David L. Neal: Not living up to Bill Friday's ideals

August 15, 2013 

Not living up to Bill Friday’s ideals

Many of the state’s William Friday Fellows for Human Relations are concerned about the recently enacted changes in education policy and reductions in school funding.

Central to building a better North Carolina is supporting a world-class educational system that gives all children the resources they need to thrive. This has been and should continue to be a bipartisan goal for our political leaders. The budget does not reflect the bipartisan support for education and the failure to invest in education will allow our once great public schools to drift into mediocrity.

Bill Friday understood that poverty was at the root of the inequality seen in public schools and consistently urged more coordinated action to eliminate poverty. Too many children are too burdened with the ills of poverty to compete in the classroom. Nevertheless, leaders of Friday’s generation made crucial investments in improving education by investing in a strong teacher workforce, providing teachers with the support that they need to improve, building a model early childhood education program, making data-driven decisions about curriculum and school reform; and much more.

The budget signed by the governor repositions the schools by making them a lower priority. The budget makes teaching a less respected profession, eliminating enhanced pay for teachers with advanced degrees, cementing the abandonment of the prestigious Teaching Fellows scholarship, eliminating career protections for teachers, increasing class sizes and removing teaching assistants from some lower grades.

Even before this budget, North Carolina had reduced per pupil education funding. We have fallen to 48th among the states in what we invest for every child’s education. We are spending over $500 million less now than before the recession while our student population continues to grow. In the last five years, our teachers have received just one 1.2 percent raise. Having made sacrifices over many years to bring teacher pay to the national average, it now ranks 46th in the country. We are not investing enough to strengthen our teachers and to give them the tools they need to reach each child.

North Carolina will fall further behind with this budget. Bill Friday dedicated his life to improving education. If Friday were alive today, we believe he would join us in calling for a bipartisan consensus on making the investments necessary to create a world-class education for all of North Carolina’s children. He too would raise concerns about new policies that divest resources from our public schools. We call on our elected leaders to return to the political center and make the investments needed to provide an excellent education for all of our state’s children.

David L. Neal

Hillsborough

This letter was also endorsed by these Friday Fellows from 23 cities and towns in North Carolina: Calvin Allen of Raleigh, Lynette Aytch of Raleigh, Adam Bernstein of Charlotte, Stephany Hand Biggs of Durham, Omisade Burney-Scott of Durham, Thomas J. Carmon III of Durham, Kristy Carter of Asheville, Celeste Collins of Asheville, Trinnette M. Cooper of Rocky Mount, Lana T. Dial of Raleigh, Brad Divins of Charlotte, Ana Lucia Divins of Charlotte, Ilana Dubester of Pittsboro, Christopher H. Edmonston of Raleigh, Sharon Elliot-Bynum of Durham, Robin Emmons of Huntersville, Henry O. Founst of Pittsboro, Todd Fraley of Greenville, James Freeman of Elkin, Christian Friend of Charlotte, Lee Carol Giduz of Lenoir, Kevin Ginsberg of Durham, Althea Gonzalez of Asheville, Harlan Joel Gradin of Greensboro, Gita Gulati-Partee of Durham, Rickey Hall of Charlotte, Mergil Velazco Halstead of Matthews, Katy Harriger of Winston-Salem, Kevin Harris of Rocky Mount, Pam Hartley of Raleigh, Lou Hill of Morganton, Mavis Hill of Creswell, Clay Hodges of Raleigh, Scott Holmes of Durham, Marisol Jiminez McGee of Asheville, C. Jane Johnson of Catawba, Holly Jones of Asheville, Kel Landis of Raleigh, Tony Lathrop of Charlotte, Denisa Leach of Charlotte, Winn Maddrey of Charlotte, Beth Maczka of Asheville, Keith Martin of Boone, Patton McDowell of Charlotte, Henry McKoy of Durham, Robin L. Merrell of Marshall, Graig Meyer of Chapel Hill, James Mills of Rocky Mount, Jane Motsinger of State Road, David Lybrook Neal of Hillsborough, Margaret Norfleet-Neff of Winston-Salem, Michelle Pearson of Raleigh, Jennifer Watson Roberts of Charlotte, Traci Royster of Boone, Lenny Salzberg of Fayetteville, M. Zulayka Santiago of Raleigh, Lanya Shapiro of Durham, Douglas Singleton of Charlotte, Lisa D. Steadman of Raleigh, Alice Tejada of Raleigh, Boo Tyson of Carolina Beach, Sarah Verbiest of Durham, Louisa B. Warren of Raleigh, Melinda Wiggins of Durham and Greg Wilson of Asheville.

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