‘I’m disappointed’: Statement from civil rights icon Dorothy Counts-Scoggins on the current school funding debate

‘I’m disappointed’: Statement from civil rights icon Dorothy Counts-Scoggins on the current school funding debate
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Dot Counts-Scoggins became a civil rights icon at 15 years old, when on Sept. 4, 1957 she integrated Charlotte’s schools by walking through a sea of white students and parents who spit on her and threw pebbles and sticks. She’s worked in education and childcare ever since.

She submitted this statement on the latest debate between CMS and the county over funding, in which the county favors withholding $56 million unless the system presented a plan to close achievement gaps for Black and brown students.

As an advocate who’s spent 60-plus years trying to speak for all children of Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools, I am very disappointed of the actions that I have witnessed over the last week.

Specifically, I’m disappointed in the comments made about Superintendent Earnest Winston, his leadership, and the elected officials that we have chosen to represent the 140,000 children in CMS.

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I think about what my father and mother — parents of four Black children and leaders in our community — did in this city did 64 years ago. They sent me, their 15-year-old daughter, into an all-white school to ensure that education would one day be equitable for all children.

I had real stones thrown at me that day. Forgive me if I don’t care for seeing our elected officials talk about throwing verbal stones in a Zoom meeting.

After that experience, I realized that I would be a fighter for all children, to try to ensure that what happened to me would not happen to them. Although we have had challenges through the years, I’m now 79 years old and do have hope that it could and should be better.

It is unfortunate that it took the county’s proposal to withhold $56 million from CMS for us to see the gaps in education that have occurred over the last 20 years in schools that serve our Black and brown children. This is not new!

The troubles today started two decades ago, and at every chance we as a community have failed to overcome the circumstances — be they poor choices on student assignment, or the closure of predominantly Black schools, or the reductions in funding from the state legislature. We have failed to come up with solutions to ensure equity in our schools for ALL children.

One individual doesn’t determine the success or failure of our children. It is the responsibility of all of us. Placing blame on Superintendent Winston is not a solution.

I agree that those that receive funding need to be made accountable, but who should be accountable for the past 20 years? Who’s accountable for the 4,000 students who enter CMS classes while experiencing homelessness or housing instability? This is a community problem, this is a county problem, this is a problem that spans a generation.

Dorothy Counts and Katie Passaretti on vaccination day

Dot Counts-Scoggins gives an elbow bump to Dr. Katie Passaretti, Atrium Health’s Medical Director for Infection Prevention, after receiving her vaccine shot earlier this year. Photo: Courtesy of Atrium Health

We have just experienced the very stressful year of the pandemic, and our children have experienced it deeply. Virtual learning, being cut off from friends, witnessing their parents lose jobs, or worse, losing housing and food on their tables. These children have suffered. Why are we not working together to address these issues?

CMS was recognized years ago as a school system of excellence. How did this happen? Citizens, including the faith community, business community, community leaders and parents of all faiths, races and socio-economic status sat down at the table and talked about what they wanted for the children of Mecklenburg County and worked on the challenges and came up with solutions together.

Earnest Winston has been superintendent for two years, and one of those years was during the pandemic. I am sure all of us have had failures and challenging times in our careers and life and had to make decisions that later could have been handled differently. I know that Superintendent Winston has had his share of sleepless nights trying to ensure that our children, teachers and other CMS staff that care for our children are safe.

I stand in support of Superintendent Winston and others in his administration, and school board members whom you have elected, and I ask that you too as residents of Mecklenburg County join me!

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