Raleigh, N.C. — The first meeting of Gov. Pat McCrory's education cabinet Wednesday had the vibe of a corporate start-up or maybe a newly elected city council, with the governor parceling out assignments and committee work to the seven-member panel.
Created in 1992, the cabinet is meant to ensure various educational institutions are talking to one another. Although Gov. Bev Perdue rolled out her cabinet's work to great fanfare, it did not meet during the last 30 months of her administration.
"We need to be all part of the same team because, to the public, we are," McCrory told the group.
During the meeting, which was mainly taken up with administrative matters, McCrory indicated he would like leaders of the public school, university, community college and pre-kindergarten systems to work together on budgets in the future, to share ideas about funding and policy priorities and to speak to lawmakers with one voice.
"Wouldn't it be nice, down the road maybe, (if) we can help do the budget together ... have an education budget as opposed to a university budget or a K-12 budget," McCrory said. "I really found that to be a weakness in the budget process."
He expressed some befuddlement with the array of education working groups defined by law and why the cabinet hasn't worked together more often.
University of North Carolina President Tom Ross referenced the last round of education cabinet meetings "falling apart" and told the governor that his work would be key.
"You're involvement sends a great signal," Ross said.
As McCrory was meeting with his cabinet, lawmakers were moving education reform legislation two blocks away. A bill that would do away with class-size limits in public schools cleared a Senate committee during the cabinet meeting.
Asked if he thought lawmakers ought to slow their work, McCrory said no.
"I think there's a sense of urgency," he said. "I think part of the problem is we have not had a process within the executive branch, withing the education community, to work together and give feedback and facts to the legislature. The legislature has to do its work."
One of the biggest changes to K-12 education being debated right now deals with what is commonly known as "teacher tenure" or career status for teachers. A Senate bill would wipe out the career status system in favor of putting teachers on contracts that run a maximum of three years. A bipartisan House bill uses a probationary/non-probationary system that teachers groups say is better.
McCrory declined to weigh in on the debate, saying only that the current system needs to change.
"I do believe that the current system is not as effective as it should be," he said. "If we don't change, we're going to get the same results. So, I'm looking at new ways to help evaluate not only individual teachers, but schools and universities."