Thank You North Carolina General Assembly! We Are Now Ranked 40th!

This past week, Education Week released its “Quality Counts Report” for 2018. It is a yearly report that ranks each state (and D.C.) with a report card that measures a variety of variables.

As reported by T. Keung Hui of the News & Observer:

Issues with school funding and student achievement dropped North Carolina to 40th in the country in a new report card on public education, continuing a downward trend in the rankings for the Tar Heel state.

North Carolina received a C- grade and a score of 70.6 out of a possible 100 in the 2018 Quality Counts report released this week by Education Week. That’s below the national grade of C and score of 74.5

North Carolina’s score put it 40th out of the 50 states and the District of Columbia (http://amp.newsobserver.com/news/local/education/article195365259.html).

map

You can find the report here: https://www.edweek.org/ew/collections/quality-counts-2018-state-grades/index.html.

In 2011, NC was ranked 19th.
In 2015, NC was ranked 34th.
In 2016, NC was ranked 37th.
In 2017, NC was ranked 40th.

This is a disturbing trend to say the least especially when Hui quotes Sterling Lloyd of Education Week as saying, “School finance is really the area where North Carolina struggles. It’s 45th in the nation for its school finance grade.”

45th. In financing schools.

That’s 45th in funding of schools.

The most egregious parts of Hui’s report came when both Mark Johnson and Dr. Terry Stoops were asked for comments.

From Johnson:

“Since I began my campaign for this office, I have consistently said that great work is occurring in our schools, led by hard-working teachers and local school leaders, but also that our state needs to approach education with more urgency and innovation,” state Schools Superintendent Mark Johnson, a Republican elected in 2016, said in a written statement.

“I’ll always put much more stock in my conversations with educators, parents, and students than some national magazine’s idea of quality. That being said, I have never shied away from pointing out stubborn concerns caused by the status quo while we work to implement innovations that will transform incremental progress into real success for all educators and students.”

That’s not a rebuttal. That’s a non-answer. A year into his tenure, the only innovation Johnson has shown is how to get into a costly court case with his own state board over control of the public school system. Furthermore, he is the status quo for North Carolina as he a proponent of “school choice,” vouchers, charter schools, and lower per pupil expenditures that have been championed by the NC General Assembly since it was taken over by the GOP in 2010.

And by all appearances, that “national magazine” seems to know more about education than Johnson does when you consider his limited experience.

From Dr. Stoops:

Terry Stoops, vice president of research for the conservative John Locke Foundation, focused on how the report didn’t include the latest school funding data.

“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,” he said. “I suspect that these changes will improve our grade in future editions of Quality Counts.”

What Dr. Stoops decided not to mention here is that many of the initiatives that the North Carolina General Assembly placed on public education actually happened before 2015 such as:

  • adjustment of average teacher pay (remember in 2014, it was “historic”)
  • removal of teacher due-process rights for new hires
  • removal of graduate pay bumps for new hires
  • Standard 6
  • push for merit pay
  • revolving door of standardized tests
  • attacks on advocacy groups
  • removal of class size caps
  • vouchers
  • unregulated charter school growth
  • school performance grades
  • eliminating Teaching Fellows

All of those had something to do with NC’s fall in the rankings from above average (19th) to the bottom tier (40th). Dr. Stoops’s comment is weak and baseless at best.

Hui also references Kris Nordstrom’s report “The Unraveling” . That is more than worth the read. It is a very concise explanation of what the very NCGA that Dr. Stoops’s defends actually has done to make NC rank so low.

From 2011 to 2017, NC has fallen 21 spaces in the rankings.

The GOP has controlled the General Assembly since 2010.

Maybe it might be good for our rankings if that control ended in 2018.

 

 

 

Thank You State Superintendent! “Talent Pipeline” Restored! Amazon Says So.

elf

No. It should be, “Congratulations! We did it!”

One week ago, State Superintendent Mark Johnson wrote an op-ed in EdNC.org which made the argument that North Carolina lost out on its bid to “secure” the new Toyota-Mazda mega-plant that would have brought four thousand jobs to the state because of the performance of our school system. He opened,

“That we did not secure the new Toyota-Mazda facility and those 4,000 jobs was bad news. North Carolina put forth a strong, bipartisan effort to woo the company, and I commend the governor and our legislative leadership for their work. Despite offering over $1.5 billion in incentives, four times that of our competition, Toyota said no. It was a big blow to our state” (https://www.ednc.org/2018/01/12/talent-pipeline-key-bringing-jobs-north-carolina/).

He said it was because of the “talent pipeline” in NC and that if we could strengthen our schools then we would have landed the plant.

  • Forget that NC was one of two finalists. TWO.
  • Forget that NC is not as well equipped as AL as far as being a viable supply chain but it still was one of two finalists. TWO.
  • Forget the irony that an $1.5 billion incentives package for the mega-plant would go a long way into helping fully fund public schools in the state that are responsible for the “talent pipeline.”

While the argument that Johnson made tried to walk a fine line between correlation and causation, what he explicitly suggested (I know; it’s wordplay) was that we lost out to Alabama because their schools do a better job. It should be noted that Alabama invests more of what it has revenue-wise in public schools than North Carolina (https://caffeinatedrage.com/2018/01/14/using-the-public-school-system-as-a-scapegoat-mark-johnsons-latest-erroneous-op-ed/). But forget that too.

Yet, what a difference a week makes!

In those seven short, snow-filled days, North Carolina has rallied, raised itself from the ashes of defeat, and regained its stature as a leader in the “talent pipeline.”

Amazon is planning on building another North American headquarters. That equates to about $5 billion dollars and 50,000 high paying jobs. And it released its list of finalists today.

And North Carolina made it!

amazon

But the eye-opening aspect about this list is that Alabama is not on it. In that one-short week, we passed Alabama in the “talent pipeline.” At least that’s the conclusion Johnson’s reasoning would lead to. Alabama beat us to the Toyota-Mazda plant because of its talent pipeline. They should have been on this list, should they not?

Again, what a difference a week makes!

Johnson’s call-to-arms changed the landscape during an exam week for many school system across the state where standardized tests are being administered in underfunded classrooms.

Somewhere in Alabama, the state superintendent is probably putting together some op-ed blaming the reason that Alabama did not make the finalist list for Amazon’s HQ2 on their rapidly declining “talent pipeline.”

It shows you the power of the pen (or the keyboard). One missive from a reactionary state superintendent did this. Consider Johnson’s willingness to be a keynote speaker at a school choice convention but remaining silent on issues like the class size mandate, the principal pay fiasco, charter school scandals, SB599, attrition levels in schools, DACA repeal, CHIP repeal, SB4, HB17, and refusing to answer simple questions like those presented at state school board meetings –  to name a few.

That op-ed also mentioned Johnson’s affinity for his Toyota truck. He said,

I can probably drive my Toyota pickup for another 18 years, but I’d love to get a new one made in North Carolina long before then.

But now we have a chance for Johnson to actually order parts for that Toyota truck from a company that is headquartered in his new hometown – Raleigh! That’s because you can order Toyota parts through Amazon!

amazon toyota

Now, that’s a pipeline.

What the Hell is an Idiom? Language Lesson of the Day

Mental Floss is one of the best magazines published. It’s digital reach has also become rather substantial.

If you have any nerdy inclination then check it out. Sometimes it has some very teachable videos to use in class.

Like this one on idioms.

idioms

That’s the famous writer John Green (Fault in Our Stars, Turtles Down Below, etc.) explaining the most well-known idioms in our language.

History and language all wrapped in a cross-curricular mini-lesson without the standardized test.

Get a little nerdy. It’s good for the brain.

Tommy Boy and the Class Size Crisis – Concerning Sen. John Alexander’s Empty Words

I miss Chris Farley.

Tommy Boy Quote Butcher 1000 Images About Tommy Boy On Pinterest Tommy Boy Chris

His stint on Saturday Night Live is still memorable. There’s that opening number with Patrick Swayze where he and Swayze were competing for a spot in the Chippendale dancers. Then there’s Matt Foley, a motivational speaker who lives “in a van down by the river.”

But my favorite Chris Farley performance was not on SNL; it was in the iconic comedic movie Tommy Boy. I know, not classical cinema, but it was funny. And the one-liners!

One particular quote stands out more than others. It’s when Tommy Boy is trying to sell enough brake pads to save his family’s business. A potential contract hinges on his ability to convince the client he himself has faith in the quality of the product. Tommy Boy says,

“I can get a good look at a T-bone by sticking my head up a bull’s ass, but I’d rather take a butcher’s word for it.”

Tommy Boy wins the contract because the client takes his word for it. The client listens to someone who knows more about the situation, albeit in a comical way. Everything turns out well. Tommy Boy saves the family business from the corporate takeover from Dan Ackroyd’s character, Zalinski.

It is also an apropos way to describe the class size mandate debacle that has palgued our school systems and their ability to budget allocations for the coming year. Rather than trust teachers and professional educators concerning how to solve this problem, legislators like Sen. John Alexander chose to push an agenda that hurts public education in North Carolina that includes vouchers, unregulated charters, and an Innovative School district that could be run by a  profit-minded, impersonal company like Zalinski’s.

One of the most frustrating moments of this class size debate came recently when Sen. Alexander ignorantly stated in an email (from Billy Ball in NC Policy Watch today),

“We are still trying to gather information from all 100 counties of the state, to ensure that any fix is amiable to all,” Sen. John Alexander wrote in an email last week. 

Alexander—who co-chairs a key Senate budget committee—was responding to pleas for the state legislature to provide additional funds or flexibility to local school districts in advance of a pending mandate that they slash class sizes in grades K-3.

The Wake County senator wrote that the relief comes after “much discussion, research and hard work over the last several months,” although he offered no specifics on any plan.

“Please know that I share in your concerns, as do all the members of the General Assembly, and we have heard you,” said Alexander. “We are working diligently towards a solution that will benefit all.”

 

Where’s that research? Where is the proof that you have the data? Where is the proof of gathering the input of all 100 counties?

It took several months to get to a place where Sen. Alexander could make a claim that there might be some relief for the class size mandate coming in the next session without giving any specifics.  That’s pretty bad.

It’s an inexcusable excuse.

And that bit about “a solution that will benefit all”? Impossible.

Why? Because what Sen. Alexander feels is beneficial for his party and its partisan education reforms is completely antithetical to the health of the state’s public school system.

People like Barefoot, Berger, and Lee (and Alexander) don’t take a butcher’s, I mean a teacher’s, word for it. They refuse to repeal bad mandates or even try to fully fund public schools.

Now consider the aforementioned Tommy Boy quote again but with a twist.

“You can stick your head up the bad legislation’s ass, but I’ll take the teachers’ word for it.”

For that matter, they can take the students’, the parents’, and the financial analysts’ words for it.

But if they would rather have their heads up an ass, then….

Every Day is a Snow Day at West Forsyth

“Football’s made to be played in all types of weather. I’m not sure what everybody else does, but they’ve got to do what they’ve got to do. But at West Forsyth that’s not the way we roll.” – Coach Adrian Snow, August 30, 2017 in the Winston-Salem Journal.

To be a successful high school football coach you have to know more than drawing up plays and coming up with a Friday night game plan.

You have got to be more than that.

Such as:

  • Motivational Speaker
  • Public Relations Guru
  • Conversationalist
  • Master of Colloquialism and Jargon
  • Adjuster
  • Thinker
  • Tinkerer
  • Raconteur
  • Community icon
  • Prognosticator

and sometimes a meteorologist.

Take for instance today. With the talk centering on an upcoming blizzard of a couple of inches of possible frozen precipitation many of us were in a daxed state of confusion about what to do.

The only thing we really needed to do at West Forsyth was listen to someone who not only knows the elements, but thrives in all of its manifestations.

snow1

Before the school system called off school in light of a winter storm, Coach Snow already made the call that tomorrow would be a “Snow” day.

Look at that picture above. That’s literally green fields, green leaves, and sunshine. AND SNOW! Talk about your climate change.

Snow

See this picture? That’s Coach Snow explaining to three refs in a football game how it is possible to have “Snow” on a warm night in Clemmons. They are not just amazed. They are flabbergasted.

He’s literally giving them a lesson in persuasion, climate, weather, and physics all the while letting them know that he forgives them for making a horrible call during a football game that he would have played no matter what the elements were doing.

Because West Forsyth plays in any weather if allowed.

Is it raining? West will play.

Is it windy? West will play.

Is there a named storm in the vicinity? West will play.

And is there snow? West certainly will play.

Why? Because at West Forsyth every day is a “Snow” day.

Oh, and there’s one more thing that a good football coach is. That’s being someone committed to the intellectual growth of students. That’s why in his weather forecast, Coach Snow told everyone to finish the first semester strong.

Because two strong semesters let you play all four quarters, all eight innings, both halves, and any overtime or extra innings needed.

And eight strong semesters get you a good start in life.

 

 

 

 

Hallelujah, and Pass the Lard! – Sen Joyce Krawiec’s Uneducated Assertion on the Class Size Mandate

“If brains were lard, you couldn’t grease a small skillet.”

– Sen. Joyce Krawiec, Jan. 20, 2017 in reference to the people participating in the Women’s March.

lard1.png

Not Sen. Krawiec’s best moment.

One would think that since the senator equated lard with brains and the fact that much lard was actually sent to her directly in response, she would have kept some on hand “to grease a pan” and look at the actual facts of the very budget she helped to craft and pass in North Carolina before making baseless claims.

In this particular instance, it is about public education and the class size mandate, a law that will very much hurt the very county she represents, Forsyth County.

The Winston-Salem / Forsyth County school system has over 50,000 students and over 80 schools. The class size mandate will severely alter the county budget because it is unfunded and ill-conceived.

Kris Nordstrom, policy analyst and budget guru who worked in the NCGA much longer than Krawiec has been a lawmaker has more than proven that it is an unfunded mandate. Yet, Krawiec in a rather “lardless” way trumpets the purposefully false assertion that the state has put forth the money.

She said in an email that was printed by NC Policy Watch,

“So what’s the big deal with the Senate?  Why all this confusion?  The General Assembly believes reducing class size in K-3 will increase positive outcomes for our young people.  We have dedicated approximately $70 million of your tax dollars annually for this goal.  Any good steward of other people’s money should be expected to ask, ‘How it was spent?’
How many K-3 teachers should $70 million buy?   The average state cost of a classroom teacher, including benefits, is about $63,000, (salary x 1.26).  That works out to approximately 1,100 new K-3 teachers for our children.  Simple enough.
What does DPI report in their Highlights of the NC Public School Budget? (Summary attached)  Before additional funding began in 2013 there were 26,158 allotted K-3 teachers.  This year 2017-18 DPI reports funding 26,671.5 positions.  A net change of 513.5 new K-3 teachers and this includes any funded through growth in ADM (Average Dailey Membership).   Our children are missing about 600 K-3 teachers for which you payed.   That is a problem” (http://pulse.ncpolicywatch.org/2018/01/15/rest-assured-senator-know-teachers/#sthash.pDj5KOyd.V4v8LvKl.dpbs).

So Nordstrom does what he does best – show the truth in the numbers. Check out his recent post in response in to Krawiec’s assertion.

Nordstrom ends with his post with this:

It is inexcusable that General Assembly members continue to get the basic facts of this class-size issue so incredibly wrong. General Assembly members have access to the impressive analytical skills of the Fiscal Research Division staff, who are there to help General Assembly members understand the basic facts of often complex policy issues. It displays incredible hubris for members to send out error-filled emails or make inaccurate statements to the press without first checking with staff to make sure they have their facts straight.

Maybe it’s just a lack of lard.

Using the Public School System as a Scapegoat – Mark Johnson’s Latest Erroneous Op-ed

Scapegoating – “Unfairly blaming an unpopular person or group of people for a problem or a person or group that is an easy target for such blame.”

(From http://www.logicallyfallacious.com)

This past week, North Carolina lost out as a site for a new Toyota-Mazda mega plant that would have been worth over 1.6 billion dollars. According to WRAL,

North Carolina’s search for an automotive plant to call its own will continue, as Toyota and Mazda officials announced Wednesday that they will build a $1.6 billion factory in Huntsville, Ala.

The plant is expected to employ 4,000 people and produce 300,000 vehicles a year for the two companies when it opens in 2021. Toyota plans to assemble the Corolla sedan there, while Mazda said it will use the factory to produce new crossover vehicles for the U.S. market (http://www.wral.com/reports-nc-loses-toyota-mazda-car-plant-to-alabama/17247853/).

Let it be known that NC was a finalist – one of two states that made the final cut.

North Carolina Commerce Secretary said such a decision came down to “logistics.” He stated in the same WRAL report,

“North Carolina has a robust automotive parts industry, but they’re not necessarily where the sweet spot is for Toyota suppliers. Toyota has a plant in Alabama. They have an established supply chain that’s in Alabama, Tennessee, Indiana, and also the proximity to Mexico for suppliers of parts.

“We can’t move North Carolina southwest. [With Alabama’s] geography, they’re proximally located in that corner where the supply chain is tended to locate.

However, State Superintendent Mark Johnson claimed a different reason: North Carolina’s education system. In a recent perspective in EdNC.org entitled “The talent pipeline is the key to bringing jobs to North Carolina,” Johnson offered the following:

We must offer a talent pipeline unmatched by our competitors and eliminate one of the biggest challenges companies currently face — recruiting skilled workers.

Supplying a skilled workforce that companies can’t get elsewhere starts in our public schools. North Carolina must demonstrate to students that we support multiple paths to success after graduation (https://www.ednc.org/2018/01/12/talent-pipeline-key-bringing-jobs-north-carolina/).

Johnson, in his “vast experience” as an economic planner and commerce analyst made a brief mention of the “auto parts supply” that Copeland talks about, but the premise of his op-ed seems to be relying on his “vast experience” as a teacher and “leader” of the public school system of a state that is in the top ten in population.

Johnson blamed (yes, that is essentially what he did) NC’s loss of a potential mega-plant on the lack of a “talent pipeline” and the current inability of our school systems to produce a workforce that could have worked the jobs that Toyota and Mazda could have brought.

Johnson scapegoated our public school system. Pure and simple.

It not the lack of talent; it was the fact that Alabama is geographically more positioned to work well for Toyota and Mazda. If NC’s talent pipeline was not good enough, then NC would not have been one of the two finalists.

Furthermore, Copeland has a lot more ethos, credibility, and experience to explain how Alabama landed the mega-plant. He’s been working on that much longer than Johnson has. A LOT MORE.

But if Johnson wants to make the claim that NC lost to Alabama because of its ability to create a talent pool, then maybe he should compare how both states treat their public school systems.

Simply refer to the NEA’s Rankings and Estimates Report where 2016 was ranked and 2017 statistics were projected. The NEA does the report every year and it is considered very reliable (http://www.nea.org/assets/docs/2017_Rankings_and_Estimates_Report-FINAL-SECURED.pdf).

NEA rankings

  • In 2016, Alabama had 4,863,300 people compared to North Carolina’s 10,146,788. That makes NC over twice as large as Alabama population-wise. That’s twice as much “talent” to choose from just looking at the numbers (Table A-1).
  • In 2016, AL had 137 school districts; NC had 115 (Table B-1). That means AL had more districts to monitor.
  • In 2016, AL enrolled about one-half the number of students in public schools as North Carolina (Table B-2). Again, NC has about double the students in school.
  • In 2016, NC had a higher rank of graduation rate from high schools (Table B-4).
  • In 2016, AL had an average teacher salary of $48,518; NC had $47,941 (C-5). That is not adjusted for cost of living. According to the Missouri Economic Research and Information Center, AL is a little more affordable than NC in terms of cost of living in the third quarter of last year (https://www.missourieconomy.org/indicators/cost_of_living/).
  • In 2016, NC had 30,755 total instructional staff members in public institutions of higher learning to AL’s 12,705 (Table C-7). That means we have more institutes of higher learning – lots more. That’s not even considering the private institutions.
  • Total personal income for AL in 2016 ranked 26th; NC ranked 13th (Table D-1 and D-3). People in NC on average made more money.

Those numbers do not help Johnson’s argument that we lack a talent pipeline. We have the human capital and obviously many more places post-secondary education opportunities. We definitely have the talent.

Look at the actual dollars spent reveals a common theme.

  • Pages 60 – 68 chronicle school revenue. In looking at the tables in this section, AL and NC actually align fairly closely. Alabama uses more local funding than North Carolina as NC has a state constitution that is by law supposed to fund at certain levels. But Tables F-7 and F-8 that show something rather startling. Frankly they show that Alabama invests more of its revenue in its schools than North Carolina.
  • And in Table H-5, it shows that AL ranked 21 states (in 2014) ahead of NC when it pertains to “State And Local Govt. Expenditures For All Education As % Of Direct General Expenditures, All Functions.”
  • Table H-8 has AL spending more per-capita for public education in K-12 than NC.
  • Table H-9 shows that AL spent more in 2014 per pupil NC.

Alabama invests more in public schools. They have less money to invest, but still invest more. They invest more in their students, teachers, and “pipelines.”

If Johnson wants to dispute these numbers then he would have to deal with the NEA, and he does not want to do that. He won’t even talk to its North Carolina affiliate, NCAE.

The perspective on EdNC.org that was published directly before Johnson’s was by Ferrel Guillory, a professor of journalism at UNC-CH. It is entitled “A map that colors North Carolina pale.” In it he deftly talks about per-pupil expenditures and what it has done to our state’s ability to service students (https://www.ednc.org/2018/01/12/map-colors-north-carolina-pale/). He shares a map:

nces-image-final-1024x682

Yep, Alabama is a shade darker. Says a lot.

Ironically, Johnson lauds a grant program for “career coaching.”

“We recently awarded $700,000 in Education Workforce Innovation grants. These state funds are supporting career coaches in school districts around the state who will better guide students to find the best post-graduation choice for them.”

$700,000? It could be twice as much if the NC General Assembly didn’t cover Johnson’s court costs in his battle to take more control of the public schools from the state board or hire people only loyal to him who duplicate work already being done.

432

300

More career coaches? How about fighting for more money to hire more GUIDANCE COUNSELORS in public schools. The numbers those warriors deal with are absolutely astronomical. In my school alone, each counselor has nearly 500 students in his/her case load.

If Mark Johnson wants to make the argument that NC lost the Toyota-Mazda mega-plant because of the lack of preparing a talent pipeline, then maybe he should read Guillory’s op-ed first.

Maybe he should fight against a reduction in DPI’s budget.

Maybe he should have helped rally to fund the class size mandate that is being rammed down school systems’ throats.

Maybe he should not advocate for “reforms” that are actually hurting the ability for public schools to even help the “talent pipeline” it already nurtures like unproven vouchers and unregulated charter school growth.

Maybe he should actually do his job and not use public schools as a scapegoat.

What Would Mark Johnson Say About This? Probably Not Damn Thing

Today Kris Nordstrom published a post on NC Policy Watch concerning a newly released study from Economic Research Initiatives at Duke University about how charter schools in North Carolina have negatively affected financing for traditional public schools.

In “New study calculates charter schools’ negative financial impact on North Carolina school districts,” Nordstrom starts,

“A new report from Duke University’s Helen “Sunny” Ladd and University of Rochester’s John D. Singleton uses North Carolina data to conclusively show the negative impact charter schools have on the finances of traditional, inclusive public schools.

The report confirms what traditional, inclusive public school advocates have been saying for years: charter schools drain resources from our public school system. School districts face a number of fixed costs such as utility costs and central office administration. When a student leaves the traditional public school system for a charter school, the school district loses the average funding for a student. But the district still incurs these fixed costs.”

A link to the actual study is included in Nordstrom’s report. You can download a copy of the pdf.

charter study

The abstract is below.

A significant criticism of the charter school movement is that funding for charter schools diverts money away from traditional public schools. As shown in prior work by Bifulco and Reback (2014) for two urban districts in New York, the magnitude of such adverse fiscal externalities depends in part on the nature of state and local funding policies. In this paper, we build on their approach to examine the fiscal effects of charter schools on both urban and non-urban school districts in North Carolina. We base our analysis on detailed balance sheet information for a sample of school districts that experienced significant charter entry since the statewide cap on charters was raised in 2011. This detailed budgetary information permits us to estimate a range of fiscal impacts using a variety of different assumptions. We find a large and negative fiscal impact from $500-$700 per pupil in our one urban school district and somewhat smaller, but still significant, fiscal externalities on the non-urban districts in our sample.

So, what does our state superintendent have to say about this? That is if he read it.

What does Lt. Dan Forest have to say about this?

What about the champion of charter school growth, Sen. Jerry Tillman?

 

 

“This Land is the Land of Ours” – R.E.M.’s “Cuyahoga” and Donald’s Xenophobia

“Why are we having all these people from shithole countries come here?”  – Donald Trump, January 11, 2018.

The current president’s words about immigrants from other countries comes two days after stripping protections for over 200,000 Salvadorians here in the states. His statement specifically alluded to Haiti, El Salvador, and African nations, most of whom are experiencing humanitarian crises of devastating proportions.

Yes, it’s apparent that Trump purposefully forgets we are a country of immigrants built on a land first inhabited by people who still fight for acknowledgment.

Trump himself searches for “lands” to conquer and brand as his own with a fake holy façade and a win-at-all-costs arrogance. Screw the truth. Screw the history. Trump will reinvent the story with short sentences and simple words.

Sounds very much like the bridge of R.E.M.’s “Cuyahoga” which states,

“Rewrite the book and rule the pages
Saving face, secured in faith
Bury, burn the waste behind you”

The Cuyahoga River and the surrounding area are both the source of a great early R.E.M. tune and part of the Trump imperialistic showcase. “Cuyahoga” is on the Life’s Rich Pageant album and has an environmental bent with some of Bill Berry’s best recorded drumming. Cleveland is where Trump accepted the republican nomination for president.

But the river itself has more than a physical attachment to Trump; it has a strong metaphorical tie. Trump’s environmental policies and the irony that Trump received the nomination in a town that heavily supports democrats seem as baffling as his use of the word “shitholes.”

The Cuyahoga River is synonymous with Cleveland, Ohio, once a hub of American manufacturing. In 1969, the river actually caught on fire. That incident helped to fuel the very environmental movements that Trump’s current administration is trying to reverse.

cuyahoga

When most of the people who came to the US from oppressed countries that Trump calls “shitholes,” it was to seek a place to maybe call their own – a place to “swim” and “walk” safely and possibly take “pictures” of hope even if it meant working jobs that “skinned” their knees and physically wore them out. They did not mind bleeding on soil that was not originally theirs but for that matter was not ours either.

Certainly not Trump’s.

Yet, he wants to send them back with “souvenirs” that are branded with the Trump name.

“Take a picture here
Take a souvenir”

It really shows his true disconnect with reality: the present and the past.

At one brief time, the Cuyahoga was actually the western boundary for the United States in 1795. Being on one side of the river meant that you were not in America. Trump likes boundaries. But instead of sending someone across a river, he wants to send people who have been here for years across the seas and keep others from coming to our country.

It should not be lost on Trump that his own grandparents were immigrants wanting nothing more than to “bank a quarry” and “swim a river.” It also should not be lost on us that Trump probably has never “knee-skinned” anything in his life.

It is the hope of many that the courts will strike down Trump’s immigration mandates, that the press will continue to report what he says and does, and that others in power will hold him accountable.

But if we really want to preserve this land we need “to put our heads together and start a new” chapter of our “country up.”

The midterm elections of 2018 would be a great place to start. This “land is the land of ours” and it is the land of immigrants as well.

“Cuyahoga”

Let’s put our heads together and start a new country up
Our father’s father’s father tried, erased the parts he didn’t like
Let’s try to fill it in, bank the quarry river, swim
We knee-skinned it you and me, we knee-skinned that river red

This is where we walked
This is where we swam
Take a picture here
Take a souvenir

This land is the land of ours, this river runs red over it
We knee-skinned it you and me, we knee-skinned that river red
And we gathered up our friends, bank the quarry river, swim
We knee-skinned it you and me, underneath the river bed

This is where we walked
This is where we swam
Take a picture here
Take a souvenir

Cuyahoga
Cuyahoga, gone

Let’s put our heads together and start a new country up
Up underneath the river bed we’ll burn the river down

This is where they walked, swam
Hunted, danced and sang
Take a picture here
Take a souvenir

Cuyahoga
Cuyahoga, gone

Rewrite the book and rule the pages
Saving face, secured in faith
Bury, burn the waste behind you

This land is the land of ours, this river runs red over it
We are not your allies, we cannot defend

This is where they walked
This is where they swam
Take a picture here
Take a souvenir

Cuyahoga
Cuyahoga, gone
Cuyahoga
Cuyahoga, gone

When Your State Superintendent Won’t “Rally”‘ For Public Schools

Rally (noun)
1a : a mustering of scattered forces to renew an effort
2: a mass meeting intended to arouse group enthusiasm (merriam-webster.com)

It is the right of every American to come together and peacefully speak out for an issue. What someone rallies for speaks for their interests and values.

When a lawmaker or an elected official attends a rally, it can show his priorities and his loyalties.

Take North Carolina State Superintendent of Public Schools Mark Johnson for instance.

According to the job description of the state superintendent, Johnson is responsible for the “day-to-day” management of the North Carolina public school system. It seems that if anything was to threaten the public school system, then Mark Johnson would be the first to “rally” for the public school system and the students in the public school system.

This past weekend a rally was held in Raleigh at the Halifax Mall of public school advocates calling for a fix to the class size mandate that threatens most public school systems. This unfunded dictate will cause LEA’s to make decisions on what classes must be eliminated and how to navigate certain obstacles on classroom space and teacher allotment.

That rally was to petition Raleigh’s lawmakers to do the right thing. FOR PUBLIC SCHOOLS.

Mark Johnson was not there. Yet a former state superintendent was present, Bob Etheridge. He was rallying for public schools.

Other rallies have been held in recent years for public education dealing with funding and keeping teacher assistants. Mark Johnson was not there for any of those as there are no indications of his attendance. On his personal webpage as state superintendent, Johnson remarks,

…having served as a teacher, an education leader, and as a father of a young daughter soon to start school, improving education in North Carolina is a personal mission for Johnson (http://www.ncpublicschools.org/statesuperintendent/).

It seems that with this assumed pedigree of public school commitment, Johnson would be the first to rally for public schools – as a teacher, a “leader,” and as a parent.

Yet it has been documented that Mark Johnson has refused to answer inquiries in state board meetings about public school policy which is in essence a chance to “rally” for public schools.

But that does not mean he will not “rally” for people. Take for instance an event on January 23rd.

rally

Johnson will be there. He’s even the keynote speaker. He will rally for charter schools in a state that has gone out of its way to deregulate charter schools, ramp up vouchers, and use taxpayer money to fund those endeavors when no empirical data shows an overall increase in student achievement.

That’s the same taxpayer money that is not now being used for public schools and not being used to actually fund the class size mandate.

Interesting that a man “elected” by the people would rally for school choice but not for traditional public schools where around 90% of the state’s students “choose” to attend school. But it is not surprising.

Why? Because Mark Johnson does not really seem to stand for public schools as much as he “rallies” for private interests and GOP stalwarts in the NC General Assembly. If he disagrees with that statement, then he can come to a rally for public schools and explain himself. He can be more “public” to the “public.” However, his unavailability and his unwillingness to speak up for public schools are becoming more of the rule rather than the exception.

Make no mistake, Mark Johnson is a puppet – a man whose entire experience in teaching and teacher preparation is less than two calendar years and whose only foray into public education policy is an unfinished term on a local school board.

When Johnson said in the last state school board meeting, “I think what the General Assembly is looking for is accountability, accountability for the money that is sent to this department,” what he is implying is, “I work for people on West Jones Street and not the people of the state. (http://pulse.ncpolicywatch.org/2017/12/07/state-board-education-superintendent-mark-johnson-clash-dpi-funding/#sthash.hajrdpLu.hb54ZsZP.dpbs).

He indicated that he only goes to “rallies” that he is told to go to. Even the rally he will attend for school choice is in the legislative building where the General Assembly meets.

So limited is Johnson’s experience in education and politics and so narrow is his vision for what should be done to actually help public schools that his naivety to be used by the General Assembly to carry out their ALEC-inspired agenda has become something of an open secret.

School choice is part of the ALEC agenda.

Of course Mark Johnson would rally for them.

Now, what North Carolina needs to do is rally to change the people in Raleigh in the next election.