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Public School Forum of NC announces new center to focus on educational opportunity

This week in a press release the Public School Forum of North Carolina announced the formation of a new study group to focus on educational opportunity in North Carolina. Board Chairman Dr. Michael Priddy said, “We’re excited to continue the Forum’s strong history of engaging with major education issues through ‘study groups,’ which bring together educators, business leaders, and elected officials, as well as other key stakeholders and subject matter experts, to learn about challenges and work collaboratively to develop solutions and issue calls to action. The work of this study group comes at a pivotal moment for educational opportunity in North Carolina.”

The Forum also announced the organization’s intention to seek funding for a new center to be housed at the Forum, also focused on educational opportunity. Building on the work of the study group, the North Carolina Center for Educational Opportunity will serve as the vehicle through which the Forum and its partners will address these issues through specific new programs and policy initiatives.

Both the study group and the Center will respond to the same driving question:

“What would it take to provide every child in North Carolina with the opportunity to receive a sound basic education?”

The Forum has identified three topic areas that will initially define the study group’s inquiry and shape the work of the Center:

Racial Equity – What obstacles stand in the way of ensuring that North Carolina children of all races have the opportunity to receive a sound basic education? How can these obstacles be overcome?

Trauma and Learning –What policies and practices can improve educators’ understanding of and responses to the impacts of traumatic childhood experiences on learning, such that even our most vulnerable children have the opportunity to receive a sound basic education?

School Funding – What school financing alternatives exist to efficiently target educational dollars where they are needed most? Are there alternatives to our current school finance system that may help boost long-term outcomes of all students, particularly those who are currently not well-served?

“We know students from traditionally disadvantaged groups—including those related to race, socioeconomic status, and disability—are statistically less likely to succeed in school,” said Keith Poston, the president and executive director of the Forum. “The study group will seek to better understand why, but more importantly, to talk candidly and with urgency about what we need to do as a state to address it. The Center, in turn, will allow a smooth transition from idea generation to development and implementation of innovative new programs and policy initiatives to address educational opportunity.”

Local data underscore the topic’s importance and timeliness in North Carolina:

More than half a million North Carolina children—25 percent of all children in the state—live in poverty.

Poverty correlates strongly with North Carolina’s new A-F school performance grades. No school in North Carolina serving 85 percent or more low-income students received an A, and only two earned Bs. Among district schools serving less than 25% low-income students, more than 95 percent received As or Bs.

Poorer North Carolina counties with fewer taxable resources, even those with high tax rates, have difficulty generating revenue to support public schools. The seven lowest-spending counties in North Carolina combined spend as much on schools as Orange County does alone.

In Mecklenburg County, where 54 percent of students are from low-income families, 49 percent of black students attend high-poverty schools, while only 6 percent of white students do. 

One in three Charlotte-Mecklenburg schools is “isolated by class” – meaning at least 80 percent of its students live in poverty. Half of all schools are “isolated by race” – meaning at least 80 percent of students are of one race. In one out of five schools, 95 percent of students are all of one race.

In Wake County since 2008, the number of schools where at least 70 percent of the students are receiving subsidized lunches has gone from zero to 12 schools. Additionally, 24 Wake schools have populations where African-American and Hispanic students make up at least 70 percent of the enrollment, compared with just 12 schools in 2008.

The study group and Center will be led by Joe Ableidinger, the Forum’s senior director of policy and programs, and James E. Ford, the Forum’s program director and former North Carolina Teacher of the Year.

For more information or to inquire about opportunities to participate in Study Group XVI, please contact



EdNC staff reporting relies on staff, interns, and columnists.