Rising tensions between school officials and parents are real, but they are not cause for concern. Attorney General Merrick Garland agreed to use U.S. Department of Justice resources to address National School Boards Association concerns about purported threats of violence and acts of intimidation against school board members. Cooper and state education officials should send a joint letter to the Department of Justice declining federal assistance unless confronted with irrepressible violence at school board meetings.
Federal Covid legislation has brought over $6 billion in funding to North Carolina schools. The additional money equates to approximately $3,900 per student, almost four times the 2019-20 annual federal per-student expenditure ($994). Pressure to spend the money wisely is real — and good — because resources used to address specific Covid-related needs, expand student and parental options, and tie spending to the student will be money well spent.
K-12 public school districts in North Carolina have received about $6 billion in federal funds to help address the coronavirus pandemic. On average, since last March, school districts have spent about 11% of funds appropriated for Covid relief. The low level of expenditures raise legitimate questions about the nature of the emergency and how federal dollars are spent.
State reopening mandates led to sizable increases in home and private school enrollment during the 2020-21 school year. According to statistics published by the North Carolina Division of Non-Public Education, homeschool enrollment soared by 20.6% (not a typo) and private school enrollment increased by 3.3%. An estimated 23% of North Carolina families selected a home, private, or charter school last school year.
A majority of State Board of Education members approved the controversial K-12 social studies standards in February 2021. A new report by the Thomas B. Fordham Institute awarded North Carolina’s new civics and government standards a D− and our U.S. history standards an F. Despite this assessment, plans are underway to implement the new standards in the fall unless the General Assembly intervenes.
Overall, North Carolina teacher pay has improved despite periods of no or moderate pay increases. North Carolina ranks 34th nationally and 2nd in the Southeast in teacher pay. The increase in teacher benefits — specifically the rising cost of retirement benefits — is the biggest reason for the escalating costs of teacher compensation.
For 2020-21, North Carolina’s average teacher salary is $54,392, which is ranked 34th in the nation according to the National Education Association. The statewide average salary increased by around 21 percent between 2014 and 2021. The NC Association of Educators insists that the calculation of the average is flawed.
The new Comprehensive Remedial Plan to comply with the Leandro ruling lacks critical details for how its measures would provide all public school children a sound basic education. Democrats and activists are pressuring the Republican-led General Assembly to adopt these expensive proposals — or the judge to force them despite the constitutional separation of powers.
Senate Democrats pledged unwavering allegiance to the North Carolina Democratic Party, the N.C. Association of Educators, and the advocacy groups that ignore the overwhelming support for in-person instruction and the mounting academic and social/emotional needs of public school students.
North Carolina needs social studies standards focused on civic literacy and dedicated to providing students a balanced perspective of American history. A balanced view does not attempt to conceal the nation’s mistakes. Instead, it gives equal weight to failures and successes. It identifies errors and facts. It affirms our ideals, even as we work to create a society that honors them.
Department of Public Instruction by Author
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