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CASHIERS — Jackson County Schools Superintendent Dr. Michael Murray said Monday that teachers are the real casualties as North Carolina lawmakers move to eliminate Common Core academic standards.

“The teachers have been going in this direction for two years,” Murray told a state government official during a town hall meeting at the Jackson County Republican Headquarters in Cashiers. “I just sent a letter to my teachers (and told them) ‘Please don’t panic.’ They are caught in the middle of this tug-of-war.”

McMurray was among 25 people who heard an update on public education from Jamey Falkenbury, director of operations for the office of Lt. Gov. Dan Forest. Inundated by questions focusing on Common Core standards, teacher pay and teacher tenure, Forest asked Falkenbury to present similar meetings around the state. Other Western North Carolina stops this week included meetings in Macon, Transylvania and Polk counties.

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State legislators on Wednesday issued their final approval of a bill that rolls back Common Core standards, a measure that will go to Gov. Pat McCrory for final approval. He issued a statement Wednesday saying he intends to sign the measure.

MORE: Vote Check: How NC House, Senate voted on repealing Common Core education standards

The nation’s governors and school chiefs developed Common Core standards, which were approved by more than 40 states. Work on the standards began in 2006 and were implemented for the 2013-14 school year.

Common Core is a set of English and math standards that spell out what students should know and when. The standards for elementary math have confounded some parents by departing from some traditional methods to emphasize that kids understand how numbers relate to each other.

They were designed to improve schools and student competitiveness, which the Republicans have condemned. Lawmakers in 27 states this year have proposed either delaying or revoking Common Core.

North Carolina has received complaints from educators and parents, who believe the standards are causing confusion and use a curriculum that’s not age appropriate, Falkenbury said.

For instance, math typically taught in fourth and fifth grades is now being taught to third graders, he said.

“Five hundred childhood psychologists feel the kids’ minds are not prepared for this,” Falkenbury said.

Kindergarten students also would be expected to fluently add and subtract, he noted.

“Kids in kindergarten are still counting with their fingers for the most part,” Falkenbury said. “They need time to develop the mind process.”

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Senate and House budget proposals offered different ideas for how to approach teacher raises and tenure. As the stalemate over the budget continues, it’s still unclear what the final impact will be on the state’s public education system and its teachers.

Falkenbury also noted that North Carolina is one of a few states solely responsible for funding education; 55 percent of the state’s budget goes toward funding education. Thirty-eight percent funds education for kindergarten through 12th grades, while the rest funds higher education.

“We rank eighth in education spending; we rank 46th in nation for local government spending on education,” he said.

Gwen Albers

Gwen Albers is a contributing reporter to Carolina Public Press. Contact her at galbers_reporter@yahoo.com.

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