Education, in particular teacher salaries and Common Core, will be at the top of the agenda when the N.C. General Assembly convenes for its short session later this month.
Both issues have a significant impact on Ashe County educators, students and their families.
On April 24, a legislative study committee met in Raleigh and proposed a bill that would ultimately eliminate Common Core standards from the state’s public schools curriculum by 2015. The proposed measure would create a 17-person Academic Standards Review Commission to revise the state’s education standards, likely eliminating Common Core from the public schools curriculum.
Last weekend, a panel of legislators met at N.C. State University’s McKimmon Center in Raleigh and discussed methods of increasing teacher salaries and whether or not to do away with Common Core.
Ashe County Schools Superintendent Dr. Todd Holden is a strong proponent of increasing teacher salaries, but opposes the legislature’s move to eliminate Common Core from North Carolina’s public schools.
“Our teachers deserve a pay increase across the board, beginning and veteran teachers,” Holden said.
The base pay for a teacher with a bachelor’s degree and less than five years of teaching experience in North Carolina is $30,800. That figure doesn’t include supplements, which are awarded with money from individual counties and based on factors such as geographic location, market conditions and demographics.
North Carolina teachers are among the lowest paid in the U.S. The state currently ranks 46th in the nation for teacher salaries, surpassing only Mississippi and West Virginia in the Southeast, according to the National Education Association.
Senator Josh Stein, D-Wake, told the panel at NCSU he expects legislators to approve a 1 to 2 percent pay increase during its short session. Stein also said he believes the legislature will do away with Common Core.
Common Core was adopted by the N.C. State Board of Education in June 2010, passed both houses of the General Assembly in 2011 and was implemented in all state public schools at the start of the 2012-13 academic year. It provides a single set of clear standards for learning expectations in English language Arts and Mathematics for students in grades K-12.
Many conservatives across the state and country believe Common Core gives the federal government too much authority over state education.
While President Barack Obama and the U.S. Department of Education have voiced their support for Common Core, it’s the creation of a joint effort by the National Governors Association Center for Best Practices and the Council of Chief State School Officers, not the federal government.
“Common Core, it’s not a curriculum, it is a rigorous set of standards to help prepare students for post secondary life,” Holden said. “I think these standards are good for students and what would we do with our testing which is aligned to Common Core standards,” Holden asked rhetorically.
In March, Holden said the new guidelines established through Common Core will help students be more competitive with those in other states. Ashe County teachers have had to adjust and adapt to the new standards and are doing a good job of it, according to Holden.
“I think we’ve got a great team of teachers,” Holden said.
Holden also said moving away from Common Core would be costly to taxpayers.
“Changing North Carolina standards would mean we would need to change our tests, which would cost our state millions of dollars that could be spent on teacher salaries,” Holden said.
Should the legislature decide to do away with Common Core, Holden believes the alternative wouldn’t be too different from what’s currently in place.
“If the Legislature eliminates Common Core, you will probably see NCDPI or our legislators create standards that are closely aligned to Common Core, that way they wouldn’t have to overhaul all NC tests,” Holden said.
The next session of the General Assembly convenes at noon on Wednesday, May 14.
Alan Bulluck can be reached at (336) 846-7164 or on Twitter @albulluck.