October 13, 2009

Welcome and Introductions

Representative Yongue, Co-Chair: Presiding

Senator Foriest, Co-Chair

Budget/Authorizing Legislation/Reports

Dr. Shirley Iorio, Committee Staff, briefly stated the purpose of the meeting and reviewed the legislation.

Effect of Budget Reductions

Dr. Hope Williams, President, NC Independent Colleges and Universities, opened her presentation by thanking the members of the Committee for their hard work in developing the State budget during the past legislative session and for protecting, as much as possible, the funding to education. The remainder of her presentation was devoted to the issues of financial aid and funding received from various grants.  The Independent Colleges and Universities receive 25-30 percent of their budget from the earnings from endowments, which have also been impacted by the recession. This school year has seen more students than ever before applying for financial aid because of the economic times.  Parents have lost their jobs, students have had difficulty in finding summer employment and student loans are harder to get, making it necessary for them to apply for financial aid.  Dr. Williams also presented an overview of the three major grants that were impacted by the budget reductions: Legislative Grants, Need-Based Grants and the Earn Program. Committee members had questions regarding student enrollment, if any one group of students were affected more than other groups, and what strategies were implemented to decrease the cost to students.

Erskine Bowles, President, The University of North Carolina addressed the issue of the budget reductions of $294 million by presenting an overview of the five point Action Plan for 2009-2010 for the UNC system.  Although the system reduced its administration staff by 23 percent (900 jobs), the impact to the academic core was only a 5 percent reduction. The UNC Tomorrow Action Plan is the result of a lot of hard work and planning and was developed in an effort to protect the academic core of the UNC system. The five areas of the plan are as follows:

1.)    Improve public K-12 education Continue to produce not only more teachers but better teachers by using a longitudinal data study, recruitment, mentoring, and by making changes to the curriculum to align with national and state standards. Also in this area the plan includes a comprehensive academic program review to redesign the program of study for school leaders.

2.)    Increase access to higher education by developing and implementing plans to increase community college transfers, expand distance education, provide more efficient need-based aid programs, and review tuition and enrollment growth plans.

3.)    Transform the institutions of the UNC system to be more efficient and responsive by continuing efforts to be more demand driven, to evaluate campus leadership based on performance goals, eliminate useless regulations, and reduce middle management.  Also, in an effort to be more efficient the system will institute E-procurement, a system-wide affordable student health program with better coverage, and develop a central payroll system.

4.)    Increase focused research and become more actively engaged in economic transformation by taking advantage of stimulus funding, continue efforts of UNC Tomorrow, coordinate efforts with the community colleges in the areas of aviation, bio and green, to revamp tech transfers and to focus on innovation.

5.)    Enhance global competitiveness by setting higher standards of overall performance, set higher admission standards, expand summer programs, improve retention and graduation and institute stronger accountability, better processes and controls, and examine salary, benefits and leave policies. Also, the plan calls for the implementation of a hate crime policy.

Committee members were interested in the longitudinal data study and requested that the results be shared when they were available. Representative Fisher noted the systems work and collaborations with the community colleges and asked if the plan could not be expanded to include high schools starting with Grade 10.  President Bowles also stated that more work was being done in the area of distance learning and that in five years there would be the same number of students taking on-line courses as those students having face-to-face instruction. He also saw this as a good source for additional revenue. In closing, the topic of the performance of board certified teachers, their success, and their impact on student achievement and suggested that the lessons in the board certification process be included in the teacher preparation programs at the universities.

Dr. Scott Ralls, President, NC Community College System, presented an overview of the funding reduction of $1.24 million to the community colleges and outlined some of the strategies the 58 colleges were using to manage the deficit. Some of the strategies included increasing class size, limiting travel, deferring equipment purchases, and eliminating positions.  Twenty-four of the colleges were even turning away students because they did not have the resources to meet the demand. There is also an impact on student services with the reduction in library and computer lab hours, the reduction in tutoring services, a reduction in spring and summer course selection, and longer financial aid processing time. During the months of June, July and August a total of 128,000 applications had been processed for financial aid. This is a 32 percent increase. In 2008-2009, 89,000 students were receiving financial aid from the Pell Grant. In addition to the budget cuts and reversions, the community colleges are also facing unprecedented enrollment growth with 30 percent of the growth occurring in 2008-09.  The estimated Fall 2009 and Spring 2010 enrollment figures equal 190,000 full-time students. Members had concerns regarding the students who had been turned away and the funding mechanism for the community colleges. The discussion included the topics of dual enrollment, the longitudinal data survey, and the amount of stress that has been placed on the community college system.

Dr. June Atkinson, State Superintendent of Public Instruction, presented a power point presentation on the impact of the budget reductions to the Department of Public Instruction and public schools.  The cuts affected four major areas: 1) Elimination of Programs ($50.4 million), 2) Permanent support ($34 million), 3) Non-recurring clerical and custodial ($449.8 million), and 4) Recurring LEA adjustments ($225 million). This amounted to approximately a reduction of $435 per student. Examples of how these cuts have affected a district of 50,000 students and one with 100,000 plus students was presented. A school district with 100,000 ADM would have the following personnel reversions: Teachers (181), Teacher Assistants (370), Limited English (15 Teachers, 15 Assistants), CTE (36 Teachers, 19 support), Custodians (54), Maintenance (17), Transportation ($4.3 million). These cuts would result in fewer services, less flexibility to respond to needs, and inability to deliver some services. With these cuts, school transportation will be unable to provide safety and maintenance training and the time to implement the new accountability model aligned to the new curriculum will be jeopardized. In addition, IT hardware costs will run higher to replace older parts and applications will be outdated. A brief overview of the use of the federal Recovery dollars ($47 million) and the requirements were also included in the presentation. The discussion included questions regarding the Recovery dollars, the competitive portion of the funding and the impact the charter school cap would have for obtaining some of this funding. There was also some discussion about the administrative cuts and the clerical and custodial cuts. A copy of this presentation is available upon request from my office.

October 14, 2009

Race to the Top Fund

Dr. June Atkinson, State Superintendent of Public Instruction presented her version of the RTT (Race to the Top), which is an application/proposal to request additional education funds from the USED (United States Education Department). USED has been allotted approximately $4 billion in discretionary funds to distribute to about seven states. The Secretary of Education also has $350 million for new assessments and $650 million for innovation to be distributed. Dr. Atkinson used the analogy of a GPS system in navigating to get students ready for college or career, as her model. The final rules for developing the RTT proposals are not due out until November and the final proposal is due to USED in January 2010, funding and grant approval is scheduled for April 2010. Work has been progressing on various aspects of the proposal with support of $250 thousand in funding, the Gates Foundation provided, to hire the Boston Consulting group to assist in preparing the proposal. There are four areas of reform that are part of the proposal; 1) College and career ready standards and assessments, 2) Teacher effectiveness and equitable distribution of teachers, 3) PreK to higher education data system, 4) Intensive support and effective interventions for lowest performing schools. Dr. Atkinson discussed the four areas of reform, NC strategic approach, LEAs part in the process, evaluation criteria, leadership, potential partners, and supporters of RTT effort.

Dr. Rebecca Garland, Associate State Superintendent/Chief Academic Officer, DPI reviewed the status of the Assessment and Accountability (ACRE) work being done at the department and the national standards being incorporated into their work on standards. The last part of the presentation was about the work with the low-performing schools, and turnaround high schools including the Halifax consent order issued by Judge Manning.  She mentioned the new administrator, teacher, and superintendent evaluation instruments and their status as well as how they would ensure effective teachers. Professional development, educator preparation, technology, and research and evaluation were the final areas reviewed.

Adam Levinson, Director, Policy and Strategic Planning, DPI Adam presented the information on the work being done with data systems to meet one of the four areas of reform. He talked about CEDARs, the K-12 data collection system, and another program they are submitting a proposal to the Federal government for additional funds called pK-20 data coordination.

At the end of the 46 slide presentation members seemed exasperated with all the information. Senator Swindell started with a series of questions and issues of concern. It sounded like so many things were being proposed it was hard to tell how any one of these would lead NC to educational reform and how we would determine which one thing was the right path. He noted Community Colleges are turning students away yet we keep pushing Early College, which takes more slots from younger adults for high schools students to participate in these programs. Other questions included how much of the RTT funds will get to students. One member wished them Good Luck. Another wanted to know how NC would get around the charter school cap issue that the federal government is insisting be removed. Another question was asked, what does a diploma mean even if you graduate all students? What will the NC do if it gets the funds? Dr. Atkinson replied accelerate the projects they have discussed (get the plane moving faster). The debate after the long presentation was lengthy with more questions than answers. Some members even appeared confused and frustrated by the information. Senator Foriest finally ended the debate and moved to the next agenda item.

Update on DPI Organization

Dr. William Harrison, Chairman of the State Board of Education Dr. Harrison came to podium and likened his appearance before Education Oversight to being called before the Principal. He indicated he and June are working together since the court case is done and they are moving forward, he as Chairman of the State Board, and she,

Dr. June Atkinson North Carolina State Superintendent, echoed his remarks indicating she is supervising the day-to-day work of the Department and working with Dr. Harrison and the State Board to promote their five goals. She also presented an organization chart for Public Schools of NC. The chart showed dotted lines from the outside organizations to the State Superintendent and the State Board Staff, otherwise all the other reports were solid lines to the State Superintendent. A copy of the organization chart is available upon request from my office.


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