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New York Times: One Small Step for Democracy in a ‘Live Free or Die’ Town

In case you missed it, the New York Times published a story about the incredible grassroots victory this spring in the town of Croydon, and how through hyperlocal organizing Croydon residents were able to block the far-right effort by members of the Free State Project to defund their public school. Voters in Croydon turned out in droves to reject the anti-public education agenda, and saved their school budget by an overwhelming vote of 377 to 2.


Key Excerpts:


  • People here have just experienced a fractious come-to-Jefferson moment that has left many with a renewed appreciation for something they had taken for granted: democracy.


  • “Showing up. That’s the big lesson,” said Chris Prost, 37, a Croydon resident who runs a small brewery from a barn at the back of his house. “And not just showing up, but also knowing what’s going on.”


  • Amanda Leslie, 42, a resident who teaches in another district, became so alarmed that she texted her husband to get to town hall right away: “The Free Staters are trying to cut the budget more than in half.”


  • The shocking budget cut meant that the school board suddenly had to craft a new financial plan, while many parents suddenly had to come up with thousands of dollars to keep their children in public schools.


  • From this muddle of anger, confusion and regret, though, a movement was born. It came to be known as We Stand Up for Croydon Students.


  • There also developed a heightened awareness — and, for some, a heightened distrust — of the Free State movement.


  • On the chilly Saturday morning of May 7, Croydon residents filed into a spacious building at the local YMCA camp for their special meeting. The We Stand Up contingent needed at least 283 voters. The turnout: 379. The vote in favor of overturning the Underwood budget: 377. The vote against: 2.


  • And the group originally known as We Stand Up for Croydon Students is now called We Stand Up for Croydon. Its members met in a living room a couple of weeks ago to discuss future plans, including how to confront that central threat to democracy, complacency.


  • “Outsiders think they know what happened,” said Mr. Prost, the brewer. “Town rallies to restore the budget! Democracy lives! But most people here know that’s not the whole story. It’s just the beginning.”


This story out of Croydon shows how much is at stake in November. Far-right, anti-public education Republicans and members of the Free State Project, like House Majority Leader Jason Osbourne (R- Auburn) in office, these attacks on our schools and teachers will only get worse. Croydon is a perfect example of how through grassroots community organizing, defeating these extremists from the North Country to the Seacoast is well within reach.


Read the full story here.