SB867 – Background Checking The Right to Bare Arms

Again, irony makes this world go round.

In an effort to wrap up the long session of the North Carolina General Assembly in record fashion, the reactionary creators of HB2, vouchers, unregulated charter school growth, and limited health care options are proffering one more reactionary measure to pass, probably with a midnight session.

Senate Bill 867, a bill concerning background checks on teacher candidates, is currently making its way through Raleigh. Co-sponsored by the newly appointed chairman of the Senate Education Committee, Chad Barefoot, the bill leaves enough vagueness for it to be interpreted in the most draconian of ways.

The ironically named “Protect Students in Schools” bill would require teacher candidates to be fingerprint checked and create a state-wide system for all candidates to be screened for a variety of charges: murder, robbery, manslaughter, and refusal to disperse, which some would call “protesting”.

Now for the irony. The cruel irony.

  1. The timing of this bill. When Billy “Ball of NC Policy Watch reported on the momentum this bill is getting on June 22nd (http://www.ncpolicywatch.com/2016/06/22/could-proposed-teacher-background-check-bill-silence-protesting-educators/), 14 teachers were just arrested for protesting in Raleigh against measures that the governor and General Assembly put in place. They were arrested for “refusal to disperse”. That offense will be on their record. However, many would not really see that as an offense, but as an act of civil disobedience that was calling into question the NCGA and governor’s actual obedience to the state constitution. Seems if those in power want to stop people from protesting actively against what is done in session, then they will threaten the people’s jobs.
  2. The name, “Protect Students in Schools” bill. It seems if lawmakers really want to protect students from schools, they would make sure that schools were safe places first, fortified with all they needed. Cutting out funds and resources in public schools does not strengthen schools, but rather makes them more vulnerable.
  3. The co-sponsor, Chad Barefoot. Please remember that the man co-sponsoring his bill also has been a primary sponsor of the following:

    – Senate Bill 444 – Teacher Compensation Modifications. This bill raised pay for new teachers, while deliberately ignoring veteran teacher pay in an attempt to raise “average” pay.
    – Senate Bill 536 – Students Know Before You Go. This was a way to discourage students from pursuing certain majors because of how they were monetarily presented. Some of those were education preparation programs in UNC system schools which might help explain why he co-sponsored Senate Bill 836.
    – Senate Bill 836 – Alternate Teacher Preparation. This is an act that would authorize local school systems to have more lateral entry. What this really means is that you spend less to obtain in many cases less qualified teachers to teach in hard to staff areas. Rather than elevate the teaching profession, you are making the teaching profession less desirable to those in NC.
     – Senate Bill 862 – Opportunity Scholarships Forward Funding. This will give more money to vouchers thereby diverting tax-payer money to more religious-based and private schools that do not have to maintain standards that public school must. More importantly, nothing has shown that these vouchers have actually increased student achievement for those who use them.

    Also, noteworthy is that Sen. Barefoot was also a co-sponsor of SB2 (2014) that prohibited the expansion of Medicaid for many in North Carolina. That alone HURTS, NOT PROTECTS, many children who attend public schools. His vote for the controversial HB2 bill threatens federal funding for the very schools for which he claims to be wanting to protect.

  4. The idea of background checks. The House of Representatives in Washington D.C. just blocked legislation that would require more background checks for those seeking to buy firearms. A very large majority of Americans supported the measures of stricter gun control, but a powerful lobbying group called the NRA made sure such measures were not passed. It would hurt their constituency’s business.

    There are two very ironic angles here. First, the perceived idea that stricter background checks would infringe on people’s Second Amendment rights is more egregious than creating a background check system to see if anyone used their First Amendment right to free speech. Second, Sen. Chad Barefoot, would probably have rejected the idea of someone having a harder time getting a military grade weapon that could be used at a school like Sandy Hook Elementary because he is “Honored to have the endorsement of the NRA” according to his Facebook page.

  5. Who checks the background checks. Ball reports, “Decisions about whether previous convictions make a teacher unfit for licensure, which must be renewed every five years, would be left to the State Board of Education, a panel of McCrory appointees.” That means that teachers cited with a conviction of a “crime” like refusal to disperse could be harshly judged by the very people who don’t want them congregating in the first place. Couple that with the removal of due-process rights for new teachers and one can see that this bill is a measure to help silence teachers.
  6. Private schools? So far, no private schools will have to undergo this type of background checks for their teachers. That’s odd considering that in the next 10 years, the state senate budget asks for almost 1 billion dollars of taxpayer money be used to fund Opportunity Grants that will allow private schools to profit from money that should go into the public school system to protect schools and their students.

Yes, we should keep those who commit murder, rape, abuse, etc. from teaching our children, but allowing for Senate Bill 867 to pass through into law without proper checks and balances will be yet another way for Raleigh to hurt public schools.

Besides, what those 14 teachers did last week was practice their right to bare arms.

The just interlocked them together and made West Jones Street and the rest of the state take notice.

The Toughest Job in NC – Being Gov. McCrory’s Press Secretary

This week the Charlotte-Mecklenburg School system announced that it would allow the system’s transgender students to choose whatever bathroom fit their gender identification for this next upcoming school year, a move that has struck the nerve of one Gov. Pat McCrory.

In a directly proactive move to accommodate students, CMS boldly did something for its students that Raleigh has forgotten to do for its citizens: remove obstacles.

Oddly enough, until this past year transgender students in Charlotte/Mecklenburg went to the bathroom of the gender they identified with. I do not know of any news reports that chronicled any trouble with that policy.

Of course McCrory responded – through his press secretary Graham Wilson, who just might have the toughest job in all of North Carolina, hyperbolically speaking. Wilson has to put words to McCrory’s thoughts that are heard in the ears of the rest of North Carolina.

And if you listen to his reasoning for condemning the CMS’s recent stand, you will see how baseless McCrory’s legal stance on HB2 really is.

Wilson says,

“Instead of providing reasonable accommodations for some students facing unique circumstances,” the school district “made a radical change to their shower, locker room and restroom policy for all students.

“This curiously-timed announcement that changes the basic expectations of privacy for students comes just after school let out and defies transparency, especially for parents,” Wilson said in a statement. “The Charlotte-Mecklenburg School System should have waited for the courts to make a decision instead of purposely breaking state law.”

Six specific items stick out in that statement that Mr. Wilson issued on behalf of the governor.

  1. First, there are those “reasonable accommodations.” It seems that if Charlotte Mecklenburg Schools wanted to make accommodations for their students then it would know better than the state what their students might need. And the word “reasonable” and HB2 really do not collide in the same sentence.
  2. Next, there are these students facing “unique circumstances.” In actuality, HB2 made the circumstances for LGBT students and people more unique, if the word “unique” means “discriminated against.”
  3. “Radical change?” Really? Many seem to think that the radical part of this whole debate is HB2 itself.
  4. As for the timing of the CMS decision, Mr. Wilson classifies it as “curiously-timed.” What about the special-session that was called in March to conceive, craft, and pass HB2 in the matter of hours? If that is not “curiously-timed,” then I am curious as to how it would be defined.
  5. Wilson also refers to “transparency.” Is he referring to the denotative definition of “transparency” or the opaque version practiced by his boss and others in Raleigh that allowed HB2 to also remove the right of North Carolinians to sue in state courts over wrongful job dismissals and the right for localities to set a minimum wage for contracted work?
  6. The last item concerns the “should have waited for the courts to make a decision” part. They did, Mr. Wilson. They did. And while it is officially a Virginia law case where the decision is made, the jurisdiction of the 4thS. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond reaches North Carolina.

And here is the big part of the HB2 debacle as it pertains to the Charlotte Mecklenburg School system: your boss can’t even enforce it.

When Margaret Spellings explicitly told North Carolina that she would not enforce HB2 on campuses of the UNC system, she pretty much told Raleigh that HB2 was not enforceable.

Unless the governor has plans to finance a policy to enforce HB2 then his words and actually Mr. Wilson’s words are simply political hot air. And to tell the truth, with the court cases concerning the federal government’s anti-discrimination suit and the Voter ID law, as well as lawsuits sure to follow because of environmental ignorance on the state’s part, the governor should be more concerned about other matters than what CMS has done to help its students.

Civil Disobedience in North Carolina – Read and Don’t Thoreau It Away

“If the injustice is part of the necessary friction of the machine of government, let it go, let it go; perchance it will wear smooth – certainly the machine will wear out. If the injustice has a spring, or a pulley, or a rope, or a crank, exclusively for itself, then perhaps you may consider whether the remedy will not be worse than the evil; but if it is of such a nature that it requires you to be the agent of injustice to another, then, I say, break the law. Let your life be a counter friction to stop the machine.”

– Henry David Thoreau in “Civil Disobedience”

When Henry David Thoreau wrote his essay “Civil Disobedience”, our country was led by a government that allowed slavery as an institution and waged war on Mexico. Not long after, we had the Civil War.

Thoreau, an American Transcendentalist, declared in his treatise that men (and women) should follow the convictions of their own conscience over unfair laws that are in place created by those in power to benefit those in power. In other words, if the laws of the land were unjust, one should “wash his hands of it, and, if he gives it no thought longer, not to give it practically his support.”

Thoreau was not a nihilist by any stretch of the imagination. His diction, imagery, detail, language, and syntax are of an age where people read to get their news and information. His use of figurative comparisons harken to the Industrial Revolution. His words are a product of the time. But his message is timeless and has been a catalyst for many these past 150-plus years.

I don’t believe Thoreau was anti-government. I believe he was anti-bad government. And he certainly didn’t hurt people or use arms against others or take over a nature refuge in Oregon to practice his civil disobedience. He just simply refused to comply and politely disobeyed to bring light to an existing injustice.

Civil disobedience is a refusal to support laws seen as unmerited. People like Ghandi and Martin Luther King Jr. practiced civil disobedience. Look in the history books and read up on the Salt March in India or look at the sit-ins and marches during the Civil Rights Movement. Look at Rosa Park’s refusal to give up her seat. These non-violent acts of civil disobedience became the foundations for positive change that helped change unjust laws into just ones.

And there are still unjust laws and unfair policies. There are laws that could be strengthened and more that could be made that could better help our citizens.

Take for instance gun control. A large majority of Americans favor stricter gun control measures like background checks and gun show regulations. However, even in the wake of the largest mass shooting in U.S. history, Congress did nothing because a strong NRA lobby has pretty much “bought” the necessary votes. Let’s call it for what it is.

Thoreau would have called this unjust. And there is civil disobedience in the form of a sit-in led by John Lewis, a representative from my home state of Georgia. He should know something about civil disobedience. He was a  leader with MLK during the 60’s and the Civil Rights Movement. He and other democrats are literally sitting on the House floor. Rep. Paul Ryan has called it a ploy and even banned television from video casting. Republicans on Capitol Hill are pretending it is not happening.

As of 12:10 AM on Thursday, they are still there. And video is still getting out. The press is covering it. Why? Because civil disobedience works.

Now, go to the teachers who were arrested last week in Raleigh for protesting. They did not get audience with a governor who could have given them time and they held a sit-in – on Hillsborough Street – in Raleigh – at 5 PM. That was civil disobedience.

Did they break a law? Yes. Were they arrested and charged? Yes. Did their actions speak volumes? Hell, yes!

The first thing people may wonder is why these teachers did what they did. And they will tell you it had to do with kids getting what they deserve like more resources in schools and Medicaid expansion. They will tell you that public officials did not do the job they were elected to do in protecting and nurturing kids. They will tell you that West Jones Street has not done a good job of carrying out its duties for the populace.

  • A populace in which over 20% of kids live in poverty.
  • A populace whose schools are receiving less money per pupil than before the GOP took over the governor’s mansion and both parts of the General Assembly.
  • A populace that cannot even legally know what chemicals are being used in fracking on land they may live near.
  • A populace that has one of the strictest Voter ID laws in place which discourages many minorities from voting.
  • A populace that has to watch as HB2 casts a shadow over the state for all to see.
  • A populace where many have had drinking water contaminated by unregulated coal ash ponds.
  • A populace that is governed by many who look at greed and bigotry as foundations for policy.

And these teachers are being heard on camera, on video, in newspapers, in social media, and on this blog for the few who read it.

Thoreau would have seen an unjust government here working for a few but punishing the majority. He would have done the same thing the teachers did.

Actually, he may have lain down on Hillsborough Street.

Have a Seat And Let Them Smell The Bulls##t

Sometimes you need to stop to smell the flowers.

Sometimes you need to sit down to force others to smell the bullshit.

Here’s an image from WNCN of some of the teachers last week who staged a “sit-in” on Hillsborough Street in Raleigh to bring attention to the governor’s lack of action on public education in North Carolina.

teacher sit in

These people asked to meet with the governor days before to speak about why legislation to protect public schools had not been enacted. We’re talking about lowering per-pupil expenditures, siphoning more money to charter schools and vouchers, lowering of textbook money – you name it.

The governor didn’t want to listen. So these people sat down. And it got people’s attention. And it is making them smell the bullshit emanating from private entities being allowed to take over the public sector.

Now fast-forward to today, June 22, 2016. Congress has just voted down a proposal to make it harder for people to buy guns.

160622115547-dems-sit-in-on-guns-overlay-tease (1)

CNN.com reported (http://www.cnn.com/2016/06/22/politics/john-lewis-sit-in-gun-violence/index.html),

“The sit-in follows the shooting at an Orlando gay nightclub earlier this month that killed 49 people — the deadliest incident of gun violence in American history. The shooting is renewing the debate over gun control legislation, which seems poised to go nowhere in Congress. The Senate blocked several gun measures Monday even as a CNN/ORC poll this week found that public support for changes such as tighter background checks hovers around 90%.

Ryan didn’t commit to holding a vote.”

90%! Wow! So why are the votes not there? Because of private entities who lobbying hard with money and influence. And it creates a smell. One of bullshit

Sit-ins historically have North Carolinian ties. Think of the famous Woolworth’s sit-in in Greensboro in 1960. That helped spark more sit-ins and “freedom rides” during the Civil Rights Movement.

And look what happened.

So, why not take a seat? If it helps more kids to a quality education and keeps guns out of the hands of people who shouldn’t have them, then why not?

Politics and the God Complex – Putting Jesus on the Ticket

“And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites. For they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.” Matthew 6:5-6 ESV

This post will piss off some people, but here it goes.

I believe Donald Trump is a very smart man. No. Really. Very, very smart.

I also believe that he understands very well how to provoke people. He sees invisible buttons on people that can be pressed and cause visceral reactions in them that will help his presidential aspirations.

  • Wall built by Mexico to keep Mexicans out? Check
  • Ban all Muslims from entering the country? Check
  • Own the Twittersphere? Check
  • Get endorsed by God? Working on it.

Yesterday, Donald Trump addressed a group of “high-profile evangelicals ahead of speaking before a larger group of religious leaders at a gathering hosted by the Christian group, United in Purpose” according to a CNN report (http://www.cnn.com/2016/06/21/politics/donald-trump-hillary-clinton-religion/).

In that meeting, he questioned Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama’s religious affiliations. He said,

“We don’t know anything about Hillary in terms of religion. Now, she’s been in the public eye for years and years, and yet there’s no — there’s nothing out there. There’s like nothing out there. It’s going to be an extension of Obama but it’s going to be worse, because with Obama you had your guard up. With Hillary you don’t, and it’s going to be worse.”

I actually find that humorously hypocritical coming from Trump, a man who has disparaged women, Muslims, Mexicans, and those less fortunate than himself.

Furthermore, if Jesus came back to earth right now I envision him walking around in a pair of blue jeans and wearing a t-shirt with some sandals. And I do not think he would be at Trump rally. Far from it. At least that isn’t the Jesus I have come to understand. To me Jesus wasn’t even religious. He was spiritual.

At the end of his initial meeting in this venue, Trump said something that really struck me as arrogant. He said,

“What you really have to do is pray to get everybody out to vote, for one specific person. And we can’t be — again — politically correct and say we pray for all of our leaders because all of your leaders are selling Christianity down the tube, selling Evangelicals down the tubes.”

You may question who that one specific person might be, but to me there is no doubt that Trump told people to pray that God puts him in the White House.

Of course he did, he’s a salesman. And hypocritical to me.

He is simply trying to buy the evangelical vote. Literally buying it. That’s what he does, because Trump seems to worship money and power.

And nothing could be more unChrist-like in my mind.

But it is amazing how many American politicians seek to gain a political endorsement from the Son of God.

Trump is a smart man. He knows that seeking the endorsement of God is essential to garnering a very faithful voting segment of the population. Many in our state have done it.

Take a visit to the website for the Congressional Prayer Caucus Foundation – http://cpcfoundation.com/. That’s .COM. It’s commercially driven.

Now take a look at the North Carolina Caucus members – http://cpcfoundation.com/north-carolina-prayer-caucus-members/. See some familiar names?

  • Governor Dan Forest
  • Senator David Curtis, Co-Chair
  • Senator Chad Barefoot
  • Senator Joyce Krawiec
  • Senator Buck Newton
  • Senator Jerry Tillman
  • Representative Rob Bryan
  • Representative Paul Stam

These eight lawmakers abide by the CPCF’s Vision and Mission which state,

  • Protect religious freedom, preserve America’s Judeo-Christian heritage and promote prayer.
  • The CPCF will restore and promote America’s founding spirit and core principles related to faith and morality by equipping and mobilizing a national network of citizens, legislators, pastors, business owners and opinion leaders.

All in the name of religious freedom. Talk about your separation of church and state.

Look at that list again. I have written all of them before on issues in which I feel they were taking exclusionary and biased approaches that ultimately hurt people.

Not a single one of them has ever written me back or even commented on what I had to say. Maybe they prayed for me. Maybe not. Certainly not out loud. Perhaps in a closet?

To me Jesus never hid behind a religious agenda. In fact, I see his confrontations with the Pharisees and the Sadducees as evidence that those who always claim to know the will of God might be the very people who need “go into their rooms and shut the door and pray to the Father who is in secret.”

Maybe they should not brag about it. Or use it as a political crutch. Or use it as a way to raise money.

Trump cannot really be a part of the CPCF – he is not a politician, but if he could he would because I think he wants that pipeline of “support” to become president.  And he would get donations from that affiliation.

And from what I have seen from the latest news reports, Trump needs a lot of donations.

“License Plates For Lawmakers”, Part 2

AS I have said before, North Carolina’s Department of Motor Vehicles allows car owners to purchase a customized license plate and personalize it with individual text and numbers – as long as it is not already taken by another motorist or it is too inappropriate. Monies collected go to the state with a donation made to the entity honored with the plate.

License plates can reflect so much of the owner’s personality, allegiance to college/pro teams or causes, and hobbies. Simply look at the DMV’s site and begin to imagine the possibilities (https://edmv.ncdot.gov/VehicleRegistration/SpecialPlate#term=Standard).

Try it. It’s fun.

However, with all of the different plates available, I did not see one that honors educators and public schools. Odd that my childhood state of Georgia does this as well as other states, but the fact that my home state North Carolina does not is a little disheartening.

So, I have made some more.

AND ALL OF THESE ARE GREEN LIGHTED. THAT MEANS I COULD ORDER THEM. WHO’S WITH ME?

  1. For Rep. Cecil Brockman who said in arguing for the Achievement School District, “If (teachers) don’t like it, good. This is about the kids. Who cares about the teachers? We should care about the kids. If they don’t like it, maybe it’s a good thing.”

hedupasd

 

2. This one is for Sen. Jerry Tillman, the champion of unregulated charter school growth.

h8pubschl

3. This one is for U.S. Senator Thom Tillis and his unrelenting stance on allowing people ot buy guns meant for military use even after the Orlando Massacre.

luvnra

4. and 5. These next two are for Gov. Pat McCrory and his inability to still explain HB2.

6. This plate is for Gov. McCrory’s hybrid that he drives to coal ash ponds that contaminate water for NC citizens.

clenh20

7. This is for Art Pope.

privatize

8. This is for Sen. Phil Berger and his attempts to spin his policies in such a way that it may appear to be beneficial to average North Carolinians.

spindr

9. For Donald Trump, since he will be in NC often in the next few months.

tinyhand

10. For Sen. Tom Apodaca and his hatred for Charlotte and its audacity to pas an ordinance protecting LBGT citizens from discrimination.

blameclt

11. This last one is for the governor. He has this on the car he uses to drive away from reporters who ask questions about his policies that he really doesn’t have answers for.

uscareme

McCrory’s Didaskalithedemosiophobia -A Clinical Term I Just Made Up But Actually Exists

Didaskalovertitaphobia – the actual fear of schools based on Greek roots found in the list of phobias

In the wake of last week’s demonstration organized by Organize 2020 where 14 educators were arrested, I have wondered exactly how many times Gov. McCrory has willingly met with teachers who have asked for a meeting.

Those teachers who rallied with that march last week had sent a letter to the governor requesting a face-to-face dialogue. He never answered back.

My guess is that he didn’t want to have that conversation. If McCrory’s has an inability to defend HB2 in person to those who disagree with it, then I can see why he avoided meeting with these teachers. Look at what has happened under his watch to public education in North Carolina.

I can’t ever recall a time when McCrory actually opened his doors to teachers to discuss public education. There have been times when he has had press conferences at schools like his alma mater Ragsdale High School to announce rehearsed and craftily spun proposals, but has he ever in the last three years met with representatives from NCAE or other teacher advocacy groups? Has he ever sat down with a group of teachers, educators, support staff, and administrators and actually took what they had to say?

I don’t know of one, at least one that has ever been publicized.

It seems weird that someone who went to college to study to become a teacher and even student taught himself would be “afraid” to talk with teachers.

Is he afraid to talk to teachers as a whole? Public school teachers only? Is he afraid of hearing the truth?

Or is he afraid of hearing the truth from public school teachers? I think he is and there needs to be a clinical diagnosis for that fear. Consider the following:

Didaskalos – Greek for “teacher”

Demosios – Greek for “public”

Alitheia – Greek for “truth

Combine these and we get Didaskalithedemosiophobia – the fear of conversing with public school teachers for fear that your policies on public education just might be wrong and harmful.

It’s a long clinical sounding word. And it’s hard to pronounce; therefore, it’s a serious condition.

And there is only one remedy for it – facing that fear and actually listening to public school teachers. The more one puts it off, the more powerful the phobia.

If the governor really wants to get reelected he will have to get over this fear.

North Carolina has 100 counties, each with a county public school system. According to the Labor and Economic Analysis Division of the NC Dept. of Commerce, the public schools are at least the second-largest employers in nearly 90 of them—and the largest employer, period, in 66. That means teachers represent a base for most communities, the public school system.  And they are strong in numbers.

And people will be showing up this November. Too much going on.

Who wouldn’t want to have a say in the Trump/Clinton election?

Who wouldn’t want to vote in the McCrory / Cooper gubernatorial election? At least one of those candidates doesn’t suffer from didaskalithedemosiophobia.

Why? Because didaskalithedemosiophobia can really hurt public education.

UnLOCKEing the John Locke Foundation – Part 4, The Empire Strikes Back With a Menacing Phantom Study Report

I look forward to reading John Hood’s perspectives on education in North Carolina. They reaffirm my stances on what is happening in the Old North State and its public schools.

I do not have his bandwidth. As the president of the John William Pope Foundation and the past chairman (still on Board of Directors) for the John Locke Foundation, Hood serves as the mouthpiece of Art Pope, the leader of the Civitas Group and considered by many to be the biggest financier in North Carolina of ultra-conservative politics.

John Hood will be heard. Too many microphones have been bought to be placed near his mouth.

But I have my blog and a teacher voice.

I find most everything that Hood writes about public education to be extremely slanted (not surprising), yet smugly conciliatory, as if he is appeasing the more liberal people into thinking he wants what they want from our state government. In his recent op-ed posted on EdNC.org entitled “School reform is good economics”, Hood begins,

“Although the debate about education policy is robust, complicated, and sometimes vitriolic, there is actually broad agreement about the bottom line:

If our students were better prepared for college, careers, and the responsibilities of citizenship, North Carolina would reap tremendous benefits.

Liberals and conservatives disagree about means, not about the ultimate ends — and often, even our disagreements on the means of school improvement are more about priorities and details, not about basic concepts. I know these policy debates will continue for years to come. I welcome them.

In the meantime, however, it’s worth devoting more attention to those ultimate ends.”

It’s as if he is saying, “Hey, I want what you want!” but then is thinking, “But I just want to help my cronies make money from it all.”

It is also not uncommon for Hood to start throwing out cherry-picked numbers to show that current reform movements in North Carolina are helping our state regain prominence in the country. I have written about his assertions before and those of his contemporary, Dr. Terry Stoops of the John Locke Foundation, on this blog before. These following are links to those posts, and please note that they were written in response to something written by Hood and Stoops.

https://caffeinatedrage.com/2016/04/13/unlockeing-the-john-locke-foundation-dr-terry-stoops-and-charter-schools/

https://caffeinatedrage.com/2016/04/16/unlockeing-the-john-locke-foundation-teachers-and-advanced-degrees/

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

If you read these posts and the pieces written by Hood and Stoops that inspired these posts, you will see that both Hood and Stoops reside in the gray nebula of lack of explanation and platitudes. Their love of broad statements and sweeping assertions really are a smokescreen for a political agenda that wants to further priviatize public education here in North Carolina.

In this latest op-ed on school reform, Hood cites work from three scholars who “reported the findings of a study they recently conducted of student performance and economic growth across all 50 states. Eric Hanushek of Stanford University, Jens Ruhose of Leibnitz University, and Ludger Woessmann of the University of Munich” did the study.

Hood claims,

“They assert that because the level of education and skill in the labor force is associated with economic growth, more government spending on education and training will lead to more economic growth. That doesn’t logically follow, and isn’t confirmed by empirical research. Over the past 25 years, there have been some 119 academic studies probing potential relationships between state education spending and subsequent economic growth. Only 32 percent found a positive correlation.”

But what Hood doesn’t acknowledge is that North Carolina has actually proven that the converse is true. If Hood claims that spending more on state public education does not translate to subsequent economic growth, then does he claim that lowering spending would not hurt economic growth? I believe it does.

Because that is what has happened in North Carolina.

We are spending less per pupil now than we did years ago, and years ago we in North Carolina had what was considered the strongest public school system in the Southeast. Our teacher pay (no it is not better as the GOP claims for veteran teachers) is still in the lowest tier of the nation. Politicians have created grading systems that repeatedly cast public schools in a bad light to create the excuse for the very reforms that Hood champions.

Do not forget that John Hood works for Art Pope, who was the architect of the first Pat McCrory budget and campaigned to remove due-process rights from veteran teachers. He succeeded in removing them from newer teachers as well as removing graduate pay bumps – things that Hood has made hollow arguments for in the past (see referenced posts above).

But I digress. Hood then states toward the end,

“And what if we focused on low-performing students rather than average scores? If North Carolina raised all of our students to at least a “basic” level of competence in reading and math, the study found, our economy would be nearly $800 billion larger by 2095 than the baseline, an increase of 12 percent.”

Well colored me surprised or paint me green with envy because I didn’t say it first. Actually neither, because I am not as concerned about 2095.

I am concerned about 2016, 2017, 2018, and all the other years in between.

I’ll be dead in 2095. And if people like Art Pope have their way, there won’t be a public education system in North Carolina in 2095.

But our state constitution says we must have a quality one and that we must fully fund it, so we may as well fund it properly.

Oddly enough, John Hood uses Eric Hanushek of Stanford University as a buttress for his argument.

Hanushek was one of the people who wrote essays in a companion book for the documentary Waiting For Superman. I myself do not agree with the findings of that Gates-financed piece of propaganda, and in his essay “The Difference is Great Teachers” Hanushek does say that the biggest influence on a student’s performance is the teacher.

Anyone in education should read that essay, especially if you are a teacher. Hanushek claims that lowering class-size doesn’t affect student performance. That having graduate degrees doesn’t help teachers teach. He claims that if “we could simply eliminate the bottom 5 to 10 percent of teachers (two or three teachers in a school with thirty) and replace them with average teachers, we could dramatically change student outcomes” (p. 98).

I think that is pure bullshit.

If you know anything about what has happened in North Carolina in the last four years with teacher evaluation protocols, teacher salaries, removal of due-process, unregulated charter school growth, vouchers, and ideas for merit pay, then look at this essay by Hanushek and see a blue print for what people like Art Pope have financed and John Hood has vocally championed.

And then ask, are these “re-forms” really working? In a state where over 20% of children live in poverty?

By the way, people like Eric Hanushek are constantly spoken of in the same breath as Bill and Melinda Gates. It would be interesting to see how much financing the Gates Foundation has given to create studies that would show favorable results to their agenda.

Furthermore, Hanushek has been debunked quite frequently. Diane Ravitch wrote an essay in the The New York Review of Books on November 11, 2010 entitled “The Myth of charter Schools”.  In two paragraphs Dr. Ravitch pretty much squelches Hanushek’s claims about teacher effectiveness, even with some of Hanushek’s own research.

 “But this proposition is false. Hanushek has released studies showing that teacher quality accounts for about 7.5–10 percent of student test score gains. Several other high-quality analyses echo this finding, and while estimates vary a bit, there is a relative consensus: teachers statistically account for around 10–20 percent of achievement outcomes. Teachers are the most important factor within schools.

But the same body of research shows that nonschool factors matter even more than teachers. According to University of Washington economist Dan Goldhaber, about 60 percent of achievement is explained by nonschool factors, such as family income. So while teachers are the most important factor within schools, their effects pale in comparison with those of students’ backgrounds, families, and other factors beyond the control of schools and teachers. Teachers can have a profound effect on students, but it would be foolish to believe that teachers alone can undo the damage caused by poverty and its associated burdens.”

So if Mr. Hood wants to tout people like Hanushek as reasons to continue traveling down the road of reform that North Carolina is on now, then so be it. It fits Mr. Hood’s agenda.

But for a state that is gutting public schools, denying Medicaid expansion, and allowing environmental concerns to not be heard, 2095 is simply a stupid date to see if these reforms are working because they are not.

What reforms Mr. Hood is praising actually seem to creating more obstacles for many in NC, and we don’t need to wait another 80 years to prove that.

I see it in 2016.

Curiosity Didn’t Kill The Cat – It Made The Cat a Better Student

About nine years ago, I read Thomas Friedman’s iconic book The World Is Flat 3.0, an updated edition of The World Is Flat. Although, I do not have my original annotated copy (I like to take notes in books – you never know when you will blog about them), one particular argument from Friedman has always remained in my frontal lobe – the need for curiosity in our students.

Flat

Segue to today where I read a tweet from EdNC.org referencing May 24th post on Valerie Strauss’s blog for The Washington Post, called The Answer Sheet. The post was entitled “Can we please stop holding up China’s schools as a model for the U.S.? It’s ridiculous” (https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/answer-sheet/wp/2016/05/24/can-we-please-stop-holding-up-chinas-schools-as-a-model-for-the-u-s-its-ridiculous/). It’s very much worth the read.

In a nation where we tend to compare our students’ test scores with our counterparts in the world, it is sobering to think that we do not lead the world in student scores. That information can fuel fault-finding and then give reason to reform or even “re-form” our schools.

In 2013 a book was released by Amanda Ripley, a journalist who wrote for Time and The Atlantic, called The Smartest Kids in the World.  She followed three students from the states who traveled to different countries to enter different education systems, notably South Korea, Finland, and Poland.

smarter

This is not the first time I have encountered Amanda Ripley’s writing. She wrote that now famous cover story for Time Magazine on then Washington, D.C. Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee in 2008 called “How To Fix America’s Schools”. The cover picture is somewhat famous for it shows Rhee with a broom as if she is sweeping the D.C. schools clean.

time-cover-how-to-fix-american-schools

Rhee did bring in sweeping reforms along with pink slips for almost every person she encountered who did not fit her profile of success. Ripley’s article presented Rhee as a pseudo-savior for school reform. It was almost hero worship.

But Rhee failed. She not only failed; she failed miserably. There are still unresolved allegations of test tampering. Any “gains” that the D.C. schools had under Rhee have always been cast in doubt.

Needless to say Rhee went on as a face for charter school growth and privatization after her tumultuous tenure as D.C. Chancellor. Furthermore, it made me think that Ripley’s angle on what is god for public education may not actually be correct. Therefore, I read The Smartest Kids in the World with personal and professional bias.

And Ripley did nothing to change that bias. In an attempt to show that poverty is not as big an obstacle in student achievement, I sensed that what Ripley’s book really showed was that schools around the world are simply the same in one very basic respect – they are reflections of the society and culture that they are set in.  In actuality, Ripley’s book tried to teach me something that I think we as Americans already knew – or used to know.

While I respect Ripley’s attempt to give clarity on the need to reform schools, I think what she did was lend lucidity on our need to recapture some of the things we used to do in education.

Students in South Korea work extremely hard, but their obsession for testing and ranking places students on a track that they must travel practically the rest of their lives. Poland’s schools shows a resiliency of a people who have seen much in the last 80 years and how all can benefit from a good education. Finland shows what can happen when teachers are revered as professionals and have more control over pedagogy and kids are allowed to play and experiment.

Remember when testing was not the beast it is today with the advent of No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top? Remember when the focus of federal and state governments was to adequately fund public schools? Remember when teachers were more regarded as professionals rather than scapegoats by politicians and reformers?

I do. And that was when we as Americans did not compare ourselves with other countries to gain a sense of ourselves. Certainly we can relate to other countries in looking at the obstacles that keep us from becoming greater, but to always compare ourselves to other countries will always leave us unsatisfied.

Reading that post on China from The Answer Sheet reminded me that looking to others to not only identify our “problems” in schooling but also on how to “solve” them (at least have the appearance of solving) is not the authentic way to get better.

Rather we should compare ourselves to what we want to become and go from there. That’s because growth is usually an inside job. What I mean is that we must change from the inside out – not the outside in. And we must regain more than re-form. In short, we need our kids to be curious again.

Now back to Friedman. In his book (version 3.0) he talks about the need for curiosity. Chapter 7 says that the CQ (curiosity quotient) + PQ (Passion Quotient) is more important than the IQ (Intelligence Quotient). He specifically states, “Nobody works harder than a curious kid.”

We need to not test students so dang much. We need to prioritize the learning environment and the process and we need to let teachers facilitate learning, not administer assessments.

And let kids be curious and give them the time to be curious. Curiosity leads to personal investment in learning and independence. Curiosity leads to innovation and problem solving.

Bubbling in answers to tests that teachers have no control over making or grading so that we can measure our results against other countries and constantly be disappointed does not make for a great education system.

It’s the hallmark of a country that is losing what it used to have and can have again.

When a Tourniquet Is Put On The State’s Core Services, It Leads To Amputation and Privatization

Think of a tourniquet, a device that constricts blood flow to a limb or extremity. Only in times of medical emergency should a tourniquet be used. Maybe for a poisonous snakebite or a bloody wound. Sometimes one is used to allow for blood to be taken for testing and health purposes.

But one does not place a tourniquet on an arm or leg for kicks and giggles. There are consequences because blood is the very life force that carries oxygen and nutrients to the very parts of the body that need them. Cutting off blood flow has deleterious effects. Bones weaken and muscles atrophy.

That’s not good for a growing body.

Now think of a metaphorical tourniquet, one in which a constricting element is placed on a part of society that cuts off resources and funding for those who are most invested.

GOP leaders in the North Carolina General Assembly are pushing for a proposal to place a constitutional amendment on the November ballot that would cap the income tax rate a 5.5% (currently it is 10%).

That proposal is a political tourniquet, pure and simple. And just as limited blood flow would cause harm to the skeletal system in a body, this measure would cause our state’s infrastructure to slowly disintegrate.

Chris Fitzsimon puts it very bluntly in his latest “The Follies” from June 17, 2016 (http://www.ncpolicywatch.com/2016/06/17/the-follies-253/).  He states,

“As the N.C Budget & Tax Center points out, that cap would cut off a vital source of revenue that the state needs and make it virtually impossible for future lawmakers to use the income tax to increase state investments, even in times of emergencies.

It also locks in place the massive tax cuts for the wealthy passed in 2013 that will cost more than $2 billion a year when fully in effect, more than the entire budget of the community college system and early childhood programs combined.

The new lower tax cap could threaten the state’s coveted AAA bond rating and force increases in the state sales tax and could lead local governments to raise property taxes and fees.  It’s a terrible idea that threatens funding for public schools, health care, and environmental protections and makes decisions for future members of the General Assembly that will be elected by the voters just like the current members were.”

That’s scary to think about. The very fabric, the very sinews of society like schools, healthcare, and environmental protections would be instantly jeopardized and it would take years to recover as part of the GOP’s plan is to change the constitution of the state.

Remember that all three of those areas (schools, healthcare, and environment) have already been hazardously affected in the last three years here in North Carolina.

Per pupil expenditures are lower, charter school growth is uncontrolled, and teacher pay is still low despite what the current administration wants to boast.

Medicaid expansion was denied and we as a state are still paying into a system that benefits other states but not ours because of political ideology and a dislike for the current president.

The fracking industry is being given an open door and permission to do whatever it wants. Duke Energy’s coal ash spills have still gone relatively unpunished.

Those three areas alone form a large part of our state’s infrastructure, or rather the skeleton of the state’s body. When these areas are harmed, then the need to help them heal is paramount. When bones and muscles have been damaged in a body, then one does not place a tourniquet on the wounded limb. You make sure that blood is flowing amply into the affected area.

It promotes healing. It promotes health.

That is unless those who want to place the tourniquet on those parts of society want to create a situation where amputation is the only option in the end. And while we could not literally amputate the public school system or the environment, we can do the political equivalent – privatize them. It would allow a few select people to profit over the very institutions that our state is supposed to provide.

Think about the effects on K-12 public education, community colleges, the public university system, public assistance programs, health care, correctional facilities, transportation, economic development, parks and recreation, environmental projects, state police forces, and aid to local governments.

You place a tourniquet on those items and you stagnate the growth of a state whose population is growing. And when the bone structure cannot handle the weight of a growing body, then… well you can imagine.

Proponents of the amendment to cap income taxes will tout that it means more money for people to spend on their own. It would allow for people to have more choices within their power. But unless you can send your students to private schools, have your own libraries and media outlets, pay for all out of pocket medical expenditures, hire your own security team, have your own environmental control, or set up your own recreational facilities, then you may be out of luck.

Even John Hood of the John Locke Foundation, a self-professed “conservatarian,” expounds on the role of the state in keeping a strong infrastructure. He says in his op-ed “How to read this column” printed in the June 19th edition of the Winston-Salem Journal (http://www.journalnow.com/opinion/columnists/john-hood-how-to-read-this-column/article_1b7789ac-1fcf-5389-a6be-eca653d233bc.html) ,

“So I believe government should (and always will) exist to protect individual rights and to finance certain core services that, because of collective-action problems, will not be adequately provided through purely voluntary means. At the state and local level, those services include public safety and health, education and some infrastructure.”

And to place a cap on state income tax as being proposed would hurt the ability for the state to finance those “core services”.

Ironic that people who are pushing for this cap like Sen. Tom Apodaca, Sen. Jerry Tillman, Sen. Bob Rucho, and Sen. Bill Rabon are public officials elected by the public who seem more interested in placing a tourniquet on the very services that they are sworn to protect and provide the public.

Actually, it isn’t ironic, but rather consistent and predictable.

Just look at what has happened in the last three years here in North Carolina.