“When Jim Hunt left office (Jan 2001), teacher pay in North Carolina had reached the national average. The state jumped from 43rd to the top twenty. The average SAT scores rose 40 points, faster than any other state, and NC’s ranking among states rose from 48th to 38th. The Nat. Ed. Goals Panel formed by GWH Bush in 1990 said in 1998 that NC had made more progress in education during that decade than any other state. Ed Week newspaper rated NC one of the top twelve states overall in education. Moving into the 21st century, NC and Jim Hunt were hailed nationally for what was happening in the public schools.” – Gary Pearce
JEN AND FORMER GOV. JIM HUNT
To Whom It May Concern (Particularly Educators, School Personnel, Students, Parents, And Fans of Democracy):
In 2018, Jen campaigned for NC Senate. One of her biggest motivations was making public education a priority in the General Assembly. During the campaign, Jen met extraordinary educators and community advocates from all over the state. Jen became a part of the collective voice for Save Our Schools and the Red for Ed movement. One of the highlights of Jen’s journey was marching in Raleigh alongside other educators in May of 2018 and 2019. Together with 20,000 of her closest friends, Jen sent a message to Phil Berger, Mark Johnson and the rest of the NC GOP: public schools are being undervalued and underserved in our great state. Robustly funding public education and protecting our teachers and students should be bipartisan.
After her hard-fought campaign against Berger was over, Jen received a call from Governor Cooper. Cooper wanted to congratulate Jen on being a “rising star in the Democratic Party,” as well as pushing Berger to spend time and money he didn’t want to spend, helping break the supermajority in the NC Senate. Jen realized her campaign for Senate was a big success in many other ways: it brought to light how poor of a representative and leader Phil Berger is, it connected all kinds of people together, and it pushed Jen to become the community leader she was always meant to be. Jen decided to challenge Berger again, but on her terms. Jen knew she was far more equipped for the role of Superintendent than the 2016 winner, a Berger lackey with only two years of teaching experience and an unabashed advocate of school “choice”, which is a nationwide trend that, if you didn’t already know, basically comes down to this:
Starving the public option through severe, unnecessary budget cuts.
Using public funds to pay for vouchers, so that some students can attend private schools on the taxpayers' dime. (The state cannot hold private schools accountable or even seek transparency from them.)
Promoting increasing numbers of (many times for-profit) charter schools (often the personal projects of millionaires and billionaires, and often fail due to corruption or bankruptcy). Charter schools are not required to provide lunch or transportation to students, which limits the (already limited) number of students who can attend. 21% of charter schools were low-performing in 2018-19, compared to 17% of public schools. Only 50% of charter school teachers have to have teaching certifications. There are issues with the transparency of charter schools, as well.
Expanding other types of private education (home schools, online schools) and promoting individualized learning on computers (even for K-3 students). They've strategically coined this "personalized learning," and it is cheaper than adequate investment in educators and personnel.
Re-segregating North Carolina schools through the strategic placement of new schools and consistently failing to promote integration measures.
Failing to adequately respond to the famous 1997 Leandro v. State court ruling, and ignoring critical education research that calls for more equitable funding.
And belittling the role of public education as a necessary facet of a healthy democracy.
Not only does Mark Johnson do Berger’s bidding and prioritize school “choice,” but he does so unethically. He is swimming in controversy. Among other things, Johnson has taken money from the CEOs of corrupt charter schools, he wined and dined with Silicon Valley executives and then purchased millions of dollars worth of unwanted tech, he side-stepped his own committee of education experts, he all but eliminated the DPI’s Educator Support Services (which helps some of the state's lowest-performing schools), he snubbed 20,000 teachers marching in Raleigh for adequate funding, and he is using public school funds to promote himself among teachers and families - he’s essentially campaigning with taxpayer-funded, expensive, glossy handouts & mailers - at a time when most teachers are paying out-of-pocket for paper or other basic supplies for their classrooms. Read more about Johnson here.
Johnson’s main goal appears to be to move up the political ladder; he may even run for Lieutenant Governor instead of Superintendent in 2020. But the damage he and the NC GOP have already done (and will continue to do if left unchecked) is alarming. Thousands of young citizens are graduating from public schools every year without having received the sound education they are entitled to - without having the tools they need to make a decent living and improve their communities. Teachers are unable to care for themselves, and they are rarely treated like the professionals they are. Many under-perform, or quit, or move out of state, or bite the bullet and pay for more school supplies using their own salaries. Critical school personnel aren’t making livable wages.
Many people know (teachers especially) that it’s well past time to unseat any Republicans who won’t invest in our communities. Jen knows it’s time for a teacher to lead our schools. It’s time for the public to reinvigorate our commitment to public school educators and personnel. The goal should be to educate everybody to the greatest extent possible. And public education should be holistic. We have to discuss things like what children are eating, whether or not they have internet access, how they are speaking to one another, how much sleep they and their teachers are getting at night, how many school psychologists, nurses, social workers, teachers assistants, etc are needed, whether or not schools feel safe, and are we actually teaching the things that children will need in the 21st century - things like empathy, and the ability to work together to solve complex problems.
As Superintendent, Jen would advocate for universal pre-K (or at the very least, automatic pre-K for children considered to be at a disadvantage by age 5), and for the Department of Instruction to one day include pre-K and higher education. Jen would push to make public education a real priority in North Carolina, and to completely reform how we test students and evaluate schools. She would lobby for fair, equitable funding, more, better jobs in education, and more and better wraparound services for disadvantaged students and families. Jen would work in harmony with the State Board of Education and the North Carolina Association of Educators. She would take the advice of experts, and really make an effort to get to know the people she’s leading. She would aim to give all superintendents across our state the autonomy and the critical support they need for their districts to thrive. She wants to enliven our public education system like in the days of Governor Jim Hunt. She wants to reboot the high school cadet program, heavily recruit teachers of color, expand the Teaching Fellows programs at our universities, increase teacher pay, award Masters pay to teachers who pursue additional education in their field, and pave the way for more effective professional development of all educators. She would embrace new and better ways of teaching North Carolina's youth. Jen wants to do a lot.
Education across this nation needs reform, but it won’t happen if genuine, devoted educators like Jen can’t get a seat at the table. Jen is just the type of candidate North Carolina needs: humble but confident, warm but fierce, experienced but open-minded, ambitious but compassionate. Jen is wise beyond her years, and also a lot of fun. Like most teachers, she’s patient, practical, and hard-working. She has all the energy it takes to run a campaign, and then some. The rest of us are just along for the ride. Without Jen, or someone like her, public education will get the short end of the stick for four more years. We can’t afford four more years of privatization, while public school buildings crumble, teachers jump ship, and kids go hungry and lose irreplaceable opportunities to learn. Democracy depends on a truly educated public. We really should fear the consequences of losing the war on information - of people losing common understanding. And we should hope and fight for a free and holistic public education system that will guarantee the harmonious future our children desire.
Thank you for taking the time to read a little bit about North Carolina’s next great Superintendent. Jen is an amazing person who deserves your support.
Jen’s Campaign Team