Parents, grandparents, and public education supporters are fed up with the attacks on our public schools.
With legislative attacks such as vouchers threatening to funnel millions of dollars from public schools to private schools, Public School Strong teams are turning out at their local school board meetings this September to say “Enough is enough.”
From Ashe and Iredell to Wake and Warren, hundreds of public school supporters are expected to turn out at their local board meetings to speak up for public education this month. In fact, Public School Strong, which started earlier this year as a project of Down Home and the Heal Together NC coalition, has grown to have a footprint in 40 of North Carolina’s 100 counties, rapidly outpacing grasstops organizing by well-funded extremist groups.
“I want my child – and every child – to have access to a fully comprehensive and rigorous education — they can’t have that if their funding is being siphoned away to private schools,” says Brittany Steiminger of Craven County. North Carolina public schools are projected to lose almost $204 million if the voucher bill is fully implemented, with a devastating blow to rural counties in particular.
Instead of attacks on public education, North Carolinians want honest and accurate history taught in schools, an end to the attacks on LGBTQ young people, and an end to the manufactured controversies that distract from the real problems our children face. What’s more, these parents far outnumber the opinions of fringe groups such as Moms for Liberty, who have attempted to hold school boards hostage by being a loud, vocal minority.
“Strong public schools build strong communities,” says Julie Ricker, a parent from Chatham County. “I proudly stand with the majority across NC in demanding safe, honest, fully funded, and accurate schools for ALL North Carolina students and the talented, committed educators who work hard every day to serve them.”
A Vast Majority
Public School Strong has grown rapidly since its conception earlier this year and has trained 400 people from more than half the state’s counties to form a local Public School Strong group. “Public school parents and community members have been eager to express both their support for North Carolina’s public schools – as well as their concern about the ongoing and many attempts to undermine our beloved schools,” explains Isabell Moore, a parent and organizer with Down Home North Carolina, part of the Heal Together NC Coalition.
This was evidenced in August when local newspapers across the state published Letters to the Editor supporting public education and school funding at a steady clip. “I, like many parents, am fed up with the “failing schools” narrative. We love our public schools and we want honest, accurate, safe, equitable and fully-funded public schools,” wrote Kelly Suttles of Orange County.
“The vast majority of North Carolinians support their local public schools and want their schools funded appropriately. The NCGA has chosen to engage in the culture wars rather than doing the job they were elected to do: pass a state budget,” wrote Joanna Pendleton of Guilford County.
School hasn't opened yet in Alamance County: A sad example of what happens when you don't fund schools.
School should have opened nearly two weeks ago in Alamance County, where Down Home’s flagship chapter is located. But the new shoes and backpacks remain lined up by the front door in home’s like that of Down Home member Amanda Baker because the schools failed to open.
“The School Board, State and County have failed parents and students in Alamance by consciously neglecting our schools and ignoring the consistent warnings from the public for the past decade. The worst part, they are still doing it,” she says, talking about how parents and teachers have been warning local officials about the mold issue for years.
Amanda and her Down Home chapter actually ran a campaign just three months ago trying to stop the County from stealing funds from the schools for a courthouse renovation. But the county seems wildly out of touch with what local residents want.
“This has been a concerted effort from the County and the State to defund our public education,” she explains.
It’s undeniable that parents and residents who support public education are in the majority— public schools are a huge part of our day-to-day lives. Our communities rely on them, not just for the education of our children but also as vibrant social centers for our towns and neighborhoods. Additionally, they are an economic center and engine, being one of the largest employers in many North Carolina counties.
Unfortunately, a well-oiled outrage machine was deployed into North Carolina late in the pandemic, fueling culture wars and attacks on public education. Usually the loudest voice in the room, these groups began to dominate school boards. Fed up, parents and supporters are now organizing against this faux-outrage and to set their local schools back on track.
“I’m participating in the September Surge because it’s important that we let our voices be heard and ensure that our school systems know that we are paying attention to the decisions they are making across our state,” says Jenice Ramirez, the co-director of Education Justice Alliance and HEAL Together NC steering committee member, who is also a public school parent.