The turmoil in North Carolina’s public schools, caused by budget cuts and ill-advised policy choices, has gotten people’s attention. On Saturday, May 3, there’ll be an opportunity to take a closer look at where things stand and what the stakes are for all involved – which, when we’re talking about the schools, means everyone who wants to see young people succeed and the state prosper.
The group Public Schools First NC will hold its first statewide forum May 3 at N.C. State University’s McKimmon Center. The forum, “Keeping NC Public Schools Strong,” will last from 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m., with registration and coffee starting at 8:00 a.m. Optional lunch costs $10.
Highlights of the program:
- Legislative roundtable on school issues, featuring state Sen. Josh Stein (D) and state Reps. Rosa Gill (D), Tom Murry (R) and Paul Stam (R), all of Wake County. With the General Assembly about to convene for this year’s so-called short session, the discussion could well amount to a preview of debates sure to unfold in the coming weeks.
- Keynote speech by Prof. David Kirp of the University of California at Berkeley, whose “Improbable Scholars: The Rebirth of a Great American School System and a Strategy for American Schools” has received the 2014 American Educational Research Association’s Outstanding Book Award.
- Panel, “Effective and Innovative Programming,” with Nora Carr, chief of staff, Guilford County Schools; Tony Habit, president, N.C. New Schools; David Reese, president and CEO, East Durham Children’s Initiative.
- Panel, “Adequate School Funding and Accountability,” with Ricky Lopes, associate superintendent, Cumberland County Schools; Keith Poston, president and executive director, Public School Forum of N.C.; Philip Price, Chief Financial Officer, N.C. Department of Public Instruction.
- Panel, “High-Quality Teaching Environments,” with Suzzette Acree, teacher at Lacy Elementary in Raleigh; Alesha Daughtrey, Center for Teaching Quality; Karyn Dickerson, N.C. Teacher of the Year; Helen Ladd, professor, Sanford School of Public Policy, Duke University.
Public Schools First NC was formed in early 2013 with priorities that line up well with those of the Council of Churches in their support of public education as a path to opportunity for all members of society:
“Adequate, equitable funding that reflects the national average for North Carolina’s school districts.
“Programs and compensation that encourage recruitment, preparation, support and retention of professional, experienced educators.
“Excellent educational environments that are partnerships between schools, families, teachers and the community.
“Access to high-quality pre-school, so each child comes to school ‘kindergarten ready.’
“Providing resources that lessen the impact of poverty on a child’s academic success.”
The group’s executive director is Karey Harwood, who will be one of the presenters at the Council’s big education-themed event coming up in June. The annual Critical Issues Seminar will cover a range of topics involving each level of the North Carolina’s public education enterprise from pre-kindergarten through the universities. Harwood will help lead a workshop, one of 14 on the program, offering a status report on education issues being considered by the legislature. The state’s bottom-of-the-barrel levels of teacher pay, and how to raise salaries in light of tax cuts now taking effect, are likely to be major concerns.
The Seminar will take place on Monday, June 16, at United Church of Chapel Hill. Online registration is available here. With the quality and effectiveness of North Carolina’s public schools hanging in the balance, and with the legislature in the midst of its session, this shapes up as an event that people who believe in strong systems of public education won’t want to miss. The May 3 Forum should help set the stage.