SEEN Magazine: You appear to be in the fight of your life to get money for our educators. Is this a fight we can win?
Governor Perdue: This is a fight we can win, and it’s a fight we must win. Right now, North Carolina, along with states across America, is facing economic challenges that many of us have never seen before. We’re working hard to create jobs in the short-term so we can jump start our economy, but we’re also investing in new industries such as green, biotechnology and advanced aerospace manufacturing. These are the jobs of the future, but if we don’t educate our future workers, then who will fill these jobs? Who will lead the green revolution in 50 years? Who will develop new biomedicines that cure diseases we struggle to contain even today? America became an economic superpower in the 20th century because we invested in education. Continuing our investment in education is how we can make North Carolina an economic superpower in the 21st century.
SM: What is North Carolina’s role as a leader in technology?
Governor Perdue: North Carolina is poised to become a hub for high-tech industries — we are now considered to be one of America’s leading technology states. With a strong foothold already in biotechnology, nanotechnology and advanced aerospace technology, this state has real potential to grow a new economic cluster around technological markets. That is why we’re also working to be a leader in classroom technology. North Carolina has one of the fastest growing virtual public schools in America, and we offer students a pathway to higher education through Learn and Earn online. In a century that will be shaped by technology, we need our kids to graduate already armed with the tools they will need to succeed in North Carolina’s new economy.
SM: As governor, do you get involved in ensuring your state’s schools have the best available technology?
Governor Perdue: As a public servant who has always been a hands-on leader, I’m deeply involved in ensuring North Carolina’s schools have the best available technology. When I was Lt. Governor, I led the effort to establish North Carolina’s first statewide virtual high school. I fought to get more technology in our classrooms and I worked to make sure every school had broadband connectivity. I am proud to say that recently North Carolina won two national distance learning awards, and I was honored to receive North Carolina’s Distance Learning Association’s leadership award.
As Governor, I continue to make technology in our schools priority. It provides students with equal access to any course or degree program from Pre-K through 20, no matter where they live.
SM: How competitive is North Carolina (and the southeastern United States) globally in terms of education? What can we do to improve our competitiveness?
Governor Perdue: North Carolina, and the United States on a whole, must ensure that our schools are globally competitive. The United States trails several European nations on measures of international tests, particularly in Math and Science. Investing in school technology is one way to gain an edge. Technology has created a level playing field where we can learn, live and work 24/7. As Governor, I want to compare how North Carolina students compete nationally and internationally using common standards. This is why I am working with other governors to develop common standards to measure performance and competiveness. We should have those standards done by December and then we can focus our efforts on developing assessments aligned with those standards.
SM: Where can schools find money for technology? What is the state’s role in ensuring ARRA funds find their way into the hands of educators who need technology now?
Governor Perdue: Through North Carolina’s school technology initiative, the state covers funding for connectivity so schools are able to make use of technology. This frees up the funds that schools would have used to pay for connectivity and allows them to make further investments in technology. The state also partners with local school districts to help them get federal reimbursements for their investments in technology. The NC School Technology Fund provides additional resources to schools.
North Carolina is competing for every dollar available for school technology through the ARRA. Recovery funds are flowing directly to the state for education technology. My administration has sent out information to local school districts, and we have published funding opportunities on the North Carolina Depart of Public Instruction and the Office of Economy Recovery and Investment Web sites.
SM: What are you doing, in conjunction with the other governors, to bring technology into our classrooms?
Governor Perdue: We recently shared North Carolina’s technology and education efforts and successes with other states’ governors at the Hunt Institute’s Governor’s Education Symposium. This is something we will continue to do. The Symposium, and the relationships built there, offer excellent opportunities to not only share our challenges and successes, but to also learn from the experiences of other states.
SM: Where do you see North Carolina in 50 years? What do you think our education system will look like then?
Governor Perdue: In 1949, Popular Mechanics published an article where scientists boldly predicted that in the future, computers would weigh no more than a ton. Fifty years later we have computers that fit in our pockets. With all the innovations we see and all the technology advancements that are made everyday, it’s impossible to predict what our education system will look like in 50 years. My goal for North Carolina’s education system – and I hope this happens much sooner than 50 years down the road — is for every student, no matter who she is or where he’s from, to have the opportunity to receive a comprehensive and quality education in preparation for a high-tech global economy.