Whew! These last weeks of May and first week of June are a whirlwind for me and most of the moms I know.
They bring a crazy rush of end-of-school parties, field trips, tests, field days, and graduations. For my family, there’s the requisite last day of school picture of the kids on the front porch (much to their chagrin) so I can remember how much they’ve changed just since they started in the fall.
And, for me, there’s trying to find a meaningful gift for my children’s teachers and the time to write them the thank you note they deserve for all the love and knowledge they’ve poured into my kids this year.
I’m in awe of teachers, from preschool to high school. They perform what are truly the most important jobs of our society, and they are rewarded with barely enough income to support their own families and none of the respect they so clearly deserve. As a mom, I know how tough it can be to teach just two kids, let alone a class of 24 or more. And I see how my children blossom under their care, the excitement and pride they have showing off new skills or sharing what they’ve learned.
That’s why I’m so frustrated at the short-sightedness of our state senators. Last week, they passed a budget that again devalues our state’s children and further weakens the basic investments our state makes in education and early learning. The Senate budget cuts Smart Start, the state's investment in birth-5, by more than 40 perent.
This is the program that helps drive higher quality across all child care programs in the state, benefiting every family who relies on child care and works. It also provides family support programming that helps parents understand child development and connects them to community resources.
Child care subsidy as administered by Smart Start is about more than workforce support; it is about children attending high-quality programs that prepare them for success in school. These cuts will reduce the availability of pre-K services for disadvantaged children in the state and reduce program quality as child care subsidies do not have the same quality standards. A cut of this magnitude also means that some communities may lose their local Smart Start partnership and the services they provide.
Smart Start has a 20-year track record of producing real results for families, communities, and the state. These results are so profound that Smart Start serves as the model to which other states aspire. Smart Start works: NC third graders have higher standardized reading and math scores and lower special education placement rates in counties that received more funding for Smart Start when those children were younger.
At the same time that the N.C. Senate is cutting early learning, they also are slashing K-12 education. Since 2008, budget cuts have eliminated 6,148 N.C. teachers and 5,609 assistants, according to the Department of Public Instruction.
And, yet, the newly approved Senate budget calls for even more cuts to classroom teachers, the elimination of more than 4,000 teachers’ assistants in second and third grade, reductions in instructional support staff like social workers and counselors, and even fewer classroom supplies. We were already 48th in per pupil spending. Apparently, our senators are aiming to be 50th!
Also included in the budget is a special provision that will eliminate classroom size caps, meaning we’ll be seeing overcrowded classrooms and even less personalized instruction. More kids will be starting school unprepared, and there will be fewer teachers, assistants, and resources to help them. From a parent’s perspective, it feels like the perfect storm.
So this year, as I write my thank you notes to my kids’ teachers, I’ll be writing another set of letters as well ... letters to my Representative and N.C. House Speaker Thom Tills letting them know how disappointed I am in the Senate’s budget and asking the House to do better for our state’s kids.
I hope you’ll join me. To find out who represents you, visit www.ncleg.net.
Beth Messersmith is NC campaign director for MomsRising.org and a Durham mother of two. MomsRising members contribute monthly to Go Ask Mom.