Open Letter to Alan Hawkes of the Charter School Advisory Board in Response to His Comments About the “SOB’s” at the SBOE

Dear Mr. Hawkes,

An NC Policy Watch report from Billy Ball today (“Tempers flare among charter school supporters as state tightens vetting process“) showed that the new rift between the State Board of Education (SBOE) and the Charter School Advisory Board (CSAB) is still growing and seemingly fostering some ill will, at least on your part as a board member of the CSAB.

Thirteen days ago, the SBOE granted only eight approvals in a pool of 28 new charter school applications that the CSAB had presented for approval. The process is that the CSAB recommends acceptations of applications for charter schools and then the SBOE “signs off” on them.

In the past, it seems to have been a formality, especially when the cap on the number of charter schools was removed. But in a clear reversal of usual protocol, the SBOE practiced more scrutiny in giving approvals, and I along with many, many other public school advocates am grateful for that.

You made the following statement that really serves as a barometer for the magnitude of the SBOE’s actions. You stated as Mr. Ball reported,

“Don’t get me started about public charter school no-nothings (sic) on the NC State Board of Education,” Hawkes wrote in an email to Policy Watch this week. “The temerity and ignorance of those soulless SOB’s (sic) presuming to know better than the NC Charter School Advisory Board with its diversity of knowledge and experience in this area. If there is anyone who knows the good, the bad and the ugly about public school choice, it’s members of our NC CSAB.”

There’s some strong language there. In fact, you didn’t really state it. You spewed it. With some venom – venom that seems to be have been brewing for over twenty years.

A quick search on Google presented your LinkedIn account with enough publically allowed information about your background to verify that your crusade to promote charter schools seems more rooted in your resentment of “far-Lefties” having stolen twenty years of your life. It states,

“After Grand Island High, I began at Boston University(1968-1970). I got caught up w/Leftist protests, accepting every word from BU prof Howard Zinn as political gospel. I subsequently was required to leave BU. Fast-forward twenty years and with help from my kids & spouse, I picked books back up at Guilford College. With more maturity, perspective, & motivation, I found academic success second go around. Thank goodness to live in the USA where second chances abound for even former far-Lefties like myself. After being mugged by 20 years of reality, I found myself welcomed in as a political Neo-Con and finally a knowledgeable & responsible voter.”

Looking through the lens of your “background” at the quote in the NC Policy Watch report it seems that that resentment is still very much there. But when you state that the “SOB’s” presume to know better than the NC CSAB about public school choice, you actually verified that you are the one who lacks the insight of the ill effects of “choice.”

One of your charter school advocates, Lt. Gov. Dan Forest, essentially helped people see the cracks in the armor of unregulated charter school growth when he received the report from DPI this past January that showed how charter schools were actually more segregated than public schools. He then demanded that the report be redone to show charter schools in a more favorable light. In fact, he was mad that the report didn’t have “a lot of positive things to say.”

Recently, Lindsay Wagner of the A.J. Fletcher Foundation wrote an expose on the charter school industry here in North Carolina that very much brought to light the inconsistencies of the “public school choice” movement that cloaks charter school growth which ultimately takes away tax payer money from allowing many public schools (that you seem to rail against) to be fully funded.

You may read that report here – http://www.ncpolicywatch.com/2016/07/28/failing-charter-schools-inadequate-screening-and-oversight-causing-big-problems-for-many-nc-families/ . I would not be surprised if many members of the SBOE read that same report and found its contents disturbing, considering they are responsible with distributing tax payer money.

In an election year that has public education as one of the primary issues, I am not surprised that the State Board of Education took more precaution in justifying more charter schools which really are just “public” when asking for state money, but operate “privately” after that money is secured to avoid any transparency.

Take for example The Greensboro Academy, a charter school where you serve as the president of the Board of Directors. If people look at the reviews for the Greensboro Academy, they will find it rated on GreatSchools with an overall score of 9 out of ten. That’s impressive.

But the website for the school says, “Our school is designed to eliminate the achievement gap and provide a public school choice to your family so your child is prepared for success in high school, college, and beyond” (https://www.nhaschools.com/schools/greensboro/en/Pages/At-a-Glance.aspx). Interestingly enough, when someone hears “achievement gap”, he/she usually thinks of the academic achievement of white students as measured against minority students. Greensboro Academy is over 80% white.

Ironically, the scores for the nearby public elementary and middle schools are literally the same (8 and 9), except they are much more diverse.

Furthermore, could you insure that all schools the CSAB recommends for approval have that same ability that Greensboro Academy does? Your school was established in 1999, when charter schools were heavily scrutinized to assure success. That’s one of the reasons that there was a cap on charter schools – to make sure that tax payer money was being spent wisely. Seventeen years later, we have no cap and a highly visible movement toward privatization being billed to tax payers. Tax payer money has not been spent well when it comes to charter schools. The DPI report showed it and Mrs. Wagner’s article articulates it very well.

But what really seems to be the hardest part to digest here is your harsh language and attitude toward others who are trying to look at the situation a little more soberly.

Now, if you were trying to infer that “SOB’s” actually means something besides “Sons-of- bitches” such as “Schools of Business”,  “Sets of Books”, “Shrimps on the Barbie”, “Silly Old Bears”, or “Side Orders of Bacon”, then it might not be perceived as being so harsh.

But that’s not the case. We all know what you meant. And it really seems incongruent with the very values you claim that the Greensboro Academy tries to instill through its “Moral Focus”.

Every month, Greensboro Academy has a “virtue” that it emphasizes. Here they are as listed on your school’s website – https://www.nhaschools.com/schools/greensboro/en/Our-Program/Pages/Moral-Focus.aspx.

  • August/September: Wisdom
  • October: Respect
  • November: Gratitude
  • December: Self-control
  • January: Perseverance
  • February: Courage
  • March: Encouragement
  • April: Compassion
  • May: Integrity

I can honestly say that your comment made in response to the decision of the SBOE pretty much nullified October, November, December, maybe April, and definitely May. August is up for review.

And if I had to make a prediction of what the SBOE might be doing with the next round of applications if you do not at least acknowledge their input and power along with a public apology, then I would say that the very people in the SBOE whom you call SOB’s will make sure that the CSAB will be SOL.

 

Sincerely,
Stuart Egan
Public School Teacher

Raleigh’s Real Commitment to “Recruit and Retain Effective Teachers”

The North Carolina Budget and Tax Center released a new report that pretty much verifies what many have said about the true intent on “recruiting and retaining” great teachers under the McCrory administration.

As stated by BTC Director Alexandra Sirota and highlighted in NC Policy Watch on August 17, 2016,

“As children, families, teachers and communities prepare to head back to school, the issue of teacher pay continues to linger in North Carolina. Despite incremental changes in the past two years by state lawmakers to change the structure of pay for teachers and invest more in teacher pay, North Carolina teachers remain near the bottom among their peers in other states for average pay.  Even with the changes to the state’s teacher plan made in the 2016-17 budget, analysis shows that average teacher pay will likely just reach $49,620. That means that many teachers across the state will still earn far below what it takes to make ends meet in their counties” – See more at: http://pulse.ncpolicywatch.org/2016/08/16/new-analysis-nc-teacher-pay-still-mired-near-the-botiom/#sthash.382FYmAq.dpuf .

That’s eye-opening, not just because it reiterates what critics have been rightfully saying about those historic “raises”, but it calls into question that the whole “recruit and retain effective teachers” production is really nothing more than hot air. Look at the following table:

BTC table

It’s not measuring NC teacher salaries against other teachers’ salaries from other states. It’s measuring salaries against comparable workers with similar educational backgrounds. Granted, this table does not show the effects of the recent electioneering raises given for this school year, but will it make much of a difference? Well, if other occupations do the same and raise their pay structures only a little, there will be no difference.

But that is not new information either. Consider the sharp decline in enrollment in teacher education programs in colleges and universities. That’s the first indication that what is being proffered by the current administration as a commitment to recruit and retain teachers is not really much of an effort at all. It’s really political propaganda.

This table reinforces that reality. And private business can continue to find highly qualified individuals who used to be teachers coming into the market so they can make a salary that will allow them to be part of this “Carolina Comeback.”

Gov. McCrory’s recent campaign commercials entitled “Truth” claims that his administration has done more for teacher pay raises than any other state in the country and has reduced unemployment. Information in this report sheds a brighter light on that because it calls into question the quality of pay of the very jobs that McCrory claims have reduced the unemployment rate.

Check this out from the North Carolina Justice Center (http://www.ncjustice.org/?q=budget-and-tax/living-income-standard-2014-boom-low-wage-work-means-many-north-carolinians-dont-make).

“One in five North Carolina families earn too little to afford life’s essentials and move up the economic ladder. A North Carolina family of two adults and two children must earn $52,275 annually to afford housing, food, child care, health care, transportation, taxes and other necessities, based on the Budget & Tax Center’s Living Income Standard (LIS) for 2014.

More than a third of two-adult, two-children families in North Carolina earn less than that, and more than three-fourths of families with one adult and two children fall below the standard, which varies by family size.

People in families with incomes below the LIS are more likely to be women (59 percent), working age (56 percent), and have a high school degree or less (63 percent). Moreover, white North Carolinians are less likely to live under the LIS than North Carolinians of color. Nine percent of the total white population lives below the LIS while 23 percent of the total Latino population does and 14 percent of the African-American population does.”

Over 20% of the students in North Carolina live in poverty. That measure of income is MUCH LOWER than the LIS explained in the previous excerpt.

Teachers in public schools still unflinchingly work with students who face poverty and families who live below the LIS – Living Income Standard. And people in Raleigh measure those teachers based on results that are influenced by the very culture and reality they help shape for the families of these students.

Private businesses do not have to provide services for those who cannot pay for those services. Public schools do, even when they are underfunded and overworked. So in order for McCrory and others in the GOP establishment to really “effectively recruit and retain teachers” here in North Carolina, the information contained in that table will have to be dealt with. Quickly.

That’s the “truth” of the matter.

But you will never see that in one of McCrory’s campaign commercials.

McCrory and the 17-Day Window of Time

Gov. Pat McCrory and the GOP mainstays in Raleigh have filed an emergency request with the U.S. Supreme Court to reinstate the Voter ID law that was overturned by the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals recently.

There are two specific items that are brought to light with this action.

First, when the 4th Circuit Court overturned the law, it stated that law would “target African-Americans with almost surgical precision.” But Gov. McCrory calls it common sense. He issued a statement that said,

“This common sense law was upheld by the U.S. District Court. Our Voter ID law has been cited as a model and other states are using similar laws without challenges.

“Allowing the Fourth Circuit’s ruling to stand creates confusion among voters and poll workers and it disregards our successful rollout of Voter ID in the 2016 primary elections. The Fourth Circuit’s ruling is just plain wrong and we cannot allow it to stand. We are confident that the Supreme Court will uphold our state’s law and reverse the Fourth Circuit.”

So what McCrory calls “common sense”, a higher court called discrimination. Yet the “common sense” excuse McCrory incorporates here is also used by him in other nonsensical actions like HB2 which is also discriminatory.

In November, the people of North Carolina will get to what they think common sense really is.

The second, and almost humorous, item is the timing.

Ironically, it took 17 days for the Governor to make the request.

That’s seventeen. Ten plus seven.

Why is it ironic? Because part of the Voter ID bill that was passed in the governor’s term of office reduced the early voting period from 17 to 10.

Now, if I used McCrory’s common sense, then I should be able to argue that if 10 days is enough time to vote in the early process period, then 10 days should be enough time to react to a ruling about the window for early voting.

But McCrory took 17, not ten. It seems that 17 days is a minimum amount of time needed to make decisions about elections.

It’s like McCrory is telling us how important having a 17-day period is.

Seems like common sense to me.

 

Rudy Giuliani Should Never Teach History – How Revisionist History is Used to Promote a Narrative

Every so often, I will ask people if they remember exactly where they were and what they were doing when an episode of history occurred that defined our nation and / or our world in such a way that nothing could erase it.

My mother talks about when Kennedy was shot. She also remembers the man on the moon.

My grandmother remembers FDR’s speech after Pearl Harbor.

I remembered the space shuttle Challenger exploding.

But the most surreal memory I have is 9/11/2001 and the falling of the Twin Towers.

I did not teach that year. I consulted for an educational technology company that I help to start and was in Winston-Salem getting dressed to go make a presentation at Wake Forest University for Dr. Joe Milner, probably the greatest collegiate advisor an English teacher could have ever had. I still call on him today.

I had the television on. Good Morning America. And they were live in New York. One of the Twin Towers was ablaze. The people reporting were speculating how it started.

And then on live television, I, along with millions of others, saw an airliner smash into the other Twin Tower.

I witnessed through a television screen the single most atrocious act of terrorism on American soil.

I froze. Two of my closest family members were in New York. My aunt was there auditioning and reviewing Broadway shows. She’s an actress. All of my students will hear of her in my classes as I am very proud of what she has accomplished. Her daughter, who went to NYU straight from metro Atlanta and stayed in the Big Apple because she loved it, had just started serving as an officer in the New York Police Department.

I am from Georgia. I grew up around many of my cousins. My two first cousins on my mother’s side are like my sisters. And one of them and her mother were very near that site of atrocity.

The NYPD is literally the fourth largest standing army in North America. When an all-call goes out, as it did that day, all off-duty officers report to the nearest precinct.

I know what my cousin had to do those next few days. I won’t repeat. I don’t ask her about it. For the next, I believe, 10-12 months, the NYPD was on high alert. The mental, physical, and emotional anguish that the police, firefighters, and other emergency responders had to deal with I could not even begin to imagine.

Rudy Giuliani was the mayor of New York City. He became “America’s Mayor” afterwards. A local man who led NYC through the initial part of the healing and the rebuilding.

While he eventually left office and sought to make a name for himself as a national player in politics for the Republicn Party. Of late he has been a vocal supporter of Donald Trump.

But what he did today may have been one of the most egregious acts of placing personalities before principles I have ever witnessed. He completely seemed to forget that most iconic evert to ever occur in the lives of most people living today ever happened.

Actually, he revised history to promote a narrative. As he was introducing Donald Trump in Ohio before Trump’s big speech on terror and national security, he did the unimaginable. Here’s a link to the video.

https://youtu.be/MUfv-l-CZoY

giulianijpg.jpg.size.custom.crop.1086x706

That’s right. He said, “By the way, under those eight years before Obama came along, we didn’t have any successful radical Islamic terrorist attack in the United States. They all started when Clinton and Obama got into office.”

I was speechless. But that never lasts too long.

Part of me wants to know what excuse might be offered by the Trump campaign for this horrific gaffe.

  • “He was being sarcastic.”
  • “That’s not what Mr. Giuliani was saying at all.”
  • “He was plagiarizing Mrs. Obama’s speech from 2008.”
  • “He is being audited and that’s very stressful.”

But most of me right now doesn’t even want to stomach an excuse. Why? Because the constant narrative that is coming from the Trump campaign is one of blaming. One day it’s the Kahns. One day it’s the NFL. One day it’s Pennsylvania’s election officials. Every day it’s Hillary Clinton.

But today, it’s Giuliani’s fault. Totally. He wanted to fit a narrative that has been framed by the Trump campaign that wants to revise the context of 9/11 out of history so that someone can get elected.

There was not even any self-correcting behind that lectern. He had a narrative and he was sticking to it because the lives that were altered and lost that day were not as important as putting a positive light on a candidate – who happens to call New York City home.

I actually dare the former governor to go to a Yankees game or a Mets game in the next few days and tell the people sitting around him that he meant what he said.

I might even buy a ticket to that game.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Billy Pilgrim and the Sermon on the Mount – The Differences Between the Beatitudes and the Me-atitudes.

I miss Kurt Vonnegut.

Lived through the Great Depression. Fought in WWII. A POW and a social critic.

Truly a leading voice for the twentieth century. Fifty years of writing – 14 novels, 3 short story collections, 5 plays, and 5 works of nonfiction. Slaughterhouse Five is a must read for anyone (and on my suggested list of works for my daughter to read) and “Harrison Bergeron” was a staple of mine in freshmen English classes.

And probably the best cameo performance ever in Rodney Dangerfield’s Back to School.

He also was one of the most recognizable authors to ever walk the earth, sporting a mustache about as well as Mark Twain and Magnum P.I.

vonnegut.jpg

He also has a quote about religion and politics that a recent post by my Auntie Sherry reminded me of. It reads,

“For some reason, the most vocal Christians among us never mention the Beatitudes (Matthew 5). But, often with tears in their eyes, they demand that the Ten Commandments be posted in public buildings. And of course, that’s Moses, not Jesus. I haven’t heard one of them demand that the Sermon on the Mount, the Beatitudes, be posted anywhere. “Blessed are the merciful” in a courtroom? “Blessed are the peacemakers” in the Pentagon? Give me a break!”

There’s a lot of truth to that in this political climate, especially here in this election year. For me it is more applicable to the elections in North Carolina.

I am not a Biblical Scholar. After being christened in the Roman Catholic Church, I grew up in the Southern Baptist tradition where services ended right at noon and softball season brought about a higher attendance in church for eligibility. I do not attend a regular church now, and I do consider religion and spirituality as being separate. My study of his words and deeds do not lead me to believe that he would endorse many of the people in office today who claim to follow his teachings. And I am very adamant that Jesus not be used as a political endorsement.

I do look to the teachings of Christ for guidance and inspiration, and the Sermon on the Mount where the Beatitudes are found are very dear to me.

They are as follows from Matthew 5: 3-10.

  • Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
  • Blessed are they who mourn, for they will be comforted.
  • Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the land.
  • Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be satisfied.
  • Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.
  • Blessed are the clean of heart, for they will see God.
  • Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.
  • Blessed are they who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Many believe that the word “blessed” here means “happy” and that serves well for me. I am not a Greek or Hebrew scholar, but I will trust what linguistic experts say here.

Terms like “poor in spirit”, “mourn”, “the meek”, “hunger and thirst for righteousness”, “merciful”, “clean of heart”, “peacemakers”, and “persecuted” are not simply literal references. It seems to me that what Jesus was saying was that he was going to help those (and charge his followers to do the same) who had lost faith, who suffer any form of sorrow, who put others needs ahead of theirs, who show mercy to others, who strive not to be polluted by the world, who seek peace rather than confusion, and who do right even when others disagree to find happiness.

And if we are going to follow Christ’s example, then we should as well.

I wrote a post last April after the Network for Public Education convention on Raleigh entitled “Legivangelists and Others Who Praise the Lard.” In June I wrote a post entitled “Politics and the God Complex- Putting Jesus on the Ticket.” I believe that I had Vonnegut’s words streaming in my mind when I wrote them. And both pieces deal with the use of Jesus and God as validation for what has been enacted here in North Carolina under the present leadership.

If anyone on West Jones Street can convince me that suppressing the vote through a racially motivated Voter ID bill, discriminating against the LGBTQ community, cutting unemployment benefits for many who were still reeling from the great recession, denying the expansion of healthcare through Medicaid, and allowing for people to drink polluted water, drawing election districts to deny people’s democratic voices, and allowing for over 20% of our kids to live in poverty fits in with the Beatitudes, then I will gladly withdraw this post.

It seems that in those instances it was more about the “Me”atitudes rather than the Beatitudes.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. once said, “It is appalling that the most segregated hour of Christian America is eleven o’clock on Sunday morning.”

Is that still true? I am not asking it as a rhetorical question.

If I had a picture of every lawmaker in Raleigh who championed, sponsored, and voted for the aforementioned pieces of legislature, I think I might have the most homogenous looking group of lawmakers I have seen in a while.

I wonder what Billy Pilgrim would have said about that. Actually, I think I do.

RIP Kurt Vonnegut. Rather, please keep talking to us.

“Trumpiness” and Being Trump’s Spokesperson – Katrina Pierson

A couple of days ago, I wrote a post on the word “truthiness”, Stephen Colbert’s iconic word of the year in 2006 and Gov. McCrory’s wonderful ability to show the word in action in his latest campaign commercial. You can experience that post again for the first time here – https://caffeinatedrage.com/2016/08/13/the-truthiness-of-mccrorys-truth-commercial/.

I also deliberately said in that post,

“And while it may be a perfect word to associate with Donald Trump, that is not where the post will proceed. For Trump, it seems to be more of a mixture of confirmation bias, conspiracy theory, egoism, low self-esteem, and bullshit.

No, the word “truthiness” seems more appropriate to use when discussing Gov. Pat McCrory.”

And ironically my gut was right to not dress Trump with the word “truthiness” because as an erudite colleague of mine let me know, there is another word that Colbert has coined for Donald Trump. It is “Trumpiness” and it has its own definition especially suited for the Republican nominee.

The Week, a magazine that I greatly endorse for any news hounds out there, in a July 19, 2016 posting from Peter Weber on its website reported on Colbert’s new apropos word.

“Just to remind you, 11 years ago, I invented a word: truthiness,” Colbert said, with “Trademark Viacom @2005, All Rights Reserved” written in the “Word” box, where most of the jokes happen. “You see, truthiness is believing something that feels true, even if it isn’t supported by fact.” He said that he (the Colbert Report Colbert) and Trump have a lot in common, both being “over-the-top TV personalities who decided to run for president,” though Trump has surpassed him now. “Truthiness has to feel true, but Trumpiness doesn’t even have to do that,” he explained. “In fact, many Trump supporters don’t believe his wildest promises, and they don’t care.” He cited the border wall as an example.

“If he doesn’t ever have to mean what he says, that means he can say anything,” Colbert said. “Here’s the deal: Truthiness was from the gut, but Trumpiness clearly comes from much further down the gastrointestinal tract.” He wrapped up with a genuinely good summation of Trump’s base of support, a reminder of why his Colbert Report faux pundit persona was so effective: “And that is why I believe Donald Trump is a leader for our times: an emotional megaphone for voters full of rage at a government that achieves nothing, an economic system that leaves them behind, and politics that elects people unfit for the job. And if you don’t share their feeling that you don’t recognize your country anymore, trust me, if Trump wins, you will.” 

Here is that segment from Colbert. Just scroll down to the video link on the webpage – http://theweek.com/speedreads/636881/stephen-colbert-resurrects-colbert-report-word-segment-define-trumpiness.

trumpiness

But with claims that the election is rigged, that Russia will not go into Crimea, that if he loses Pennsylvania then it was cheating, that Hillary will be shot by second amendment warriors, that he saw the secret Iranian tape, that he got a letter from the NFL, etc., it is too easy to see how Trump fits the word.

I want to see someone else infected with “Trumpiness” so I present Katrina Pierson, Trump’s spokesperson.

Let me warn you, the following clips with Mrs. Pierson are rich with “Trumpiness” and it may be too much to digest all at once.

Or maybe not.

If baseless claims that could not even be remotely validated in Fantasyland were like carbohydrates, then I present to you the “Golden Corral of Trumpiness.”

Go ahead, fill that really large plate. In fact, you can go back as many times as possible.

You’re welcome.

pierson1

http://www.cnn.com/videos/politics/2016/08/13/katrina-pierson-donald-trump-obama-afghanistan-isis.cnn

http://www.cnn.com/videos/politics/2016/08/03/katrina-pierson-obama-trump-khan-war-cooper-intv-ac.cnn

http://www.cnn.com/videos/tv/2015/12/08/trump-ban-muslims-cupp-pierson-politics-panel-lead.cnn

http://www.cnn.com/videos/politics/2016/08/03/katrina-pierson-khan-sharia-law-constitution-newday-sot.cnn

pierson2

You know, history will not be kind to Mrs. Pierson.

Unless, she says it will.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Truthiness of McCrory’s “Truth” Commercial

In 2006 Stephen Colbert coined the Merriam-Webster “Word of the Year” and it was not even a real word at the time.

He introduced it on the The Colbert Report in a segment called “The Word of the Day”.

The word is “TRUTHINESS”. Here is the video clip of Colbert introducing the word. You need to watch it. It’s Colbert at his best- http://www.cc.com/video-clips/63ite2/the-colbert-report-the-word—truthiness .

When Merriam-Webster honored the word as its word of the year it allowed erudite people to submit their formal definitions of the word. Here are some.

  • (noun) : Believing something is true from the gut, or inside. Using life experiences of learnings to make something seem true
  • (noun) : truth that comes from the gut not books
  • (noun) : The level to which an idea or statement, while not completely accurate or valid, is true; such as in statements from the White House, or, say, People Magazine vs. In Touch Magazine.
  • (noun) : like the truth [from Steven Colbert on his television show The Colbert Report]
  • (noun) : the quality by which a person claims to know something intuitively, instinctively, or “from the gut” without regard to evidence, logic, or intellectual examination

And while it may be a perfect word to associate with Donald Trump, that is not where the post will proceed. For Trump, it seems to be more of a mixture of confirmation bias, conspiracy theory, egoism, low self-esteem, and bullshit.

No, the word “truthiness” seems more appropriate to use when discussing Gov. Pat McCrory.

Just last week, the governor released a thirty-second video entitled “Truth” which might be one of the better examples of truthiness I have seen of late.  Here it is – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h9AfAdKSsEQ.

truthiness

Take a look at it. In fact, watch it three or four more times. Nice music. Great smile. Feigned sincerity. And truthiness, sprinkled with glitter shot from fluctuating unicorns.

Here is an exercise for you. Take a song that is popular on the radio. Any song. But it would work best with a song that has a great beat. Listen to it. Then go and look up the lyrics and say them out loud to yourself without any music or video. Sometimes you come across remarkable pieces of nonsensical symbolism or lyrics about sex. When you do the same thing with political commercials, you can sometimes gauge its truthiness.

And you can with this one.

Here is the text of that commercial. No voices. No music. No feigned sincerity. Just the words. Any words that appear on the screen while the text is said are in parentheses.

“You know, I’d like to try something unique in this election and just talk about results, like how far we’ve come in North Carolina in only a few years working together bringing jobs (300,000 new jobs), raising teacher pay (50,000 average teacher pay), improving education, lower tax rates ($4.4 billion in tax relief) turning deficits ($425 million surplus) into surpluses. Let’s talk about the truth about things important to you – the reasons I’m so proud of North Carolina, the best state in the United States of America.”

The last sentence really gets me because of its “truthiness”. Because the word “truth” and McCrory never really collide in this commercial.

Read the text again. Do you believe it? Is it the truth? What does your gut tell you? What does your heart tell you? What do the actions of the last four years in North Carolina tell you?

If I were Colbert or some satirist with the ability to air this commercial with actual facts appearing on the screen as the governor was reciting his prepared script, I would probably do the following.

“You know, I’d like to try something unique in this election and just talk about results, like how far we’ve come in North Carolina in only a few years working together bringing jobs (300,000 new jobs but lowering unemployment benefits, refusing to expand Medicaid, and still leaving 25% of NC kids in poverty), raising teacher pay (50,000 average teacher pay which is impossible to sustain because the top salary a new teacher could ever make in the new budget is literally 50K), improving education, lower tax rates ($4.4 billion in tax relief for the rich and for corporations, but creating revenue through a consumer driven tax system that places new taxes on goods and services while taking away deductions) turning deficits ($425 million surplus because we refused to fully public services) into surpluses. Let’s talk about the truth about things important to you – the reasons I’m so proud of North Carolina, the best state in the United States of America.”

To me, there is a lot more truth in that one, even if it is satirical.

The Assault On Public Education in North Carolina

I recently saw on my blog statistics page that this op-ed I wrote in March and fortunately had posted on the Washington Post website (“The Answer Sheet”) was receiving some views and it seems to coincide with the “Truth” commercial released by Gov. McCrory where he touts how he has helped public education.

Don’t believe him. He hasn’t helped. The General Assembly has not either. We are less than three months from the election for governor and local / state lawmakers. Take a look at this list (again or for the first time) and see what has occurred during McCrory’s watch.

It is fairly lengthy. There is so much to talk about however. Please share with anyone who looks at public education as an issue important to his/her decision in voting for.

Thanks.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/answer-sheet/wp/2016/05/18/the-assault-on-public-education-in-north-carolina-just-keeps-on-coming/

 

Open Letter to Sen. Jim Davis Concerning Misleading Claims

Dear Sen. Davis,

It was with great anticipation that I viewed and watched your comments at a recent Macon County Board of Commissioners meeting in which you were “invited” to rebut the legitimate claims of a highly respected, veteran educator named John de Ville.

A video of that presentation is available here – http://livestream.com/accounts/16465545/events/6107359/videos/132381404.

However, that anticipation quickly turned into an exercise of patience as I listened to a three-term state senator do nothing but rehash the same talking points of the GOP establishment in Raleigh that claims to have strengthened public education when in reality has created the very circumstances that Mr. de Ville is fighting to remedy for the sake of our students.

When you were introduced by one of the commissioners, it was obvious that your presence was there to simply squash Mr. de Ville’s well prepared argument. In actuality, you strengthened Mr. de Ville’s argument.

You approached the podium with the “purest of motives” and considering the circumstances under which you were present, it seems more like you there with the purest of political motives.

As I mentioned earlier, you simply restate the same talking points that others in Raleigh have used to validate your legislative actions, and again it bears responses that clearly show that you either misrepresent the truth or simply ignore it.

  • “Stimulus money and non-recurring revenue”

You made mention of the 2008 budget and that it was bolstered by Obama’s stimulus money when he took office and when democrats controlled Congress. Not counting that fact that Obama did not actually take office until 2009 and stimulus money was not released right away, you are simply revising history about the Great Recession. Mr. de Ville actually explains this better than I could in a recent exchange. He said,

“Yes, 2008 was the high water mark for recent public education funding … Democrats were running the state. That’s why all of us who are public education advocates use that as a baseline, because that’s how well we were doing ON OUR OWN and without the current hostility to public education we are currently experiencing.  But it is IMPOSSIBLE that any federal stimulus money was spent on public education that year (2007 – 2008) because (a) the Great Recession did not hit until the fall of 2008… When George W. Bush was in office. (b) the stimulus wasn’t passed until February of 2009 and the stimulus/EduJobs monies didn’t flow to states and counties for educational use until later in 2009 for use in the 2009 – 2010 year.”

  • “We have increased educational funding every year.”

Sen. Davis, you are correct, but there is so much more involved. You are making the same talking point that Gov. McCrory makes on his website for reelection.

Of course there is more money spent on education now than in the past. North Carolina is one of the fastest growing states in the country. More people mean more students to educate. But it is interesting that the per-pupil expenditure under this present leadership is lower than it was before the Great Recession.

Here’s an analogy. Say in 2008, a school system in your district had 1000 students in its school system and spent 10 million dollars in its budget to educate them. That’s approximately 10,000 per pupil expenditure. Now in 2016, that same district has 1500 students and the school system is spending 11.5 million to educate them. According to your claims, that district is spending more total dollars now than in 2008 on education, but the per-pupil expenditure has gone down significantly by about 2300 dollars per student or 23 percent.

Your argument doesn’t hold much credibility when you claim to be spending more overall, yet the average per-pupil expenditure has gone down precipitously.

  • “The state budget spends 56% on education.”

That’s true. And it seems like a large amount. And it is higher than the national average. But it’s supposed to be. The very state constitution that you are sworn to uphold calls for it. I have made this argument before to Rep. John Hardister. I will repeat that argument here.

The Public School Forum of North Carolina’s publication the 2014 Local School Finance Study provides a great history of the state’s practice in funding public schooling which is rooted in the proclamation that all children in the state ages 6-21 are guaranteed a good public education. The rest of my explanation to him can be found at this link, http://pulse.ncpolicywatch.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/09/Letter-to-Hardister.pdf.

However, I do want to point out that before we had a “Republican governor and a Republican-controlled legislature,” the state spent an even higher percentage on public education because THAT IS WHAT THE STATE CONSTITUTION DECLARED. As I stated to Rep. Hardister,

“…those percentages of spending are not a badge of honor that this General Assembly gets to wear; it was earned many decades ago. The fact that the percentage is getting lower actually is not a positive sign for this administration. It is a reflection that the NCGA’s level of commitment to public education is wavering. Since most of the state funding goes to salaries of certified and classified employees, the fact the percentage of funds from the state is not higher than it was in years past is indicative of the stagnated salaries NC gives to teachers and assistants. With the elimination of funds for professional development and talk of cutting numbers of teaching assistants, how can you brag about the level of money spent on public schooling?”

Also lost in this is the uneven fashion in which money from the state is actually dispersed to LEA’s on the county and city levels. One of the more cohesive explanations of North Carolina’s state funding practices is a publication by the Center for American Progress entitled “The Stealth Inequities of School Funding” produced in 2012. It summarizes our state’s practices in a fairly concise manner, especially on page 46.

And that uneven distribution to LEA’s (central offices) has been cut by the most recent budget, the one you claim creates a surplus for our state.

  • The NEA statistics and the fact they “will tell you they have problems”

It’s odd that the NEA’s report on educational spending is usually considered the standard in the nation. The John Locke Foundation’s John Hood and Dr. Terry Stoops have used it to bolster their baseless claims. Even the GOP has used it to claim that teacher salaries are rising on average more in North Carolina than any other state. But you seem to dismiss it with an uneducated perspective.

Below is another source of information, the U.S. Census Bureau. It pretty much confirms the same findings as the NEA report.

census

Not flattering at all. And the benefits package that you refer to? Yes, it is better than some and worse than a lot.

Also, you made mention of NC in comparison to other school systems like Detroit and Chicago. It is interesting that you compare an entire state against two cities; it really is like comparing apples to oranges, or maybe vegetables. They give different tests and more glaringly, they have teacher unions which have collective bargaining powers. North Carolina is a right to work state and with the removal of due process rights and graduate degree pay bumps for new teachers, you have created an entirely new dynamic here in NC that does not exist in Chicago or Detroit.

Furthermore, Chicago and Detroit have been more known for their corruption from elected officials, not school employees. That fact that they have teacher unions might be one of the very thing that is keeping their students in school.

  • “Tax Burden”

You make many references to the easing of tax burdens. Again, that is selective. And you make references to surpluses. That too is misleading.

That “stronger, healthier economy” you refer to 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. Also, with the move to a consumer-driven economy newer taxes on goods and services (auto repairs, eleimiatioj of tax-free school supply weekends, etc.) has “burdened” the citizens.

And the last two years are the first in my teaching career that I had to pay the state taxes in April instead of receiving a refund.

And of course you can always create a surplus – simply by not spending the money or in this case reinvesting it in our students.

  • “Teacher Salaries”

This is still one of the most egregious claims that this current administration makes – that average teacher pay has risen to over 50K a year.

For new teachers entering in the profession here in NC there is no longer any graduate degree pay bump, no more longevity pay (for anyone), and a changed salary schedule that makes it possible for a teacher to top out on the salary schedule within 15 years without really any raise for the last fifteen years until retirement.

And that top salary for new teachers is barely over 50K. So how can that be the average pay in NC be over 50K when no one can really make much over 50K as a new teacher in his/her entire career unless they all become nationally certified (which takes a monetary investment by the teacher to start)?

Easy. He is counting all of the veteran teachers’ current salaries in that figure. The very people whose salaries simply disgust the governor and the General Assembly to the point that they had to take measures to “lower” them are actually being used to tout the governor’s bold statement.

Furthermore, the governor is counting on local supplements. This comes in the face of a budget that is allocating less money to each central office of each school system for administrative costs. Now each county has to raise more money to actually offset those costs and also allow for local supplements. And not all localities provide the same supplements.

And we have not even mentioned your role in allowing unregulated charter school growth and Opportunity Grants to take even more monies and resources away from the schools in your very district.

Sen. Davis, you represent a district that borders three different states – Tennessee, Georgia, and South Carolina. They all rank better than NC on the aforementioned chart. Considering that Mr. de Ville is a veteran teacher and a member of the Hope Street Fellows, you should be thanking him for informing his district and elected officials what will help make your district thrive.

To be someone who claims he is very proud to be among the current leadership in Raleigh, then you must be very proud of the fact that six different times you have been a part of unconstitutional laws and legal actions – gerrymandering of districts, the redrawing of Wake County districts, NCAE automatic deductions, judicial retention elections, and the Voter ID law. Furthermore, your stances on same-sex marriage and HB2 are well documented and both have been (or will be) overruled by the Constitution of the United States in the court system.

It seems to me that the Jim Davis who created the iconic Garfield comic strip has a much firmer grasp of reality here in North Carolina than you do.