By Rob Buhler | Chairman, MMI Public Relations
In 2016, numerous significant incidents occurred in North Carolina that vied for media’s attention. Perhaps one of the most important issues that should be on the mind of North Carolinians, which isn’t receiving its deserved awareness from the media, is the state of our educational system.
I care deeply about North Carolina’s education system and how we can help the young people in our community increase their potential to lead a productive and fulfilling life. I believe education is a building block to creating a greater society and brighter future for our next generation of leaders. The first building block begins with North Carolina’s teachers.
Support North Carolina Teachers
According to the most recent National Education Association Report, from 2014-2015, North Carolina ranked 42nd in the nation for teacher’s pay, and our average teacher pay was $47,819—almost $10,000 less than the U.S. average of $57,420. The amount of money we invest in our teachers directly correlates to the percentage of teachers we retain as students and employees in our state’s education system. From 2014-2015 alone, we’ve seen 1,028 North Carolina teachers take jobs in other states, such as Virginia or Georgia, to find more competitive salaries according to the NC Department of Public Instruction. Furthermore, enrollment in education programs within the UNC System is down 30 percent since 2010, further contributing to the shortage of teachers in our state. Though nonprofit organizations such as WakeEd Partnership work tirelessly to improve these statistics, education issues cannot continue to be overlooked.
Fund Job-Ready Education
In order to adequately prepare students for jobs requiring advanced skills within the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM), it’s important that we incorporate more technology within our education system. Utilizing more technology requires additional funding in the Wake County Public School System.
Due to privatization efforts, from 2014-2015 funding for our public school system fell to 43rd in the nation at $8,917 per student according to the most recent report from the National Education Association. In North Carolina, we must place a higher value on education and invest more money to ensure students graduate with STEM skills and the qualifications necessary to be job ready. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, in the next five years, the average spending per pupil in the U.S. is predicted to increase to $13,200—$4,000 more than our state spends per pupil currently. If North Carolina is unable to simply meet the national average for per pupil spending, the consequences of a poorly funded and short-staffed public school system will prove to be devastating for the future economic competitiveness of our county and state.
Our Commitment to WCPSS
At MMI, we are working with organizations that are making important commitments to Wake County Public Schools. For example, MMI works with Bayer Crop Science and its “Making Science Make Sense” program, which is an award-winning initiative advancing STEM literacy in Wake County and across the United States. We also work with Raleigh Orthopaedic Clinic and its “24-Hour Bike Challenge” that benefits the Kids ’N Community Foundation, which is a nonprofit that aids the educational and health needs of underserved youth in the Triangle. MMI believes that investment in education is the key to unlocking a promising future for the youth in our community.
As one of the Triangle’s leading public relations firms, MMI understands the impact a strong education system can have on talent pools and a region’s economy. With a well-funded public school system in place, our nation’s most talented professionals relocate to our area as an investment in their children’s futures. To address our clients’ business and brand performance interests, we must have a future pipeline of skilled and qualified talent in place. We, like many companies in the Triangle region, ultimately rely on Wake County Public Schools and our state’s acclaimed colleges and universities for talent. MMI supports WakeEd Partnership because we believe it is one of the best advocates for the advancement of Wake County’s public education system.
In 2013, I became involved with WakeEd Partnership, and I’ve enjoyed watching students’ involvement with STEM learning programs as early as elementary school. Through the WakeEd Teacher Innovation Grants program, I’ve seen WakeEd Partnership work with Wake County teachers to turn their creative ideas for student engagement into a reality and encourage them to stay in North Carolina. The organization has awarded over $1 million in teacher innovation grants to Wake County Public Schools. The grants are used to educate Wake County school staff members on the latest educational techniques, and last year its teacher innovation program reached more than 4,400 students. Additionally, WakeEd serves on the WAKE Up & Read Leadership Team, a program that conducts an extensive annual book drive. Over the past three years more than 350,000 books have been distributed to students in 10 Wake County Public Schools and childcare centers.
MMI is thankful for the opportunity to partner with WakeEd Partnership in its efforts to strengthen Wake County’s educational system, invest in our students’ futures and support the development of our existing and forthcoming educators.