Documenting the American South Logo
oral histories of the American South
Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Robert W. (Bob) Scott, September 18, 1986. Interview C-0036. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Accomplishments in education, linked in part to taxation

Scott notes two accomplishments he looks back on with pride. First, he "won" the school consolidation battle. Second, he began a public kindergarten system, taxing soda and cigarettes and raising $90 million to set it up. He traces the decline of the public school system since then to reluctance by his successors to raise taxes.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Robert W. (Bob) Scott, September 18, 1986. Interview C-0036. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) in the Southern Oral History Program Collection, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Full Text of the Excerpt

I guess as far as political things and satisfaction there were two things. One was the consolidation of the university system. That was really a battle royal, blood all over the floor. But we won that in a close one. The other was the beginning of the public school kindergarden system. I'm very proud of that. We had talked about it for years. We needed public school kindergardens but it was one of those things that was expensive. We didn't have enough money to do it. I, and Craig Phillips worked closely with me on this, we decided that we couldn't take it off all in one bite. Number one, the schools of education had not trained qualified public school kindergarden teachers. We did decide to try some pilot projects first. So we set one up in each educational district in the state. There were eight public school kindergardens. We got the bugs worked out, and that's when I went to the legislature and asked for a tax on cigarettes and a tax on soft drinks, which again was a "blood all over the floor" deal. The money was used, the ninety million dollars that we raised, was used to start those public school kindergardens. It took, well, I guess you had to be stupid to do that in reflection. But I'm proud of the fact that I felt strong enough about it to take it on and to do it. That is the last addition to the general fund revenues that we've had in North Carolina except I think maybe they have an extra half-cent sales tax. Most of the sales tax that's been added on has gone to local governments. I think maybe they kept an extra half-cent for the state at some point in time. That was in addition to the tax we already had. Those were the last two new taxes we've ever had in this state. Ever since then governors have been running on the platform no new taxes, and that's why education and human services and other things are suffering in this state because governors get themselves locked in by promising no new taxes. You can't ride that particular horse forever. You've got to have some money from somewhere if you're going to meet the needs of the people. But that's another story.