Defending Democracy, Education

Education is the number one determinant of your success. That’s why I’m an #NCedVoter.

If recent current events have you wanting to pull-up the covers and stay indoors, make time today to read this short op-ed by Sinthia Shabnam, a poli-sci and sociology student at NC State. Shabnam has been inspired throughout her life by the people she has met while attending public school. That inspiration has sparked a passion to be involved in her community, and it’s what makes Shabnam a pro-education voter this fall. Today we continue our #NCEdVoter series:

Sinthia Shabnam

Perhaps my favorite thing about public education is the factor of authenticity. Private schools, charter schools, religious schools, they all at some point have a method of filtration from the rest of society. The authenticity of public schools allowed me to discover the most authentic version of myself, and I’m proud to say that I’m a product of public education. I attended Hope Valley Elementary school in Durham County, and moved to Wake County since my family really valued the quality of education in this region of NC. Since then I have attended Cedar Fork Elementary, West Cary Middle, Carnage Magnet Middle, Panther Creek High School, and now NC State University.

Beyond my classes, extracurricular opportunities, social life, access to affordable lunches, service and leadership programs, the fact that holds the greatest impact on me today are the relationships I was able to foster with my teachers, especially in high school. They believed and invested in my ability to grow as a leader one day, helped me clarify my thoughts and ideas, and respected my values and lifestyle choices. They helped me recognize my skill sets, made extra time for me when I struggled to perform well in difficult classes, were prompt in communication, and avid listeners. They did more than just instruct me. My French teacher from 8th grade, Madame Nordquist still keeps up with my endeavors as I navigate the work force and politics. My Sociology and Law and Justice teacher from high school is why I’m a Sociology major today. My AP Government and Politics teacher is why I’m a Political Science major today.

I come from a background where my parents taught me that education is the number one determinant of your success in all fields of life: your open mindedness, how much people respect you, your ability to make a stable income, your ability to have affordable housing, your access to social groups of like-minded people, so I listened. I committed to my education and my teachers helped me perfect my resume, read my poetry, told me I had great public speaking skills, encouraged me to seek leadership positions, encouraged me to read books and watch documentaries. They expanded my drawer of knowledge, but they were also my mentors when often I did not find that mentor figure at home. They filled all the gaps in my life that I didn’t know I need filled. My English teacher from 9th grade gave me an award and listened to my story, and even let me tutor his future students, my Sociology teacher gives me advice to this day on navigating Politics and Law.

Going to a public school made me recognize the ups and downs of my intersectionalities, but my teachers made me proud of them. I wouldn’t be attending NC State today if it wasn’t for them teaching me to read, write, think, and speak critically, intelligently, and honestly.

Sinthia Shabnam is studying political science and sociology at NC State.

 

Education

Need motivation to vote this fall? This educator offers her ‘Top 10’ reasons for being an #NCEdVoter

The Education & Law Project continues its #NCEdVoter series this afternoon with the help of Jen Bourne, a parent and educator in Mecklenburg County. Bourne is involved with various advocacy efforts to ensure education equity in our state and is an active leader in the NC Families for Testing Reform group. 

Jen Bourne

Here are Jen’s top ten reasons for being a #NCEdVoter this fall:

1. Children come into the world as complete humans and we should care about the hopes and needs of all humans — especially those without voice or means to make themselves understood.

2. Universal Pre-K would go a long way to creating greater equity. We should fund it.

3. Children need more time to play and teachers need more time to teach. It would cost us nothing to give them both, and it would pay dividends in restoring joy to the school experience for everyone.

4. All content areas are important. It would cost us nothing to teach the North Carolina Standard Course of Study, but it would take time away from teaching to the test.

5. No one teaches for the money. Caring education professionals are on the front line with parents, fighting for the right of every child to grow into a good human with many positive choices and the skills required to choose wisely.

6. No one teaches for the money, BUT it would be nice if teachers could afford to raise families and pay medical deductibles without going into debt. Increased college loan forgiveness incentives would really be great.

7. Wrap around services (social workers, speech pathologists, school counselors and nurses) are crucial and insufficiently staffed due to current funding shortages and bad priorities. I am all for a toll lane if it means better schools. I am all for a tax increase if it means better access to resources for everyone.

8. I would like to feel a sense of pride in the efforts of North Carolina as a place where everyone is guaranteed to receive a good education, and all of our schools and communities value diversity.

9. I live in Mecklenburg County, home of the state’s most segregated school districts. The passing of HB514 will further segregate my community and I am angry at the legislators who voted for this Jim Crow form of dis-integration.

10. Given our spending priorities and the already antagonistic treatment of educators and minorities, the constitutional amendments that are designed to suppress votes and limit tax income for schools chills me to the bone.

Even if I did not have kids or know any teachers, I would be a public education voter because all of our fates are connected and in the hands of each other. Well-funded and well-executed public education preserves the greater good for everyone. We can only see each other if we know how to look, through lenses of history, art, science and all the richness that the world offers. We need to stop pinching pennies when it comes to fully funding greater opportunities for all children.

Jen Bourne has three daughters and works hard to advocate not only for them, but for all children. Her family believes that children deserve the best kind of education: one that honors their whole personhood and one that attends to their academic, social, emotional, and physical needs. 

Education, Higher Ed

Why I’m a #NCEdVoter: Education equity matters!

Today the NC Justice Center’s Education & Law Project kicks off an occasional series entitled: “Why I’m a North Carolina Education Voter” (aka #NCEdVoter).  We kick off the series with this submission from college student Sam Chan of Wake County:


Growing up in Cary, North Carolina was like growing up in a bubble of privilege. In school, there was not a lot of diversity within me and my classmates’ socioeconomic status and parent education. I lived in a bubble and while I was aware that Cary was an affluent town, I didn’t think much about what the rest of North Carolina was like and the differences in public education across North Carolina.

With my experience in public education, I was given the tools to do anything I set my mind to. My teachers inspired me to think outside of the box, think about the world around me, and think and reflect about my own privileges and experiences. I learned how to critically analyze books and how to be mindful about companies’ environmental impact.

It wasn’t until I got to NC State University that I realized that my educational experience was not a shared experience that every student in North Carolina had. Talking to my peers from all over the state, I learned that many of the resources that I had access to were not accessible to students in other towns and counties. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing from my peers.

Education is the key to social mobility, but the education system is inequitable across the state especially when it comes to funding, resources, teachers, extracurriculars, counselors, and college prep. If we want to ensure equity in our society, we need to start with education equity.

I’m passionate about education policy and working towards educational equity across the state of North Carolina. I’m excited to go out and vote in the midterms for candidates who are advocates for public education, as we have lots of work to do in North Carolina. Let’s work towards ensuring a quality public education for all.

Sam Chan is studying Political Science and Communication at NC State University.


So, what’s motivating you to go the polls this fall? Share your story on social media with the hashtag #NCEdVoter or contact Sarah Montgomery, Policy Advocate with the Education & Law Project.

Education

A community speaks but their voices go unheard

Photos by Sarah Montgomery

Eric Hall, previous ISD Superintendent reassures community members that their concerns will be addressed (Carver Heights Elementary Oct 8th, 2018)

Last week, almost 200 parents, educators, community members and supporters, gathered at Carver Heights Elementary school in response to an invitation by leaders from the Innovative School District (ISD).  Their representatives came to deliver the news that the school had been included on a short list of schools under consideration for inclusion in the controversial school improvement model, which might shift control from the locally-elected School Board to an outside, for-profit charter school operator.

Despite a stark lack of evidence for this model’s success and its dismal track record for transforming high needs schools in other states, representatives seemed to offer little to no alternatives to what they proposed was needed: an ISD takeover.

Although the meeting’s invitation pledged to allow community members a chance to provide feedback and engage in a “conversation,” it seemed apparent to those who had gathered that the stated intent was misleading. Rather than invite community members to discuss the school’s needs and share what seems to be working well, the ISD representatives started their presentation by presenting test scores that painted a picture of “failing” students, an “under-performing” school and offered inclusion in the ISD as the only possible solution.  These labels landed heavily upon the school’s educators, who had joined the event all wearing their yellow Carver Heights shirts, displaying the message: “Talk to Me, I will Listen, Teach Me, I will Learn, Inspire Me, I will Succeed.”

Community members also struggled to process the decision-making timeline presented: one of the schools being considered would be selected within a week’s time.

Why the Rush?

Cultivating good leadership, building trust and school improvement strategies takes time to develop. Trust and time is precisely what the school’s community asked ISD representatives to provide. Read more

Commentary

Feeding the Bull City: How Durham is ‘In This Together’ on May 16 and beyond (photos)

The YMCA of the Triangle opened its doors on Monday night to approximately 150 volunteers, who packed over 4,000 meal bags.

(Brian Kennedy and Jessica Burroughs contributed to this post.)  — North Carolina is the 10th hungriest state in the nation, and everyday schools and teachers play a vital role in making sure that hungry children, who come from more than 600,000 food insecure households, have enough to eat. In addition to the thousands of free or reduced price lunches that are served each day, teachers are often reaching into their own pockets to purchase food and snacks for kids to ensure they are fed and ready to learn. Addressing hunger is just one of the many things we ask of teachers beyond their duties of educating students. For this and many more reasons, community members are banding together to ensure that our educators receive the respect they deserve.

A hashtag associated with the May 16th NC Public Schools Day of Advocacy  is #InThisTogether – a fitting sentiment to describe the outpouring of community support and the spirit of togetherness on display throughout Durham. Led by volunteers with the Durham Association of Educators and the NC Council of Churches, countless nonprofits and community members have organized to provide every student who needs a meal on May 16th with a healthy breakfast, lunch and snack. While over 60 percent of Durham Public School students qualify for free or reduced price lunch, organizers set the goal early on in the coordinating process to ensure that every student who needs a meal have access to it.

Symone Kiddoo is a Durham Public Schools social worker and leader in the Durham Association of Educators who is helping to spearhead the community-wide mobilization to ensure full coverage across the district. Kiddoo put it this way:

“All the schools in Durham have been adopted and food has been distributed throughout the day on Tuesday May 15th. Our partners are amazing and we couldn’t have done this without the support of the community. Thirteen district sites and several community sites will be open on Wednesday. We’re all in this together.”

The snapshots in this post (see below) represent just a handful of the countless efforts taking place in Durham over the past few days to collect, pack, and deliver the food. For more complete information about efforts in both the Triangle and across the state, check out Feeding North Carolina’s Students on May 16th from our friends at EdNC. Read more