Sometimes I love my job as a community newspaper education reporter. I always like it, but today I love it.
I’m writing a story about the North Carolina Pre-Kindergarten program designed to serve at-risk children who otherwise wouldn’t get a high quality education before they started Kindergarten. Long story short, the N.C. legislature wrote a section in their 2011 budget bill that placed a 20 percent cap on the number of at-risk children allowed to enroll in NCPK, as well as imposed a co-payment on children attending and drastically decreased the NCPK funding. Certain counties challenged the law and in July 2012 a judge ruled that the state was in the wrong – all eligible at-risk children must have access to NCPK with no “artificial barriers” like co-payments. The state balked and appealed the ruling but on Aug. 21, an appeals court upheld the July ruling.
All this matters because if the ruling stands and the state doesn’t appeal it (again), more than 700 children in my county could have access to a high-quality pre-k program they might otherwise never get.
As part of my story, I ended up speaking with Rev. William Barber, president of the N.C. State Conference of the NAACP who reminded me how important it is to continue to push for what’s right, regardless of party affiliation.
This shouldn’t be a Republican or Democrat issue. 144 years ago blacks and whites together guaranteed public education to every child (by way of the state constitution).
In the end, Barber said the legislature continues to hurt the most vulnerable in N.C.’s population, the 24.7 percent of the state’s children living in poverty, to protect their own interests.
This is bad for all children at risk. If you help children early, you ensure their success and ensure future of state and county.
Along those same lines, I got thinking about my rights as a lesbian in America. Currently North Carolina has a state legislature who just bullied an amendment that violates my rights through their ranks and got the voters to approve it in May and America is ripe to have the worst federal government in recent history for women and LGBTQ folks if voters don’t pay attention.
If the legislature can’t even abide by what’s been in the state constitution for 144 years, the right to a “basic, sound public education,” then what hope do I have that they will protect my (currently non-existent) rights to love who I want to love and to have all the legal protection necessary to care for my family?
I don’t, so it falls to me and other voters to get informed, educate others and work to gain legal and election victories in November and beyond.
Tuesday I was feeling a bit jaded and over the whole activist thing. Funny how one little three-minute phone conversation can change your perspective.