I believe education is the most important issue facing our society today. In case you aren’t quite with me, take this into consideration:
(1) Schools are full of children / young adults / people for eight hours a day.
(2) These folks matriculate through school until they’re 18(ish) years old.
(3) 18-year-olds become adults and go out into the world and make decisions, often based on their experiences and lessons learned in school (and of course other factors).
Glad you agree. Let’s move on.
Since I’m all in on education, I attended the Public School Forum of North Carolina’s 2016 Eggs & Issues Breakfast to learn about what they consider the top education issues in our state.
Of the 10 that were presented , I’m most interested in these four.
(1) Adequate resources for public schools, teachers and leaders
Statewide: North Carolina is 43rd in per-pupil spending and 42nd in teacher pay. Principal pay is also in the bottom quartile compared to the rest of the country. Though cash won’t solve every educational issue in our state, our schools need adequate resources to support both their staff and our students.
Charlotte: Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools teachers do receive a pay supplement from the county, which the CMS website states is one of the highest county supplements across North Carolina – cool. Yet, starting teacher salaries begin around $35,000 with marginal increases in pay for every year a teacher stays in the classroom – not cool.
(2) Emphasizing quality, not quantity in charter school growth
Statewide: Since 2011, when N.C. lifted the 100-school charter cap, there are now 158 charter schools that serve about 70,000 students. Other states (New York and Tennessee to nametwo) have used intentional policies and legislation to ensure quality charter schools. They sometimes mandate that charters only work in under-resourced communities. In N.C., data is all over the board on charters and largely dependent on school and neighborhood.
Charlotte: Mecklenburg County is currently home to 25 charter schools, more than any other county in the state. Again – the data points to these charters spanning the full spectrum of student achievement, with two local charters that were ordered to close at the end of this school year for poor performance and other concerns. As we move forward, N.C. must hold charters, and all schools, accountable for achievement results and for providing access to a quality education for all students.
(3) Elevating race as a focal point of public education
Statewide: Poverty, segregated schools, racial gaps in student discipline, and student assignment. Each of these must be lifted up and addressed to truly push our schools, our students, and our communities to the next level.
Charlotte: Locally, our school board is concurrently reviewing student assignment and embarking on a superintendent search. Race and diversity will be critical issues to address in both cases, particularly for a school district that is by all means diverse but also largely segregated.
(4) Building bridges for students through expanded learning
Statewide: Across North Carolina, about 295,000 kids are unsupervised from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. Though that number isn’t Charlotte-specific, we must better coordinate our resources and data to provide appropriate services during after school and summer school hours.
Charlotte: As I previously wrote, out-of-school time (OST) and access to quality programs for all students are important for our community to get right. Data suggests that 30% of juvenile crimes are committed between 3 p.m. and 6 p.m., the time when most after-school programs would run. Let’s support Charlotte Mayor Jennifer Roberts in working to find a solution and expand the number of programs to serve our students across Charlotte.
All of these issues are critical to the future of our state. Find one that speaks to you and get involved. The beautiful aspect of education is that it affects us all, if not now – then down the road.