Children Should Matter
The 2018 Legislative Session began with a clear message to legislators: put education first. On the opening day of session, 20,000 teachers marched on Raleigh to demand that our legislators support public education with higher teacher pay, smaller class sizes, and much-needed resources for our children and their schools.
Republican lawmakers failed to listen, turning their backs on our children and their families. First, they created a backroom budget that shortchanges our children, withholding the resources necessary for young people to develop the skills to succeed in today’s world. Then, they pushed through a series of constitutional amendments to try to preserve their majority power after this fall’s elections, while avoiding a ballot initiative that would provide critical funding for our schools.
At the March for Students and Rally for Respect gatherings organized by educators, they asked legislators to put forward a $1.9 billion bond to fund new school construction. A bipartisan group of legislators claimed to support it. But it went nowhere. Make no mistake – this extremely popular education bond for school construction is not on the ballot because Republicans are worried it would help Democrats politically by turning out pro-education voters.
When someone shows you who they are, believe them. Once again, NCGA Republicans continue to prioritize corporate interests and their own seats above our children, teachers, and schools.
Democrats have consistently offered a better path. Before the session even started, Democratic legislators stood in rural Pitt county, in downtown Charlotte, in the Blue Ridge mountains, and elsewhere across the state to put forth a new vision for North Carolina – one that puts the education of our children front and center. We called it Our Carolina Promise. Our Carolina Promise began and ended with our schools. It was a commitment to listen to our teachers, to make North Carolina a leader in public education again, and to ensure that our children have the future that we all want for them.
Governor Cooper built on Our Carolina Promise with a budget that also put education front and center. His budget was a roadmap to investing in teachers, improving school safety, and moving North Carolina toward the national average in teacher pay and per pupil spending—all without raising taxes.
But the Republicans ignored the needs of our children and their teachers. They didn’t give them the resources and funding they deserve. They belittled teachers, called them names, and refused to meet with them. They’ll be forced to reckon with that decision this November.
Democrats have 170 candidates running in every single district this year. Not a single one is on the ballot as just a name. Every candidate is running a competitive race. In urban, suburban, and rural areas – in red, purple, and blue districts – on the coast and in the mountains – Democrats are challenging Republicans.
Many of these Republicans have never had a competitive challenge, which also means they have never had to listen to constituents who felt locked out of the political process but who are now energized and fed up.
Students, parents, and teachers are highly engaged in this election because Republicans continually refuse to listen to them. However, I’m listening, as are all my fellow Democrats. And I want you to know that the fear of what will happen in November is palpable in Republican offices inside the General Assembly.
The Republican supermajority is disappearing and it’s because Republicans refuse to listen to North Carolinians who care deeply for our children and our future. Those children matter to me, and they should matter to all of us.
This column was originally published in the News of Orange.