By Dr. Mary Ann Wolf
North Carolina’s system of public education plays an incredibly important role in our lives every day. If you benefited from public schools, have children in public schools, believe that public schools are critical for our democracy, and want our children to graduate prepared for college or career, then the effectiveness of public education in North Carolina affects you.
We frequently share the great lengths to which our educators, administrators, and communities are going to to make sure that their schools and kids have what they need to be successful. Despite the social, emotional, and academic needs and inequities that have been exacerbated by the pandemic and the resource challenges we know that educators face, we see everyone in our school communities come together every day to address unfinished learning and identify innovative ways to succeed during these challenging times.
However, we also know that there are other realities our school communities are facing that we must address. Many schools today are operating without enough bus drivers, cafeteria workers, school psychologists, or teachers. Many of our educators are spending their own money to provide school supplies for their classes. There are countless other needs that our schools are grappling with every day without the resources they need.
While all of us work together to use every resource available that can ensure student success, in North Carolina and in many places across the country, we must acknowledge that these fundamental gaps in resources that we face have been brought on by years of chronic disinvestment in our public schools. The crises we are seeing in our schools today were avoidable, and they will only grow unless we begin to make the necessary investments identified in the Leandro Comprehensive Remedial Plan – investments in teachers, principals, early childhood education, postsecondary pathways, student support personnel, and finance and accountability systems that support student academic, social, and emotional learning. We are pleased that we have passed a state budget that begins to invest in several of these areas, but we must go much further.
With this in mind, our state legislature has the opportunity and responsibility to fund our public schools so that every child in NC has access to a sound basic education. This matters for the students and their families, but also for communities and our economy. We already have many unfilled jobs in a variety of industries that require postsecondary degrees or certifications- and investing in public education is critical to ensuring that these positions can be filled so that businesses can thrive.
If you, your children or grandchildren, or your community has benefited from public education or if you believe that a strong public education is a bedrock of our democracy and economy, the time is now to share with your elected leaders what public education means to you — and that our state must make robust investments today to support its long-term success going forward. When we elect people to serve, they represent our interests and act on our behalf. Investing in public education benefits us all.