The clock is ticking as the North Carolina General Assembly prepares to adjourn. For those of us who follow education news, recent legislative activity has produced several items of interest. Here’s a quick update on some recent (albeit disparate) developments in North Carolina K-12 education.
First, the General Assembly has used its constitutional authority to settle the nation’s longest-contested elected race from the 2004 November election. On Tuesday, the state legislature voted to elect Dr. June Atkinson as state Superintendent of Schools.
Don’t expect Dr. Atkinson to push for innovative reforms to North Carolina schools, though. With 33 years of experience in the traditional education system, Dr. Atkinson is clearly a staunch defender of the status quo.
Advocates of a sex education curriculum promoting abstinence ought to be on their guard, however. Dr. Atkinson has already indicated her desire to work to change North Carolina’s abstinence until marriage law, in place since 1995. During her campaign, Dr. Atkinson told Planned Parenthood (an organization that strongly endorsed her candidacy), “I agree with your position to have medically accurate, responsible sex education in North Carolina schools…As State Superintendent of Public Instruction, I will be willing to work with you in changing the current law.” Unfortunately, Dr. Atkinson’s support for a “comprehensive” curriculum flies in the face of reams of research documenting the ravages of unrestricted teen sexual behavior.
In other news, qualified out-of-state teachers may soon have an easier time getting into North Carolina classrooms − a boon for schools statewide. Currently, North Carolina does not have reciprocity with any other state regarding teacher licensing. This means that a teacher from states like Virginia, Tennessee, or South Carolina must take additional education courses in an “approved” university teaching program in order to be able to teach for more than three years.
But this week, the General Assembly passed a bill eliminating hurdles for teachers labeled “highly qualified” by other states. The legislation still faces a number of obstacles, however. Governor Easley does not support the bill and may yet veto it (all in the name of “higher standards”). Easley is joined by the State Board of Education in his opposition to the bill.
Interestingly, this issue does not break across party lines, and is even causing aggravation for the Democrat-controlled General Assembly. A recent editorial cartoon from the Charlotte Observer portraying a student gasping for an education says it all! This is no time for Easley to play politics: the Charlotte Mecklenburg school system had over 40 unfilled teaching slots when schools opened today.
If the Governor chooses to veto this bill, he will again demonstrate the absolute power the university elites wield when it comes to K-12 government education. There’s no question that Easley’s “higher standards” talk is just rhetoric, and fails to express the real reason for these extra courses: namely, that quality teachers from other states must “pay their dues” to the university system in order to get licensed. Our so-called “teacher-shortage” is much more related to the unending hurdles teachers must clear in order to be licensed in North Carolina than it is to a legitimate dearth of teachers.
Will Governor Easley cave to pressure from the higher education lobby and state board members (many of whom are employed by universities)? Or will he do what is right for North Carolina students and teachers? Stay tuned.
Lindalyn Kakadelis is the director of the North Carolina Education Alliance. To learn more about education legislation as well as the latest education news, visit the Alliance online at www.nceducationalliance.org. Check out the “Headlines” section of our home page, updated daily with articles from every major newspaper in the state. At the Alliance, we are committed to keeping you informed and empowered as we join together to improve education for the children of North Carolina.