Open letter to Rep. Julia Howard – Why are you a primary sponsor of HB2 and not defending it?

Dear Rep. Julia Howard (R) – Davie, Forsyth County,

The April 3, 2016 edition of the Winston-Salem Journal carried a front-page article from Richard Craver entitled “Lawyers: law has wider impact” which talked about the variety of implications of HB2 other than the “bathroom” issue.

While it is no secret that I and many others in North Carolina and outside the state have voiced a very adamant opposition to this bill, I want why you voted for it.

Rather, I should ask you why you were a PRIMARY SPONSOR of HB2.

It is my understanding that when bills are brought to the floor, they must be sponsored, but only four representatives can be listed as “primary sponsors”. All others are “co-sponsors”. If your name is attached to a bill as a primary sponsor when there were many co-sponsors, then you must have really wanted to be associated with this bill.

So I have a list of questions that I would like for you to answer.

Question #1 – Why have you not defended this bill in public?

I find it hard to believe that a 14-term state representative who has been a primary sponsor of such a lightning rod piece of legislation has not been outspoken in its defense. While the governor has been fighting off valid criticism with empty answers and glittering generalities, I have not heard your defense of this bill. If you are content in letting the governor’s words suffice for your own justification of this legislature, then I would reconsider.

Governor McCrory issued on his website a “Myths vs. Facts” outline to defend your bill.  You may find it at http://governor.nc.gov/press-release/myths-vs-facts-what-new-york-times-huffington-post-and-other-media-outlets-arent.

But there is one thing about that link. As of today, April 3rd, at least I (and I am sure many others) are no longer allowed access to it probably because it was taken down. However, I have a copy of the original posting that I will include at the end of this letter.  Once you refer to that, then I would invite you to read Politifact’s response and explain how it is wrong – http://www.politifact.com/north-carolina/statements/2016/mar/30/pat-mccrory/pat-mccrory-wrong-when-he-says-north-carolinas-new/.

I believe it has taken down because the explanation was just as faulty as the bill it was trying to defend. If the explanation of the “common sense” of this law has to be amended, then imagine how logically invalid the actual bill was.

Question #2 – Why rush this bill through in a one-day special session?

I think I know the answer to this. I think a lot of people know the answer to this. It is because this bill is about a power grab and not protecting people.

If you look at the time table of how the bill was introduced and voted upon in a one-day session, you can see how surreptitiously HB2 came into being. Just look at the “Chamber Action” summary of the bill.

History 
Date Chamber Action Documents Vote
03/23/2016 House Filed DRH40005-TC-1B
03/23/2016 House Passed 1st Reading
03/23/2016 House Ref To Com On Judiciary IV
03/23/2016 House Reptd Fav
03/23/2016 House Cal Pursuant Rule 36(b)
03/23/2016 House Added to Calendar
03/23/2016 House Amend Tabled A1 A1: H2-AMS-1-V-5 FAIL: 35-72
03/23/2016 House Amend Failed A2 A2: H2-AMS-2-V-4 FAIL: 35-72
03/23/2016 House Amend Adopted A3 A3: H2-A-NBC-1222 PASS: 107-0
03/23/2016 House Amend Adopted A4 A4: H2-ATC-1-V-1 PASS: 108-0
03/23/2016 House Passed 2nd Reading PASS: 82-26
03/23/2016 House Passed 3rd Reading PASS: 82-26
03/23/2016 House Ordered Engrossed
03/23/2016 House Special Message Sent To Senate
03/23/2016 Senate Special Message Received From House
03/23/2016 Senate Passed 1st Reading
03/23/2016 Senate Ref To Com On Judiciary II
03/23/2016 Senate Reptd Fav
03/23/2016 Senate Placed on Today’s Calendar
03/23/2016 Senate Passed 2nd Reading Roll Call Vote PASS
03/23/2016 Senate Passed 3rd Reading PASS
03/23/2016 Senate Ordered Enrolled
03/23/2016 Ratified
03/23/2016 Pres. To Gov. 3/23/2016
03/23/2016 Signed by Gov. 3/23/2016
03/23/2016 Ch. SL 2016-3

 

Wow! It took me longer to write this open letter than it did for you and your constituents to present this bill and then ramrod it through a successful passage. Those people who barely had time to review the bill and its implications probably did not know the ramifications of their votes. That probably explains the fact that there were democrats who voted for the bill. Yet you may claim it is pure bipartisanship.

What this time frame really means is that you knew if people in the General Assembly had ample opportunity to review it, then it would have had a much harder time to pass. What this time frame really means is that you wanted to make sure it passed without any investigation because as a primary sponsor, you knew that the fine print had far reaching repercussions.

 

Question #3 – Do you really know what HB2 did?

If you are touting that this bill really does protect women and children throughout the state, then explain to me what was reported in the WS Journal this morning. Craver in his article states, “The law removes state court as an option for discrimination lawsuits against employers.”

Again, wow!

So the protection of women and children in Charlotte comes in the form of allowing any business in the state to discriminate against anyone based on gender, religion, creed, nationality, race, gender identity, etc. and not have a legal recourse in state court?

Furthermore, the HB2 bill also places restrictions on “communities’ ability to pursue the best contracts possible since they can no longer require private contractors to pay a wage that’s in line with the local economy.”  In essence, you helped ensure that Raleigh can tell the local communities what they should be able to pay private contractors for work that probably would never affect you personally, but would keep local citizens from making an affordable wage in jobs contracted by cities.

That very notion of a bigger government body telling a local municipality what it can and cannot do doesn’t even sound Republican., especially for someone who is a 14-term Republican.

Question #4 – Do you really care?

I think you do care how it will reflect on you.

You are one of seventeen republicans running in the primary for the newly redefined 13th Congressional District of North Carolina for the U.S. House of Representatives. Might I add that you were part of the effort to redraw the district lines and then another redrawing them because of “gerrymandering” that occurred in the first effort.

It will be interesting to see how you are able to defend your primary sponsorship of HB2 if you become a more visible candidate for this seat by winning the primary.

Rep. Howard, I would invite any answer to these questions.

Who better to explain the common sense of the Public Facilities Privacy and Securities Act than it’s primary sponsor?

Sincerely,

Stuart Egan
A resident of Forsyth County, right across the river from you

 

 

Myths vs. Facts – from Gov. McCrory’s website

1. Does the new bill limit or prohibit private sector companies from adopting their own nondiscrimination policies or practices?
Answer: No. Businesses are not limited by this bill. Private individuals, companies and universities can adopt new or keep existing nondiscrimination policies.
2. Does this bill take away existing protections for individuals in North Carolina?
Answer: No. In fact, for the first time in state history, this law establishes a statewide anti-discrimination policy in North Carolina which is tougher than the federal government’s. This also means that the law in North Carolina is not different when you go city to city.
3. Can businesses and private facilities still offer reasonable accommodations for transgender people, like single occupancy bathrooms for instance?
Answer: Yes. This bill allows and does nothing to prevent businesses, and public or private facilities from providing single use bathrooms.
4. Can private businesses, if they choose, continue to allow transgender individuals to use the bathroom, locker room or other facilities of the gender they identify with, or provide other accommodations?
Answer: Yes. That is the prerogative of private businesses under this new law. For instance, if a privately-owned sporting facility wants to allow attendees of sporting events to use the restroom of their choice, or install unisex bathrooms, they can. The law neither requires nor prohibits them from doing so.
5. Does this law prohibit towns, cities or counties in North Carolina from setting their own nondiscrimination policies in employment that go beyond state law?
Answer: No. Town, cities and counties in North Carolina are still allowed to set stricter non-discrimination policies for their own employees if they choose.
6. Does this bill mean transgender people will always have to use the restroom of the sex of their birth, even if they have undergone a sex change?
Answer: No. This law simply says people must use the bathroom of the sex listed on their birth certificate. Anyone who has undergone a sex change can change their sex on their birth certificate.
7. I’m worried about how this new law affects transgender children or students in North Carolina. Does this bill allow bullying against transgender children in schools?
Answer: Absolutely not. North Carolina law specifically prohibits bullying and harassing behavior against children on the basis of sexual identity.
8. Does this bill affect people with disabilities?
Answer: No. Statewide law also bans discrimination based on disability.
9. Why did North Carolina pass this law in the first place?
Answer: The bill was passed after the Charlotte City Council voted to impose a regulation requiring businesses to allow a man into a women’s restroom, shower, or locker room if they choose. This ordinance would have eliminated the basic expectations of privacy people have when using the rest room by allowing people to use the restroom of their choice. This new local regulation brought up serious privacy concerns by parents, businesses and others across the state, as well as safety concerns that this new local rule could be used by people who would take advantage of this to do harm to others.
In fact, the Charlotte City Council tried to pass this ordinance before but failed, and passed the same ordinance in February of 2016 despite serious concerns from state officials, business leaders and other concerned citizens.
10. What about parents or caregivers bringing children into the restroom?
Answer: The law provides exceptions to young children accompanied by parents or care givers.
11. Will this bill threaten federal funding for public schools under Title IX?
Answer: No, according to a federal court which has looked at a similar issue.
12. Will this bill prevent people from receiving medical attention in an emergency?
Answer: Absolutely not. Nothing will prevent people from receiving medical attention in public or private accommodations.
13. Will this bill affect North Carolina’s ability to create or recruit jobs?
Answer: This bill does not affect companies in North Carolina. North Carolina was one of the top states to do business in the country before this law was passed, and preventing Charlotte’s bathroom ordinance from going into effect on April 1 won’t change that.
14. Why is the state telling cities and towns what it can and can’t do by repealing an ordinance the elected members of the Charlotte City Council passed?
Answer: North Carolina is one of at least 37 states like Virginia where cities and towns cannot pass rules or regulations that exceed the authority given to them by the state. In passing the bathroom ordinance, Charlotte was exceeding its authority and setting rules that had ramifications beyond the City of Charlotte. The legislature acted to address privacy and safety concerns if this ordinance was allowed to go into effect on April 1.
15. Do any other regulations in North Carolina cities, towns or counties come close to what Charlotte was recommending?
Answer: No. Not that we are aware of. Therefore, nothing changes in North Carolina cities, towns and counties, including in Charlotte, regarding discrimination practices and protections now that this law has passed.
16. Did only Republicans vote for this bill?
Answer: No. 11 Democrats voted for this bill in the N.C. House of Representatives and no Democratic Senators voted against it. In fact, Democratic Senators walked out to avoid voting on the issue at all because many were going to vote for it and they did not want show their division.
17. Why did the Legislature call a special session to overturn the bathroom ordinance?
Answer: The new Charlotte ordinance, which would have required all businesses to change their restroom policies and take away the expectation of privacy people have when using the restroom, was going to go into effect on April 1 if no action was taken.
18. Is North Carolina at a disadvantage when it comes to recruiting jobs because it does not have ordinances like the one Charlotte was proposing?
Answer: No. In fact in the last 3 years without an ordinance like this, North Carolina has created the 6th most jobs in the country – over 260,000 net new jobs. We know of no examples of companies being recruited to North Carolina that have asked if the state has an ordinance like the one Charlotte was proposing.

What if Teachers Could Evaluate Gov. McCrory on the Six Standards Used to Measure Them? Yep, if you are a teacher, you want to read this.

What if we teachers and educators were allowed to measure and assess the effectiveness of government officials on a yearly basis? I know, we can vote them out, but have you ever thought about maybe using the criteria of the six standards to measure someone like Gov. McCrory?

 

In this last budget proposal, Gov. Pat McCrory was again championing the unproven idea of merit pay for veteran teachers.  This seems to be in line with the market–driven, business-plan approach to public education that the state government in NC has adopted under McCrory’s administration, and it is suffocating a public school system that was once considered progressive and strong.

 

The criteria by which teachers receive merit pay are still somewhat ambiguous, but considering the approach that the state has taken with teacher evaluations, those criteria will be strongly influenced by standardized test scores and inconsistent teacher evaluations.

 

However, considering that it is a bottom-line figure with which Gov. McCrory wants to measure public educators, maybe we teachers should be able to measure him with the same standards and hold him to merit-based compensation.

 

The results of his evaluation might be staggering.

 

It is not that hard to find comparable criteria between what the Governor could be measured by and how teachers and schools are evaluated.

 

In North Carolina, teachers are evaluated by a process that highlights six different standards. According to the North Carolina Teacher Evaluation Process Manual the first five are rated as follows:

 

  • Developing: Teacher demonstrated adequate growth toward achieving standard(s) during the period of performance, but did not demonstrate competence on standard(s) of performance.
  • Proficient: Teacher demonstrated basic competence on standard(s) of performance.
  • Accomplished: Teacher exceeded basic competence on standard(s) of performance most of the time.
  • Distinguished: Teacher consistently and significantly exceeded basic competence on standard(s) of performance.
  • Not Demonstrated: Teacher did not demonstrate competence on or adequate growth toward achieving standard(s) of performance.

 

For the purpose of this evaluation, the word “Teacher” would be replaced by “Governor.”

 

Standard #1 – Achievement Gap / Income Gap

In education, the “achievement gap” refers to the disparity in student achievement between white students and minority students.  And while public schools continue to find ways to bridge that gap with limited resources, it must be pointed out that Gov. McCrory and the GOP-led General Assembly has its own gap to consider: the income gap.

 

In August of 2014 (after McCrory had been in office for over a year), Business Insider published a report from the Brookings Institute that highlighted the 15 cities where poverty is growing fastest in the nation. Greensboro-High Point tied for 10th, Winston-Salem tied for 8th, and Raleigh tied for 3rd…with Charlotte.  Over 20 percent of our public school students are under the poverty line.  Any educator can tell you the effect that poverty has on students, and if a disproportionate number of those kids are minorities, then it will show in student achievement scores and translate in to achievement gaps.

 

One only has to see a map of all the plotted grades for each school established by the NC General Assembly. Of the 707 schools that received a “D” or an “F” from the state, 695 qualify as schools with high poverty. Wow!

 

Rating = Not Demonstrated

 

 

Standard #2 – Adherence to Curriculum / Adherence to State Constitution

In my ten years in NC public schools, I am about to embark on my third change in curriculum (if the current Common Core is revised). A curriculum is like a guideline, a map, a blueprint for what is to be taught. Supposedly, if I follow the curriculum, my students will succeed on state tests. If I do not follow the prescribed curriculum, then I am subject to a variety of disciplinary actions, even dismissal. According to the Governor and the NCGA, teachers who adhere to standards and successfully prepare students for tests that measure those standards, then our state will succeed in preparing our students for the 21st Century.

 

The state government has a curriculum guide of sorts. It’s called the North Carolina Constitution and can be found here: http://www.ncga.state.nc.us/legislation/constitution/ncconstitution.html.

 

The NC Constitution has what are labeled as “Articles” and “Sections” which read very much like the “Strands” and “Standards” of our current curriculum, the Common Core. One particular item in the NC Constitution seems to be pertinent in this conversation. It is Article IX, Sec. 2, part 1, entitled “Uniform System of Schools” which states, “The General Assembly shall provide by taxation and otherwise for a general and uniform system of free public schools, which shall be maintained at least nine months in every year, and wherein equal opportunities shall be provided for all students.”

 

If this is a standard that the Governor could be measured by, then he would need to do a lot of explaining considering the increasing amount of charter schools he has helped enable and his promotion of a voucher system disguised as “opportunity grants” to privatize public education.

 

Sounds as if the Governor is not following his curriculum guide.

 

Rating = Not Demonstrated

 

 

Standard #3 – Maintaining a safe atmosphere conducive to learning / Maintaining a safe environment conducive to living

Students cannot learn effectively if the environment in which they are put is not safe. Bullying and other forms of social abuse must be addressed by educators in classrooms and on campus. One of the criteria that I am measured by strictly pertains to the conditions of my classroom and my ability to maintain a favorable atmosphere for learning.

 

The Governor also has a responsibility to help maintain a conducive atmosphere: one for living safely. It is no secret that Gov. McCrory had a long and intimate relationship with Duke Power before he became a politician. However, after the recent coal ash spills into rivers attributed to Duke power plants, the Governor was very slow to respond. Is it not his job to quickly act in such a way as to never allow that to happen again? Is it his responsibility to make sure that guilty parties are held accountable? It’s almost like he allowed the bullying of some students to continue in his class before even mentioning that there might be misbehavior.

 

Furthermore, with the fast-tracking of hydraulic drilling licenses and the promotion of an unregulated “fracking” industry, the Governor may be helping to contaminate the very ground on which many live. Considering that he is promoting a STEM curricular focus, maybe he should listed to scientists who know more about the effects of fracking rather than follow a profit trail.

 

 

Rating = Not Demonstrated

 

 

Standard #4 – Students who are measured as “Proficient” / North Carolinians who make minimum wage

If I am a Governor who has touted himself as an educational reformer and am mounting up a reelection campaign, then I will make sure that the numbers from my first term speak well of my achievements.

 

When students are tested with standardized tests, then student achievement is measured in numbers. If I design the measuring techniques and am able to disseminate outcomes, then I can control how those numbers are interpreted and reported. For instance, take proficiency rates. If I need to show progress, I need only change the cut scores. It’s sort of like declaring that our state now has gotten “skinnier” because we now use a different Mass/Body Index score as the threshold for obesity.

 

We have a minimum wage of $7.25 / hour and with the current administration that number will not rise. In fact, any mention of raising the minimum wage here in NC has fallen on deaf ears. The inaction on this issue suggests that according to the Governor and the NCGA our minimum wage is “proficient” enough to sustain adequate living conditions. However, inflation occurs and prices rise. What is really needed is an adequate living wage.  If we really are experiencing this “Carolina Comeback” (McCrory’s nickname for his first term), should we not be seeing more jobs created that pay well above the minimum wage? If we are experiencing this “Carolina Comeback,” then why are over 1 in 5 children in the state considered to be under the poverty line?

 

Rating = Not Demonstrated

 

 

Standard #5 – Use of educational resources / Creation of resources to help education

When you as a teacher are allowed to declare a tax credit on materials that you buy for use in the classroom, then you know that you are not given all the materials you need to help students achieve optimally.

 

But this does not have to be the case. The Governor last year touted that North Carolina was spending more on education than ever before. What he did not articulate is that while more money was being budgeted overall, it did not keep in pace with population growth and the entrance of new students into the public school system. In fact, NC still ranks last in the Southeast in per pupil expenditures, and we are actually spending less per student this year in real dollars than last year (not even taking inflation into consideration).

 

Yet teachers are still doing more with less. Take for instance, textbooks. Most systems in North Carolina are using outdated textbooks for math and science. There has been a curriculum change since most systems adopted new textbooks. Yet, in order to meet the needs of students, schools are having to do more with less.

 

And by the way, that tax credit for teachers has been eliminated as of the end of 2014. It must be part of that Carolina Comeback.

 

Rating = Not Demonstrated

 

 

In North Carolina, teachers have a sixth standard by which they are measured that puts into consideration “a student growth value as calculated by the statewide growth model for educator effectiveness.”

 

The ratings for this sixth standard are not the same as for the first five. They are as follows (again from the North Carolina Teacher Evaluation Process Manual):

 

  • Does not meet expected growth: The student growth value for the teacher is lower than what was expected per the statewide growth model.
  • Meets expected growth: The student growth value for the teacher is what was expected per the statewide growth model.
  • Exceeds expected growth: The student growth value for the teacher exceeds what was expected per the statewide growth model

 

For the purpose of this evaluation, the word “Teacher” would be replaced by “Governor” and “student” will be replaced by “state.”

Standard #6 – School Effectiveness / Effectiveness of Governor to serve

We need only look at a few factors to determine the Governor’s effectiveness to serve all North Carolinians. Consider the following:

 

  • It is hard to raise academic ceilings when too many North Carolinians are worried about the ceiling over their heads.
  • It is hard for people to be healthy when NC’s government refuses to expand Medicaid, but we still fund the federal program for other states.
  • It is impossible to nurture the intellectual health of a student when many are too hungry and sick to concentrate on learning.
  • It is impossible to keep qualified teachers when salary supplements for graduate degrees has been eliminated and when “historic pay raises” still keep NC teachers in the lowest tier for teacher pay in the nation.

 

 

Rating = Does Not Meet Expected Growth

 

If we were using the above criteria for evaluating whether or not the Governor should be afforded extra pay based on merit, then the answer would be an emphatic “NO!”

 

In fact, he may owe money back to the state. And so much for that Carolina Comeback; sounds more like the “Carolina Fallback” to me.

My post on DianeRavitch.net – asking for the Network for Public Education to not cancel conference in Raleigh in regards to HB2

I have been fortunate to have Dr. Diane Ravitch post some of my op-eds and open letters on her national blog. She posted this one yesterday. Take a look if you can and if you are anyone who advocates for public education, there is space left for the conference in Raleigh for April 15-17. I’ll even buy you a cup of coffee.

http://dianeravitch.net/2016/03/31/stuart-egan-why-npe-must-come-to-north-carolina/