Every Child Deserves an Opportunity to Reach Their Full Potential
September 22, 2020
by Terri LeGrand
My family knows all too well the value of a public school education. My father was one of eight siblings born into a family of very modest means. He was the first in his family to go to college thanks to a public school teacher who helped guide and mentor him. He worked his way through college and then medical school. I too am a product of public education, as are my daughters. North Carolina public schools pledge to provide every child, regardless of their ZIP code, an opportunity to reach their full potential. It will be a high priority for me in Raleigh to work toward fulfilling that mission.
North Carolina schools rank 37th in the nation, and our teachers are some of the lowest paid in the country. Our schools have been starved of the funding they need to provide every child a sound basic education. Our teachers have been demoralized by low pay, elimination of teaching assistants, and defunding of classroom supplies and curriculum resources. Our schools lack the school nurses, psychologists, and social workers that our students need. And the COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted and exacerbated all of these deficiencies. We fund what we value, and the North Carolina General Assembly has demonstrated over the past decade that they do not value public education.
Early education is the foundation for the future of all children. I support the North Carolina Early Childhood Advisory Council (NCECAC) and the NC Early Childhood Action Plan – which focuses on health, safety and success. I want to ensure that everyone has access to quality childcare, regardless of income. I’ll work to guarantee that infants and toddlers across the state have access to quality early care and learning programs.
Every student deserves a quality K-12 education. North Carolina spends $3,692 less than the national average on students. I will work to raise per pupil spending to at least the national average so that every school has the resources required to meet students’ needs.
North Carolina’s community colleges and universities have a renowned reputation for excellence. Declining state investments in higher education have resulted in tuition and fees that continue to rise. More than 60% of college graduates in North Carolina have student loan debt, and the average student loan borrower in North Carolina owes more than $25,000. I will work to make post-secondary education more affordable.
I also understand that college isn’t for everyone. That’s why I support job training programs in every community. I support the Finish Line Grants Program, the NC Job Ready initiative, and investing in trade schools through community colleges.
Too many of our teachers are working two or more jobs just to make ends meet. They commonly spend $500 and more out of their own pockets to supply their classrooms. Incremental pay raises and one-time bonuses in recent years haven’t helped. I support closing the teacher wage gap, restoring pay bumps for advanced degrees, and adjustments to the salary scale that encourage veteran teachers to remain in the classroom. I support fully funding our public schools to ensure that teachers won’t have to spend their own money just to supply their classrooms.
Cafeteria workers, bus drivers, custodians and other school support staff are also critically underpaid. I support paying all school employees a living wage with full benefits.
Lastly, we need to keep our schools safe. Whether it’s K-12 or higher education, I believe that no student should be put at risk in order to get an education. As a Senator, I’ll ensure that students and educators have the resources they need to stay safe as students return to school.
I have witnessed in my family that quality education is the foundation for opportunity, public service, economic prosperity, and personal well being. It benefits us all to provide high quality education for all our children.