Dear Gov. McCrory, Speaker Tillis, and Senator Berger,
It’s back-to-school time for children across North Carolina, but this year feels different. Instead of excitement, we as parents feel anxious, sad, and yes, angry, about what is happening to North Carolina public schools and our teachers. We are worried about the effect of these budget cuts and policy decisions not only for our own children, but for all children in North Carolina.
Thanks to your recent decisions, we will be sending our children back to schools that are deeply underfunded and which feel heavily unsupported by our state’s leadership.
The budget you supported and approved this summer fell $117 million short of what was needed to continue an already inadequate level of education services resulting from years of repeated cuts. When comparing the public education budget this year to the last budget prior to the recession adjusted for inflation,
North Carolina spends less today on education than it did five years ago, despite more students entering public classrooms over this period.
Many of the schools our children are returning to have larger class sizes and fewer teachers and assistants. They have inadequate, outdated textbooks and fewer instructional supplies and support personnel. Parents, many of whom are already struggling, are receiving ever longer supply lists to ensure our schools have the basics at the same time that you chose to support tax breaks for North Carolina’s wealthiest citizens and corporations.
We are sending our children back to schools where morale is understandably low. Can you imagine spending your career in a profession, doing more than what was asked of you, and still having one of the lowest salary rates in the country? To spend your days dedicating yourself to the children of our state only to be barely able to support your own family and have to take on a second job? To pursue an advanced degree only to be told that it is essentially worthless? To be committed enough to buy supplies out of your own pocket yet be treated as though you are the problem? That’s what our state’s teachers and assistants are facing daily.
Governor McCroy, Speaker Tillis, and Senator Berger- I ask you to think back to your childhood to your favorite teacher. Someone who was a mentor to you, who maybe gave you the confidence to be the person you are today and serve in the leadership roles you do now. This person gave you the opportunity to learn, succeed, and grow both inside and outside of the classroom. Imagine this person being treated the way the staff in our schools are currently being treated.
We as parents see what our children’s teachers do. The way they work tirelessly – both in and outside of the classroom – to help every child achieve. From helping students afterschool, to staffing parent information meetings and school events at night, to planning lessons over the weekends, most teachers work far more than 40 hours a week to ensure that the children in their classrooms have what they need to become tomorrow’s leaders and citizens.
Yet our teachers, assistants, and school support personnel have been treated with such disrespect that many are choosing to leave the profession, taking with them tremendous talent and years of experience from places where we need it most. Who can blame them? And those who remain are left with the knowledge that the work they do is not valued by our state’s leaders while at the same time they are constantly being asked to do more with less.
But worst of all, our children will be going back to school in a state that has made it clear that they and their futures are not a priority. By your actions, you have sent our children a clear message that they do not matter and that they are not worth the investment.
This is the wrong message for a state striving to regain the competitive edge we once had, a state that desperately needs to build and retain the strong, educated workforce that will attract businesses and job growth.
It is an embarrassment that our state is 46
th in teacher pay and 48 th in per pupil spending. North Carolina was once a southern leader in education, a fact that was a source of great pride and which attracted many of us here. But the recent changes are enough to make any parent wonder whether a state that so clearly does not value our children is the right place to raise a family.
So, as our children head back to school this fall, we do so with heavy hearts knowing that many of the teachers and assistants we love will no longer be in our schools and that our children will find classes woefully under stocked compared to other states. As parents, we will scrape to find ways to help fill the holes you have created in our classrooms. And we will remember that you made the decisions that led us to this point.
You were elected to office talking about family values and the need to make our state more competitive. We all want to see North Carolina grow and prosper as a state, but these catastrophic cuts to our public schools do not represent the values of most families in our state, nor will they make us competitive for the long haul.
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I just signed this open letter to Gov. McCrory and state lawmakers about what's happening to our schools. Can you sign, too? All the details are below. Thanks, Beth ****************************************** Dear Beth, From the stores crammed with parents holding supply lists to the Facebook feed full of first day photos, it’s clear that it’s back-to-school time for many of us here in North Carolina. It’s always a bittersweet time for kids and parents-saying goodbye to summer but also excited about what the new school year will hold. This year that bittersweet feeling is even stronger thanks to attacks on North Carolina’s education system by our state’s leaders. MomsRising member Michelle shared her feelings in an op-ed recently in the News & Observer: For our family, this time of year is always an exciting time. We buy school supplies and new backpacks. We clear off desks in bedrooms and organize homework spaces. We pull out calendars to map out afterschool activities and school events. We wonder what teachers the kids will have, and which of their friends will be in their classes. But this year feels very different. Instead of excitement and anticipation, we feel deeply saddened and anxious by what is happening to North Carolina public schools and our teachers. We are worried about the effect of these budget cuts and policy decisions not only for our own children but for all children in North Carolina. Are you worried what the loss of teachers, assistants, and supply cuts will mean for your children? Then sign our back-to-school note to Gov. McCrory, Speaker Tillis, and Senator Berger! http://action.momsrising.org/sign/openletter/?referring_akid=4577.121634.xLsO2u&source=taf We’ll be delivering this open letter to their offices and sharing it with the media. Our state’s leaders need to hear our concerns and be reminded that NC parents are still paying attention. We’re already hearing the stories from members: From a father whose daughter stopped by her old classrooms to hug her former teachers, only to find that all but one of the four had left the profession, A kindergarten class with 27 children, A second grade scrambling to figure out how to run reading groups and differentiate math instruction without the help of a teacher’s assistant, A well-loved counselor letting parents know she will be retiring in the face of steeper cuts and changes that have meant more focus on testing and less on actually helping kids, and Classrooms where teachers are choosing not to even use the textbooks because they are so out of date and where basics like class pencil sharpeners are considered luxuries for the wish list. Are you already seeing changes in your school? Sign our open letter telling our state’s leaders this is NOT acceptable. http://action.momsrising.org/sign/openletter/?referring_akid=4577.121634.xLsO2u&source=taf Why is this happening? The spending for K-12 education in the final NC budget approved this summer fell $117 million short of what was needed to continue an already inadequate level of education services due to a repeated pattern of cuts to education. When comparing the public education budget this year to the last budget prior to the recession and adjusting for inflation, North Carolina spends less today on education than it did five years ago, despite more students entering public classrooms over this period.  We were already 48th in the nation in per pupil spending  and 46th in teacher pay  before these cuts. The cuts include: Increasing teacher-to-student ratios which reduces total funding for teachers by $286.4 million means local school districts may have to cut teacher positions. This loss of funding could result in 5,200 fewer teachers throughout our state.  Further, larger classroom sizes impact the quality of education children receive as one on one attention has to cover more students. The elimination of 21% of funding for teacher assistants, who play a vital role in helping children learn, equates to a potential loss of approximately 3,800 positions.  Nearly $24 million in cuts to instructional support personnel and instructional supplies translate to inadequate funding for educational materials, which compromises our children’s educational experiences. In addition, funding for textbooks is only 25% of what the Department of Public Instruction determined was needed.  The lack of pay raises for teachers, elimination of the salary incentive for teachers who earn advanced degrees, cuts to professional development and recruitment programs, and elimination of teacher tenure damages teacher morale, teacher quality and our ability to keep good teachers in the state and attract new teachers. The budget siphons $10 million away from the public school system for children to attend private and religious schools through a permanent voucher program system. Private schools are not held to the same standards as public schools, as they do not open their doors to all, nor are they required to provide transportation or free and reduced-price lunch. Studies have shown that student outcomes for those who received vouchers for private schools in other states are significantly lower.  The cuts don’t take place in a vacuum. They have real consequences for NC’s children and our future. Please sign our letter today! http://action.momsrising.org/sign/openletter/?referring_akid=4577.121634.xLsO2u&source=taf Together we are a powerful voice for NC’s children and families. -Beth, Tracy, Melea, Sarah, and the whole NC MomsRising team P.S. Want to learn more about what’s happening to our state’s education system? Check out the fact sheet from our partners at Together NC here. P.P.S. Have a story of your own on how these cuts are impacting your local school? Send me a note at Beth@momsrising.org  "Greeting the New School Year in NC", Michelle Hughes, News & Observer, August 23, 2013.  “2013-2015 Budget Shortchanges Students, Teachers, and Public Education”, NC Budget and Tax Center Fact Sheet.  "NC Ranks Near Bottom in School Spending", John Frank, News & Observer, February28, 2013.  "NC Ranks 46th in Nation in Teacher Pay", Emery P. Delasio, News & Observer, March 6, 2013.  “Summary of Special Provisions-Senate Bill 402.” NC Department of Public Instruction. May 2013.  "The 2013-15 Fiscal Year Final Budget: Putting North Carolina on a Path to Mediocrity", T. Mitchell, BTC Reports, Volume 19, Number 5, August 2013.  Ibid. In the 2013 budget, lawmakers enacted a one-time cut to textbook funding. The NC Department of Public Instruction requested the cut to be restored in the continuation budget for the 2013-15 fiscal year, but the Office of State Budget and Management chose not to—meaning the one-time cut became permanent, eroding the baseline. DPI estimates that approximately $100 million is needed in the 2014 fiscal year, but the new appropriation is only $23.6 million.  “Public Money for Private Schools: Vouchers and Neovouchers.” Matthew Ellinwood, NC Justice Center, April 2013. Like what we're doing? Donate: We're a bootstrap, low overhead, mom run organization. Your donations make the work of MomsRising.org possible--and we deeply appreciate your support. Every little bit counts. Donate today on our new, secure website. On Facebook? Become a Fan. Follow us on Twitter. What should MomsRising tackle next? Tell us what's on your mind.
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