After I was elected to the Wake County Board of Education this past November, I set an immediate goal of visiting each of the twenty-eight schools in my district and meeting with every principal. I haven’t yet reached that goal, but what I’ve already learned has been powerful. There is SO MUCH good and brilliant work being done for – and by – our students and families in these schools.
Too often when we look at our schools we see only what is perceived to be lacking and not the good that is already there: the foundation of dedicated professionals, eager students, and vibrant communities whose efforts are shaping our future right now. Unfortunately in the recent past the legislature’s perception of what’s lacking – the will to do the work, the creativity to forge new solutions, the discipline to rein in costs – has shaped their approach to our public schools. But that perception is not reality.
In my experience, our schools exemplify those very qualities every day. What is actually lacking are resources, and a way to distribute those resources equitably to benefit all students. In many cases, recent legislation has, in trying to address those inaccurately perceived problems in our schools, actively worsened many of the actual problems. Instead, as we go forward, I hope that the legislature will try a new vision:
- Repeal the class size mandate, giving our incredible principals the freedom and discretion to use their resources fairly and creatively.
- Pass the construction bond, so students don’t have to try to learn in environments with mold, climate control problems, water damage, or sewage smells… or wonder why they’re forced to.
- Address the effects of charter schools and vouchers on our ability to provide a high-quality, truly equitable educational opportunity to those who remain in our traditional public schools.
- Fund support staff at recommended levels, to reinforce and bolster the great things many schools are already doing with social-emotional learning and keep our students safe and ready to learn.
- Finally, return teachers and teaching assistants to classrooms in their former numbers – with nationally competitive pay and benefits – to help build and affirm the personal relationships with students that lie at the heart of everything we try to accomplish.
Doing these things for our schools would truly build a stronger North Carolina, now and into the future.