News: Quick Takes

Red4EdNC wants to fix N.C. public education system

Red4EdNC, a nonprofit education advocacy group, isn’t happy with the state of public education in North Carolina. The group, composed of public school teachers, on Friday, Aug. 24, shared a litany of concerns with how the General Assembly has handled public education.

Angela Scioli, a social studies teacher at Leesville Road High School, founded Red4EdNC in 2013. The goal of the organization, its website says, is to help shape the state’s education policy agenda.

“We’re awakening to the fact that there has been a significant change in the resources and pay structure for teachers in North Carolina,” Scioli said. “Ever since then we have been seeking a redress to these kinds of issues.”

On July 4, Red4EdNC released the Declaration in Defense of North Carolina’s Public Schoolchildren. The document is a list of what ails the public education system and proposes solutions to these problems. More than 500 teachers in 104 of the 115 school districts have signed the declaration.

On Aug. 24, Red4EDNC hosted seven scheduled news conferences across the state to share some of its grievances.

Red4EdNC says the General Assembly has failed to restore public education funding to pre-recession levels and have burdened local governments with unfunded mandates to reduce class sizes.

They also take issue with the Opportunity Scholarships program, which they claim shifts money from public schools to private schools without sufficient accountability. The declaration also criticizes the state for lifting the charter school cap and eliminating the Teaching Fellows program.

Scioli said legislators need to include teachers and other educational stakeholders when crafting education policy.

Terry Stoops, vice president of research and education studies at the John Locke Foundation, said that while he agrees with the group’s call for a more transparent General Assembly, he’s skeptical of its claims about widespread teacher dissatisfaction.

“It directly contradicts the 2018 teacher working condition survey,” Stoops said.

The 2018 Teacher Working Condition Survey shows 87 percent of teachers think their school, overall, is a good place to work and to learn. Eighty-one percent of teachers said their school environment clean and well-maintained, and 76 percent believe they have sufficient teaching supplies.

“So there’s a couple of possibilities here,” Stoops said. “Either the working condition survey is baloney and [Red4EdNC] is actually representing the attitude of what most teachers feel, or the survey is correct and these teachers happen to be a vocal minority.”

Scioli said the teachers’ working conditions survey isn’t a good measure of how they actually feel about their schools and the state’s educational system.

“When we take that working condition survey there is huge confusion in the teaching core about what we’re actually talking about,” Scioli said. “When I take that survey I don’t know if I am rating my local administrators in my school with how they’re doing, or if I’m looking at my district or my state.”

Scioli said an improved survey would ask more specific questions to avoid confusion.

As far as improving the state’s public education system goes, the Red4EdNC declaration offers a few recommendations.

For one, Red4EdNC wants lawmakers to increase per-pupil funding, adjusted for inflation, to pre-recession levels. The group wants the same for teachers’ and principals’ salaries. They want lawmakers to focus on removing poverty-related barriers to education and recommend lawmakers focus on promoting policies leading to racial and economic integration in schools.

Stoops said the group has outlined a wide variety of broad proposals but hasn’t offered a means of paying for these visions.

“The biggest problem I find with their entire platform is that they’re calling on spending increases without specifying how they’re going to pay for it,” Stoops said. “They refuse to say taxes would have to be increased to pay for the teacher pay increases and the per-student expenditure increases that they’re asking for.”

It’s up to lawmakers to figure out how these proposals would be accomplished, Scioli said.

“We have no idea how legislators would achieve these things,” Scioli said. “It’s not really our job. We just know they need to be done.”