Top priority: airing LCPS’s legislative agenda for lawmakers

Hundreds of bills having to do with public education have been filed during the session of the N.C. General Assembly that began in January. Some deal with details, but many potentially have far-reaching effects on the way public schools and public school classrooms operate in the state. Other education issues, in our opinion, need airing but unfortunately have not found their way into legislation yet.

As do all public school districts, LCPS has opinions on how the district would like to see things go in Raleigh, on what legislators could do that would best serve our students. The district was once again pleased to have as our guests for breakfast earlier this month the four men who form Lenoir County’s legislative delegation — Sens. Louis Pate and Don Davis and Reps. John Bell and George Graham — and was more pleased that the legislators gave their attention to a few of the myriad issues affecting public education that LCPS deems most important.

Below is LCPS’s 2017 list of legislative priorities, as presented at the breakfast by Superintendent Brent Williams.

The most significant issues

K-3 Class Size Limits: Without the flexibility provided by HB13, the K-3 class size mandates scheduled to go into effect next school year will work enormous hardship on every school district in the state, either costing them funds they can’t afford to spend or positions they can’t afford to lose. In LCPS, the impact of the mandate next fiscal year is $1.6 million and 25 positions. We urge Senate passage of HB13, which realizes the goal of smaller classes without doing collateral damage, and we urge timely approval so school districts can move through the budget process with certainty.

Public School Accountability: LCPS fully supports bipartisan sentiment in the General Assembly for revamping the A-F grading formula to put more emphasis on student growth. Giving equal credit to results of standardized tests and to growth – the 50-50 split now gaining favor – will more accurately reflect the true work and progress being made in our schools.

School Calendar Flexibility: We ask the General Assembly to provide boards of education with the same flexibility given to charter schools in adopting a school calendar that best meets the needs of our students, particularly the more than 500 students taking college-level courses at the local community college. Calendar flexibility has benefits for students and staff, allowing LCPS to coordinate with the college calendar and to complete a full semester prior to the Christmas break.

Also important to LCPS

Compensation: LCPS appreciates the General Assembly’s efforts to raise teacher pay in recent years but acknowledge with legislators that the salary schedule for the state’s school administrators needs significant reform. As you know, studies show school administrator salaries in North Carolina are ranked 50th in the nation. As the General Assembly continues to make progress on teacher salaries, we ask legislators to begin that process with school principals and other administrators.

Pre-K Education: Research shows an undeniable connection between quality pre-K programs and a child’s readiness for schools. The program LCPS offers in cooperation with the Partnership for Children of Lenoir and Greene counties now serves about 200 3- and 4-year-old children. About 70 more children have been relegated to a waiting list. Funding for a meaningful level of additional pre-K slots is crucial to ensure an equal start for kindergarten readiness for at-risk children.

Technology Funding: The use of technology in education is growing at an explosive rate. That is particularly true at LCPS, where iPads are the primary learning tool in our classrooms and digital learning is the standard. With the increased emphasis on digital assets comes the increased need for solid connectivity and skilled technicians to maintain those networks. State government should acknowledge the future of education by providing the resources required to give school districts a reliable digital presence.

Capital Funding: School environment and infrastructure are strongly linked to student outcomes. Public school capital infrastructure needs total about $8 billion over the next five years, according to DPI. We ask the General Assembly to develop methods to help school districts meet the mounting list of capital needs