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JWT Newsletter 06-01-11

JWT Newsletter 06-01-11

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Published by: Senator Jerry Tillman on Jun 03, 2011
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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 June 1, 2011
Why Education Reform? Why Now?
In a time of limited resources such as we face in North Carolina today, we are forced to makethe most of what we have. I’ve watched N.C. throw many resources at education for years,with little to show in the way of real improvement in teacher salaries, test scores, schooldiscipline, you name it. The fact is, we have lost ground in all these areas and more…A wise old mentor once told me, “If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll alwaysget what you always got.” We have the opportunity to make meaningful changes now. I hopewe don’t waste the opportunity. We will see…Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger recently shared his thoughts on education reform in theGreensboro News and Record. I could not say it better so why should I try…
Reforms of Public Education Long OverdueFrom:
The Greensboro News and Record 
Most North Carolina Democrats would tell you they are responsible for public education inour state.They would argue that their party has defended classrooms from Republican change. Theywould insist that they deserve, more than anyone, credit for the current system.In many ways they’re absolutely correct.Gov. Bev Perdue and Democrats who controlled the General Assembly for the past quarter century are indeed the architects of a system ranked near the bottom – No. 43 – in nationalgraduation rates. Perdue and her colleagues have built an education structure that basesteacher pay on seniority rather than merit. They created a money pit, in which 23 percent of third graders advance despite an inability to read at grade level.Under their watch, the public schools’ shortcomings strained our community colleges anduniversities, forcing them to spend millions on additional remedial courses and programs for students ill-prepared for post-secondary education.
And here’s the stunning reality, those same politicians are balking at reform. Incredibly,they’re defending the status quo.The state Senate’s $19.3 billion budget, released last week, includes long overdueimprovements to public education. They’re reforms that demand better results, and our planreforms with less taxpayer money.Already, some on the left are crying foul. Refusing to engage in a serious policy debate, their chief concern seems to be the amount of money the state spends, not what works and whatdoesn’t. They don’t seem to understand that public education should ultimately be a long-term jobs program for students, not short-term housing for bureaucrats and administrators.If we want more children to succeed, we must fundamentally change the system, not blindlyshovel billions more dollars at classrooms and hope for the best.The past decade has shown throwing more money at a broken education system doesn’timprove it. In fact, it has steadily declined the more the state has chipped in.Still, despite the scare tactics you hear daily from Raleigh, our reforms don’t gut NorthCarolina’s education funding. We’ll still be one of the region’s leaders in state spending on K-12 education. Counties still have more than $250 million in federal money that can be used to prevent layoffs.Our budget dedicates millions of dollars to develop a program to pay teachers based on performance, not just seniority.We want the best teachers to rise to the top and the ineffective ones to improve or find new jobs.The studies are clear; students are much more likely to graduate if they can read at grade level by fourth grade. That’s why were funding a new program that provides kids reading-intensethird grade classes to develop proficiency.Data also clearly shows smaller class sizes in grades one through three have a significantimpact on student success. Our budget adds more than 1,100 teachers to classrooms in thosegrades this year and even more in the coming years. The goal is to fund a 1 to 15 student toteacher ratio. But since smaller or larger class sizes might be better in some circumstanceswith some teachers and students, we’re giving superintendents flexibility to change that attheir discretion.To keep counties from making drastic cuts or gouging their residents with higher taxes, we’recontributing more than $100 million in additional dollars to school construction beyond thegovernor’s proposed budget.We’re also adding five days to the school calendar and creating more spots in early childhoodeducation programs, such as Smart Start and More at Four.
 Some have paid lip service to similar reforms over the past decade but have failed to act.But we know an educated workforce is the cornerstone of a strong economy, and we’re notkicking tough decisions down the road.When Republicans took control of the legislature this year, reforming education was one of our first orders of business.The Senate quickly passed a bipartisan bill that lifts the cap on the number of innovative public charter schools – another measure opposed by guardians of the status quo.There is indeed a promise of high-quality public education in North Carolina. But it’s a promise politicians have yet to keep. That changes now.
Governor – What’s Your Plan?
As soon as House and Senate budget leaders announced an agreed upon budget deal, Gov.Perdue denounces it. Even though five House Democrats support the budget plan. This putsthe Governor in a pretty tight corner. She’s so devoted to keeping $1.3 billion of “temporary”taxes that she is apparently willing to shut down state government to prove a point, never mind breaking her promise to the people. Republicans are committed to keeping our word andletting “temporary” taxes be just that, temporary. I realized long ago that my word is all Ihave. Once you break your word all credibility is lost; your integrity is gone… How can weexpect the citizens of N.C. to believe us the next time when we say temporary?I don’t believe Gov. Perdue wants us to pass a budget in record time, without tax increases. Inother words, if we sent her own proposed 2011-12 budget to her unchanged, she would vetoit… After all, our budget in K-12 education is within 2% of hers, which amounts to about .25cents per day, per pupil, less than the Governor’s. She cannot say with any credibility at allthat Republicans are destroying education. She cannot… but she will… You will see.
Legislators reach bipartisan budget agreement
Raleigh, N.C. – State lawmakers reached a bipartisan budget agreement Tuesday that cutstaxes, reduces government spending by more than $1 billion, paves the way for thousands of new jobs, and makes important reforms to public education.The bipartisan compromise is a $19.6 billion budget that adds about $240 million more thanthe original Senate version to public education, funds all teaching assistants and classroomteachers, provides for more than 1,100 additional teachers in grades 1 through 3 to beginreducing classroom size, and develops a performance pay program for teachers and stateemployees.

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