Those of us in the education policy business are going to have a busy 2012. To keep up, review the John Locke Foundation website several times a day, visit the Carolina Journal website a minimum of five times a day, subscribe to my education newsletter, and tell your friends and colleagues to do the same.
Here is a summary of the big changes and events in store for this year:
1. New standards and tests. North Carolina has adopted the Common Core State Standards in English and math. Both will be taught and assessed beginning in the 2012-13 school year. Science, social studies, Healthful Living, arts, world languages, and career and technical education teachers will be required to use the new Essential Standards and prepare students for new state tests. In addition, all high school students will be required to take the ACT and PLAN tests. Career and technical education students will also take the WorkKeys test.
2. New charter schools. Hooray, the General Assembly eliminated the 100-school cap on charters! The “fast track” application process will allow a handful of charter schools to open this year. I suspect that the state will receive a record number of applicants who seek state approval via the annual charter approval process, which begins later this year.
3. Larger charter schools and shorter wait lists. Hooray, the General Assembly authorized charter school enrollment to grow by up to 20 percent a year! Previously, the state capped charter school enrollment increases at 10 percent a year.
4. New charter school governance and accountability. The new NC Public Charter School Advisory Council will work with the new leader of the state’s Office of Charter Schools to ensure that all North Carolina charter schools maintain high academic and organizational standards.
5. Special needs tax credit introduced. Families will now have the opportunity to claim a tuition tax credit for children who receive special education services at a private or nonprofit facility.
6. School boards and county commissions! Education politics is local, more or less.
7. Federal education initiatives. Education politics is national, more or less. Congress may overhaul No Child Left Behind. Even if they don’t, I believe that the Obama administration will unveil new competitive funding programs under Race to the Top and ask Congress to pass another teacher jobs bill.
8. A new Superintendent of Public Instruction? Apparently, June Atkinson has not made a decision about running for reelection this year. Regardless of her decision, Democrats Rick Glazier and Tricia Cotham are ready to run for the position. Several individuals – including David Scholl, Richard Alexander, and possibly John Tedesco – will compete for the Republican nomination.
9. Changes to the State Board of Education? The governor selects members to the State Board of Education, including the chair. Governor Perdue appointed Bill Harrison to the chairmanship, but one or both of them may decide that it is time for a change. If Pat McCrory beats Bev Perdue in November, he will make that decision for them. Republican victories in the lieutenant governor and treasurer races would bring new blood to the two ex officio seats on the State Board of Education.
10. State education budget and policy. The General Assembly will make changes to the education budget this year, as well as consider bills that made the crossover deadline last year. Teacher jobs and school calendar issues will be two notable policy issues debated during the short session.