A Picture is Worth a Thousand Syllables – Senate Budget Press Conference on Teacher Pay

 

Alex Granados of EdNC.org did a nice job of reporting on the Senate press conference on teacher pay proposal on May 26th (https://www.ednc.org/2016/05/26/senate-unveils-teacher-salary-pay-plan/).

If you go to the actual story on EdNC’s website, there is a video of the press conference. In it you will see who is present.

senatepressconference.png

Of course, Sen. Phil Berger is at the podium, but many may not recognize the others. Over Berger’s left shoulder is Sen. David Curtis. Ironic that he is on stage after his historic missive from two years ago in response to teacher Sarah Wiles when he literally bashed public school teachers (http://wunc.org/post/teacher-email-legislators-draws-harsh-reply#stream/0).

Here is the text of that letter. If you are reading it again, then it is worth reviewing. If you have never read it, then brace yourself. He actually did a “reply all” when he sent it on his government email account which made it public property.

From: Sen. David Curtis

Date: May 12, 2014 at 9:46:57

Dear Sarah,

I have given your e-mail titled “I am embarrassed to confess: I am a teacher” some thought, and these are my ideas.  A teacher has an incredible influence on students–for good or for bad. My teachers, coaches, and Boy Scout leaders had a great influence on my decision to go to college which was not a family tradition. My concern is that your students are picking up on your attitude toward the teaching profession. Since you naturally do not want to remain in a profession of which you are ashamed, here are my suggestions for what you should tell your potential new private sector employer:

  1. You expect to make a lot more than you made as a teacher because everyone knows how poorly compensated teachers are.
  2. You expect at least eight weeks paid vacation per year because that is what the taxpayers of North Carolina gave you back when you were a poorly compensated teacher
  3. You expect a defined contribution retirement plan that will guarantee you about $35,000 per year for life after working 30 years even if you live to be 104 years old. Your employer will need to put about $16,000 per year into your retirement plan each year combined with your $2,000 contribution for the next 30 years to achieve this benefit.  If he objects, explain to him that a judge has ruled that the taxpayers of North Carolina must provide this benefit to every public school teacher. Surely your new employer wants to give better benefits than the benefits you received as a poorly compensated teacher.
  4. Your potential employer may tell you that he has heard that most North Carolina workers make less than the national average because we are a low cost-of-living- state, private sector workers making 87% of the national average and teachers making 85% of the national average.  Tell him that may be true, but to keep that confidential because the teachers union has convinced parents that teachers are grossly undercompensated based on a flawed teachers union survey of teacher pay.

I support the teacher pay raise but am very concerned that the teachers union has successfully presented to the public a deceptive view of total teacher compensation that is simply not consistent with the facts.

Sincerely,

Senator David Curtis

The backlash from teachers was intense. Dr. Diane Ravitch was kind enough to post my letter to him on her blog (https://dianeravitch.net/2014/05/20/a-teacher-in-north-carolina/ ). It was my first venture into public education advocacy that has eventually led to this blog.

And Sen. Curtis is standing up there as a crusader for the teaching profession.

If you look to the far right of the screen, you will see Sen. Tom Apodaca. His recent legislative attempt is the Access to Affordable College Education Act that was recently rolled into the very budget this press conference is about.

These are not the faces of people championing public education.

SB 873 – Shame on Apodaca and Kraweic – The Farce of the Access to Affordable College Education Act

Note: Be sure to view a note by John de Ville, public school advocate and Hope Street Fellow from Macon County, following this op-ed. He highlights that Western Carolina University has strong reservations and provides a link to their statement on SB 873 – The Affordable College Education Act. Thanks to John.

Sen. Joyce Kraweic is now offering red herrings from the North Carolina General Assembly’s political menu, and it serves as a reminder that there are many in our General Assembly who are simply intent on hurting public education.

John Hinton’s feature story in the May 29th edition of the Winston-Salem Journal, “Bill to lower WSSU tuition draws fire”, outlines the Access to Affordable College Education Act which was introduced by Sen. Tom Apodaca and co-sponsored by our local state senator.

The bill “would require Winston-Salem State University, Fayetteville State University, Elizabeth City State University, UNC Pembroke and Western Carolina University, to lower tuition beginning in the 2018 fall semester to $500 for state residents and $2,500 for out-of-state residents.” That would cut current tuition by %69 for in-state students, almost %61 for out-of-state students.

In what is being hailed by Apodaca and Kraweic as a means to make education more affordable for students, this bill would spell certain bankruptcy for these schools which include flagship HBCU’s and the largest public college campus west of Asheville. It is a pure and simple attack on the public university system in our state.

While Apodaca could not be reached for explanation, Sen. Krawiec gave enough political spin to reveal the absence of foresight evident in this bill and a lack of being educated on how this legislation would devalue what these schools offer students.

When asked about the impetus for this bill, Krawiec stated, “The cost of education in North Carolina has skyrocketed over the past 10 years, rising by 72 percent.”

It would make more sense for the senator to find out why tuition has “skyrocketed” and attack those causes, one of which is the state’s unwillingness to extend more funds to the entire UNC system to help defray costs for our state’s students by slowing tuition hikes.

Or better yet, stop putting more of the state’s tax burden on the very people who send their students to these public universities. Extending Medicaid might ease financial burdens for many; fully funding k-12 public schools would give all public school students a better chance to succeed in post-secondary studies; slowing down the siphoning of money to unregulated charter schools and unproven vouchers would save money that could be reinvested in public systems.

However, more of the actual intention of this bill appears in Kraweic’s last quote in the report. She says, ““We must find a way to increase student population and provide a quality education,” she said. “The buildings still have to be maintained and professors compensated even when classrooms are nearly empty. The legislature has committed to compensate any shortfall in funding due to reduced tuition.”

When Sen. Kraweic states that the legislature is “committed” to repay any budget shortfalls to the universities because of tuition revenue loss, she does not mention that Apodaca has already admitted that the bill “wouldn’t commit future legislators to continue that funding to the UNC system” after the first year. So, how would that really benefit these affected colleges and universities?

It wouldn’t. It would simply drive down their appeal to students because if the university cannot recoup revenue losses, then the ability to attract a viable faculty, keep the best resources on hand for students, offer financial packages through scholarships, and ultimately get alumni donations will all diminish.

More egregious is that this bill targets schools with a history of educating minorities, one of which is literally next to Kraweic’s district, Winston-Salem State University. Her own bill would hurt the very community that she serves, the very people she is supposed to represent.

Most ironic is that Sen. Kraweic is a real-estate broker by trade. She should know better than anyone that the price of a piece of property is intrinsically tied to its value. That is not to say that if one simply raises the price on something that the value automatically goes up. The market will even that out.

However, if one all of a sudden lowers the price on a piece of property by over %60, then there is a perception that what is offered is not as valuable. What would happen to the senator’s property value if the house next to hers sold for one-third of its value? Would the state come in and repay that financial setback? It wouldn’t.

Comparably, if schools like Winston-Salem State offer an education for a fraction of the cost to supply it, like any business, it would go bankrupt.

And the senator should know that.

 

From John de Ville:

The faculty of Western Carolina University says, in a blinding flash of strenuous diplomacy, that they understand perfectly well the NC Senate’s goal to crash them into the mountain and convert the venerable institution into a community college:

“Part III. Reduced tuition at certain institutions.

This is certainly the most attention-getting provision of the bill; it is both the most immediately attractive feature, and simultaneously the most problematic. A tuition rate of $500 per semester, if offered equally to students across the state, and, if matched with an identical investment back into the affected campuses, would be a great benefit for the people of the state. It would reflect the ideals represented in our state Constitution, and would clearly support a commitment to accessible, affordable, extraordinary higher education for North Carolina citizens.

Unfortunately, the current version of the bill only mandates the $500 tuition fee for five universities, does not offer a rationale behind selecting those universities, and provides no promise or even hint of current or future funding to make up for the catastrophic cut in these five universities’ budgets. We appreciate the verbal commitment by the bill’s sponsor to include an appropriate offset in the upcoming Senate budget (as reported in the News and Observer). However, having the $500 tuition cap in one bill, and the offset funding in a single biennium budget, creates a very precarious funding scenario for future years—when the overall cost of the plan is likely to increase many-fold. In order to make sure these universities are able to continue to provide a quality educational product to their students, the method of funding this plan should be included in the same bill as the plan itself.”

https://docs.google.com/document/d/19zlO7AqnFkUKGVqVxNAFbEERWZbMksgT8PHc-LVeFYU/edit

3 Negatives Do Not Make a Positive – Senator Berger’s Hiding in the Details

This past week Sen. Phil Berger and other GOP leaders announced a skeletal proposal to raise teacher salaries this summer session. Yet, while it appears to be a great gain on the outside, it lacks enough explanation to remove doubt.

The Associated Press reported in “Senate GOP would pay teachers more than House, McCrory” that,

Berger said the Senate’s entire plan would cost $538 million over two years and not require tax increases, relying instead on a stronger economy and healthy state revenues to pay for it. Pressed for what other spending changes, if any, would be needed to carry it out, he responded: “Once you see the full budget, you’ll be able to see the details about it.”

Stronger economy and healthy state revenues. Interesting use of words.

Let us not forget that there are multiple issues at work here in the GOP’s legislative landscape and they are not mutually exclusive. When people hear “stronger economy and healthy state revenues,” they should ask, “Who is it stronger for and who is healthier for it?”

That stronger, healthier economy was built on many things that were actually deleterious to working North Carolinians. Think of the tax deductions and exemptions that were eliminated for many middle-class families. While the state could now claim to have “lowered” taxes, many families were actually giving more money to the state because they could not claim item deductions as they could in the past.

Furthermore, factor in new sales tax laws because of the move to a consumer driven economy where most of the consuming is done by the very people who pay a higher percentage of their income to purchase necessities.

Healthy state revenues? How about just looking at health? Remember the fiasco of the Department of Health and Human Services under the leadership of Dr. Vos at the beginning of the governor’s term? That was just a snapshot at how much the state needed to look at the expansion of Medicaid in the state. However, instead of expanding Medicaid, the current administration chose to side with partisan political egos and refuse federal help.

In a state that has almost one in four children living in poverty how can one claim a healthy environment? Just add some coal ash ponds and an unregulated fracking industry and “healthy” becomes an antithetical word. It could almost be construed that mentioning teacher salary raises is an attempt at camouflaging how we came to have the very “strong” and “healthy” economy that was created in order to play for it.

That’s like killing two birds with one stone – downplaying how we as a state came to a surplus and proselytizing how we value teachers.

Yet, still lurking in the background is the HB2 issue. Remember the dueling lawsuits that are now active over the discrimination of the LGBT community, the people who still pay the very taxes other citizens pay and support or attend the same schools? The lost business revenue from boycotts is always up for debate, but it is happening. It has an effect on the health and strength of our economy.

But, when we are asked to focus on the great (and still nebulous) news that North Carolina wants to pay its teachers more, then we tend to forget what negative aspects of our state’s actions are still having repercussions.

Sounds like it is almost deliberate. Downplay how we changed state revenue pipelines to affect the middle-class adversely, ignore the impending legal battle over HB2 that will surely costs taxpayers much, and gloss over the fact that North Carolina has treated public education horribly and one might understand how Senator Berger’s statement in the Associated Press’s report could indeed be incredibly deliberate.

It tries to kill three birds with one stone. Or with one commode (from a public unisex bathroom).

Ignoring three negatives with a glossy positive statement does not solve problems, which makes the last part of Berger’s quote that much more important. He said, “Once you see the full budget, you’ll be able to see the details about it.”

The devil resides in the details.

Amen!, Learn ‘Em for America!,Walking Paradoxes, A Man With His Head up His ASD, and Phil – The Week in Review for May 23-29

https://caffeinatedrage.com/2016/05/24/can-i-get-a-confirmation-from-the-congregation-how-governor-mccrory-has-brought-me-closer-to-god/

https://caffeinatedrage.com/2016/05/25/teach-for-merica/

https://caffeinatedrage.com/2016/05/26/walk-like-an-egyptian-not-like-a-contradiction/

https://caffeinatedrage.com/2016/05/27/another-stupid-decision-an-open-letter-to-rep-rob-bryan-concerning-asd/

https://caffeinatedrage.com/2016/05/27/sen-bergers-new-website-bs-i-mean-propaganda-at-its-best/

Sen. Berger’s New Website -BS – I Mean – Propaganda At Its Best

Sen. Phil Berger is playing politician again. In this election year, he and his GOP comrades have ramped up their “strong talk” on their commitment to adequately fund public schools and pay teachers a comparable salary on the national level.

And part of his talk is defending himself against the vicious attacks from those who do not agree with his actions surrounding public education these past five-six years. His office stated this week when introducing measures to raise teacher pay,

“Democrats, teachers unions and liberal editorial boards have made teacher pay and school funding their political rallying cry since Republicans won control of the state House and Senate in 2010 – accusing the conservative majorities of starving public schools and short-changing educators. They often cite national union rankings that leave North Carolina in the low 40s in teacher pay.

But comparing even the current teacher salaries to the old plan Democrats left in the wake of a $2.5 billion budget deficit tells a different story. Over the past two years, legislative leaders and Governor McCrory partnered to pass a significant raise that lifted starting teacher pay from $30,000 to $35,000. The Senate plan announced Wednesday was an even more devastating blow to the liberal mindmeld – it could move North Carolina as many as 23 spots in the same teacher pay rankings.”

Ironically, this statement pretty much proves the politicizing of something that should never be politicized – public education. Words like “Democrats”, “unions”, “liberal”, and the Spock-inspired “mindmeld” are pointed diction. Blaming national union rankings that are considered to be the standard across the nation is funny when you claim your plan would be a success using the very same rankings. Talking about a budget deficit as if it did not happen to all states because of the Great Recession is generalizing a much more complicated issue. But it is expected.

So what is the actual plan?

A website appeared on the landscape this week that adds even more shade to an already shady proposition. Here is the home page for www.ncteacherraise.com. Notice it has the red, white, and blue of the American Flag or the colors of the new “America” Beer once known as Budweiser.

Berger1

A few questions/concerns pop into my head when first looking at this patriotic website. The first is the banner at the top, “Attracting Excellent Teachers. Building Excellent Public Schools.” Nothing could be more antithetical to the truth.

In reality, it should say, “Spurning Excellent Teachers. Razing Excellent Public Schools.” Why? Because the very same NC GOP party that created this website also has done or enabled the following in the last three years:

  • Allowed teacher pay to continue to drop when adjusted for inflation (http://www.wral.com/after-inflation-nc-teacher-pay-has-dropped-13-in-past-15-years/15624302/).
  • Removed due process rights for new teachers to keep them from advocating loudly for students and schools.
  • Removed graduate degree pay bumps for teachers entering the profession.
  • Instituted a Value Added Measurement system and Standard 6, an amorphous and unproven way to measure teacher effectiveness.
  • Pushed for merit pay when no evidence exists that it works.
  • Attacks on teacher advocacy groups like NCAE.
  • Created a revolving door of standardized tests that do not measure student growth.
  • Lowered the amount of money spent per pupil in the state.
  • Removed class size caps.
  • Instituted a Jeb Bush style school grading system that is unfair and does nothing more than show how poverty affects public schools.
  • Created an uncontrolled and unregulated system of vouchers called Opportunity Grants.
  • Fostered charter school growth that has not improved the educational landscape and siphons money from the public school system.
  • Created failing virtual schools outsourced to private industry.
  • Allowed for an Achievement School District to be considered for legislation.
  • Eliminated the Teaching Fellows Program.
  • Created an atmosphere of disrespect for teachers that teaching candidate numbers in colleges and universities have dropped 30%.

The second and more glaring aspect of this website is the need for anyone to have to place a name, email, and zip code in the fields in order to get any information – information that should not have any strings attached to it in order to access it.

Why would anyone have to give personal information to hear about this? Well, I did with generic information. The zip code is the one for the NC General Assembly.

Berger2

And I got this.

Berger3

And this…

Berger4

The first chart with the line graph simply says that a teacher in North Carolina will get to the maximum salary within 15 years of experience. But it is interesting to see how the proposed 2017-2018 salary looks inviting.

THAT’S BECAUSE ALL OF THE OTHER ONES ARE THAT BAD. When you have nothing to look at except horrible options and then you present an option that is a little less horrible, that last option will really stick out as amazing to many people. But it isn’t.

It still shows that the highest amount of salary a new teacher will ever make is 50,000. That’s terrible. As one sees his/her children grow and want to go to college, the amount of money being netted still amounts to the same. Not many teachers will appreciate making the same amount of money in year 30 as he/she did in year 15. And it totally negates that there is no longer longevity pay for veteran teachers, and no longer advanced degree pay or due process rights for new teachers.

Furthermore, it’s just a proposal. A fictitious line in the sand.

The second screen shot highlights some spun numbers and explanations of those numbers. Allow me to translate the information.

  1. $54,224 – New teacher average salary (including local supplements). This number is putting into account current teachers who do still have advanced degree pay and due process rights. They will retire first if they do not change professions. If the proposal shown in the first table is to go into effect, the average will go down over time as the top salary would be 50,000 for those who just entered or will enter the teaching profession. It’s hard to have an average salary over the highest amount given for a salary.
  2. $9,234 – Average teacher raise since 2013. First it shows how bad salaries were, but this number is truly aided by the fact that most of the raises since 2013 were for newer teachers. Veteran teachers like myself did not receive those raises. Teachers who are just starting out got them. And it does not count graduate degree pay that many veteran teachers receive in order to help them stay in the profession. Oh, and longevity pay? Gone, as teachers no longer get that. And there is also that word, “average,” which so many times does not even equate to “actual”.
  3. #1 – Projected teacher pay ranking in the southeast. I would imagine that other states have seen the lesson shown in NC that the NCGA has not learned yet. And that is other states will also keep raising teacher salaries to keep their schools filled. And there is another word used like “average” – it is “projected.” I will believe it when I see it.
  4. #24 – Projected teacher pay ranking in the nation. Remember those historic raises from 2013 that were supposed to launch us to the middle of the pack in the nation on teacher pay? That projection did not happen. We went from 42nd to …………….41st.
  5. 15 – Number of years it will take to earn a $50,000 salary. Number of years it will take after 15 years to make more than $50,000? Eternity.
  6. 33 – Number of years it took to reach $50,000 under the Democrats’ plan. Well, you have me there. No actually you don’t. Are we referring to the plan of the “Democrats” right before the Great Recession or right after it happened? Either way, the “Democrats’ plan” had longevity pay, due-process rights, advanced degree pay bumps, and kept the health benefits at a steady pace. Adding in those factors and you might see why teaching as a career in North Carolina back before 2013 was much more inviting than it is now.
  7. $198,650 – A teacher’s additional pay over a 30-year career. Again, misleading. First, the $50,000 salary cap at year 15 is designed to make sure that veteran teachers do not stay in the profession. Secondly, this projection is not taking into account that the current retirement system may change. Look at all of the changes that have occurred in only the last three years. Imagine what might be planned for the next thirty.

Maybe the saddest part about all of this is the time wasted in giving the NC Republican Party my name and email address to keep on file to repeatedly send me more spun rhetoric.

Actually, I didn’t give my real name. The one I supplied was fictitious.

Just like this proposed plan is.

Another Stupid Decision – An Open Letter to Rep. Rob Bryan Concerning ASD

In a vote of 18 to 11, you and the House Committee on Education, pushed through a bill that would establish an ASD (Achievement School District) in North Carolina allowing the control of some of our low-performing schools to be outsourced to out-of-state entities.

Why?

It is egregious that a leading legislator who claims to have an educational background as an alumnus of Teach for America had to craft the original version of this bill last year behind closed doors. Oftentimes when one secretly meets with others of his choosing, then those “others” tend to have like-minded views. Even Rep. Tim Moore appointed one of the bill’s co-sponsors, Rep. John Bradford III, another republican from your home county to the committee to help it pass.

Interestingly enough you endorsed some enlightening statements concerning your views on public education on the website, http://www.friendsofrob.com/about. It states,

“Raised by a teacher and an engineer, Rob spent his first two years after college participating in the Teach for America program. In a low-income school in inner-city Los Angeles, he saw firsthand the problems created by non-innovative, bureaucratic districts unwilling or unable to change. Red tape and politics prevented teachers, principals, and parents from choosing the creative solutions that would work for their students.”

There is a lot of information there. Your tenure in the classroom, while admirable, was not long at all. Most teachers in NC went through more time training to become a teacher than you were in the actual classroom. You worked in a poverty-stricken inner-city school, the same kind of schools you labeled as failing with a Jeb Bush style grading system that you helped create. Furthermore, you have actually helped foster an environment that keeps those poverty-stricken schools under the foot of government by lowering per pupil expenditures and vilifying veteran educators. And now you meet with a loaded committee who is willing to siphon money to charter schools run by out-of-state private entities?

You also said in your statement, “Red tape and politics prevented teachers, principals, and parents from choosing the creative solutions that would work for their students.” You are exactly right. But if one sees the actions that you as a legislator have participated in while crafting the current educational landscape here in NC, I think one could label you as part of that “red tape and politics.”

Consider your actions on the following:

  • Allowed teacher pay to continue to drop when adjusted for inflation.
  • Removed due process rights for new teachers to keep them from advocating loudly for students and schools.
  • Removed graduate degree pay bumps for teachers entering the profession.
  • Lowered the amount of money spent per pupil in the state.
  • Removed class size caps.
  • Instituted a Jeb Bush style school grading system that is unfair and does nothing more than show how poverty affects public schools.
  • Created an uncontrolled and unregulated system of vouchers called Opportunity Grants.
  • Fostered charter school growth that has not improved the educational landscape and siphons money from the public school system.
  • Eliminated the Teaching Fellows Program.
  • Created an atmosphere of disrespect for teachers that teaching candidate numbers in colleges and universities have dropped 30%.

That sounds like creating obstacles, not removing them.

It seems that if you wanted to really remove “red tape and politics” then you would attack the root of the problems like the lack of medical care and lack of economic stability for those people who send students to the very schools you want to outsource.

Furthermore, you seem to be placing a lot of “faith” in an unproven solution. I wrote to you last summer about how unproven the ASD districts were in Tennessee. I stated,

“You claim to have talked with the Tennessee governor and those responsible for the Achievement School District. Simply do a “Google” search on ASD in Memphis and you see the polarizing results of Tennessee’s experiment with the charter school takeover. Whether the criticisms are all valid or not, the fact that so much animosity exists begs for there to be more open discussion about the use of charter schools to “takeover” failing schools. And Rep. Bryan, the words “open discussion” never really apply to you when it concerns your phantom bill.

In reading the Oct. 29, 2013 article from The Atlantic entitled “When Outsiders Take Over Schools: Lessons From Memphis”, I noticed that those who praise the ASD’s efforts talked about the smaller classes, more one-on-one teaching, and tighter structure. If those are ingredients for success in turning around schools, then why are you advocating policies that remove class size caps, lower per pupil expenditures, and abolish teaching assistants in the very schools you hope will be taken over?”

When confronted with the questionable nature of ASD’s results in TN, you seemed to acknowledge its limitations. An NC Policy Watch report (http://pulse.ncpolicywatch.org/2016/05/25/breaking-house-committee-approves-controversial-achievement-school-district-bill/) reported,

“On Wednesday, Bryan acknowledged “mixed results” for the program in Tennessee, but argued that the district did report some gains in the third year of operations.

“We can compare it to other states, but we’re looking to create something unique for North Carolina with its own guard-rails and parameters where we’re learning from other states,” said Bryan.

You never engaged in a public debate about how to best help our “failing” schools with our own proven resources. There are state-driven teams that are doing good work using taxpayer money to reinvest in our schools. But it seems that you want someone to profit from this monetarily. Dr. June Atkinson, whose opinion about public schools I trust because she has extensive educational experience, even has cautioned you about ASD’s.

Atkinson told Policy Watch in January that she believes the state “would get a better return on their investments by going with a model that has proven positive results.”

Atkinson said the state’s efforts would be better spent offering additional support and funding to low-performing schools, in addition to greater flexibility in their calendar and curriculum.

But that would not profit anyone monetarily, would it now?

In fact, when looking at the whole picture, it seems that you are trying to solve a problem that you have helped to create with even a worse solution.

 

Walk Like An Egyptian, Not Like a Contradiction

The term “walking contradiction” describes someone who says one thing and then acts in a contradictory fashion.  Nowhere do we get a better example of the “walking contradiction” than with politicians who knowingly and blatantly make statements that contradict their own actions.

In North Carolina, we have our own walking contradictions. One of them is our governor, Pat McCrory. Another is the leader of the state Senate, Phil Berger, Sr.

Gov. McCrory has been on a vocal crusade to “improve” public education making glittering generalities about how he and the GOP-led General Assembly (chiefly Sen. Berger) have raised teacher pay, given more educational resources to families in need, and held educators accountable for student achievement. Yet, the policies that he and the GOP-led NCGA have championed in no way improved public education or benefited students in traditional schools.

Take for instance teacher pay. Last summer, in his budget proposal, McCrory told North Carolinians that he would raise starting teacher pay to 35,000 to help attract new vibrant talent to teach our kids. While this might be perceived as a good start, he totally contradicted the words that he made when visiting Wilson Academy of Applied Technology in February, 2015.

As reported by Chris Fitzsimon of the NC Policy Watch on Feb 10th, McCrory said he would “convince a ninth grader that when (he) graduates (and has) the chance to make $65,000 a year in a job, where in another profession after getting into a lot of debt, the starting salary is $25,000 to $30,000 a year, then (he) should go for that higher paying job.”

 

In essence, he just told students to not enter the educational field; they would not make much money and have lots of student debt. Ironically, this is the same governor who has allowed people like Sen. Phil Berger and then Rep. Thom Tillis to pass legislation that reduced funding for public universities resulting in students going into more debt to get a college education. Even more caustic is that under McCrory’s watch, North Carolina’s GOP-led General Assembly has eliminated the Teaching Fellows Program and abolished teacher longevity pay as well as pay raises for advanced degrees. In fact, most ending salaries for NC teachers who reach thirty years of experience never approach $65,000. The current top salary a new teacher could make who enters now is capped at 50,000.

 

More egregious still is that McCrory made this speech at a magnet school that was not slated to graduate any student from its five-year program until 2020 and only 75 students at that.

 

I am not against magnet schools or early colleges. Some offer great programs for a diverse dynamic student body. Especially in rural areas that need economic avenues for students to work toward, these alliances with community colleges are beneficial. But their success should in no way impede or take away from what traditional high schools do every day. In fact, if McCrory wants more of these alliances between community colleges and the public school system, then he should invest more into public education. An educated public gives back to its community and that is what sustains community colleges through bonds and SPLOST (special-purpose local-option sales tax) money.

 

So, what are Gov. McCrory and leaders like Sen. Phil Berger doing for the hundreds of thousands of students who attend traditional schools and have ambitions other than STEM related fields? In the time that Wilson Academy will graduate 75 students, the traditional high school where I serve will graduate over 2500 students. Nearly 800 of them will have matriculated through my classroom. And not all of them want to enter a profession that is STEM-related.  God forbid some may want to become writers, journalists, maybe politicians or even English teachers.

 

North Carolina needs not just people to fill STEM related jobs; we need people to be able to do any job, whether it be in information technology, tourism, health care or the film industry. What “Gates Foundation reformers” like McCrory and Berger want is for the free market to determine how schools operate. What they fail to realize is that if you educate students effectively in multiple disciplines and skill-sets, then they can actually be innovators and create markets that vitalize our economy.

 

But I do see how Gov. McCrory and Sen. Berger would have benefitted from a STEM curriculum. Maybe an extra science class would have taught them that when Duke Energy stores coal ash in a weak repository that leaks into rivers it will create a massive environmental problem which takes time and money to fix. Maybe an extra technology class would have taught them that overhauling DHHS just to refute the Affordable Care Act requires more than just a few new computer programs. Maybe an extra math class would have taught them that tax breaks for the wealthy create an unequitable burden on the rest of North Carolinians.

 

Interestingly, McCrory’s budget proposal last year also made mention of needing over 1000 new teachers to help respond to the population boom in North Carolina. However, how can one make the claim to offer our students an optimum public education when all of his actions seem to be driving dynamic teachers away from the profession? In a 2015 NPR Education news story, Eric Westervelt chronicled the drop in enrollment of teacher candidates within education schools across the country, highlighting North Carolina’s twenty percent reduction in education majors. Combine that drop in enrollment with high attrition levels due to teachers leaving the profession early because of low salaries and disrespect and one can see that NC will have a massive teacher deficit. That does not sound like “improvement” to me.

 

Another facet of the walking contradiction that defines both Gov. McCrory and Sen. Berger is their drive to privatize the public school system. There are students this school year in NC who are attending unaccountable private and religious schools with public funds in a program called the Opportunity Grants. While the future of this program is in the hands of the courts, the idea of publically elected officials using taxpayer money to promote private education is totally contradictory to the very state constitution that they have sworn to uphold. Just look at Section 2 of Article IX of the North Carolina State Constitution. It 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.”

 

This also relates to the rampant growth in the number of charter schools under McCrory’s administration. If public schools are suffering so much that we need to make vouchers available to the undereducated and promote specialty high schools that can dictate which students enter (one of which has Sen. Berger’s son on its board), then why not focus our energies and resources on helping the already existing public schools more?

 

And how do our governor and his political allies explain funding cuts to pre-K programs and claim that those cuts were simply cost-saving measures? An editorial in Raleigh’s News and Observer (2/4/15)stated, “Duke University researchers have provided exhaustive research data showing what educators and parents already could see: Having children enrolled in North Carolina’s state-supported early education programs makes them less likely to be placed in very expensive special education classes by third grade” (http://www.newsobserver.com/opinion/editorials/article10253654.html).  This means that our state government cut funds from programs that actually were saving us money in the long run, all in the name of financial responsibility. That’s not just contradictory; that’s ludicrous.
Gov. McCrory’s words may mean well, but his and Sen. Berger’s actions say otherwise. Those actions have fostered a political atmosphere that degrades public education and belittles teaching professionals. They seem to forget that the wealth of the state of North Carolina relies not on an itemized line, but in the people who live here, work here, learn here, and raise families here. If our fellow North Carolinians receive the very education that the state constitution guarantees, then we are more prepared to make informed life decisions and be able to make more contributions to our communities. That is what creates true wealth. In fact, one of the mantras of previous NC Republican administrations was to invest heavily in public education because good public schools recruit more businesses and companies to the state. Maybe another history class could help the governor and senator understand this.

And it starts with investing in people, not companies that look at profit margins like those who are running virtual high schools in NC. It starts with investing in people like teachers, especially the veteran teachers.

 

Gov. McCrory is running for re-election, and he is touting his “extensive” experience as governor of our state and four-term mayor of our largest city. Sen. Berger touts his “extensive” experience as well. Yet, if experience means that much to him to keep doing the job of governing then could not the same be said for veteran teachers and education?

Teach For ‘Merica!

There was a very disconcerting report from Arika Herron in April 28th’s edition of the Winston-Salem Journal. In an article entitled “School district could partner with Teach for America to fill persistent vacancies”, Herron describes that the WSFCS system is looking at trying to fill persistently hard-to-staff job vacancies through alternative means.

There are many who look at Teach For America as fulfilling a need. Bright, young, energetic recent college graduates can devote two years (sometimes more) to educating students in hard-to-staff schools. According to Herron’s article, there are studies that show these teachers having effectiveness like their “counterparts” in the schools where they are placed.

However there are many, many critics of TFA. Sometimes referred to as “Temps For America”, TFA only requires candidates to complete a summer “crash” course in teaching before placed in schools. Critics look at this as bringing in ill-equipped teachers into schools who will only stay for a couple of years at most. In essence, it only puts a Band-Aid over a gaping wound.

Dana Goldstein’s book The Teacher Wars spends some time exploring the rise of TFA and other “corps” driven ways to counter teacher shortages. While attempting to treat the subject of the reform movement in education with objectivity, Goldstein shares what are perceived as positives and negatives of Teach For America, but one quote really seems to garner the most attention from me. It is from Catherine Michna, a TFA alumna, who states,

“They work in service of a corporate reform agenda that rids communities of veteran-teachers, privatizes public schools, and forces a corporatized, data-driven culture upon low-income communities with unique dynamics and unique challenges” (p.196).

That’s not flattering coming from someone who was a part of the program.

Michelle Rhee, the former firebrand chancellor of the Washington D.C., made national headlines with her method of “house-cleaning” in the D.C. schools firing many principals and teachers immediately. She is a TFA alumna who is now championing the charter school movement in California. She expounds on TFA’s credentials quite often.

Diane Ravitch is well-known for voicing her opinions about TFA and opposing the ideology of reformers like Rhee. She even devotes a chapter in her bestselling book Reign of Error to dissecting Teach For America. She opens Chapter 14 with a claim made by proponents of TFA and then immediately follows it with a statement on the “Reality” of TFA.

CLAIM Teach for America recruits teachers and leaders whose high expectations will one day ensure that every child has an excellent education.

REALITY Teach for America sends bright young people into tough classrooms where they get about the same results as other bright young people in similar classrooms but leave the profession sooner.

In a recent March 21st, 2016  post on her iconic blog entitled “Insider:Big Trouble Inside TFA”, Ravitch posted an anonymous letter from an employee at TFA chronicling layoffs and improprieties (https://dianeravitch.net/2016/03/21/insider-big-trouble-inside-tfa/). That post nearly coincided with news that San Francisco was terminating its relationship with TFA due to poor results.

Yet, I am not simply wanting to debate TFA’s merits. There are some great teachers who naturally possess qualities and a drive to succeed that allows them to be successful in teaching. But I do have a concern over the length that many TFA’s serve in classrooms because if teaching is a professional endeavor, then does that not denote some sort of commitment beyond two years?

I would argue that it takes almost three years to even get a handle on the teaching profession. Dealing with actually developing a craft, much less get a handle on the curriculum takes time. Most teachers student-teach longer than TFA “graduates” actually train, and that is not even talking about the course work and observations beforehand.

Two to three years may not afford one person an idea of what it is like to undergo a curriculum change, a change in leadership, a new evaluation system, or a new round of standardized tests. Gosh, it took me over two years to just develop an immune system that had come into enough contact with students to not get sick every week with some malady.

Maybe it is just that fact that some teachers spend more time preparing to become teachers than many TFA’s actually serve in schools that makes me wonder.

But I believe the real issue is why would these people need to be recruited? What would make the teaching profession so hard to staff in a state that once boasted one of the best teacher education systems in its colleges and universities? How could conditions become such that school systems like WSFCS even need to look at alternative paths for teachers to become “certified” to place in a school?

Kevin Bastian of the Education Policy Initiative at Carolina (EPIC) wrote an interesting piece for EdNC.org on May 22nd entitled “Staffing North Carolina’s classrooms”. In it, he highlighted the decrease in enrollment in teacher preparation programs while a teacher shortage is continuing. It is very much worth the read, not that I agree with all that he says.

What I truly feel is the root of this need for teacher recruitment through programs like TFA is a simple lack of respect for the teaching profession that many state governments have made commonplace. With stagnating salaries, more students in more classrooms, VAM evaluations, and an emphasis on singular test scores, many teachers do not feel supported and respected. Potential teachers stop even considering becoming career teachers.

In my youth, the teacher was respected he/she was the teacher. In fact, my mother believed a teacher over me when it came to academic progress. Simply put, the teacher was respected because the occupation was valued.

Is that the case today?

Sorry, that is not a rhetorical question.

Can I Get a Confirmation from the Congregation? – How Governor McCrory Has Brought Me Closer To God

Governor McCrory, you have brought me closer to God.

Simply put, I have never conversed so much and so passionately with my creator than these past three years. And I must testify this fact – because so many things have happened to North Carolinians that only divine intervention and an election could ever relieve.

With your defiant refusal to extend Medicare coverage for many in the state, I have been asking God to keep those who now do not have health insurance healthy enough until something good happens. As we continue to pay federal taxes that actually finance Medicaid in other states, I ask God for to enable you to place principles before political ideologies.

Environmentally, we have suffered at the hands of Duke Power’s coal ash spill. The public slap on the wrist and the showboating of concern on your part seem sanctimoniously empty to me. Granted, having a private relationship with the country’s largest power company all those years would seem hard to navigate publically, but we need a governor to take a strong stand for the welfare of the state. We are very much like stakeholders in a very large company much larger than Duke Power, except our company is the state North Carolina and you are the appointed CEO. Our welfare and health is our dividend, and if those are not positive, well, we appoint someone else. I pray that God gives you the courage to act accordingly.

Speaking of the environment, the news that the fracking industry would not have to disclose the chemicals needed to “help” boost our energy reserves with natural shale gas is a bit disturbing. If election contributions must be transparently recorded, if ingredients for all food stuffs must be listed on the package, and if all facets of curriculum combed through to the tiniest fraction for our schools, then should we not at least be able to know what is being pumped into our lands for someone else’s profit? If we are in the Bible Belt, then should we not know what is being put into the gut of God’s country?

Fiscally speaking, as a teacher, I am constantly in conversation with the Almighty as to how I can make ends meet and still plan for the future of my family considering my monetary situation. I pray that God helps my wife keep the job that pays much more than mine as I still feel called to help educate the next generations.

Also, I am unsure how you can say that we have a budget surplus when budgets in homes and schools seem unbalanced. The money allocated to social services has been slashed in the name fiscal balance, but it seems more like a drive to privatize everything and claim that the market will take care of the economy. We still need the government to intervene on behalf of those who pay their fair share of taxes. I also pray that you realize that “decreasing” taxes were more than offset by eliminating tax deductions for working families and putting more sales taxes on items like auto repairs. Many families are actually paying more to the state now than before you were elected.

I have also prayed to God that the voice of every citizen can be heard, even in the government buildings where the current short session has “revisited” sanctions about people congregating and airing concerns to elected officials. Even though you and your cabinet wish to silence others through “voter ID” legislation and the reinterpretation of the freedom of speech, I know God hears every person’s voice. Do you hear the ones who come to Raleigh on Moral Mondays to exclusively tell you what they need?

And finally, I pray that the public schools get the resources and funding they so deserve. North Carolina’s constitution does state that every citizen will have access to a good education. The very foundation of that “good” education system is the student/teacher relationship. If there are no good, experienced teachers left, then how “good” will that education promised in the state’s constitution be? It is a cruel irony that one of the best public university systems in the country is quickly losing the strong public K-12 system that has been feeding it.

Oh, I forgot. That very same university system is actually under attack. The fact that Margaret Spellings, the architect of No Child Left Behind, is now the president of the UNC system shows a strong disconnect in what our public universities really needed. Instead of removing obstacles, one was placed in its way.

But spiritually, I feel great. I have never felt closer God.

Week in Review, May 16-22 -Apple Picking With Taylor Swift While Barefoot Watching The Muppet Show

Just in case you wanted to ignore them again or repeat reading for the first time.

https://caffeinatedrage.com/2016/05/14/the-master-of-breakup-songs-and-ended-relationships-a-taylor-swift-mix-tape-for-elected-officials/

https://caffeinatedrage.com/2016/05/15/going-barefoot-when-you-need-wading-boots-or-legivangelism-101-an-open-letter-to-sen-chad-barefoot/

https://caffeinatedrage.com/2016/05/16/from-the-vault-imagine-them-apples-why-teaching-is-like-farming/

https://caffeinatedrage.com/2016/05/17/open-letter-to-john-hood-unlockeing-the-john-locke-foundation-part-3/

https://caffeinatedrage.com/2016/05/18/my-post-along-with-altered-state-nc-policy-watch-on-washington-posts-the-answer-sheet/

https://caffeinatedrage.com/2016/05/20/wardolf-and-statler-eating-moonpies-and-drinking-rc-colas-while-talking-about-public-education-and-politics/