Choosing between healthcare and schools is no choice: Reflections on the state budget and how working people have got to be the change.

Last Friday, the North Carolina General Assembly passed the state budget. On the positive side, the budget finally expands Medicaid, providing healthcare access to over 600,000 North Carolinians. However,  it steals from our public schools through a voucher program designed to funnel public money into private hands.

It’s easy to throw up our hands and say, “Well, that’s how it goes” like it’s a regular, everyday trade-off between healthcare and educating our children. This, of course, isn’t a real choice. It’s not a real choice to ask a family if they would prefer to go to the doctor or give their kids an education. We have to be able to do both. 

This budget doesn’t reflect what the vast majority of North Carolinians need or want. So why does it happen this way?

The budget that was just passed reflects the priorities of wealthy Raleigh insiders, not the Black, white, and brown poor and working-class families who make up our state. As Down Home’s Campaigns Manager, Todd Warren, said yesterday: “This is like telling the kids they have to choose between new underwear or new shoes…. but Dad has a new sports car.” 

There is a reason the people in power want to pit these issues against each other. If they can pit our fights against each other, they think they can divide us. And when we are divided, those in power win.

Yes, this budget is bad, but not all is lost in North Carolina by any means. The Medicaid win is a very important lesson for our movement. Medicaid expansion passed through because working-class folks fought for it. Working people organized relentlessly for ten long years, up against every barrier and all odds. Even though those who opposed Medicaid expansion controlled all the power in Raleigh, we still managed to force that bill through. They controlled both the House and the Senate, but we had people power!  It turns out, they aren’t as secure in their power as we might think. It also means that 600,000 North Carolinians now have access to healthcare. 

We did that.

Since securing a supermajority this past spring, they’ve done everything we thought they would. They’ve passed hateful and harmful bill after bill, with their culture wars focused on trans children and their voter suppression tactics focused on poor folks. It feels terrible and is terrible, but their sword is fragile and it’s ours to break.

Public School Strong, a project of Down Home and Heal Together NC, is fighting to protect our public schools with teams being built county by county across the state!

The current NCGA is at odds with our state, and we are on the verge of changing that. Right now, poor and working folks all across the state are gearing up for 2024.

Our members are organizing and mobilizing. They are building a working-class platform that prioritizes both health justice and schools. They will be endorsing and fighting for candidates who will fight for us, and all the things we need, not just some things. In 2024, our members will dismantle this not-so-supermajority and replace the politicians who won’t fight for us with working-class people who will.

All this cruelty has an expiration date: November 2024. We want you to join us. We want you to be a part of our movement for health justice and public schools. We want working-class folks like you to fight alongside us for our environment, for wages, for housing, for teachers, for service workers, for truck drivers, for parents, for grandparents, for kids– for everyone. Winning Medicaid earlier this year showed us our power and we are ready to wield it to all the things we need.

We need working class folks like you to get involved.

Curious about the impacts of this budget on your local public school?
Join us for the Heal Together Statewide Call on September 28th at 7 PM here (online!) 

Ready to break the supermajority and bring working-class priorities to Raleigh?
Link up to a Down Home chapter in your area here 

Looking to get involved in our organizing work? Find our upcoming events here!