Lenoir County Public School officials want the four state legislators who represent the county to help roll back changes in education policy made last year that they feel needlessly complicate the work of educators, reduce the financial incentive to teach and give charter and private schools an unfair advantage.
Dr. Steve Mazingo, superintendent of the school system, reviewed areas of concern for public schools April 29 at the Legislative Agenda Dinner hosted annually by LCPS. In his audience were four men who were part of the 2013 General Assembly session out of which most of those concerns grew – state Sens. Louis Pate, R-Wayne, and Don Davis, D-Greene, and state Reps. George Graham, D-Lenoir, and John Bell, R-Wayne.
Legislators also heard from Craig Hill, chair of the Lenoir County Board of Commissioners, and County Manager Mike Jarman on the impact to county finances and local funding for schools caused by state’s shifting lottery proceeds away from education.
Mazingo explained LCPS’s position on these issues likely to come before lawmakers in the legislative “short session” that begins May 14:
— A “level playing field” in competition for students against charter and private schools, which do not operate under the regulations and accountability standards heaped on traditional public schools — despite the General Assembly’s actions in 2013 to allow more charter schools and create a voucher system to give students greater access to private schools.
— Pay raises for teachers that go beyond two current plans — the 2013 law that required school districts to identify 25 percent of its teachers for four-year contracts and annual raises of $500 — provided they give up tenure status — and Gov. Pat McCrory’s proposal to raise pay for starting teachers.
— Restored funding from sources raided in recent years to bridge state budget shortfalls, particularly lottery proceeds and a building fund based on a district’s enrollment numbers.
— More flexibility in the plan created by the General Assembly last year to ensure reading proficiency by the end of the third grade. LCPS’s goal is proficiency by the second grade.
— Increased funding for “high quality” pre-K education to help children enter kindergarten ready to learn.
— A moratorium on accountability testing until the tests can be aligned “in both content and philosophy” with the curriculum now taught in public schools.
— Realistic funding for technology, given the increased use of computers and other digital devices in schools, demands from the state for school districts to adopt additional online services and LCPS’s plans for a digital-learning initiative.