Tell the Mecklenburg Board of County Commissioners: Please Fund Bright Beginnings
  • Petitioned Bill James

This petition was delivered to:

District 6
Bill James
Jennifer Roberts
At Large
Harold Cogdell Jr.
District 2
Vilma Leake
District 3
George Dunlap
District 4
Dumont Clark
District 5
Neil Cooksey
Vice Chairman
Jim Pendergraph
District 1
Karen Bentley
Budget Director
Hyong Yi
County Manager
Harry Jones

Tell the Mecklenburg Board of County Commissioners: Please Fund Bright Beginnings

    1. Michelle O'Reilly
    2. Petition by

      Michelle O'Reilly

      Charlotte, NC

June 2011


When the superintendent of Charlotte-Mecklenburg schools in North Carolina proposed cutting costs by slashing two-thirds of pre-k slots for vulnerable preschool-aged children, community members mobilized to save the program. Among them was Bright Beginnings teacher Michelle O'Reilly, whose petition gathered nearly 1,000 signatures. O'Reilly delivered the petition to local officials and testified to the power of quality pre-k at a county comission meeting.

After a long-fought battle for the program, officials announced June 15 that all Bright Beginnings classrooms would be saved for the 2011-2012 school year.


Bright Beginnings, a necessary and effective intervention for Charlotte's most at-risk children is slated for a 60% reduction next year.  The County Commission has an opportunity to keep 1800+ children in the program next year by writing a special grant similar to one written previously for high school reform.  


As stated in The Children's Alliance Bright Beginnings Fact Sheet, "It positively impacts school performance. According to evaluation conducted in 1998-2001, a higher percentage of Bright Beginnings participants met or exceeded grade level performance at the end of kindergarten and first grade on year–end literacy and mathematics (relative to eligible non-participants).  Gains were even more significant for minority children receiving free and reduced lunch. ("


Bright Beginnings is a cost- effective strategy, even during a budget crisis!  Research is clear, says RAND Corporation, a non- profit institution that helps improve policy and decision making through research and analysis, that high quality preschool improves children’s achievement test scores, decreases the likelihood of special education placement, and reduces the rates of teen pregnancy and teen arrest.  Additionally, the average benefit in quality early childhood education for low-income 4-yr-olds equals  $9,901/child.  Early interventions for economically-at-risk have higher rates of return (15% to 17%) than later intervention. (


Some have called Bright Beginnings free daycare.   In fact, it maintains rigorous expectations for the families it serves.  If they do not comply, they can be removed from the program so that families who are truly committed to their children's education may be placed.  


Others are saying parents should take sole responsibility for preparing their children for academic success, including those parents who utilize Bright Beginnings.  Could these parents, many of whom subsist below the poverty level, take more of a role in their children’s school readiness? In some cases, they could.  However, believing something could or should happen does  not make it so. How many people of this opinion have lived a day in the life of someone in poverty? Bright Beginnings is doing what many parents are simply not able to do. To end the discussion by saying parents should take over the role of early intervention is to be an irresponsible citizen.  That simply may not be possible for all families.  Without Bright Beginnings, these children will enter school under-prepared and will be at an increased risk for lowered academic performance.  


Consider the fact that by age three, children living in households struggling with poverty are exposed to 30 million fewer words than their peers who do not live in poverty. (Hart, B. & Risley, T.R. (1995). Meaningful Differences in the Everyday Experiences of American Children.) Imagine these children starting Kindergarten. Imagine their disadvantage as they try to learn and keep up without the necessary background knowledge.  Now picture a year of intentional, strategic, targeted literacy instruction aimed directly at giving them oral language, expressive and receptive vocabulary, book and print awareness, phonemic awareness and phonological awareness skills.  Add to that math, science, and social/emotional instruction and you will see how Bright Beginnings gives these members of society a fighting chance at academic success.  


Please tell the County Commission that Bright Beginnings needs their support.  Tell them to create the special grant Commissioner Vilma Leake has discussed and use it to fund Bright Beginnings.


Bill James, District 6
Jennifer Roberts, Chairman
Harold Cogdell Jr., At Large
Vilma Leake, District 2
George Dunlap, District 3
Dumont Clark, District 4
Neil Cooksey, District 5
Jim Pendergraph, Vice Chairman
Karen Bentley, District 1
Hyong Yi, Budget Director
Harry Jones, County Manager
I was thrilled to hear a special grant discussed as part of the dialogue surrounding slated budget cuts to Bright Beginnings. Please carefully consider this petition and all the information therein as you prepare for difficult financial decisions in the coming weeks and months. Charlotte’s at- risk children need you!

[Your name]

Recent signatures


    1. Victory! Bright Beginnings Pre-K is Saved

      Carol Scott
      Petition Organizer

      Some stories are a straightforward trajectory. A problem is identified. People gather around that problem and strive to change it. The change is made, and the people rejoice.
      Others are a roller-coaster-like slog. And that's how it's been for...

    2. Carol Scott
      Petition Organizer

      Charlotte Observer editorial - County must do its part, save Bright Beginnings

    3. Carol Scott
      Petition Organizer

      The school board is fighting for this program! From the Charlotte Observer: CMS board seeking additional $50 million

    4. Will Bright Beginnings Survive? We'll Find Out Tomorrow.

      Carol Scott
      Petition Organizer

      Tuesday, May 10th is an important day for the Charlotte-Mecklenburg school district. It's the day where the school board will decide whether or not to ask for an additional $45 million from the county - money that would keep the school district from...

    5. Carol Scott
      Petition Organizer

      School Board Chair will request more money from county, fighting against cutting Bright Beginnings classes:

    6. Michelle O'Reilly
      Petition Organizer

      We Must Fight For More School Funding

    7. Carol Scott
      Petition Organizer

      Superintendent Peter Gorman's budget still calls for massive cuts to Bright Beginnings - advocates say it's up to the county commission, the Charlotte Observer reports:

    8. Carol Scott
      Petition Organizer

      Pulling for Michelle O'Reilly, who will be speaking at the county commission meeting today on behalf of Bright Beginnings.

    9. Carol Scott
      Petition Organizer

      The County Commission meeting is tomorrow - Michelle O'Reilly will be bringing this petition to the commission members in support of Bright Beginnings.

    10. In North Carolina, Campaign To Save Preschool Goes Down To The Wire

      Carol Scott
      Petition Organizer

      On April 5th, Michelle O'Reilly will make her final plea for the children of Charlotte-Mecklenberg schools. She'll ask the County Commission to reconsider its massive proposed cuts to Bright Beginnings, a preschool program that helps struggling...

    11. Reached 750 signatures
    12. Carol Scott
      Petition Organizer

      Great news! The NAACP stands for preserving Bright Beginnings:

    13. Carol Scott
      Petition Organizer

      Please sign before the County Commission's April 5th meeting - teacher Michelle O'Reilly will be bringing the petition and presenting to county leaders!

    14. Michelle O'Reilly
      Petition Organizer

      From the Duke University Office of News and Communications: new research shows that, "N.C. third-graders have higher standardized reading and math scores and lower special education placement rates in those counties that received more funding for Smart Start and More at Four."

      read more at:

    15. Michelle O'Reilly
      Petition Organizer

      Last night he CMS Board of Education heard the results of the focus group project, Get Real2011, presented by Crossroads Charlotte. Bright Beginnings is their 5th priority! Check it out:

    16. Michelle O'Reilly
      Petition Organizer

      The County Commission said in February that they would discuss Bright Beginnings at their April 5th meeting, although they don't finalize their budget until May. I will be at that meeting presenting the petition (including both online and handwritten signatures, we are at around 1200) and would love to have your presence and support. The meeting is Tuesday, April 5th at 6 pm in the Meeting Chamber of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Government Center located at 600 East Fourth Street. For more information, visit:

    17. Michelle O'Reilly
      Petition Organizer

      The County Commission has listed Bright Beginnings as the 5th budget priority in a list of 18. View the County Manager's Update Community Priorities at

    18. Michelle O'Reilly
      Petition Organizer

      I aso have copies of this petition available for handwritten signatures. Contact if you would like to help gather signatures on paper.

    19. Michelle O'Reilly
      Petition Organizer

      I want to thank the Mecklenburg Young Democrats for their support of Bright Beginnings!

    20. Carol Scott
      Petition Organizer

      From the Charlotte Observer: 559 educators could be cut in the district - the fate of Bright Beginnings is still unknown:

    21. North Carolina Teacher Still Fighting For Pre-K

      Carol Scott
      Petition Organizer

      The debate continues to rage in the Charlotte-Mecklenburg school district: is it worth funding an intensive pre-K program for students who come into school behind, or is it a waste of money?
      Teacher Michelle O'Reilly, who's seen the success of Bright...

    22. Reached 500 signatures
    23. Michelle O'Reilly
      Petition Organizer

      More information on the financial rewards of early intervention

    24. Michelle O'Reilly
      Petition Organizer

      The Prime Pick

      From : New books tie early education to economic development

      State and federal policy makers who are struggling to close budget shortfalls, create jobs and stimulate the economy may want to consult two new books on the connection between early childhood investments, human capital development and economic growth. In Investing in Kids, economist Tim Bartik reviews the research behind the economic development impacts of early childhood investments and finds them comparable to other well-designed business incentive programs. Importantly, by including a chapter on policies that reduce the short-term costs or increase the short-term benefits of early learning programs, Bartik addresses many policy makers' question about the wisdom of investing in early education during an economic downturn when the economic returns mostly materialize in the future.

      The second book discusses how early education programs can enhance human capital and lead to positive economic returns for society. The authors summarize the evidence behind a range of programs that serve children from birth through age 8, including WIC; Nurse Family Partnership; Early Head Start; Head Start; state pre-k programs in Michigan, New Jersey and Oklahoma; full-day kindergarten and class size reduction in the early grades.

      see more at

    25. Michelle O'Reilly
      Petition Organizer

      In response to "Bright Beginnings is a wasteful solution in search of a problem" (Feb. 15 Forum):

      Bright Beginnings isn't a handout, it's a hand up

      For those who think a helping hand like Bright Beginnings is a handout, I have a suggestion:

      Try raising pre-kindergartners on two low-wage jobs. One job certainly won't do. Figure out how to pay for high-quality child care that provides the type of enrichment Bright Beginnings does. Juggle your two, or three, jobs while you transport kids back and forth. Spend time reading with your kid/s during the "free time" between jobs. Nevermind that you can't afford books - or health insurance.

      Yep, try walking in the shoes of a poor person, then see if trashing Bright Beginnings is such a good idea.

      Jim Henderlite


      Read more:


    Reasons for signing

    • Diane Riley CHARLOTTE, NC
      • over 3 years ago

      Please find the monies for this vital educational program to continue into the 2011-2012 years.

    • Sandi Patterson RANCHO CORDOVA, CA
      • over 3 years ago

      As a product of the Charlotte Mecklenburg School System, I can say that they need any program they can find to improve their school system. When my family moved from Oklahoma to Charlotte, my new classmates were struggling through Dick and Jane while I was already reading The Boxcar Children. We're talking about a 3 year difference in reading level. Things didn't improve as I went along. In seventh grade, i was given a portion of my class to teach to read, to conjugate, etc, so the teacher could continue on with the rest of the class. I dropped out after 8th grade, got my GED, and got a 4.0 gpa throughout my college career! That system sucked then; I hope it has improved somewhat. Nonetheless, I must pay grateful homage to Mrs. Davidson (3rd grade at Cotswold Elem) and Mark O'Neal, Mrs Gallagher, and Mr. Julian (all at Randolph Jr. High) for being excellent educators. Back to the issue: Early childhood education is imperative for most kids. The US is falling way behind most of the rest of the developed countries. We just aren't competitive anymore. that HAS to be changed--not only for the rich but for all children. Otherwise, we are not living up to anything close to promise America is suppose to provide to every single child!

    • Danielle Thomas CHARLOTTE, NC
      • over 3 years ago

      Thanks for all of your support!

    • Shirvon Smith MONROE, NC
      • over 3 years ago

      Thank you for all the support you have provided us.

    • Theresa Vranek HUNTERSVILLE, NC
      • over 3 years ago

      To cut out Bright Beginnings for 2000 students means that 2000 students will begin their educational experience with failure. Others can do things that they can not do or do not understand. Many of these children do not speak a word of English and will not be able to understand the K teacher as school begins. This program helps children begin Kindergarten doing the things that most of their peers are doing.


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