Liz Schlemmer

Liz Schlemmer is WUNC's Education Policy Reporter, a fellowship position supported by the A.J. Fletcher Foundation. She has an M.A. from the UNC Chapel Hill School of Media & Journalism and a B.A. in history and anthropology from Indiana University.

She has previously served as a temporary Morning Edition producer and intern at WUNC and as a news intern at St. Louis Public Radio. Liz is originally from Indiana, where she grew up with a large extended family of educators.

 

Amanni King sits at the front desk of a residence hall at Fayetteville State University, killing time while she waits for students. She's a resident assistant and her first move-in day of the pandemic feels slow compared to the usual welcoming.

Ronda Taylor Bullock co-founded "We Are," a Durham-based non-profit committed to anti-racist education. Ronda is a former Durham Public Schools teacher who focuses on teaching children of all skin colors how to talk about racism and being anti-racist.

She runs an annual summer camp, often attended by her son Zion, who is nine years old. In this installment of our series "Calling for Change," Ronda and Zion get together to ask each other some questions.

COVID-19 outbreaks are springing up at a handful of childcare centers across North Carolina, threatening a vulnerable workforce of women who are largely low-paid and often uninsured.

Over one million North Carolinians have student loan debt, and the average borrower owes about $25,000. Even under normal circumstances, education debt can be prohibitive. 

For students and educators around the state, this year’s learning is in a state of flux. Public schools are holding out hope that they will reopen their doors before the school year ends. 

 


College sophomore Ty Meyer has been spending lots of time in parking lots lately, mostly at McDonald's or his local library. It's often his best option for accessing wifi to turn in homework. One of his NC State University classes requires him to upload video assignments. 

North Carolinians will cast their ballots on Super Tuesday for the first time next week. Although we join 13 other states in voting that day, some pundits argue North Carolina is the key state, even “ground zero”  in this presidential election cycle.


The legal battle over the UNC System’s $2.5 million settlement with the Sons of Confederate Veterans heads back to court Wednesday.

The UNC Board of Governors has accepted the resignation of a member of the East Carolina University Board of Trustees. The Board of Governors convened a special meeting to consider sanctions against ECU Trustees Phil Lewis and Robbie Moore for meddling in student government elections.

The North Carolina School of Science and Math has been aiming to open a residential campus in western North Carolina for fall of 2021, but it could be delayed by a year due to the state budget stalemate.

UNC-Chapel Hill students demonstrated in the rain outside a nearly empty board room Friday to show their discontent with the UNC System Board of Governors’ decision to give a neo-Confederate group $2.5 million to preserve the Silent Sam monument. None of the members of the Board of Governors were physically present at their December meeting to hear the students’ chants.

State Superintendent Mark Johnson and the Department of Public Instruction are taking steps to reduce the amount of time North Carolina students spend taking standardized tests. Johnson says the moves are meant to help relieve stress on students.

Four days a week, Micah Swimmer facilitates an all-day language session between young adults who are learning Eastern Band Cherokee and older, fluent speakers.

He points to the back of his classroom at the New Kituwah Academy in Cherokee, N.C. It's early September, and sheets of paper on a bulletin board display the names of 226 Eastern Band Cherokee members.

"That's all we have out of [about] 16,000 enrolled members," he says. "That's all we have left that are fluent speakers."

The Department of Public Instruction considers about 1 in 5 North Carolina teachers chronically absent, which it defines as taking 10 or more non-consecutive sick days in a school year. State education officials say chronic absenteeism is costing schools in student test scores and pay for substitute teachers.


Jakeli Swimmer keeps a little black notebook nearby while he teaches. The worn pages of the spiral notebook are covered in his scrawled notes and doodles of legends he has heard since childhood. The notes are vocabulary he has written in English, his first language, and words he’s learned in Cherokee, his native language.

The House has given preliminary approval to a proposed amendment to the state constitution that would change the process for filling vacant judicial seats.

More high school students in the state say they are using e-cigarettes, or plan to start in the next year.

A total of 38 school districts will be closed for classes Wednesday while thousands of teachers march to the Capitol to call for better school funding. Some schools will hold an optional workday, with limited operations. That means many hourly employees, like cafeteria workers or bus drivers, could miss out on a day of work.

This Wednesday more than 10,000 teachers are expected in Raleigh on the General Assembly's opening day to demand better pay and working conditions.

Veteran educators say those demands are about restoring education funding to what it was before the recession hit and a wave of Republican-led policies and tax cuts dismantled their benefits.

Teachers have adopted the tagline: "It's Personal."

It was Saturday morning, and that meant the Cortes family was at church. They are faithful Seventh-day Adventists. Eleven-year-old Eddie played the piano to start the service.

His father, Eddie Sr. sat in the first church pew, next to Mafer, 15, and Natalie, 13, who leaned on their mom, Heidy.

Darrell Allison is on the road again, taking a final long trip to visit private schools across North Carolina. He's used to traveling - to small towns, suburbs, down east and to the mountains to talk to parents and legislators across the state.

Teachers in Arizona are protesting for higher pay, while Kentucky educators rallied at their state capitol this Friday. The same day, Oklahoma teachers ended a 9-day walkout, rivaling the length of time West Virginia teachers left their classrooms last month. Distressed teachers seeking higher pay and better funding for education have created a movement in red states, leaving some to wonder, will North Carolina teachers join in next?

The State Board of Education will vote this week on an operator for the first school in the state's Innovative School District, and the recommended contender's board of directors includes a former legislator who sponsored the bill to create the new district.

The North Carolina General Assembly’s answer to the Parkland shooting and a still-simmering national conversation about school safety began Wednesday with a legislative committee. The House Select Committee on School Safety met for the first time to discuss measures to keep public school students safe.

A new report from the left-leaning NC Justice Center has found that schools in the state have become slightly more segregated in the past decade. The report Stymied by Segregation found that the number of racially or economically isolated schools has gone up in that time.

State Superintendent Mark Johnson is asking teachers whether or not they would like to be armed. So far, most say no. Johnson sent an informal, online poll in an email to all of the about 100,000 public school teachers across the state Thursday morning and received more than 19,000 responses in the first 24 hours.

The General Assembly passed a bill Tuesday primarily to address issues with a prior law that reduces class sizes in kindergarten through third grade. While the measure to phase in and better fund those reductions had bipartisan support, Democrats have criticized the bill for tacking on a number of other provisions.

The North Carolina Supreme Court will hear a case Wednesday over a power struggle between Republican State Superintendent Mark Johnson and the Republican-led State Board of Education. Shortly after Johnson's election in 2016, the General Assembly passed a law to shift powers from the governor-appointed board to the superintendent.

Governor Roy Cooper is urging business leaders to pressure the General Assembly to make funding for education a higher priority.

The North Carolina State Board of Education earlier this month changed its policy for the standardized tests English language learners are required to take at the end of each school year.

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