Back to School Series

Back to School Series – Labor Day

This is part of a Back to School blog series that highlight various issues to be aware of as the 2014-15 school year kicks off. (See Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4 and Part 5)

It’s that time of year when school starts and the very next week Labor Day is here. It seems to make sense that Back to School week and Labor Day are so close together. It provides the opportunity to discuss those that labor in our public schools. Although, the truth is, there has been a lot of talk about people who work in our public schools.

Most of the discussion is about the pay raise teachers supposedly received. The truth is that many teachers are simply getting their longevity pay that they have already earned. New teachers will see some benefit of the use of the longevity pay but the teachers who have actually put in years will not be getting what they deserve.

New teachers may have higher starting salaries but it comes at a cost. They will not have career status protection which provides teachers with due process rights. Losing due process rights is a heavy price to pay. These teachers will also be working on one year contracts. These one year contracts assure, some say — including people at NCAE, that teachers are now being treated as temporary workers.

It is not only the teachers that will suffer with the one year contracts. School administrators like superintendents and principals will have to deal with the logistical nightmare of having to manage a slew of one year contracts.

Of course, the job of teaching has not become any easier since there will be fewer teacher assistants. Although it was promised that teacher assistants would not be cut in the budget, the truth is that they have.

Perhaps, the most galling thing that has happened to school personnel Read more

Back to School Series, NC Budget and Tax Center

Little things can make big differences in children’s lives

This is part of a Back to School blog series that highlight various issues to be aware of as the 2014-15 school year kicks off. (See Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, and Part 4)

Little things can make big differences in children’s lives. Something as simple as arriving to class with food in your stomach can enhance a child’s learning experience. Many schools across North Carolina recognize this and are offering breakfast and lunch to all of their students at no charge this school year.

As part of the nationwide Community Eligibility Program (CEP), high-poverty schools in at least 36 school systems across North Carolina will provide breakfast and lunch to all students free of charge. This effort not only aims to help end childhood hunger – one in five American schoolchildren can’t count on getting enough nutritious food at home – but also aims to enhance the classroom experience of students. Ensuring that children show up in classrooms each day fed and ready to learn increases the chances of students being more focused, attentive, and engaged.

The school year marks the first year in which eligible schools nationwide can participate in CEP. With all students provided breakfast and lunch free of charge, participating schools are no longer required to collect school meal applications, which reduces administrative costs. These cost savings can now be directed towards covering the cost of the school meals that are provided. Read more

Back to School Series

Back to School Series – Registration

This is part of a Back to School blog series that highlights various issues to be aware of as the 2014-15 school year kicks off. (See Parts 1, 2, and 3).

Schools opened their doors this week to the state’s more than 1.5 million children for the beginning of a new school year, but there are children who will miss vital days of school as their families attempt to navigate the maze of paperwork that can be required to register for school in North Carolina. Each of the state’s 115 school districts has its own unique registration process and documentation requirements.

It is extremely difficult to catch up after missing a significant number of school days at the beginning of the year, particularly with the lack of funding available for remediation and other educational interventions. Fortunately, there are resources available to help families register their children for school as quickly as possible and avoid falling behind.

The North Carolina Justice Center has a guide posted on its website for parents looking for help registering their children for school. Students are eligible to register for school in a given district:

  • If they have reached the age of 5 on or before August 31
  • If they are under the age of 21, have not been removed from school for cause, and have not obtained a high school diploma
  • If the student’s parent, legal guardian,  legal custodian or caregiver adult resides in the school district’s attendance area.

The United States Department of Justice and United States Department of Education jointly issued new guidance over the summer regarding the types of documents that school districts may require in order to prove they meet the above requirements for students to enroll in school. School districts can request proof of residency within the school district, proof of age, and immunization records. However, they should accept a variety of documents for proof of residency and proof of age so students do not miss school while their families track down required documentation.  Schools also may not prevent or discourage your child from enrolling in school because he or she lacks a birth certificate or has a birth certificate indicating a foreign place of birth.  Under the McKinney-Vento Homeless Education Assistance Act, homeless children who lack any or all documentation must be enrolled in school immediately.

North Carolina public schools are the cornerstone of communities across the state and represent the first point of contact for newcomers and kindergartners embarking on their educational careers. Please help them welcome new students to school and start children off well-prepared for the start of a great year.

Back to School Series, NC Budget and Tax Center

Nip and tuck: Leadership’s financing strategy for public education

This is part of a Back to School blog series that highlight various issues to be aware of as the 2014-15 school year kicks off. (See Part 1 and Part 2)

This week, more than 1.5 million North Carolina’s students headed back to school to underfunded classrooms. For yet another school year, teachers will do their best to prepare today’s students to grow into critical thinkers and succeed as workers in a demanding 21st century economy with too few resources available. Legislative leadership and the Governor approved a budget that fails to make up lost ground in public education, keeping spending below the last budget that was in place before the Great Recession.

In fact, when the pay raises for teachers are properly placed in the salaries and reserves section of the General Fund budget and not the public education section—a practice that has long been in place—public education spending in the new budget is below last year’s spending levels (see graphic below). This certainly is not progress, but rather sliding backwards with a budget trick used as cover.

Five years into the recovery from the worst economic downturn since the 1930s, catching up and keeping up with the needs of North Carolina’s students is stalled due to the fact that lawmakers chose to enact a tax plan last year that keeps the state from replacing the most damaging cuts to public investments. The 2013 tax plan is draining available resources—$5.4 billion over five years—that is needed to regain lost ground and reinvest in the building blocks of a strong economy. The tax plan’s impact is evident throughout the final budget for fiscal year 2015. Read more

Back to School Series, NC Budget and Tax Center

Back to school series – Returning to an economic growth model that works

Cross-posted on the Prosperity Watch platform.

As North Carolina’s young people head back to school this week, it is their increased educational attainment that has the greatest potential to not only generate improved earnings and provide some protection against the worst employment outcomes their lifetime but also strengthen the state’s overall economic recovery and economy.

States with higher educational attainment not only have higher productivity but higher median wages. The increases in production of goods and services benefit the median worker in these states.

PW_Higher Educational AttainmentThat is a welcome outcome in light of national trends and what is happening in North Carolina. For the past thirty years, as the economy has become more productive, wages for the average worker have actually stagnated. In North Carolina, particularly in the most recent post-recession period, wages have actually fallen despite productivity growth.

Jobs without good wages, increased productivity without wage growth are not the markers of a successful economy. States have a unique opportunity to pursue an economic development strategy through education that is focused on increasing the wages of the median worker in the state and thus improving their well-being. Read more