Invest More In Public Education
Last updated 11/12/2020 at 5:12pm
Earlier this month Transylvania County Schools Superintendent Dr. Jeff McDaris presented the Board of Education with information regarding college and career readiness in the county and state. That information came from myFutureNC, a nonpartisan organization of education, business and government leaders.
The information shows North Carolina has substantial work to do if we are to meet the needs of the business community in 2030. According to myFutureNC, there will be 2 million jobs in this state that require either a post-secondary degree or certification. However, based on current trends, the state will have only 1.6 million workers who meet those qualifications.
A qualified workforce is one of the primary components business owners seek before expanding or relocating their business. A shortage of 400,000 qualified workers would reasonably result in those businesses relocating or expanding elsewhere. Since these jobs typically are higher-paying, their loss would have a significantly negative impact on the state economy.
Currently, in North Carolina only 30 percent of students obtain a post-secondary degree or certificate. If that number is increased to 40 percent, then we can meet the goal of 2 million skilled workers by 2030.
A multiple-pronged approach should be applied to reach this goal. By investing more in community colleges, thousands of North Carolinians would have the opportunity to enhance their vocational skills. Whether they are full-time students or full-time employees attending part-time, at a relatively low cost and a short period of time they would be capable of performing many of the technical tasks that will required in the future.
We need to continue investing in our four-year universities because we will need graduates with the skills to conduct research, design and develop new products, and innovate in areas such as medicine, health, construction, transportation, etc.
Our K-12 schools also need an infusion of funds. The earlier a child is provided quality instruction, the more likely that child will be successful in school and afterwards. In Transylvania County, that means providing more pre-K instruction and more instruction for students in grades K-3 who are performing below grade level in reading and math. If students do not have adequate math and reading skills by the end of third grade, they often struggle throughout the remainder of their years in school, which inhibits them from graduating or pursuing a post-secondary education.
If we are going to meet the goal of having 2 million workers with post-secondary degrees or certification by 2030, the primary focus has to be on those students who will be entering the workforce in the next 5-10 years. Mostly, these are students in the upper elementary and middle school grades. Teachers should be well aware of any academic deficiencies students in this age group should have, but there is also ample enough time to provide the assistance to rectify those deficiencies. (Once students are in high school, their future paths are more difficult to influence.) In Transylvania County, this means have 334 more 3-8 graders earn a Level 4 or 5 on their reading scores and 661 more students achieve a Level 4 or 5 on their math scores. That is a huge challenge. For that challenge to be successfully met will undoubtedly require more individual or small group instruction, and that will have a cost.
Education should be considered an investment. States and counties with a higher income average tend to have more residents with a post-secondary education, and many of them pay their teachers more. In 2016 the local teacher supplement here was 8.5 percent of the state salary. In Wake County, the local teacher supplement ranged from 17-23 percent.
As we’ve noted before, parents of means are willing to pay $20,000-$40,000 a year to send their children to a good private school. They would not invest that much in their children’s education if they did not believe it was integral to their children’s future well being.
If we are going to meet the workforce needs of our state in the next 10 years, we need to have more students receive post-secondary degrees and certificates. That can only happen if we give our children a high-quality education in grades K-12.