A special House committee on education voted Monday to approve a report containing six findings and recommendations for public education ahead of next year’s long session of the state legislature.
The House Select Committee on An Education for North Carolina’s Future has met 12 times since it was convened in January. Your report calls for:
- A high-quality standard education.
- Increased educational support staff and access to alternative learning placements.
- Designing a scoring system that generates useful data.
- Adaptation of the school calendar law to leave these decisions to the local school authorities.
- And amending the state constitution to give the state inspector greater powers.
“They’re all sort of working together collectively as the foundation of a new system,” said Rep. John Torbett, R-Gaston, the committee’s senior chair. “And with the baseline findings … we’re asking this committee to be repurchased next year to further develop or study each and every one of those findings in more depth and define the outcomes.”
The report doesn’t include full details of how these recommendations would work, but it does include information from each of the committee’s meetings. Read on for a breakdown of each recommendation.
A “high-quality standard education”
The committee noted that in order for the state to have an “engaged, well-educated public,” students should receive a “quality standard education.”
The language does not specifically refer to the Leandro case, but introduces new terminology in an area where the Leandro courts have already defined the constitutional right to education as access to a “sound basic education”.
The report states that a “quality standard education” includes English, mathematics, science, history, arts, and vocational and technical education.
“Throughout their education, students should develop critical thinking skills that enable them to engage with the world,” says the report.
The report recommends that certain elective courses be offered online and on-demand to allow students to pursue their interests outside of the classroom day, and also calls for “real and hands-on learning experiences offered through partnerships with community colleges and community stakeholders.”
In Monday’s session, Rep. Rachel Hunt, D-Mecklenburg, offered an amendment that would call for the school day to be extended to allow for more time for electives. Torbett said he did not disagree but did not take any amendments off the floor.
Related reading on educational standards
Increase in teacher salaries
The committee found that the state faces difficulties in hiring and retaining qualified educators for each school and notes that testimony before the committee suggested that increasing teachers’ salaries would alleviate these difficulties.
“For teachers, higher pay would provide an incentive to stay in the classroom rather than take on an administrative role or leave the profession,” the report says. “The committee also notes that educators have the greatest impact on students when they are focused on classroom tasks, so non-classroom tasks should be minimized.”
The report doesn’t provide details on how to achieve that, but Torbett said he’s monitoring a proposal from the state Board of Education and the Professional Educator Preparation and Standards Commission. Here’s the latest on it.
“The committee did not have time to thoroughly examine these findings,” Torbett said. “It’s the hope that we’ll have time in the coming weeks and months to look at the proposed findings — not saying we’ll adopt them or not, just[that]it’s been difficult to have a conversation about something.” that wasn’t finished yet.”
Hunt suggested increasing the number of teaching assistants to help in the classrooms as well.
Related reading on teacher compensation
Teaching staff and alternative ways
The committee found that students learn best in safe and supportive environments, that increasing the teaching staff can foster a school climate that empowers all students to learn, and that character education for children is important to create a school climate free of bullying and others to create distractions.
Discussion at the committee hearing on Monday focused on teachers’ authority to discipline students.
“We need to let the teachers know that we have their backs and our support in the classroom when it comes to disciplinary issues,” Torbett said, “and also let the administrators know to have the teachers’ backs in the classroom without fear of.” Repercussions – without that fear, because it’s all just nonsense.”
Torbett said some teachers may be afraid to discipline a student because they fear reporting the incident or disciplinary action would be a mark against the school.
MP Pat Hurley, R-Randolph, These disciplinary issues can push teachers to leave the classroom.
“I think a lot of teachers who are going and who have gone don’t feel like the administration has their back and they’re very concerned about how anything is being handled,” she said. “And if nothing is done, sometimes it encourages them to leave the profession, and we don’t need that.”
Neither the report nor the discussion during Monday’s hearing specifically addressed mental health or social-emotional learning support for students.
Related reading on discipline in schools
Designing scoring systems that generate useful data
The report found that student assessments, which provide real-time information on student learning progress, would make it possible to meet the educational needs of all students.
“The committee believes that mastery of a course should be determined by more than one data point, not just by passing or failing a single high-stakes final exam,” the report says.
This finding was not discussed during the hearing.
Related reading on assessments
Changing the authority of the school calendar
The committee also noted that the current law, which requires school to start no earlier than the Monday closest to August 26, limits districts’ ability to operate on a calendar that best suits their communities.
“To better meet these needs,” the report says, “the committee believes that local education authorities should be given more time flexibility.”
At least three districts defied the calendar law this school year. On Tuesday, the Union County Board of Education will vote on whether to flout the calendar law.
Rep. David Willis, R-Union, said “calendar flexibility has long been debated and is bitterly overdue,” but he encouraged including language that honors the community college system calendar due to large numbers of double-enrolled students.
Related reading in the school calendar
Grant of state superintendent with greater authority
The final, and perhaps most controversial, recommendation is to give more authority to the state superintendent for public education. To do this, the public would have to vote on an amendment to the state constitution.
“The committee notes that the current division of powers between the State Board of Education and the Superintendent of Public Instruction creates a power struggle that is causing more controversy than support for North Carolina’s education system,” the report said.
Torbett said this was not intended to give or take powers to either entity, but rather to address the “contentious nature that we have seen over the past few years”.
However, since Superintendent Catherine Truitt took office in 2021, the parties have reported an improved working relationship.
The relationship between former Superintendent Mark Johnson and the State Board was more strained. However, the emergence of this division predated Johnson’s tenure — it began with the passage of House Bill 17, which also shifted authority between the state board and the state superintendent.
Hunt warned against changing the constitution on the matter, calling it complicated and saying most people in the public don’t understand exactly what the board or state superintendent is doing.
“I just think it needs to be looked at very, very carefully,” she said. “There would have to be a lot of public direction about what this constitutional amendment is, what it does and how it would affect your children. So I’m a bit apprehensive about this particular finding.”
Read the full report here.