Obtaining $200,000 from the state in order for Henderson County Public Schools to expand the phenomenally successful Leader In Me program is a great example of the commitment of the NC General Assembly to public education. I appreciate the cooperation and assistance from Representative Chuck McGrady and Representative Cody Henson to get this done for Henderson County. With this grant, I know that the dedicated educators and administrators under the leadership of School Superintendent Bo Caldwell will build on their momentum to help prepare our youth for prosperous and happy lives.
Pam and Charley Rogers are to be commended for the creation of, and their leadership on the Hearts of Hendersonville initiative. I first met Pam and Charley when we served together on the Board of Directors of the Community Foundation of Henderson County. It was my honor and pleasure to participate with them at the filled to capacity Hendersonville, North Carolina City Operations Center. Hearts of Hendersonville was an idea born from the book ‘Healing the Heart of Democracy’ by Parker Palmer. This book looks with realism and hope at how to deal with our political tensions for the sake of the common good - without the shouting, blaming, or defaming so common in our politics today. The workshops engaged troublesome topics of today that often create political and social divides, Immigration, Racial Tensions, Affordable Housing, and our drug abuse crises. It is exhilarating to see citizens immersed in these issues and focused on solutions that can be implemented at the community level. I met a number of people with which I intend to reconnect in order to help me better understand some of the shared perspectives, and grow my service to this Senatorial District.
Read more on the Hearts of Hendersonville meeting here.
It is important to me, and I have heard from parents as well that it is important we give our children the opportunity to learn the necessary skills to be successful in this digital age. Broadband connectivity in every classroom will offer our children to learn computer skills which will become vital in the job market. I am excited that this new capability will also help students learn necessary research skills that will further their education.
By instilling these skills at a young age students will have the ability to learn outside of the textbook, allowing new material and lessons to be crafted and taught. Many students may not yet have internet access in their own home. Our work to now provide it in every classroom in the state has given our children a chance to embrace technology in way not otherwise possible.
NC classrooms are now more capable to equalize the education of students in urban and rural areas.
Read more here.
As a member of the Joint Oversight Committee on Economic Development and Commerce Committees, I am pleased to announce the results of some work taken place to further accelerate the economy of North Carolina. The forthcoming state budget will include key changes to economic development programs that are expected to help secure a major jobs announcement in North Carolina in the coming months. This provision utilizes feedback from our prior efforts to bring large employers to North Carolina, and recent conversations between legislators and prospective companies looking to move to our state to modify our existing economic development and jobs recruitment program.
This legislation will enable a company that commits to investing at least $1 billion and creating at least 3,000 jobs in our state to be eligible for a transformative project award under the Job Development Investment Grant (JDIG) program. I am am alo excited to announce that these programs will be available to the three counties of District 48. The legislation will allow these projects to receive a credit for “expansion positions” above the 3,000 job minimum. It will lengthen the base period for transformative projects to 10 years, while extending the maximum JDIG agreement term to the base period plus 30 years. The $6,500 cap per job for JDIG transformative awards is removed under this legislation.
The final modification allows 10% of the award available to high-yield and transformative projects to be directed to the state Utility Account, which will benefit lower wealth counties such as Transylvania to support economic development in the more rural areas of NC.
With this legislation, we will encourage companies to grow in North Carolina much beyond an initial jobs commitment and provide long-term security to those companies considering making a jobs investment in North Carolina. This legislation will also help attract higher-paying jobs with the removal of the $6,500 cap and ensure that the entire state enjoys the positive impact of major job recruitments.
My office has heard from many people who are concerned that their school has chosen to close on Wednesday, May 16th so that teachers may assemble in Raleigh. Many are concerned that their children’s education is being disrupted. Many are concerned that the classroom time must be made up by tacking time onto the end of remaining school days thus forcing many more days of schedule interference. Many are concerned that they simply cannot afford to pay for unexpected childcare or to lose a day’s work. Many are concerned that they are struggling to find quality child care with short notice, and they must bear the burden of that cost. Many are worried that their child's meals were planned to be eaten at school, and now they are fearful they could be missed. Many school employees are concerned that they will miss a day of work. All of these citizens have a right to be upset.
I respect every citizen’s right to protest and to have their voice heard. I would, however, like to remind all the educators in my district that my door has, and will always be open. District 48 teachers do not need to travel to Raleigh to have their voice heard. My door has and will always be open to every one of you. I still will continue to be open and willing to meet with anyone or any group living in my district who has ideas to present me regarding public education.
This year our teacher’s pay will average over $50,000. Teachers have received raises each of the last four years, and a fifth- 6.1% is scheduled to go into effect in a few weeks. I have voted for teacher pay raises for both of the years in which I have served the NC Senate. According to the National Education Association, NC ranked #1 for teacher wage growth in 2017 and ranked #2 for teacher wage growth in 2018.
I understand how difficult teaching can be with the societal issues we face today, and how important it is to our children and their future. I am incredibly appreciative of the jobs our teachers do, and I am happy to listen to those with constructive suggestions on how to continue to better our state’s education system.
However, this closure for what appears to be little more than a political rally places an undue burden on parents working hard to provide for their children. Ultimately, it is the decision of the local school board and superintendent to close these schools to accommodate this scheduled protest.
For those of you who have scheduled to meet with me in Raleigh on Wednesday, I will be looking forward to our dialog.