I raised four children here in Mecklenburg County. As a father I gained a unique perspective into the successes, the failures and the areas for improvement of our public school system. Each of my children had unique experiences. No two children are alike. Providing and funding a personalized education system for a county with a population as large as Mecklenburg is a monumental challenge.
For example, in five years my son was sent to five different schools in an effort to comply with mandated balancing of student populations. The upheaval of constantly changing environments and peer groups made his ability to have steady growth in his education more difficult. Ultimately my son was fortunate enough to grow up in a home with two parents who encouraged a love of reading and learning in all of our children, and he was able to overcome many of the challenges that came along with the constant movement. While my son had the resources at home to persevere, sadly many others do not.
Some, including my opponent, have made profits off of the constant disruption of student re-assignments by picking and choosing the families that have a choice in their children’s educational opportunities. All kids deserve an opportunity and all families deserve a choice, not just the wealthy.
Parents and community leaders in Matthews and Mint Hill recognized many of the challenges our family experienced with our son and began to open a dialogue with Charlotte Mecklenburg Schools, but were ignored and shut out from trying to negotiate a less severe policy that prevented the constant shuffling of students across the county. They reached out to my office to ask me what could be done, and after a series of conversations we found we shared many of the same frustrations and began to work on a path forward, which led to the introduction of a bill that would give the towns of Matthews and Mint Hill more autonomy in student assignments through the creation of charter schools. I’m hopeful this will be a step in the direction of giving more community control over community schools.
In addition to much of the work done here in Matthews and Mint Hill I’m proud of my record in the legislature on education. I arrived for my first term right after Gov. Perdue’s furloughs and pay freezes for teachers, and knew we needed to do better for our educators. With an eye on paying off the State of North Carolina’s debt and another on the need to fairly compensate our wonderful teachers, we unfroze pay and began implementing raises every year. North Carolina’s average teacher pay has risen for five straight years, and the fourth fastest rising pay in the country since 2014. Average pay is now up to $54,459 across the state. I know the long hours required of our teachers and the sacrifices they make with their time and money, and I will continue to prioritize their pay in the coming years.