Happy birthday: celebrating 175 years of public schools

Guess who has a birthday today.

North Carolina’s public school system.

January 20, 2015, is the 175th anniversary of the first public school opening in North Carolina. The Garrett Academy,  in Rockingham County, opened its doors on this date in 1840. Since then more than 2,500 public schools have been built and millions of North Carolinians have graduated from the state’s public schools. I bet you can name a few … hundred.

The anniversary is a great time to consider the important role public schools play in our state. The Every Child’s Chance … Every Community’s Future campaign, in which LCPS is partnering, is designed to do just that. It’s a pity that anyone needs reminding, and particularly sad that thousands of educators who work in our public schools feel the entire concept of equal access to education that is at the heart of publicly funded schools is under siege.

Need we say that this anniversary — as the N.C. General Assembly gets going — also presents a great opportunity for supporters of public education to remind state legislators of how instrumental public schools have been to growth and progress in our state?

That contribution will be celebrated at a major event commemorating the state’s first public school next month in Raleigh. The event will take place at the annual convention of the North Carolina Association of School Administrators, the organization that has worked with the North Carolina of School Public Relations Association in planning the celebration. In addition to those two groups, more than 45 organizations, ranging from the League of Women Voters to local foundations to local Chambers of Commerce, have signed on as partner organizations and are organizing local events to celebrate the anniversary of public schools in North Carolina.

In 1840 a handful of young people were learning in a one-room school building; today over 1.5 million students attend public schools daily. And in the years in between, countless North Carolinians have built successful, meaningful lives upon the foundation that, in large measure, public schools provided them. Perhaps you are one.

You’re welcome.