November 21, 2012
By Chris Hill
As Thanksgiving arrives, there are several things for which education advocates can be thankful. That gratefulness is accompanied by hope.
The first thing to be thankful for is that when North Carolina drafted its constitution, it saw fit to include public education in a couple of sections. In fact, in the Declaration of Rights, Article I, Sec. 15 states, “The people have a right to the privilege of education, and it is the duty of the State to guard and maintain that right.”
Article IX of the North Carolina Constitution is all about public education. Article IX, Sec. 2(1) requires the General Assembly to “provide by taxation and otherwise for a general and uniform system of free public schools.” That is an awesome statement and one that the General Assembly should take seriously.
We hope that two systems of public schools are not created by allowing for-profit corporations to come into the state and take taxpayer dollars for unproven charter schools. One set of public schools should not be using our tax dollars to line the pockets of for-profit corporations while the traditional public schools starve from the loss of that money.
Our hope is that a general and uniform system of charter schools and traditional public schools can exist where the charter schools do what they were created to do—serve as a laboratory for innovation that ultimately improves traditional public schools.
Another thing to be thankful for is a court decision that holds that North Carolina Pre-Kindergarten must be provided to all eligible at-risk four-year olds who apply. We hope that the state will provide this money without pitting one group of people who need the funding against another.
Indeed, residents of North Carolina should be thankful and proud of the free public education system in this state, which is so important that it is codified in the state’s most important document. We need to be hopeful that the General Assembly and the new governor will understand that public education is one of the state’s best assets and our students are our most important constituents.
As we fill our bellies this Thanksgiving, let’s hope our leaders will be thinking about filling the minds of our youth instead of the pockets of for-profit corporations. Once we live up to the ideals of the drafters of our constitution regarding public education, then we can truly be thankful.