Raleigh, N.C. — Dozens of North Carolina school superintendents gathered Tuesday in Raleigh, on the eve of the 2015 legislative session, to put forward their priority list to lawmakers.
The meeting marked the first time all 115 superintendents across the state have collaborated on a policy agenda, and they said they hope banding together will help their voices be heard more clearly in the General Assembly.
"If we’re not talking about setting agendas, it gets set for us," said Jim Merrill, superintendent of the Wake County Public School System. "It’s important that at least we have positions on things that we consider to be important."
Their recommendations include raising teacher pay in North Carolina so the average salary is in the top 10 percent nationwide and increasing per-pupil spending, now 48th in the U.S., to the national average by 2025.
"North Carolina must be competitive from a salary point of view to attract the best and the brightest," Cumberland County Schools Superintendent Frank Till said.
State Funding is likely to be very tight this year, with the state budget already running about $200 million behind projections.
"We do like setting high goals and aspirations, but we also want to balance it with the reality that we’re living in today," said Mark Edwards, superintendent of the Mooresville Graded School District and president of the North Carolina School Superintendents Association.
"We believe that we have leaders in this state who want to create this shared vision, and we can work together on it," Edwards said. "Part of the challenge is trying to suggest goals that are achievable goals that are reasonable with the revenue projections that we have long term."
Merrill said some of the reforms the group is calling for are simple, such as reducing the number of required tests, giving schools more flexibility in their operations and changing how educators plan their lessons.
"Not everything has to have a dollar sign attached to it in order to make change," he said. "So, I don't want anybody to get hung up on the funding – 'Well, if you can't pay for it, you can't do it.' I don't believe that."