Education

As a new teacher for Wake County Schools, Vasti Rodriguez earns one of the highest local salary supplements in the state.
Jess Clark

Schools faced teacher shortages as students returned to the classroom last month. School districts across the state have different challenges when it comes to finding teachers, depending on where they’re located.

Rural districts, most of which offer lower salaries than urban districts, can find it especially tough to recruit new teachers, but they’re coming up with some creative solutions.

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.

Image of June Atkinson, who has been the North Carolina state superintendent since 2005.
North Carolina Democratic Party

June Atkinson has served as the state superintendent for almost a decade.

During her tenure there have been a number of significant changes to the state’s public education system, including the adoption of common core standards, the proliferation of charter schools, and continued debates about where education fits in the state budget.

Two white gold rings. (flickr.com/photos/72236935@N00)
Jeff Belmonte / Flickr

The leaders of the country's largest Protestant denomination have a message for millennials: get married already!

Over the past year, Southern Baptist leaders have encouraged churchgoers to get married young. The push comes in an effort to ensure more couples will be virgins on their wedding day. But does marrying young lead to happier marriages?

A class at the Francine Delany New School.
http://fdnsc.net/

Charter schools are taking off in North Carolina. Approximately 50 new charter schools have been founded since 2011 when the legislature lifted the 100-school cap on the number of charter schools. Now, the State Board of Education is considering applications for 17 more. 

Classroom
WUNC File Photo

House representatives in the state's General Assembly presented a bipartisan proposal on Thursday to create a scholarship program to help create highly-effective teachers.

The program, which received its first approval by a House Education Committee, would provide scholarship loans for individuals to attend “highly-effective” education schools. According to the bill, recipients would receive up to $8,500 per year.

“We need to attract and retain high-quality teachers and put them in the places where they’re needed the most,” said Rep. Craig Horn (R-Union).

Students participate in the 2014 NC Science Festival.
NC Science Festival

What do hip-hop and STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) have in common?

NC Legislative Building
Dave DeWitt

Lawmakers in the state House have until the end of the day to file any bills they have not yet submitted. 

Hundreds of proposals are already up for debate this session. One plan would require university professors to teach four courses per semester to keep their salaries. 

Katherine Stewart's book investigates a Bible study club with chapters in thousands of U.S. schools.
PublicAffairs

In 2009, journalist Katherine Stewart heard that something called The Good News Club was coming to her daughter’s public elementary school in Santa Barbara, California.

At first she thought its mission seemed benign, but once she began to look into the organization and how it operated, she felt compelled to dig in further.

In addition to taking on education initiatives, PAGE encourages girls to produce photography and digital stories.
Madison County Photo Exhibition / carolinapage.org

Rural communities in western North Carolina are in the midst of an economic shift.

The rise and fall of the family farm means places like Madison County are looking for new ways to support themselves. The answer could be in the tech industry. But technology businesses rely on a steady stream of well-educated workers. 

A panel discussion tonight at Duke University, "Rethinking Appalachia," examines ways to develop a high-tech workforce in rural Appalachia.

Vivian Connell

When Vivian Connell was in college, she was already a teachers' advocate. She was on CNN in the network's early years to talk about a teacher's wrongful termination at the University of Georgia. But she wanted more people to hear her voice.

When Vivian became a teacher, she amplified it through her students. They advocated for land conservancies and against genocide in Africa. But she still wanted to be louder.

Duke professor William "Sandy" Darity studies the economics of social inequality.
@SandyDarity / Twitter

The term “social inequality” points to disparities in economics. 

But in reality, social inequality means inequities in many spheres: health, law, education and culture. Dissecting Inequality: Disparity and Difference in the 21st Century, a conference at Duke this week, explores the reasons for social inequality and the scientific approaches to addressing it.

Governor Pat McCrory unveiled his budget plan yesterday.

Education tops the governor's priority list but critics say it doesn't go far enough. Meanwhile, in Washington, Senate democrats are calling for a vote on North Carolina native Loretta Lynch's confirmation as attorney general. Both North Carolina senators have pledged to vote against her confirmation. 

Governor Pat McCrory released his budgetary agenda today.
Wikimedia Commons

    

Governor Pat McCrory set forth his budgetary agenda today.

The proposed budget included emphasis on increased educational spending. The most recent projections show a $270 million shortfall, but state budget director Lee Roberts says the deficit is small relative to the overall budget.

The legislature will consider the governor's proposal in the next few weeks.

Guest host Phoebe Judge talks with Roberts about the budget priorities. 

Gavel, Court
SalFalko via Flickr, Creative Commons

The U.S. Federal Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit is scheduled to hear oral arguments Wednesday on a lawsuit challenging Wake County’s school board election maps.

The Durham-based Southern Coalition for Social Justice is challenging the 2013 redistricting on behalf of a handful of Wake County residents and two local organizations. They argue that the new districts drawn by the Republican-led General Assembly disfavor urban voters.

Thom Tillis and Kay Hagan
NC General Assembly/US Senate

    

As the midterm elections get closer, education is a prominent topic in North Carolina’s congressional races. 

Sitting on the steps with a child soon after I arrived in Durham to work as a community organizer for Operation Breakthrough.
http://howardfuller.org/photos

Dr. Howard Fuller has dedicated much of his life’s work to eradicating poverty. His work began in 1965, when he went to Durham to work as a community organizer and helped young African-American students and youth find a voice for themselves in organizations aimed toward ending poverty. 

Pat McCrory
Dave DeWitt

Governor Pat McCrory praised the Legislature for raising teacher pay in its last budget. He also expressed some disappointment that several of his signature efforts in education were not included.

McCrory spoke to the Education Conference of the North Carolina Chamber.

The Governor’s initial budget included smaller teacher raises than what was eventually passed. But the concept of paying teachers more at the beginning of their careers was one the Governor and Legislature shared, as was simplifying the teacher pay schedule.

photo of the North Carolina Senate
Government & Heritage Library, State Library of NC / Flickr

After spending a month dragging their feet on the state budget, lawmakers are now in a 48-hour race to wrap it up and go home. The $21.1 billion budget before them is a hefty 260-page document filled with hundreds of edits, figures and calculations.  But for many Republican lawmakers, including Sen. Harry Brown (R-Onslow), one item stands out.

“The priority of this session was education and, in particular, teacher pay,” Brown said.

North Carolina State Legislature
Dave Crosby / Flickr

  Budget writers in the General Assembly are moving forward with their negotiations, but it's still not clear when they might finish putting together a spending plan adjustment for the fiscal year that has already begun.

In an open conference committee Tuesday afternoon, legislators didn't reach an agreement on the size of teacher raises, though Senate budget writers have agreed to allow teachers to receive raises without forgoing career status protections. 

North Carolina State Legislature
Dave Crosby / Flickr

 After weeks of almost no budget talks, state lawmakers finally agreed to break their deadlock.  At a public conference committee meeting on Wednesday, they openly negotiated their adjustments to the two-year budget plan and seemingly resolved differences over Medicaid funding.

Segregation Again

Jun 26, 2014
Photo of African American students getting on a school bus in Grimesland, North Carolina in the 1950s
ECU Digital Collections/Flickr

    

This year marks the 60th anniversary of Brown V. Board of Education, the landmark Supreme Court decision that ushered in the era of school desegregation.

State Senate chamber
Dave DeWitt / WUNC

Senate and House leaders are expected to begin meeting in conference committees this week to make adjustments to the two-year budget plan. 

They have until June 30th to resolve differences and send their spending plan to Governor Pat McCrory.

Medicaid funding and teacher pay raises are expected to be the key sticking points in negotiations. But many Republicans, like Representative Craig Horn (R-Union), say they’re optimistic about the process.

For the past several months, WUNC has been working on a new multimedia project on the state of teaching. A sort of "End-Of-The-School Year" report on education in the state. That report, "Outspoken: The State of Teaching in North Carolina" is out today. 

In it, teachers tell stories that show the complexity of their jobs. Like Chris Reagan, who has had to prepare middle schoolers for both standardized tests... and how to go on a date:

Sim Bowden has worked this corner in Chapel Hill since 1999.
Carol Jackson

Every weekday, Sim Bowden manages the pedestrians at the intersection outside of Estes Hills Elementary in Chapel Hill. He's there for an hour and fifteen minutes each morning and afternoon, shepherding kids and adults safely across the busy street. Watching him is mesmerizing. His hand is usually in the air -- he waves to everyone, cars, trucks, school buses. And everyone seems to know Sim.

"Hello, cutie," shouts a mom in a silver SUV.

Today is the last day of school in Chapel Hill, and it also marks the end of Sim's fifteenth year working this corner.

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