In 2020, the far-right took aim at our public schools, trying to undermine them and replace them with for-profit models. In 2021, extremists manufactured a litany of outrages, including fury over online schooling, diatribes against Critical Race Theory, and all-out anti-trans hysteria to undermine our confidence in one of the most essential systems we rely on. In 2022, School board meetings became heated battlegrounds where a vocal minority attempted to take charge at the expense of our schools and our children.
But in 2023, we decided to organize.
At Down Home, many of us are parents and grandparents; some of us are teachers, bus drivers, and nutrition workers. Together, we know that the majority of North Carolinians love, support, and want to improve– not destroy– their local schools. We know that we significantly outnumber those who have fallen for the far-right grift.
Above: Attending and speaking out at public meetings is central to the work of Down Home and Public School Strong.
Last spring, Down Homies worked with our allies at Education Justice Alliance (EJA) and Center for Racial Equity in Education (CREED) through the HEAL Together NC coalition to help launch Public School Strong (PSS). The vision is that small, grassroots teams of local folks could consistently show up and support public education in their home county, positioned as a counterbalance to the extremism many places were seeing. Evidencing the hunger for this type of organizing, PSS rapidly grew. In less than a year, over 60 counties in North Carolina have formed PSS teams. As a grassroots movement that advocates for public education, we have already far outpaced the astroturf organizing being done by the far right.
“We are onto the scam and we are fighting back,” says Regan Shaw who helped start a local PSS team in her home of Union County.
The growing network of PSS teams is well-situated to usher in big wins in 2024. Multiple Down Home members across the state have filed to run for their local school board and PSS teams are preparing to push back against unpopular programs like vouchers which will rob our public schools of millions of dollars in essential funding.
What’s more, the model we have built here in North Carolina is now being replicated in other states from Tennessee to Michigan through the Heal Together network.