Under the Dome reports today that Stephanie Fanjul is stepping down as head of the N.C. Partnership for Children, which is the group that oversees North Carolina’s Smart Start program. Smart Start is one of several government-created early childhood education programs, funded primarily with tax dollars, providing subsidized day care for eligible children.
Fanjul was highly compensated for her position, which Civitas highlighted two years ago. Her total compensation at that time was more than $170,000, greater than the head of North Carolina’s Department of Health and Human Services and the governor. This is curious because Fanjul oversaw a $188 million budget, while HHS’s budget was $3.9 billion and of course the governor oversees a state budget of roughly $20 billion.
Also of interest, but left out of news accounts, is the fact that Fanjul is married to Dean Debnam – who happens to be President of NC-based, Democrat Public Policy Polling. You may be familiar with PPP’s controversial actions of late, which have garnered national criticism. But back a few years ago, PPP decided to use its polling on early childhood education in what appears to be a naked attempt to garner legislative support for Smart Start. At a time when the recession was prompting state budget cuts, PPP decided to ask “Do you think North Carolina’s legislators should cut funding for early childhood care and education for children birth through five?” Debnam used the poll results to issue a thinly veiled threat to legislator’s that may have been considering downsizing his wife’s meal ticket:
“Strong early childhood programs are one of North Carolina’s hallmarks and have consistently proven to be very popular with voters in the state,” said Debnam. “Legislators who go after them face trouble back at home for doing so.”
Moreover, in 2011 Fanjul helped develop and issue a substantial and highly detailed propaganda directive to help preserve taxpayer funds for the Smart Start program, a plan even outlining specific goals for positive comments in the comment section of online articles referring to Smart Start. Fanjul was a decidedly partisan political supporter, donating more than $25,000 exclusively to Democratic candidates and causes (as of 2011), so it should come as no surprise that she was selected to run Smart Start by Democratic Gov. Jim Hunt, who was largely responsible for creating the program.
When one peels back the layers on any government-run, taxpayer-funded program the inevitable result is a highly politicized environment ripe for cronyism. Even in such innocuous and sympathetic programs like early childhood “education” programs, behind the scenes are overpaid bureaucrats willing to marshal political (and personal) connections to manipulate legislators and the public for their own gain.
Why do we want to continue to politicize more aspects of society, rather than freeing them up to peaceful, voluntary and non-political cooperation?