Horn talks education changes

Oct. 26, 2013 @ 03:54 PM

Craig Horn held the first in a series of town hall meetings Wednesday night at Cuthbertson High School to discuss school funding on the state level and other actions by the General Assembly. 

Horn talked about this year’s budget with regard to education spending. He explained to the crowd how they got rid of the policy where school systems had to return money to the state. They also created more local flexibility with regard to spending, he said. 

Horn also detailed the cuts that were made. Cuts were made to teaching assistants, master’s pay supplements, the teaching fellows program and other areas. 

“I’m not proud of that, by the way, but that’s what we did,” Horn said, when talking about cutting teaching assistant funding. 

With regard to master’s supplements, Horn explained that he was told that there was no measurable improvement in student achievement based on whether or not a teacher has a master’s degree, so he cut it. 

He said that he will work with teachers already in the process of obtaining degrees to keep their promise. He also said he would be willing to champion the master’s degree supplement, but needs to be “sold” on its effectiveness. 

Horn said he “vehemently opposed” the cuts made to teaching English as a second language. 

Cuts were made to the education lottery. Horn explained that the lottery was meant to “supplement” and not replace education funding. He also said the state has a history of governors taking education lottery money for other needs and said that needs to stop. 

Horn spoke about his digital learning legislation, which was signed into law by Gov. Pat McCrory at Cuthbertson High School last Spring. 

With a digital learning environment, we can bring the best educational environment to the poorest kids in the state, Horn said. He clarified that digital learning does not mean “shoving a textbook in a computer” though it will incorporate digital textbooks eventually.

Horn thinks of the digital learning environment as “mass individualized learning” where students can learn material the way they best learn things and can review subjects they have difficulty with, while other students may move on.  

He said the state does four things: provides connectivity, curriculum, professional development and devices. He noted that he thought professional development was the most important component because in many cases, students know more about handling the device than teachers. 

He said that while Union County is ahead of the game with devices, but other local education agencies are not. 

Horn fielded some questions about security updates in the schools. He talked about every school having a safety plan and an emergency button that can be pushed in case of emergency. They will continue to conduct safety exercises and increase the number of school resource officers. Horn mentioned recent legislation that allows retired military or public safety officers to volunteer as school resource officers, after some prerequisites. 

With some questions, Horn said he did not have a great answer yet and was going around the county to seek input. With regard to criteria for teacher performance, he said he believes that test results are not a good measure of teacher performance. He said not to ignore them, but the test results are not everything. He talked about progress in students with regard to grades and when a teacher shows willingness to improve their skills. 

Horn sought input on teacher performance from some of the participants and noted that he enjoys speaking with people who do not necessarily agree with him, because it helps him find the best solutions. 

Horn hopes to participate in more town hall meetings around the county in the future.