Many people in North Carolina are upset about cuts to education spending, but one complaint has Republican State Rep. Mike Stone fuming. He recently received a protest letter from his daughter, along with others from the rest of her third-grade class, asking him to "please put the budget higher, dad."
The Associated Press reports that Democratic Governor Beverly Perdue is battling with Republican lawmakers over a budget proposal that could eliminate 9,300 positions in public schools, including two teaching assistants in Stone's daughter's class. The Representative says the school went too far when it, "recruited third-graders to do their bidding." From the Stanford Herald:
"I'm very disturbed that it would get to that level in our education system," Stone said. "We all agree we send our children to school to be educated, but I don't think we should ask third graders to get political. Especially when they don't understand what they're writing. Especially when it's my daughter."
Stone claims the letters all followed "talking points" which said the class wouldn't be safe in the cafeteria, wouldn't have field trips, and wouldn't have graded papers if there were no TAs. He says, "The class was asked to write a paper on why (my daughter's) daddy should not let teachers assistants get fired. She thinks she's done a great thing, and I'm not going to tell her otherwise." (Let's hope she doesn't have access to the internet, or a TV.)
The letters were sent in an email, and while the school denies this, Stone says they were originally going to be sent home with his daughter. Superintendent Jeff Moss responded,
"They wrote them to support public education. It was a writing activity in a class. We teach various forms of writing, so this was just an activity to teach kids writing and they used it as the subject matter."
Saying this was just another assignment is a bit disingenuous. While I probably agree with what was said in the letters, I've been uncomfortable with this type of situation since I was in school. Kids need to be educated on how the political process works and how the actions of lawmakers affect their lives, but I don't recall ever hearing a balanced description of what a particular local election was about; I was simply instructed to, "tell your parents to vote yes" on the issue at hand. Letters from teachers to legislators explaining how crucial the TAs are would be definitely be appropriate, and possibly even influential. Considering that children that young only know Miss Smith is the nice lady who sits in the back of their class, the letter-writing assignment seems both manipulative and ineffective.
Stone says he's worried that his daughter will get bullied if the budget doesn't pass. Maybe he's just trying to win sympathy, but it isn't hard to imagine other kids taunting Stone's daughter if the TAs are let go. Children who can't fully grasp the issue shouldn't be told that their classmate's dad is a bad guy who fired the TA. This time, I believe the children were arguing to "support public education." However, if my theoretical child's science teacher had him compose a letter urging me to support the teaching of creationism alongside evolution, I'd be furious too.
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