DURHAM - The early budget debates already have some groups worried about funding for education and early childhood programs. Some Durham families found a creative way to send a message to state lawmakers: don't toy with kids' futures.
“We're making giant, life-size paper dolls of Durham children to show our state legislators that it's really important that we invest in kids,” said Beth Messersmith, the director of NC MomsRising. “You get one chance to do this and we need to do it right.”
NC MomsRising is concerned about major funding cuts in last year's budget and the plan to cut even more this year.
“Last legislative session, we saw major cuts,” Messersmith said. “Twenty percent to Smart Start. We saw cuts of about $32 million to NC pre-K. These are the programs that make the difference of whether or not our children are ready for school. Those cuts have meant cuts in services. They've meant longer waiting lists for children to get services and these are places where we don't get a do-over. You can't go back to when a child is two or three and say, oh we'll fix it now.”
The group plans to take their paper dolls to the General Assembly to urge legislators to restore funding for early childhood programs.
Lawmakers say it's a message the kids can deliver better than anyone else.
“It will cause you to pay attention and it will touch you in a very special way that no high paid lobbyist can touch you,” said Sen. Floyd McKissick, a Democrat representing Durham County. “These paper dolls were crafted by our kids and it shows us just what it takes for them to create the skill sets they need to survive and thrive and do well in the public education system.”
NC MomsRising says they're encouraged by the governor's budget proposal. They just hope funding for kids doesn't get caught in the political crossfire.
“We would really like to see the funding restored,” Messersmith said.