Read full “Effective and Equitable: Creating a Shared Vision for NC Schools” report

In the fall of 2018, our Education & Law Project team engaged over 300 people in a dozen North Carolina communities through “Our Kids Can’t Wait” policy forums. Our team outlined how years of inadequate public education funding, combined with poorly implemented programs, have harmed our children and degraded the teaching profession (for more background, see The Unraveling: Poorly-Crafted Education Policies Are Failing NC Children).

Based on the feedback captured by advocates throughout 2018, our team developed a comprehensive policy and funding agenda to guide our advocacy efforts throughout the 2019 legislative session. Effective and Equitable: Creating a Shared Vision for NC Schools represents our collective vision for what is possible and necessary in order to restore, improve, and transform North Carolina’s public education system.

This online version of the policy agenda aims to serve as a living version of the April 2019 report, allowing:

  • Ongoing feedback and policy recommendations from readers like you
  • The ability to quickly reference and share information on specific topics
  • Updates to policy recommendations and cost estimates when applicable

Please explore the information below, share it with your community, and let us know your thoughts on how we can all work together to build a world-class public education system in North Carolina.

What’s Missing?

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What Can I Do?

To organize an education policy event in your community, please reach out to EdLaw has bilingual staff and is available to present policy content in Spanish.

Tackling Equity Head-On

Change School Performance Grades to End Stigmatization of High-Poverty Schools
WHY IT’S IMPORTANT: North Carolina’s school performance grades stigmatize schools with high concentrations of students from low-income families by emphasizing student achievement.
Achievement Gaps
Access to a well-rounded education
Level of school segregation
COST: No Cost

Support School Integration
WHY IT’S IMPORTANT: Schools where more than 75% of the students were persons of color and from families with low incomes grew from 295 to 476. Meanwhile, lawmakers continue to pass and consider laws exacerbating school segregation.
Merge segregated districts
Transportation incentives
School report cards
Charter transportation & lunch
Close white flight charters
Reject further segregation initiatives
COST: Minimal cost to transportation incentives

Create Programs to Attract and Retain Teachers of Color
WHY IT’S IMPORTANT: Just 20% of NC teachers are teachers of color. Having just one Black teacher in elementary school reduces dropout rates by 39%.
Add HBCUs to Teaching Fellows
Study of teacher prep barriers
Office of Educator Diversity
Integrate K-12 schools
COST: $1 million for Office of Educator Diversity

Increasing Student Supports

Meeting Industry Standards for School Support Staff
WHY IT’S IMPORTANT: Nurses, librarians, counselors, psychologists, and social workers boost achievement and address ACEs.
RECOMMENDATION: Meet nationally-recognized industry standards for support
COST: $655.2 million

Modify the Low Wealth Formula to Direct State Revenue to Communities that Need It Most
WHY IT’S IMPORTANT: The Low Wealth allotment directs additional state funds to low wealth districts. Meanwhile, additional resources are insufficient to close performance gaps.
Expand eligibility to 110% of state average wealth
Boost supplemental funding to 110% of the statewide average local revenue per student
COST: $131 million

Increase Disadvantaged Student Supplemental Funding (DSSF) Allotment to Fulfill Leandro’s Unmet Promise
WHY IT’S IMPORTANT: DSSF provides supplemental funding based on population of disadvantaged students. In 2004, Judge Manning said DSSF needs to be $223 million to adequately support disadvantaged students.
RECOMMENDATION: Meet the state’s Leandro obligations, adjusted for inflation
COST: $201 million brings total DSSF funding to $296 million

Restore Funding for Supplies and Textbooks

RECOMMENDATION: 15% above pre-Recession levels
COST: Textbooks $65.2 million; supplies $73.8 million

Increase Support for Limited English Proficiency (LEP) Programs
WHY IT’S IMPORTANT: NC has nearly 100,000 English learners and current funding is leaving too many behind.
Eliminate eligibility floor
Eliminate funding cap
Account for linguistic diversity
Permit LEP funds to be used for LEP teacher salary supplements
COST: $108.6 million

Modify Children with Disabilities (CWD) Allotment
WHY IT’S IMPORTANT: NC has nearly 190,000 students with disabilities. Funding is capped at 12.75% of enrollment and has consistently lagged recommended levels.
Eliminate funding cap
Boost funding to 2.3 times average student
Explore funding based on the level of intervention
COST: Eliminating cap: $41 million
Boosting funding: $352 million

Make NC Pre-K Universal
WHY IT’S IMPORTANT: There are proven benefits through at least 8th grade. Currently the state is serving just 47% of eligible 4-year olds and 25% of all 4-year olds.
RECOMMENDATION: Create no-cost NC Pre-K slots for 70 percent of age-eligible children
COST: $316 million

Universal Free Breakfast and Lunch
WHY IT’S IMPORTANT: Twenty-one percent of North Carolina children live in households that are food insecure. There is overwhelming evidence that child nutrition programs boost student performance, yet NC is one of 18 states providing no supplemental child nutrition funds.
RECOMMENDATION: Free breakfast and lunch for all students
COST: $168 million

Treating Educators Like Professionals

Make Teacher Pay Competitive with Other Industries
WHY IT’S IMPORTANT: Successful school systems pay teachers on par with other college-degree requiring professions. NC teacher competitiveness 2nd worst in country.
RECOMMENDATION: Boost teacher pay by 25%
COST: $1.6 billion

Create Incentives for Principals to Lead High-Need Schools
WHY IT’S IMPORTANT: New test-based pay scheme dissuades principals from accepting roles in high-need schools
RECOMMENDATION: Differentiate principal pay based on years of experience and share of students in a school qualifying for free-or-reduced price lunch.
COST: None

Focus Teacher Bonuses on Recruitment and Retention at High-Need Schools
WHY IT’S IMPORTANT: Our state spends $39 million on test-based bonuses that pit teachers against each other. There is no evidence such bonuses boost performance. Bonuses improve retention at high-need schools.
RECOMMENDATION: Let districts use bonus money to establish recruitment and retention plans tailored to their specific needs
COST: None

Provide All School Employees a Living Wage
WHY IT’S IMPORTANT: Bus drivers, custodians, child nutrition staff, and teacher assistants are left out of state’s $15 minimum wage.
RECOMMENDATION: Guarantee that all school district employees receive pay equal to at least $15 per hour, consistent with pay for state employees.
COST: $86 million

Allow Collective Bargaining for School Employees
WHY IT’S IMPORTANT: NC is one of just two states prohibiting state and local governments from entering into collective bargaining agreements. Districts with strong unions have more highly-qualified teachers, higher retention rates, and lower high-school dropout rates, while teachers in unions have more competitive pay.
RECOMMENDATION: Allow school employees to collectively bargain
COST: None

Restore Funding for Professional Development
WHY IT’S IMPORTANT: Professional development funding was eliminated in 2011. High-quality PD boosts student performance and improves recruitment and retention. Policymakers are continuing to make teachers’ jobs harder.
RECOMMENDATION: Restore the Professional Development allotment to FY 08-09 levels, adjusted for inflation and student growth
COST: $15.1 million

Restore Funding for Beginning Teacher Support Programs
WHY IT’S IMPORTANT: Professional development funding was eliminated in 2011, despite having proven an effective tool for reducing turnover among beginning teachers and boosting student performance.
RECOMMENDATION: Restore the Mentoring allotment to FY 08-09 levels, adjusted for inflation and student growth
COST: $13.5 million

Restore Professional Status of North Carolina Teachers
WHY IT’S IMPORTANT: Over past decade, the GA has eliminated  Master’s pay for new teachers, NBPTS application costs, career status, and longevity pay; and has implemented test-based evaluations.
RECOMMENDATION: Restore professional benefits previously enjoyed by NC teachers
COST: Longevity: $100 million
NBPTS application: $3.3 million
Master’s: indeterminate but minimal

Ending Failing Programs

Moratorium on New Charter Schools
WHY IT’S IMPORTANT: NC’s charter sector has failed to serve as a useful laboratory for innovation; is delivering subpar results for students; exacerbates racial segregation; and increases operating costs in traditional public schools.
RECOMMENDATION: Moratorium on new charters until protections from segregation and cost increases; only approve actually innovative schools.
COST: None

Revoke Charters of Virtual Charter Schools
WHY IT’S IMPORTANT: Model has failed in every state. NC’s two virtual charters are among state’s worst-performing schools, and there are other issues related to charter schools.
RECOMMENDATION: Close down the virtual charter schools
SAVINGS: $4.6 million

Eliminate School Voucher Programs
WHY IT’S IMPORTANT: Voucher programs drain money from public schools; erode idea of schools as a public good; legalized discrimination; are rife with fraud; and deliver poor results
RECOMMENDATION: Eliminate the state’s three voucher programs.
SAVINGS: $35 to $40 million

End Read to Achieve
WHY IT’S IMPORTANT: Over-testing 3rd graders and threatening retention for failing reading test has caused scores to plummet

RECOMMENDATION: Eliminate Read to Achieve’s testing and retention requirements
COST: $30 million

Eliminate Innovative School District (ISD)/Restore District and School Transformation (DST) Division
WHY IT’S IMPORTANT: Lawmakers eliminated DST supports for low-performing schools. The ISD model, on the other hand, has  districts forfeiting control of school to charter operators; has failed in other states; and is opposed by NC communities. DST, meanwhile, has a proven track record of improving school performance.
RECOMMENDATION: Eliminate ISD, restore proven DST model
COST: $4.1 million

Convene Blue Ribbon Commission on Testing
WHY IT’S IMPORTANT: High-stakes testing regimes narrow curriculum, focus on “bubble” students, and raise stress for students. Stigmatization of schools facing higher outside-of-school barriers. Full abandonment jeopardizes about $900 million of federal funds.
RECOMMENDATION: Convene Blue Ribbon Commission to reduce the stakes of our testing regime and examine implications of non-compliance with federal guidelines.
COST: $200,000

Restore Local Calendar Flexibility
WHY IT’S IMPORTANT: NC is one of just three states that set when districts must begin and end their school year. This hampers district efforts to align calendars with community college courses, address summer learning loss, conduct professional development, and administer exams.
RECOMMENDATION: Complete flexibility in providing students with at least 185 days or 1,025 hours of instruction per year.
COST: None

Improving School Facilities

Statewide School Construction Bond
WHY IT’S IMPORTANT: NC schools face over $8.1 billion of school capital needs. School building conditions affect student performance.
RECOMMENDATION: Allow referendum for bond of at least $1.9 billion
COST: If passed by voters, state debt service payments of between $2.7 million to $8.7 million could begin in FY 20-21

Test for and Remove Lead in All Schools
WHY IT’S IMPORTANT: Unlike about half of states, NC lacks any laws or policies requiring testing of lead in public schools. Low levels of lead exposure can seriously impair child development, and many schools have tested positive in past year.
RECOMMENDATION: Test for lead and remediate identified problems at every public school and child care facility.
COST: $4-$5 million

Promoting Post-Secondary Attainment

Tuition Free Community College
Over the past 10 years, tuition for in-state students – even after adjusting for inflation – is up over 50%. The average NC family must dedicate 18% of family income to cover the full cost of attendance.
RECOMMENDATION: Last-dollar scholarship for recent high school graduates covering the full cost of community college tuition and mandatory fee.
COST: $30 million

Expand NC Promise Tuition Plan to All UNC Campuses
WHY IT’S IMPORTANT: NC Promise sets in-state tuition at $500 per semester. The average NC family must dedicate 25% of family income to cover the full cost of attendance.
RECOMMENDATION: Expand NC Promise to all UNC System schools.
COST: $530 million