All posts by Renee Sekel

Give a Little Bit

I don’t know about you all, but it feels like there are way too many things competing for my attention right now.  There’s back-to-school, and PTA is ramping up, and activities to lead and/or haul children to.  And, as one helpful soul on Twitter points out every morning, Election Day is fast approaching.

With so much going on in our state, our country and in the world, it’s all to easy to get overwhelmed.  There are so many needs, so many issues, so many choices.  Should I canvass for my local precinct, or for a specific candidate?  Maybe I should be working on registering voters.  Is it better to focus a lot of energy on one issue, or a little bit on several issues?  Some days, the sheer volume of choices renders me paralyzed — I can’t decide what to do, so I do nothing at all, which doesn’t help anyone.

In the past, faced with this paralysis, I have relied upon one simple trick to break it:  I decide to do one thing.  Just one thing, nothing else. The only rules are that I have to choose that one thing quickly, and it must be something I can do fairly immediately (I cannot promise myself I’m going to get started on September 31st and call it a day).

More often than not, doing one thing makes me feel like maybe I can do another thing.  And sometimes, even a third thing.  But even if it doesn’t — if I just do my one thing — then at least I’ve done something.

In case you, like me, are trying to decide what you should do, here is a list of suggestions:

  1.  Choose one issue on the ballot this year and learn all about it;
  2. Tell someone what you’ve learned;
  3. Join up with your local political precinct leaders and see if they need help making sure people vote (spoiler alert:  they do);
  4. Find a candidate you believe in, and join her (or his) campaign;
  5. Volunteer for a voter registration drive;
  6. Run a voter registration drive in your neighborhood or through your school;
  7. Contribute to the SoSNC Voter Guide (comment here if you’re interested!)
  8. Find a group that works on an issue you care about, and see if they have any election-season activities such as issue-based canvassing;
  9. Be a poll greeter;
  10. Vote;
  11. Bring a friend to vote;
  12. Bring lots of friends to vote.

Education Roundup 8/17

Hi all, and welcome to another education roundup.  Here is some of the writing we’ve found interesting this week:

The N&O weighed in on the NC Tax Cap amendment and what it would do to schools:

From the Washington Post, a good look at the legacy of Arne Duncan, President Obama’s Secretary of Education:

Stu Egan wrote about teacher training, the NCGA’s use of our children as pawns in the class size debacle, and about the SBE:

And peeks under the veil of “non-profit” charter schools:


Empty Words

I’m knee-deep in drafting the SoSNC voter guide this week, and one thing that we’re be looking for is legislators who have made statements in support of public education.  But of course, all statements aren’t created equal, and today I’d like to talk about one education-related boast in particular that sticks in my craw (if you read Stu Egan’s piece on bad education talking points, this one topped his list, too):

“Our budget contains more money for education than we have ever spent before.”  It’s an oft-repeated refrain, one we hear both from the General Assembly and from county commissioners, usually as the budgets they tout fall far short of funding even the basic needs of our schools.  This line bothers me not just because it is meaningless on its face, but also because of what it says about the people who say it and about their attitude toward public education.

First, on its face, the “more than ever before” statement is ridiculous.  If the purpose of a budget is to meet the financial responsibilities of the body creating it, then the success of the budget lies not its its total size, but on its ability actually to fulfill those responsibilities.  In fact, the total size of the budget is irrelevant to its adequacy.  Think about it — if my electric bill goes up because electricity has gotten more expensive and the summer’s been hot,  what happens if I send Duke Energy a check for 60% of my bill and a note saying it’s more than I’ve ever spent before?  I’ll get my electricity turned off.   The relative size of the bill matters not at all, only that it is paid.

But beyond its silliness, the statement is also revealing of a deeper (and concerning) attitude toward public education:  It casts education funding as a choice, not as a responsibility.  If we’re supposed to be grateful for any increase in education spending, no matter how inadequate, then the unstated corollary is that we should be grateful for any education funding at all.   On a state level in particular, this is problematic.

The North Carolina constitution charges the state with providing a free public education to every child in NC.  That means adequate funding for education is literally the least we should expect of the NCGA.  It’s a part of their job so basic that it’s written right into the Constitution.   A budget that falls short of full education funding is a failure, and any legislator presenting such a budget should do so with humility and a darned good explanation.   If, instead, that legislator claims the budget is a success and himself a hero merely because the budget provides some education funds, then either he misunderstands the NCGA’s constitutional responsibility, or is hoping that you do.  Don’t fall for it.

Education Roundup

Hi all, and welcome to our first weekly education roundup! This is the place where we point you towards interesting, illuminating and just plain important writing on education, in NC and around the country.

First up, Stu Egan, an educator and writer, posted this great rundown of the misleading education claims you’ll hear during this election season:

NC Policy Watch did a dive into the NC Budget, measuring how well we’re doing at investing in critical state needs, including education.  The whole report is worth a read:

And this, via Valerie Strauss at the Washington Post, is a lovely testament to the power of teachers “seeing” their students:

Finally, I want to add an older, but very valuable, report on some of the NCGA’s major education initiatives over the last several years, and why some that seemed like good ideas in other states haven’t worked here:–ED%20LAW.pdf

Our First Post

Hi all, Renee here.  Susan and I wanted to kick off our blog by telling you a little bit about ourselves, our experiences, and what we hope to bring to the SoS blog.  For now, we plan on a 3-day-a-week posting schedule — look for posts by me on Mondays, Susan on Wednesdays, and on Friday come by for a roundup of education-related writing from around NC and the U.S.

So, about me.  I’m a lawyer by training, but for the last dozen years I’ve been a stay-at-home mom to my three kids (currently ages 6, 9 and 12).  I didn’t ever intend to be an education activist, but the Class Size issue came to my attention and I realized I could do something to fix it, and so Save Our Schools was born.  I believe, with all of my heart, that every child in NC deserves an excellent, well-rounded education, and I believe that the only way we will make that goal a reality is if the citizens of this state, especially the parents,  rise up and fight not just for our own children, but for every child in North Carolina.

Hello, I’m Susan Book.  I worked as a state employee at NC State before making the decision to stay home with my son.  My son is now 8.  We knew he was a bit different early on, and the autism diagnosis wasn’t a big shock.  That is how I became an advocate.  My son wasn’t much for communication, so I learned to be his voice when he needed help.  I soon realized that I could be an advocate for public schools, the same way I advocated for my own son’s needs.  When I joined Save Our Schools, I realized my voice could be used to amplify the needs of our teachers and students for better funding and a quality public school system.

We’re excited about our blog and hopefully it will be an easier method to share our message of fully funding our public school system.  The Facebook page isn’t going away.  The blog will just be another opportunity to reach more people.  So welcome and please share with your friends.