As the father of two young children, Jay believes nothing is more important than ensuring children are able to reach their potential. In the Senate, he will fight every day to restore the funding Republicans cut from public schools, to raise teacher salaries to above the national average, and to reduce the amount of classroom time spent on high-stakes standardized testing.
PROVIDING A WORLD-CLASS EDUCATION TO OUR STUDENTS
Everyone knows that education is the best way to move citizens up the economic ladder and even strengthen our democracy. That starts from the day a child is born until he or she graduates from community college or university. Great North Carolina Governors understood this simple concept. That’s why Governors Terry Sanford and Jim Hunt made education the State’s top priority. As the late Governor Sanford once wisely said, “a second-class education can only mean a second-class future for North Carolina.”
JAY HAS A RECORD ON EDUCATION
- He’s a product of Fayetteville public schools. Jay attended Fayetteville public schools from kindergarten until graduating from Terry Sanford High School.
- He’s been an adjunct law professor at North Carolina Central University. Jay taught a Cybercrime and the Law seminar as a law professor.
- As Special Counsel to Attorney General Roy Cooper, he served as a representative on Governor Mike Easley’s Education First Task Force. Among the Task Force’s recommendations were ensuring a high-quality and stable teacher corps and investing more resources, specifically towards at-risk students.
- As Special Counsel to Attorney General Roy Cooper, he’s worked closely with parents, teachers and principals to design a nationally-recognized school safety kit. Jay’s school emergency response plan was recommended as a national model for all schools by Vice President Joe Biden’s Interagency Gun Task Force after the Newtown school shooting.
- As Special Counsel to Attorney General Cooper and General Counsel to State Treasurer Janet Cowell, he helped raise awareness about student debt. For both officials, Jay helped organize college campus tours to raise awareness about student debt and credit card loans along with steps students can take to protect themselves.
AS STATE SENATOR, JAY WILL:
FIGHT TO EXPAND ACCESS TO EARLY CHILDHOOD EDUCATION
In the 1990s and early 2000s, North Carolina had a reputation as the best state in the country for early child education thanks to the Smart Start system and More At Four (now Pre-K) program. Since then, even though Republican states like Georgia and Oklahoma have continued to invest in early childhood programs, our General Assembly has consistently cut such funding. Since 2011, Smart Start and Pre-K have been cut by over $40 million. According to Education Week, North Carolina ranks 50th in the country when it comes to preschool enrollment gains for 3- and 4-year olds from 2008 to 2013. Furthermore, North Carolina ranks 49th when it comes to the percentage of 3- and 4-year olds in poverty. That’s wrong. As Governor Jim Hunt rightly said, “early child development is the best dollars you can spend.” In the State Senate, Jay will:
- Push to double the funding going to support our youngest children who need it the most. These funds will:
- Expand access to early literacy programs through Smart Start. The most critical period for brain development occurs in the 2,000 days between birth and when a child enters kindergarten. Access to early literacy programs can specifically address children under the age of five.
- Make North Carolina Pre-K available to all children. Our state has one of the highest-quality Pre-K programs in the nation. However, it also has a waiting list of over 30,000 children. Jay believes that we owe every member of our next generation the opportunity to participate in a world-class early education program.
MAKE EDUCATION FUNDING AND TEACHER PAY THE TOP PRIORITY AGAIN
- Pay and treat teachers like professionals with the “5 x 5” initiative. All parents know that outside of their home, a teacher has the next biggest impact on a child. In South Korea, they refer to teachers as “nation builders.” South Koreans accord these teachers both the pay and respect they deserve. Our General Assembly has done exactly the opposite. Today, teachers are leaving the profession or leaving to teach in other states. A number of them hold second jobs. The bottom line is that our state will never be serious about growing our economy and strengthening our democracy unless we are bold about treating and paying teachers like professionals.
That’s what Jay proposes to do. He will push for a “5 x 5” initiative that proposes giving teachers a five percent increase each year for five years. Here’s what a dramatic impact a five percent increase will have in just two years: It will put our state closer to the median for teacher pay (28th) and at the top of Southern states with the exception of Georgia. In five years, our teacher pay would be above the median and the highest among Southern states.
- Restore student population growth to the base budget. North Carolina is one of the fastest-growing states in the country, with a growth rate twice the national rate. That rapid growth translates into an increase of 140,000 students in the last decade. Since 1933, our General Assembly has funded our schools based on current students and projected growth. In 2014, the General Assembly eliminated this growth funding mechanism, thereby cutting per-pupil funding. Jay will fight to restore a long North Carolina tradition of student population growth funding.
- Establish a separate education budget. Republicans like Lieutenant Governor Dan Forest argue that our State has increased teacher pay and put more money towards education. He’s wrong. The best way to make sure elected officials don’t engage in such budget gimmicks is do what former State Senator Jason Carter in Georgia proposed: establish a separate education budget. A separate education budget makes sure that education gets the top attention it deserves. And it avoids making education a “shell” game.
- Challenge legislators to spend five days in a classroom. When former Raleigh Mayor Tom Bradshaw ran for State Senate in 2014, he challenged every legislator to spend five days in the classroom. He’s right. Jay will issue a similar challenge to all members of the State Senate so they better understand the challenges educators face in the classroom.
- Double our textbook funding. Jay believes that no child should ever have to receive poor quality textbooks and no family should have to pay for textbooks out of their pocket. That’s why he’ll push to double our textbook funding. In fiscal year 2009-10, textbook funding totaled $111 million. In the most recent legislative session, the General Assembly cut that funding by more than half, to $52 million.
- Pass a constitutional amendment to make sure that lottery funding supplements education funding instead of replacing it. Today, the General Assembly uses lottery funding to replace education funding rather than supplement it. That runs counter to the 2005 Lottery Act, which prohibited lottery proceeds from being used to supplant recurring education funding. Jay will support amending the constitution to make sure that we never rely solely on our lottery funding as a means to educate to our children. Our legislature should not be gambling on our children’s future with gambling money.
- Streamline and reduce the number of standardized tests. According to the North Carolina Public School Forum, our schools administered 194 assessments to students in grades 4 through 12. The Read to Achieve law added 36 reading tests for third-graders. Many parents and teachers agree that over-testing our students has resulted in too much memorization and less creativity. As President Obama has said, “Learning is about so much more than filling in the right bubble.” Jay will push to streamline and reduce the number of standardized tests.
- Reevaluate and revise the School Performance Grades. Today, every public school receives a School Performance Grade based on two factors: school achievement score (80 percent) and school growth score (20 percent). This formula does not work. An analysis by Duke University showed a high correlation between the achievement scores and poverty. Furthermore, the overwhelming emphasis on achievement scores fails to capture the impact teachers and schools have on children over time. Jay supports a recommendation made by the North Carolina Public School Forum: the General Assembly should reevaluate and revise the School Performance Grade by placing more weight on growth as well as adding other factors such as college and workforce readiness.
- Push for computer science education in every school. As the home to many high-tech companies, our State Senate district should lead the effort to make sure that every school in our state has access to a computer science course. In Arkansas, Republican Governor Asa Hutchinson has set a goal of having 6,000 students in computer science classes in four years. Jay believes North Carolina is in a position to achieve that goal in less time if we make it a priority.
MAKE COMMUNITY COLLEGE FREE FOR RESPONSIBLE STUDENTS
Here is an idea that red state Tennessee and blue state Oregon agree upon. And, here’s an idea that Scotland County and Richmond County agree upon: tuition-free community college for qualified students. As Republican Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam said in his State of the State address, “This is a bold promise. It is a promise that will speak volumes to current and prospective employers. It is a promise that will make a real difference for generations of Tennesseans.”
- Push for free community college. Jay believes we have the chance to make a real difference for generations of North Carolinians, too. That’s why he’ll push for free community college for students who qualify.
MAKE COLLEGE AFFORDABLE AGAIN AND TAKE POLITICS OUT OF HIGHER EDUCATION
Our university system is the “crown jewel” of the state. In North Carolina, we have the country’s first public university, the cutting-edge North Carolina School of Science and Math, and more public historically black colleges than any other state in the country. Yet, since 2008, the state has increased tuition by 40 percent and decreased per-student funding by 16 percent. The increase of college tuition creates real issues about college affordability for both families and students.
- Restore funding for university to pre-Recession levels. The General Assembly has essentially cut funding for the UNC System by appropriating $500 million less compared to the 2008-2009 fiscal year. Jay believes we should add half a billion dollars back to our university fund, thereby increasing our per-student funding.
- Take politics out of our appointment process for UNC Board of Governors. As columnist Rob Christensen of The News & Observer pointed out, “political interference in public Southern universities was a way of life,” with the exception of North Carolina. But the sudden and unexplained removal of President Tom Ross now places our state in an unworthy category. More importantly, it raises questions about who should govern our university system. Jay believes North Carolina should follow the model he helped design for State Treasurer Cowell with the Department of State Treasurer’s many boards. These boards share common characteristics: (1) they divide the appointment process among legislative and executive branches (e.g., Senate, House, Governor, and President of the University of North Carolina system); and (2) they place an emphasis on qualifications and expertise (e.g., students, professors, higher education experts, business executives).
- Provide for tax deductions for student loan payments. Massachusetts allows student loan borrowers to deduct the full interest paid on loans when they obtain an undergraduate degree. Just like we deduct our interest paid for home mortgages, Jay believes that students and families should receive a similar tax deduction to make college more affordable.
- Create a Tuition Stabilization Fund. In 2007, Maryland created the Higher Education Investment Fund, a fund just like a rainy day fund. In other words, if the state’s higher education funding is lower than the previous years, the General Assembly can then draw down money from the fund to help limit the tuition increase. Jay will propose creating a similar Tuition Stabilization Fund in North Carolina.
- Support in-state tuition for undocumented immigrants. Today, twenty states off in-state tuition to undocumented immigrants, including Florida and Tennessee, which started doing so last year. With 31,000 students, our state has one of the largest undocumented high school student populations in the United States. Jay believes that these students should have a shot at achieving American Dream just like any other North Carolinian. That’s why he supports in-state tuition for undocumented immigrants.