Education is the key that unlocks the door of opportunity for all North Carolinians. That’s why the right to a sound public education is enshrined in our state’s constitution. Every year, millions of North Carolinians enroll their children in our schools with the trust that they will be well educated, well cared for, and well prepared for the future. Our state’s prosperity has depended on the opportunities that strong public schools provide for every child to build his or her own future. Graig knows this firsthand thanks to more than a decade working in public education alongside his wife Jennifer, a public school teacher.
North Carolina has a proud history of Democrats and Republicans working cooperatively to improve the quality of public education in our state. But the current Republican majority is failing our students and teachers at all levels, rolling back hard-won gains in early childhood education, in K-12, and in our colleges and universities.
Nothing threatens our current and future prosperity more than misguided education policy. That’s why Graig will work every day with legislators of both parties and with the governor to improve educational opportunity for all North Carolinians. He will pursue a dynamic, open, and creative dialogue and work to pass legislation that ensures our state lives up to its constitutional promise of a strong public education system.
Our future prosperity depends on supporting North Carolinians’ need for lifelong learning. We now know that brain development in the earliest stages of life sets a child’s long-term learning trajectory, so we must ensure all our children have access to high-quality early childhood education, well before Kindergarten. We know that excellent public schools for our K-12 students not only prepare children and young people for the future; they attract business and economic development to the state and ensure we are competitive nationally and globally. So we must make investment in public schools our top priority. We also know that in order to succeed in a rapidly changing economy, adults need access to an affordable, flexible, and highly effective system of community colleges and universities.
To promote educational opportunity, we must value, not vilify our hard-working public school teachers. Ask any parent: if you want your child’s education to improve, which person matters most? It’s the child’s teacher. North Carolina families want to see their public school teachers honored and supported as hard-working professionals and public servants. That’s why we must immediately raise teacher pay to the national average as a baseline and then raise the bar to once more become a leader in teacher compensation. We must also restore incentives for our teachers to earn advanced degrees, ensuring that our students benefit from this added expertise. Meanwhile, we must not build a teacher salary structure that pits teachers against one another for pay. Our schools work best when teachers are collaborative and keep their focus on the needs of students.
We should continue to use standardized tests to ensure that every child is making progress through schools and that we are eliminating achievement disparities between groups of students. But we must move away from a testing regimen that takes up weeks of instructional time and punishes students who persistently struggle. We are smart enough to develop simple, accurate tests that give teachers and parents true diagnostic data to know exactly what each student needs to learn to advance through school.
In every school, in every classroom, no matter what the subject or grade, we teach that hard work and educational success can equip you for any future you can envision. Unfortunately, that dream is out of reach for too many students in poor or rural schools. We need a statewide funding system that ensures every school offers its students a clear pathway to college or a career. Beyond funding, we need policies that place the learning opportunities of a global society at the fingertips of every student across our state.
As we restore teacher pay and investments in early childhood and K-12 education, we cannot do so on the backs of our colleges and universities. Our community colleges and the University of North Carolina system have for years been the envy of our region, the engine of innovation that drives our economy and makes our state one of the most desirable places to live in America. But years of cuts to public funding and tuition increases for students and families have jeopardized our colleges and universities. Remembering our constitution’s promise to make a public university education as close to free as possible, Graig will work to restore investments in higher education and to make college accessible and affordable for all North Carolinians.
The only real way to improve education in our state is to include educators in the process. Graig will be a voice not just for educators but for students and families. Recent attacks on public education can’t be defended as good for our students. As Graig has done his entire career, he will be a voice for all children and adults with a stake in our education policies.