MEDIA RELEASE: New bill would enhance basic education for at-risk youth

MEDIA RELEASE: New bill would enhance basic education for at-risk youth
Mending the state's Personal Education Plan program is vital for parents, students

RALEIGH (March 30, 2009) --
Every North Carolina student has a legal right to a sound basic education. But because of flaws in the state's Personal Education Plan program, at-risk youth often don't get access to the help they need.

 A new bill introduced last week at the North Carolina state legislature would change that.

Sponsored by Rep. Tricia Cotham (D-Mecklenburg), HB 804 mandates early identification of students at risk of academic failure - and sets measurable benchmarks to ensure that those students and their families can get the personal attention that maximizes their chance to succeed.

"This proposal is about making sure every child gets access to the tools they need to succeed - and making it easier for parents of at-risk youth to participate in the process," said Rochelle Williams, a policy analyst at the North Carolina Justice Center's Education & Law Project. "North Carolina was on the right track when we created PEPs, but the law needs to be fine-tuned so that it works better for students and parents."

The North Carolina Constitution requires that schools provide each child a sound basic education. At a minimum, experts say, this means ensuring that students are performing at their grade level. If a child is failing in school and needs extra help to succeed, he or she has a right to get it.

State law already requires PEPs students at risk of failure. However, some teachers and principals remain unaware that such plans are required. Other schools are aware of the law, yet churn out one-size-fits-all plans that are far from personal.

"Requiring personal education plans for students at risk of failure is sound public policy," said Williams. "Unfortunately, many of North Carolina's students most in need of this kind of help aren't benefiting from it. Passing this bill would help the state make better use of this vital program."

FOR MORE INFORMATION, CONTACT: Rochelle Williams, 919.861.0602; Jeff Shaw, 919.863.2402.