Public school forum: Top issue is sound, basic education for all

At its annual "Eggs & Issues Breakfast," the Public School Forum of North Carolina announced a focus on basic education for the coming year.

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At its annual "Eggs & Issues Breakfast," the Public School Forum of North Carolina announced a focus on basic education for the coming year.

The forum annually identifies up to 10 issues of focus in public education, but this year it is asking state leaders to get back to basics. The issue: Take Immediate and Intentional Actions to Meet Our Constitutional Obligation to Provide Each Child a Sound Basic Education.

“It is our hope that our state elected leaders and policy makers can come together with educators, families, community stakeholders and business leaders to prioritize and invest in the public education system that is guaranteed to each and every one of our children, so their constitutional right to a sound basic education will be realized, regardless of their zip code,” said Dr. Lauren Fox, senior director of policy for the forum.

“The urgent need to finally provide equitable educational opportunities to our students should be heeded by all, regardless of political party, and demands a dedicated, collaborative effort,” said Dr. Michael D. Priddy, acting president and executive director of the forum. “As we approach a year that we believe historians will look back on as pivotal when it comes to our system of K-12 public education, this year our Top Education Issues list has been distilled into this one driving issue, which is to act in an intentional and expeditious way to bring our state into Leandro compliance."

How to provide and fund equitable basic education across the state's public education system has been a battle in North Carolina for decades, since the 1994 Leandro case, which saw five school districts in low-wealth counties sue the state arguing that their school districts did not have enough money to provide an equal education for their children, despite the fact that they taxed their residents higher than average.

Twice the North Carolina Supreme Court ruled that the state has a constitutional obligation to ensure all children have access to a sound basic education that includes competent and well-trained teachers and principals, and access to sufficient resources. As recently as last December, WestEd, an independent consultant directed by Judge David Lee to come up with recommendations to meet the mandates of the Leandro case, found that mandate was not being met.

The Public School Forum of North Carolina identified five key priorities in executing its single top education issue.

  1. Redesign our School Finance System to Dramatically Improve Adequacy, Equity, and Flexibility
  2. Overhaul Educator Compensation, Recruitment, and Professional Development Strategies
  3. Revamp Our School Accountability Model: Eliminate or Revise the A-F School Grading System
  4. Support a Major State Investment to Fully Fund North Carolina’s $8 Billion+ School Infrastructure Needs
  5. Establish a Plan to Monitor Progress toward Leandro Compliance

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