EDITOR’S NOTE: THere is Mary Ann Wolf’s “last word” on Education Matters’ October 2, 2021 show: “Conversation with Superintendents”. Wolf is President and Executive Director of the Public School Forum of North Carolina.
Our superintendents run schools with a deep understanding of what our children need to be successful in school and in life beyond the classroom. On education issues, we heard from three superintendents who shared what they know are essentials North Carolina must provide in our schools in order to ensure our children have a solid basic education in our great state.
Investing in the recruitment and retention of high quality, well-prepared educators – in short supply right now – tops the list. Our districts are experiencing unprecedented vacancy rates in their school buildings, including for teachers.
The answer is twofold:
- We need to become more flexible and creative when it comes to hiring for these roles.
- We need to invest in these positions at much higher levels in order to attract and retain the talent we – and our children – need to be successful academically.
We also need to invest in the social and emotional learning of our students, which includes access to academic support staff, such as counselors, social workers and psychologists.
Our children need safe learning environments, where not only are school buildings repaired and refurbished to meet current health and safety needs, but we also need strong communities that give the highest consideration to personal well-being and work together to achieve this.
Too often today I hear that local school board meetings are filled with tensions and threats to personal safety that are unprecedented and unacceptable. We must come together as a community to support each other, not launch personal attacks as a means of achieving our own individual goals. We all need to do better for the sake of our children. We are bigger together.
The way forward for all of us has been clearly established. We need to invest in our schools much more significantly – now.
As we’ve repeatedly pointed out on Education Matters, it’s been over 25 years since the start of the North Carolina school funding affair known as Leandro.
Since then, it has been repeatedly observed that our state does not provide the necessary resources or public policies to meet the basic needs of all of our students. We also know that as a state we are significantly below the national average in per student spending, principal’s pay, and teacher pay.
You may ask yourself, “Why should Leandro be important to me?” “
The answer is simple:
- We know that every child needs a high quality, well-prepared classroom educator and a school principal.
- We know that early childhood education and post-secondary education are essential.
- We know that student support staff, such as counselors and social workers, make a difference for children.
North Carolina is ready and well resourced. We have about $ 8 billion in excess income here in North Carolina. We have great needs in our schools.
It is now to make these important investments in our public schools if we hope to ensure that our children can thrive and compete in a global economy. It affects us all – our communities, our workforce and our economy.
We have a clear roadmap that identifies how we can make targeted investments in our classrooms, our teacher pool and our school funding systems so that we can finally meet our constitutional obligation to provide equitably to every child a solid basic education here in our state.
We are currently at a crossroads, as a court-set date has almost arrived to fund these targeted investments as defined in the Leandro action plan. We have the resources. The time has come, and it is up to each of us to demand that our leaders invest in our public schools.
Let’s go, North Carolina.
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