Representative John Fraley (House District 95, Iredell County) has served in the North Carolina General Assembly since 2015 and currently serves as Chair of the House Education Committee on Universities and Chair of the House Education Appropriations Committee. Representative Fraley serves on the Postsecondary Committee of the myFutureNC Commission and joins the myFutureNC Blog to reflect on the role the legislature will play in moving the state forward towards setting and achieving a postsecondary attainment goal.
For many decades, North Carolina had a wide-ranging workforce with plentiful middle-class jobs across industries, including textiles and furniture, a budding banking and service sector, and the emergence of a globally competitive technology sector. These jobs provided opportunities that young people could undertake, offering them a better life than their parents had, and providing even greater opportunities for their children.
At that time, a high school education was sufficient to get you in the door and on your way; however, it’s not that way today. The furniture and textile jobs that required minimal formal education have all gone high tech. Now, two out of every three jobs in our state require some form of postsecondary certificate or degree. Yet, only 47% of working-age North Carolinians have earned a credential beyond a high school diploma. To close these gaps, we must develop and implement a statewide plan to ensure full employment opportunities for our citizens and maintain our state’s economic strength.
North Carolina is one of the very last states to set clear goals for educational attainment and develop a comprehensive statewide education plan to realize those goals. The myFutureNC Commission set a goal to have 2 million 25-44 year-olds with a high-quality credential or postsecondary degree by 2030. That is, to move from about half the population in that age range currently meeting this goal to two-thirds holding a high-quality credential or postsecondary degree within the next 12 years.
Defining this goal took a lot of work. We know there are many things North Carolina is doing well, but are we doing the best we can? Are the programs in place doing the job or are they duplicating one another? Are the programs properly aligned for the best outcomes?
Finding answers to these questions falls to the legislature and the education community, with the support of the myFutureNC Commission. As we move into the legislative session, it is our responsibility to work with the commission to ensure that the education continuum in North Carolina is preparing all students to meet this goal. This will require review of current programs and subsequent decisions on what works best and what new programs may be needed.
Most importantly, it will require us to collaborate and push aside personal agendas for the better good. We cannot have a plan from the Governor’s Office, the House, and the Senate. We cannot have a Democratic plan and a Republican plan. We must work together to develop a new North Carolina education plan that prepares all students to achieve a postsecondary degree or credential. This is very hard work and it must start immediately. It is important for the future of North Carolina and our citizens.
Editor’s note: This perspective was originally published by the Hunt Institute. It has been posted with the author’s permission.