By Ann Carroll My daughter can’t vote until 2026. Meanwhile, while she grows up, lawmakers are making decisions about what her education—and future—will look like. So until she can vote, someone needs to advocate for my daughter and her classmates. And that person is me.
I get an “F” when it comes to researching candidates in the last election. In fact, I used to call it a win when I showed up to the polls at all. But this past legislative session did a number on our public education system. If ever I doubted that local and state elections matter, I will never doubt again. I’m voting next Tuesday, May 6th—and I hope you will, too. But to give you that extra kick in the butt to vote, here’s a recap of how our state legislators are determining my daughter’s future:
Ending Teacher Tenure
Our state lawmakers voted to end teacher tenure by 2018. In place of tenure, the state will reward the top 25% of its teachers with four-year contracts and $500 bonuses. But teachers aren’t buying it. More than 40 school boards have passed resolutions rejecting the new contract system, and Guilford and Durham Counties have joined together in a lawsuit to challenge the constitutionality of taking tenure away from teachers.
School Voucher Program
In 2013, state lawmakers took $11 million out of the public education budget to offer low-income families $4,200 vouchers to use at “state-recognized” private schools. While this may sound like an admirable goal on paper, the Opportunity Scholars Program has faced court challenges and criticism for funding private schools that do not accept children of certain religions and/or cultural backgrounds. The thing I have to ask is: since when does $4,200 cover the cost of private school tuition, and what low-income family could possibly supplement the rest?
The legislature is pushing ahead with more charter school approvals, which effectively takes money away from public schools and places it in the hands of private businesses. Twenty-six new schools have been approved so far. Last year, lawmakers refused to accept impact statements, which highlight how the opening of a new charter school might negatively impact existing public schools.
Efforts to grow charter schools and school voucher programs have been backed by the American Legislative Exchange Council, a group which has come under criticism for its undue influence on politics by special interest groups with the money to “pay to play.”
The 2013-15 biennial budget spends $562 million less on K-12 education than it spent in 2008– and that number takes inflation into account. The new budget reduces the number of teacher assistants, instructional supplies, and professional development. Teachers also did not receive a raise and there are reports that North Carolina is losing its teachers to other states who offer better compensation.
No one could predict exactly how this past legislative session would play out, but a good background check of my candidates would have told me enough to know that I needed to fight harder for those advocating for education, and not private interests. You can bet I won’t make the same mistake again; vote with me on May 6th.
Take Action: May 6th is primary election day in North Carolina. NC women are 54% of voters, so let’s use our numbers to create change. Sign and share this on-line Vote Together 2014 pledge card. After you cast your ballot, don’t forget to take a snapshot of yourself with your “I Voted” sticker. Send it to info@WomenAdvanceNC.org to be included in our album of Voting Day Selfies.