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.
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:
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.
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.