Reema Khrais

Fletcher Fellow for Education Policy Reporting

Reema Khrais joined WUNC in 2013 to cover education in pre-kindergarten through high school. Previously, she won the prestigious Joan B. Kroc Fellowship. For the fellowship, she spent a year at NPR where she reported nationally, produced on Weekends on All Things Considered and edited on the digital desk. She also spent some time at New York Public Radio as an education reporter, covering the overhaul of vocational schools, the contentious closures of city schools and age-old high school rivalries.

A North Carolina native, Reema began her radio career with Carolina Connection at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill as an anchor and reporter. She later interned at The Story, and traveled to Cairo, Egypt to produce stories from the 2011 revolution. Her work has also appeared on CNN, The Takeaway and On The Media.

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North Carolina Legislature passes a tax reform bill.
W Edward Callis III

A package of economic incentives aimed at luring businesses to North Carolina is one vote away from reaching the Governor’s desk.

The Senate swiftly approved the bill on Tuesday, while the House gave a tentative approval, 84-24, after a lengthy and lively debate.

The plan would increase funding for the Job Development Investment Grant (JDIG) program from $15 million to $20 million a year.

It could go as high as $35 million if the state attracts a large project, like an auto plant, that invests at least $500 million and adds at least 1,750 jobs.

State Senate chamber
Dave DeWitt / WUNC

North Carolina senators acted Monday on two plans that could have a wide impact on charter schools and the state's business recruitment efforts, and debated a plan to issue $2 billion dollars in bonds to renovate and put up new buildings. A recap: 

$2B Bond Package Focuses On Colleges And Universities, Leaves Out McCrory's Highway Plan 

State Senators unveiled a plan to borrow $2 billion in bonds for building construction and renovation.

Reema Khrais

This summer, North Carolina senators pushed a plan to cut thousands of teacher assistants. Educators from across the state rallied against the idea, and in the budget compromise unveiled this week, lawmakers decided to keep funding for teacher assistants.

But there’s a catch, and it’s one that many educators say is problematic.

Under the budget deal, schools would be required to use money for teacher assistants for only that. Nothing else.

classroom
Malate269 / Wikimedia Commons

This summer, North Carolina lawmakers unveiled controversial education proposals - like ending funding for driver's education, and slashing money for teacher assistant positions to pay for more teachers. After months of press conferences, closed-door negotiations and loud floor debates, lawmakers released details of their budget deal this week. Below are some of the K-12 education highlights: 

This summer, sophomore Anna Clemons spent a really long time trying to find an off-campus apartment.

She visited different complexes with her dad, took notes and made neat lists of pros and cons.

"They're really expensive here," she says. "I don't know how they can afford that, but I can't."

Some of the places were more expensive than the dorms at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, where she's a student. But then she found one that made sense with her budget.

The apartment is simple: fully carpeted, one bathroom and lots of beige.

Jorge Valencia

 

Senate Leader Phil Berger and House Speaker Tim Moore outlined a two-year spending plan this afternoon that would maintain funding for elementary school teaching assistants, high school drivers’ education classes, and gives state employees a one-time bonus of $750.

North Carolina State Legislature
Dave Crosby / Flickr

Republican legislative leaders say they're getting closer to reaching a deal on the state budget and will likely vote on it next Wednesday or Thursday.

On Twitter, Republican House Speaker Tim Moore wrote that he met with Senate Leader Phil Berger until midnight on Tuesday, trying to craft a final spending plan.

Senate budget writer Harry Brown says the House and Senate have come to terms on most of the budget items, including spending for driver's education. 

classroom
Malate269 / Wikimedia Commons

Almost thirty percent of public schools in North Carolina have received D and F grades, according to data the state released today.

Most of those D and F schools have high percentages of students who come from poverty. Last year’s scores showed a very similar trend. Democratic leader Larry Hall said he’s not surprised, and that the state needs to invest more in public education.

Fingers on a keyboard, computer,
Wikimedia Commons

For the first time in North Carolina, public school students can take all of their classes online by logging on to their computers at home.

This summer, the state opened two virtual charter schools, N.C. Connections Academy and N.C. Virtual Academy. Both schools have met their enrollment caps of 1,500 students, and families are on wait lists, according to the principals.

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

Parents and local groups have filed a lawsuit against the Halifax County Board of Commissioners, arguing that it fails to offer every student with the opportunity of a sound, basic education, as required by the state constitution.

Plaintiffs, which include three parents/guardians, the local NAACP chapter and the Coalition for Education and Economic Security, contend the board should merge the county's three school districts into one system. 

Glenwood Elementary students
Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools

 A state commission reviewing the Common Core standards is proposing major changes to the Math and English goals.

The 11-member group presented draft recommendations on Monday that call for a restructuring of high school math, a stronger emphasis on writing and, overall, clearer goals that are more “developmentally appropriate.” 

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

School leaders, not the state, should decide if they want to hire teachers or teacher assistants, according to Governor Pat McCrory.

In their budget proposal, state senators are calling for schools to cut back on the equivalent of about 8,500 teacher assistants and use the extra money to hire about 2,000 teachers and reduce classroom sizes. House lawmakers would keep funding intact.

On Thursday, McCrory chimed in on the debate, arguing that decisions over staffing should come from principals and superintendents who understand the needs of their students.   

N.C. General Assembly, State Legislature
Dave DeWitt / WUNC

The N.C. House and Senate voted Wednesday to spend at least two more weeks crafting a final budget. 

Their original deadline was July 1st, which is when the fiscal year began. Lawmakers had extended the deadline until Friday, but the two chambers still haven’t resolved differences over how much money to spend and where to spend it. 

On Wednesday, House and Senate lawmakers passed a temporary budget bill – also known as ‘continuing resolution’ – that would keep the state running until August 31st.

Photo: NC Legislative building
Jorge Valencia

In a 34-12 vote, the North Carolina Senate approved a bill Tuesday that would expand economic incentives and redistribute local sales taxes to help more rural communities.

Republican leaders say the idea behind the sales tax proposal is to funnel more money into rural areas.

State Senate chamber
Dave DeWitt / WUNC

North Carolina Senate Republicans are looking to give voters the opportunity to add spending and income tax caps to the state’s constitution.

Gavel, Court
SalFalko via Flickr, Creative Commons

A Wake County superior court judge is reviewing whether the State Board of Education is doing its part to provide every public school student with the opportunity of a sound, basic education.

A picture of an empty classroom.
f_a_r_e_w_e_l_l / Flickr

In Raleigh, Senate lawmakers are proposing a controversial tradeoff.

They want to cut funding for teacher assistants to hire more teachers and reduce classroom sizes in the early grades. Republicans argue that smaller classes will lead to better student outcomes, even if it’s at the cost of fewer teacher assistants.

An image of a person typing on a computer
Public Domain

In an effort to bridge the digital divide, the Obama administration has selected Durham, as well as 26 other cities and a tribal nation, to help connect more public housing residents to high-speed internet.

Photo: The state Department of Public Instruction revealed a dramatic drops in student performance on standardized tests.
sandersonhs.org

State education leaders are slowly rolling out their ideas on how to reduce high-stakes testing in public schools.

The State Board of Education voted on Wednesday to conduct a study in the coming school year to examine whether their proposals are doable.

classroom
Malate269 / Wikimedia Commons

Local school officials are struggling to make budget decisions without knowing how much money they will receive from the state.

House and Senate lawmakers passed a temporary spending plan earlier this month to keep the state running until August 14.

For school officials, that's a tight deadline.

Reema Khrais / WUNC

In North Carolina classrooms today, students are dealing with far fewer textbooks. Over the last seven years, state money for books has dropped drastically. Those changes come as more classrooms become more digital friendly – a transition that won’t be cheap, or easy.

Photo: An Interstate in North Carolina
Jimmy Emmerson / Flickr

North Carolina teenagers would no longer be required to take driver’s education under the Senate’s budget proposal.

That means they would no longer have to sit in class for 30 hours, or spend a few days behind the wheel with an instructor.

In its place, Republican senators want them to score at least 85 percent of the questions correctly on a written test (instead of the current 80 percent), and spend 85 hours driving with a parent or qualified adult (instead of 60) before getting a license.

NC General Assembly; State Legislature.
Dave Crosby / Flickr Share-Alike

The North Carolina Senate gave preliminary approval on Wednesday afternoon to a two-year budget that would cut funding for thousands of public school teaching assistant positions, and would make significant policy changes to the state's tax code and Medicaid program.

The proposed $21.5 billion budget, which represents an almost 2 percent increase from the current year and was approved by Republicans along a party-line vote of 30-19, is scheduled for a final vote on Thursday.

Lawmakers voted this summer to eventually eliminate teacher tenure, replacing it with temporary contracts. The State Board of Education will discuss a model contract this week.
cybrarian77 / https://www.flickr.com/photos/cybrarian77/6284181389

Teacher pay is one of the biggest political items in the state's spending plan North Carolina lawmakers are currently debating.

House and Senate Republicans have different ideas over raising teacher salaries, though both want to give an average 4 percent boost.

Under the Senate’s plan, most of that extra money would go toward teachers with less than 15 years of experience. Those with 25+ years of experience would not see any increases to their current base salary from the state.  

Classroom
WUNC File Photo

The state commission charged with reviewing and proposing changes to the Common Core standards heard from a handful of parents on Monday. Many of them already attend the group’s meetings regularly and strongly oppose the Math and English goals.

The group, which first met in September, has been working on collecting feedback from stakeholders through surveys and now public meetings.

“It’s so critical for us to be not only transparent, but inclusive,” said co-chair Andre Peek.

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