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The North Carolina Democratic Party posted advertisements in newspapers across the state last week criticizing Republican lawmakers for their cuts to public education. 

According to Micah Beasley, a spokesman for the North Carolina Democratic Party, the party bought the ads because Republicans in the General Assembly passed a budget that cut about half a billion dollars to public schools and universities. 

“We wanted to lay out plainly the negative effects of Gov. [Pat] McCrory and Republican legislators turning their backs on public education in our state,” Beasley said. “From increased classroom sizes, to aging textbooks and dwindling supplies, these cuts are felt profoundly from pre-K all the way up to our public universities. Voters need to know this and they need to understand it.”

The advertisement’s message criticizes the Republicans in Raleigh for prohibiting pay increases for teachers, causing overcrowding in classrooms with budget cuts, cutting textbooks and supplies, getting rid of bonus pay for teachers with a master’s degree and eliminating the annual sales tax holiday.

The ad also opposed a proposed voucher plan to take money away from public schools to benefit private schools, according to Beasley. 

However, North Carolina Republican Party Chairman Claude Pope criticized the advertisement. Gov. McCrory inherited former Gov. Bev Perdue’s budget problems, Pope said. 

“The attack ad is ironic, given the fact that it was Democratic Gov. Bev Perdue’s disastrous mismanagement of the state budget that led to decreasing teacher pay in comparison to other states,” Pope said. “Although Gov. McCrory was handed a budget mess, he and the General Assembly have worked diligently to clean it up, and in the process they have kept education funding steady while giving parents more schooling choices for their children.”

According to Steven Greene, a political science professor at N.C. State, it’s unusual to have attack ads when there is not an election, but the Democratic Party is trying to keep voters interested in the education debate in the meantime.

“Obviously [the Democrat’s] hope is that this is one way to keep people thinking about the issue. I think there is concern that this issue is just going to drop too far off the radar and might not be a useful strategy,” Greene said. “Maybe this is in face a waste of money for them by doing it now, but presumably they think it is in their interest, otherwise they wouldn’t be doing it.”

Beasley said the ads were also posted in key legislative districts to begin laying the foundation to take seats back in the General Assembly for 2014.

“Investment in quality public education has been a cornerstone of public policy in North Carolina under Democratic leadership,” Beasley said. “We’re known for that legacy and we’re going to continue to fight to protect public education against Republican short-sightedness,” 

Beasley also said North Carolina ranks 46th in the nation for teacher pay. According to The News & Observer, North Carolina was rated 25th in the nation for teacher pay in 2008. 

“N.C. GOP leadership in North Carolina has ignored the needs of our teachers by not offering raises for them as well as [enacting] recent budget cuts statewide,” said N.C. State College Democrats President, Anne Marie Fristoe. “I think North Carolina can see very plainly the priorities of the N.C. GOP leadership, and teachers and education are not one of them.”

The ads were initially in The Mountaineer, The Mountain Times, The Daily Reflector, Burlington Times-News, The Sanford Herald, The Eden News, Reidsville Review, Madison Messenger, The Daily Advance, The Sun Journal, The Winston-Salem Chronicle, The Carolinian (Raleigh) and The Wilmington Journal.

Beasley said the North Carolina Democratic Party is looking into buying more ads in the aforementioned publications because of the optimistic response they received.