My Turn, Susan Lee: The Human Relations Council’s ‘Supportive Public Education Forum’ is March 26 – Salisbury Post
By Susan Lee
Too often, when public education goals are not met, the blame falls on parents, students, teachers and administrators. We seldom question whether our schools have adequate resources. We don’t take the time to learn the facts about how public schools are funded and what to do when they are underfunded. Yet how often are we overwhelmed by community concerns, declining economic trends, and violent events that occur when our children’s basic educational needs are not met? When will we recognize the lack of adequate funding as the source of these problems and address it as a solution to these ills?
North Carolina is unique in how its public schools are funded. Unlike most states, the North Carolina state constitution requires the state legislature to provide 65% of the funds necessary to provide our children with an adequate public education. 24% is provided by local taxes and 11% comes from the federal government for specific uses. When the state legislature fails to provide its share of funding, as the 2021 North Carolina court established in the Leandro case, the burden of unmet need goes far beyond the classroom and comes back to our community. Particularly in urban counties that lack a large local tax base, insufficient financial resources for education contribute to the causes of poverty, crime, and mental health issues. State financial resources constitutionally provided for public education are fundamental to preparing students for today’s challenges, whether personal or academic. Public school students are counting on us for a fighting chance for the future ahead of them. Public education is our duty to all.
In “Let’s Stop and Think” (My Turn, February 6), Pam Bloom invites us to reflect on the impact of the politicization of public schools. She suggests that we take a non-partisan approach to what happens in public schools, rather than “succumbing to political outrage.” It also reminds us to rationally discern facts from opinions, because our children are watching and learning from us. The good news is that there is an opportunity ahead for us to do just that!
On Saturday March 26, Covenant Community Connection, the interfaith sub-committee of the Salisbury Human Relations Council, is hosting a ‘Public Education Support Forum’. Guest speaker, Reverend Suzanne Miller, Founder and Director of Pastors for NC Children, will present “Mission Amplify,” a statewide faith-based effort to positively impact legislative funding of public schools . Factual information about statewide school funding will be presented, along with the opportunity to learn how citizens and faith-based organizations can take action to create education to come up our children deserve.
Policy advocacy is a necessary and future-oriented way to support public education, but the needs of students and families can also be very immediate. Faith-based organizations are often at the forefront of responding to these needs. Two questions are always before us: how can we do more with what we have? And what can we do better? The Reverend Dr. Vincent Howell of Hood Theological Seminary will address these questions as a guest speaker on March 26. Reverend Howell reflects on an accomplished and dedicated career in ministry. Among his accomplishments, he is a key organizer of an interfaith and multi-faith collaboration that serves the community through public schools. It will present how faith communities can improve or begin to serve in this way. He will share how intentional and coordinated collaborative planning across organizations improves impact. Forum attendees will learn practical information about the cogs and bolts of building an effective countywide coalition that supports community outreach through public education.