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“Must read” editorial: NC’s plummeting school performance linked to policy failures

The Greensboro News & Record has another good editorial this morning [1]. The subject is North Carolina’s plummeting school performance as measured in Education Week’s annual Quality Counts report. In 2011, when conservatives took over the state legislature, the state ranked 19th in the nation. In the latest report, North Carolina is 40th. As the editorial explains:

“Education Week’s annual Quality Counts report may have its flaws, but it weighs all states by the same standards each year. As far as North Carolina is concerned, it shows a downward trend….

North Carolina’s overall ranking dropped to 40th in the report released this week. It was 39th last year, 37th in 2016, 34th in 2015 and 19th in 2011.

The state has significantly raised teacher pay since then. At the same time, teachers have fewer classroom assistants and less money for classroom supplies. A teaching fellows program was abandoned. Salary bumps for earning master’s degrees were ended. An effort by the legislature to do away with career status, or tenure, failed to survive a court challenge — but it left hard feelings among teachers.

Also, the state has supported a surge in the creation of public charter schools, funneled more than $50 million to private schools through a voucher program and funded two for-profit, virtual charter schools. It seems to some public school advocates that legislators favor these alternatives over traditional K-12 schools.”

After pointing out the troubling gap between the haves and have nots in the state’s public schools, the editorial concludes this way:

“Skeptics who say money doesn’t matter should compare schools in North Carolina’s wealthier counties to those in its poorer communities. There is a difference. The state should do more to close those gaps.

But the legislature has put a higher priority on tax cuts, a policy that arguably encourages job creation in the state’s already thriving urban centers of Raleigh-Durham and Charlotte but does little to help areas that are declining.

Education is a complicated subject, and deeper analysis is needed to determine where North Carolina is slipping and why. It’s clear, however, that the answer isn’t simply to fund more alternatives to K-12 public schools. The charter school record is mixed, and there is virtually no accountability required of tax-funded private religious academies.

We do know that building a skilled workforce, whether it’s prepared for advanced manufacturing jobs or technology positions — skills demanded by such coveted employers as Toyota-Mazda and Amazon — can’t be accomplished on the cheap. If North Carolina is regressing in its willingness to make those investments, it will fall behind even the 10 states that trail us now.

Our cost of living will drop further, leaving many of our residents qualified only for low-paying jobs.”