Dr. Beverly Emory, Geoff Coltrane and Dr. Tony Jackson talk with Brad Wilson, Chair of the Leandro Commission about what is needed for the success of students across North Carolina.
mhm mm. Welcome to Education Matters presented by the public school forum of north Carolina. I’m your host, Maryanne Wolf As we continue to move through this time of transition and recovery from COVID-19. Many critical issues are at the top of mind for our schools, educators and students. That includes developing pathways to ensure that all students have equitable access to high quality and well prepared teachers and elevating the importance of social and emotional learning. It also includes identifying and investing in early childhood education so that our Children are ready to reach critical milestones as they enter kindergarten. Many of these issues align closely with the goals set forth in the leandro, comprehensive remedial plan that has been submitted to judge David Lee and today. And next week we’ll talk about that plan and what is needed for the success of students across our state. In this two part series, I’d like to welcome to the show, Jeff Coltrane, the senior education advisor to Governor Roy Cooper, and dr Bev Emery, the executive Director for the Office of District and school transformation for the north Carolina, department of public instruction and the State Board of Education. Welcome to both of you Bev with so much discussion right now about COVID-19 transition and recovery. I’d love to start by asking you, how does the leandro school funding case and the subsequent plans fit into this context? I think there are so aligned. Uh you know, we have, we’ve been saying all along and I think West Ed report really confirmed that it isn’t that we don’t really know what to do. It’s the will and the resource and support to make it happen. And so I think uh, those priorities in the plan really on steroids would be a way for us to quickly recover and accelerate. And so were, you know, I think we’re very aligned and what we’re looking for, particularly at the department um with recovery and um as we get out across the state and coach and guide districts with S or two and S. Or three applications, really trying to look at these key areas that we know are real levers for improvement and the s are funding them just to make sure everyone knows is the federal funding that’s coming down to the state to go to the districts, Is that correct? Yes, ma’am. So S or two application went live on april one and right behind that this week is S or three applications, so it’s it’s a lot of work um for districts and our regional folks are federal programs, folks are really trying to be out in the field supporting and helping districts get those so they can access their money quickly, Jeff. I know there’s been a lot of work going on, but one of those areas has been leandro eight year comprehensive remedial plan and that builds on the report and also the short term action plan. I wonder if you can talk a little bit about how it does lay out the systemic investments that are needed to make sure we are meeting our constitutional obligation for every student. That comprehensive remedial plan Marianne was submitted to Judge Lee who is overseeing the leandro case in the middle of March of this year. And it’s been in the works now for the better part of a year with a team from DP DHHS, the Office of State Budget Management, the Governor’s Office. And it’s really pulling on the recommendations that West Dead laid out in their report from December of 2019 and the recommendations from the Governor’s Commission on Access to Sound Basic Education. Um the plan uh lays out actions across those seven key areas that judge Lee identified in his January 2020 order. Um that and I know that your show has been talking a lot about over the last couple of months um uh an effective teacher in every classroom and effective principle in every school, a finance system that provides adequate equitable and predictable funding. An assessment accountability system that reliably assess is multiple measures of student performance and assistance and turnaround function that provides supports the low performing schools and districts, a system of early education that make sure our students enter kindergarten ready for school success and then uh an alignment of high school to post secondary uh and career expectations. Um The actions are laid out across uh eight years, so beginning this year through fiscal year 28 with the idea that the goals and the plan will be achieved by 2030. Um So the plan includes a range of actions that require budget. So funding appropriations as well as policy actions and included as an appendix that provides cost estimates for each of the actions that require funding. So for instance, on the the budgetary side, the plan recommends expanding um funding supplemental funding to school districts to support are most at risk students like our students from low income families, are students with disabilities, our english language learners, which would require budget action. But the plan also envisions realigning our assessment accountability system to better meet the leandro goals and helps schools identify areas for improvement which would be mostly policy related. So that would require action by the General assembly in the State Board of Education as well. Right. And bev, I know you’ve been traveling across the state and many schools and districts and have an opportunity to really see the most critical needs. How do you think those needs, including this year, aligned with the leandro plan? It has been overwhelmingly uh, inspiring to see kids welcome back to school. Let me just say that first, and the efforts are phenomenal. And for all the reluctance that I think we see played out in the media, um, superintendent after superintendent saying everything is fine if you could just get them here. So, um, I would say that has been highly rewarding what I want to connect to in terms of sort of what Jeff spelled out in the plan is The districts that we’ve been blessed with S or one money to begin working in. So we’re working with six districts and 44 schools. Our approach really has tried to align to those seven areas and which pieces or action steps can we um, can we use but also be need based. So accountability, for example, we won’t measure the impact of our work on growth or proficiency. We have two years worth of funding, we’re not even there, but we are looking at what are those common trends across, let’s say the six districts that we could show measurable improvement in turnover. Right. These districts have tremendous issues with teacher and principal turnover. So what training or what kinds of attractions can we build into these places that make them keep retain sustained? And we’re really creating our indicators based on common needs across these schools and districts. So we’re starting sort of blind if that makes sense. But in the end we know we’ll have some common indicators and our goal in that is to really support the work. You know, this is all really connected. So superintendent just launched Operation Polaris and one of those workgroups is accountability. So there is great commitment to sort of looking at this differently in a multifaceted way, much like defined in in West End and then what we’re doing is sort of piloting or experimenting with. Can you really demonstrate measurable outcome in an area like teacher turnover, um, and draw that back to improve student outcomes. So a mouthful but you know, our coaching and guidance and training and development is really aligned to those seven areas and of course we’re not hitting all of them in every place, but based on their need, really trying to um used to years of funding to demonstrate that there are, there are ways we can make improvements that are tied to some measures. Thank you. And Jeff, I know. Last month the governor released his recommended budget for 21 22 which certainly plays a role in all of this. Would you share a little bit more about the areas identified in the governor’s budget for pre K 12 education. So specifically around the andro, the governor is committed To pursuing the policy and programmatic changes outlined in the comprehensive remedial plan and making sure that the state, um and our school districts have the resources necessary to achieve those actions, not just over the next two years of the plan, but over the next eight years as well. So, in his recommended budget proposal for the next biennium, he’s proposed nearly $600 million dollars in additional funding for Pre K 12 Education, um and a little over a billion dollars for the next fiscal year for 22 23. Um to improve things like teacher quality and support, provide additional resources for students who are most at risk and have the greatest need, uh increasing budgetary flexibility for our local education agencies, which is another key area that both our superintendents have outlined as well as West, add that they need to be able to better meet the needs of their students, um ensure students or career in college ready and then of course to strengthen our early education and support um specifically um in some key areas that are outlined in the comprehensive remedial plan. And and of course we’re in the West End and the commission’s recommendations. The governor is proposing over the next two years an additional $80 million to help hire more school nurses, psychologists, social workers and counselors, which we know are critical positions in supporting the mental and physical health needs of our students. Um He’s proposing a 10% increase in salary for educators and then bringing our non certified staff up to $15 per hour minimum wage. Um He’s proposing $230 million over the two years to expand funding for Children with disabilities, english language learners, low income students. Um And we know from what we’ve heard in districts those students are likely to be the ones who have been most impacted by Covid and the time away from in person learning. So not only will this funding begin to lay the foundation for building a more equitable education system over the long term but will also play a role in helping those students to recover from Covid. Um As well as uh $78 million in new investment for early childhood uh N. C. Pre. K. Including additional slots in the second year of the biennium and then beginning to uh increase what’s called the reimbursement rate for N. C. Pre. K. We know a number of local counties have not been able to take advantage of expanding pre K. Because of the required match and so trying to make it much more equitable for them to be able to expand so that they can serve more students over the long term if we are back here on Ed Matter is a year from now. What do we hope we can say about our schools, our students and Leandro? I hope we’ll be looking back on this spring as really a period of collaboration as we see the coming together of our of our sectors of state government around helping to achieve the plan that’s been outlined. And I think being able to say that we’ve got a good start on what’s going to be needed over the next eight years will be great. Thank you both so much for being here and for lifting up these critical issues. There is so much to think about but I’m grateful that both of you are out there working on this every day and helping to guide us. And after the break we will be joined by dr Tony Jackson and brad Wilson. Education matters is brought to you each week, in part by town bank serving others enriching lives joining us now are dr Anthony Jackson, the Superintendent, Advance County Schools and brad Wilson, the chair of the Leandro commission and former ceo of blue cross blue shield north Carolina. Thank you both so much for being here today. Thank you for the opportunity. Good to be here. Well, we have a lot to talk about and Tony as we look back at the year our schools and students have had with the pandemic. How is the Leandro case and the recent comprehensive plans submitted report relevant to Vance County schools? Well, I think just as it always has been, I think they focus on ensuring uh adequacy of resources to help uh communities such as ours um realize their hopes and dreams is always a good conversation. And so Leandro, in our opinion, has always been that exercise of matching our needs with available resources and opportunities for our students. So the conversation right now is truly about helping us take uh where we are understanding the impact of the of the pandemic and and not allowing it in any way uh to slow our progress, but using it as an opportunity for us to think differently, to think critically and to reimagine what education can be in the context of recognizing that there there’s this larger conversation about meeting every single need of our Children in the best way that we possibly can with the resources that we have brad is the chair of the Leandro commission. How do you view the current status of the Leandro case and what needs to happen in the months and years and years ahead? Well, that’s uh, that goes right to the heart of the matter. And before I respond, I want to thank Tony and all of his colleagues across the state for the leadership they provide every day with their, with their teams of people. Well, the work of Leandro Commission is essentially complete. The report has been filed and so the recommendations are now clear to the public and for their consumption. Likewise, with the report from West Ed who served the court as a consultant. So now the hard work begins to your question now the public understanding education debate and then moving into the policy arena with the General Assembly, the Governor’s budget. Now the state is in a position to make decisions about how to make the Leandro recommendations. The West End recommendations and the court order a lot. And so this is a very important session of the General Assembly. I would hope everyone in north Carolina is watching and learning about the component parts because one point that we all need to remember this is a journey. This is not a one session conversation, It’s not a two year conversation. All of the recommendations are multi year and their sequence so that in order to optimize some of the recommendations, certain things need to be done first and funded first and of course done well so that we can use the building blocks of the rest of the plan in the years ahead. I would I would urge all of us to think about leandro in two ways. First of all, there’s a moral imperative that one generation owes the other to provide the most education possible so that we can continue our democracy and people can live productive and and vibrant lives. But we should also remember that the north Carolina constitution requires access to high quality education. And now it is our obligation legal obligation to see to it that we do provide that access to a sound of basic education. I appreciate so much how both of you really called out that it’s good for now, but it’s also the beginning, which I know has been an ongoing journey, but many, many years and just the notion that we have an eight year comprehensive plan speaks to the complexity, but also just how wide and deep the work really is that we need to do and how systemic it is. Um Tony, I’d love to ask you to build a little bit more on this idea of this eight year comprehensive plan that does provide a path forward and brad. I so appreciate your description of that, that there is an order and how we really optimise and maximise the work that we’re doing. It also talks about what we need in terms of both human and fiscal resources. So Tony, what would the implementation of these action steps mean for students in Vance County is one of the original lee android districts. It would mean that we continue the intentional work of meeting the needs of not only our students but our communities uh every single day. Um and I really do want to I think jump off on the piece of the moral imperative. I think it was dr King who talked about the urgency of now and that we can’t continue to kick the can down the road. Eight years is a long time. And in the school world, that’s that’s a generation. And we have to recognize that while uh we we understand the need for there to be this orderly process, there is an urgency because for every day that we wait, we miss kids and every day that we wait, we we hold a community back. I believe that our communities are ready. I believe that the action plan is sound. I believe that the focus on the resources, the opportunities and access for every single child is clearly articulated. I think now we have to we have to muster up the will, and that means that we have to figure out a way uh to accelerate that timeline, so that while we know that Uh in ordinary situations, it would take us eight years. But these are extraordinary times. The pandemic has pushed us into a place where we recognize uh and it has exposed those cracks that help us recognize how fragile we can be, How fragile our economy is. When we have a generation of kids who are not educated, well how fragile our uh systems are when we have those who depend on it heavily. So it’s to our benefit to accelerate the timeline to push as hard as we can uh and to ensure that every single child uh is educated to the highest level according to this action plan, with the best teachers, the best leaders, the access to the most uh to the best available resources and a commitment to ensuring that they get what they need at the time that they needed. So, I think the entire a comprehensive plan is an excellent tool. Is aspirational right now, until those policy decisions are made. So it helps us kind of frame where we’re going. But in reality, I don’t want us to miss the urgency of the moment. I think that we we have an opportunity right now that Covid has exposed for us that if we wait a lot longer, uh we were going to miss probably the best opportunity in the world to absolutely fundamentally reimagine what schools can be. There’s so much to think about and process there. But this moral imperative that you both speak of and also just the opportunity before us and that our state has really, you know, set themselves in a positive position in terms of financial resources and, you know, we credit that were in that position. It’s wonderful that that’s where we are and we didn’t know that actually a few months ago. Even instead of looking ahead um brad, I’d love to get your perspective both from your role with the Landau Commission, but also your previous role leading blue cross blue shield north Carolina for nearly a decade as a business leader. Why does the leandro plan? And it’s recommended investments make sense for north Carolina? Well, if you think about it in its broadest terms, and if you want to put it in the context of the business question, if you will, that’s the workforce of tomorrow, that’s the leadership of our state uh for tomorrow, all of which, coming together is extraordinarily important, not only just for business and economic development, but again for a vibrant, healthy, uh and progressive, moving forward society. And so for any business leader, who is thinking about the needs of their business, be it large or small investment in public education or education in general, but in this context, public education in particular, and assuring that it is at the highest quality, with the broadest access to the future generation is in your self interest. Uh So that you have the employment employee pipeline and the leadership pipeline necessary to continue to drive the north Carolina economy forward in in every dimension. Uh And I think that Tony alluded to where we should focus. I mean, it’s it’s extraordinarily important that we not only think about the future, but the now. So for just one example, the talent pipeline for educational professionals, whether it be teachers, administrators, school nurses, counselors, all the assets that human assets that come together to provide a rich educational environment for our students. Those people don’t appear overnight. It takes years and months of dedicated learning and retraining and professional development for for those people to move into the educational environment and begin to positively impact the lives of our students. So yes, we must begin immediately to attract and retain those who would be committed uh, to enriching the lives of our students across the state through their dedication to public education. Uh, so there’s plenty of opportunity here and again. I think that’s why it’s so important that the public pay attention, educate, advocate, learn, understand what the component parts are and how they will impact lives into both now and into the future. Well, thank you both so much for sharing today. I am also optimistic and hopeful and that when we talk about the issues and we talk about what we need to do, we again and again here these common themes and we know we can do them. They’re just going to take back to I think what Tony said is the will to really carry this through. So thank you both for joining us today and being here. Thank you. Thank you. And after the break, this week’s final word. During the past many weeks on education matters are regular viewers may have noticed that we have sought to highlight important policy areas that serve as the building blocks for a high quality educational experience for all from revising school finance and accountability systems to developing robust initiatives around teacher and principal recruitment and retention. The long term leandro comprehensive remedial plan offers strong directives in these areas and many stakeholders have come on our show to explain how to turn these ideas into action. Next week we will continue this discussion about what our schools need to ensure that each of our students has access to a high quality sound basic education. Thank you for taking time with us to learn and think about education. That’s all for today. And we’ll see you next week for the second part of the Leandro series. Yeah.