NC Real Solutions, the ad campaign launched by the Art Pope-backed Americans for Prosperity Foundation and Civitas Institute and largely discredited by the media, has hit the road with a mobile billboard driving across the state. But the message has fallen flat.
A mobile billboard is probably the safest place for the wild claim that the state budget actually added teachers. Before someone can corner the gypsy accountant with the real numbers -- like the fact that there are 915 fewer teachers and 2,045 fewer teaching assistants in North Carolina's classrooms this year -- the wheels are rolling, the bullet points are blurry and back on the road, and people are left to scratch their heads. Soccer moms have to switch lanes. They don't have time to look closer. Art Pope probably likes it that way.
So after dumping half a million dollars in deceptive ads onto the TV airwaves, Americans for Prosperity and the Civitas Institute billed their billboard tour as an effort to take their "message to large cities and small towns across North Carolina." They hope people swallow the propaganda on the air and, now, on the ground.
But if public interest in their mobile billboard is any sign of public support for the slick TV ads and their misleading slogans on schools, the extremist agenda on education may be too much for parents to believe. There are no press gatherings to greet the billboard. No grassroots rallies. No TV news cameras jockeying for good shots. Judging from the public and media indifference, an old bromide comes to mind about a tree falling in the forest and no one hearing it. Is this billboard tour for real? Is it really happening? Well yes, actually it is, and here are the pictures to prove it. But it's more of a vanity parade, with the billboard's promoters taking the pictures, not the local press (that's a staffer of Americans For Prosperity shown at left).
In fact, most newspapers refused to cover the "NC Real Solutions" tour, even as the mobile nonsense pulled straight up to the front door of newspapers in Greensboro, Winston-Salem, Monroe and other towns. At right is the billboard pulling away from the High Point Enterprise before editors there said thanks, but no thanks.
But hey, below is a newspaper photo by Donnie Roberts at the Lexington Dispatch showing the only crowd which gathered to see the billboard on Day One of the tour. The only problem for billboard organizers: these were opponents of the tour who gathered to refute the "NC Real Distortions."
If hands could speak, those waves would say, "Quit cutting schools, and start leveling with parents and the public."
Gerrick Brenner is executive director of Progress North Carolina, where an earlier version of this story appeared.