banner
Go Ask Mom

Go Ask Mom

MomsRising: Why N.C.'s schools need more, not less support

Posted May 28, 2013

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.

8 Comments

Please with your WRAL.com account to comment on this story. You also will need a Facebook account to comment.

Oldest First
View all
  • babbleon1 May 29, 2013

    If you can't pay for daycare or preschool then the state shouldn't pay for it for you. How many generations grew up without preschool or free education from the state and turned out pretty amazing? RAA0013

    So, no public schools?

    If you agree that public schools are a good thing, then what's so magical about kindergarten that makes it good, but the year before it bad?

    What proof do you have that 'kids will be just fine'? Multiple studies have shown that poor kids are *not* 'just fine', and that pre-k leads to improved school performance, less teen age pregnancy, less jail time, less welfare. Where's your proof that's not true?

    (ps: the few studies that say the benefits wear off by 3rd grade seem, to me, to make the case that we should offer extra support through all elementary school, the way KIPP does, since programs with extra support show improvement to graduation)

  • RAA0013 May 29, 2013

    If you can't pay for daycare or preschool then the state shouldn't pay for it for you. How many generations grew up without preschool or free education from the state and turned out pretty amazing? Kids will be just fine in kindergarten without More at 4, Free at 3 or whatever it is called now. As long as their parents have shown them some attention and put at least some effort into teaching them the basics. Be a parent - don't expect the state to do that for you for free.

  • babbleon1 May 29, 2013

    So, actual data about the returns we get for our education money:

    From 2000 - 2009, NC increased educational spending by 10% per capita (inflation adjusted) and got improvements.

    1) Higher % of seniors have taken and passed an AP exam (tested out of a COLLEGE class - unbiased measure)

    2) Dropout rate, 2000: 6.4% 2010: 3.75%; graduation rates improved.

    3) EOG & other test scores improved.

    Sources: 1) http://apreport.collegeboard.org/sites/default/files/downloads/pdfs/AP_RTN_2011.pdf (Figure 3)

    (2, 3) http://www.ncpublicschools.org/accountability/policies/naep/2 &

    http://www.wral.com/news/state/story/9695096/ &

    http://www.civitasreview.com/education/some-perspective-on-nc-graduation-rates/

    While more college students need remedial classes, that's probably due to a higher % of students going to college. If anyone can show a study saying that more students w/over 3.0 GPA need remedial classes, I would *love* to see it. Been hunting for one for 3 yrs now.

  • babbleon1 May 29, 2013

    > Terkel
    > First, I thought it was "more at four".

    Name change, in 2011, by the GOP members of the NC Leg in order to claim that it's 'their' program, and distance it from the Dems who started it.

    > Second, if they didn't make babies they can't afford they
    > wouldn't have to worry about whether they get free day care.
    > ... Why am I forced to lie in a dirty bed someone else made?

    Because you live in the same country, state and city. If you support Smart Start now, there's fewer teen pregnancies, less jail, less welfare when these kids grow up.

    Not supporting early childhood education is short-sighted and foolish. You will pay for it down the line with jail and crime.

  • babbleon1 May 29, 2013

    " the main problem being money or the lack there of. " Enough is Enough People

    Except that tax revenues are rising now. Tax rates are still at historical lows, but more people have jobs and are paying taxes (including those here illegally).

    With tax revenue rising, we should be putting money *back* into education, including Smart Start, not taking more out. As stated in this article, it's a clear benefit to students and taxpayers. For more:

    http://usatoday30.usatoday.com/news/health/wellness/story/2011/02/Early-childhood-education-benefits-both-kids-taxpayers-study-says/43259964/1

    I have written and gone to public meetings; I'm thinking hard about how I can fit the Moral Monday protests into my schedule.

  • Terkel May 29, 2013

    "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."

    First, I thought it was "more at four". Do we have two free day care programs for women who make babies they can't afford?

    Second, if they didn't make babies they can't afford they wouldn't have to worry about whether they get free day care.

    "Disadvantaged children" don't just happen. They're created by women who choose to give birth to them. Why am I forced to lie in a dirty bed someone else made?

  • Enough is Enough People May 29, 2013

    While I certainly agree with some points in this article, it doesnt at all address the main problem being money or the lack there of. This isnt DC where we can just print money at will. We have to live within our means and unfortunately the previous administration left us in very bad shape. Tough decisions have to be made and I am sure many of them will not be popular. However, it still does not change the fact that they do need to be made. Personally I would have looked at some other ways to cut costs to minimize the cuts to the programs that work. For example, I take issue that we support and educate those who are here illegally. They alone take millions and millions out of our state budget and those funds could be used for programs like Smart Start.

    This is a situation of where it is what it is. We just have to deal with it.

  • khoggard May 29, 2013

    Thank you. I hope more moms like you will step up to support the teachers. I am a high school teacher & have seen how the children & teachers have been affected by this. Yet we are held to higher standards for our kids that we teach. We are being asked to do more with less. I have read the Senate proposal & I hope & pray that there are some in the Senate who will see that their budget is NOT the best for our children.