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Decisions about our educational system are being made by the wrong people

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It has become customary - especially for politicians - to speak with authority on almost any subject that comes to their attention. In North Carolina this has been made clear in recent months by the many profound statements espoused by our state legislators, who seemingly know exactly what our public schools need to do in order to improve the quality of their education. For instance, Phil Berger, President Pro Tempore of the North Carolina Senate championed the Read to Achieve program, and he has made it clear that the multiple tests administered to third graders are necessary in order for them to achieve the reading proficiency levels needed for promotion. This comes from a man with an undergraduate degree in sociology and a jurisprudence degree.

It is now relatively clear that our state's politicians, to include the governor, are making decisions on educational issues that are simply not within their areas of expertise. Certainly, they claim to listen to experts in the field - unfortunately, they do not have the background to determine if these experts are giving them the right information. Many of these experts have political agendas that fall directly in line with the people they are advising. This is not a good way to run a state public school system.

This problem is compounded further by the failure of leadership at North Carolina's Department of Public Instruction. The State Superintendent of Schools is an elected official who should be responsible to the citizens of the state - not its politicians. Based on the way in which the legislature has been running our state's educational programs it almost seems as if the superintendent is operating as a manager rather than a leader. She is simply not making it clear to the governor and state assembly that she and her department of instruction are the education experts and should be consulted on all education issues.

Our state educational system is not functioning as it should. We simply do not have leadership in an area that demands it. North Carolina's State Board of Education and its Department of Public Instruction, where the state's education experts reside, have essentially been marginalized by our politicians. In other words, the fate of North Carolina's public school students are in the hands of people with sociology and law degrees, but no experience in education.

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