For the past decade, North Carolina’s public school systems have dealt with crippling declines in funding and a policy agenda grounded in ideology that is hostile to public education. North Carolina lawmakers have embraced high stakes testing and unaccountable school privatization initiatives while asking our educators to do more with less. Student performance is falling and there are ever increasing gaps between the advantaged and disadvantaged. Teacher preparation programs have seen enrollments shrivel.

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North Carolina needs another path.

Lawmakers must refocus on evidence-based policies that confront the symptoms of poverty and institutional racism. That means investing in programs that give all children the opportunity to be successful. It means giving educators the resources necessary to help all children develop into thriving adults. It means supporting and rewarding educators for the commitment they have made to our children. And it means giving high school graduates pathways to continue their education that do not in debt them for years to come.

The list of policy recommendations below is not comprehensive because it focuses solely on “education policy.” However, if we want all North Carolina children to thrive, policymakers must consider a holistic policy agenda that confronts the role of poverty outside of school. Improvements in tax, environmental, health, criminal justice, immigration, economic, housing, and food policies play complimentary roles in boosting academic performance and ensuring that all North Carolinians can lead long, fulfilling lives.

This report offers the best estimates of how much each policy recommendation below would cost in the North Carolina state budget. The analysis does not consider the massive financial benefits of a strong education system that leads to long-run increases in lifetime earnings, or savings that accrue from long-run decreases in government services that would accrue from having a better-educated, more self-sufficient populace.