Site list: tracking the Legislature online

Even if public education issues don’t dominate the newly opened session of the N.C. General Assembly as they seemed to do last year, how we educate young North Carolinians remains plenty important in the eyes of legislators, education spending always occupies an important place in the budget conversation and how — and how well — state government fulfills its obligations to education says a lot to Tar Heels and outsiders alike about how it governs. In short, people should may attention to education issues even if they don’t hog the headlines.

We’re here to help. Several highly readable websites focus entirely on or pay a great deal of attention to education in North Carolina and the treatment it gets in Raleigh. Here’s an introduction to them, with links, in case you want to follow along.

— EdNC is the newest addition. It just launched on Monday. The site bills itself as “an online nonpartisan news and information platform hosting a bipartisan conversation about all things K-12 across the state.” (As if to prove its point about nonpartisanship, its inaugural profile “on policymakers influencing education in North Carolina” focuses on Sen. Phil Berger.) The site doesn’t have a section dedicated solely to legislative action, but with its content centering on public education it naturally touches on public policy.

For instance, an essay by Eric Guckian, Gov. McCrory’s senior adviser on education, discusses the relationship of successful education outcomes to economic progress. And who knew the average salary for public school administrators (excluding superintendents) in North Carolina is second to last in the nation? Alex Granados, a researcher and legislative reporter for Education NC, has that story on the site, as well as several others that are worth reading.

The site also provides a thumbnail look at each of the state’s public school districts and a section featuring education research, including a crowdsourced EdLibrary. Even at its launch, EdNC is a rich site that promises to grow more robust as it matures, particularly with the General Assembly in session.

— Public Schools First NC describes itself as “a statewide, nonpartisan organization focused solely on public education issues” and its website backs that statement up. While it provides plenty of data and information that’s just plain useful — its Resources section is particularly rich — it is also unapologetically editorial in its support for greater personal involvement in the public education system.

We couldn’t agree more.

The organization pumps up public involvement through a very complete Legislative Updates section that tracks education-related bills weekly, provides a link to real-time audio broadcasts from the General Assembly and has an archive of updates from the 2013 and 2014 sessions.

It celebrates public involvement by making room on its site for contributions from parents, teachers and others on the front lines; so if your level of interest goes beyond reading about what others think, this is a good site to get to know.

— There’s nothing nonpartisan about the NCAE (that’s the North Carolina Association of Educators, the closest thing teachers in this state have to a union) or to its website; but we thought we’d include it in this digest because the site, as with the organization, does pay a lot of attention to the Legislature.

You’ll find information on current and past sessions under the Advocacy section, so don’t go there expecting a straight-down-the-middle perspective. This is an organization that’s fiercely protective of educators, particularly classroom teachers, so its position in the existing legislative environment has to be adversarial. Read it in that light — and appreciate it if you think teachers are getting a raw deal.

— Think of the John Locke Foundation as the antithesis of the NCAE. They’re not in the same area code on public education. The organization’s website makes our little list because we’re nothing if not fair-minded, we appreciate smart writing and the Foundation pays a lot of attention to public education, particularly as it relates to the state budget.

You’ll find Education sections under the At A Glance and Research tabs on the homepage. Be prepared to be assaulted by data. These are number-rich environments and the arguments against the effectiveness of smaller class size or in support of school choice, for instance, are made with the preciseness of an economist, but minus the dispassion. Read this site if you appreciate a different point of view or if you want a clearer understanding¬† of the thinking that’s driving much of the action in the General Assembly.