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 nationwide collaboration between NPR’s Ed Team and 20 member station reporters exploring how states pay for their public schools and why many are failing to meet the needs of their most vulnerable students.
Leigh Ann Cross

State Board of Education members voted Thursday to approve eight new charter schools.

The schools got the green light, but they will still have to meet a number of requirements by next summer before being allowed to open for the 2017-2018 school year. Those requirements include hiring staff, finding a facility, recruiting board members and drafting policies.

Wake County School Bus
Dave DeWitt / WUNC

Wake County school board members are considering where they can make cuts in order to fill a $17.5 million budget gap. A proposed plan would increase class sizes, freeze teachers' local salary supplements and cut back on custodial services.

Studies show later school start times for teens improve health and academics.
Wikimedia Commons

Students in Durham's year-round traditional public schools head back to the classroom today. They'll be the first group of students to experience the district's new bell schedule.

Composite photo of Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump.
U.S. Embassy and Gage Skidmore / flickr

Updated July 6 at 7:06 a.m.

Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump fired up supporters at two separate rallies in North Carolina Tuesday, as both presumptive presidential candidates sought to gain a lead in the battleground state.

Teachers in North Carolina have seen pay raises
www.audio-luci-store.it / Flickr

In their budget compromise, lawmakers have allocated millions of dollars to give certain teachers bonuses for how well their students perform. Top third-grade reading teachers would earn thousands of dollars extra, and Advanced Placement teachers would receive $50 for each of their students who passes an AP or other advanced test.

A U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) arrest.
Wikimedia Commons

Editor's note: This story has been updated with the most recent action from the state Legislature.  

Republican lawmakers in the state Senate have passed a provision that would allow the state to withhold school and road funding from cities, towns and counties that don't comply with state immigration laws. The change would also prohibit local governments from issuing their own identification cards to people who are in the country without papers.

North Carolina State Legislature
Dave Crosby / Flickr

Editor's note: This story has been updated with the most recent action from the state Legislature.

State Senators approved a budget Tuesday night following more than an hour of review and debate.

Lawmakers are considering a number of education changes.
Courtesy of Pixbay.com

Editor's note: This story has been updated with the most recent action from the state Legislature. 

Changes to the charter school renewal process have cleared both the state House and Senate, and are on their way to the governor's desk.

A body camera on a North Charleston police officer.
Ryan Johnson / Creative Commons

Lawmakers in the North Carolina House have voted in favor of a bill that would keep police body camera video out of the public record. Under the provision, the footage wouldn't be personnel records either.

A bill seeks to protect air space for military exercises by prohibiting wind farms.
Paulo Valdivieso / Flickr Creative Commons

Lawmakers in the state Senate have passed a bill that would prohibit wind farms from being built in most of central and eastern North Carolina. Bill sponsor Sen. Harry Brown (R-Onslow) says the measure protects airspace the state's military bases use in training exercises.

a nationwide collaboration between NPR’s Ed Team and 20 member station reporters exploring how states pay for their public schools and why many are failing to meet the needs of their most vulnerable students.
Leigh Ann Cross

A provision in the Senate's budget proposal would force some year-round schools to change their calendars within the next couple months.

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


In their version of the budget, Senate Republicans have a plan to grow a large reserve fund for the Opportunity Scholarship Program. The scholarships, or vouchers, are given to low-income parents so they can pay to send their children to private rather than public schools.

Police arrested 14 educators who refused to leave the intersection.
Jess Clark / WUNC

Dozens of protesters gathered in downtown Raleigh Wednesday to demand increased funding for public schools and expanded Medicaid. Police arrested fourteen teachers, teacher assistants and parents for blocking traffic.

A sign indicates food stamps are accepted.
Paul Sableman / Creative Commons

The North Carolina House is considering a bill that would increase disqualification periods for food stamp recipients who don't meet their work requirements. Able-bodied adults without children have to work or train for 20 hours a week in order to qualify for food stamps.

Teacher, school, hallway
Jess Clark / WUNC

Lawmakers in the state House have renewed efforts to direct more money from school districts to charter schools.

Fayetteville math teacher Kenneth Williams creates a life-sized right triangle in his classroom.
Jess Clark

Lawmakers in the state Senate plan to vote Thursday on a bill that would let students opt out of the integrated high school math sequence, and take a more traditional math sequence instead.

Rep. Walter Jones (R-NC)
United States Government

It was supposed to be a tough race for U.S. Rep. Walter Jones. But the state's longest-serving sitting congressman cruised to victory last night in the 3rd Congressional District's Republican primary.

An image of a mortar board crossed out.
Michael Kellen / Wikipedia

Researchers at Duke University have new, concrete evidence that dropping out of high school leads to joblessness, hardship and incarceration. But the same study also reveals ways to help dropouts have more positive outcomes.

New Hanover County Schools is considering a ban on 'jeggings.'
Chris RubberDragon / Flickr Creative Commons

If you’re a girl or woman in the U.S., chances are you have more than a few pairs of "jeggings." These tight, stretchy denim leggings are ubiquitous on high school and college campuses.  But board members of New Hanover County schools are considering banning them.

A picture of a coal ash pond.
Waterkeeper Alliance

Democrats in the state House and Senate want stricter regulations on vanadium and hexavalent chromium, also known as chromium-6.

The chambers of the NC State House
Jorge Valencia / WUNC

House lawmakers have given final approval to a budget proposal. The plan passed its most important vote 103 to 12 Wednesday night with bipartisan support. 

Teachers in North Carolina have seen pay raises
www.audio-luci-store.it / Flickr

House lawmakers revealed a preliminary budget proposal Monday that gives pay raises to teachers based on individual experience.

Newly hired teachers and staff attend an orientation for Wake County Public Schools. Wake County teachers make more than most teachers in North Carolina.
Jess Clark / WUNC

The state's average teacher pay inched up to 41 in national rankings, according to a yearly report from the National Association of Educators. Last year North Carolina ranked 42nd.

The state's salary didn't increase significantly from the year prior, but it pulled ahead of Louisiana, which saw a sharp decline in teacher pay.

Middle school student Jojo works on a math assignment at Concord Middle.
Reema Khrais / WUNC

Lawmakers in a House committee on education spending released their budget proposal Thursday, and it includes several policy changes. One of those is  an adjustment to the A-F school grading system.

Hunter Schafer, 17, is a transgender student at the UNC School of the Arts.
Hunter Schafer / via Instagram

Hunter Schafer is one of several North Carolina residents challenging the state's controversial new discrimination law in federal court.

Photo: UNC Board of Governors Chair Louis Bisette and UNC President Margaret Spellings
Jorge Valencia

The leaders of the 17-campus University of North Carolina system say they are not violating federal anti-discrimination protections by following the state’s new bathroom access law, and are seeking legal representation in a lawsuit against federal authorities.

Fayetteville math teacher Kenneth Williams creates a life-sized right triangle in his classroom.
Jess Clark

The North Carolina Department of Instruction wants the state to maintain the new high school math sequence that some teachers and parents dislike.

DPI's proposed revisions to the state's academic standards would keep integrated math in place, but would revise many of the standards for clarity and move some standards into different grades.

John King
U.S. Department of Education / Flickr Creative Commons

U.S. Secretary of Education John King spoke out against North Carolina's controversial new law limiting bathroom access in public schools.

At a conference for education writers in Boston, King called the law known as HB 2 and a similar law in Mississippi "hateful," and said lawmakers should repeal it.

sembly building as the House and Senate adjourned.
Jess Clark

It was a bustling first day back at the General Assembly with multiple protests, a national media presence, and legislative efforts to reverse a controversial measure that was passed last month during a special session.

Lawmakers from across the state convened in Raleigh Monday for the start of the short legislative session. Policymakers are tasked primarily with reworking the budget during odd-year sessions, however, with the spotlight on the state's new so called "bathroom bill" the fiscal agenda is not the top story on Jones St.

Donald Trump
Greg Richter / Flickr Creative Commons

Republican presidential hopeful Donald Trump has weighed in against North Carolina's controversial discrimination law.

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