A solid basic education for every child

North Carolina was once a leader in public education, especially in the Southeast. Sadly, we are no longer leaders but seem content to be poor in most areas and downright poor in others. We are not doing enough to serve our students and provide them with a solid basic education as required by our state constitution.

The good news is that the necessary resources are at our disposal and we have a roadmap of where to make these long overdue investments in Leandro’s overall remediation plan. The Leandro Plan is the product of a court case that spanned decades because some families believed the state was underfunding education. Article 1, Section 15 of the North Carolina Constitution states: “The people have the right to the privilege of education, and it is the duty of the state to protect and maintain this right. “

As lawmakers, it is our duty to escalate and make this right meaningful to students at all schools in North Carolina.

We need to invest in kindergarten and provide high quality education for children before they enter kindergarten. The youngest children in our state must be invested sooner and more fully. This means better training and better remuneration for staff and early childhood educators. Pre-K should be available for all four-year-olds in our state. North Carolina has a history of smart, early-stage investments like this with programs like Smart Start. We can do it again.

There cannot be a strong, world-class public school system in North Carolina without well-funded educators and staff. This means that teachers are well paid for the difficult tasks they perform, particularly difficult in the past two years. They at least deserve increases. And school support staff like cafeteria workers and bus drivers should be brought in at $ 15 an hour in districts where their fares are lower. We can’t expect to attract new employees or retain the best when they feel underpaid and unappreciated.

We must also invest in improving the infrastructure of our schools. It takes a concerted effort to build better schools across North Carolina, but especially in zip codes that have been left behind far too often. The median income of a region should not determine the quality of education provided to the children who live there. Children all over the state deserve to go to school in a building where they can feel comfortable learning. The temperature outside should not affect the quality of education inside the classroom, but too many of our schools are behind schedule and require investment today.

By implementing the roadmap provided to us in the Leandro Plan, we can get North Carolina schools back on track. As the budget negotiations draw to a close, fully funding the Leandro Plan must be a priority. The future of education in North Carolina may be bright, but it will not happen without a deliberate investment in the children, schools and educators of that state.

This is why I am one of the main sponsors of HB 946 – A solid basic education for every child, part of which is envisaged in the state budget proposal. The bill can be viewed at: https://www.ncleg.gov/BillLookUp/2021/hb%20946

Representative Raymond E. Smith Jr. serves the 21st House District in the state of North Carolina. His district includes a large part of Sampson and Wayne counties. He is currently serving his second term on the North Carolina General Assembly.

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