Progress NC launches new website to find the truth about underfunded schools

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Parents, educators and community leaders can now share stories about the challenges they face in North Carolina’s “cash-strapped” public schools on a new website launched this week by Progress NC, a nonprofit that advances progressive causes.

The True Reporting of Underfunding Education (T.R.U.E.) portal will shine a light on the impact of “chronic neglect” and the “underfunding” of the state’s schools, the organization said in a news release.

T.R.U.E., is intended to counter a website Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson created to give students, teachers and parents a tool to report perceived cases of bias or indoctrination in public schools.

Robinson, a Republican from Greensboro and the state’s first Black lieutenant governor, launched “Fairness and Accountability in the Classroom for Teachers and Students” (F.A.C.T.S.) in February after the State Board of Education adopted new social studies standards he opposed.

The lieutenant governor released his 250-page report this summer, but it did not show widespread indoctrination of North Carolina’s school children.

“Two-thirds of the things found in there [Robinson’s report] had nothing to do with K-12 curriculum at all,” said Durrell Johnson, the Progress NC communications director.

Nevertheless, student indoctrination, Critical Race Theory (CRT) and mask-mandates have dominated K-12 education headlines throughout a raucous summer for school boards. Boards that adopted masking requirements and those falsely accused of endorsing CRT have been berated and threatened during monthly meetings.

Educators say CRT, an obscure academic discipline from the world of higher education that examines how American racism has shaped law and public policy, is not taught in K-12 classrooms.

Democrats in the General Assembly have sought to eliminate a state law that requires school boards to vote monthly on masking mandates to eliminate the rancor it has spawned. But on Wednesday, the Republican-controlled state House rejected a proposal to end the requirement on a 51-41 vote largely along party lines. One Republican voted in favor of ending the requirement, along with all Democrats present.

Progress NC believes its new website will help to redirect attention to more substantive education matters such as the adequate funding of the state’s schools.

“The conversation has shifted away from the real issues around education in North Carolina,” Johnson said. “We want to bring that conversation back to supporting our educators, supporting the future of our kids.”

The organization noted that neither House nor Senate budgets in the GOP-led Generally Assembly fully fund the Leandro Comprehensive Remedial Plan as ordered by the judge overseeing the state’s landmark school funding case.

Superior Court Judge David Lee has given lawmakers until Oct. 15 to develop a plan that fully funds the $5.4 billion remedial plan through 2028. Lee set an Oct. 18 hearing to consider the next steps if lawmakers fail to deliver a plan.

Mecklenburg County teacher Justin Parmenter endorsed Progress NC’s new website. Parmenter has been outspoken in his opposition to Robinson’s F.A.C.T.S. project.

“North Carolina is one of the fastest-growing states in the country and we have an opportunity to address real, critical issues such as teacher and bus driver shortages along with outdated and crumbling infrastructure that many of our schools in North Carolina face,” Parmenter said. “Our children deserve a quality education.”

Meanwhile, Johnson said a report to share information gathered on the T.R.U.E., website could come by the end of next month.

Johnson shared a few of the early funding complaints Wednesday:

Veteran Teacher

I have to have a summer job and a secondary job during the school year just to make ends meet. I am a single parent to a daycare-age child, and the expenses of a mortgage, daycare, utilities, etc means that I am having to work double my job and endure double the stress on my body. I have an autoimmune disease that is triggered by stress, and this year alone I have had to go on extra medication for weeks just to be able to stay in the classroom for my normal working hours. I am seriously considering leaving the profession because my stress and works levels far outweigh the amount I am getting paid, irregardless of the infinite joy it brings me to connect with my students.

Public School Parent Supporting Teachers

My children’s teachers and administrators have consistently gone above and beyond to keep families informed and students safe while delivering consistent, high quality education. They have shown tremendous grace and patience under challenging and uncertain circumstances and worked hard to convey positivity and provide as normal a school experience as possible under the circumstances.

Public School Parent

The lack of bus drivers impacts everyone, not just the kids on the bus; students being late to school disrue teachers trying to prepare students to be critical thinkers, agile workers pts everyone’s learning; students being late to get picked up to go home mean longer days for school staff; unpredictable schedules mean added stress for families; and long, long car lines full of parents tired of waiting for buses that never come mean all of us driving to school are regularly missing work time, late to pick up kids at other schools, or missing our children’s after school commitments. It’s a huge problem, and whatever is needed to make driving a bus a more appealing job needs to happen ASAP.

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