Education is the most important focus of the N.C. House of Representatives, and that was clearly evident in the House Chamber last week. I had the pleasure of welcoming educators to the peoples House in Raleigh for House Education Week. We hosted discussions in the House Chamber over three days with school superintendents, principals and teachers. Our objective this week was not to legislate, but to listen.
In order to maintain and expand our states world-class education system, we must listen closely to superintendents, principals and teachers to determine how the General Assembly can enable educators to do their jobs. Far too often, politicians believe they become education experts simply by being elected. We will not legislate with that mentality; our intention is to work with those closest to the classroom in order to foster a culture of innovation. We will expand our discussions to teachers assistants, administrative and support staff, parents, students and all individuals involved in educating.
Last year, North Carolinas high school graduation rate surpassed 80 percent a first in the states history and a 12-point jump in six years. Teachers, parents, and students should be proud of this achievement, and we should use it as an opportunity for even greater success. The House is focused on taking meaningful steps to transform North Carolinas education system in ways that focus on best practices and better outcomes for K-12 students. Based on our discussions in the past and last week with educators, our efforts will focus on two main themes: innovation and flexibility.
In a difficult budget environment, we need to encourage innovation in our schools. Mooresville Graded School District, a pioneer in digital learning, earned a 91 percent graduation rate despite being ranked 100th in per pupil spending. They achieved these results through innovation and successful programs based on digital technology, and through the creativity of Dr. Mark Edwards, the National Superintendent of the Year. We will encourage schools to follow this model and use digital learning methods to focus on STEM curriculums, ensuring high school graduates are college- and career-ready. We need to think creatively to continue navigating through a difficult budget period that we inherited from past legislatures.
One consistent theme emerged during our conversations with educators last week: flexibility. Local Education Authorities (LEAs) should not be governed by a one-size-fits-all model. We must ensure flexibility regarding funding allocation and empower LEAs to run their schools as they see fit, free of burdensome regulations from Raleigh. We should examine North Carolinas tenure law with a goal of allowing district flexibility in personnel decisions, while maintaining due process for teachers. We should discuss giving school districts the authority to implement compensation models based on teacher performance. Lastly, we need to encourage LEAs to drive out inefficiencies and reward them by allowing them to reinvest savings in their own schools.
North Carolinas education system is the envy of the nation in many ways. But we can do better. We can give superintendents more flexibility. We can empower teachers and assistants with a fairer pay system and fewer regulations. Lastly, and most importantly, we can give our students even more opportunities to grow, prosper and lead our state to a brighter future.
Tillis is the N.C. House Speaker.
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