I was fortunate enough to attend the Governor’s School of North Carolina in the summer of 1977. Begun in the early 1960s under then-Gov. Terry Sanford, the program brings gifted and talented kids from across North Carolina together for six weeks of focus on their areas of interest, plus an introduction to epistemology and other meaty subjects. It’s a helluva program, and a lot of its alums are doing great things in North Carolina and elsewhere today.
The Republican majority in the General Assembly wants to eliminate state funding for the program. (They’re also trying to cut nine figures from the state budget so they can give their rich friends a tax break. These two phenomena are not unrelated.) Alumni and other interested friends raised enough money to keep the program alive — barely — this year, but its future is by no means assured. So last Friday I wrote the following email to state Sen. Phil Berger, the president pro tem of the Senate:
Dear Sen. Berger:
I write as a native and near-lifelong resident of North Carolina, a graduate of Davidson College, a Republican since 1978 and a member of the Governor’s School of North Carolina Class of 1977 to implore you and the Senate to include full funding for Governor’s School in this year’s and future budgets.
As you no doubt know, Governors School alumni have gone on to successful careers in a wide variety of fields. My own case is an example. My work as an editor on the Governor’s School newspaper in 1977 sparked an interest in journalism that led me to an award-winning (if I may say) 25-year career with newspapers in Statesville, New Bern, Gastonia and Greensboro. And while I didn’t make any professional connections there, I did meet the guy who has been my best friend ever since — Tony Patterson, now an IT professional in Chapel Hill with a company that has operations and clients worldwide.
My sister Jane, who lives in Raleigh, attended Governor’s School also, in 1984, and has gone on to a career in stage productions (theater, concerts, etc.) based on an interest she developed while there.
I realize times are tight, and I applaud the General Assembly’s desire to keep taxes and spending low, particularly while our economy is still muddling along with not enough people at work.
But the talent pool of college-educated professionals is getting tighter, too: The New York Times reported recently that college graduates, more than ever, are moving to large metropolitan areas, leaving small and mid-sized markets such as Asheville, Wilmington, Charlotte, the Triad and the Triangle behind. (The maps published in 2006 with this article by The Atlantic illustrate starkly how much of the country is being drained of its talent. And that article was published on the basis of 2000 data; the 2010 data show the trend accelerating.) Governor’s School is an investment in this state’s talented young people that can make a critical difference when they’re deciding where to go after college. We need that talent here in North Carolina to be competitive.
$800,000 a year is a lot of money. But I think the General Assembly also has an obligation to look at what that money is buying and the difference it can make in the quality of life and the competitiveness of the economy for North Carolinians. I hope you will support full funding for Governor’s School now and in the future.
Thank you for your government service.
Hooper “Lex” Alexander IV
I got the following response from an aide:
Dear Mr. Alexander,Thank you for your email regarding the North Carolina Governor’s School program. Senator Berger understands your concern and appreciates you taking the time to write.
Senator Berger recognizes the value of the Governor’s School program and commends the determined effort to secure the funding for 2012 through private means. That is an admirable achievement and the success of that effort provides clear evidence of the fact that there are many supporters who believe in and deeply value the program.
At this time, the General Assembly is still in the process of reviewing all aspects of our State’s current financial situation in advance of the budget adjustments that will be made during the short session. Although many factors are still being reviewed at this time, your comments will be taken into consideration.
On Senator Berger’s behalf,
Office of the Senate President Pro Tempore
Granted, I’m pretty new to the writing-letters-to-elected-officials thing, but do all elected officials treat all their constituents as if they’re this stupid?
I wrote back:
Ms. Riggins, thanks for responding. Please answer a yes-or-no question for me. Does Sen. Berger support full state funding for Governor’s School, or does he not?
And she wrote back:
Dear Mr. Alexander,
Thank you for following up. Unfortunately, with the budget review process still underway, I am unable to provide any more details than in my previous response.
Even so, thank you for your sincere interest and concern.
On Senator Berger’s behalf,
I can think of two possible reasons why she didn’t answer a simple, yes-or-no question: She didn’t care enough to get an answer, or she knew the answer and knew I wouldn’t like it. Well, screw that:
Thanks for getting back to me, Ms. Riggins. The senator’s opposition to Governor’s School funding is duly noted. I know double-talkin’ jive when I hear it.Best,
The modern Republican party not only has convinced itself that the world was created all at once 6,000 years ago and that global warming is a myth, it also has convinced itself that it can crap on our shoes and call it pudding. But, like Axl Rose, I got no more patience. And God knows I am not alone.