When a New York Nonprofit Says The Very Thing This Teacher Feels

By now many of you know about the provision put into the NC budget by Sen. Jeff Tarte to fund a DonorsChoose.org campaign to supply schools in Tarte’s district with resources.

donorschoose_logo

Teachers like myself and others who buy supplies to give to students who may need them might have thought, “It would be nice if the NC General Assembly would fully fund all public schools so that resources could be had by all students, not just the ones who are being helped in a ploy for a state senator to win a contested election.

And then DonorsChoose.org releases this statement:

“We cannot accept the funding outlined in the budget provision unless it’s changed to equitably support teachers and students throughout North Carolina. We’re grateful to Senator Tarte for looking to support students and teachers in his district. But other districts (including those with more students from low-income households) would not receive such support, which makes this budget provision feel against the spirit of our mission to fight education inequity and to serve where the need is greatest” (http://www.charlotteobserver.com/news/local/education/article212185489.html).

It makes one wonder how a non-profit company from New York can say exactly what many of us teachers have been screaming about for the last six years. And the sad part is that the NCGA listened to them before they listened to any of the teachers.

Last August, I posted about a friend who had to use a GoFundMe campaign just to get technology to help out his classroom. He said,

 

“I found that the only way to acquire a Chromebook Cart for my students was to fund raise from my family, friends, and school parents. The good news is that we raised $5,730 in five days. How many times can we, as teachers, go to that well? Not too often. In reality, we shouldn’t have to.

This teacher is grateful to his supporters. Why should he have to be? And what do I say to my fellow faculty members this fall when they look at my cart filled with thirty brand new Chromebooks and ask what they should do?”

I know of many teachers who have used grants and other measures to experiment with teacher methods or explore new avenues of pedagogy. Great teachers do that. However, what this teacher did was fund raise from family, friends, and parents for materials  that other schools may have that his students did not.

Why should he?’

He should not have to, but he did.

And it would not take long to figure out why when you consider our North Carolina General Assembly.

The same people who last year “wrote” this year’s budget that included this stunt by Sen. Tarte.

 

 

Open Letter to Rep. Bill Brawley Concerning the Disastrous HB514

property tax

Dear Rep. Brawley,

With the impending approval of Bill HB514 which allows for municipal charter schools in a budget process that is intentionally kept within committee and out of democratic debate, this voter has to ask you one question (actually many): Do you realize what you have championed?

Really. Do you know what Pandora’s Box you have opened and what the last lasting effects actually could be just so you satiate your political views?

  1. You probably just raised everyone’s property taxes in the state. With the ability to now use local property taxes to help fund local schools (a measure which seems to conveniently appear in the budget to lay a path for HB514), whatever the state now mandates for public schools and does not choose to specifically fund can now be passed on to local school systems.

Think about the class size mandate that will come around again next year. The reprieve given this year was in part due to the incredible blowback from local districts who correctly cited the state’s having not funded it. Implementation of the class size mandate would have created a seismic rip in school system budgets. Now it seems that there is an avenue to pass the cost of any state mandate to the local LEA’s. Instead of having to field concerns about whether or not the state will fund certain mandates, the state can now just slide the financial responsibilities to cities and counties, some of whom are already economically challenged.

If more of a burden to fund schools comes to the local systems, imagine the battles waged between school boards and city/county commissions to find ways to get more revenue when they are already tasked with building maintenance, construction, and financing other non-state funded educational resources.

  1. You probably just weakened every public school system in the state whether or not it currently has a charter school. Now charter schools can ask the local district for funds to finance anything from custodians to benefits for charter school teachers.

Be reminded that charter schools are not run by local systems. They are run by the state usually through for-profit brokers and do not have to abide by the same requirements as traditional public schools. They can also govern their admissions processes which traditional public schools are not allowed to do because it is against the very democratic ideals concerning public education that you as a lawmaker swore to uphold.

Simply out, you are allowing local funds to help build “state-run” schools which will profit charter school companies that can keep certain students out of its classrooms. And if you want to argue that these charter schools will be locally-run by the cities involved with HB514, then you are redefining what a charter school is and exposing current regulations to broader interpretations that could lead only to more discord.

  1. Furthermore, this will probably cause a rise in charter school applications and eventually lead to more charter schools in the state. And the more charter schools there are, the more it hurts traditional public schools which still service the overwhelming majority of students in the state, including your district. Consider the new U. S. Census findings about education spending in North Carolina:

“The data, which do not factor in North Carolina’s growing spending on charters, placed the state at 45th in the nation, not counting Washington, D.C.

Total spending per student, about $8,792, lags the U.S. average of $11,762, according to the Census charts.

The funding levels were for the 2016 fiscal year. Census officials noted they did not include charter holders who were not governmental entities.

North Carolina charters are approved by the State Board of Education but run by private, non-profits. Of course, charter spending is of import in this discussion. Since North Carolina lawmakers lifted the 100-charter cap in 2011, the charter sector has risen to include 173 schools” (http://pulse.ncpolicywatch.org/2018/05/24/new-census-figures-minus-charter-spending-n-c-s-education-spending-ranks-near-the-bottom-of-the-nation/?eType=EmailBlastContent&eId=c9f9014e-698a-485d-9b2f-569512cc459f).

If you can logically and conclusively explain how HB514 will not exacerbate that statistical nightmare, then you are either able to turn straw into gold or suffer from the worst case of confirmation bias in recent history.

  1. Maybe most important is that you would be allowing for the systemic re-segregation of student populations under the auspicious call for “school choice.”

Jeff Bryant wrote a prescient piece in OurFuture.org about 514 explaining how HB514 will undo years of progress. He says,

“After the Brown ruling, as well as Swann v. Charlotte-Mecklenburg Board of Education, which held busing was an appropriate way to integrate schools, Charlotte-Mecklenburg became, by the 1980s, one of the most racially integrated school districts in America. Such efforts have led to long-term benefits for Black American,s including greater income, better health outcomes, and lower incarceration rates.

Since then, rulings by more conservative courts overturning previous legal precedent and a state General Assembly dominated by Republicans have done much to resegregate CMS and other NC school districts. House Bill 514 would surely add to the racial imbalances in schools” (https://ourfuture.org/20180531/north-carolinas-proposed-new-charter-school-bill-is-a-warning-sign-to-the-nation?link_id=2&can_id=92d07cb83522450844bb4898a9c25bee&source=email-progressive-breakfast-new-charter-school-plan-should-alarm-the-nation&email_referrer=email_362256&email_subject=progressive-breakfast-new-charter-school-plan-should-alarm-the-nation).

And do not think that this will not be seen in other states. What North Carolina has become under your three terms in Raleigh is a breeding ground for counterproductive “reform” and a laboratory for ALEC-based initiatives.

For a man who lived through enough social movements involving civil rights and gender equality, you possess too much historical perspective to not reflect and see that what HB514 is doing is not offering “school choice.” It is building walls, physical and metaphorical, while passing the costs to those who need strong public schools, not charter schools, the most.

This Part of the North Carolina General Assembly’s Budget Might Be the Most Destructive of All To Public Schools

From the Charlotte Observer,

North Carolina’s proposed budget includes a provision that not only makes it easier for Mecklenburg County towns to create their own charter schools but allows cities across the state to use tax money for public schools (http://www.charlotteobserver.com/news/politics-government/article212094514.html).

property tax

Allowing for property taxes to be used for local school systems can lead to many different outcomes, none of which are mutually exclusive from each other.

1. The class size mandate can now be argued that it can be funded by the use of local taxes.

Remember when local LEA’s were screaming that in order to comply with the class size mandate that each would have to give up “specials” or take away teachers from other areas to make sure the law was obeyed? Furthermore, it would have required a lot more classroom space.

Plainly put, it was unfunded by the state despite the words of Chad Barefoot or Phil Berger.

Now the NCGA can look at each LEA and say that they can just raise property taxes to fund that mandate. It’s like they told each school system to fight with its county / city commissions to find a way to get the money out of the citizens to fund the state’s mandates while the state refuses to freeze tax cuts to corporations.

Even more concerning is that this will open up the door for charter schools to ask localities for money to help open up more charter schools.

2. Charter schools can now ask the local governments for revenue to use for their resources. 

From the aforementioned Charlotte Observer article:

The budget bill opens the door for districts and charter schools to ask municipal governments to pony up for anything from school resource officers to custodians to teacher pay supplements, said Charles Jeter, a former state legislator who now works as government relations coordinator for Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools.

Jeter is also making reference to the Charlotte-Meck fight with Matthews and Mint Hill communities which are seeking to create their own charter schools for their residents.  That “fight” is wrapped up in H514, a bill sponsored by Bill Brawley. As of today, Cornelius and Huntersville were added to the list of municipalities that wanted their own “charter” schools within the CMS system. This leads to another consequence of allowing for porperty taxes to fund schools.

3. It will allow for the segregation of school system populations with tax-payer money. 

Kris Nordstrom, the erudite policy analyst, did an incredible expose on this type of legislation that enables this type of segregation in Stymied by Segregation(http://www.ncpolicywatch.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/03/STYMIED-BY-SEGREGATION-Integration-can-Transform-NC-FINAL-2.pdf).

It was worth the read when it was first published. It is more worth reading now.

4. It will create an even bigger divide between wealthier and poorer counties. 

Billy Ball wrote a piece for NC Policy Watch that explains this very well.

It’s a controversial change tied inextricably to a push from some leaders in suburban Matthews to form their own municipal charter school apart from the county system, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools (CMS).

And in a state that’s long-struggled to reconcile major K-12 funding differences between its wealthier and poorer counties, it may only make matters worse, experts say.

“You’re likely to see more battles between the ‘haves’ and the ‘have-nots.’ And if history tells us anything, the ‘have-nots’ usually lose,” said Keith Poston, president and executive director of the Public School Forum of North Carolina. Every year, Poston’s organization publishes a report on the growing gaps in K-12 funding between affluent and poor districts. (http://www.ncpolicywatch.com/2018/05/30/education-budget-shocker-could-alter-the-fundamentals-of-nc-school-funding/).

5. It goes against the Leandro Decision. 

From Duke Law school’s description of the monumental 1997 case:

The heart of the Plaintiff’s case was the argument that the quality of child’s education ought not be dependent upon the wealth of the family and community into which that child was born. It costs more to properly educate disadvantaged children, but the State had not done enough to equalize school funding across NC. The Plaintiff’s proposed solution was a higher level of stable funding for these low-wealth counties (https://law.duke.edu/childedlaw/schooldiscipline/attorneys/casesummaries/leandrovstate/).

Make no mistake. This part of the secretly crafted budget is appalling and has so many intended consequences.

In fact it creates even more detrimental, possibly unintended consequences because those who are ramming this budget through are more concerned with wreaking havoc in the next couple of months rather than thinking about the decades of damage it will do.

 

The Need For “Tarte” Reform in Mecklenburg County

As with any relationship it starts with open and regular communication. It is about listening more than talking. Candidly we all need to learn how to check egos and power struggles at the door. These are major barriers. We do not always play nice in the sandbox together. Both sides need to understand and respect the responsibility and roles each has in serving our residents.” – Senator Jeff Tarte, October 18th, 2016 in the Charlotte Observer (http://www.charlotteobserver.com/news/politics-government/election/article109088982.html).

Surely many North Carolinians have heard about the surreptitious manner in which the current budget is being pushed through the General Assembly to avoid having it debated and discussed openly.

Using the nuclear option, GOP leaders have shunned having any amendments added. But at least they could have proofread this budget. Having this provision edited out of the released document probably would have been a good “amendment.”

budget

One doesn’t want to say he is being transparent when that is obviously is not the case.

But having more eyes on a document may not only help to eliminate “unwanted” wording; it can also help to make sure that what is written is actually correct.

Rep. Jeff Tarte (R-Meck) wrote in a provision that would actually have the state fund a DonorsChoose.org initiative to help buy supplies for schools in his district.

Not other districts. His district.

DonorsChoose

He literally is getting the state to fund schools in his district in a hotly-contested election cycle through a non-profit that takes a portion of the funds for overhead. But DonorsChoose.org does not actually condone this type of “fundraising.”

The following statement from DonorsChoose comes courtesy of LeAnna Earls Delph, veteran teacher and public school activist who contacted DonorsChoose about this very situation.

DonorsChoose2

Maybe making this budget more open to discussion would have saved the state some of this embarrassment, but what might be most embarrassing is that Rep. Jeff Tarte might have actually clashed with one of his biggest supporters, the Civitas Institute.

Here is a list of the five most “conservative lawmakers” according to the Civitas Institute as noted last summer (https://www.nccivitas.org/2017/civitas-action-unveils-2017-state-legislative-rankings/) .

“Civitas Action would like to commend Rep. Chris Millis for having the only perfect score in the House. Meanwhile, we congratulate the five Senators who earned a perfect score: Jim Davis, Ralph Hise, Wesley Meredith, Jeff Tarte and Jerry Tillman,” said Civitas Action President Francis De Luca. “We are also encouraged to find that this year’s Senate overall average score is higher than last year’s but disappointed that the House’s overall average dropped.”

That’s a little funny because last year on June 29th, Bob Luebke shared on the Civitas Institute website in a missive entitled “Schools, Parents – and School Supplies” a rather caustic perspective on the plight of many a public school trying to help provide for students in need.

He wrote,

A friend recently forwarded the email listed below.  It’s to parents from the principal at Holly Grove Middle School and is like thousands of other emails that schools send out to parents throughout the school year asking them to contribute or help out with some activity at the local school.

PTSA

First let say, most parents are happy to contribute to the additional costs of their child’s education. Parents will find additional money for such things as field trip or class pictures. They do it because they know it enriches their child’s educational experience.

This email asks parents to bring additional school supplies to the school for others. Specifically:

 “We would like to collect supplies for our HGMS students and other community students that may be unable to afford school supplies for the new school year. As you are shopping for your child’s school supplies for the new year…. Please consider purchasing a few extra supplies for donation.”

First, let me say I am all for helping those in need. Doing so is our duty.

But let’s remember the school is making this request. Last I checked Wake County Public Schools have $1.4 billion budget. The new budget for 2017-18 is $1.6 billion, including $455 million from the county and a record $45 million budget increase.

According to current formulas, the district allots about $71 per child for school supplies. Last year WCPSS spent approximately $11.4 million on school supplies.

That said, a question comes to mind.

The letter asks parents to “consider purchasing a few extra supplies for HGMS students and other community students unable to afford school supplies for the coming year.”

If HGMS or WCPSS does not have on hand any of the suggested supplies that they are asking parents to buy, what school supplies does the school buy with its approximately $71 per child budget?

Asking parents to pitch in is one thing. It’s quite another to ask because taxpayer money is not being spent wisely.

Passing a tin cup for such needs in a billion-dollar school district irks many parents and propels the false narrative that WCPSS schools are financially strapped.

If I’m wrong, someone show me. If not, it should stop (https://www.nccivitas.org/civitas-review/schools-parents-school-supplies/).

In light of Tarte’s exemplary record with the Civitas Institute, his actions seem to be in direct contradiction to what the Civitas Institute stands for.

So what would Leubke say about this?

Maybe those rankings might change next year.

 

What the North Carolina General Assembly’s Budget Does to Public Education – No Wonder They Went Nuclear

After thousands of teachers and education advocates marched on Raleigh on May 16th calling for better treatment of public schools, the GOP super-majority invoked what is akin to a “nuclear” option in passing its budget. Rather than allowing for debate on matters of money from elected representatives and the opportunity of amendments, Phil Berger and Tim Moore will have the budget voted on in committee.

It is commonly speculated that this maneuver was exercised because of the teacher rally and to avert dialogue that would force them to show their hypocrisy on the treatment of teachers and traditional public schools.

That budget was released on Monday, May 28th at approximately 9:00 on a federal holiday that honors fallen soldiers who died fighting for the freedom of Americans to have a democratic process preside over matters of state in a state that is considered one of the most military friendly in the nation.

Also, that budget was released right around the tip-off of Game 7 of a highly anticipated NBA game between two of North Carolina’s most beloved native professional athletes: Chris Paul and Steph Curry.

Two-hundred and sixty-seven pages that did little to address what needs so much to be addressed.

Below are some of budgetary highlights as it deals with public education. There are certainly more to be fleshed out when more time is given.

1. More tax cuts for corporations and wealthy people.

The tax cuts that have caused a lapse of revenue that would be used to help fund schools will be extended further as was written in the budget last summer. Gov. Cooper had proposed freezing these cuts as it would further cut revenue for the state. The fact is that NC has become such a “business-friendly” state has come at the expense of fully-funding schools.

2. Teacher Pay was raised in an uneven distribution and veteran teachers were ignored.

The NCGA is bragging about an average increase of %6.5 in teacher pay. However, looking at the distribution of the raises and the influence of inflation as well as the continued absence of longevity pay, these numbers do not look very good for many teachers, especially veterans.

Consider the following table compiled by John deVille, NC public school activist and teacher veteran who has chronicled the various changes in educational policy for years.

teacherpay2019

What deVille did was to compare salaries as proposed from the recent budget to the 2008-2009 budget that was in place right before the Great Recession hit, the same financial catastrophe that most every GOP stalwart seems to forget happened ten years ago. Adjusting the 2008-2009 salary schedule with an inflation index from the Bureau of Labor, the third column shows what those 2008-2009 salaries would be like now. Most steps see a shortfall. Add to that the loss of longevity pay that was used to help finance these “historic raises” and the amount of money lost by teachers over these past ten years becomes rather eye-opening.

Also notice that the biggest shortfalls happen to veteran teachers. That not only affects take home pay, but also retirement because the average of the last four years helps to project pension.

3. Principal Pay Plan altered.

This past fall, the General Assembly rolled out a new principal pay plan to help NC’s pay rank for principals out of the cellar (it was 50th). It was crafted behind closed doors and if it was enacted as written, many principals would have lost money even though their schools showed growth.

This new budget has a principal “bonus” for performance.

principalpay

4. Localities can now use property taxes to help fund schools.

This may be one of the most controversial components of the budget. What this allows for local cities and county systems to do is to use property taxes to help fund schools.  As reported in the Charlotte Observer,

North Carolina’s proposed budget includes a provision that not only makes it easier for Mecklenburg County towns to create their own charter schools but allows cities across the state to use tax money for public schools (http://www.charlotteobserver.com/news/politics-government/article212094514.html).

Even more concerning is that this will open up the door for charter schools to ask localities for money to help open up more charter schools.

The budget bill opens the door for districts and charter schools to ask municipal governments to pony up for anything from school resource officers to custodians to teacher pay supplements, said Charles Jeter, a former state legislator who now works as government relations coordinator for Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools.

Jeter is also making reference to the Charlotte-Meck fight with Matthews and Mint Hill communities which are seeking to create their own charter schools for their residents, a move that is seen by many as a way to segregate the CMS school system population with tax-payer money. Kris Nordstrom, the erudite policy analyst, did an incredible expose on this type of legislation that enables this type of segregation in Stymied by Segregation (http://www.ncpolicywatch.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/03/STYMIED-BY-SEGREGATION-Integration-can-Transform-NC-FINAL-2.pdf).

There also might be another angle to this piece of the budget. With the class size mandate still active and the apparent debunking that the NCGA had already funded this provision, allowing property taxes to be used to help fund schools might be another way for the NCGA to say that local districts have the ability to finance the extra space and teachers needed to fund the mandate.

property tax

5. DonorsChoose.org contribution set up for select Charlotte / Mecklenburg Schools.

As reported by Ann Doss Helms in the Charlotte Observer,

One paragraph in the 267-page North Carolina budget bill released Monday night immediately had educators abuzz: The state will provide $200,000 to DonorsChoose, a nonprofit that normally channels private donations to classroom teachers, for use in 35 Charlotte-Mecklenburg schools.

The listed schools span a stretch that runs from Davidson Elementary in northernmost Mecklenburg County to Elon Park Elementary in the southern tip. They cover the north suburbs, run along the county’s western edge and scoop up southwest and south Charlotte. Many are affluent suburban schools, but some have high poverty levels (http://www.charlotteobserver.com/news/local/education/article212094969.html).

They all fall into the newly redrawn 41st Senate district represented by Cornelius Republican Jeff Tarte, who faces a competitive re-election race in November.

“I assume that’s the re-elect Jeff Tarte provision of the budget,” Jeter replied to a reporter’s query about the DonorsChoose list. Jeter, a Republican, says Tarte and state Rep. John Bradford, R-Cornelius, recently asked him for a list of all CMS schools in their electoral districts, which Jeter provided.

 DonorsChoose

Ironically, Tarte had this recent Facebook post:

Tarte

In essence, Tarte is having the government fund supplies for schools in his district to help his reelection campaign with a budget that is not being passed democratically.

6. ISD can run schools if it sees fit.

Southside-Ashpole Elementary in Robeson County is the only school in the Innovative School District. Over a long period of time only one school was chosen and that will be run by a for-profit charter school company – Achievement for All Children.

Per Lynn Bonner and T. Keung Hui of the News & Observer last October:

A company tied to a wealthy Libertarian donor who helped pass a state law allowing takeover of low-performing North Carolina schools is trying to win approval to operate those schools.

Achievement For All Children was among the groups who applied for state approval to run struggling schools that will be chosen for the Innovative School District. Achievement For All Children is heavily connected to Oregon resident John Bryan, who is a generous contributor to political campaigns and school-choice causes in North Carolina.

The company was formed in February and registered by Tony Helton, the chief executive officer of TeamCFA, a charter network that Bryan founded. The board of directors for Achievement for All Children includes former Rep. Rob Bryan, a Republican from Mecklenburg County who introduced the bill creating the new district, and Darrell Allison, who heads the pro-school choice group Parents For Educational Freedom in North Carolina (http://amp.newsobserver.com/news/local/education/article178169451.html) .

Now, to be able to bypass any negativity associated with hiring a for-profit company, the new budgt wil allow the ISD to be run by … the ISD.

ISD

7. Virtual charter schools pilot extended from four years to eight.

North Carolina has two virtual charter schools. Both are considered very low-performing. Now both will get another four years. Maybe they could be put into the next selection round for the ISD district.

8. Even financing a charter school.

charterschool

Enough said.

9. Transparency

budget

Transparent.

Right.

Contrary to What the NCGA Has in Their Budget, Bonus Pay Does Not Work

Remember this from this past February?

berger

Sen. Phil Berger’s words in reference to the teacher merit bonuses based on 2017 scores reflect the growing willful ignorance that is being bred in secret chambers in Raleigh amongst GOP stalwarts.

In fact, his statement is so preposterous and outlandish that the only thing keeping this teacher from laughing out loud is the fact that Berger’s reasoning is more the norm than the exception for the state’s most powerful lawmaker.

There are a couple of places in the statement that immediately seem incongruous. North Korea strikes me as more of a communistic totalitarian state. The government controls everything. Actually, the government owns everything. When I think of a socialist country, I tend to think of countries whose economies provide large “welfare” and social services to all citizens like Norway, Finland, Denmark, Belgium, or even Ireland. Many talk about the “socialized” medicine in Canada and England. Putting North Korea in that context seems a little extreme. Besides, many socialized countries have education systems in which the teaching profession is much more highly revered than here.

Oh, and Sen. Berger also seemed to forget that North Carolina is a “right-to-work” state. That means there are no unions. NCAE is not a union. It’s an association of education professionals. If Berger really wants to see how teacher unions work, then he should go to Chicago and New York City. Now those are unions.

But it’s the word “bonus” that seems to be most spun by Sen. Berger.

I got a bonus. Got one last year. This year’s bonus was larger as the cap was higher. When any of my students from my multiple sections of Advanced Placement English Language and Composition scores a passing grade of “3” or higher, I receive a bonus of $50 per student. If lots of my students pass, that bonus gets bigger.

And the bigger the bonuses get, the more I feel that it just exacerbates the real problem: continued lack of respect for all public school teachers. In fact, I do not even consider the “bonus” a bonus. To me it’s just academic “blood money.”

One thing about bonuses is that they are highly taxed. Ironically, almost 40% of my bonus was taken out by three different taxes.

25% of it went to the federal government. Some of what the feds will get may be paying for Medicaid in other states, which is ironic because we didn’t expand it here in NC. Sen. Berger was a champion in not expanding Medicaid in NC.

Almost 8% went to Social Security, which at my age may not be around when I am old enough to receive it.

Almost 6% went to the state. That’s actually kind of funny to think about because the state gave me money to give back to them. And the same day I received the bonus, I got in the mail a tax statement about how much money I “made” from a tax refund last year will be taxed.

Last year, I did not keep the bonus. I wrote a check to my school because the school needed it more.

I did the same thing this year along with helping some kids with special needs. And don’t think I do not need the money. I do – still have two kids, car payment, mortgage, therapy for a special needs child, etc.

It is hard for me to consider taking this money, especially when I know why the bonus is given and the fact that it doesn’t really belong to me because so many more people at my school helped my students pass my particular AP test.

I know that there are other teachers I know well who will receive bonuses for their students passing AP tests. If they keep that money, that’s their business. They need the money. They have families and needs. I will not in any way ask them what they will do with it.

There are many reasons for my opinion, and all are rooted in principles and respect, but if I had a chance to tell Sen. Berger why I feel that his statement is rooted in political “newspeak,” I would talk about the following:

  1. I do not need a carrot stick. If getting a bonus to get students to perform better really works, then this should have been done a long time ago. It’s funny to think of rewarding me for my students working harder and not other teachers who do absolute wonders in the classroom that do not get measured.
  2. This creates an atmosphere of competition. I did not get into teaching so that I could compete with my fellow teachers and see who makes more money, but rather collaborate with them.
  3. I did not take those tests. The students took the tests. Students need to be able to harness their own motivation and hopefully I can couple it with my motivation. Yet many of these students are taking eight classes, participating in extracurricular activities, and helping families. Plus, with all of the testing that we put on students that takes away from actual instructional time is staggering. Sometimes, I am amazed at what our students actually accomplish in light of the gravity they are placed under.
  4. I was not the only person who taught them. To say that the success of my students on the AP English Language and Composition Test solely rested on my performance is ludicrous. While the cliché’ “It takes a village” might be overused, I do believe that the entire school’s faculty and staff has something to do with not only my students’ success, but my own.
  5. Bonus pay does not work. It’s like merit pay. There is really no evidence that it helps public schools. Remember the ABC’s from the late 1990’s and the early 2000’s? Yep, I do too. So should Sen. Berger.
  6. The state does not have a reputation of fully funding their initiatives. Again, remember the ABC’s? I still do. Those bonuses dried up because they were not fully funded. And after the bonuses are taken away in the future (which they probably will), will the expectations of student performance be lessened? History says that it will not.
  7. My class is not more important as others. They all matter.
  8. This sets a dangerous precedent in measuring students and teachers. Effective public schools are collaborative communities, not buildings full of contractors who are determined to outperform others for the sake of money. And when teachers are forced to focus on the results of test scores, teaching ceases from being a dynamic relationship between student and teacher, but becomes a transaction driven by a carrot on an extended stick.
  9. This is a reward, but far from showing respect. Many teachers got a raise in the past four years, but again that is an “average” raise. Bonuses in this case seem more like “hush money” and a means to brag that lawmakers seem to care about teacher compensation. But if Berger really respected teachers, he would do more for them than give “bonuses” to a few of them. He would reward them with salaries comparable with the rest of the nation. He would restore due-process rights for new teachers, he would give back graduate degree pay, he would stop measuring schools with a defeatist model, and he would restore longevity pay.
  10. It’s pure grandstanding. There is uncontrolled charter school growth. There are loosened sanctions on for-profit virtual schools. There are massive amount of money going to Opportunity Grants which will no doubt fill the coffers of schools that do not even teach the same curriculum as those teachers you want to “reward” with these bonuses. There is a lawsuit between our puppet state superintendent and the state school board Berger helped appoint, and an ISD district still out there. There is the lowered per pupil expenditure. All of this affects the very schools that Berger thinks a bonus will help to hide.

Sen. Berger thinks that bonuses are part of the solution. Rather, it’s a symptom of a bigger problem.

But if he wants to make comparisons with North Korea, then he might want to look at his own actions in promoting unconstitutional mandates that gerrymander districts to ensure certain people remain in power, that suppress minority voters so they do not have a voice, and that attempt to rig a judicial election cycle so that two of the three branches of the state government are under one thumb.

And there are so many excellent teachers who will never receive a bonus because the work they do in advancing kids can never be measured by the eyes of the narrow-minded who have no idea of what happens inside of a classroom.

Like Phil Berger.

How Can Berger and Moore Claim An “Average” Salary Over 50K? Actually, It’s Easy and Misleading

Remember this from the last election year in 2016? It made the claim that teacher salary had reached the magical 50K threshold.

mccrory

You cannot find that website now. OF course, you can’t find Pat McCrory in the Governor’s mansion now either.

But it was there making the claim of 50K a year.

Now, Berger and Moore are touting that “average” salary will be even higher next year.

The operative word here is “average”. What GOP stalwarts purposefully fail to tell you is that most of the raises have occurred at the very low rungs of the salary schedule. Of course, you can raise the salary of first year teachers by a few thousand dollars and it would give them an average raise of maybe 10-15%. You would only have to give veteran teachers a very small raise funded by longevity pay (which we no longer get) and the OVERALL average raise still looks good, and not much money has to be invested.

“Average” does not mean “actual”. Actually it’s like an average of the average. But it sounds great to those who don’t understand the math.

This reflects a whopping double standard of the NC General Assembly and a total contradiction to what is really happening to average teacher pay. Just follow my logic and see if it makes sense.

The last six years have seen tremendous changes to teacher pay. For new teachers entering in the profession here in NC there is no longer any graduate degree pay bump, no more longevity pay (for anyone), and a changed salary schedule that only makes it possible for a teacher to top out on the salary schedule with a little over 51K per year.

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So how can that be the average pay in NC be over 50K when no one can really make much over 50K as a new teacher in his/her entire career unless they all become nationally certified (which takes a monetary investment by the teacher to start)?

Easy. North Carolina is counting all of the veteran teachers’ current salaries in that figure. The very people whose salaries simply disgusted the former governor and the General Assembly to the point that they had to take measures to “lower” them are actually being used to tout this new wonderful “average.”

Furthermore, this average is counting on local supplements. This comes in the face of budgets that are allocating less money to each central office of each school system for administrative costs. Now each county has to raise more money to actually offset those costs and also allow for local supplements. And not all localities provide the same supplements.

Plus, those LEA’s will have to do something in the next few years to raise even more money to meet the requirements fo the delayed class size mandate.

Any veteran teacher who is making above 50K based on seniority, graduate pay, and national boards are gladly counted in this figure. It simply drives up the CURRENT average pay. But when these veteran teachers who have seniority, graduate pay, and possibly national certification retire (and many are doing that early at 25 years), then the very people who seem to be a “burden” on the educational budget leave the system.

In actuality, that would drive the average salary down as time goes on. If the top salary that any teacher could make is barely over 50K (some will have higher as National Board Certified Teachers, but not a high percentage), then how can you really tout that average salaries will be higher?

You can if you are only talking about the right here and right now.

The “average bear” can turn into a bigger creature if allowed to be mutated by election year propaganda. That creature is actually a monster called the “Ignoramasaurus Rex” known for its loud roar but really short arms that keep it from having far reaching consequences.

Remember the word “average” is a very easy word to manipulate. Politicians use it well. In this case, the very teachers who are driving the “average” salary up are the very people that the state wants to not have in a few years. There will then be a new average. It can’t possibly be over 50K then if current trends keep going.

Every Teacher and Public School Advocate Needs To View Jen Mangrum’s Video Concerning Appeal To Run Against Phil Berger

Berger’s tactics as the leader of the NC Senate have been nothing short of detrimental to public schools in North Carolina despite his silky rhetoric.

In this election year, Berger does have a strong opponent running against him: Jen Mangrum.

If you braved the cold temps in January and attended the Class Size Chaos Rally in Raleigh, you probably ran into Jen Mangrum. She was there to lend support.

If you came to the May 16th Rally and March, then you probably came within feet of her. She was there.

Mangrum is an educator. In fact, she is an educator of educators and is the daughter of … yes … educators. In the times that I have been in her company, I have found her accessible, compassionate, and straightforward.

Recently, a judicial board ruled her ineligible to run in District 30. She has appealed. She released a video explaining her appeal, her evidence, and her residency.  She offers a valid case.

SHE SHOULD BE ALLOWED TO RUN!

Judge for yourself. But what happened to her might get your blood pressure up.

Concerning Sen. Joyce Krawiec’s Words on Teacher Raises – The “Average Bear” Fallacy and Lard

Remember this?

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Well, if the senator’s recent Facebook Post concerning teacher pay raises was lard, then couldn’t grease just one tiny part of that small skillet.

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It would have been nice if she clarified that with some more information like what happened to the longevity pay for veteran teachers or the increase in premiums for benefits to name a couple or the fact that only newer teachers got the overwhelming majority of those raises.

It would also have been nice of her to explain that bonuses do not work that simply. She should have also shown how much of that was taxed because it is not tied to salary.

IT WOULD REALLY BE NICE IF THE SENATOR COULD EXPLAIN HOW AFTER ALL OF THOSE “RAISES” THE STATE OF NORTH CAROLINA IS NO CLOSER TO BRIDGING THE GAP BETWEEN NC TEACHER PAY AND THE NATIONAL AVERAGE – STILL AT %16.

But that would require her answering more pertinent questions that may spark debate and actual conversation and Krawiec and her contemporaries have shown this session that open dialogue, debate, and a chance for amending budgets scares them. Just look at the nuclear option being used in Raleigh to pass the budget.

It was nice of her to acknowledge the data table as being from the John Locke Foundation which is financed by Art Pope who was the budget director for Pat McCrory when that “historic” trend of raises came along in 2014 that took out longevity pay.

What Krawiec wants to hide behind is an “average bear” fallacy.

It is the claim by the senator and others that NC has given some of the highest “average” raises in the country. They also claim that the “average” salary of teachers in the state will be over $51,000 next school year.

The operative word here is “average.” What GOP stalwarts purposefully fail to tell you is that most of the raises have occurred at the very low rungs of the salary schedule. Of course, you can raise the salary of first year teachers by a few thousand dollars and it would give them an average raise of maybe 10-15%. You would only have to give veteran teachers a very small raise (if any) funded by longevity pay (which teachers no longer get) and the OVERALL average raise still looks good, and not much money has to be invested.

“Average” does not mean “actual”. Actually it’s like an average of the average. But it sounds great to those who don’t understand the math.

This reflects a whopping double standard of the NC General Assembly and a total contradiction to what is really happening to average teacher pay. Just follow the logic that Krawiec doesn’t use and see if it makes sense.

 

 

Why Local School Board Elections Are So Important in 2018 for Every NC School System

school-board-elections

Of all the primary political signs that were spread throughout the city where I reside, at least three of four deal with local school board elections.

This is not an anomaly. I cannot remember a time in an election cycle in which the majority of roadside political signs of local and state office did not refer to the school board elections. Those elections are that important because so much is at stake.

The largest part of a state’s budget tends to be toward public education. A major part of a school board’s (city or county) identity is how it helps students achieve within what resources and funds are available. In North Carolina, where a state general assembly tends to pass more fiscal responsibility to LEA’s (think class size mandate), a school board’s calling to help all students achieve must be met by those who truly understand what best helps schools and students.

No wonder school board elections are so important.

At the heart of a school board’s responsibilities are supporting a selected superintendent, guiding the creation of policies and curriculum, making sure there are adequate facilities, and seeing that budgetary needs are met.

That means understanding what students, teachers, and support staff need. That means understanding how schools operate and how they are affected by mandates and laws that come from Raleigh. And when policies that are handed down from the state that may not treat the local system favorably, then the school board must confront those in Raleigh and help fight for what is best for the local students.

There are 115 LEA’s in North Carolina – lots of school boards who should know their students best and know what obstacles that their schools face which need to be removed.

But what if one of those obstacles is the North Carolina General Assembly? Consider a per-pupil expenditure rate that is lower when adjusted for inflation than before the Great Recession. Consider the lack of textbook funds and overcrowded buildings and state mandates for testing that take many school days away from instruction. Consider the funding of unproven reforms like an Innovative School District and vouchers. Consider the growth of unregulated charter schools. Consider teacher pay and local supplements. Consider that there is a drastic reduction in teacher candidates in our universities. That is just a small list.

All of that brings to light what might be one of the most important jobs that a school board must undertake: it must be willing to challenge the state in an explicit and overt manner on matters that directly affect their local schools.

In a state where almost 1 in 4 students lives in poverty and where Medicaid was not extended to those who relied on such services, schools are drastically affected as students who walk into schools bring in their life challenges. If student achievement is a primary responsibility of a school board, whatever stands in the way of students being able to achieve becomes an issue that a school board must confront.

So, is the person whose name is on a political sign for school board candidacy willing to fight for our schools even if it means confronting Raleigh’s policies?

That might be the first question I might ask of any candidate for local school board – the first of many.