Volume 10 No 2 Spring 2014


Interview with Eric Guckian, Gov. McCrory's Senion Education Advisor

Could you outline briefly Gov. McCrory's top priorities for strengthening K-12 education in North Carolina?

Governor McCrory recently announced Career Pathways for Teachers, his comprehensive, long-term framework for K-12 education in North Carolina. This framework is focused on ensuring that great teachers are teaching in every classroom in North Carolina. This Career Pathways for Teachers plan will focus on Experience - Performance - Hard-to-Staff Schools - Market based subjects - and Leadership when determining salaries.

Governor McCrory's budget recommendations also include raises for all teachers. Teachers in the first seven years of their career will receive an average of 7% increase, teachers with 8-12 years of experience will receive increases ranging from 2.8 to 4.3 percent, and teachers in steps 13-36 will average a pay hike of 2 percent.

Governor McCrory also recently revealed the proposed budget and legislative priorities for the current Short Legislative session. First among those priorities for K-12 students and teachers is the Career Pathways Fund, which will provide funds for support and implementation for up to sixteen pilot districts to develop local Career Pathways models that will provide additional compensation to teachers who assume leadership roles and take on additional opportunities within their schools. Additional items included in the budget are supplements for teachers who receive advanced degrees in the subject they are teaching, in-state tuition for veterans, additional funding for Pre-K slots, textbooks, and our most high-need subject areas in the community college system.

Governor McCrory's K-12 proposal is focused on teachers as a means to strengthen student learning for ALL students in North Carolina. Recognizing that teachers are the number one factor in a student's academic achievement, it is crucial that we invest in our educators as our greatest resource to ensure student success.

The current budget proposal includes a new plan for teacher compensation and other investments in education. What is this new plan? How likely is it that most teachers will be supportive of this initiative? Will they find that it is enough?

On Wednesday, May 7, Governor McCrory introduced a comprehensive plan for K-12 education across our state. For too long, North Carolina has underinvested in its teachers as we worked to endure one of the toughest economic recessions in generations. Governor McCrory's K-12 proposal responds to that trend in three ways: by implementing modest raises in the short-term, supporting a more robust base Professional Pay Scale in the long term, and advancing a Career Pathways for Teachers framework that will empower teachers to determine their own financial future while at the same time giving local school districts the flexibility to address the most pressing needs of their students and community. Instituting this long-term plan to pay and reward teachers will be one of Governor McCrory's primary goals in the short session and moving forward.

The basis of this proposal is the Professional Pay Scale (PPS), which significantly raises the salaries of all teachers in the state and streamlines our compensation system to allow teachers to earn more money earlier in their careers. Beyond this, the Career Pathways model will allow educators to earn raises in addition to their base compensation for locally-determined leadership roles, working in high-need subjects and schools, and pursuing opportunities for continuous improvement.

A legislative committee has recently recommended replacing the Common Core State Standards with state education standards. How likely is this to happen and what is Gov. McCrory's stance on this issue? What about the millions that have already been spent on implementing the Common Core?

It is critically important that our students are able to compete in today's global economy, so we must maintain a high bar for their education. To this end, Governor McCrory is committed to supporting high academic standards for all North Carolina students. We will support our legislature and the State Board of Education in studying this issue to ensure that the standards in place for North Carolina students are rigorous and strong. Any changes will be made through a clear, responsible process.

About a year ago you called for an aggressive charter school environment. Yet fewer charter schools have been approved for 2015 by a preliminary screening board: only eleven out of 71 applicants. Do you see reluctance to approve charter schools as a trend or a temporary setback?

In order for the school choice movement to be successful, our charter schools must be held accountable for providing a high quality education to all students. Earlier this year, Governor McCrory personally called upon our Charter Advisory Board to hold a high bar for our charters. Our Charter Advisory Board is made up of current and former charter school leaders with a proven track record of success, and we trust them to do this important work and make decisions based on what is best for our students. Through the Charter Advisory Board, it has been extremely important to emphasize quality and best practices from proven models that have had proven success. For example, PAVE and KIPP Durham were amongst the round of recent charter school applications that have been approved by the State Board of Education to begin accepting students in the 2015-016 school year. PAVE, coming to Southeast Raleigh, provides its students with a rigorous academic program, an extended school day, and a community built on the school's core values: Perseverance, Achievement, Vibrance, and Excellent Character. KIPP Durham's framework will be modeled after the success at KIPP Gaston, where 100% of their student graduate and are prepared to attend the 4-year institutions that they have been accepted to. While we would love to see a proliferation of excellent educational opportunities here in North Carolina, we believe that excellence is more important than abundance.

Since most of our readers are in the business of teaching English language learners, we would like to know what the administration's top priorities are for enhancing ESL education.

When making policies for K-12 students, our administration strives to reach all students across the state, regardless of circumstance, because we believe that every child can succeed and should have the resources to do so. Through Career Pathways for Teachers, our best educators will be incentivized to teach in some of our highest-need schools and amongst some of our highest-need populations, with the hopes that their excellent instruction and leadership will lead their students to increased academic gains. ESL students are amongst our highest-need populations in North Carolina public schools and we recognize that these students often attend hard-to-staff schools. Through CPT, we are able to provide teachers with experience and expertise additional compensation to teach ESL students. In the proposed budget, we hold funding for ESL students and services harmless and ensure that ESL students continue to receive the services, resources, and teachers that they need to succeed at a high academic level.

Finally, as you know, the education policies of the current administration and the laws recently enacted by the governor and legislature have caused extreme divisiveness between the administration and public school teachers. The "Moral Monday" protests attest to this. What do you think can be done to bridge the schism between the two sides?

In order to move forward, the education conversation in North Carolina needs to be refocused; away from adult concerns and towards what's best for our students. It is clear to me that the leaders on both sides of this debate have good intentions and a shared end goal, but don't agree on the means to an end.

Governor McCrory and our team have developed crucially strong relationships with our teachers and our education community. Many leaders across our state have been listening to our educators' concerns, and will continue to listen, as our educators are our eyes and ears in the classroom and can tell us what works and what doesn't when it comes to classroom best practices and education policy. This fall, the Governor's Teacher Advisory Committee was reconvened to help us strengthen this relationship, and our administration has worked with them every step of the way in developing key education proposals, like Career Pathways for Teachers. Likewise, many legislators have called upon their local educators to provide feedback on and input into proposed policies. Of course, there is always more to do in order to strengthen this relationship, but we have a strong foundation to build upon.