Editorial: Local school officials right to stand up to legislature
Top school officials were in Raleigh last month fighting against the state legislature's inconsistent rules on low-performing schools. Winston-Salem/Forsyth County School Superintendent Beverly Emory and School Board Chairwoman Dana Jones were called before the General Assembly’s oversight committee to answer for resolutions the school board passed last month. During the meeting, they faced some hostile questioning.
In a recent editorial, the Winston-Salem Journal defended the actions of local school officials, saying they were right to stand up to politicians in Raleigh.
Earlier this year, the legislature changed the definition of “low-performing schools” in a way that greatly expanded their number. The legislature then called for special reports on such schools, and threatened school principals whose schools were defined as “low performing” for more than two years. As a result, the number of schools in Forsyth County — and throughout the state — that meet the definition have increased significantly, undermining schools that were showing progress and threatening them with dire consequences.
Our school board pushed back with two resolutions, stating that the system would apply the same standards to all its schools and that the system would not take action against any of the principals at the schools in question, calling the requirement to do so “arbitrary and capricious.”
So the legislative leaders, who have never shown much love for public education, called our educators on the carpet.
While there, Emory and Jones tried to discuss the issues, but the legislature was more interested in making sure that our school system would comply with their dictates.
State Sen. Tom Apodaca, R-Henderson, indicated the fragility of a principal’s standing at one of these newly appointed “low performance” schools. “If he’s been there three years … we may want to take another look at who’s running the school,” he said.
State Sen. Bob Rucho, R-Mecklenburg, essentially threatened the possibility of withholding money from school systems that don’t comply with their dictates, even though law does not currently allow that.
Emory said at one point: “Do we intend to comply? Absolutely. Are there differences in opinion here? Yes.”
Ultimately, our system will have to follow the legislature’s dictates or risk even more funding cuts as long as the current crowd is in power.
But it’s beyond frustrating that these legislators don’t take our local officials’ well-though-out concerns seriously. We know that our local officials are dedicated to better educational outcomes for all their students.