Jess Clark

Fletcher Fellow for Education Policy Reporting

Jess is WUNC's Fletcher Fellow for Education Policy Reporting. Her reporting focuses on how decisions made at the North Carolina General Assembly affect the state's students, families, teachers and communities.

Jess graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 2015 with her master's in Journalism and Mass Communication. As a graduate student she was lead writer and managing editor for WholeHogNC.org, a special multimedia report on North Carolina’s hog industry from UNC’s award-winning series, "Powering A Nation."  Her broadcast experience comes from working as a reporter and producer for Carolina Connection, a student-produced radio newscast from UNC's School of Journalism and Media, where her work received multiple national awards. She has also interned with the production team for WUNC's "The State of Things" and reported for WCHL on local schools and state policy, among other issues.

When she's not reporting, Jess is singing second soprano in the Choral Society of Durham, searching for taco trucks or dreaming of her hometown of Louisville, Kentucky.

Ways to Connect

A Republican bill could move the country a step forward towards changing the U.S. Constitution.
U.S. Air Force

A bill is moving through the North Carolina legislature that could push the country a step closer towards rewriting its founding document.

Two of about 140 protesters who rallied in front of Senator Thom Tillis' office in downtown Raleigh.
Jess Clark / WUNC

More than one hundred protesters rallied outside Senator Thom Tillis' Raleigh office Tuesday afternoon calling for the Republican senator to reject his party's bill to replace Obamacare.

The budget deal would raise principal pay, which is the lowest in the nation.
Jess Clark / WUNC

North Carolina's school prinicpals have the nation's lowest average salary. The pending state budget would raise salaries and base them partially on student performance.

Several hands of different colors raised.
John LeMasney / Creative commons

Education spending is far and away the lion's share of the state budget. This budget also includes some important changes to policy that will impact the state's teachers, students and schools. 

EDUCATION SAVINGS ACCOUNTS

Wake County School Bus
Dave DeWitt / WUNC

The Durham Board of Education has changed district policy to buffer schools from immigration and law enforcement.

Rep. Chaz Beasely (D-Mecklenburg) is one of the co-chairs of the North Carolina Future Caucus, which include members up to age 47.
Jess Clark / WUNC

It's being called a political crisis: Partisanship is the worst it's been in decades. Now, a few North Carolina legislators think they might have a solution: Building a political coalition based on their shared youth. Charlotte Democratic Representative Chaz Beasley is 31 years old, and one of the chairs of the new North Carolina Future Caucus.

State Senator Phil Berger
Dave DeWitt

There could be term limits for the leaders of the state House and Senate under a bill moving through the legislature.

The bill could limit terms for the Speaker of the House and the Senate Leader to four consecutive two-year terms.

Budget talks will resume this week.
Flickr

Coming off a week that included a gun bill, an energy bill, and a re-mapping session, this week is likely to be a bit quitter on Jones Street.

That could leave time to work on the budget.

M&P .45
Daniel Weber's photo stream / Creative Commons Attribution (2.0) image from Daniel Weber’s photostream

The House passed a controversial gun bill this week, but it's not clear the measure has enough support to become law.

North Carolina State Legislature
Dave Crosby / Flickr

Republican legislators in North Carolina have refused to hold a special session demanded by Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper to redraw General Assembly districts, saying his proclamation is faulty and unconstitutional.

Wake County School Bus
Dave DeWitt / WUNC

A number of racially charged incidents in Wake County Schools has prompted the district to bring together principals to talk about race.

North Carolina State Legislature
Dave Crosby / Flickr

The state House passed its budget just after midnight last night. The House plan would cut taxes, fund pay increases for some teachers, and give an across-the-board $1,000 raise to state employees. It would also add $260 million  to the state's 'rainy day' fund.

Wake County bus driver Auh Murel Wright greets a student before the afternoon trip home. Wright is among many school-based employees who struggle to make ends meet on their current salaries.
Jess Clark / WUNC

Now that the state House has released its plan for teacher pay, there are three plans before lawmakers as they continue budget negotiations. Here are the basic differences:

North Carolina State Legislature
Dave Crosby / Flickr

Republican House budget committee members made it clear Thursday that they disagree with several spending cuts and policy provisions the Senate GOP approved in its state budget proposal two weeks ago.

Eastway third grade student Kayden works with her classmates to disassemble a computer.
Jess Clark / WUNC

Third-graders usually can’t be counted on to remember important dates, other than their birthday. But  third-grader Antonio knows the exact dates of his end-of-grade tests, or EOGs.

State Board of Education Chairman Bill Cobey (center-right) listens while State Superintendent Mark Johnson gives his monthly address to the board.
Jess Clark / WUNC

In June, a panel of North Carolina judges will hear a case that pits Republican against Republican in a power struggle over who should steer the Department of Public Instruction.

State Superintendent of Public Schools Mark Johnson
NC Public Schools

State Superintendent Mark Johnson's first months leading North Carolina Public Schools has been marked by a legal battle over just how much power his office should have.

It's a lawsuit that pits Republican against Republican.

Bertie County schools has a deficit of $700,000.
RambergMediaImages / Flickr/Creative Commons

A new audit of Bertie County Schools reveals a system deficit of more than $700,000, mismanagement of school funding, and potential violations of state laws that go back to at least 2011.

NC Legislative building
NC General Assembly

The General Assembly has completed the override of the governor's veto of a measure reducing the state Court of Appeals from 15 judges to 12.

North Carolina legislative building
Wikimedia Commons

Updated 11:50 a.m., 4/28/2017

Thursday's crossover deadline came and went with a bang. Debate got heated when House Minority Leader Darren Jackson (D-Wake) objected to a final vote on House Bill 113. The measure allows for private citizens to take their local governments and police departments to court for failing to comply with immigration law enforcement.

It was clear Jackson believed Republicans violated a bi-partisan agreement on which bills would get a final vote just ahead of the deadline--Jackson said HB 113 was not one of them. Nonetheless, Jackson backed down when it was clear he was being outmaneuvered by the GOP leadership. The bill survived crossover and moved on to the Senate.

Photo: A Massachusetts voting station sign
Katri Niemi / Flickr

Since at least the 1990s, partisan politics haven’t had a place in most school board races in North Carolina. Historically, just a small minority of state’s 112 school boards have been elected on a partisan basis. But that may be changing. In the last five years, the state legislature has more than doubled the number of school boards elected on party lines.

An image of a gavel
creative commons

Legislators will meet next week to consider bills that would strip local school boards' of their right to sue county commissioners for more education funding.

The Cape Hatteras Lighthouse seen from the light keepers house in Buxton. The lighthouse was put in service in 1870 and is the world's tallest brick lighthouse at 208 feet. Its beacon can be seen 20 miles out at sea.
Cliff Owen / Associated Press

North Carolina's school calendar law can be a nightmare for school systems to navigate. Take it from Anthony Jackson, Superintendent for Vance County Schools.

"It's very, very difficult. It's putting together a puzzle," Jackson said.

photo of an apple on top of books
Kate Ter Haar / Creative Commons

Durham Charter School Kestrel Heights has lost its appeal to keep running its high school.

The state Board of Education voted Thursday to uphold an earlier decision to revoke the school's right to serve high school students.

Cedar Fork Elementary in Wake County would have to add three more kindergarten classrooms under the class-size change scheduled to go into effect in the fall.
Jess Clark / WUNC

Public-school officials are panicking ahead of state-mandated class-size reductions in kindergarten through third grade. School systems say lawmakers gave them an unfunded mandate when they demanded schools cut K-3 class sizes starting next school year.

Luis Padilla poses for a picture with his daughter, Isabella near their home in New York. Padilla was arrested at 16 and sent to Rikers Island. New York and North Carolina are the only two states to prosecute all 16 and 17 year olds as adults.
Seth Wenig / Associated Press

Second of two stories. Click here for the first.

North Carolina is one of just two states that automatically charges 16- and 17-year-olds as adults in the criminal justice system. But in several counties, the court system is working with local law enforcement to give would-be young offenders a second chance.

A bill to raise the age of juvenile jurisdiction from 16 to 18 has support in the state house.
Associated Press

First of two stories. Click here for the second.

When you turn 16 in North Carolina, you still can't vote, or drive on your own at night. You can't buy cigarettes or alcohol, or get a tattoo. But you can be charged, tried and convicted as an adult in the criminal justice system.

HB2's Impact: Schools

Mar 23, 2017
Hunter Schafer and her parents Katy and Mac
Allen G. Breed / AP

At the heart of the HB2 court case is the question of which bathroom and locker room transgender students are allowed to use in public schools. For one of the plaintiffs in the case, HB2 has made life much more complicated.


Parents at a Triangle charter school listened to a presentation about how to deal with Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE.
Jess Clark / WUNC

President Donald Trump’s new rules on immigration enforcement have undocumented immigrants on edge.

a teacher in a classroom
Bart Everson / Flickr/Creative Commons

State Board of Education members voted Thursday to revoke Kestrel Heights Charter School's right to serve high school students. The Durham K-12 charter school is on thin ice after it uncovered a long-running diploma scandal.

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