By Mary Ann Wolf
You may wonder why Leandro is important for your family or community or our state? If we want to have a thriving economy that attracts businesses, a workforce that is prepared for the many jobs and vacancies, and opportunities to keep our graduates in rural communities across the state, we must understand the deep connection to early childhood and K-12 education as the foundation and the pipeline for those goals to become a reality.
The Leandro plan lays out what our state needs to do to ensure that all of our students have access to a sound basic education for every child. We know that every child needs a high quality and well prepared educator in their classroom and principal in their school. We know that early childhood education and postsecondary attainment are essential. We know that student support personnel, such as counselors and social workers, make a difference for kids.
AND, NC is ready. We have approximately $8 billion in surplus revenues here in North Carolina to ensure that every child and school have access to a solid foundation so that our students, families, communities, and state can prosper long-term.
Today, you will hear from several individuals who serve on or work with the Leandro Commission who will make the connection between the Leandro work and case and the everyday lives of North Carolina students, families, and communities.
As we heard from Greene County Schools Superintendent Patrick Miller today, his county, situated just an hour east of Raleigh, is one of the most wonderful places in our great state to live and to work.
But Superintendent Miller also pointed out another startling fact: Greene County is also, by every definition, classified as poor and rural — which translates to enormous challenges when it comes to having the resources he needs for their public schools. That’s because Greene County lacks the kind of tax base that many of our wealthier districts enjoy; in fact, counties like Wake can generate 9 times more revenue for their public schools with a single penny increase in property taxes than is possible in Greene County. The result? Superintendent Miller struggles to be able to ensure classrooms have adequate numbers of teacher assistants, school counselors and nurses, and that enough at-risk four year old children have access to pre-K. And that’s just scratching the surface.
If we are to meet today’s workforce needs here in North Carolina, it has become clear that making strong, targeted investments in our public schools that ensure every single child from Murphy to Manteo can access a sound basic education is the only way we can build an economically thriving state.
The good news is that hope is on the horizon.
As Superintendent Miller said, we have a once in a generation opportunity to truly transform public education in our state. North Carolina continues to fail to meet its constitutional obligation to ensure a sound basic education for every child, but the Leandro school funding case that our state continues to navigate has provided our state’s leaders with a comprehensive plan to make necessary targeted investments in our public schools. This is an exciting time for our rural school districts, which have for too long lacked the resources necessary to ensure their children have equal opportunities to have a sound basic education. The time is now to fully fund the first two years of the Leandro action plan, and we look forward to these robust investments in the weeks to come.