Giant paper dolls are coming to Raleigh!
While it may sound like the title of a bad movie, it’s exactly what’s going to happen this Thursday as moms and kids bring more than 400 life-size paper doll cut outs of North Carolina children to the General Assembly to show support for critical early learning programs like Smart Start and NC PreK and remind our leaders, “don’t toy with our kids’ futures”.
As parents, we know how critical affordable, quality early child care, access to preschool and early learning programs are for North Carolina families. They prepare our children to start school ready to learn and allow parents to work to support our families. While the paper dolls may be two-dimensional, our children aren’t. Well-rounded, quality care is important to the future of each child.
Now moms are coming together to make sure all our state’s legislators get it, too! Last year legislators passed deep cuts to these programs, but just this past week we saw hope they’ve changed their minds and are willing to consider restoring funding to these critical early learning programs in the N.C. House budget. It’s an important first step, but there’s still a long way to go to ensure that North Carolina's kids get the start they deserve.
So, why giant paper dolls? An issue this big needs a giant-sized action!
This spring NC MomsRising has been partnering with local Smart Start partnerships and child care providers to create life-sized paper dolls of kids all across North Carolina. The cut outs are a representation of families standing up for the programs that keep parents working and children succeeding, like quality, affordable child care, access to preschool and early learning programs for all of the state's families.
We’ve collected more than 400 paper dolls. They are beautiful and as unique as the children who made them - and they are rapidly filling up my garage!
Can you imagine what a powerful sight it will be Thursday to legislators looking out their office windows or passing by on their way to session to see a field full of hundreds of North Carolina's children?
But the dolls can’t do it alone. So we’ll be hand-delivering messages from parents all over the state about why these programs matter.
Why do we need to stand up for early learning right now? In 2011, the General Assembly cut pre-K by 20 percent, even though leading economists agree that prioritizing funding to early childhood education provides taxpayers with returns of 7 to 10 percent per year for every dollar invested due to future reduced costs in remedial education, health, criminal justice system expenditures, and the tax revenues generated from increased earnings. These cuts have led to increased waiting lists of eligible children who don’t get financial help because the state runs out of money before it runs out of families who qualify.
We’ve seen that hearing from parents makes a difference on this issue! This spring the programs faced even more threats as a legislative committee considered restricting eligibility and privatizing all pre-K classrooms. Fortunately, after supporters across the state spoke out, the committee decided not to make any further cuts.
And last week the House committee responsible for funding recommendations for early learning programs approved a proposed budget that includes $15 million in additional funding for NC PreK; $1 million for an early literacy pilot program to be managed by The North Carolina Partnership for Children, Inc.; $2 million to ensure that rural communities continue to be served by Smart Start local partnerships; and funding for four regional development staff to assist Smart Start local partnerships in securing private funds.
This is great news! But there’s still a long way to go this session, and we have to make sure all of the state's legislators understand that they can help N.C. families and children reach a brighter future by standing up for quality early learning programs.
Is access to quality, affordable early learning and preschool programs important to your family? Then plan to come out and join us on Thursday, May 31.
MomsRising members will be gathering with the paper dolls in the Children’s Garden next to the General Assembly in downtown Raleigh at 301 N. Wilmington St., Raleigh, NC 27601 ( at the corner of Wilmington and Lane streets, across from Halifax Government Mall) starting at 9:30 a.m. on Thursday. After we set up, we’ll be delivering messages to legislators and joining Lt. Gov. Walter Dalton for a press conference with the paper dolls at 11:30 a.m.
We’d love to have you (and your kids!) join us. Just RSVP to Beth@momsrising.org, and we’ll plan to see you there!
Beth Messersmith is NC Campaign Director for MomsRising.org and a Durham mother of two.