Progressive coalition rallies to decry Lt. Gov. Robinson’s stances on public education
Janice Robinson speaks at CARE rally on Aug. 24, 2023. Photo: Screenshot from Facebook livestream.
Lt. Mark Robinson’s bid to become the next governor of North Carolina will further divide a state in which most Democrats and Republicans are already miles apart over LGBTQ rights, book bans and lessons educators are allowed to teach about America’s racist past, a coalition of progressive activists said Thursday.
Members of the Coalition Against Mark Robinson’s Extremism (CARE) and education advocates held a press conference in downtown Raleigh to highlight what they said is an extreme Republican agenda, supported by Robinson, that threatens public education.
Robinson, a Republican from Greensboro and the state’s first Black lieutenant governor, poses a particularly dangerous threat, CARE members said, because of his divisive rhetoric and support of discriminatory policies that harm educators and children.
Janice Robinson, NC program director at the group Red Wine and Blue (she is not related to the Lt. Governor), noted that Mark Robinson has referred to members of the LGBTQ community as “filth” and the state’s public schools as a “mockery of learning” and “bastion of perversion.” The two Robinsons are not related.
“[These are] the same public schools that he and [Rep.] Tricia Cotham [R-Mecklenburg] want to continue defunding to give our tax dollars to millionaires to send their kids to private and charter schools,” Janice Robinson said. “What the hell is supposed to happen to our kids left in these underfunded public schools?”
Janice Robinson is referring to legislation backed by state Republicans that would dramatically increase funding to the state’s Opportunity Scholarship program and remove income restrictions to allow the state’s wealthiest families access to state dollars to send their children to private schools. The program was created in 2013 with the stated purpose of helping poor families escape low-performing districts and schools.
“Let me say clearly, and listen to me, especially the Black community, Mark Robinson, a Trump Republican, should never become the governor of North Carolina,” said Janice Robinson, who is Black. “He does not care about Black folks. He does not care about the citizens of North Carolina. He does not care about public education.”
Dan Crawford, director of government relations at NC League of Conservation Voters, said he hears a cuckoo clock chime every time Mark Robinson speaks.
“We’re here today between the [North Carolina] Museums of History and Science, two subjects Mark Robinson has called for our children not to be taught,” Crawford said. “To me, that’s cuckoo. Cuckoo, cuckoo.”
Mark Robinson shared his thoughts about removing science and history lessons from first through fifth grade curricula in his memoir, We Are The Majority: The Life and Passions of a Patriot.
“In those grades, we don’t need to be teaching social studies,” Mark Robinson writes. “We don’t need to be teaching science. We surely don’t need to be talking about equity and social justice.”
In 2021, Lt. Gov. Robinson launched the “Fairness and Accountability in the Classroom for Teachers and Students” (F.A.C.T.S.) task force to uncover political indoctrination in public schools. The task force turned up little evidence of such indoctrination.
In April, he announced plans to run for governor in 2024 as part of a growing field of Republican candidates that includes state Treasurer Dale Folwell, former Congressman Mark Walker, retired health insurance executive Jesse Thomas, and former state Representative Andy Wells.
Pia Nargundkar, director at Progress North Carolina Action, said that Mark Robinson and other Republican leaders have the wrong priorities.
“As parents, students and educators prepare for back-to-school this week, it will be under a haze of uncertainty and hate as Republicans legislators have prioritized targeting vulnerable children over passing a state budget that will give hard working educators the raises they deserve,” Nargundkar said.
Jimmy Patel-Nguyen, communications director at NC Asian Americans Together in Action, said the organization stands against Robinson’s dangerous attacks against public schools.
“If Mark Robinson is elected, he will strip our children’s education from them,” Patel-Nguyen said. “We rely on schools to prepare our children to succeed in the real world, but Robinson’s censorship of schools’ curriculum will deprive students of critical thinking skills.”
Symone Kiddoo, president of Durham Association of Educators, said she became a school social worker to help students and families. But Kiddoo said that her efforts and those of other educators have been stymied due to the General Assembly’s underfunding of public schools.
“We’ve stretched ourselves thin to cover classrooms when our colleagues are driven out of the profession due to unsustainable pay,” Kiddoo said. “We’ve organized against the cuts to our funding by the General Assembly and we’ve consoled students and families that have been targeted by those aligned with Mark Robinson.”
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