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N.C. Superintendent of Public Instruction June Atkinson

N.C. Superintendent of Public Instruction June Atkinson

One day after N.C. Superintendent of Public Instruction June Atkinson responded to aggressive questioning by at least one Senate Republican about allegations of misusing funds, state education officials explained themselves in a letter to Senate President Phil Berger, Policy Watch has learned.

In the letter, State Board of Education Chairman Bill Cobey and Atkinson stated that they used state funds budgeted for literacy programs exactly as they were ordered, extending increased literacy programs to approximately 487,000 students in the state.

WRAL reported Monday that Berger accused DPI leaders of agreeing during a “secret meeting” to use literacy funds to head off personnel losses ordered by legislators in 2012’s Excellent Public Schools Act.

The state’s official response included a summary of  $2.5 million in position cuts at DPI as a result of state budgeting.

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N.C. Superintendent of Public Instruction June Atkinson

N.C. Superintendent of Public Instruction June Atkinson

Although it was overshadowed by Sen. Chad Barefoot’s angst over unverified reports of the misuse of state education dollars, Tuesday’s session of the Joint Legislative Education Oversight Committee included an explanation of last year’s federal Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA).

That legislation, passed with support from both Democrats and Republicans, is intended to update the widely criticized No Child Left Behind, the federal government’s 2001 rewrite of the nation’s governing public education law to increase school accountability.

The complicated new ESSA, to put it broadly, shifts major powers to the states in how they assess school success, responding to widespread criticisms that No Child Left Behind’s rigorous testing requirements unfairly punished some low-performing schools continually labeled as failing.

And while federal funding and required annual testing will remain, more or less, unaffected, N.C. Superintendent of Public Instruction June Atkinson told members of the committee Tuesday that the federal act will give states greater autonomy over how they assess teachers and schools.

“It was long overdue,” said Atkinson.

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N.C. Sen. Chad Barefoot, R-Franklin, Wake

N.C. Sen. Chad Barefoot, R-Franklin, Wake

One day after the state Senate leader accused North Carolina’s top education administrators of misusing funds budgeted for reading programs, N.C. Superintendent of Public Instruction June Atkinson responded to an aggressive line of questioning about the controversy.

Atkinson was discussing the federal government’s update of No Child Left Behind in the legislature’s Joint Legislative Education Oversight Committee Tuesday when Sen. Chad Barefoot, a Wake County Republican, began grilling Atkinson over the allegations.

WRAL reported Monday that Senate President Phil Berger, R-Guilford, Rockingham, indicated in a letter that $3.8 million in funding intended for literacy programs had been diverted during “secret meetings” in order to mitigate budget cuts at the department. Although he did not offer proof, Berger accused DPI leaders and the State Board of Education of diverting the money during a closed session, which would violate the state’s open meetings law.

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Commentary

As reported here on Wednesday by N.C. Policy Watch Education Reporter Billy Ball, North Carolina Superintendent of Public Instruction June Atkinson is calling for state teachers to receive a 10% raise. Yesterday, in response, House Speaker Tim Moore shot down the idea, saying it was unrealistic.

Here, in two simple graphs, is an explanation of why Atkinson is right and Moore is wrong. The graphs come from Altered State: How 5 years of conservative rule have transformed North Carolina, the special N.C. Policy Watch report released late in 2015.

The first shows how teacher pay in North Carolina has been falling further behind the national average.

Teacher pay 2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The second shows where the overwhelming majority of the massive tax cuts enacted by the Governor and the General Assembly in recent years have gone — i.e. the wealthiest North Carolinians.

Tax cut winners

News
N.C. Superintendent of Public Instruction June Atkinson

N.C. Superintendent of Public Instruction June Atkinson

It’s a long, long way from action on the N.C. General Assembly floor, but N.C. Superintendent of Public Instruction June Atkinson today called for a 10 percent raise for all teachers in North Carolina.

“We need to get at the core reasons why teachers leave the classroom or go to another state,” said Atkinson.

It’s an important year for teacher raises, as many public education advocates point out recent pay increases passed on by GOP leadership in the legislature have brought the average teacher pay in North Carolina to just 42nd in the nation, with average pay of more than $47,000.

The national average exceeds $57,000, according to the National Education Association. 

And, with 2016 being an election year, some leaders in the legislature have publicly stated their intentions for some sort of raises this year.

On Wednesday, Atkinson, addressing the House Select Committee on Education Strategy and Practices, called for a “wedding cake” approach to teacher pay.

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