Opinion: Public education deserves protection from those who want to eliminate it

Photo: Will & Deni McIntyre/Getty Images

By Tammy Raynor Petrosillo

March 21, 2024

Running for school board is not for the faint of heart. It is a monumental task that requires a lot of time and energy. It is a sacrifice that I choose to make as I run for a seat on the Franklin County board of education. 

As a veteran teacher, I do this to protect and preserve the rights of all children to have a sound, basic education and to keep extremism away from our public schools. Over the last decade, public education in North Carolina has been under attack. When the public education system fails, the community fails. 

Governor Cooper recently visited Franklin County schools, proclaiming 2024 the Year of Public Schools. 

Education will be on the ballot this fall. North Carolina voters will be tasked with deciding whether  extremists like Mark Robinson and Michele Morrow will run our state. Robinson is the Republican nominee for Governor and Morrow is the Republican nominee for North Carolina Superintendent of Public Instruction. Both embrace far-right ideology that will be dangerous for North Carolina and our public school system.  

Neither are an ally to public education. They have both called for eliminating the State Board of Education and support book banning. They have attacked teachers, calling them sexual groomers and wicked. They both support private school vouchers, which take public money away from public schools and give it to private schools with little to no accountability.  

Robinson has a well-documented track record of a wide range of controversial statements including attacking survivors of school shootings, calling them “prosti-tots” and “spoiled, angry know-it-all children”. He doesn’t think someone like me should be allowed to serve on a school board because “we are called to be led by men”.

Morrow, like Robinson, has built a legacy on hate. She embraces Qanon conspiracy theories, attended the January 6 insurrection, and refers to public schools as “indoctrination centers”

She has accused teachers of sexually grooming students and teaching a Godless agenda. She has referred to people with special needs as “mentally retarded.”. She has no background in education and has been a stay-at-home mom, homeschooling her five children for the past 16 years. 

To my knowledge, she has not stepped foot in a classroom of any kind, and therefore, has no concept of what really goes on in classrooms or what teachers actually do. She has little understanding of or regard for education law and policy, especially special education laws. I believe she, if elected, will violate so many of those laws, she will keep North Carolina embroiled in an avalanche of lawsuits costing taxpayers millions of dollars.  

Over the last few years, we have seen extremists who embrace Robinson and Morrow’s views infiltrate our local school board meetings, wrecking havoc. Some of these individuals  have been elected to serve on these boards bringing their far-right  views with them.

They are not serving to make public schools better, nor do they represent all children. They want to change what is being taught to reflect their beliefs and only want students exposed to things that reflect their ideology. They embrace exclusion, rather than inclusion. 

If they get their way, public schools will crumble leaving only charter and private schools as choices. I am not confident that charters will survive, as I predict that they will convert to private schools.  Rural counties, like Franklin will suffer the most as parents will be left without any option, making Robisnon and Morrow’s  school choice mantra more of a “choice for me, but not thee”. 

The damage they would do to the public school system is terrifying. So much so that average people like me are willing to carry the burden of stepping up to run for their local school boards to protect the educational rights of all children and their parents and preserve the public education system. 

Public education is the great equalizing force for good in society. In a world filled with so much inequality, public education remains perhaps the greatest single means of giving everyone a “bootstrap” to pull themselves up by. Like a rising tide lifts all  boats, a thriving public education system lifts all children. It deserves to be protected from political extremism. 


  • Tammy Raynor Petrosillo

    Tammy Raynor Petrosillo had been a K-12 art educator for 20 years. She has been an advocate for arts education and education for 30 years. She is married to a veteran teacher and they live in Franklin County.



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