee County superintendent Jeffrey Moss said that the writing assignment at Tramway Elementary was appropriate and only directed students to write their state representative, senator, and the governor “in support of public education.”
“It was not budget-specific except to say that they support funding public education. That was the theme,” Moss said.
Moss added that the assignment was given prior to the budget being passed, and that each student sent a separate email or letter.
The exercise “encompasses a lot of skills that today’s graduates should be able to replicate in the workforce, according to the employers I’ve talked with,” Moss said.
Stone isn’t satisfied. He said he’s concerned that his daughter will get bullied because the school system already has handed out pink slips to some teacher assistants.
“I don’t care whether you like the budget or not,” he said. “I haven’t talked to one person who condones using an 8-year old, and especially a legislator’s 8-year old daughter.”
David N. Bass is an associate editor of Carolina Journal.