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  • Writer's pictureMary Mathew

From Schoolhouse, To Courthouse, To Statehouse for Every Child

Updated: Mar 1

By Mary Mathew, Director of Advocacy


Parents, children, community members, and nonprofit partners gathered at Club Boulevard Elementary School in Durham on February 17th to discuss our commitment to transforming public education and supporting what’s best for children in our community. Book Harvest was one of six groups hosting the conversation. 



The event, called Building Bridges, came amidst a challenging time for Durham Public Schools (DPS); less than a week before the rehearing of the Leandro case; and two weeks before primary elections. It also took place during Black History Month, exactly three months from the 70th anniversary of Brown vs. Board of Education, the landmark decision ruling against racial segregation in public schools. 

 

“I could never imagine our students having a library like this,” said Shalonda Regan, a community leader from Robeson County, referring to the school's colorful and well-stocked media center where we met. “We don’t have enough resources in our district to provide students with books like this.” 


Shalonda joined a multi-generational panel of speakers that shared their experiences. They each highlighted the urgent need to invest in our students, educators, and public schools—not just in Durham, but in communities like Robeson County across the state.  


Diego, a high school sophomore, said his school needed funding to improve its building and to offer more afterschool programs for students. DPS staff member Anita, who lived in Durham during the time of school integration, discussed the negative impact of long-term underfunding on staff and teacher pay and children’s mental health. 



Their experiences reflect those represented in the 30-year-old Leandro lawsuit which holds the state accountable for meeting its constitutional obligation to provide a sound basic education for every child. This includes access to well-trained teachers, mental health supports, textbooks, a healthy school environment, and early childhood education. These are educational resources that every child needs and deserves, and that many children continue to go without.  


A plan was developed in 2021 to ensure every child’s constitutional rights are met. A fully funded plan would invest $678 million dollars (about 2.2% of the state’s total budget) in North Carolina’s 1.5 million public school students, as well as in children ages birth to five in preparation for a strong start to school. Current arguments put these funds at risk of being diverted elsewhere. 


The case is being reheard by the NC Superior Court for the fifth time since it started in 1994. A decision was made to approve the plan in November 2022, but was later appealed. Learn more about the Leandro case here and why it’s being reheard here.  


 “We need to keep children at the center, particularly our most historically marginalized students,” shared Dr. Kelvin Bullock with the nonprofit we are. He encouraged attendees to stand in solidarity with students and school districts across the state.  


Attendees were invited to join a Day of Action for Education Rights in Raleigh hosted by Every Child NC on February 22nd to coincide with the first day of the rehearing. 


Hundreds of people from across the state—including Durham families, Book Harvest staff and partners—turned up for a rally outside of the NC Supreme Court on the Day of Action to show our support for every child’s flourishing and equitable education funding. Advocates shared their voices in speeches, songs, and signs. 



Following the rally, the group marched to the NC Legislative Building led by students; children participating in school field trips at neighboring museums cheered as we walked by. 



At a press conference held outside of the statehouse, students representing three counties spoke about why Leandro mattered to them and their communities. Listen to Luna Gomez Salcedo, a fourth grader from Durham, share her voice. 



Early childhood leaders attending with preschoolers from Nash and Edgecombe Counties lifted up the importance of Leandro funding for our youngest learners. “We’re here for these babies,” one advocate shared. 



Policy makers also attended and encouraged everyone to vote for candidates that support strong and equitable policies for children.


The day’s events continued at a nearby church with lunch, music, and inspirational messages from past and present education advocates. A spirit of hope and sense of community was felt by all. 


Read more coverage of the Day of Action here and a summary of the first round of oral arguments from the rehearing here


Our journey from schoolhouse, to courthouse, to statehouse gave us the opportunity to use our collective voices to advocate for public education and its ability to help transform literacy for every child in every community. We look forward to continuing this journey, keeping our children at the center.






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