CEF broadens mission to advocate for our local public schools

Yulia Gapeenko

When the 2023-24 school year began at the end of August, North Carolina’s public schools did not have a budget. That is not okay.

Just two weeks prior to the start of school, the General Assembly approved Senate Bill 49, a very complex piece of legislation known as the Parents’ Bill of Rights, that had school boards and administrators scrambling to ensure compliance by Sept. 15. That is not okay.

Instead of being able to focus on her role as Chatham County Schools’ Assistant Superintendent of Instruction, Dr. Amanda Moran was meticulously combing through the bill, trying to determine what CCS already had in place (which, as it turns out, is the vast majority of the requirements) and what needed further clarification. That is not okay.

Having to come up with funds to pay for the financial aspects of compliance (e.g. legal advice, staffing to carry out new legal requirements, fees for due process) without a budget in place. That is not okay.

Finally passing a budget that merely raises teacher salaries 4% in 2023-24 (between $106 – $200 a month) and 3% in 2024-25 (just $82 – $106 a month) and isn’t inline with cost-of-living increases. That is not okay.

Employing an elementary school teacher with a master’s degree for nine years and paying a salary that has this single parent living just $100 above the poverty line, while also paying off student loans. That is not okay.

For all of these very real reasons and many more, the Chatham Education Foundation has formed the Chatham Public Education Coalition, bringing together a community of Chatham County residents to vocally support and promote our local public schools with fact-based information. Working closely with Superintendent Dr. Anthony Jackson and his leadership team, the coalition aims to highlight the strengths of CCS, while also keeping abreast of education legislation that impacts our schools. You may have seen our first community campaign on CEF’s social media outlining reasons why North Carolina has so many teacher vacancies, what CCS is doing to fill them, and including ways you can help (hint: vote for pro-public education candidates).

The coalition has three working groups: data gathering, message shaping and message dissemination. Anyone passionate about ensuring all CCS students have access to a high quality education and the opportunity to graduate from high school ready for career or college are welcome to join our cause. We especially need help spreading the word about the strengths, importance, and needs of our district. 

CEF will, of course, continue to raise funds and resources for CCS’s traditional public schools and support innovation in the classroom through Creative Teaching Grants; literacy with our Books on Break program offering free book fairs at schools in low-income communities; and access to AVID, a nationally recognized and proven college readiness and academic success program. In 2023-24, CEF will provide funding to support literacy and math tutoring so that students not meeting grade level benchmarks have access to tutors through the NC Education Corps program. 

CEF couldn’t do what we do without the support of residents, businesses, and foundations. If you would like to join our coalition, contact Jaime Detzi, executive director, at jaime@cefmail.org. Visit us online at www.chathameducationfoundation.org.

Article by: Cate House

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