This Year’s Top Issue: NC Must Renew its Commitment to Public Schools for the Public Good

RALEIGH, NC (January 23, 2019) – The Public School Forum of North Carolina released its Top 10 Education Issues for 2019 today during its fifth annual Eggs & Issues Breakfast in Raleigh, where the Forum’s President and Executive Director Keith Poston asked state leaders to remember the value of public education in our society and re-commit our state to traditional public schools, educators, and students.

“The erosion of North Carolina’s commitment to public schools for the public good is clear,” Poston said. “The emphasis on choice and competition has led us astray from the intended purpose of public schools with a narrative that has often blamed teachers and school leaders for perceived failures, when in reality we should focus on systemic inequities and our own dismantling of support for and trust in our schools.”

“It is time to reverse course and commit to implementing policies and increasing funding levels that will ensure that all of our children have equitable access to a rigorous education that will prepare them to be the thoughtful, empathetic, and creative leaders that we need for our future,” Poston said.

In its list, the Public School Forum also examined many familiar issues that continue to need state leaders’ attention, including the need to improve teacher recruitment and retention, close gaps and shortfalls in school funding, address racial equity in our schools and implement transparency and accountability in the state’s private school voucher program.

New this year is the need to focus on the unique education challenges of rural North Carolina and address rural funding challenges through school finance reforms.

“North Carolina is home to 568,000 rural students, the second largest rural student population in the United States, after Texas,” said Poston. “In North Carolina, 62 percent of rural, non-metro students qualify for free or reduced lunch compared to 46 percent for urban students.” In its recommendations, the Forum asks state leaders to address rural funding challenges through school finance reforms, focus more attention on rural teacher recruitment and retention, and address the broadband access gap – sometimes referred to as the homework gap — for our students. According to the FCC, 6.29% of North Carolina households do not have access to high speed broadband, and 95% percent of these disconnected households are in rural areas of the state.

Biogen was the Presenting Sponsor and SAS Institute, Inc., RTI International and East Carolina University College of Education were the Pacesetter Sponsors for the event. Public School Forum President and Executive Director Keith Poston and Lauren Fox, the Forum’s Senior Director of Policy, presented the Top Ten Education Issues to more than 250 business, education and government leaders. The full publication and list can be downloaded at

The event also included a live taping of the Forum’s weekly television show, Education Matters, which will air January 26-27 on WRAL-TV, FOX 50 and UNC –TV’s NC Channel. Panelists who discussed top education issues included Beth Embree, 2018-19 NC School Counselor of the Year; Alexa Jimenez, 2018 Latinx 20 Under 20 and student at Heritage High School, Wake Forest; Freebird McKinney, 2018 Burroughs Wellcome Fund NC Teacher of the Year; and Tabari Wallace, 2018 Wells Fargo NC Principal of the Year. Poston moderated the panel.

This year, the Public School Forum highlighted the impact of the rapidly growing number of charter schools in the state.

“The charter school landscape looks very different now than in the early days when they were promoted as ‘laboratories of innovation,’ incubating new teaching practices and school models that could be scaled up,” Poston said. “Today, as the number of charters has doubled in the past eight years, one-fifth of North Carolina’s charter schools are operated by for-profit charter management companies, 80 percent of which are headquartered outside of the state, far away from the communities they purport to serve with educational innovations sensitive to local needs.”

The number of charter schools in North Carolina has nearly doubled since 2011, when lawmakers lifted the 100-school cap. This has had a huge impact on small, rural school districts that become further strained by the financial implications of a large exodus of students to charter schools.

The persistent racial and ethnic inequity in our schools is another top issue for the Forum this year. Lauren Fox called on state leaders to invest in ongoing teacher training to foster racial equity, create effective pathways to promoting greater diversity in our teacher pipeline and re-commit to creating and sustaining integrated schools and classrooms.

“For a variety of moral and economic reasons, the persistent racial inequity in our schools should be a clarion call to state and local policymakers that it is past time to implement policies that will effectively and fairly serve the needs of ALL students in our state to lead us to a more just, equitable, and successful future,” said Lauren Fox, Senior Director of Policy for the Public School Forum.

Public School Forum of North Carolina’s Top 10 Education Issues for 2019

  1. Renew North Carolina’s Commitment to Public Schools for the Public Good
  2. Target Rural North Carolina’s Unique Education Challenges
  3. Directly Address Persistent Racial Inequities in North Carolina’s Schools
  4. Seize Historic Opportunity to Advance Adequacy and Equity in School Funding
  5. Recognize that Teacher Recruitment and Retention Starts with Professional Treatment
  6. Strengthen Charter School and Private School Voucher Transparency and Accountability
  7. Eliminate Stress and Stigma in Testing and Accountability Policy
  8. Start at the Top by Investing in School Leaders
  9. Thoughtfully and Strategically Invest In School Safety
  10. Focus on Whole Child, Whole Day


About the Public School Forum of North Carolina

The Public School Forum of North Carolina is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization focused on improving educational outcomes for all North Carolina children. Since 1986, the Forum has been an indispensable and nonpartisan champion of better schools and the most trusted source in the state for research and analysis on vital education issues. We bring together leaders from business, education and government to study education issues, develop ideas, seek consensus, and ultimately inform and shape education policy. We do that through research, policy work, innovative programs, advocacy, and continuing education for educators and policymakers. Follow us on Twitter @theNCForum and visit our website at

The full publication is available for download as a PDF below.

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