For the last two months, I've been chipping away at the film for this weekend's Jefferson Jackson Dinner in Raleigh (Tickets Here). This excerpt was cut in the interest of keeping the program mercifully brief, but depicts an episode no Democrat should forget. In 1961, Terry Sanford set out to sell his education program to the people of North Carolina. Not only was it ambitious, it was also going to be expensive, and Sanford asked the people to reinstate a sales tax to pay for it.
It worked. "Terrible Tax Terry" revolutionized the public schools in North Carolina and got people thinking about education as an investment. Three subsequent generations of North Carolinians went to public schools that saw ever increasing innovation and buy-in from state leadership. Like reluctant school children, the taxpayers of North Carolina felt- somewhere deep down- that this was actually good for them.
It's our job to remind the voters of the pride we used to take in our public schools. Every single one of us who attended public schools in this state, or sent a child to one, or taught in one, helped to build them. Senator Gladys Robinson says in the finished film: "The public schools are what we made them."
Quite simply, our public schools, community colleges and university system are the single greatest collective achievement of the people of this state. If we remind people of that, if we don't run from them but run on the heritage of that investment, we will turn the current Republican school breaking movement into yet another historical footnote.