Our shared responsibility – Q City Metro


Charlotte Runs on Volunteers (alternate title – Quit Whining and Step Up, but it seems a little harsh)

I recently read the QCity Metro interview with Charlotte-Mecklenburg Earnest Winston School Superintendent. As I read, I remembered what I saw and learned as Mecklenburg County Commissioner: that there are multiple factors that contribute to the success (or failure) of our students and families.

Winston tried to explain this without giving the impression that he was blaming the poor test scores.

This is the difficult position in which we place all of our leaders, whether elected or hired. If they say that they are not the only ones in the system who are responsible for the results, they look weak, as if they are shirking their responsibilities. If they take responsibility and say they will work every hour of every day to make things better, they are setting themselves up for failure, and the blame and insults are compounded.

It is a losing situation because we, the residents, do not see our community and collective responsibility for raising our students.

The reality is that in the United States and especially in North Carolina, we are not pushing ourselves enough for the government to meet all the needs.

We see it in health care, where our state has not extended Medicaid. More than half a million people survive day to day without health insurance as our state plans to give back some of its $ 8 billion surplus to businesses.

Those with the resources have other options – like private schools, private country clubs, and concierge medical clinics. Others rely on the kindness of strangers, literally, to fill in the gaps.

Many say they would rather let people decide voluntarily to support social programs and not let the government do it for them through taxes. It’s a noble concept, but in reality it leaves a lot out. Not all gaps are filled and not all areas are addressed in the same way.

Private schools may choose to refuse students who are too difficult to serve; our public schools cannot. Public means everyone. No matter what behavioral problems, abusive family lives, disabilities or chronic illnesses children bring with them, the public system accepts them and hopes to prepare them for a better future.

In addition, other areas of the public sector also share responsibility for the education of our children. The state of North Carolina, for example, has a constitutional responsibility to provide every child with a “solid basic education.” But it has underfunded the state’s school systems so much that they are subject to a court order to increase funding.

Winston did not mention state underfunding in his interview. He refused to transfer the responsibility, so he is rewarded with blame, criticism, and tact. But the Leandro decision, which ruled in 1997 that the state was failing our children, was difficult to enforce. It has become a hot potato tossed back and forth between politicians and the courts for literally decades.

Why isn’t every parent calling state lawmakers to ask them to spend some of this multibillion-dollar surplus on our children?

Our counties and cities also contribute to education. They are responsible for social services, public and mental health, public parks, housing, homelessness prevention and more. All of these services support and prepare our families and students for success. We know mental health can hamper academic success, but waiting lists are long for appointments whether you can afford to pay or not.

My point is this: All of us in the public, private and non-profit sectors are responsible for training our future engineers, teachers, doctors, firefighters and software developers.

Can we consider our collective responsibility and work together for change?

If you look at our thriving philanthropic and nonprofit sector in Charlotte, you will be overwhelmed at how much individuals and businesses voluntarily contribute to our community. Our community foundation – the Foundation for the Carolinas – is one of the largest in the country.

For academic success, there are many after-school programs in Mecklenburg County that attempt to fill the void. They help with everything from basic reading skills to emotional and social learning to career preparation and leadership.

Meanwhile, groups like the Reimagine America Project address the racial prejudices and inequalities that make it harder for students of color to succeed. In other examples, I like to read what organizations like the Higher enrichment program Where Our bridge for children do for students.

Just look at the Meck Ed Locator you can find over 500 organizations that are helping our children be successful.

So if you want to support our underfunded public school and our superintendent productively, there are plenty of places to donate your time, talent, or treasure.

Our system relies on volunteers to fill in the gaps, so please consider stepping up. Our children and our future thank you in advance.