North Carolina Legislators Convene for Education Policy RetreatBy: Allison Goff, Associate Policy Analyst, The Hunt Institute
The Hunt Institute works across the country to inspire elected officials and key policymakers to make informed decisions regarding education. In our home state of North Carolina, one of the ways the Institute fulfills this mission is through the annual legislators retreat during which policymakers engage with state education leaders and national experts to explore pressing issues spanning North Carolina’s P-20 education system. This year’s Education Policy Retreat held on January 14-15, 2019, welcomed over thirty-five members of the North Carolina General Assembly for candid conversations about critical issues in public education.
This year’s Retreat agenda was developed in collaboration with legislative leadership including 2019 event chair Representative Craig Horn (House District-68) with special consideration to provide a solid foundation of information spanning the education continuum for the large number of newly elected legislators in attendance. All legislators received an Issue Brief prior to the Retreat which offered relevant background information including a snapshot of the North Carolina education landscape, context for each session topic, and key questions for policymakers to consider during the Retreat discussions.
To set the stage for the policy conversations to come, former North Carolina Governor Jim Hunt, Chairman of the Hunt Institute Foundation Board, and North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper offered opening remarks. Governor Cooper emphasized the critical role education plays in preparing North Carolina’s workforce and the need to ensure that we have high-quality educators in every classroom across the state.
Throughout the Retreat the legislators heard from both national and local perspectives on education issues and actively engaged in conversations with resource experts to tease out the policy implications on a variety of challenges facing education in North Carolina. Key conversations ranged from the various streams of public financing that fund child care and early learning opportunities to ensuring that our state’s learning standards are aligned to promote college and career readiness. Discussions regarding our state’s educators included the challenges faced by educator preparation programs as they work to recruit teachers and the role that teacher compensation plays through both pay and pension in retaining teachers.
Legislators also had the opportunity to engage in a dynamic conversation about the work of the myFutureNC Commission in setting a statewide postsecondary attainment goal. This conversation highlighted collaboration between the education and business communities in supporting postsecondary attainment. These partnerships, along with continued legislative support, will be critical as the state works to reach a postsecondary attainment goal.
In order to gain an on-the-ground understanding of the challenges facing our schools and students, legislators transitioned to small groups and were joined by superintendents and principals from across the state to debrief their learning and hear first-hand from educators. A staple in all Hunt Institute programming, the Professional Perspective session allows elected officials to hear directly from educators on their experiences and hurdles. Among the concerns lifted up during these conversations were the need for more mental health supports for students and the increasing funding disparities among local school districts.
Legislators thoughtfully participated in conversations about charter schools and the North Carolina Opportunity Scholarship with a focus on equity and accountability. To close the Retreat, legislators learned about the various models of school funding and policy considerations for North Carolina – important discussions as the legislature considers school finance reform.
Following the Retreat, legislators were provided with Key Takeaways and Policy Considerations which included summaries of each session, action items for legislators to consider, and additional resources and readings. The Hunt Institute looks forward to continuing to work with members of the North Carolina General Assembly in the coming legislative session to provide resources and further opportunities to engage with experts in the field of education.
To learn more about the information shared at the Retreat, visit the Education Policy Retreat page.