Dear Governor-Elect Cooper,
My name is Malcolm and I am a third-grader in the Winston-Salem/Forsyth County School system. I have vibrant red-hair and blue eyes like my mom, wear cool glasses, have a wicked follow through on my jump shot, and am quite the dancer. My dad also wears glasses, but he does not dance very well nor has much hair. My sister is in high school. She is very smart and she helps me with my homework.
And I also have an extra chromosome because of a condition called Trisomy 21. You may know it as Down Syndrome. It does not define me. It just is, but I do need a little extra help in school and in learning other skills on how to be independent.
I am having my daddy write this letter for me. He is a teacher in a public high school. In fact, I spend a lot of time at his school going to games and functions. A lot of people know me there like they do at my own school. My having an extra chromosome doesn’t seem to scare them so much because in the end we are all more alike than different anyway.
But I am worried about some of the things that have happened in public schools since I have started going.
The people in what my daddy calls the General Assembly seemed to have done a lot of things to weaken public schools like not fully give money to them or give them resources so that all kids in public schools can be successful. It seems that some money went to this thing called “vouchers” and some has been used to help make other types of schools – schools that will not accept me.
When I got to ready to go to school a few years ago, one of my grandparents offered to pay tuition at any school that could help me the most, but none around here would take me because I have a certain type of developmental delay. But the public schools welcomed me with open arms. And I am learning.
Yet when people in power have taken away resources, teacher assistants and forced local school systems to make due with less money, then all students, especially students like me, are not being helped as much. And it’s not our teachers’ fault. It’s the fault of those who control what we get.
I think you will be good for students like me because I think you will fight for schools like mine and all public schools. But I will ask you to do one thing – be loud about it. Make everyone know your commitment to public school children and their teachers and the staffs at each school as many times as you can.
I can be loud. It’s easy. Just make yourself heard when you see something that is not right.
Let each member of the General Assembly know that commitment and when they say or do something that might hurt how a school can help any of its kids, you tell them that is not right. You tell them, “NO!”
I say that word at least twenty times a day. In fact, according to my daddy, it’s the first word I learned.
But the last governor did not say that word. My daddy says that a governor can say “no” by doing something called a “veto.” And the last governor rarely ever did a veto. He let the people in the General Assembly do what they wanted. And it hurt our schools.
When people say “no” it makes others think why it should not be. It makes people have to talk about it. And according to my daddy, many in the General Assembly do not like talking in public about what they do in secret like “special sessions” or “midnight meetings.”
But you can be heard. And you need to talk for a lot of us.
And if you need someone to help you say “no” or yell loudly, let my daddy know and he can bring me to Raleigh so I can help out.
I’ll be the kid with the red hair and blue eyes who just happens to have an extra chromosome and likes going to school.
Special Normal Public School Kid