Priceless – Lt. Governor Dan Forest’s Mercurial Moral Compass

 “He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’” – Matthew 25:45

When the NCAA made its decision to pull seven championship game/matches out of North Carolina in response to the discriminatory nature of HB2, Kami Meuller, the spokesperson for the NCGOP released a rather unprofessional, seemingly inebriated, response meant to attack the NCAA for its “political peacocking.”

The immediate backlash to Meuller’s statement was swift and strong, but its illogical premise was adopted in another statement made by Lt. Gov. Dan Forest who released this a day later on Sept. 13th.


The NCAA’s action sends a message to every female athlete and female fan attending their events that their privacy and security in a bathroom, shower or locker room isn’t worth the price of a ticket to a ballgame. We have seen the NCAA’s attitude towards women before when they stood by and did nothing during the rapes at Baylor. For years, we’ve seen the NBA turn a blind eye towards women victims of domestic abuse at the hands of their star players. Why should we be surprised now at the NCAA continuing this pattern of discrimination and degradation of women? The line has now been drawn in the sand, first by Hollywood, now by the NBA and NCAA, either accept their ‘progressive sexual agenda’ or pay the price. North Carolina will not play that game. We value our women too much to put a price tag on their heads.” 

And while Forest parrots Mueller’s misinformed analogy to the Baylor University scandal and vilifies the NBA for its “blind eye,” it is the last statement that really solidifies Forest’s selective use of morality that paints a wider picture of our state’s government.

We value our women too much to put a price tag on their heads.

And while I value the women in my life as well, I find their value used as a matter of convenience in this case in order to fit a narrative.

I wonder if the LT. Governor would have communicated those same sentiments when Medicaid was refused in North Carolina. If he identifies protecting women from nonexistent transgender sexual assault as a holy crusade, then his strong Christian values would not dismiss a moral obligation to ensure that as many women and children have access to healthcare.

But his actions say the complete opposite. Apparently some people do have a price point.

I wonder if the LT. Governor would have communicated those same sentiments when the Voter ID law was passed in North Carolina. If he identifies protecting the poor and underrepresented from nonexistent voter fraud as a righteous campaign, then his strong Christian values would not dismiss a moral obligation to ensure that as many of our citizens have their constitutional right to use their voice and vote.

But his actions again state the opposite.

I wonder if the Lt. Governor would have communicated those same sentiments when unregulated charter schools and Opportunity Grants were siphoning monies from traditional high schools and allowing tax payer money to fund education for a selected few rather than strengthening the educational system for all.

And still, according to his actions, some people have a price point.

When faith is used to enflame fear and cover up facts, there is a price to be paid. If the Lt. Gov. really believed that there was no price that could be placed on “the heads” of our North Carolinian women, then he would also know that our children and our poor and our sick are also priceless.

In his fervor in defending HB2 in the court system, promoting the unconstitutional Voter ID law, and not helping expand Medicaid, Lt. Gov. Forest has shown that his moral compass is driven by his hardline conservative platform.

Looking at the entirety of “The Sheep and the Goats” excerpt from Matthew 25: 31-46 (see below), it seems that Christ very much wanted his followers to take care of the sick, poor, and disenfranchised as if they were taking care of themselves. That moral obligation would not be situational or politically motivated like the Lt. Governor’s.

Christ looked upon all as priceless. Does Dan Forest?

And if Lt. Gov. Forest was so against the NCAA or NBA’s “stance” on women, then he should be celebrating that these entities have chosen to not to have their championship/All-Star games here.

In fact, with his logic, Dan Forest should be thanking them.

The Sheep and the Goats – NIV

31 “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. 32 All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33 He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.

34 “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’

37 “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink?38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’ not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’

40 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’

41 “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 42 For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’

44 “They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’

45 “He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’

46 “Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”

Stuart Egan: Open Letter to a Young Ex-TFA Running for State Superintendent of Schools in North Carolina

Diane Ravitch's blog

Stuart Egan, an NBCT high school teacher in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, wrote an open letter to the Republican candidate for State Superintendent, Mark Johnson. Johnson is 32 years old. He worked for two years as a Teach for America teacher. He was elected to the Winston-Salem school board and is only halfway through his first term.

Egan writes:

Dear Mr. Johnson,

I read with great interest your essay posted on EdNC.org entitled “Our American Dream” on September 7th. Because you are a member of the school board from my own district and the republican nominee for State Superintendent, I was eager to read/see/hear what might distinguish you from Dr. Atkinson.

I agree that there is a lot to be done to help cure what ails our public education system, and I agree that we should not be reliant on so many tests in order that teachers can do what they…

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Happy Birthday to The Redheaded Carolina Freshwater Possum – Malcolm Turns 9, So I Wrote Him a Letter

I want to wish my little man a happy birthday and I hope when he reads this sometime in the future he will feel one iota of the love that it is written with. If not, then I will read it to him.

Malcolm,

You were born a few weeks early to strong mom and a somewhat fearful dad. We wanted you to be healthy. I would be lying if I didn’t have fear that you would need a little help after birth. But you were brilliantly healthy and ready to conquor the world, one person at a time.

Even preterm, you were over eight pounds rocking a quaff of flaming red hair. The NICU doctors who were on call literally carried you straight from mom to a heating lamp to see if you needed extra care.

They poked and probed and thumped you like a melon and declared you to be what you still prove to be today – a walking muscle of strong-willed yet lovable boy.

When I found out in the May before you were born that you would have an extra chromosome, I remember telling someone that I guess I would find out what kind of teacher I would be when you came along.


And yet, you proved to be the teacher – perhaps the most unconditionally loving teacher I have ever had.

You have taught me to put away labels.

You have taught me to use a different lens to view life.

You have taught me that timetables are a human construct.


You taught me that obstacles are actually opportunities.

You have taught me that people are people, some just differently-abled.


And you have taught me that compared to you I have absolutely no game at all because you are truly Grandpa Ed’s boy when it comes to the ladies.

So, I want to tell you that every time you scared the hell out of me in the middle of the night while grading papers and stealthily walking in the room and sitting next to me and yelling “Milk!”, those are memories I cherish.


So are the times that you come to my side of the bed and and place a full gallon of milk and then stare at me until I wake up to pour you a cup.


So are the times when I can’t find the Titan hat I want to wear that day and  it’s in your room.

So are the times that you streaked in public, like the instance you got thrown out of the YMCA for showing your butt to the world.


So are the times that you got free baseballs at minor league games because you were so damn cute.

So are the times that you locked yourself into rooms at school when I didn’t have keys for them.


So are the times that you took the bacon from my breakfast plate and ran screaming “My bacon!”

So are the times that you peed on me when you were potty training because you turned your body to tell me something midstream.


So are the times when you take my coffee in the grocery store and don’t let me have another sip.

And especially the times that you call me “DaddyStu” and tell me you love me while still staring at the television.


I guess I want to say “Thank you, little man” for being patient with me and know that I will always watch Minions and Ice Age with you.

And yes, I will take you to the pool.

Oh. And there’s a cup of milk in the fridge ready for you when you wake up at some ungodly hour in the morning.

Heck, there’s some bacon ready for you too.

Can I have my hat back now?

Open Letter to Kami Mueller Concerning the NCAA, HB2, and “Political Peacocking” – Sorry, the Political Peacocking Bit Makes Me Laugh

Dear Ms. Meuller,

I read with great feigned interest your statement on behalf of the NCGOP concerning the NCAA’s decision to remove all championship athletic games from the state of North Carolina because of their stance on HB2, otherwise known as the “bathroom bill.”

kami-mueller

It reads,

“This is so absurd it’s almost comical. I genuinely look forward to the NCAA merging all men’s and women’s teams together as singular, unified, unisex teams. Under the NCAA’s logic, colleges should make cheerleaders and football players share bathrooms, showers and hotel rooms. This decision is an assault to female athletes across the nation. If you are unwilling to have women’s bathrooms and locker rooms, how do you have a women’s team? I wish the NCAA was this concerned about the women who were raped at Baylor. Perhaps the NCAA should stop with their political peacocking — and instead focus their energies on making sure our nation’s collegiate athletes are safe, both on and off the field.”

Actually, it was more like surprise and bewilderment with which I read your statement. It almost made me wince and cringe like when I would watch The Office and Michael Scott would say something so insensitive that you became embarrassed for a fictional character in a satirical sitcom that made fun of office dynamics.

However, after having read your statement a few times, I sensed that there might be more method to this madness – that there was an ulterior motive – some purpose in the way your message was framed to an unsuspecting audience.

So I got out my rhetorical triangle complete with lenses to detect changes in diction, imagery, details, language, and syntax and came up with a few possibilities why your statement may have been more meticulously planned rather than the fart in the wind that others claim.

  1. It’s really satire.

Actually, it could be farce. You said yourself, “This is so absurd it’s almost comical.”

You even comically suggest that there should now be unisex collegiate sports. And why not? We have unisex classrooms where both men and women sit in congress with each other mentally engaging in a variety of subjects taught by members of different genders. Sometimes there are even study groups with members of the opposite sex.

It’s so apparent that it is the intent of the NCAA to “merge” all teams together. Talk about equal rights! And you brought it to light for the world to see!

And the way that you equated sexual assault with transgenderphobia? Wow! Even more hilarious. You literally paralleled the egregious acts of rape by football players who were identified as men on their birth certificates against women in Texas with fantastically unsubstantiated claims that there was ever a sexual assault committed by a transgender individual against a woman in North Carolina! Brilliant!

Forget that Baylor University, a Baptist school nonetheless, tried to cover it up from the NCAA and the world outside the campus. You go ahead and satirically blame the NCAA for that! Another fantastic move! And the way that you never mentioned it was Kenneth Starr who resigned from Baylor because he failed to act on the information properly – the same Kenneth Starr who tried to get Bill Clinton impeached because he had “relations” with an intern, but fumbled the opportunity (forgive the pun) – the same Bill Clinton who is married to the very presidential candidate who may win NC’s electoral votes? That’s gold!

And the best tongue-in-cheek part of your statement? That’s right – “political peacocking.”

No explanation needed for that.

  1. You are secretly working for the democrats.

That’s right. You delivered a surreptitiously calculated statement meant to make the NCGOP look so bad, so infantile, so whiny, so illogical, so stupid, and so insipid that you were really swaying more people to become prone to voting democratic in the November elections.

Maybe you knew that if you threw a rotten red herring out there in the form of egregious acts committed on a Texas college campus that voters here in North Carolina would know that it is a totally different issue than the one that HB2 brings to light.

You knew that a fear of the LGBT community did not equate to automatically assuming that all LGBT people are sexual predators, but in explicitly saying there was a correlation you created a statement so full of BS that the NCGOP would get blamed for it.

You knew that even insinuating that the NCAA condones rape openly when it has sensitively wrestled with issues linked to Title IX (sex discrimination in sports) and Title VII (minority rights) would make people look at your statement as an absolute joke of an explanation and wonder why they would even vote for a party that would think this way.

  1. You actually were serious and therefore recorded one of the most ill-advised statements that could ever be conceived in the minds of humans.

This is the worst scenario of all for the NCGOP and the one that is most accepted by pundits in the media.

It may be that it was rashly constructed then immediately printed in the heat of the moment with emotions so high like the actual HB2 bill was prepared, passed, and signed into law in a very short secret session last spring.

But to make it at this time is simply senseless. The GOP governor and the GOP-led NCGA are dealing with coal-ash spills, fallout from an unconstitutional Voter ID law, fallout from gerrymandering, and other efforts to slight the citizens of North Carolina and you deliver this delectable piece of ammunition for those who oppose the NCGOP’s actions.

You rely on empty arguments to defend a bill that could never be enforced, has economically hampered our state, and really takes away protections from people while discriminating others all while sexual assault was already against the law no matter what gender committed the crime.

And for someone who holds a rather high ranking job as a professional communicator, you make a statement that is insensitive, absurd, and overwrought in histrionics.

But I do have to admit that “political peacocking” makes me laugh every time I hear it.

Stuart Egan: A North Carolina Teacher Rebukes the Former Chairman of State Board of Education Defending the GOP Assault on Public Schools

Thank you Dr. Ravitch!

Diane Ravitch's blog

Stuart Egan, NBCT high school teacher in North Carolina, wrote a sharp rebuke to Phil Kirk, chairman emeritus of the State Board of Education, for defending the Republican efforts to defund public schools, demoralize teachers, and cut spending. Kirk claims that all the criticism is based on myths; the Tea Party majority in the General Assembly really do care about public schools, as does Governor McCrory.

Egan goes through each “myth” to demonstrate that the Kirk is cherrypicking data to defend the Republican leadership of the state.

This article, an open letter, demonstrates why teachers need tenure.

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Rep. Paul “Skip” Stam’s Ridiculously Below “Average” Op-Ed on Teacher Pay – I Mean, It’s Not Even Average

Rep. Paul Stam’s recent op-ed in EdNC.org entitled “Teacher Pay: Rhetoric vs. Reality” is yet another example of the strong confirmation bias that the senior Wake County representative suffers from in his explanation of teacher pay.

And there are many different aspects of his meandering argument that could be rebutted with ease.

Such as the claim that there was a “cumulative average pay raise of about 13.8 percent” for teachers in the last three years that is wildly misleading.  Any person following the teacher pay debate can see that most every teacher did not see a 13.8 percent raise in salary, but a fraction of that, especially veteran teachers. Those raises were reserved mainly for beginning teachers at the lower rungs of the pay scale.

Or that he used selective figures for rise in cost of living to substantiate arguing that “from 2013 to 2016, the cumulative increase in cost of living was about 3.02 percent.” Most people would just look at the consumer price index conversion calculator to see what the effect of inflation has been.

Or that he used a Koch Brothers funded think tank like the 1889 Institute to argue that teacher pay really ranks at 29th in the nation. So many other trusted outlets show North Carolina still lags behind most all states like the NEA report that focuses solely only education and teacher pay.

Or that he ignores that North Carolina’s state constitution stipulates that the state has the responsibility for the financing of basic functions for public education like salaries for personnel, services for special-needs students, technology, professional development, and even textbooks. Rep. Stam simply says it is the biggest expense and does not explain that in the past we have even spent a bigger percentage of the budget on public education.

Or that he relies on older U.S. Census numbers to substantiate his argument. Most people in education look at more recent information like the National Education Association to get a more current view.

Or that he says all teachers get $16,000 in benefits when most of the teachers are now paying more to have the “benefits” they receive. Many teachers do not even get their health insurance from the state as it is not very competitive with spousal plans. Also with salaries topping out at $51K for new teachers, the state’s commitment to retirement funds is now lowered.

However, it is Stam’s raging addiction to the word “average” which he uses throughout his unfocused and meagerly developed op-ed that really needs rebutting.

Rep. Stam states,

“Now WRAL, the News & Observer, and others are trying to deny the obvious – that there was a significant pay raise this year for teachers. They apparently don’t know what the word “average” means. They find someone who received less money than the “average” and claim that the “average” pay raise is irrelevant. Someone at these media giants should read the dictionary and learn what the term “average” means.

The 2014-15 pay raise was oriented towards beginning teachers, some of whom received pay raises as high as 18 percent. This year’s raise targeted middle and more experienced teachers, some of whom received raises as high as 13 percent. It would not be proper to use these high outliers in ads. Neither is it proper to use outliers on the other side of “average.”

That’s a whopping five times that the word “average” was used in those two paragraphs. That is an average of 2.5 times per paragraph just quoted above. In fact, Stam uses the word “average” a dozen times in his entire op-ed for an average of 1.3 times per paragraph.

He used the word “average” so many times that he made “average” just an average word.

But it is his insistence that media giants should read the dictionary to learn what the word “average” means that was so out of place, because the Average Jane or Average Joe knows that “average” does not necessarily mean “actual” and while dictionaries offer denotations, there are many connotations associated to words like “average.”

Teachers know a little bit more about the spun rhetoric surrounding teacher pay than the average bear would. Teachers know that while Stam claims that teacher salaries are above average, the really are below average.

On the average, a GOP politician like Stam would tout “average” teacher raises in an election year to hopefully persuade voters to still vote republican in November in order to average out negative publicity surrounding HB2 and Voter ID laws.

However, while Stam may believe that his op-ed is a cut above the average in terms of hailing his party’s accomplishments, it cannot defy the law of averages because his argument does not hold even an average amount of water.

In this case, Stam’s rhetoric and the reality of the situation do not average out.

And in a complex issue like teach compensation it is very hard to try and average something up and expect the average teacher to just accept it as gospel.

A Small Memoriam For Rodney Ellis

I was very saddened to hear of the shocking passing of a man much too young to be taken.

Rodney Ellis was the immediate past President of NCAE, and I considered him a friend who helped me professionally and personally.

I met Rodney through email. He had kindly read and responded to a couple of op-eds I had written. He invited me to a workshop and asked that I speak at a press conference and a teacher rally in front of the capitol building. It was there that I met the Rev. William Barber.

Since then, I have seen Rodney on a couple of more occasions, most recently at the Network for Public Education Convention this past spring in Raleigh. He presented on the workings of ALEC and other interests who seek to privatize public education.

Throughout his tenure as NCAE President, he always responded to my emails with encouragement and strength.

But I will always remember Rodney as a fearless leader for public schools. He led NCAE through some of the most turbulent assaults on public education by a state government bent on weakening it. Rodney stared down those on West Jones Street and stood up for our public schools. He helped protect teacher rights in the court of law and he advocated tirelessly for equity for all students.

Even if you are a teacher who is not a member of NCAE, Rodney Ellis fought for you as a comrade in arms.

People who know me are familiar with a black t-shirt that I wear often. It says, “I (heart) Public Schools.” In the heart is the NCAE logo. Rodney gave it to me. We wore them for a march in Raleigh to peacefully protest lack of funding for public education.

And when I woke up this morning, before I heard the terrible news of his passing, I put on that shirt to begin the day’s adventures with my family.

image

And then I heard the news.

I was glad to have had that shirt on today. Actually, I will wear more often because it has a powerful message, especially in this election year. Rodney worked incredibly hard to put people in a position to affect positive change, and I would like to think that he would keep telling us to educate people about what is happening in public education and then encourage them to vote.

God speed, Rodney Ellis.

 

 

Open Letter to Mark Johnson, Candidate for State Supertintendent, Concerning Remarks on Poverty and Student Preparedness

Dear Mr. Johnson,

I read with great interest your essay posted on EdNC.org entitled “Our American Dream” on September 7th. Because you are a member of the school board from my own district and the republican nominee for State Superintendent, I was eager to read/see/hear what might distinguish you from Dr. Atkinson.

I agree that there is a lot to be done to help cure what ails our public education system, and I agree that we should not be reliant on so many tests in order that teachers can do what they are trained to do – teach. I also positively reacted to your stance on allowing local school boards to have more say in how assessment portfolios are conducted and focusing more resources on reading instruction in elementary grades.

However, I did not read much else that gives me as a voter the immediate impetus to rely on you to lead our public schools, specifically your words on student preparedness, the role of poverty, and school funding. In fact, many of the things you say about the current state of education in this op-ed make you seem more like a politician trying to win a race rather than becoming a statewide instructional leader.

You opening paragraph seems to set a tone of blame. You stated,

“Politicians, bureaucrats, and activists are quick to proffer that public education is under assault in North Carolina. They angrily allege attacks on the teaching profession; furiously fight against school choice; and petulantly push back against real reform for our education system. But why is there no comparable outrage that last June, thousands of high school seniors received diplomas despite being woefully unprepared for college or the workforce?”

In truth, many politicians and bureaucrats have engaged in attacks on the public school system and its teachers. Just look at the unregulated growth of charter schools, the rise of Opportunity Grants, and the creation of an ASD district. Look at the removal of due-process rights and graduate pay for new teachers.

Not only am I a teacher, but I am a parent of two children in public schools, a voter in local school board elections, and an activist. I have fought against school choice as it has been defined on West Jones Street with Opportunity Grants and charter schools because it has come at the expense of traditional public schools that still teach a vast majority of our kids.

And I would like to hear what you think real reforms are. Your op-ed would have been a great place to outline (not just mention) some of those reforms.

But your last sentence in that opening paragraph (“But why…), I believe, shows a disconnect between what you believe to be happening and what the truth is.

This past June I wrote an op-ed for EdNC.org entitled “Zero to Fifty” (https://www.ednc.org/2016/06/15/zero-to-fifty/  ) about the policy of some school systems like the one you serve to mandate that students not receive a mark below “50” for a quarter grade no matter their performance in class. A student may never turn in work or refuse to participate, but he/she is guaranteed a “50” as a final grade for a quarter as stipulated by the local school board. That means that you are partly responsible for the very condition you bemoan, especially when you say, “This upsetting list goes on and on while North Carolina education leaders brag that 86 percent of students receive a diploma.”

When the “0 to 50” rule went into effect, it was coupled with the state’s own statute that all schools have a ten-point grading scale. That means that of all of the possible grades a student could receive as a final grade (50 scores points), only 10 of them were failing grades. In essence, the system that you represented on a local level pretty much told teachers that they had to pass students who may have been “woefully unprepared”.

And believe me, we teachers were screaming about it. You could even call it “comparable outrage.”

You also stated, “The education establishment and its political allies have one answer that they have pushed for the past 40 years – more money for more of the same.” First, I need for you to define “same.” In the years I have been in NC, I have been through many curriculum standards, evaluation systems, pay scales, NCLB, Race to the Top, etc. Secondly, who is the educational establishment? The people I see dictate policy in schools on West Jones Street certainly are not the same people who were crafting policy ten years ago. And less than fifteen years ago, North Carolina was considered the best, most progressive public school system in the Southeast. Is that part of the “same” you are referring to?

You also state that “nearly half of all those graduates fail to meet a single readiness benchmark on the ACT, almost half of all graduates who go to community college need to take remedial courses, and many employers say they can’t find good candidates due to a “lack of education credentials.”

Using the ACT might not be the best benchmark for student achievement. North Carolina is one of only thirteen states that requires all students (EC, LEP, etc.) to take that exam which has no impact on their transcripts, provides no feedback in its scores on how to improve student achievement, and is administered on a school day in which other activities and classes take place. Most states only have paying students take the ACT on a Saturday; those students have an investment in the results, hence higher scores.

I agree that “most teachers and school leaders work tirelessly for their students despite the challenges.” But as a teacher I cannot really give credit to lawmakers in Raleigh for seeking much-needed, overdue raises for them. Those “historic” raises are not what they really appear to be, especially in light of countless rebuttals to the contrary such as this from your hometown paper – http://www.journalnow.com/opinion/columnists/stuart-egan-about-those-teacher-salaries-and-raises/article_556420c9-9f7e-5a7b-a7d6-35b8a91e484d.html .

You go on to say,

“But no matter what we pay our educators, the system in which they teach is broken. Until we confront this fact, we limit the potential of our teachers and, sadly, of our students. Ask any educator about how much time they are forced to stop teaching and focus on testing at the command of the NC Department of Public Instruction.”

Placing the entirety of blame in this instance on DPI seems a little narrow-minded. What I hear a lot of teachers talk about are actions done by the legislature such as:

  • Elimination of due process rights for new teachers
  • Graduate Degree Pay Bumps Removed for new teachers
  • Revolving Door of Standardized Tests
  • Less Money Spent per Pupil now than before 2008
  • Remove Caps on Class Sizes
  • Incorporated the Jeb Bush School Grading System that really just shows the effects of poverty
  • Cutting Teacher Assistants
  • Expanding Opportunity Grants
  • Uncontrolled Charter School Growth
  • Virtual Schools Run By For-Profit Companies
  • Achievement School Districts
  • Reduction of Teacher Candidates in Colleges
  • Elimination of Teaching Fellows Program

Are you willing to confront those people on West Jones Street?

And speaking of that Jeb Bush School grading system that NC incorporated to designate school performance grades, they really highlight the issue of poverty you allude to in your op-ed. Specifically, you said, “The transformation of our public education system will open true pathways out of poverty.” I would argue that addressing poverty outside of class would help students inside of class as much if not more.

What the state proved with this grading system is that it is ignoring the very students who need the most help—not just in the classroom, but with basic needs such as early childhood programs and health care accessibility. These performance grades also show that schools with smaller class sizes and more individualized instruction are more successful, a fact lawmakers willfully ignore when it comes to funding our schools to avoid overcrowding.

Take a look at the following data maps available on EdNC.org’s Data Dashboard. The first shows a distribution of the school performance grades from 2014-2015. The second shows the number of students who qualify for free and reduced lunches.

map1

map2

If you superimpose them upon each other you will see the strong correlation between poverty and school performance.

Education can help pull people out of poverty. I will not argue that, but attacking poverty at its root sources will do so much to help education because it is a “moral obligation.”

I do not think that what you describe is the fault of the education system alone, and your experience at West Charlotte High School is not unique. Teachers who have taught much longer than your two year tenure, who have taught longer than you have been alive, who trained to be a teacher longer than you were a teacher, who have experienced procedure changes, changes in leadership, changes in curriculum, changes in salaries, and other seismic shifts in policy will probably affirm the idea that schools are a mirror of the society it serves. Other problems exist that education alone cannot remedy, especially when you suggest that we not spend more money.

So, I do agree that “many different challenges face us,” but I cannot “acknowledge the truth that our public education system needs to be transformed” totally when I believe as a veteran teacher that we need to transform our commitment to public education and prioritize that commitment first.

 

 

Open Letter to Phil Kirk, Chairman Emeritus for the NC State Board of Education

Dear Mr. Kirk,

I read with great interest your op-Ed for EdNC.org posted on September7, 2016 entitled “Outlandish myths about NC Republicans and education” (https://www.ednc.org/2016/09/07/outlandish-myths-nc-republicans-education/ )  It originally appeared in The News and Observer on September 6th .

Your initial paragraph in which you recount your unparalleled service and experience with education both in public schools and private universities more than qualifies you to speak about our current politically charged educational climate.  However, I also believe that it binds you to present your information in the entire context in which it resides.

As I read through your list of myths and their subsequent debunking, I could not help but think that you are presenting these myths with a lamp that does not fully shed light on the entire reality of the situation. It’s as if you defined the context of the claims and myths that many make in order to validate your explanations and allow them to fit within a politically motivated narrative that gives the current administration and legislature more credit than they deserve.

What you claim in the framework you present it in is totally correct. I am saying that you have said nothing that is incorrect within the context you present your points in. But there are so many other variables that affect the climate of public education that if investigated really show that you are doing more “cherry-picking” with numbers rather than presenting a complete outlook.

And with your background and understanding of public education, that’s simply outlandish.

  1. “Myth: Teachers are leaving North Carolina in record numbers. The truth is that last year, 6.8 percent left teaching to pursue a different career and only 1.1 percent left to teach in a different state. Some undoubtedly left because their spouses found jobs in other professions. In fact, between 2010 and 2014, 8,500 out-of-state teachers moved to North Carolina to teach while only 2,200 teachers left.”

Those numbers are correct. But it is how you are phrasing the first sentence that builds a different construct than what many have been worried about which is teacher turnover. The numbers you present are only what people are allowing you to know. You are assuming that all teachers who leave the profession “self-report”.

I would invite you to look at the report to the North Carolina General Assembly about the state of the Teaching Profession in North Carolina. It is more comprehensive and shows many more variables than you present (http://www.ncpublicschools.org/docs/educatoreffectiveness/surveys/leaving/2014-15turnoverreport.pdf ).

The report also includes information on:

  • “Teachers who left the LEA but remained in education (31%) (Includes individuals resigning to teach in another NC LEA or charter school, individuals resigning to teach in a non-public school in NC, and individuals who moved to non-teaching positions in education)
  • Teachers who left the LEA for personal reasons (40%) (Includes individuals retiring with reduced benefits, individuals resigning to teach in another state, individuals dissatisfied with teaching, individuals who resigned for health reasons, individuals who resigned due to family responsibilities and/or childcare, death, and individuals who resigned due to family relocation, individuals seeking a career change)
  • Teachers who were terminated by the LEA (7%) (Includes individuals who were non-renewed, dismissed, or resigned in lieu of dismissal)
  • Teachers who left the LEA for reasons beyond the LEA’s control (15%) (Includes individuals who retired with full benefits, deceased, movement required by Military Orders, end of TFA or VIF term)
  • Teachers who left the LEA for other reasons not listed above (7%) (Includes teachers resigning or leaving teaching for reasons not listed or those who resigned for unknown and other reasons) (p.10) .”

The same report also shows that teacher turnover has actually risen during the current administration’s tenure (p.8).

kirk1

You state,

  1. “Myth: Republicans are cutting textbook funding. Since Gov. Pat McCrory was elected, spending on textbooks has tripled from $23 million to $72 million per year. In fact, it was the Democrats who cut textbook funding from $111 million to $2.5 million seven years ago. This GOP increase is in addition to $143 million in state and federal funds to transition classrooms to digital and wi-fi connectivity. In less than two years, N.C. will be one of a few states where all classrooms are connected.”

First, the current administration is not the first to try and get all classrooms in all schools plugged in digitally. Gov. Perdue was and still is very proactive in advocating for technological advances to be married to schooling. But let’s turn to textbooks. Below is a list of textbook expenditures over the last nine budgets that was presented by DPI. These numbers can be found on http://www.ncpublicschools.org/fbs/resources/data/ .

  • 07-08 – $99,490,211
  • 08-09 – $100,652,409
  • 09-10 – $111,162,790
  • 10-11 – $2,500,000
  • 11-12 – $23,431,227
  • 12-13 – $22,816,039
  • 13-14 – $23,169,585
  • 14-15 – $24,265,721
  • 15-16 – $52,384,390

I find it interesting that you concentrate on the 10-11 figures. And two words may be able to explain this expenditure – Great Recession. Revenues simply dried up. The economy was in shambles. Blaming the meager amount of money spent on textbooks in this year would be like blaming the entire recession on NC democrats.

But what is more telling is in that particular year more conservative Republicans were coming into the state legislature who looked to cut taxes and what you had is an incredibly injured revenue pipeline to fund public education in a state that literally had doubled in population in the previous 30 years. In fact, in Gov. Perdue’s last two years, she literally was facing a General Assembly that was veto-proof in the Senate, and nearly veto-proof (four shy) in the House (http://www.wral.com/news/state/nccapitol/blogpost/11273413/ ).

Look at what was spent for textbooks in the three previous “democrat” years. Now look at the years that republicans have been in control. Furthermore, this is in real dollars which are not adjusted for inflation through the consumer price index.

Again, you are viewing what happened with selective vision. In this case, rather egregiously.

  1. “Myth: Spending on K-12 spending has been cut. Since Republicans assumed power, spending on K-12 has increased by 18 percent, including a $700 million increase in this year alone. North Carolina is unique in the level of state funding it provides for K-12 public schools with 64 percent of funding coming from the state compared with the national average of only 46 percent. Education receives the largest share of the state budget, and K-12 receives by far the largest chunk of those dollars. Only in government can increases be called reductions!”

Sen. Jim Davis made the same claims in a Macon County Board of Commissioners meeting this past summer. A video of that presentation is available here – http://livestream.com/accounts/16465545/events/6107359/videos/132381404.

And what he claimed and what you claimed are really padded points made by many in the current administration. I will rebut to you with what I wrote the senator.

“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 Great Recession. 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.”

Add in inflation and those numbers become more startling.

  1. “Myth: Teacher salaries are being increased only because this is an election year. Two years ago, North Carolina raised teacher’s salaries more than any other state in the nation. Teacher salaries were increased by 14 percent for beginning teachers. Last year teachers with six through 10 years experience received raises between six and 17 percent. This year teachers received pay increases averaging 4.7 percent, and those experienced teachers between eight and 19 years on the pay scale received raises of 10 to 13 percent!”

Are you sure about that? My paycheck doesn’t really reflect all that you say. Why? Because you use the word “average.”  Saying that North Carolina raised teacher salaries more than any other state in the nation in 2014 is misleading. One can raise the salary of first year teachers by a few thousand dollars and it would give them an average raise of maybe 10-15%. One would then only have to give veteran teachers a very small raise funded by longevity pay (which all veteran teachers no longer get) and the OVERALL average raise still looks good, and not much money has to be invested.

I invite you to read James Hogan’s recent posting about teacher pay on his blog entitled “No, NC Republicans Have Not Fixed Teacher Pay” (http://www.forum.jamesdhogan.com/2016/09/no-nc-republicans-havent-fixed-teacher.html ). It’s devastatingly accurate and it doesn’t even talk about the removal of longevity pay.

  1. “Myth: Principals have been left behind as teacher pay has been steadily increased under the Republicans. That has been true for the past eight years when they received a total of 1.2 percent increased pay. This year the Republicans granted two percent raises with a study approved for administrator compensation. Small, yes, but a recognition of the problem and a step in the right direction.”

We are 50 out 51 in principal pay. You can’t really take credit for identifying a gaping wound now when everybody else has been seeing it for years.

  1. “Myth: North Carolina’s pay for teachers compared with other states is slipping. As McCrory took office, pay had slipped to 47th. We will move to at least 41 this year and to a projected 34th next year. Total compensation, including fringe benefits, now averages $66,000 for 10 months’ employment. Is that enough for the tough job teachers face every day? Not for the effective teachers, but the trend has certainly been reversed and is headed toward our paying our teachers the most in the Southeast.”

The words “projected” and “reality” are very different.  You said earlier in your op-Ed that we had the largest increase in teacher pay in 2014 and look what it got us. We are still near the bottom. Either the numbers are skewed somewhat or your claim lacks adequate explanation.

You are also assuming that we will rise in rankings without considering that other states will be increasing their own salaries and benefits packages.

Furthermore, you will need to convince me that we only do ten months of work. The budget now requires us to seek more certification renewal on our own time and schools do not prepare themselves over the summer. No school is ever really closed. Besides, there are a lot of coaches out there who work more in the summers than people really ever know.

  1. “Myth: Class size has been increased. The truth is that kindergarten is capped at 18 students, first grade at 16, and second and third grades at no more than 17.”

What about 4th grade?  5th?  6th?  7th?  8th?  9th?  10th?  11th?  12th?

Let me refer to the Allotment Policy Handbook FY 2013-14 on guidelines for maximum class size for all classes. There is a table from p.26 that gives some guide lines to students per classroom.

kirk2

However, local authorities can extend class sizes if there is a need in their eyes. If you look on the very next page of the same handbook there is the following table:

kirk3

That bill referred to, HB112, allowed the state to remove class size requirements while still allowing monies from the state to be allocated based on the previous table’s numbers. And that’s huge! Some classes on my campus push upwards to 40 students.

Another detail to emphasize is the change that some districts have taken to move away from the 6/7 period day to block scheduling. Take my own district for example, the Winston-Salem / Forsyth County Schools. When I started ten years ago, I taught five classes with a cap of 30 students. With the block system in place, I now teach six classes in a school year with no cap. The math is simple: more students per teacher.

You end your op-Ed with a semi-rhetorical question that begs even more explanation – “Does all that and more justify the political rhetoric that Republicans don’t care or fund education?”

Well, yes. Because there are more truthful “myths” that I need you to address in the full light of reality such as how the following are moves to help our schools and its teachers.

  • Elimination of due process rights for new teachers
  • Graduate Degree Pay Bumps Removed for new teachers
  • Revolving Door of Standardized Tests
  • Less Money Spent per Pupil now than before 2008
  • Remove Caps on Class Sizes
  • Incorporated the Jeb Bush School Grading System that really just shows the effects of poverty
  • Cutting Teacher Assistants
  • Expanding Opportunity Grants
  • Uncontrolled Charter School Growth
  • Virtual Schools Run By For-Profit Companies
  • Achievement School Districts
  • Reduction of Teacher Candidates in Colleges
  • Elimination of Teaching Fellows Program

I look forward to hearing your thoughts, especially if you consider my claims in this letter outlandish.

Stuart Egan,
Public School Teacher

James Hogan: No, NC Republicans Haven’t Fixed Teacher Pay

This is the first time I have reblogged someone else’s work and I am very glad that it is James Hogan. He is a public school advocate that I greatly admire and he is a writer of the highest caliber. Very fortunate to call him a friend and ally.

I consider his work iconic and a standard to which I aspire.  

This is must read. Go to it and share. 

In fact, read all of his stuff. And enjoy. 

http://www.forum.jamesdhogan.com/2016/09/no-nc-republicans-havent-fixed-teacher.html?m=1