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Perspective | Education in the 2021 NC legislative session

The following is Mary Ann Wolf’s “Final Word” from the Jan. 23, 2021 broadcast of Education Matters: “Looking ahead to 2021 N.C. legislative Session for Education.” 

Public schools are the hubs in our communities and over the past year we have frequently highlighted ways that our public education system and partners have worked together to meet the needs of students despite the challenges posed by the pandemic.

We have invited students; teachers; parents; state, district, and school administrators; school board members; county and state elected officials; and education nonprofits and organizations to share the work they are doing in our local communities and across our state each and every day.

We have heard consistently about the innovative approaches to support our students, but also that COVID shines a bright light on and often exacerbates the inequities that have existed among our students for a long time.

As we look toward this legislative session, I am reminded by the theme that has emerged in every discussion, in every episode in the past year: No one person or one entity can do the hard work to address the needs of our students, schools, and districts on their own.

Today, we had the chance to hear from our State Superintendent Catherine Truitt, Chair Eric Davis of the State Board of Education, Rep. Ashton Clemmons, and Sen. Kevin Corbin — all are passionate about education and the work that must happen to ensure that every student in North Carolina has access to an excellent education that will empower and support them to reach their full potential.

We are fortunate that our state — grounded in our constitution — is committed to providing a sound basic education for all.  And I am grateful that we have leaders who understand the integral connection between our public education system, our workforce, and the economic wellbeing of our state.

As we look ahead, the key will be to focus on students — all of our students — to:

  • Communicate with and listen to local school, teacher, and district leaders;
  • Address the issues that are critical in this time of COVID-19 and in the longer-term;
  • Follow through on the agreed upon steps outlined in the Leandro short-term action plan;
  • Work together to support the academic, social, and emotional needs of all of our students.

Our leaders are acknowledging the importance of engaging in a period of COVID recovery during which we have an opportunity to enact new and innovative reforms that strengthen our classrooms. All while also ensuring that we keep our eyes toward lifting hundreds of thousands of children out of poverty and fulfill our constitutional obligation to ensure all children have access to a high quality teacher, principal and resources necessary for them to realize their true academic potential and lifelong success.

Our education system has not paused for a moment and by working together we can provide the resources and policies needed to support them in the coming year in the transition and recovery from COVID-19.

North Carolina is fortunate to have planned for the challenging year in terms of financial resources. By working together we can address the short- and long-term needs with a keen focus on equity.

Mary Ann Wolf

Mary Ann Wolf, Ph.D. has served as President and Executive Director of the Public School Forum of North Carolina since June 2020, bringing with her more than 20 years of educational policy and leadership working directly with schools and districts across North Carolina to improve equity and build capacity for innovation.