Since February, I’ve felt a little lost. I began my journey as a public school advocate in a time of great crisis. I began trying to end the unfunded class size mandate. In fact, Public Schools Forum named the class size mandate the biggest education issue in North Carolina. As I’ve continually stated HB90, the bill that eventually passed, isn’t a cure all, but certainly no one feels like we are in a crisis. So what does an advocate do when a crisis isn’t knocking directly on her door?
I started to feel like I was tilting at windmills. It was the school bond, it was tax caps, it was HB514. It was school safety and our need for more support staff like psychologist, nurses, and counselors. It was teachers marching and speaking of low wages, and rising medical costs. My heart ached and my head spun. With so few paying attention, it was hard to keep in mind that all these were very real issues. The NC short session felt dizzying. My efforts felt futile. It was so much easier to work on one hashtag, one issue.
I think the biggest eye opener for me was that my one issue, class size chaos, was just a symptom of a broader disease. The broader disease is a systematic lack of funding for our public schools in North Carolina. It might take the shape of a unfunded mandate, or a lack of teacher pay for our veteran teachers. It might look like crumbling school buildings, lead in the pipes, or fundraisers for basic classroom needs. It’s all the same disease. All these problems stem from the same source, the refusal of our legislators to fully fund our public schools.
The problem is that all that doesn’t fit in a catchy hashtag. It’s broad and hard to nail down. There is no single bill to defeat or help pass. It can sometimes be clumsy and complicated to convey to the public. How do I compete with talking points that claim legislators are funding education?
Thus, I take on a new and even more difficult task than working on just one little bill, one issue. I take on the task of getting our kids the schools they deserve. I join countless others, who no doubt, are politically more savvy than I. The only way I can think to truly fight the disease of under-funding our schools, is to vote. We need to vote in true supporters of public schools, and vote out those who have done us harm.
We are not actually tilting at windmills, our giants are very real. Keep your chin up. Keep working. Keep talking to your neighbor about legislators who have helped or hindered the cause of public education. Most of all, believe our greatest victory is ahead of us. It is November 6th election day!