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Laying the Groundwork

By the time of Governor Jim Hunt’s fourth and final inauguration as North Carolina governor, the state knows him as the education governor. In fact, the theme of his final inauguration is “Education is our Future. It’s Everything.”

During his inauguration speech, Governor Hunt says, “I ask North Carolinians to unite in a new commitment to public education. Our children deserve it. Our future demands it. And our history teaches it.”

“Public education has enabled North Carolina to write an incredible history of growth, progress, and prosperity. It is through public education that we will build North Carolina’s future in hundreds of public schools, community colleges, and colleges and universities throughout our state.”



PBS (2012, August 31). UNC-TV Presents 1997 North Carolina Inaugural Ceremony of Jim Hunt [Video]. https://www.pbs.org/video/unc-tv-presents-1997-north-carolina-inaugural-ceremony-jim-hunt/


Durhams S. & Beshears, E. (1997, January 13). Governor Calls on State to Create Opportunities for Younger Generation. The Daily Tar Heel. https://newspapers.digitalnc.org/lccn/sn92068245/1997-01-13/

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March 2001
Even after his final term as Governor, Hunt continues to ask North Carolinians to think about ways to improve education. The James B. Hunt, Jr. Institute was meant do just this – improve public education by advancing public policy in the education space.

The University of North Carolina Office of the President receives authorization to plan The James B. Hunt, Jr. Institute for Educational Leadership and Policy. In a unanimous vote, the Board of Governors approves The Institute, and Governor Hunt becomes the honorary chairman of the organization.

In a March 19, 2001 Daily Tar Heel Article, UNC-system spokeswoman Joni Worthington says, “The ultimate objective is stronger public schools, higher student achievement and helping to move North Carolina toward the goal of having the best public schools in the nation.”


Welch M. (2001, March 19). BOG Approves Hunt Institute. The Daily Tar Heel. https://newspapers.digitalnc.org/lccn/sn92068245/2001-03-19/

September 14, 2001
The University of North Carolina System establishes The James B. Hunt, Jr. Institute for Educational Leadership and Policy Foundation within the UNC Center for School Leadership and Development.

November 27, 2001

The Hunt Institute files its articles of incorporation, or charter, with the Secretary of State in North Carolina.

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January 2002

The Charlotte Observer writes about Governor Hunt’s new education policy endeavor following the end of his final term, calling it “shockingly ambitious." The paper reports people describing The Institute as an “educational War College for politicians, would-be politicians, and civic leaders.”

Other analogies are also used to describe The Institute, including a “West Point for Educators,” or an “Education Version of the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard.” Governor Hunt is flattered by all these descriptions.


The News and Observer (Raleigh, North Carolina) · Sunday, Jan 13, 2002, Page B8


The Charlotte Observer (Charlotte, North Carolina) · Sunday, Jan 20, 2002, Page 25

June 2002

Judith A. Rizzo moves from New York to begin her tenure as executive director of The Institute, with just two part-time staff members and a small office space. During this time, The Institute drafts its first strategic plan, business plan, and marketing materials. At the core of the organization is a “consulting and conferencing” model to improve state-level education. The Institute’s goal is to respond quickly to states’ needs and give customized education policy advice.

When Governor Hunt discusses his reasoning for the model, he says “A governor can’t take a week, so we’d give him a weekend and tell him to come with his staff, his top educational leaders, his legislative leaders, and members of the state school board. They’d come to learn how other places did it right.”

November 2002

The Institute begins receiving national coverage for its first Governors Education Symposium, to be held December 1-2, 2002, in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. Before the conference, Arkansas’ Baxter Bulletin writes about the promise of the convening – at the time, the state was going through a complete overhaul of its school funding system.


Rocky Mount Telegram (Rocky Mount, North Carolina) · Tuesday, Apr 30, 2002, Page 1


The Courier-Journal (Louisville, Kentucky) · Saturday, Nov 30, 2002, Page 26

December 2002

The first Governors Education Symposium, “Public Education in Your State: Setting the Agenda and Staying the Course,” is attended by 22 governors from around the nation. Attendees include Kentucky Governor Paul Patton, Indiana Governor Frank O’Bannon, North Carolina Governor Mike Easley, Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee, Ohio Governor Bob Taft, Utah Governor Mike Leavitt, and Georgia Governor Roy Barnes.

At the convening, Governor Roy Barnes said, “Education has to be the number one priority of a governor each and every day. It is the most important thing you will do.”

Secretary Rod Paige, U.S. Secretary of Education, discussed the complexities behind the newly-introduced No Child Left Behind Act. Margaret Spellings, Assistant to the President for Domestic Policy; Tom Vander Ark, Executive Director of Education for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation; and Ted Sanders, President of the Education Commission of the States also join for discussions around early childhood education, teacher quality, accountability, and assessment.

Two major themes emerged from this convening:

  1. Governors must be education leaders in their state to advance education reform, and

  2. Governors must incorporate the direct link between education and the economy as part of agenda implementation.

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April 2003

In a journal article, Phi Delta Kappa International highlights The Hunt Institute’s Governors Education Symposium as an example of how states should collaborate with education systems to work through the complexities of the newly introduced No Child Left Behind Act. The article describes two main lessons from the convening:

  1. State department staff, chief state school officers, state boards, legislators, and governors must all keep each other in the loop to achieve desired student outcomes outlined in NCLB.

  2. Districts and schools may need to go above and beyond the provisions outlined in NCLB to achieve educational equity.


Christie, K. (April 2003). States Ain’t Misbehavin’ but the Work is Hard! The Phi Delta Kappan, 84(8), 565-566). https://www.jstor.org/stable/20440425

November 2003

The Hunt Institute convenes its inaugural North Carolina Legislators Retreat. Governor Jim Hunt and Jim Holshouser host the retreat, where legislators listen to national and local experts discuss educational equity, student assessment, demographics, and more.

At the national level, speakers from the Southern Regional Education Board (SREB), RAND Corporation, The Education Trust, Center of Demographic Information at the Institute for Educational Leadership contributed to the dialogue. Local speakers in attendance include the North Carolina Public School Forum and local school districts.

Education equity is a major focus of the convening, with speakers noting that high-performing students from lower-income families are less likely to attend college than their peers. In addition to academics, speakers note that children living in poverty have less access to extracurriculars, including enrichment and summer programs.

Following the convening, legislators note how helpful it was to talk with local education leaders and teachers about the challenges they face when it comes to improving student outcomes.

Governor Jim Hunt and UNC President Molly Broad

Wake County Superintendent Bill McNeal


James B. Hunt, Jr. Institute for Educational Leadership and Policy. (2003). 2003 North Carolina Legislators Retreat Summary Report.

December 2003

One year after the first Governors Education Symposium, The Hunt Institute receives a $1.25 million grant from The Wallace Foundation of New York City, an organization that “fosters equity and improvements in learning and enrichment for young people, and in the arts for everyone.”

Recognizing the value of engaging with governors to create state-level education reform, the grant is given to work with governors to improve recruitment and retention of principals and superintendents and improve conditions for school and district leaders to improve student outcomes. The Institute begins this work with Governor Sonny Perdue of Georgia (R) and Governor Mark Warner of Virginia (D).


The Wallace Foundation of New York City. (2003, December 16). Hunt Institute Awarded Grant [Press Release].

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Marshall_Ward_Education Leaders Discuss Social Justice.pdf

September 2004

An article by the University of North Carolina School of Education asks education leaders from the American Association of School Administration, National Association of Secondary School Principals, National Association of Elementary School Principals, National School Boards Association, the Council of Chief State School Officers, and the National Association of State Boards of Education (who are partners of The Institute today) about best practices in addressing social justice issues.

The organizations note that challenges exist in addressing social justice issues, including stressed districts and schools and the sensitive nature of the controversial issues. The respondents suggest adding social justice requirements through improved licensure policies, creation of coalitions, and enhanced thought leadership.


Marshall, Catherine, and Michael Ward. “‘Yes, but …’: Education Leaders Discuss Social Justice.” Journal of School Leadership 14, no. 5 (September 2004): 530–63. https://doi.org/10.1177/105268460401400503.

September 2004

The Hunt Institute hosts its second North Carolina Legislators Retreat, titled Education and Economic Growth In North Carolina. At the time, national projections showed that 20 million new jobs would be created by 2008, with about 14 million of those requiring some form of postsecondary education.

During this convening, attendees dive into North Carolina's Leandro court case. In 1994, 10 families from five lower-income school districts sued North Carolina on the grounds that their children didn't receive the same educational opportunities as those in wealthier districts. The Supreme Court ruled that all students have the right to a “sound basic education."

Additional conversations during the second NCLR convening include discussion around attracting and retaining quality teachers. At the time, North Carolina was ranked first in number of teachers earning certification by the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards, with 8,281 board certified teachers. Today, North Carolina is still ranked first, with 23,090 board certified teachers.


Gerry Hancock introduces his presentation on the Leandro case at the 2004 North Carolina Legislators Retreat


James B Hunt, Jr Institute for Educational Leadership and Policy. (2004). "2004 North Carolina Legislators Retreat."

Photo Credit: Mebane Rash/EdNC

Photo Credit: North Carolina Department of Public Instruction

September 2004
Governor Hunt pens an article in the Journal of School Leadership with Governor John M. Engler (Michigan). At the time, the two former governors served as co-chairs of the National Coalition on Asia and International Studies in the Schools.

In the article, Governors Hunt and Engler caution that students are not receiving education about international matters, especially those taking place in Asia. They encourage modernizations in district and school curriculum to keep the United States competitive in the global marketplace. The governors emphasize that to be leaders, students need knowledge about global issues such as terrorism, poverty, HIV/AIDS, and environmental degradation. To accomplish this, they need to be taught about world regions, cultures, and languages.

The article concludes with a discussion about how governors, universities, and parents play a role in encouraging learning about international topics.


Engler, John M., and James B. Hunt. “Preparing Our Students for Work and Citizenship in the Global Age.” Phi Delta Kappan 86, no. 3 (November 2004): 197–99. https://doi.org/10.1177/003172170408600306.

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October 2005

Matt Liles, a current member of The Hunt Institute’s inaugural Hunt State Policy Fellows Cohort, writes a commentary for The Daily Tar Heel about Erskine Bowles’ appointment as UNC-System President. In the piece, Liles talks about his summer working for The Institute. While at The Institute, the previous UNC-System President Molly Broad asked Liles about The Institute’s projects – something he was amazed by, given the immensity of her position.

He concludes the commentary by asking Erskine Bowles to carry the practice of asking questions, especially from faculty and students.


The Daily Tar Heel. [Chapel Hill, N.C.], Oct. 3, 2005. North Carolina Newspapers, North Carolina Digital Heritage Center, https://newspapers.digitalnc.org/lccn/sn92068245/2005-10-03/ed-1/seq-8/

December 2005

Education Governors of the 21st Century, a guide commissioned by the Wallace Foundation and written by Ferrel Guillory is published. The guide profiles governors from both sides of the aisle, including Governor Jim Hunt (NC), Governor Roy Barnes (GA), and Governor Jim Geringer (WY). In introducing the guide, Wallace Foundation President M. Christine DeVita says, “The future of children and well-being of the states are inextricably bound.”

The guide describes how governors can best exercise leadership for children, teenagers, young adults, and mature adults pursuing education. Much of what is written is still applicable for governors today, as it explores the leadership traits and skills that create the best education governors.

The governor has to pull the superintendent of public instruction, the chair of the State Board of Education, business, community representatives and legislators – everyone with a stake in education policy – to build a single voice for education.



Guillory, Ferrel. "Education Governors for the 21st Century." James B. Hunt Jr. Institute for Educational Leadership and Policy (2005). https://eric.ed.gov/?id=ED505667