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January 20, 2015

When I learned Tom Ross had been asked to retire as President of the UNC system, I felt a shift in my confidence about the future. Suddenly, the long-term stability of UNC and the UNC System isnít so clear. Itís more than just the amazing progress weíve seen over the past 50 years at UNC-CH; the entire history of the university is marked with enlightened leadership. From its founding in 1789 as the nationís first public university, to its role as one of the first public Ivyís, its part in the founding of Research Triangle Park, itís first Nobel prize winner and itís recent leadership in grant funded research, it has consistently been ranked one of the best universities in the nation.

Since the 1950s, UNC has been a major economic driver of the state. Itís hard to imagine any need for a change in course just as we are emerging from the Great Recession and needing a better-educated work force. The University System as it was becoming under the insightful leadership of President Tom Ross is the University we need to meet the challenges just ahead.


The most recent proposal to come before state legislators would move the stateís Medicaid program out of the Department of Health and Human Service and place it under a non-profit board of directors appointed by the Governor and the NC House and Senate. The Board would have broad powers to change provider rates and cut optional services if needed to balance the budget. The proposal also recommends a Trust Fund to help offset cost over-runs and to prevent cuts to rates and services. The bill is now before the Program Evaluation Oversight Committee. If it passes that committee, it will be sent to a standing committee in the NC House or Senate.

The proposal was met with many questions and acknowledgement that it will be changed as it moves through the committee process. You will be hearing more details once committees start to meet.

See the bill draft here.

Legislators Retreat

Just before session convened on January 14, North Carolina legislators gathered in Greensboro for the 12th annual Legislators Retreat, one of many initiatives sponsored by the Hunt Institute, an affiliated Center with UNC-CH. http://www.hunt-institute.org/about-us/. In 2013, the Retreat was re-named The Governor Jim Holshouser Legislators Retreat to honor his historic decision in 1974 to use a state budget surplus to fund universal public kindergarten for the children of North Carolina rather than cut taxes.

This yearís retreat focused on the economy and disruptive educational practices. The economy segment was sobering. By 2020 65% of all jobs will require more than a high school education, a change from 28% in 1973. Interestingly, the most highly valued abilities are the soft skills: listening and understanding, effective written and oral communication, understanding and following written instruction, identifying and solving problems and deductive reasoning.

In 2013, almost half of all North Carolina employers reported not hiring applicants due to: lack of relevant experience (44%), lack of education credentials (42%), lack of technical skills (41%), low number of applicants (34%) and lack of soft skills (26%). Applicants unwilling to accept work conditions or offered wages accounted for 9% and 25% of hiring difficulties respectively. Other reasons included, commuting distances, criminal records and failed drug tests.

The good news is the increase in our high school graduation rate: from 68.3% in 2006 to 83.9% in 2014. However, we still have significant improvements to make before a high school diploma means a student is prepared for postsecondary education.

A barrier to improving education at all level is the lack of qualified teachers. Our schools of education graduate just over 6,000 new teachers each year; our public schools hire 10,000 new teachers a year. Because supply does not meet the demand, we recruit teachers from other states. With the cuts to teacher pay, itís hard to attract and retain enough highly qualified teachers to fill all the vacancies. Lawmakers have the power to solve this problem by approving alternative paths into education, ensuring teachers meet high standards and providing salaries and working conditions that make North Carolina attractive.

The disruptive innovation segment part of the retreat was exciting. Recent research found the most effective way to improve teacher performance is through peer observation, coaching and practice. Teachers who experience observing and coaching are enthusiastic about their improved performance and better outcomes for students. We are also redesigning teacher roles through technology and media, flipped classrooms such as Kahn Academy and creating career ladders that recognize excellence. Currently, more than half of North Carolina schools employ coaches or specialists who observe and train teachers on site.

For more information: http://www.huntinstitute.org/elements/media/files/HLR2015_IssueBrief.pdf.

As always, thank you for your support of my work in Raleigh as your representative. Please let me know of your position on issues, your suggestions for legislation and your requests for help.

Verla Insko

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Verla Insko, NC House ∑ 300 N. Salisbury Street, Room 502 LOB ∑ Raleigh, NC 27603-5925 ∑
Phone (919) 733-7208 ∑ Mobile (919) 618-9889 ∑ E-mail verla.insko@gmail.com or verla.insko@ncleg.net