Looking ahead to 2021 NCGA Long Session for Education
Coming into the new year with an eye toward the transition and recovery from COVID-19 brings changes and challenges to education. Here to speak with us on critical issues are statewide policymakers, State Superintendent Catherine Truitt, State Board of Education Chair Eric Davis, Representative Ashton Clemmons, and Senator Kevin Corbin.
Welcome to education matters presented by the Public School Forum of North Carolina. I'm your host, Maryanne Wolf. Coming into the new year with an eye toward the transition and recovery from CO vid 19 brings challenges and changes to education. Here to speak with us on critical issues are statewide policymakers. State Superintendent of Public Instruction Catherine Truitt, Eric Davis, the chair and member at large of North Carolina State Board of Education representative Ashton Clements and Senator Kevin Corbyn. I'd like to welcome to the show representative Ashton Wheeler Clemens and Senator Kevin Corbyn. Thank you so much for joining us. Are you having this today? Awesome. As you well know, the legislative long session is about to begin or really already kind of did. And so what do you see is the most critical education issues on the horizon. And I'd love to start with representative Clemens. Yes, thank you for having us. There are a lot of things that we have to tackle and think about in public education. But by far the most important is going to be How do we begin to recover from the devastating effects of Kobe 19 on our students? Uh So we already know that many of our most vulnerable Children were not succeeding at the rates that we needed them to when looking at reading and math proficiency. And so many of the challenges that were before cove it have now just been magnified Significantly. So many of our Children are going toe, have physical health needs mental health needs that are just increased over this time period. Uh, and we know that they've had inconsistencies with education. That's the at best. Um And so I think our number one priority is What are we going to do to think proactively for how we enter the when we are able to be together? To be efficient and effective with our resource is to get our students moving at a trajectory, that a pace that gets them to where they need to be. I think that's our most important thing that will be facing this this legislative session. Thank you. And Senator Corbyn, what are your thoughts? I couldn't agree more with represented Clemens. Uh, she was exactly spot on. We have got Thio address. How we're gonna move forward. You have kids that were that were started that were in kindergarten that now need to move First grade Kids from the third grade need to move in fourth grade, and they don't have those skills. And quite frankly, I think we just have to be realistic that, uh, the virtual learning, especially in my region, very rural. Uh, eastern, far western and far eastern North Carolina was that was very poor at best. And I think we all admit that I was talking to my my hometown, uh, school superintendent this morning and he was talking with his principles about, uh, they're they're going back thio in person learning tomorrow and how they're going to do that. How that's gonna look eso That's extremely important that we continue to address that and provide funding to our local school systems for things like Internet, which is so important. So refugee claimants exactly. Right, Representative Clemens, As we go into the legislative session, how do you anticipate the House of Representatives addressing immediate needs and then also these longer term goals which you both have referenced and in particular, some of those that were identified than the Leandro short term action plan? I hope that we will preach it similarly to how we approached it in March. Speaker more created working groups that were focused specifically on co vid response. Those had bipartisan leadership. Andi. I was honored to be one of the leaders in the House on that work, and in that work represented porn represented. Fraley and I spent a lot of time talking to educators, talking to teachers, talking to principles, talking to school superintendents like Senator Corbyn just said, Talking to our schools of education and all of the work we do needs to be focused on solutions that air grounded and what is happening in the schools across our state. And I hope that that is how we will preach the word moving forward this session, right? And Senator Corbyn, after your years of service for your local school board and also in the House of Representatives, how do you anticipate the Senate approaching these key education issues, including Cove in 19, but also those long term equity issues set forth in Landau Short term action plan? Sure. One thing that I've noticed through the years that I really would like to address is the way that we fund uh, classroom teachers, the school system. So for now, you have one teacher for every 18 third graders, for example. Well, I've got Highlands School that's in my district. It's a small It's a small K 12 school. Well, because of those numbers, they have about 20 kids in kindergarten and first grade and second grade in third grade. So I have to have two teachers for every and that two teachers were about 10 kids per classroom because the state mandate. But we don't fund it. Eso what happens is in making County Schools Way fund about 25 or 26 locally paid teachers. Uh, you know, UH, 50,000 plus per teacher and that's local money. So that's unfair. That's one thing I think we need to address. Moving forward is how we fund teachers and then another subject, maybe for another day is talking about the bricks and mortar. I think this state needs to help with that. Whether it's a bond or pays you go top plan, I think we need to address that in the short term. I think, um, whatever we call it the strategies that we have to work on our how do we get as Senator Corman said, How do we get the people in front of our kids that need to be there? We need to understand that in a crisis we have more need for social workers and mental health therapist than we even did before. Um, and the other thing I just want to add is every time I talked to an educational leader, they are very concerned with the workforce and the pipeline off educators, educator, school psychologist, school nurses, all of our positions. They are very concerned. Before Covad, they were concerned, but they have Many have seen increased retirements due to co vid. And so I think another big thing. We need to work together to tackle us. How do we increase the workforce that we have for our schools? I wonder if either of you have some specific recommendations or hopes and what the General Assembly might do to support that. Of course, the thing we always talk about teacher pay, and that's been something discussed by both political parties. Through through the years, we've made some significant progress the four years that I've been there, uh, we have, uh we've made some significant progress as faras teacher pay, but I think there's more we need to do. We've moved from. We moved from the bottom, uh, a little bit, but we need to continue. Thio do that. It's not just about pay. It's about work, environment, classroom size. All those issues I mentioned before, how we how we fund our local teachers in the school system, giving our superintendent s'more flexibility. There's a whole list of things I know we don't have time to go into, but those are all things I think we need to address, and and I I agree. And I would say, um, the taking away of health care retirement benefits is just, um, insult to injury to our educators right now, I feel that way it's going to make it more challenging to recruit. I think one of the one of the things that we you know, when I went into teaching, I was a teaching fellow at Chapel Hill and that was one of the things you thought right? I would be able to retire and have these benefits, so I think that's going to be an increased challenge. The Drive Task force has some very specific recommendations about diversifying our teacher workforce. I hope that we will consider some of those. There are a lot. So I think we're gonna need to prioritize. Um, but there also are creative things, like the advanced teaching roles that are happening across our state to give teachers a true to approach teaching as a true profession where you can grow and learn and impact more kids without necessarily leaving the classroom. And I think the more we're creative, um, paying teachers, the professional pay that they deserve. But our creative about what it looks like to continue to grow in our profession, the longer that we will keep them with us. Um, and the more attractive it will be thio new people that are coming in as we consider the focus on public educations roles in communities during Cove in 19. I feel like it's just been a constant part of the conversation. Overall, how do you see the impact the pandemic impacting public education in the long term? So obviously it impacts us because in person, the lack of in person teaching that is so critical and it z uh, represent Clemens knows from being a teacher, uh, that those teachers need to be in front of those kids. And until we can get to that point which they tell us is gonna be herd immunity or immunization, which is coming very slowly as we know, uh, I think our education system is gonna continue to be impacted. Not only K 12, but higher education as well. We have, uh we have a whole generation of kids that are being affected. Uh, I guess the upside to it. If you look at this way, everyone is kind of affected at the same time. It's not like some groups are affecting some armed. I do think there's some inequity as far as our rural kids, uh, speak for my region because the lack of Internet we have to continue to try to get Internet out there I know represented Bobby Handing, who represents Muneo. I represent Murphy, and we on action will remember We came to the K 12 education committee and kind of kicked and screamed and asked for $100 million for Internet access. We didn't get 100 million, but we got 30. So we have 30 million that's now being spent, and it's being spent in my district as we speak today Tow hook these kids up that's so critical to move forward. So we're gonna have the immediate academic impacts that we know if we don't figure out a plan for will continue to effect kids. But we also I'm particularly concerned about our high school juniors and seniors. Um, that principles are afraid, or we're going to lose from getting that graduation. And we need our long term economic success and their well being depends on them graduating. So we need to focus on that. And we have 15 1000 less kindergartners than we expected. Um, and half the amount of kids in pre K. So if we think about that long term, that could have another big impact. So those were just two areas in particular. We've got to be having a plan for it. If we don't want them, Thio negatively impact our state moving forward. Well, thank you both So much for being here. And I also want to thank you for bringing the perspective and just your critical look at these issues. We are very fortunate to have you both in our General Assembly. After the break, we will continue the discussion around ensuring all students have access to a sound basic education with our new superintendent, Catherine Truitt, and Eric Davis, the chair of our state Board of Education. Education matters is brought to you each week in part by town bank serving, others enriching lives. Joining us now are Catherine Truitt, our state superintendent of public instruction, and Eric Davis, the chair and member of large of the North Carolina State Board of Education. Thank you both for being here today as the new state superintendent of public Instruction. What are your top education issues that you hope to work on before the end of the school year? That's such an important question, Marianne. Um, I would say that. Pardon me. We're looking at everything through the lens of covert recovery. How are we going, Thio? Support our superintendents, our principles, our teachers, our parents, our students in learning loss recovery from from Cove. It, um How are we going to measure it? How are we going to respond to it? Andi, I would say that there are There were some things that I had in mind for this legislative session. Uh, that I would have done anyway. But they are particularly important in light of co vid and the warning lost that's occurred. And I wonder, Superintendent, true it If you'd like to share a couple more thoughts on some of your priorities even longer term because I know you've come in with some really important ones as well. Yeah, Thank you. If I were to describe them in buckets, which is kind of how I like to think of them. Um, the first one is literacy. We have, um, data That shows us that only 67% of I'm sorry, 67% of students of eighth graders in our state are not reading or doing math proficiently headed into high school. And, um, furthermore, we are seeing, um, very low percentages of students. Um, who can actually achieve a 17 or higher on the a C T. Which is the minimum of mission requirement for UNC System school. And so were the consequences of that are that we're we are creating ah, haves and have nots situation in terms of who can pursue a four year residential colleges, Syrians and who cannot. So that all begins with literacy, so that that certainly is is my biggest priority, but longer term. I also want us to think about how we are assessing kids, How frequently, what are we using and how that ties into our school accountability model, which I believe is broken and needs to change. Since we begin the legislative session, what are the primary issues that the North Carolina Board of Education will be addressing the spring? Well, um, I think in the midst of all the current events that we've been dealing with, I think it's important for us is North Carolinians to realize that we are in a tremendous battle for talent. The global economy is is brutally competitive, and it doesn't care what your lineage is or what your geography is. You've gotta be prepared. And so it's. It's in all of our individual self best interest to have every child in North Carolina educated to compete and contribute. And that's the basis of the state board and the agencies work. Over the past year, we've committed to equitable education for all students and education of the whole child in every student, and some specific areas that we're working on is improving our literacy instruction and literacy performance by our students, particularly in the early grades and on the other end of the spectrum, rethinking, reimagining and reinventing our assessment accountability system and then right in between those two extremes. To borrow a phrase from our superintendent is an effective teacher and principle in every classroom with support, the resource is and the professional development needed to help them flourish in their career. So those are a few of the things we're working on, and then Cove it hit. And so we spent the last year obviously responding to that and and planning for how are students will recover over the next year from that experience as we go into the legislative session, How do you anticipate the General Assembly approaching the needs due to Cove in 19 and then the longer term goals that we want all of our students to have access to a sound basic education? So I think it's important to note that between 2000 and 14 and 2000 and 19, her pupil expenditure actually increased, um, 20% with from the General Assembly, and yet we are still not seeing the student outcomes that we want to see. So really, what I'm interested in doing alongside the General Assembly is, is looking at where we can pinpoint ways that we can either reallocate funding or increase funding that meets specific needs for turnaround efforts in specific places. And that, to me, is really what a good partnership with the Journal Assembly would look like. We're really grateful for the support we have received from both the state and the federal government. We were able to provide our schools around $400 million of federal funds. And based on the most recent legislation, there's another 1.6 billion coming over the next 2.5 years for our students. So we're grateful to our federal government. We also really appreciate the partnership in the General Assembly and throughout Cove it. But even beyond recently, Senator Burger has announced continued work on our literacy program. And, um, we're committed to working with him. That is a great step of leadership on his part and because there are real opportunities to improve teacher preparation and student performance and literacy and likewise, Speaker more has also come out in support of more time for education for students, perhaps this summer, and I think both of those leadership steps point to the fact that it's gonna be a multi year, consistent, determined effort on the part of our state to overcome the effects of Kobe. But right now we're off to a good start. How are you the, you know, working with the Department of Public Instruction and district superintendents to support the needs of our students, staff and educators? Well, I'd start by saying, on behalf of my colleagues on the state board, we're delighted to be partners with separate Superintendent Truitt. She brings a terrific fresh energy and courage and commitment educating all of our students across North Carolina, and I couldn't ask for a better partner with her. We in the talent that she has brought into the agency and retained in the agency, shows the D. P. I is terrific place to work and contribute to our state. And likewise, the partnerships that we've built and strengthened over the particularly the last year with coated with local superintendents, principals, teachers and other agencies, particularly the Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Cohen and Chief Deputy Gil Perry are just really important for us to continue going forward. One of the things I really like about what Superintendent true it has advocated for is a advisory group made up of teachers and a similar one made up of principles. I think that, combined with our close working relationship with Jack Hoke and the Superintendents Association, along with the School Board, Association and teachers, will really help us going forward. And I would just put forth a request or an invitation may be better for continued feedback from any of our teachers, principals, parents and students. When you send us an email, it helps us serve you better. Lastly, just love to hear how you and your team are working with the state board, district superintendents and others to support the needs of our students, staff and educators. Yeah, thanks for that question. So I speak with board members regularly. We've already had lots of conversations about things that are happening. Right now, we're getting ready to adopt new social studies and history standards. We have talked a lot about literacy and the task force that was created last summer. Um, I I speak with superintendents regularly. I spoke at at their conference, um, back in December, and also I've been able to engage with Teresa's quite a bit. Those regional supports for superintendents. Um, it's really just about listening right now, Marianne and, um letting them know that I am there. Lifeline and their support, Um, when it comes Thio this long session in the General Assembly as well as helping them find ways that that we can best support their students and teachers. Thank you so much. And we so appreciate you being here after the break. This week's final word. Public schools are the hubs in our communities, and over the past year we have frequently highlighted ways that our public education system and partners have worked together to meet the needs of students. Despite the challenges posed by the pandemic, we have invited students, teachers, parents, state district in school administrators, school board members, county and state elected officials and education, non profits and organizations to share the work they're doing in our local communities and across our state. Each and every day, we have heard consistently about the innovative approaches to support our students, but also that co vid shines a bright light and often exacerbates the inequities that have existed among our students for a long time. As we look toward this legislative session, I am reminded by the theme that has emerged in every discussion in every episode in the past year. No one person or one entity can do the hard work to address the needs of our students, school's and district's on their own. Today we had the chance to hear from State Superintendent Truitt, Chair Davis of the state board, representative Clemens and Senator Corbyn, all who are passionate about education and the work that must happen to ensure that every student in North Carolina has access to an excellent education that will empower and support them to reach their full potential. We are fortunate that our state, grounded in our Constitution, is committed to providing a sound basic education for all. And I am grateful that we have leaders who understand the integral connection between our public education system, our workforce and the economic well being of our state. As we look ahead, the key will be to focus on students, all of our students to communicate with and listen to school teacher and district leaders to address the issues that are critical in this time of Cove in 19, and in the longer term to follow through on the agreed upon steps outlined in Leandro Short term action plan and to work together to support the academic, social and emotional needs of all of our students. Our leaders are acknowledging the importance of engaging in a period of co vid recovery during which we have an opportunity to enact new and innovative reforms that strengthen our classrooms while also ensuring that we keep our eyes towards lifting hundreds of thousands of Children out of poverty and fulfill our constitutional obligation to ensure that all Children have access to AH, high quality teacher principal and resource is necessary for them to realize their true academic potential in life long success. Our education system has not paused for a moment, and by working together we can provide the resource is and policies needed to support them in the coming year. In the transition and recovery from Kobe 19, North Carolina is fortunate to have planned for the challenging year in terms of financial resource is, and by working together we can address the short and long term needs with a keen focus on equity. Thank you for taking the time with us. Tow, learn and think about education. That's all for today. And we'll see you next week, you know