State Superintendent Catherine Truitt says Parent Advisory Commission has broad representation

By: - August 4, 2022 2:00 pm

A broad cross-section of parents is represented on State Superintendent Catherine Truitt’s new Parent Advisory Commission, the superintendent said Thursday.

Truitt made her remarks to the State Board of Education during an update on the 48-member panel she will turn to for insight and perspectives on K-12 education matters.

Some educators and State Board members have been critical of the panel’s makeup, complaining that parents of homeschooled students and private school students are overrepresented. Parents homeschooling children and those with children in private schools have 33% of the panel’s seats. Roughly 76% of the state’s children attend traditional public schools.

Catherine Truitt

Truitt said Thursday that some homeschool parents and private school parents selected to serve also have students in traditional public schools.

“There’s a lot to dig into there about what’s happening in families where one child is homeschooled or goes to a private school and another child attends a neighborhood public high school,” Truitt said.

Truitt shared that an application question about who is responsible for a child’s education factored heavily into the selection of commission members. Answers to that question ranged from the government should not have a role in a child’s education to the government is responsible, she said.

“I’m excited to share that everything in between is what is represented on the parent council,” Truitt said. “There is a wide variety of opinions about education.”

Truitt has been taken to task for not taking steps to ensure that Black and Hispanic parents are adequately represented on the commission.

My concern is about the inclusion of all parents, particularly those who are least likely to have a voice in the system,” State Board member James Ford said in April.

A little more than 50% of children attending the state’s traditional public schools are students of color. The racial makeup of the panel has not been shared by the N.C. Department of Public Instruction (NCDPI).

On Thursday, the superintendent did say,  however, that no one completed a Spanish version of the application.

“That’s something that we want to pay attention to,” Truitt said.

Truitt has dodged questions about the racial makeup of the board, choosing instead to focus on the panel’s diversity only in the broadest sense.

She continued that pattern Thursday in the update to the State Board. She shared, for example, that eight members of the panel are parents of children with special needs, one is a military parent, two are foster parents and one is the parent of a child enrolled in a dual language program.

In addition, Truitt said only 4% of those who completed applications were men. She noted that there were few parents of charter school students to choose from in the Western part of the state because there’s not a large concentration of charters in that part of the state.

The commission includes parents or guardians selected for two-year terms from each of the state’s eight education districts. The full panel will hold its first meeting on Sept. 15. The six members from each region will meet virtually every month. The full commission will meet quarterly both in person and virtually.

Truitt said parents will set agendas for meetings. However, parents will first learn about how North Carolina’s schools are governed before they begin to develop meeting topics, the superintendent said.

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Greg Childress
Greg Childress

Education Reporter Greg Childress covers all aspects of public education in North Carolina, including debates over school funding, curricula, privatization, and teacher pay and licensing.