FOCUS - Our Kids Wont Wait

North Carolina has more than 9.5 million citizens and is one of the fastest growing states in the U.S. Our economy has undergone a transition from reliance on tobacco and furniture to a more diversified economy with an emphasis on engineering, biotechnology, and finance. There are nearly 1.5 million children in our public and charter schools depending on adults to make the right decisions about their access to quality education and prepare them for a global workforce.  We have had education law suits that favor our children’s rights and have seen parents fleeing public schools in search of the globally competitive education our children need and deserve to secure opportunities in the world market.

As the Governor and members of the North Carolina General Assembly determine funding priorities for the state, citizens wait with anticipation to see what will surface as the final budget.  A number of foundations and corporations are also creating strategies on where to make investments in education recognizing that these funds will be like drops of water in an ocean of needs.  Our children are our future, and they will not wait for the state or federal budgets to be balanced or for the volatility in the markets to stabilize.  We need our legislators to bring the best and brightest principals to lead our schools, the best teachers to teach our children, and the best curricula to engage their minds and stop the flow of students exiting schools because they find no value.

The Public School Forum of North Carolina, a policy think tank of leaders from business, education, and government in North Carolina, issued a report, Our Kids Won’t Wait: They Need World-Class Schools Today.  This report has recommendations calling on State legislators to set ambitious school reform goals, including a ten-year plan with solid recommendations to make this reform possible.  There were nearly 80 leaders who spent a year committing their time and expertise to studying the educational system in North Carolina. The group focused on how the State can advance the remarkable work already being done to ensure that our children will have effective, well-trained teachers and principals who can offer quality education that is rigorous and relevant to the lives of children and their parents.

Our Kids Won’t Wait outlines ways we can grow our own principals, improve pay for educators, harness technology to make learning a 24/7 process for students and educators, revamp university and college teacher preparation programs, and much more. As a foundation that invests in advancing science and mathematics education in North Carolina, the Burroughs Wellcome Fund is pleased with a number of the recommendations, particularly one to establish a uniform approach and framework for teaching science, mathematics, and reading. Our foundation is investing $5.4 million with the UNC system to produce quality K-12 teachers with degrees in science and mathematics, and we are offering six years of funding to elementary schools to advance mathematics by using world class strategies being taught in Singapore. 

I encourage North Carolina legislators, parents, school leaders, teachers, students and others interested in bettering our educational system to read Our Kids Won’t Wait.  There are nearly 50 million students in approximately 99,000 public elementary and secondary schools across the United States. The U.S. Department of Education has made a commitment of $540 billion to improve schools and impact these students. Although North Carolina will benefit, we can’t expect these funds to address many of our educational needs.

By Carr Thompson, senior program and communications officer at the Burroughs Wellcome Fund.