09.06.16

Giving our children a better future

By Senator Richard Burr

September 6, 2016

As North Carolina's children return to school, it's a good time to remember the importance of making sure our public school students get a quality education. Our children are the future of North Carolina, and they represent the best of us. I am proud to be an avid defender of North Carolina students in the Senate.

Last December, the Senate passed, and the president signed into law, the bipartisan Every Student Succeeds Act - legislation to fix No Child Left Behind and restore control of K-12 education back to those closest to our children: parents, teachers, principals and local school boards. The Senate's education committee, of which I'm a member, worked tirelessly on drafting this law, which affirms that the best way to achieve higher standards and better learning is through classrooms and communities, not Washington, D.C. This law also ended the controversial Common Core mandate.

As a result of this momentous shift of K-12 control back to local communities, North Carolina's hardworking classroom teachers will no longer be judged from a distant department in Washington, D.C., on whether they are qualified to teach, or whether their students are succeeding or failing based on a once-yearly math and reading test.

As a part of my commitment to defending North Carolina students, I was proud to offer an amendment to fix a long-standing inequality in education funding that has shortchanged North Carolina's teachers, schools and low-income students for over 15 years.

My amendment makes sure that federal education funding meant for schools that serve kids from low-income families actually goes to those very schools. Since 2000, the number of low-income families in North Carolina has grown by 18 percent, compared to 7.6 percent nationally. Yet despite these demographic shifts, money that was meant to help these needier schools in North Carolina has actually been funneled to wealthier schools in Pennsylvania and New York. North Carolina families were being shortchanged. I'm proud to say that my amendment, which became law in 2015, fixes this gross inequality. This means that with more education dollars coming to North Carolina, we will have more teachers in North Carolina helping our students get a great education.

In fact, my amendment has added $24 million in yearly education funding for North Carolina. Low-income students in North Carolina stand to see a significant increase of 47 percent in education funding. We are now directing that funding into the communities that need it the most.

The bottom line: My amendment means 500 additional teachers for the state of North Carolina - an average of five more teachers per county in our state.

We have made great strides this Congress to deliver control of K-12 education back to local communities, while making sure limited federal education funding is going to the communities that need it the most. But making sure that our children are getting the best education possible is going to be an ongoing fight for North Carolina families in Washington. I'm pledging to continue fighting for North Carolina's schools, teachers and students, because a brighter future for North Carolina students means a brighter future for North Carolina.

Sen. Richard Burr, a North Carolina Republican, is a senior member of the Health, Education, Labor & Pensions Committee.

This op-ed was published by the Fayetteville Observer.