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This week, the legislature has given us education policy people a bit of a break. Not to say they weren’t passing education bills, but they were fewer in number and progressing in a generally predictable way. This freed up my time to work on some research projects that had fallen a bit by the wayside while more of my time was spent at the capitol. 

My research work this summer ranges from a couple of longer-term projects to many that I can complete in a day or two. The first two research tasks I completed fell into this second category and stemmed from questions asked at Candidate Briefings.

Summarizing state-level data and policies, as is done for the Primer and Briefings, can leave out details about unique policies in local areas. When the Forum’s staff then shares the state-level picture, sometimes local leaders have questions or input about how that state-level view relates to their county- or district-level policy. After questions of this nature came up during the Charlotte briefing, my supervisor asked me to research the same topic – teacher supplements – in Wake County, so their team could share that detail and preempt similar questions at the next session. 

At the state level, teacher salary supplements are aggregated into a county average, but in many counties each teacher often gets a somewhat different supplement, based on years of experience, what subject they teach, and other factors. Wake County made it very easy to find this information for their school system, since they publish a salary supplement schedule that clearly lays out all the different ways their supplements are calculated. 

The other question I researched for the Candidate Briefing related to the new Opportunity Scholarship Program’s eligibility requirements. The Opportunity Scholarship Program offers up to $4,200 for a former public school student to attend a private school. These types of scholarships are often called vouchers. In North Carolina, eligibility for an Opportunity Scholarship is based on income and uses the federal Free and Reduced Lunch income requirements for determining eligibility. The legislature recently passed a huge expansion of the program, to be implemented over the next ten years. 

The research on this topic was a bit trickier. The program information available was a bit unclear and I found myself chasing down general statutes and federal school lunch program requirements to get the information I needed. Following the breadcrumb trail of information from the incomplete program information through the general statutes and to the final destination of federal school lunch program requirements reminded me a bit of the “finding legal resources” assignment we did for Professor Szypszak. 

When I attended the Raleigh briefing, I was able to see my research used in action, incorporated into the presentation shared with attendees. 

In a future blog post, I’ll share more information on my other research projects – including the two major projects I’m working on looking at changing school demographics and magnet schools.

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