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ICYMI: EdTalk with Rep. Paul Stam

Rep. Paul “Skip” Stam is the President Pro Tempore of the N.C. House of Representatives. A Republican representing the 37th district in Wake County, he has served eight terms. He is an attorney and served in the U.S. Marine Corps. In the nonpartisan N.C. Center for Public Policy Research’s rankings of the effectiveness of legislators, Rep. Stam ranked 7th in 2013 in the House.

Recently I interviewed Rep. Stam for EdTalk, EdNC’s podcast. Several of our EdNC readers asked if the text of the podcast was available. Instead, here are some takeaways:

Summer enrollment at community colleges

“At the community college level, for the first time, we funded summer enrollment at the community colleges…. I think that was a really good change.”

When I asked Rep. Stam about the most significant education policy changes to come out of this last long session, he said, “At the community college level, for the first time, we funded summer enrollment at the community colleges. Students are older at the community college — I’d say average maybe 28, 29, 30 — and when they want to get a job, they really don’t need to take a break in the summer from their education. So this would allow them to take courses year round and the community college to be funded for that. This would mean students who want to go to UNC can take summer classes first, or after the first year, and get some of those courses at much lower costs. Complete degrees sooner. I think that was a really good change.”

Giving LEAs flexibility over funding for TAs

“Depending on what LEA you’re in, you may need to use some of that money for a teacher instead of a teacher assistant.”

Regarding whether the debate about teacher assistants will shape future General Assembly sessions, Rep. Stam said, “The situation before this budget was that there was a certain amount for teacher assistants, but there was flexibility given the LEAs that some of that money could be used, for example, for teachers. Some of the advocates for keeping that teacher assistant funding in the budget sort of got beyond themselves and didn’t really understand the argument. So they made the argument based on ‘We have to have teacher assistants, we have to have teacher assistants, we have to have teacher assistants.’ Now of course the majority of it is for teacher assistants. The Senate heard that from some people and said ‘Well, if you’re so bound and determined that it’s got to be teacher assistants, we’re going to give it to you good and hard. And we’re going to make you take away the flexibility to use some of that money for teachers.’ And that’s a bad thing. Because depending on what LEA you’re in, you may need to use some of that money for a teacher instead of a teacher assistant. Hopefully they’ll be a more rational resolution of that in the short session.”

The vision for K-12 is to make it better, but what is the recipe?

When I asked Rep. Stam about the vision for education in North Carolina, he said, “Every year I’ve been there, and this is my eighth term, there is always a movement to fix K-12 education. People are generally satisfied with the academic work of community colleges, and they like the universities — although they’ll criticize them for their political stuff — but they’re generally satisfied with their educational work. But they’re always dissatisfied with the output of K-12, and they always have a new idea. So to answer your question, the vision is always let’s make it better. But many times the recipe of things to make it better don’t make it better.”

Hot topics in the short session

Over the course of the interview, Rep. Stam talked about the issues that will be in play during the short session. He said, “One thing will be funding enrollment growth for special needs children. Another thing, as always, is compensation for teachers. More importantly, the structure of compensation.” He says the local funding of charters may come up as well as the funding of capital expenses for charter schools. He does not expect cuts to teacher assistants in 2016, but thinks that issue will resurface in 2017.


Editor’s Note: At EdNC, we appreciate the public service of policymakers. Thank you, Rep. Stam, for your public service to our State.

Alex Granados

Alex Granados is senior reporter for EducationNC.