N.C. Governor Says Students Need More Help

By Kathleen Kennedy Manzo — February 28, 2001 3 min read
The State of the States

North Carolina must face down a looming budget crisis while sustaining—and even expanding—its school improvement efforts over the next two years, Gov. Michael F. Easley told state legislators last week in his first State of the State Address.

Mr. Easley called for a voluntary, statewide preschool program for 4-year-olds deemed at risk for academic failure, as well as reduced class sizes in grades K- 3, as ways to help students reach higher standards.

“Our schools have made great strides, but in many parts of our state they are simply not the schools our children deserve,” he said in the Feb. 19 speech. “If we want our students to succeed, they must arrive at the schoolhouse door ready to learn—and once inside, they need an encouraging environment that allows them not just to pass but to excel.”

The governor, a Democrat, proposed a state lottery system—a plan he said would raise $400 million to $500 million annually—to pay for the programs.

During his campaign last November to succeed longtime Gov. James B. Hunt Jr., Mr. Easley pointed to evidence that residents regularly cross state lines to play lottery games in Virginia and Georgia.

“We are spending hundreds of millions of dollars—North Carolina’s dollars—to build new schools in other states, while we’re packing our kids in trailers at home,” Gov. Easley said in his address last week.

Lottery initiatives have been proposed, and defeated, in every North Carolina legislative session since the early 1980s. Some observers believe, however, that the worsening budget situation, as well as a recent ruling in the state’s 7-year-old school finance lawsuit, will put new pressure on lawmakers to pass such a measure.

Bad Budget Times

Earlier this month, the governor declared a fiscal emergency, citing a projected $800 million shortfall in the state budget for the current fiscal year. But education escaped the knife in his plan to cut nearly $1 billion from the $14 billion budget. Over the past few decades, budget woes have contributed to North Carolina’s legacy of stop-and-start efforts to improve its schools.

The state’s 4-year-old accountability program has won North Carolina national recognition as a leader in the push to ratchet up academic performance by holding students and schools to state-specified standards. The program has also won widespread bipartisan support in the legislature and has been viewed as a long-term commitment among lawmakers.

But now it is time, Mr. Easley declared, to move beyond setting and enforcing academic standards. The state must now provide the tools to help students meet those expectations.

“North Carolina is recognized for real accountability and high standards,” the governor said. “But accountability is simply enforcing standards. We are simply not doing enough to help students reach higher standards.”

The preschool proposal would help close the state’s achievement gap between white and minority students, Mr. Easley argued. It might also help satisfy a Wake County superior court ruling last fall in a lawsuit brought by low-wealth districts that would require the state to provide preschool to at-risk children.

Moreover, Mr. Easley said, reducing the pupil- teacher ratio to 18-to-1 in the early grades would give teachers more chances to meet individual children’s needs.

Getting the word out on how schools are doing should also be a priority, the governor said. He proposed mailing report cards to parents on how many students are in their children’s classes and whether their teachers are certified in the subjects they are teaching.

The former state attorney general asked local school boards to adopt character education programs, dress codes, and stricter discipline policies to make schools safer for students and teachers.

Related Tags:

A version of this article appeared in the February 28, 2001 edition of Education Week as N.C. Governor Says Students Need More Help


Jobs The EdWeek Top School Jobs Virtual Career Fair
Find teaching jobs and other jobs in K-12 education at the EdWeek Top School Jobs virtual career fair.
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Curriculum Webinar
How to Power Your Curriculum With Digital Books
Register for this can’t miss session looking at best practices for utilizing digital books to support their curriculum.
Content provided by OverDrive
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Student Well-Being Webinar
Embracing Student Engagement: The Pathway to Post-Pandemic Learning
As schools emerge from remote learning, educators are understandably worried about content and skills that students would otherwise have learned under normal circumstances. This raises the very real possibility that children will face endless hours
Content provided by Newsela

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

States Florida State Board of Education Bans the Use of Critical Race Theory in Schools
Lessons that deal with critical race theory and the “1619 Project” are not welcome in Florida’s public schools following a state board vote.
Jeffrey S. Solochek, Tampa Bay Times
4 min read
Richard Corcoran, the Commissioner of the Florida Department of Education and Board Chair Andy Tuck listen as Dianna Greene, the Superintendent of Duval County Public Schools, addresses the board members during Thursday morning's meeting. The board members of the Florida Department of Education met Thursday, June 10, 2021 at the Florida State College at Jacksonville's Advanced Technology Center in Jacksonville, Fla. to take care of routine business but then held public comments before a vote to remove critical race theory from Florida classrooms.
Richard Corcoran, the commissioner of the Florida Department of Education, and Board Chair Andy Tuck listen as Dianna Greene, the superintendent of Duval County Public Schools, addresses board members before a June 10 vote to remove critical race theory from Florida classrooms.
Bob Self/The Florida Times-Union via AP
States Let School Officials Seek Gun Limits for Potentially Violent Students, Feds Suggest
A model state "red flag" bill would let school officials ask courts to halt students' access to guns if they are deemed a risk.
4 min read
Students protest after the 2018 school shooting in Parkland, Fla.
Students protest after the 2018 school shooting in Parkland, Fla.
High school students rally at the Capitol in Washington on Feb. 21 in support of those affected at the Parkland High School shooting in Florida. J. Scott Applewhite/AP
States From Our Research Center A User’s Guide to the Grading and Methodology
Here's a quick and easy guide to the grading scale and each of the indicators that go into making up the 50-state grades for school finance.
EdWeek Research Center
4 min read
Illustration of C letter grade
States From Our Research Center State Grades on School Finance: 2021 Map and Rankings
Examine the grades and scores that states and the nation earned on school finance, along with how they scored on a host of indicators.
EdWeek Research Center
1 min read
Illustration of C letter grade