The Redundant Redundancy of Mark Johnson’s Comments on Teacher Pay

Yesterday, it was reported by Kelly Hinchcliffe on WRAL.com that the NC State Superintendent had hired another in-house loyalist with the extra money given to him by the General Assembly.

As stated in “NC superintendent hires new senior policy adviser:”

North Carolina Superintendent of Public Instruction Mark Johnson has hired a new senior policy adviser for his office. This marks the third position he has created and hired from a $700,000 fund of taxpayer money, which lawmakers granted him to add staff to his office (http://www.wral.com/nc-superintendent-hires-new-senior-policy-adviser/17300865/?platform=hootsuite).

It should not be lost that this new person is someone who is linked to charter schools which seem to be favored by Johnson.

Erika Berry will begin the job on Feb. 5 and make $80,000 a year, according to the superintendent’s office. She previously worked as director of external affairs for RePublic Schools in Jackson, Miss., education policy adviser for the lieutenant governor of Mississippi, executive director of the Mississippi Charter Schools Association, advocacy coordinator with the Mississippi Coalition for Public Charter Schools and as a middle school math teacher in Charlotte.

You can find out more about RePublic Schools here: https://republiccharterschools.org/.

Ironically, RePublic Schools do not get very high ratings from former employees according to an anonymous review site called Glassdoor.com which offers insights to potential places of work from former employees. Whether one is to believe those types sites is up to the individual, but there is a running theme for RePublic Schools in their profile for Glassdoor – https://www.glassdoor.com/Reviews/RePublic-Schools-Reviews-E921512.htm.

But it is what Hinchcliffe reports later in her story that makes one who has been following the “Mark Johnson – 35K salary for teacher” episode even more interesting.

The superintendent previously hired a community outreach coordinator at $72,346 a year and an administrative assistant at $38,867 a year with the $700,000 appropriation.

Remember last week when Johnson said that the base state starting salary of $35,000 for North Carolina teachers was “good money” and “a lot of money” for people in their mid-20s? (http://amp.newsobserver.com/news/local/education/article196911774.html?__twitter_impression=true).

johnson salary

The salary that the new administrative assistant for Mark Johnson will be receiving is almost four thousand dollars higher than what he considers to be a good starting salary for teachers.

And do not think that administrative assistants are not vital. They are. There many at my school who literally serve as the glue that keeps the school together. Any school could use more to help with the daily running of schools, especially those that are overcrowded.

However, it could be argued that most every teacher is his/her own administrative assistant. If you don’t believe that, then go park yourself inside of a large public school. And most every teacher serves as a community outreach coordinator as well, especially coaches and service club advisers.

When public schools are constantly having to show the positives in a state where both the state superintendent and General Assembly accentuate the negatives and do not fully fund public schools to be able to fully function, it’s fairly easy to see how public school teachers not only have to become very good at administrating all facets of school functionality but also have to interact with the public on a rather frequent basis.

Oh, and there’s still that teaching thing still to be done.

Funny how if you add the salaries of a beginning teacher, Johnson’s outreach coordinator and administrative assistant together you get roughly $145,000 a year.

Just a little more than what Johnson makes at 127, 561. But he gets all of that extra help, including that $700,000 trust fund.

Yet Johnson says that teaching is the most important profession.

“Teaching is the most important job. It’s one of the most difficult. Without teachers, no one else has a profession.” – Mark Johnson (http://www.wral.com/nc-superintendent-defends-teacher-pay-comments-amid-criticism/17292076/).

AND THEN JUST TODAY,  Johnson releases this video to all educators which touts his advocacy for higher teacher pay days after he said $35,000 was good enough (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6aKdTAwRYmE).

Johnson

That’s redundancy at its best.

There are those who may say that teaching really isn’t that complicated or nuanced and therefore is not even worthy of the pay it receives now. In fact, some may say that teachers are nothing more than paper-pushing babysitters.

Here is a tweet from 2016 that got some pre-election attention in NC.

tweet

So, what if we didn’t look at teachers as educators or community outreach people or administrative assistants, but just as babysitters? Would 35K be too much?

Well…

As far as baby-sitting goes, one would just need to keep the kids occupied, fed, clothed, and let them play without destroying personal property.

So, welcome to http://www.care.com/babysitting-rates. It was the first babysitter calculator website that came in a simple Google search. It seems to be a reliable source.

  • For zip code, an Asheville code was used as the person who authored the tweet lived there.
  • For number of children – 4+.
  • For experience, I entered 10+ because I have around 18 years of teaching experience.
  • And hours? I put in 60 a week. Why? That’s how much time I usually put into all the facets of my job.babysit1

The result is $18.00 dollars an hour.

babysit2

But there is more math involved!

At $18.00 an hour for four kids, it would need to be higher because I usually deal with 22-30 kids at a time. Actually, in the past few years my class sizes have averaged over 28 students per class. That’s seven times the amount of kids I have would receive $18.00 an hour for babysitting. Maybe if I just multiplied $18 by 7, then I get an adjusted per hour rate of $126.00 an hour.

You know, I will give a markdown. Call it the “unaccountability discount” as many seem to think teachers are unaccountable. Half off! That makes the hourly rate $63.00.

Now, I work on average about 10 hours a school day. Multiplying the new rate ($63.00) by 10 hours and I get a rate of $630 a day.

My contract stipulates that I teach kids 180 days a year. So my new daily rate ($630) multiplied by the number of contracted days, my “yearly” haul to babysit would be $113,400 for the school year.

Now you may say, “Hey, you don’t spend all of your ten hours a day directly with students.” And that may be true, but with coaching, sponsoring, duties, and preparing to have things for your students to do while I babysit them, I can pretty much say that I am still actively engaging with the kids.

And this new rate that you seem to propose doesn’t even include weekends and other days that I spend at “daycare” to prepare to take care of kids.

“So, what’s the market rate for an unaccountable degree-holding babysitter?”

The answer is $113,400.

Almost 80,000 more than what Mark Johnson says is a good salary.

And I do not get $700,000 to hire people to do my job for me. In fact, I have to administrate my own community outreach to help get enough just to use in the classroom for teaching.

 

 

 

 

Speaking Out For Public Schools: NCAE’s Decision to Not Invite the State Superintendent

NCAE

The decision by the North Carolina Association of Educators (the state’s largest teacher group) to not invite the current state superintendent to the annual NCAE conference was the absolutely right action to take.

Mark Jewell, NCAE’s elected president, announced this week that Mark Johnson would not be invited. Many may say that it breaks a tradition of over 48 years in which NCAE has asked the current superintendent to come speak at the conference. However, this NCAE member does not see it as NCAE breaking with tradition.

I see it as Mark Johnson breaking with tradition of not advocating for the state’s public schools.

Keung Hui’s recent report in the News & Observer from Monday 29th outlines Jewell’s explanation for not inviting Johnson to March’s convention.

From “NC teachers’ group snubs state’s school chief, calling him ‘clearly destructive’”:

The state’s largest teachers’ group is publicly snubbing state schools Superintendent Mark Johnson, whose support of private school vouchers and whose controversial comments about teacher pay have drawn complaints from some educators.

Mark Jewell, president of the N.C. Association of Educators, announced Friday that Johnson was not invited to the group’s annual convention in March – breaking a 48-year tradition of asking the current superintendent to attend. The announcement came a day after Johnson publicly said the base state starting salary of $35,000 for North Carolina teachers was “good money” and “a lot of money” for people in their mid-20s, especially in rural parts North Carolina.

Jewell said the decision to not invite Johnson was made months ago due to what the group considers the superintendent’s support of policies that are “clearly destructive” to the state’s public schools. But Jewell said the pay comments “devalued” the teaching profession and caused him to want to publicly announce the non-invitation (http://amp.newsobserver.com/news/local/education/article197227699.html?__twitter_impression=true).

I applaud what Mark Jewell did in making that announcement, and it was the absolute right action to take because what Mark Jewell did was not only his duty as a leader in taking a stand, but he was doing exactly what he is supposed to do: advocate for public schools.

One of the ways to advocate for the public schools is identifying and confronting those elements that stand in the way of improving our public schools, even if one is in the form of a 34-year-old educational neophyte who has the title of the State Superintendent of Public Schools.

Not only is Mark Johnson the state superintendent, but he is:

  • An official of the state elected by the public.
  • Leader the state’s public school system.
  • The head of the Department of Public
  • Controller public
  • Overseer of taxpayer money that comes from the public.

But that has egregiously morphed into something altogether different –something like:

  • The State Superintendent of the Privatization of Public Instruction.
  • An official of the state elected by the public but given powers by a General Assembly in a secret special session.
  • Enabler of vouchers and unregulated charter schools.
  • The puppet of the NCGA in weakening the Department of Public Instruction.
  • Controller public information but remain private about it.
  • Overseer taxpayer money that comes from the public but helps it get siphoned away from public schools.

Hui reports:

“When the $35,000 comment came out, I just had to speak out,” Jewell said in an interview Monday. “I couldn’t have someone who speaks out on so many issues that we oppose.”

Jewell did speak out: loudly and clearly.

Johnson rarely speaks out for public schools. Not during the class size chaos. Not about unregulated charter growth. Not about vouchers. Not about the principal pay plan. Not about per pupil expenditures.

When Johnson does speak he polarizes and hides behind the shiny, glittering generalities of baseless reforms like “school choice.”

Further in Hui’s column, Johnson is quoted as saying,

“Unfortunately, there are some who still want to play politics with the facts. I am disappointed but not surprised this group wants to shut out diversity of ideas on how we improve our schools.”

Actually, no one in education plays politics more than Johnson. He is totally enabled by politicians.

And it’s interesting that Johnson use the word “diversity” in defense of his inaction because he literally was just speaking out on behalf of “school choice” and charter school advocates at a rally last week in Raleigh. It would be interesting to hear Johnson’s inexpert opinion on a recent study by UCLA and UNCC on charter school and segregation just released entitled “Charters as a Driver of Resegregation” (http://pulse.ncpolicywatch.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/01/EMBARGOED-Charters-as-a-Driver-of-Resegregation-012518-final_v2b.pdf).

Furthermore, a vast majority of parents and students choose to attend traditional public schools.

Johnson is not speaking out for them.

Mark Jewell is.

NCAE

When the Leader of the Public Schools Refuses to be Part of the Public

From WRAL on January 27, 2018:

Johnson has said he prefers to work behind the scenes, speaking with lawmakers privately rather than sharing his thoughts on policy in public settings. But on Thursday, he shared his thoughts on teacher pay while speaking at a conference hosted by the North Carolina School Boards Association in Raleigh (http://www.wral.com/breaking-tradition-ncae-won-t-invite-superintendent-to-convention-due-to-teacher-pay-comments-other-reasons/17293180/). 

From Dr. Bill Harrison, ABSS Superintendent and Former State Board of Education Chairman:

bill harrison

Imagine you are an official of the state elected by the public. Your job is to lead the state’s public school system. You are the head of the Department of Public Instruction. You are the lead public school instructor. You control public information. You oversee taxpayer money that comes from the public.

Should you not be publicly available?

Because that’s a lot of public involved – six “publics” in the first paragraph alone.

From the “Organization” page of DPI’s website (http://www.ncpublicschools.org/organization/):

The North Carolina Department of Public Instruction (NCDPI) is charged with implementing the state’s public school laws and the State Board of Education’s policies and procedures governing pre-kindergarten through 12th grade public education. The elected State Superintendent of Public Instruction leads the Department and functions under the policy direction of the State Board of Education.

The agency provides leadership and service to the 115 local public school districts and 2,500+ traditional public schools, 150+ charter schools, and the three residential schools for students with hearing and visual impairments. The areas of support include curriculum and instruction, accountability, finance, teacher and administrator preparation and licensing, professional development and school business support and operations.

The NCDPI develops the Standard Course of Study, which describes the subjects and course content that is taught in North Carolina public schools, and the assessments and accountability model used to evaluate student, school and district success. In 2016-2017 Department staff are developing North Carolina’s Every Student Succeeds Act plan. This work is being informed by public comments collected in 12 regional meetings and through feedback collected from educators and others. The states ESSA plan will be submitted to the US Department of Education in September 2017.

The NCDPI administers annual state and federal public school funds totaling approximately $9.2 billion and licenses the approximately 117,000 teachers and administrators who serve public schools. The NCDPI’s primary offices are in Raleigh, with four regional alternative licensing centers in Concord, Fayetteville, Elm City and Catawba. Approximately 30,000 new teacher and administrator licenses are issued annually from these centers. The NCDPI’s work extends to the NC Center for the Advancement of Teaching with locations in Cullowhee and Ocracoke, and the NC Virtual Public School – the second largest virtual public school in the nation. The state agency also works closely with nine Regional Education Service Alliances/ Consortia and six regional accountability offices.

There’s a lot of duties in that job description. But is it not ironic that many of those duties seemed to have been ignored? Look at the job description again (first three paragraphs) with what is known to have happened and what is still happening.

The North Carolina Department of Public Instruction (NCDPI) is charged with implementing the state’s public school laws (in a state that is controlled by a GOP majority who has had many “policies” declared unconstitutional) and the State Board of Education’s policies and procedures governing pre-kindergarten through 12th grade public education. The elected State Superintendent of Public Instruction leads the Department and functions under the policy direction of the State Board of Education (that he is currently embroiled with in a lawsuit over power).

The agency provides leadership and service to the 115 local public school districts and 2,500+ traditional public schools (many of which are suffering because Johnson halted key list serv communications from DPI), 150+ charter schools, and the three residential schools for students with hearing and visual impairments. The areas of support include curriculum and instruction (nothing has occurred), accountability (nothing has occurred), finance (DPI budget slashed without him commenting), teacher and administrator preparation and licensing (SB599?), professional development (where are those funds?) and school business support and operations (who will build the extra classroom space needed to fulfill the class size quotas?).

The NCDPI develops the Standard Course of Study, which describes the subjects and course content that is taught in North Carolina public schools (nothing has occurred), and the assessments and accountability model used to evaluate student, school and district success (ASW just got cancelled and the school performance grades are about to get more constricting). In 2016-2017 Department staff are developing North Carolina’s Every Student Succeeds Act plan. This work is being informed by public comments collected in 12 regional meetings and through feedback collected from educators and others (have not heard anything). The states ESSA plan will be submitted to the US Department of Education in September 2017 (that’s two months away and Johnson still has not talked about his “findings” from his listening tour).

There is no other office in the state of North Carolina that has the word “public” associated with it more. The job description alone has the word “public” in it TWELVE times. And the web address has the word “public” in it – http://www.ncPUBLICschools.org.

That’s unacceptable. As the head of DPI and as the overseer of the “assessments and accountability model used to evaluate student, school and district success,” Johnson would be familiar with the distinct standards that teachers and educators like himself would have to show at least proficiency in.

One of them is communication with stakeholders – students, parents, administration, others.

If you were to look at the North Carolina Teacher Evaluation Rubric (easily found in .pdf form on the web), you could do a “find” for the word “communicate.”

rubric

It occurs over 20 times.

Add the word “communication” to the search.

You get over 40 hits.

Communication means being “public” with those who are stakeholders. For Johnson that’s everybody in the state of North Carolina, but if he were being measured by the rubric that he actually is responsible for and should model as the instructional leader of the PUBLIC school system, then he may not be proficient.

When a teacher is evaluated, there are certain pieces of evidence that can be introduced to verify and validate rubric scores.

Imagine how Johnson should be scored. Consider the following pieces of evidence.

  1. Mark Johnson, the state superintendent of public instruction, may be violating state law by failing to respond to a public records request, according to an articleby N.C. Policy Watch’s Billy Ball, a former INDY staff writer (https://www.indyweek.com/news/archives/2017/06/06/nc-policy-watch-state-superintendent-of-public-instruction-may-be-violating-the-law-by-ignoring-records-requests).
  2. WRAL News requested an interview with state Superintendent of Public Instruction Mark Johnson to discuss the Senate’s budget. Instead, he emailed a statement, saying he looks forward to “continuing our work with the NC House and Senate as they transform education in North Carolina” (http://www.wral.com/senate-proposes-cutting-8-state-education-staffers-including-42-year-employee/16707728/).
  3. Johnson has declined multiple interviews with Policy Watch since January, although he has spoken to a handful of other media organizations in the first six months of his term. He also did not respond to Policy Watch communications regarding this report (http://www.ncpolicywatch.com/2017/06/06/state-superintendent-may-violating-law-ignoring-public-records-request/).
  4. The tour will begin at a Winston-Salem high school, although press will reportedly not be allowed to join. Prior to his election as state superintendent, Johnson was a corporate attorney in Winston-Salem and a local school board member (http://pulse.ncpolicywatch.org/2017/02/02/state-superintendent-mark-johnson-begin-listening-tour-winston-salem/#sthash.YoYxJcaT.dpbs).
  5. In an interview with WRAL News last week, Johnson declined to say what other positions he would like to hire if the bill passes (http://www.wral.com/nc-superintendent-hopes-to-hire-chief-innovation-officer-other-positions-with-help-from-lawmakers/16684497/).
  6. Johnson isn’t sharing what those ideas are just yet (http://www.wral.com/ousted-nc-superintendent-on-successor-how-do-i-help-an-infant-in-public-education-/16236296/).
  7. Johnson did not agree to an interview this week, but the superintendent—a Republican who defeated  Atkinson in November’s election—said in a statement Tuesday other exceptions have been allowed in the days since. Johnson did not provide specifics, but those exceptions apparently include updates from the department’s finance office, which has continued to post reports (http://www.ncpolicywatch.com/2017/07/12/state-school-superintendent-muzzles-communication-dpi/).

That’s not being very public.

Another Symptom of the Disconnect – Mark Johnson’s Comments on Teacher Pay

johnson salary

What follows is a chronological list of quotes, statistics, and other reports about teacher pay, the need to raise the teaching profession, and the walking contradiction that is State Superintendent Mark Johnson.

April 18, 2016:

According to media reports, average teacher pay in North Carolina ranks 42nd nationally. Last year, the state legislature increased starting teacher pay and gave teachers a one-time bonus of $750.

Atkinson said average principal pay in North Carolina public schools is 49th or 50th in the nation.

She said a 30 percent drop in enrollment in university and college teacher education programs statewide since 2010, was largely due to low teacher pay.
“Our teachers are better educated than ever today, but we’ve got challenges,” she said (http://www.journalpatriot.com/news/atkinson-teacher-shortage-looms/article_066628f0-0592-11e6-9d1f-97e69c4ecc03.html).

September 7, 2016:

“Most teachers and school leaders work tirelessly for their students despite the challenges. They are not to blame, and I am grateful to lawmakers in Raleigh (and my fellow board members in Forsyth County) for seeking much-needed, overdue raises for them.” – Mark Johnson (https://www.ednc.org/2016/09/07/our-american-dream/).

September 30, 2016:

Johnson supports continued salary increases, the teacher-leader model and increasing pay for teachers working in struggling schools. But Johnson said teachers also need better professional development opportunities and to be treated “like professionals” – Mark Johnson (http://www.journalnow.com/news/local/education-candidates-spar-on-teacher-salaries-charter-schools-and-more/article_a75fbf84-9f8b-5a81-8ad3-8f4b24880b5d.html).

December 20, 2017:

“So, we worked with the General Assembly to secure $105 million for desperately needed new schools in our most economically disadvantaged counties and to reestablish NC Teaching Fellows scholarships to support future educators who will teach hard-to-staff subjects” – Mark Johnson (https://www.ednc.org/2017/12/20/north-carolina-public-schools-accelerating-2018/).

January 26, 2018:

The median weekly salary nationally for full-time workers between the age of 20 and 24 in the last quarter of 2017 was $528 a week, or $27,456 a year, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. It increased to $724 a week, or $37,648 a year, for people between the ages of 25 and 34 (http://amp.newsobserver.com/news/local/education/article196911774.html?__twitter_impression=true).

January 26, 2018:

But looking only at college graduates, students majoring in other professions reported much higher starting salaries than new teachers. The average salary for an education major in the Class of 2017 was $37,046 nationally, compared to $74,183 for computer science majors, $64,530 for engineering majors and $53,259 for math and statistics majors, according to the National Association of Colleges and Employers (http://amp.newsobserver.com/news/local/education/article196911774.html?__twitter_impression=true).

January 26, 2018:

During a question-and-answer session Thursday at the N.C. School Boards Association’s policy conference in Raleigh, Johnson said that the base state starting salary of $35,000 for North Carolina teachers was “good money” and “a lot of money” for people in their mid-20s (http://amp.newsobserver.com/news/local/education/article196911774.html?__twitter_impression=true).

January 26, 2018:

“But that $35,000 mark for a starting salary if you’re in your early 20s, that is really good, especially in some of our rural districts.” – Mark Johnson (http://www.wral.com/nc-superintendent-defends-teacher-pay-comments-amid-criticism/17292076/).

January 26, 2018:

“Teaching is the most important job. It’s one of the most difficult. Without teachers, no one else has a profession.” – Mark Johnson (http://www.wral.com/nc-superintendent-defends-teacher-pay-comments-amid-criticism/17292076/).

January 26, 2018: 

From Thad Ogburn of the N&O – @thadogburn

johnson salary

Open Letter to Rep. Chuck McGrady About His Empty Class Size Mandate Explanation

Dear Rep. Chuck McGrady,

I read with great interest your recent missive “Class Size: A Simple Explanation of the Issue.” While I appreciate your wanting to explain the issue in what you may think is a truthful manner, I must admit that it just rehashes the same argument made by many others in the General Assembly which have been debunked or severely neutralized (https://nchouse117.com/class-size-a-simple-explanation-of-the-issue/).

Particularly interesting was the section entitled “A Longer Explanation and History of Class Size Requirements” not only because it follows the “simple explanation”, but because it leaves out a rather particularly vital aspect to this class size ordeal.

You stated,

“The class size issue is not new; the legislature has been instituting class size restrictions for the past four decades. Prior to 1995, there were separate allotments for classroom teachers and program enhancement teachers. In 1995, those allotments were consolidated into one allotment that included funding for both classroom teachers and program enhancement teachers.

Over the years as the legislature changed the teacher allotment ratio, it did not always correspond with an average class size requirement change. This is best shown through this chart:”

blackburn1

That graph is linked to teacher allotment. Yet if you are going to give a “longer explanation” of the class size requirements then it might need to include the removal of class size caps passed by the same NCGA that you and others in Raleigh but never seem to mention.

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.

class size

However, local authorities can extend class sizes if there is a need in their eyes and you do mention that local LEA’s have flexibility. 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 previous allotment numbers. And that’s huge! As classes around the state got bigger in size, the General Assembly was funding with the same allotment table. You even give another table.

blackburn 2

Actually, you are saying that the NCGA thinks that bigger classes should be the norm. From 2010-2011 to 2017-2018, the average class size for the allotment is bigger. That means fewer teachers being allotted for more students.

Some classes on my campus push upwards to 40 students. I mention the sizes for high school and middle school classrooms because to create a class size mandate for early grades affects the class sizes for all grades in a school system. If you say that there is already funding, then shrinking some classes to fit a requirement cause other classes to balloon and subjects to be dropped.

Plus you NEVER SHOW where the funding came in for the class size mandate. You just make a blanket statement in your “longer explanation.”

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. But it seems that you are making an argument that funding is fantastically high now.

You also say,

“School building and other capital needs, may also be an issue. If a school is at capacity and suddenly has to have smaller class sizes, then it will need additional classrooms. This is a cost that is borne by the school system, not the state.”

Is that how you would explain it to local LEA’s and superintendents? Because according to the numbers, all of that funding that you imply was to go to “class size restrictions” actually is going to teacher salaries just to fill classrooms that already were getting bigger in size, were defined by DPI as viable classes, and already existed.

Kris Nordstrom, a well-known education finance and policy analyst, published a rather epic article on the class-size mandate and the lies that people like Barefoot and Moore have used in explaining their lack of action to fully fund the mandate (http://pulse.ncpolicywatch.org/2017/12/15/cant-general-assembly-leadership-stop-lying-unfunded-class-size-mandate/#sthash.UcohVyIb.dpbs). It is very much worth the read.

Within that article, Nordstrom states,

DPI publishes data showing whether a school district has transferred their classroom teacher money for other uses. It’s a bit complicated to find. But in FY 2016-17, just four districts transferred any money out of their classroom teacher allotment. The transfers totaled just $1.1 million. In that same year, districts received $4.1 billion of classroom teacher money. In other words, districts spent 99.972 percent of their classroom teacher money on teachers last year. Clearly, district mismanagement is not a meaningful barrier to reaching lower class sizes. Clearly, district mismanagement is not a meaningful barrier to reaching lower class sizes.

That bears repeating:

“Districts spent 99.972 percent of their classroom teacher money on teachers last year.” 

Nordstrom shows the numbers. You make blanket statements under headers such as “A Simple Explanation” which are then followed up by even more blankets statements in sections like “A Longer Explanation.”

Rep. McGrady, until you explain how your funding for the class size mandate has actually been made when you yourself helped to remove class size caps but not made corresponding changes to teacher allotments then I will take your words with more merit.

And until you explain how local LEA’s have been not using those funds already on teachers in still overcrowded classrooms, then I will consider your explanation empty.

Let This Statistic Sink In

From CNN:

Another high school has turned into a scene of carnage, this time in western Kentucky.

Sixteen people were wounded, two of them fatally, after a shooter opened fire Tuesday morning at Marshall County High School, authorities said. Four others sustained various injuries (https://www.cnn.com/2018/01/23/us/kentucky-high-school-shooting/index.html).
KY

 

 

A Pathetic Rebuttal – The John Locke Foundation’s Weak Attempt to Discredit the Quality Counts Education Report

In the days since Education Week released its yearly report, “Quality Counts 2018: Grading the States,” people at the John Locke Foundation have gone out of their way to debunk the report’s findings.

JLF1

This year, NC was ranked 40th down two spots from last year and down 21 spots since it peaked at 19th in 2011. And while people like John Hood, Dr. Terry Stoops, and Mitch Kokai have written and communicated arguments to try and weaken the power of the report, their arguments actually validate the effectiveness of the Education Week report and reveal a baseless attempt at damage control.

Why “damage control?” Because in attempting to debunk the report, what happened is that more light was shed on the gross “reforms” that have been at play in NC and have been championed by the John Locke Foundation – the same “reforms” that have brought North Carolina’s ranking down.

First came John Hood’s op-ed in the Carolina Journal entitled “State education rank isn’t low” (https://www.carolinajournal.com/opinion-article/state-education-rank-isnt-low/). It starts,

“If you recently read or heard about North Carolina ranking 40th in “education” and found that rank plausible, I thank you for keeping up with the news. If you saw that story and found North Carolina’s low ranking implausible, I thank you even more energetically for being both informed and duly skeptical.”

You are welcome, Mr. Hood.

Offered are many arguments which probably could use a little more fleshing out.

He says,

“For starters, the study does not appear to adjust properly, if at all, for state-by-state variations in buying power. When schools vie for the services of teachers, vendors, or construction companies, they are competing against other potential employers or buyers. To evaluate the real expenditure, then, requires either adjusting measures such as per-pupil spending and teacher salaries for living costs or comparing against, say, the average pay of non-education jobs that prospective teachers might take in their respective jurisdictions.”

That whole “per-pupil expenditure” statement is a rather big subject, but if I hear him correctly, Hood is making a claim that NC has greater “buying power” than other states and that we should really pay attention to the salary averages of comparable occupations that would vie for potential teachers.

First, that “buying power.” If NC had such buying power, then it should start using it for things like textbooks, professional development, teacher assistants, and other vital resources.

Secondly, most potential teachers have college degrees. If Hood wants to argue that teaching in NC offers better pay and conditions than other comparable occupations, then he would need to explain why there is such a drop in teacher candidates in state schools. He would need to explain why the state needed SB599.

Hood then states,

“To put the matter more simply: personnel is the main expense for school districts. Living in Sanford is less expensive than living in San Francisco. If you don’t properly account for these kinds of disparities, any nationwide comparison of school spending is utterly useless.”

With that reasoning, then every rural district in NC that has such a hard time staffing its schools should start touting its “LOWER COST OF LIVING” aspect as part of its appeal. Some could argue that lower cost of living means cheaper property and cheaper goods. The taxes on those local commodities help to fund local schools and considering that the state is pushing more expenses to the local schools with more mandates, local school systems are having a harder time with getting the appropriate revenue.

Just ask any LEA about the class size mandate.

Then Hood says,

“With regard to educational outcomes, there are also challenges in constructing valid apples-to-apples comparisons. While policymakers, parents, and taxpayers certainly need to know the overall performance of our students, raw measures of test scores and graduation rates don’t necessarily speak to the educational value added by the schools themselves.”

Hood should say that to all of the lawmakers that he and his boss support.

And concerning the argument of NAEP scores from NC, it would be nice to know how charter schools or schools who use Opportunity Grant money score on that test since the John Locke Foundation is such a proponent of school choice and vouchers.

Hood might also want to explain why his viewpoint is so different from Bob Luebke’s op-ed two years ago posted on Civitas’s website: https://www.nccivitas.org/civitas-review/quality-counts-2016-nc-score-c/. Civitas and the John Locke Foundation are two faces of the same creature.

Luebke says for NC’s rank of 37th in 2016 (same criteria as 2017),

“Nevertheless QC represents one of the more accepted and longstanding attempts to get a handle on an elusive topic…North Carolina’s rank of 37th should raise concerns for obvious reasons….”

Interesting.

Not long after Hood’s missive, Mitch Kokai attempted to help stop the bleeding with “Misused statistic hurts N.C. in national school ranking.” Again, that was posted on Carolina Journal’s website: https://www.carolinajournal.com/opinion-article/misused-statistic-hurts-n-c-in-national-school-ranking/.

It begins,

“A recent national report dinged North Carolina for its lower-than-average “per-pupil expenditure.” At least one state lawmaker is likely to grumble openly about that result.

Per-pupil expenditure is one of the most common data points used to compare public education systems within states, across the nation, and even around the world.”

Kokai uses the per-pupil expenditure measurement as the foundation of his argument (PPE) because the Quality Counts report mentioned specifically that NC has a very low grade on school finance.

“Lloyd told the N&O that “what especially hurt” North Carolina in calculating that No. 45 ranking was its PPE numbers, as compiled from 2015 federal data. North Carolina spent an average of $9,217 per student, compared to a national average of $12,526. The “Quality Counts” report showed 2.5 percent of this state’s 115 school districts exceeded that national average.”

Interestingly, Kokai leans on Rep. Craig Horn’s explanation that PPE is not that important when it comes to the quality of education.

During a November 2017 task force meeting, Horn detailed his concerns about PPE’s usefulness. “Here in North Carolina we are, arguably, the fastest-growing state in the nation — certainly one of the fastest-growing states in the nation,” Horn told colleagues. “Therefore, we have a lot of kids coming in. We need a lot of teachers.”

“Teachers don’t generally start at the top or even in the middle of the pay scale,” he continued. “New teachers, of course, start at the bottom of the pay scale. If you have an increasing number of students and an increasing number of teachers at the lower end of the pay scale, per-pupil expenditure is going to be lower — which does not necessarily at all mean that the quality of their education [is lower] or that you’re not meeting the needs of the student.”

“As the teaching corps matures, the per-pupil expenditure — same number of students, same number of teachers — the PPE will go up,” Horn said. “I have a hard time, personally, using PPE as a benchmark of much of anything, quite frankly.”

I don’t have a hard time using PPE as a benchmark.

Horn then explains as Kokai recounts,

“Involved in PPE are the fixed costs of running your school,” he said. “Well, if a school is built to hold 1,000 students and holds 700, your PPE is X. Just do the math. If your student population happens to go up to 800 or 1,000, your fixed costs are the same. Your PPE has gone down. But nothing’s really changed with regard to quality.”

That’s where Horn is egregiously mistaken and Kokai uses that mistake in backing up his argument which is a mistake because he is trying to debunk a report that shows that all of the reforms Kokai and his cronies have championed have all been…mistakes.

PPE (at least from the state’s contribution) is mostly used for teacher salaries. The rest is used for resources like textbooks, transportation, and services.

  • Don’t more students require more teachers? And if according to Hood we need to look at the average salary of occupations for careers that might take away our potential teachers, should not salaries (for more need teachers) be going up quite steadily?
  • More students require more textbooks, right? They don’t get cheaper.
  • More students mean more services, correct? Like nurses. Maybe Horn could look at this – http://www.wral.com/study-need-for-school-nurses-growing-in-nc-could-cost-79m-a-year/17280561/.
  • Buses don’t get cheaper. Nor does having to buy more gas for more routes because we are growing as a state.
  • And that “fixed costs” part? More students mean more buildings that the local systems have to deal with. That means higher utility costs and upkeep.

Throw in a class-size mandate that Horn already says isn’t funded and you see how Horn’s PPE argument does not hold much weight.

Just like both Hood and Kokai’s arguments do not hold much weight.

Ironically, Dr. Terry Stoops of the John Locke Foundation said on January 18th in T. Keung Hui’s report on the QC report,

“The data used for the report are from 2015, so it does not include recent efforts by the North Carolina General Assembly to raise teacher compensation and support programs designed to raise student achievement. I suspect that these changes will improve our grade in future editions of Quality Counts” (http://amp.newsobserver.com/news/local/education/article195365259.html).

So, to put all of this in perspective:

Hood says the report does not put into consideration NC’s “buying power” (that it chooses not to use) and lower costs of living for places that have a harder time staffing its schools.

And Kokai says that per-pupil expenditures are not a reliable measure because Rep. Horn said they were not.

However, Luebke said that the QC reports are one of the more accepted studies out there.

And yet, Stoops says that we should see better results because we have started raising PPE’s since 2015.

Now, that’s some truly porous damage control for a truly damaging report that shows the damage done to North Carolina’s schools, damage that really stared when McCrory came into office and brought in Art Pope as his first budget director.

The same Art Pope who funds both the John Locke Foundation and Civitas.

10 Minutes of “Pathologia Boven Excrementum” – Sen. Barefoot on Class Size Chaos

Watching a politician try to explain with circular reasoning, strawmen, and other logical fallacies the reason why he should not be faulted for something he intentionally did can be entertaining. Or painful. Or in this case, maddening.

This past weekend, Education Matters aired an episode on the class size mandate. The show is produced by the Public School Forum of North Carolina. It is hosted by Keith Poston.

For a little over ten excruciating minutes, Mr. Poston interviewed Sen. Chad Barefoot. And, it must be said that Poston did a fantastic job of interviewing. He asked pointed questions and redirected when needed. And it exposed the intentional quagmire that the NC General Assembly has placed local school districts in with the class-size mandate.

Barefoot2

People in NC need to watch this interview. It can be viewed here: http://www.wral.com/news/education/video/17277352/. And it need to be shared.

Consider it ten-plus minutes of “Pathologia Boven Excrementum.”

Barefoot comes on screen after about three minutes.

Highlighted below are specific items he addresses, but when taken as a whole, it maps an argument that goes nowhere very quickly and intentionally shifts blame when it really resides in Raleigh.

3:27 – When asked if it was true that there was no funding in place for the next school year (2018-2019) for the class size mandate and for “specials” teachers, Sen. Barefoot said “That’s right.”

That’s an admission that it is not funded. He even went on to refer to a “compromise” in both chambers that passed almost unanimously

3:45 – “There was an acknowledgment by the General Assembly… that to keep going with the classroom size, there would have to be additional funding for program enhancement teachers.”

So, it’s unfunded. Or it is funded, but schools would have to stop doing other services to keep within the law.

Sen Barefoot then goes into a long-winded explanation of the need to get data. That data deals with how “The classroom teacher situation.” That’s a weird way of asking how many teachers does each system have and what do they teach.

4:14 – “So when we ask questions to DPI and say, ‘How many of these people exist?’ we don’t know the answer, the exact answer to that question.”

That’s bullsh**, I mean bovum excrementum. Literally this month a report on teacher attrition came out for the state and told us how many teachers left positions and for what reasons. It’s called the “State of the Teaching Profession in Carolina.” It breaks down the data in the following ways:

Barefoot1

What Barefoot is claiming is that while DPI can tell you who has left for where for whatever reason, DPI can’t tell the NCGA how many teachers there were in the first place.

Either DPI has the worst data collection in the known world (look who runs it now) or the NCGA already knows. It’s the latter.

It seems a little disingenuous for a legislator who commands so much power to be unknowing of how many teachers teach what subjects when PowerSchool houses all of the data centrally in the first place. And who runs PowerSchool? People in Raleigh contracted by the NCGA ad DPI.

Poston went on the ask if the General Assembly was going to go through and create a separate budget to fund “specials” teachers.

4:53 – “Yeah, that is still our intention.”

Does that sound like another admission that there has not been proper funding? Yep.

4:58 – Barefoot then went through another explanation of this “collection of data on what the price tag on that expenditure is going to be” in order to “solve that problem.”

So now it is a problem? An unfunded problem that the General Assembly already knew about?

Barefoot then gave a history of having two allotments for teachers that separated core-subject teachers from others like for music, arts, and P.E. He intimated that that was the system the General Assembly wanted to get back to. Funny how that is trying to emulate what the NCGA did before the GOP took over both chambers.

Poston then rightfully pushed the question about timing and the need to get a solution done quickly as budgets for the next school year are being made for each LEA. He simply asked if funds will be allocated to the local school districts to cover the costs?

5:55 – “I think it’s certainly the Senate’s intent to fund the program… enhancement teachers and to create a separate allotment.”

So the Senate knew it was a problem. The Senate knew it was unfunded. And now Barefoot says there was already an intent to solve it.

What that says is that the class size mandate debacle was actually carefully planned to be a – fiasco. It is a meticulously drawn out disaster. And it has grown in mass so much that Sen. Barefoot cannot actually explain it without contradicting himself.

At about 6:30, Barefoot comes back to the idea that reducing class sizes for reading and math classes is a good thing.

Whoever said that it was not? And Poston nails him on that strawman argument. That’s’ why Poston says, “No one has ever argued that lower class size couldn’t have a positive benefit.” What Poston comes back to is the actual funding and the timing.

Then Barefoot goes back to calendars and “data” collection.

7:46 – “We feel like we have enough time to ultimately solve this problem.”

We did last year too. It was called HB13, the original bill. The Senate did not even bring it to the floor. Ask Sen. Bill Rabon.

Around 7:58, Sen. Barefoot delivers what he ultimately has been saying all along: “…the General Assembly was giving local school districts money every single year to reduce class room sizes and they didn’t do it.”

Poston challenges him again. “Do you think the superintendents have sort of squandered this money and not spent it on things that were important?”

8:24 – “Well, I….”

That’s right. Here’s comes the qualification.

8:26 – “I don’t know if I would call it ‘squandering’ or wasting, but when the state gives you money to lower classroom sizes and you spend it on something else, that’s a problem.”

Damn right it’s a problem.

That’s like chiding a dependent for spending money on food because he/she was starving and having none left to pay the rent when you as the state are responsible for both. That’s like punishing someone for getting the flat tire fixed instead of getting a tank of gas when you were responsible for their transportation.

To think that Sen. Barefoot could make the claim that funds have been given to school systems to “fund” something as per-pupil spending has actually decreased over the past ten years (adjusted for inflation) is purposefully erroneous. Furthermore, this same GOP-controlled legislature removed class-size caps in classes to fit more kids inside of classrooms.

Think about all of the school systems in the past six years that have gone from a 7-period day to a block-schedule that made teachers teach more classes and more students in a given year. And Barefoot says that they were wasting money?

Poston says at 8:50, “They were spending it on teachers. “He then asked if this was a question of underfunding overall.

Barefoot pivots as if that was a different problem. Three minutes earlier, he was literally talking about underfunding. He doesn’t want to talk about underfunding schools because that’s a different topic than what he was talking about which is…wait for it…oh!…underfunding schools.

9:24 – Barefoot even says that superintendents who did not use the money earlier allocated for class size changes should be held “accountable.” He even lauded schools in Wake County that had used those “allocated funds” (remember that it is still one big chunk of many because Barefoot says they no longer have separate funds) to reduce class sizes in K-3.

Wake County is most vocal about the effects if the unfunded class size mandate.

Barefoot represents Wake County.

At 9:49, Poston gets to a factor not even broached by Barefoot – classroom space.

Just start listening to how Barefoot starts to blame the local school systems for not making the class size reduction a priority years ago.

Like during the recovery from the Great Recession.

Remember that textbooks were literally not funded. Remember that new teachers were not allowed to have due-process rights and graduate degree pay bumps. Remember that there is barely any more state-funded professional development. Remember that the state does not pay for national certification fees any longer. Why? The economy.

But Barefoot spends the next few minutes talking about how it was the local school systems fault for not having the space available when they had to foot the bill on textbooks, facilities, professional development, technology, teacher supplements, transportation, etc.

The same local school districts that overall have over 20 percent of students in poverty, deal with funds siphoned off to vouchers and charter schools, have seen Medicaid not expanded that would help students.

And Barefoot blames them for something that he already says was not funded by the General Assembly.

Then Barefoot has the audacity to talk about “mistrust” (10:52).

Then we go back to the “data” (11:00). And blaming superintendents for not “wasting” money, but for not using it correctly.

By the end of the interview, Sen. Chad Barefoot simply reaffirms that it is a problem.

Wow.

We all knew that last year when the NCGA did nothing about it.

If there is one thing that needs to be reiterated, it is that come November, people need to vote for candidates who are committed to funding public education. Because Sen.  Barefoot just spent ten minutes telling you in his stream-of-unconscious manner that he is not.

Sen. Bill Rabon’s Commitment to Not Fully Fund NC’s Public Schools

From Rep. Craig Horn on January 4, 2018:

“The gap is closing. There are folks that are working on a reasonable solution with the session coming as quickly as it is next week” ((http://www.ncpolicywatch.com/2018/01/04/chairman-house-education-committee-solution-class-size-crisis-imminent/).

From Sen. John Alexander on January 17, 2018:

“We are still trying to gather information from all 100 counties of the state, to ensure that any fix is amiable to all. Please know that I share in your concerns, as do all the members of the General Assembly, and we have heard you. We are working diligently towards a solution that will benefit all” (https://www.ncpolicywatch.com/2018/01/17/gop-senators-email-promises-relief-class-size-crisis-march/).

From Sen. Bill Rabon January 19, 2018:

“We appreciate and share Sen. Alexander’s strong commitment to find a resolution that will ensure the smaller class sizes we’ve already paid for while funding enhancement teachers beginning in the 2018-2019 school year, but we have not yet determined a specific timeline. Last year, school districts began raising concerns that they would no longer be able to fund enhancement teachers in subject areas like art, music, drama and P.E. We asked them to share their calculations with lawmakers so we could understand how much, if any, additional funding was needed and are in the process of analyzing the data” (http://www.wral.com/rabon-not-so-fast-on-that-march-class-size-session/17274023/).

Days after a glimmer of sunlight started to possibly peek its way through the partisan clouds hovering over the class size mandate, Sen. Bill Rabon made sure to keep the skies overcast. And there are so many self-revealing aspects about his statement today that should not only madden public school advocates but also reinforce the notion that many in Raleigh do not want to see public schools fully funded.

First, Sen. Rabon would do well to actually prove that the mandate has been funded. If he claims that he is awaiting data to ascertain whether additional funding is needed, then his repeated assurances that is has already been funded should actually have data ready to validate that claim.

Additionally, he said that districts had begun to “raise concerns” LAST YEAR. Actually, that was last spring. For Rabon to say that the NCGA does not have the data in hand is ridiculous. One only needs to see how tightly audited each school in the state is each year and one can see that districts could supply that information in a matter of days. Rabon’s claiming that it takes months.

And above all, to actually fund the mandate would go against everything that Rabon has stood for in his tenure as a lawmaker – at least when looking at his actions.

This is the man who did not let HB13 even come to a vote in the North Carolina Senate after the House unanimously passed it in its original form. From April 6, 2017:

One bipartisan-supported reprieve to the looming class size order, House Bill 13, gained unanimous approval in the state House in February, but despite advocates’ calls for urgent action this spring, the legislation has lingered in the Senate Rules Committee with little indication it will be taken up soon.

Sen. Bill Rabon, the influential eastern North Carolina Republican who chairs the committee, did not respond to Policy Watch interview requests, but his legislative assistant said this week that Rabon’s committee will not consider any House bills until the General Assembly’s April 27 crossover deadline (http://www.ncpolicywatch.com/2017/04/06/school-officials-preparing-fire-thousands-specialty-teachers-order-meet-k-3-classroom-mandate/).

This is also a man who has taken money from a well-known charter school mogul named Jonathan Hage who runs Charter Schools USA.

Below is a screen shot from followthemoney.org which tracks campaign contributions to political candidates (https://www.followthemoney.org/entity-details?eid=14298646). Here is a list of candidates who have received money from Hage in NC.

Hage1

  • There’s Jerry Tillman, the former public school administrator who is a champion for opaque charter school regulation.
  • And there’s Jason Saine who loves charters as well and now is the president of ALEC.
  • There’s Rep. Bryan who helped to bring in the ASD district now known as the Innovative School District and is a major player in one to of the private companies trying to get the contract.
  • There’s David Curtis, who loves charters as well.
  • There’s Lt. Gov. Dan Forest, who sits on the state school board and lambasted DPI under Dr. June Atkinson for its report on charter schools that said they were disproportionally representing populations.
  • And there’s Bill Rabon, who stalled the HB13 bill in the Senate.

But possibly what really shows Sen. Rabon’s reluctance to even consider fully funding public schools is his primary sponsorship of a bill in June of 2016 that mimics what many erroneously call the Taxpayers Bill of Rights or TABOR.

The constitutional amendment wouldn’t affect the current rate – which will drop from 5.75 percent to 5.499 percent next year – but would effectively prevent the legislature from raising income taxes. The constitution now includes a maximum rate of 10 percent (http://www.newsobserver.com/news/politics-government/state-politics/article83773162.html).

That version of TABOR would have capped a vital source of revenue that the state would need in times of crises. That’s scary to think about. The very fabric, the very sinews of society like schools, healthcare, and environmental protections would be instantly jeopardized and it would take years to recover as a result of this bill.

Remember that all three of those areas (schools, healthcare, and environment) have already been hazardously affected in the last few years here in North Carolina. We have just been ranked 40th in the latest Education Week Report Card, Medicaid expansion was not allowed by the lawmakers in Raleigh (like Rabon), and just look at what is still happening with Duke’s coal ash spills and GenX.

A commitment to TABOR is a commitment to limiting how public schools get funded. To sponsor a bill like TABOR is saying out loud that you do not want to fully fund public goods and services in times where people need them most.

Also, do not let it be lost that Rabon also serves on the committee for redistricting. Most of America is very familiar with NC’s drawing of districts.

Therefore, Sen. Rabon’s words about the class size mandate are simply his way of saying that he does not want to fully fund it and he does not want to tell you that he already knows what the data says.