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Senator Tom Apodaca

Senator Tom Apodaca

It is becoming increasingly clear that the single, best thing that North Carolina lawmakers could do to aid public education in our state is this: nothing.

Seriously, lawmakers would do our young people, educators, public education officials, employers, and the state at-large an enormous service if they would simply pass one bill each year providing the funding that our schools really need and then get the heck out of the way and check back in five or ten years. No more “ABC’s” of this or that or “Excellent Schools Acts.” Nothing, nada, zip. Just give our professionals the money and the mandate and let them do their jobs.

Unfortunately, the urge to meddle, micromanage and pass half-baked ideas that some lawmaker heard something about over dinner or on Fox News assures that this will never happen. For the most recent example of this apparently irresistible tendency, check out the proposal in the North Carolina Senate to “bill” local schools for the cost of remediation courses that students take in Community College. As NC Policy Watch reporter Sarah Ovaska reported this morning, one of the bill’s key sponsors, Senator Tom Apodaca, thinks this will make a difference:

The desire, Apodaca said, is to make sure the state’s K-12 system is turning out graduates ready to jump into the higher levels of education.

“We’re sending a message to our schools that we want quality coming out,” Apodaca said.

You got that? The premise of the law — as with so many other conservative education proposals in recent years — is that North Carolina can wring better results out of its public schools through sheer force. Rather than addressing poverty, providing universal pre-K, lowering class sizes or investing the money that it would really take to hire the teachers and counselors and other professionals who could perform the miracle of preparing millions of kids for the insanely competitive 21st Century economy (half of whom come from families too poor to afford lunch), the Senate would propose to get better K-12 grads by threatening to take away more money from their schools.

What a great idea! Maybe this can even set a precedent for other parts the education system. For instance, Read More

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Making the case for pre-K programming, state Superintendent June Atkinson told lawmakers on Tuesday that early childhood education is critical to closing the achievement gap for economically disadvantaged students.

She highlighted statistics showing that 60 percent of students who are on the federal free and reduced lunch program are proficient in reading. In contrast, more affluent students are 90 percent proficient.

“That gives us a sense of urgency and that will also require us as adults to address some of the root causes,” she said, “and some of those root causes for this statistic is that some of our students, especially our students who are economically disadvantaged, do not have quality early childhood education programs.

She made her comments while giving the Education Oversight Committee an update on North Carolina’s Race to the Top initiative.

In addition to early childhood education, she also made reference to the state’s remediation rate at the postsecondary level. Race to the Top, she noted, has several goals, including a 100 percent graduation rate, increased college enrollment, and a 10 percent remediation rate.

It contrasts sharply with the 60 percent remediation rate often referenced by Governor-elect Pat McCrory as a reason for statewide education reform, one that includes a renewed emphasis on career and technology education.

Recent figures show that the remediation rate is slightly higher, or 65 percent, but both figures omit the remediation rate for four-year institutions. That figure is 8.4 percent.