End of March, Every child NCa community-led, statewide coalition of organizations, parents, teachers, and students advocating for the constitutional right of every child to a strong basic education, sent a letter to Superintendent of Public Schools Catherine Truitt with recommendations that would have strengthened Truitt’s new Parent Advisory Board. Unfortunately, recent reports have shown that Truitt has ignored these recommendations. As a result, the commission is unlikely to represent the various stakeholders engaged in North Carolina schools.
The coalition’s recommendations aimed to make commission members more accessible and representative. Unfortunately, Truitt ignored the following recommendations:
- Make the request for service, all subsequent documents, and the review and selection process publicly available in Spanish, and ensure language accessibility in all committee meetings, events, and reports;
- Remove the requirement that all applicants receive a recommendation from school staff or a public figure;
- Ensure that the commission is designed with the intention of including meaningful and proportional representation of minorities and making public the mechanisms by which this representation is achieved;
- Rethink and reframe the composition of the board so that public school families are adequately, fairly, and proportionately represented (currently only one-third of the board seats are guaranteed to parents of traditional public school students, although approximately 80% of children attend a traditional inclusive public school); and
- Participation in the opening commission for educators and students.
Every Child NC’s concerns were clearly prescient. We learned last week that nearly 80% of applications were rejected as “incomplete”.
The coalition further recommended that Truitt ensure that the commission operates effectively, fairly and transparently by taking the following steps:
- Create a plan to compensate committee members for their time, travel, and childcare, to encourage a more economically diverse committee profile;
- Provide commission members with the appropriate technology to ensure they can participate in virtual meetings, and for DPI to commit to hosting in-person meetings in different areas of the state, to ensure the equal access to families who would prefer an in-person engagement but cannot participate in long trips;
- Publish the screening rubric used to assess applicants, the specific process by which panel members will be selected, and the names of individuals responsible for both screening applications and making final decisions on panel appointments , and be open to suggestions for improving the topic that has been selected;
- Make the responses of all selected candidates public so that all North Carolina residents can assess for themselves whether the commission represents the state’s ideological diversity;
- Provide a clear statement explaining how changes in committee membership will be handled.
Truitt released the names of the DPI staff members who will review applications. But Truitt has yet to publicly commit to any of the remaining steps.
Truitt created the commission to “raise the voice of parents in the education of students”. Its decision to ignore recommendations from Every Child NC reveals a lamentable preference for raising the voices of the privileged over the voices of families who have historically been excluded from public education policy-making.
With no selections made yet, it’s not too late to start over with a process that incorporates recommendations from Every Child NC to ensure the commission will truly speak for all students in North Carolina.
Kris Nordstrom is a senior policy analyst at the North Carolina Justice Center’s Education & Law Project. Note: The Justice Center – parent organization of NC Policy Watch – is a member of Every Child NC.