RALEIGH, NC (January 28, 2021) – The Public School Forum of North Carolina released its Top Education Issues for 2021 today during its seventh annual Eggs & Issues event. This year’s report outlines the Forum’s priorities on what should be at the forefront of education policy decisionmaking in the coming year, as together North Carolinians work toward eliminating the systemic racism and inequities that are reflected in our educational system.

“In education and beyond, COVID-19 illuminated and exacerbated the inequities that exist in our society, and the pandemic’s impact will undoubtedly be felt for many years to come,” said president and executive director of the Forum, Dr. Mary Ann Wolf. “However, central to the Public School Forum of North Carolina’s mission is to identify policy recommendations that ensure all of our students in North Carolina have equitable access to a meaningful, high-quality education through a strong system of public schools, and we believe this year’s Top Education Issues address the current pandemic while also working toward that end.”

Equity is the umbrella and common thread across the issues, and the needs for COVID-19 are an important part of each. The Top Education Issues address the needs of all ages, ranging from Early Childhood & Literacy to Postsecondary Attainment, while also focusing on Teacher and Principal Retention, Recruitment, and Diversity;  Social and Emotional Learning;  Inclusive, Culturally-Responsive Curriculum focus; and Expanded and Afterschool Learning, with a focus on the Whole Child. Assessment & Accountability have both short-term, COVID-related and longer-term policy recommendations, while Broadband Access, Flexibility for School Districts, and Adequate and Equitable State Funding lay the foundation for ensuring that all of our students have equitable access to a sound basic education. 

Consistent with last year,  this year’s report includes several recommendations that align with the Leandro Fiscal Year 2021 Action Plan for North Carolina, which was agreed upon by all parties in the Leandro v. State of NC case and approved by Judge David Lee in September 2020. Over the next two years, the Forum will work toward, monitor, and track progress on these Top Education Issues by measuring progress on the metrics identified in the culminating table of the report. 

“We have much work ahead of us, and our state leaders have an opportunity to set North Carolina’s public schools on a path to make our public school system stronger and more equitable than ever before,” said Dr. Lauren Fox, Senior Director of Policy for the Forum. “Despite the incredible challenges that our public school communities have faced as a result of the pandemic, this past year has also shone a bright light on the strength and resilience of North Carolina’s students, families, educators, and administrators.”

Event sponsors include Duke Energy, East Carolina University College of Education, Learn Platform, Participate Learning, Burroughs Wellcome Fund, North Carolina Association of Educators, Schwartz & Shaw, PLLC, Peter and Sandra Conway, and Mary Mac and Tom Bradshaw. Public School Forum President and Executive Director, Dr. Mary Ann Wolf, and Dr. Lauren Fox, the Forum’s Senior Director of Policy, presented the Top Education Issues to more than 450 business, education and government leaders. The full publication can be downloaded here.

The event also included two panel discussions on COVID-19’s impact as well as equity in education policy, which will be featured on upcoming episodes of the Forum’s weekly television show, Education Matters, airing on WRAL-TV, FOX 50 and UNC –TV’s NC Channel. 

Panel 1: COVID-19 and NC Education Policy

  • Dr. Catherine Edmonds, NC DPI 
  • Daniel Scott, Onslow County Schools 
  • Sen. Kevin Corbin, NCGA
  • Dr. Scott Elliott, Watauga County Schools
  • Moderator: Dr. Mary Ann Wolf, Public School Forum of NC

Panel 2: Equity and NC Education Policy

  • Dr. Anthony Graham, Winston Salem State University
  • Maggie Murphy, Allegheny County Schools
  • Reagan Razon, Wake County Schools
  • Rep. Ricky Hurtado, NC General Assembly
  • Moderator: Dr. Lauren Fox, Public School Forum of NC



  • Broadband Access
  • Teacher Recruitment, Retention and Diversity
  • Social and Emotional Learning 
  • Inclusive, Culturally Responsive Curriculum and Pedagogy
  • Flexibility for Local School Districts
  • Assessment and Accountability
  • Afterschool Programs and Expanded Learning
  • Early Childhood Education & Literacy
  • Post-Secondary Attainment
  • Adequate and Equitable State Funding to Support Public Education


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 https://www.ncforum.org/

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