Our state cannot compete in this new economy unless we prepare more of our young people to enter the workforce prepared for rapid changes in culture and technology.
The investments we have made in all levels of education in our state — from preschool programs to the university system — are now largely equipped and capable of producing engineers, scientists, teachers, nurses and other workers in career fields that will become increasingly critical to our state and nation.
Unfortunately, about 1 in 3 students in North Carolina leave our public school system before they can earn a high school diploma. It is a decision that reduces their standard of living for a lifetime and ultimately weakens all of our communities.
We have tried several programs in North Carolina to address dropout prevention. Our newest initiative is a community grant program created in the General Assembly. Other programs begin in preschool when we seek out at-risk children and try to put them on the right course early. These programs are truly long-term efforts, and I will continue to support them while I represent you. I have included some information about some of them in this week’s newsletter. If you would like additional information about what our public schools are doing to improve graduation rates, please visit the Department of Public Instruction Web site.
Thank you as always for your interest in state government and please let me know if I can be of any service. I look forward to continuing to work with you to serve the people of our district.
We realize that much of our children’s success in school depends on what they learn before they get to school. For that reason, we continue to invest in preschool programs such as Smart Start and More at Four. This year, the state budget includes $30 million to expand the More at Four program, a high-quality pre-kindergarten program that serves thousands of at-risk children in our state. The combined budgets for Smart Start and More at Four are now nearly $280 million a year.
This year’s budget provides $200,000 to Project Enlightenment, an early childhood education and intervention program of the Wake County Public School System, to operate the Literacy Connection Program. The program is developing a statewide network of early literacy preschool leaders and providing them with training and support for coaching preschool teachers on literacy instruction strategies. The program will also provide training and technical support to the More at Four program. The Literacy Connection program also received $200,000 from the state during the last fiscal year.
Last year, the General Assembly created a new dropout prevention grant program that awarded a total of $7 million to more than 60 community-based programs. This year, we expanded the program by putting another $15 million into it. The programs work with dropouts and those at risk of dropping out. The new Joint Legislative Commission on Dropout Prevention and High School Graduation will evaluate the programs that receive grants and decide whether expanding or replicating them will improve graduation rates in the state. The commission will also review research on student success, study major middle and high school reform efforts and how they may influence the dropout rate, review the courses required for graduation and determine whether changes should be made and determine which strategies best help students remain in school when they are at risk of being retained.
Communities in Schools
Communities in Schools is a private, non-profit organization that connects at-risk youth and their families with resources to assist in school success and dropout prevention. This past fiscal year, we increased its base budget from $1.1 million to $1.6 million. The new money may be used to support the creation of Performance Learning Centers and will be matched in part by a grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Several Communities in Schools programs were also recipients of dropout prevention grants last year.
I plan to attend the following meetings/events:
Please invite me to attend your county, city, community or civic, etc. meetings or events.
As I’ve said many times before, I hope you will continue to let me know how you feel about the issues that are being debated by the North Carolina Legislature and the challenges you and your family are facing each day.
By working together, we can make Northampton, Vance and Warren Counties and all regions of North Carolina a better place to live, work and raise a family.
Please remember that you can visit the General Assembly’s Web site to look up bills, view lawmaker biographies and access other information.