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Perspective | An incredible public education is the cornerstone of our democracy

Superintendent Catherine Truitt made these remarks at the meeting of the N.C. State Board of Education on Thursday, March 7, 2024, calling for the Board to develop a roadmap for investments in education.

I would like to make a suggestion to this Board, and that is that the [Leandro] comprehensive remedial plan was created well before the pandemic, did not include the science of reading, did not address the very specific fix that needed to be made in the way that our pre-service teachers were learning to teach children to read, and the way that our current teachers were teaching children to read.

Because of the bipartisan Excellent Public Schools Act, all students are seeing double digit gains in reading proficiency, including our African American students, our Hispanic students, and our American Indian students.

And that was not a part of the comprehensive remedial plan.

Right now, spending in education in the United States has increased even when adjusted for inflation; however, gains are flat. New York is now spending $30,000 per student, and they’ve seen no movement in NAEP scores in reading proficiency or math proficiency between 2002 and 2020.

I know we need to spend more on education, but we don’t have a roadmap to do that right now.

We have an outdated calendar, which everyone at this board table agrees that the calendar does nothing to serve our students, and our teachers, and our parents.

We have geographical problems that money so far has not been able to solve with getting high quality teachers in our most rural areas. We heard a superintendent from the northeastern part of the state tell us yesterday that when young people find out where they’re located, they say, “No thanks, I’m not going to come there.”

We have a profession in teaching that is stuck in another era, and that pays teachers like it’s 1950 as though it were a secondary income for a spouse.

But we also have a problem in that the cost of benefits for teachers has grown 79% in North Carolina since 2002. And I don’t know how we’re going to solve that problem. A decade ago, the benefits package for a teacher was 11%, now it’s 36%.

It costs $60 million to raise teacher pay 1%. And so I don’t know how to solve that problem either.

We have an accountability model that is broken that does not allow us to have effective and efficient service delivery to our schools.

And so while I don’t disagree that we need to spend more, it’s how we spend the money that matters. And the comprehensive remedial plan is not going to get us there.

And so it will be up to this board to figure out what the roadmap is.

Because if we’re going to invest more money, and if we’re going to make our public schools the best they can be — so it’s not just a sound basic education, but an incredible public education which is the cornerstone of our democracy — we’re going to have to do better with a plan for how we’re going to spend that money.

Editor’s Note: You can see Truitt’s full remarks here in this video of the meeting of the N.C. State Board of Education at 25:30.

Catherine Truitt

Catherine Truitt is the North Carolina State Superintendent of Public Instruction.