This week I started my internship at the Public School Forum of North Carolina. The Forum is a 30-year-old nonprofit education policy “think and do” tank. They are probably best known for creating and administering the Teaching Fellows Program from 1986-2015, but they have a wealth of other programs focused on supporting beginning educators, increasing availability and quality of after school programs for students, providing information on complex education policy issues to elected officials, and fostering partnerships across sectors to improve public education.
My blog title is a message I was told repeatedly this week – by staff, my supervisor, the board chair. Indeed, it was a fun and busy week at the Forum, with a board meeting and the House budget released on Monday, the Forum’s annual Jay Robinson Gala on Thursday, and preparing materials for Candidate Briefings next week. My work this week focused on final preparation of the Policymaker’s Education Primer and the presentation based off this resource for a series of Candidate Briefings for elected officials and candidates for office. The Primer and Briefings are in some ways similar to the work done at the School of Government – the goal is for the Forum’s education policy experts to share relevant and necessary information with policymakers in an objective manner, so policymakers can then use this information to craft stronger education policy for the state.
Even with my past experience in the world of education, I still learned so much by doing this research and updating the Primer and presentation, especially about education funding in the state. For example, while the state provides 64% of revenue for public schools, over 93% of salaries and benefits for school staff are covered by state dollars. This is why it’s so hard for school systems when the state’s education budget is cut: cuts to state education funding are by and large cuts to teaching positions. If you are interested in school funding – particularly the impact of local taxes and real estate wealth on school systems – check out the Forum’s 2016 Local School Finance Study.
This week I also helped with final preparations for the annual Jay Robinson Gala, which took place on Thursday night. The Jay Robinson Education Leadership Award recognizes “exemplary leaders who have made outstanding contributions to public education.” Past recipients have included Gov. Jim Hunt, Erskine Bowles, Dr. Dudley Flood, and Judge Howard Manning. This year, the award was given to Gov. Jim Martin and Forum founders John Dornan and Jo Ann Norris. Hearing these leaders talk about their hopes for the future of education was very inspiring and I enjoyed hearing more about the history of the Forum through their remarks. Preparing for the event also highlighted one of my favorite things about working for nonprofits – the excitement and energy of the all-hands-on-deck effort that comes just before a big project or event.
Over the next couple of weeks I’ll be solidifying my independent research project, tracking budgets and other bills through the legislative short session, attending a Candidate Forum and hopefully some other events. I can’t wait to tell you all about it, and hope you’ll stop back next week!