For Shame: NC Lawmakers Vote to Strip Funding From Students
In the wee hours of last Friday night, while many of us were fast asleep, some North Carolina lawmakers voted to strip key education funding from students. Rarely do people feel good reading headlines about cuts in education, but North Carolina senators made matters worse when they stripped that funding from students who already face the greatest barriers—students of color who live in economically under-resourced communities.
Do any of the affected students live in those senators’ districts?
These legislators, comprised mostly of white men, would remove funding from two early colleges (dual enrollment high schools); a program that helps teaching assistants—a field predominated by women—gain teaching degrees; and a rigorous summer Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) program for girls and boys of color they don’t know, apparently just to spite their colleagues who represent students in districts who benefitted from these programs.
I’m willing to bet these legislators haven’t set foot in a rural majority Black high school because these legislators—again mostly white men—don’t represent communities of color. I feel like I can wage that bet, because if they had, if they knew these kids, they would’ve taken more time than the not-even-two hours it took them to cut their funding so haphazardly. They might have decided to take one more tour, do one more classroom visit (as one of their House colleagues has done), before deciding that they’re the only students who could do without the funds.
I can say that because I do know those students. As a former eastern North Carolina teacher, I know how much help these schools need. I know what is at stake if the funding is gone from a program like Eastern North Carolina STEM. If this group of mostly white men observed these students in action, they would see girls like my former students, faces lit up, learning in a hands-on student-centered environment leading their own experiments. They would know that the STEM program provides leadership opportunities during the school year and paid internships for alums of the program. That group of mostly white men would know that the loss of the program means fewer academic opportunities to experience STEM before college… in already under-resourced high schools…that have outdated materials and technology for their regular academic year courses…. and not enough Advanced Placement options. They would know that part of the reason there are fewer AP options in the first place is because there is a lack of highly qualified teachers to teach the courses. So cutting funding from local programs to create aspiring teachers really doesn’t help. That group of mostly white men would see that we’d be missing reaching future STEM major students, miss opportunities to build kids’ confidence in STEM, miss opportunities to give kids the resources they need to be college-ready.
These legislators might have learned that girls of color still experience gender- and race-based biases that keep them from choosing STEM majors in college and keep them underrepresented in STEM careers. They would have seen that opportunities like these help lift up girls of color and that their proposal would hurt these students the most.
But then again, maybe they had some idea of what they were doing. After all, reprehensible pettiness is easiest in the dead of night when nobody’s watching, right?
But in North Carolina, anything can be made right and polite with
It’s up to the House now to undo such shadiness. If you’re a North Carolinian, call your representative in the North Carolina General Assembly and tell them to not use kids as bargaining chips in the budget.