Like every other year, 2017 has been a rather contentious, perplexing, and frustrating year for public school advocates. There is simply a lot working against us.
However, that only means that we keep fighting for public schools.
For the calendar year of 2017, Caffeinated Rage had over 75,000 hits and over 200 new posts most all of which dealt with education in North Carolina. As the new year arrives, it might be worthwhile to review the top ten public education issues that surround North Carolina’s school system.
And they are not listed in any particular order as all of them have an incredible amount of gravity.
- Betsy DeVos became Secretary of Education.
Betsy DeVos has no degree in education meaning she is not even educated in how to educate. Betsy DeVos has no teaching experience. Betsy DeVos never attended a public school or state supported university. None of her children have either. Betsy DeVose’s monetary contributions to Christian-based schools and evangelical organizations has been conservatively estimated at $200 million. Betsy DeVos is totally anti-union and believes that teachers are paid too much. Betsy DeVos supports vouchers.
- Mark Johnson became state superintendent.
Consider this – a corporate attorney who taught for two school years through a program that historically does not place many long term teachers into the public schools, who did not complete a full term as a school board member and has never had a child in the public schools was elected in the most contentious election year in recent memory to become state superintendent. After he was elected and before he took office, he was granted more power as a state superintendent by a gerrymandered legislature in a special session that was thought to be called to repeal HB2. He then spent the first six months of his term “embroiled” in a legal battle with the state board of education that is controlled by the same political party and literally has been a non-public figure while a budget that expands vouchers, keeps charter schools from being regulated, lowers per pupil expenditures for traditional public schools, and cuts the budget for the very department he is supposed to run.
What SB599 means is that for-profit outfits can make money fast-tracking teacher candidates in a rather precarious preparation programs.
The original bill was introduced by Sen. Chad Barefoot who has shown himself to be the most recent poster child of the privatization movement in North Carolina’s public education system.
- The Privatization Movement.
That’s because there exist too many relationships between business leaders, lobbying groups, wealthy benefactors, politicians, and educational reformers to be coincidental. In fact, many in the “reform” movement that have started to dismantle the public school system are strategically linked to each other, including BEST NC.
Look at the graphic below:
- School Performance Grading System.
The school performance grades are based on a model developed by Jeb Bush when he was in Florida. It’s disastrous and places a lot of emphasis of achievement scores of amorphous, one-time testing rather than student growth throughout the entire year.
It’s part of the “proficiency versus growth” debate that really came to the forefront during the Betsy DeVos confirmation hearings when she could not delineate between whether test scores are used to measure student “achievement” or student “growth.”
The people who made the decision to keep both the school performance grading system formula where it is and still expand vouchers ABSOLUTELY UNDERSTAND THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN PROFICIENCY AND GROWTH. IT HELPS TO VALIDATE THEIR WANT OF MORE VOUCHERS.
- HB13 and #ClassSizeChaos.
Remember when Sen. Chad Barefoot said this in February of 2017 concerning House Bill 13?
“For years, the General Assembly has been sending tens of millions of dollars to districts for new classroom teachers for the purpose of lowering classroom sizes,” he said. “The question we keep asking over and over again is, ‘What did they do with the money? …The data that we have received from the districts varies, and some districts did not fully respond to our information request. What some of the data has shown is that there are districts that did not reduce class sizes with the funding we sent them. Why are they holding art and PE teachers’ jobs hostage for their misallocation of classroom teacher funds?” (http://www.wral.com/law-reducing-class-size-has-music-art-pe-teachers-anxious-about-future-/16628678/).
- Lack of Student Services especially those that deal with mental health.
Addiction, depression, and hopelessness are becoming more prevalent in today’s youth, and this public school teacher can emphatically state that it is causing us to lose too many of our young people. And while society as a whole can debate the extent to which mental health issues should be dealt with, there should be no doubt whatsoever that more should be done.
- Attack on Governor’s School.
An amendment offered by none other than Sen. Chad Barefoot on May 10, 2017 was yet another assault by the North Carolina General Assembly against the arts in our schools.
Amendment #2 to Senate Bill 257 proposes to establish a “Legislative School For Leadership and Public Service” using the very funds that would have financed Governor’s School starting in 2018-2019.
In short, Chad Barefoot and others of his ilk want to do away with Governor’s School and replace it with a “Legislative School of Leadership and Public Policy.”
- Principal Pay Plan.
If there is one thing that BESTNC’s involvement in the new principal pay plan has shed light upon, it is that being fully financed does allow for groups to take action and have influence, especially behind closed doors in Raleigh.
- State Board vs. Mark Johnson.
The State Supreme Court’s decision to hear the case means that it is considered so important that the appeals courts are being bypassed. Simply put, it might be the most important battle in the five-year fight against privatization of the public school system here in North Carolina.
It is a fight to keep the “public” in public education.