Defending Democracy, Education

We must all do our part for NC public education – Be an #NCEdVoter

What’s better than going to the polls to vote? How about going with a best friend to cast your ballots together!

Renee Sekel and Susan Book are public education advocates who are committed to making our schools better by electing candidates who understand funding needs and the policies that will improve the learning environment for our children. We continue our #NCEdVoter series today with their story:

Renee (left) and Susan (right) present at a ‘Our Kids Can’t Wait’ Community Forum, in partnership with the Education & Law Project, in Cary Oct 18th.

Few things anger parents more than having their child reassigned to a different school.  Meeting halls fill.  Parents organize to keep their kid at the their current location.  Insults and sometimes even threats get hurled at school board members overseeing the plans. It is a prime example of how politics is indeed local.

While reassignment may seem like the end of the world for an individual family, statewide we have far larger obstacles to hurdle where the impact of our voices is more important than ever. We may have a small say in school reassignment, but we all can have a bigger voice in the governance of our schools.

The beauty of public schools is that they are our schools and there is accountability baked into the process of running them.  Engaged families can see to it that our elected officials are working with the correct information and making sound decisions.  And if we dislike those decisions, we can vote out the people responsible.  This is all very clear at the local level, where we can see and hear our school board members discussing the policies — in person and at public meetings.  And we can literally see the effect of those policies at school every day.

What is harder to see is that this same dynamic works at the state level, too.  The NCGA controls not just funding, but underlying educational policies as well.  Those policies and their effects may not be as visible and glaring as school reassignment decisions, but they are no less important.  Our state legislature sets the agenda for issues like End of Grade testing, the number of children in a classroom, the number of teachers in a school, and how funding dollars may be spent.

And what happens at the state level has a strong connection to what we see on a local level.  That’s very clear when we look at issues such as the school bond on the ballot in Wake County.  The Bond seeks money not just to build new schools based on growth, but to renovate existing schools with aging heating and air units and other significant problems.  Those problems didn’t come from nowhere — years of underfunding at the state level have led to deferred maintenance at our schools, which in turn creates bigger issues that cost much more to fix.  The Bond is local, but many of the issues creating the need to it are statewide.

So we urge all active, motivated parents to look as hard at our state legislators as we do at our local leaders.  We can make our schools better.   We as voters can hold our legislators accountable for schools that need help.  We can vote out those who have put unfair testing burdens on our kids.  We can vote in those who will fully fund our schools and restore per pupil funding.  We can vote out those who have ignored teachers and their ask for better respect and better pay.  We can vote in those who wish to listen to our teachers and their policy ideas and finally give them a voice.

It is the time of year where we can all make an impact on our public schools.  It belongs to us, and the responsibility of a quality education rests on our shoulders.  I urge every parent that showed up to a meeting to discuss a reassignment grievance to show that same passion and urgency at the state level.  Ask questions, demand answers, and — always — vote.

Renee Sekel and Susan Book are public education advocates, Wake Public Schools parents and leaders of Save Our Schools NC, s a grassroots, parent-led group.  Save Our Schools NC believes that every child in North Carolina deserves a well-rounded public education, and that the best way to achieve this goal is to fully fund public schools and craft careful well-considered policies that address the unique characteristics of each community within the state.

Originally formed to address the North Carolina General Assembly’s harmful class size law, Save Our Schools NC, works to educate parents, provide them with virtual space in which to gather and discuss education policy, and empower them to lobby their elected officials for laws that will help achieve our goals. Learn more at   

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