This morning, state lawmakers heard from school superintendents across North Carolina who came to voice their concerns about budget cuts, merit pay, vouchers and digital learning, among other issues facing public schools.
Brunswick County Schools Superintendent Ed Pruden opened the dialogue with the declaration that vouchers and education tax credits are the single greatest threat to our public schools. Publicly funded private schools, he contends, would be positioned to pick and choose the students that will perform the best and create a two tier, segregated school system that turns its back on 70 years of progress in North Carolina.
Pruden concluded his remarks by pleading to the legislature not to allow our public school system to be an instrument for entrepreneurial gain.
On the subject of merit pay for teachers, superintendents agreed that individual bonuses for teachers tends to inhibit collaboration. A suggestion was put forward by Cumberland County Schools Superintendent Frank Till to reward entire schools for progress, which encourages increased collaboration among teachers who are all working toward the same goal.
Greene County Schools Superintendent Patrick Miller offered the results of his teacher tenure work group insisting that those already tenured or in the pipeline for tenure should be grandfathered in and that contracts and due process mirror the cycles for principals. There should also be incentives for teachers to opt out of tenure.
When evaluating public schools on an A-F grading system, Rockingham County Schools Superintendent Rodney Shotwell raised the point that just one or two tests are necessary to deem a school failing. What is needed instead, he offered, are better measures over time to assess how schools are underperforming. Speaker Tillis appointed Shotwell to a working group to determine the best methodology to grade schools.
Superintendents were glad to hear that digital learning was on the radar of the legislature. In response to Rep. Horn’s bill intended to fund teacher training for digital learning, Superintendent Moss of Lee county schools raised concerns about the use of the funds, noting that not all teachers need the same amounts of training in digital learning.
Other subjects raised include school calendar flexibility, incentives for students to pursue AP coursework, and, briefly, charter schools.
Today’s session, led by House Speaker Thom Tillis, was the start of Education Week in the chamber. School principals and teachers will visit the general assembly tomorrow and Thursday.