Throughout the past year, Lt. Governor Forest spent many days and hours traveling the state of North Carolina. He had the opportunity to sit down with business leaders, educators, and constituents to discuss issues that impact them most. By visiting communities in Western, Piedmont, and Coastal regions, Lt. Governor Forest gained a deeper understanding of how to better serve North Carolina's residents. His goal is to work with North Carolina's leaders to promote policies that represent the best interest of our state, making it a better place to live and work. Let’s take a moment to look back on some of the most notable successes of 2014 that are highlighted below.
North Carolina Education Endowment
Lt. Governor Forest has been outspoken in his desire for North Carolina’s highest performing teachers to be among the top paid educators in the nation. During the most recent session, he advocated strongly for a special fund to help supplement teacher compensation. The North Carolina Education Endowment was included in the 2014 budget and is required by law to be used only for teacher compensation that directly relates to student achievement. The Endowment will be funded in multiple ways, including “I Support Teachers” specialty license plates, individual or corporate donations through state income tax forms, stand-alone donations, and appropriations from the general fund by the General Assembly.
"I Support Teachers" Specialty License Plates
After The 2014 General Assembly approved legislation to manufacture "I Support Teachers" specialty license plates, which will help fund the North Carolina Education Endowment, Lt. Governor Forest championed the idea and took responsibility for soliciting the required 500 paid applications. For months, he has been encouraging North Carolinians to help boost teacher pay by purchasing a specialty license plate. To download your application, visit www.isupportteachers.com.
“The ‘I Support Teachers’ license plates are the first step towards creating a sound foundation for the North Carolina Education Endowment and planning for the future of teacher compensation in North Carolina in an innovative and self-sustaining way. It is vital that we are able to recruit, attract, and retain the best and brightest teachers from around the world to come work right here in North Carolina,” said Lt. Governor Forest.
Common Core Repeal
After many flaws in the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) were exposed, Lt. Governor Forest campaigned for the repeal of CCSS. His education advisor, Jamey Falkenbury, traveled to over 30 counties to educate groups on the dangers of Common Core. The standards are developmentally inappropriate in lower grades and not strong enough at the high school level to prepare our students for a STEM career.
Lt. Governor Forest worked with Senator Jerry Tillman and other legislators on the passage of Senate Bill 812, which created an Academic Standards Review Commission. The commission is comprised of North Carolina parents, business leaders, educators, and curriculum experts that will review and make suggestions on CCSS. The ultimate authority to modify state standards lies with the Governor and Board of Education, but the development of a review commission is certainly a step in the right direction for North Carolina’s public education system.
Digital Technology Committee
This past year, Lt. Governor Forest was named Chairman of the State Board of Education’s Digital Technology Subcommittee. This group is working closely with NC State University’s Friday Institute to develop a digital learning plan for students. In this new role, Lt. Governor Forest will continue to spread his vision for North Carolina education to move away from the status quo and towards customized curriculum for each child, using technology as the tool.
Aerospace and North Carolina
Lt. Governor Forest attended the Farnborough International Airshow in England in July, along with a team of representatives from the NC Department of Commerce. While in England, he promoted our state's booming aerospace and aviation industry and worked to recruit new businesses for North Carolina. More than 180 aerospace and aviation companies are engaged in manufacturing and employ more than 9,500 people in North Carolina. These companies add billions of dollars to the North Carolina economy.
Energy Policy Council
The Energy Policy Council, which operates under the NC Department of Environment and Natural Recourses, was established to evaluate all energy sources, determine how to properly manage and utilize them, and make recommendations to the Governor and General Assembly on how to facilitate domestic energy expansion and efficiency. Lt. Governor Forest serves as the Chairman of the Council and is working with other members to determine the best energy policy for our North Carolina’s short and long term future.
Champion of Education Award
Lt. Governor Dan Forest received the NC Champion of Education award by the Public School Options Parent Coalition this past May. This alliance of parents supports parents’ rights to access the best public school options for their children, including charter, magnet, and online schools. Education is, and will continue to be, top priority for Lt. Governor Forest. His work in areas of teacher pay, state standards, and digital learning reflect that commitment.
ABC Commission’s Initiative to Reduce Underage Drinking
The North Carolina ABC Commission developed “Talk It Out NC,” an initiative to reduce underage drinking. “Talk It Out NC” is a statewide multi-media campaign that launched in November, 2014. The program is designed to create awareness among parents and students about the dangers of underage drinking. Lt. Governor Forest and his wife, Alice, will serve as ambassadors of the campaign. They plan to travel to schools across the state to urge students and parents to start the underage drinking conversation early.
2014 proved to be another successful year for the General Assembly. Because of the nature of short session, most of the focus was aimed at appropriations. The latest budget continues to fund core government services while scaling down wasteful spending.
Perhaps lawmakers’ most significant legislative achievement in 2014 was the fulfillment of their promise to increase teacher salaries and education funding. Each teacher’s base pay is now determined by an updated step system. It removed a freeze put in place by the former administration and includes an average raise of 7%, or $3,500. Overall education spending has increased by more than $700 million from the 2012-13 school year to the 2014-15 school year.
Since Lt. Governor Forest took office, North Carolina unemployment figures have dropped 3 full percentage points. 98 of our 100 counties saw their unemployment rates go down last year. Our state has added 176,000 new jobs, paid back $2 billion of inherited debt, lowered the corporate income tax and cut the individual income tax rate for every taxpayer in the state.
North Carolina went from having the 5th highest unemployment rate and the 44th best business tax climate in the country, to being named by Forbes Magazine and Site Selection Magazine as having the 3rd best overall business climate in the country.