The “Back When I Was In School” Fallacy – When Lawmakers Claim That Our Schools Are Getting Worse

My grandmother graduated from high school right after the end of WWII. My mother graduated from high school in the late 1960’s. I graduated from high school in the 1980’s, and thirty years later I am watching another class graduate from the public high where I am about finish my 20th year of teaching.

 

And just in my career, I can emphatically say that it is erroneous to make overall comparisons between what schools are like today and what they were like my first year.

That’s why I cringe when I hear someone criticize schools because students are not performing the way “they did when I was in school.”

Yes, the buildings may be the same. There are football teams. There are extracurricular activities. Reading, writing, and arithmetic are still core foundational courses. There’s even earning a “letter”.

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But there is so much that changes in schools in such a short period of time that for a person who graduated in the 1980’s to directly equate their high school experience with what he expects to be happening in schools today would be erroneous. Too many variables are in constant flux.

This is especially true when speaking about academics. Generally speaking, many people look to various reports and media outlets to gauge how well public schools are performing. Average SAT scores, graduation rates, EOCT scores, and other standardized methods are used to give a snapshot of student proficiency. But it’s erroneous to simply relegate an “educated” opinion about the health of public schools based on nebulous standards and tests that change almost yearly.

Consider the following for high schools in North Carolina:

  • All school systems in NC now operate under a ten-point scale. In the past, a “70” was the lowest passing grade a student could receive in many districts. Now it is a “60.”
  • Some school systems have a minimum grade allowed for a student on a report card: “50.” Couple that with the first condition and of the 51 actual numerical grades that a student can receive, only 10 of those are failing grades (“50”- “59”).
  • Graduation rates are altered. It is interesting to think that those rates can be measured differently from state to state. Does it include students who graduate in only four years? Five years? Who finish at least with a GRE?
  • Definitions of what is proficient on standardized test results changes constantly. Some people may call it a “curve,” but what really is happening is that a “conversion formula” is used to create a final grade. In some instances, that may change from semester to semester. Plus, we have those in power who can’t tell proficiency from growth.
  • In the last two to three decades the nation has seen a rapid rise in standardized tests on federal, state, and local levels. Who makes those tests and how they are graded are rather vague in many cases. Writing tests may actually be graded by algorithms not people.
  • There is the move to all online testing for convenience and economic reasons takes away from the kinetic advantages of using pen and paper.
  • Funding for resources in public schools constantly changes. Actually, it keeps decreasing. In NC, schools are receiving less per-pupil expenditures than they did before the Great Recession (adjusted for inflation).
  • Schools are measured differently than they were just a few years ago. In NC, there is the school performance grading system that uses variables like the ACT, which ALL students must take on a school day. The ACT designed to be taken by those students who wish to apply to college. Not all students want to go to college.
  • Those school performance grades in NC and school “report cards” are calculated by a company called SAS. The algorithms they use in coming up with those results are secret. Educators do not know if those calculations use a constant formula.
  • End-of-course tests and standardized finals have changed considerably over the last few years and many do not know who writes them.
  • Many students are now taking more classes as a seven period day is being replaced with block scheduling. That means that students now take eight classes in a school year.
  • And if you think getting into college is the same now as it was in the past, think again.

That’s just a few.

Many politicians and education reformers know that and take advantage of many people’s lack of understanding that comparing current information to historical data goes deeper than the names of the tests.

It allows these politicians and reformers to use “revisionist history.” When the criteria for how we measure schools and student performance are constantly in flux, then the people who control the data can present it in any way they like. And that can skew the truth.

However, there are some constants that do expand across generations in all schools that are true now as they were in the 1980’s.

  • Poverty effects student achievement.
  • Fully funding schools helps students.
  • Treating teachers as professionals helps schools.
  • Community support is vital.
  • Lawmakers should listen to teachers when gauging student needs.

Our public schools are better than you may think.

Probably a lot better.

With the constant dialogue that “we must improve schools” and the “need to implement reforms,” it is imperative that we as a taxpaying public seek to understand all of the variables in which schools are and can be measured, and not all of them are quantifiable. And not all of them are reported or allowed to be seen.

It also tells us that we need to keep public education mind when we cast our votes in November.

When a North Carolina Lawmaker Says, “Well, We Are Spending More on Education Than Ever Before,” Then Tell Him About This

Say in 2008, a school district had 1000 students in its school system and spent 10 million dollars in its budget to educate them. That’s a 10,000 per pupil expenditure. Now in 2018, that same district has 1500 students and the school system is spending 11.5 million to educate them. That district is spending more total dollars now than in 2008 on education, but the per-pupil expenditure has gone down –  significantly to over 2300 dollars per student or 23 percent.

What many in Raleigh want to pat themselves on the backs about is that we as a state are spending more on education than ever before. And that’s true. Just listen for the many examples to come from legislators looking to get reelected this year to the NC General Assembly yet passing a budget through a nuclear option to avoid having to answer questions about the facts.

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But when the average spent per pupil does not increase with the rise in the cost of resources and upkeep and neglects to put into consideration that the population of North Carolina has exploded in the last couple of decades, then that political “victory” becomes empty.

What many in Raleigh may also want to pat themselves on the back about is how much of the state budget is spent on public education. It’s about 56% now.

But we are supposed to. It’s in our constitution.

The Public School Forum of North Carolina’s publication the 2014 Local School Finance Studyprovides a great history of the state’s practice in funding public schooling which is rooted in the proclamation that all children in the state ages 6-21 are guaranteed a good public education. The publication stated:

North Carolina’s first state constitution in 1776 included an education provision that stated, “A School or Schools shall be established by the Legislature for the convenient Instruction of Youth.” The legislature provided no financial support for schools.

A century later, the constitution adopted after the Civil War required the state to provide funding for all children ages 6-21 to attend school tuition-free. In 1901, the General Assembly appropriated $100,000 for public schools, marking the first time there was a direct appropriation of tax revenue for public schools. Today, the constitution mandates that the state provide a “general and uniform system of free public schools” and that the state legislature may assign counties “such responsibility for the financial support of the free public schools as it may deem appropriate.” N.C. Const. art. IX, § 2 (see sidebar, “Sources of Local School Finance Law: The North Carolina State Constitution”).

Apart from the constitutional provisions, a major change in the school funding structure occurred during the Great Depression. Under the School Machinery Act (enacted in 1931 and amended in 1933), the state assumed responsibility for all current expenses necessary to maintain a minimum eight-month school term and an educational program of basic content and quality (instructional and program expenses). In exchange for the state’s expanded role, local governments assumed responsibility for school construction and maintenance (capital expenses). The School Machinery Act established counties as the basic unit for operating public schools, which is maintained today with large county-wide school systems, except in the 11 counties that also have city school systems.

What this means is that the state has the responsibility for the financing of basic functions for public education like salaries for personnel, services for special-needs students, technology, professional development, even textbooks. To say that the state spends around 56% of its budget on public education and then consider that to be the end-all-and-be-all to the argument is really ignoring the reasons why such a dynamic exists.

In the past before the GOP’s current majority in the NC General Assembly began, the state spent an even higher percentage on public education because THAT IS WHAT THE STATE CONSTITUTION DECLARED. Those percentages of spending are not a badge of honor that this General Assembly gets to wear; it was earned many decades ago. The fact that the percentage is getting lower actually is not a positive sign for this administration. It is a reflection that the NCGA’s level of commitment to public education is wavering.

Lest we forget, some of the very people who are bragging about how well they have treated public education in this state have really in fact weakened it – deliberately. How? Here is a sampling:

  • The financing of failed charter schools that have little or no oversight.
  • The funding of vouchers (Opportunity Grants) that effectively remove money for public education and reallocate it to private schools – actually over 93% of them go to religious schools.
  • The under-funding of our public university system, which forces increases in tuition, while giving tax breaks to companies who benefit from our educated workforce.
  • The dismantling of the Teaching Fellows Program that recruited our state’s brightest to become the teachers of our next generation.
  • The removal of the cap for class size for traditional schools and claiming it will not impede student learning. And now they want to make a class cap size for k-3, but are not willing to help finance the enormous amount of building that would have to occur to facilitate the massive number of new classes.
  • The removal of graduate pay salary increases for those new teachers who have a Master’s degree or higher.
  • The administration of too many tests (EOCTs, NC Finals, etc.), many of which are scored well after grades are due.
  • The constant change in curriculum standards (Standard Course of Study, Common Core, etc.).
  • The propping of the most enabled yet invisible state superintendent of public instruction.

The number of LEA’s embroiled in a fight to fund its public schools is rather large– literally. Many parents and advocates are even asking to pay more taxes if they knew it would go to the schools.

If North Carolina’s leaders were serious about helping our public schools instead of praising themselves and trying to invent ways to create obstacles to validate “reform” then there would be no need for this fight.

And they sure as hell wouldn’t use our students as political pawns.

Taxpayer Bill of Rights (TABOR) – A Tourniquet Around the Bloodlines of Our Republic and it Could Cripple Our Public Schools

TABOR. To many in the NCGA it is called the TAxpayer Bill of Rights. Makes it sound like it truly benefits those in our state. It doesn’t. It’s just another catchy acronym that acts like a Trojan horse for something more destructive.

Acronyms are easy to shape and easier to sound beneficial. However, the “benefits” of this rumored piece of legislation would be far reaching and would take years to heal from especially for our schools.

In reality TABOR is a Terribly Awful Breach ORepresentation, a Totally Asinine Bit OReform, and a Truly Abusive Bit ORubbish in which people are being forced to Turn All Backs OReality. It’s a Tremendously Atrocious Bunch ORefuse Taken Amidst the Bowels ORapacity and passed off with a Total Assortment of Baloney ORigmarole.

It’s a metaphorical tourniquet, a Tourniquet Around the Bloodlines of Our Republic.

Just think of a tourniquet, a device that constricts blood flow to a limb or extremity. Only in times of medical emergency should a tourniquet be used. Maybe for a poisonous snakebite or a bloody wound. Sometimes one is used to allow for blood to be taken for testing and health purposes.

tourniquet

But one does not place a tourniquet on an arm or leg for kicks and giggles. There are consequences because blood is the very life force that carries oxygen and nutrients to the very parts of the body that need them. Cutting off blood flow has deleterious effects. Bones weaken and muscles atrophy.

That’s not good for a growing body.

Now think of a metaphorical tourniquet, one in which a constricting element is placed on a part of society that cuts off resources and funding for those who are most invested.

GOP leaders in the North Carolina General Assembly have pushed in the past and are rumored to currently be pushing for a proposal to place a constitutional amendment on the November ballot that would cap the income tax rate a 5.5% (currently it is 10%).

That proposal is a political tourniquet, pure and simple. And just as limited blood flow would cause harm to the skeletal system in a body, this measure would cause our state’s infrastructure to slowly disintegrate.

Chris Fitzsimon put it very bluntly in his posting for  “The Follies” from June 17, 2016 (http://www.ncpolicywatch.com/2016/06/17/the-follies-253/).  He stated,

“As the N.C Budget & Tax Center points out, that cap would cut off a vital source of revenue that the state needs and make it virtually impossible for future lawmakers to use the income tax to increase state investments, even in times of emergencies.

It also locks in place the massive tax cuts for the wealthy passed in 2013 that will cost more than $2 billion a year when fully in effect, more than the entire budget of the community college system and early childhood programs combined.

The new lower tax cap could threaten the state’s coveted AAA bond rating and force increases in the state sales tax and could lead local governments to raise property taxes and fees.  It’s a terrible idea that threatens funding for public schools, health care, and environmental protections and makes decisions for future members of the General Assembly that will be elected by the voters just like the current members were.”

Imagine what 2018’s version would be in a NCGA that will be using a nuclear option to pass a budget. That’s scary to think about. The very fabric, the very sinews of society like schools, healthcare, and environmental protections would be instantly jeopardized and it would take years to recover as part of the GOP’s plan is to change the constitution of the state.

Remember that all three of those areas (schools, healthcare, and environment) have already been hazardously affected in the last three years here in North Carolina.

Per pupil expenditures are lower, charter school growth is uncontrolled, and veteran teacher pay is still low despite what the current administration wants to boast.

Medicaid expansion was denied and we as a state are still paying into a system that benefits other states but not ours because of political ideology.

The fracking industry have practically been given an open door and permission to do whatever it wants. Duke Energy’s coal ash spills have still gone relatively unpunished.

Those three areas alone form a large part of our state’s infrastructure, or rather the skeleton of the state’s body. When these areas are harmed, then the need to help them heal is paramount. When bones and muscles have been damaged in a body, then one does not place a tourniquet on the wounded limb. You make sure that blood is flowing amply into the affected area.

It promotes healing. It promotes health.

That is unless those who want to place the tourniquet on those parts of society want to create a situation where amputation is the only option in the end. And while we could not literally amputate the public school system or the environment, we can do the political equivalent – privatize them. It would allow a few select people to profit over the very institutions that our state is supposed to provide.

Think about the effects on K-12 public education, community colleges, the public university system, public assistance programs, health care, correctional facilities, transportation, economic development, parks and recreation, environmental projects, state police forces, and aid to local governments.

You place a tourniquet on those items and you stagnate the growth of a state whose population is growing. And when the bone structure cannot handle the weight of a growing body, then… well you can imagine.

Proponents of the amendment to cap income taxes will tout that it means more money for people to spend on their own. It would allow for people to have more choices within their power. But unless you can send your students to private schools, have your own libraries and media outlets, pay for all out of pocket medical expenditures, hire your own security team, have your own environmental control, or set up your own recreational facilities, then you may be out of luck.

Even John Hood of the John Locke Foundation, a self-professed “conservatarian,” expounded on the role of the state in keeping a strong infrastructure. He said in his op-ed “How to read this column” printed in the June 19th , 2016 edition of the Winston-Salem Journal(http://www.journalnow.com/opinion/columnists/john-hood-how-to-read-this-column/article_1b7789ac-1fcf-5389-a6be-eca653d233bc.html) ,

“So I believe government should (and always will) exist to protect individual rights and to finance certain core services that, because of collective-action problems, will not be adequately provided through purely voluntary means. At the state and local level, those services include public safety and health, education and some infrastructure.”

And to place a cap on state income tax as being proposed would hurt the ability for the state to finance those “core services”.

Ironic that people who are pushing for this cap are public officials elected by the public who seem more interested in placing a tourniquet on the very services that they are sworn to protect and provide the public.

Actually, it isn’t ironic, but rather consistent and predictable.

Just look at what has happened in the last six years here in North Carolina.

So tell Tillman, Arp, Berger, Or Rabon that this is nothing more than surreptitious politics. Let them know this is not good.

And vote it down if it comes up in November.

The North Carolina General Assembly’s Absolute Fear of the Veteran Public School Teacher

Veteran teachers openly discuss, study, and collaborate.

And they fight for public schools.

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The powers that rule in the North Carolina General Assembly have been waging a war against public schools in our state for the last six years. Under the guise of “reform,” GOP conservatives driven by ALEC-crafted policies have successfully enabled and instituted privatization efforts in many forms: unregulated charter school development, expansive growth of unproven vouchers, underfunding traditional public schools, and even propped an educational neophyte as state superintendent who has passively allowed the very department that is set to protect public schools to be heinously undercut.

These calculated moves against public schools in North Carolina might signal the ultimate goal in overhauling education in the Old North State – the systematic elimination of the veteran teacher.

Let me rephrase that.

A gerrymandered lawmaking body has passed budget after budget further indicating that many lawmakers in Raleigh will go to any length to poach the educational profession of veteran teachers.

In the last six years, new teachers entering the profession in North Carolina have seen the removal of graduate degree pay bumps and due-process rights. While the “average” salary increases have been most friendly to newer teachers, those pay “increases” do translate to causing veteran teachers to have to make career-ending decisions rather early in their careers.

Without promise of much pay increase and no graduate degree pay bumps, those future veteran teachers may have to leave a profession they not only excel in and love, but serve as models for younger teachers to ensure professional integrity, the kind that was allowed to shine in a North Carolina of yesteryear when Republican governors and lawmakers were in the forefront of making sure public schools were a strength. And those teachers will not have due-process rights that would allow them to speak up about issues like compensation for fear of reprisal.

Students will suffer; communities will suffer.

The taking away of retiree state health benefits for teachers hired after January of 2021 is another step to create a system where students are more or less taught by contractors because the endangered species known as the “veteran teacher” will come to the point of extinction.

That whole idea of getting “the state more in line with perks private-sector employees get” might be one of the most misleading mantras that rules the mindsets of these lawmakers and education reformers. Why make a public sector service run like a business when public schools aren’t allowed to be businesses? If that were a reality, then schools could treat lawmakers like a Board of Directors of sorts and then rally to oust them at any time beside election years.

If a lawmaker wants to argue that public schools should run like a business and that teachers, staff, and administration should be treated like private-sector employees, then that lawmaker might need to look at the converse and see how unrelated those two entities really are. In fact, I would invite any lawmaker who favors this budgetary move to try and see if he/she could run a business like a public school. Maybe the differences between a public service and private enterprise might become more apparent because one is not even comparing apples to oranges. One is comparing apples to rocks.

Right now, we are not attracting the best and brightest. Just look at the past four years and see what has been done to make teaching an unenviable career in North Carolina. This recent action is making sure that anyone who may want to teach in North Carolina in the future will not stay in the profession for long.

Sen. Chad Barefoot’s 2017 bill called SB599 should then not be so puzzling. Bringing in alternate teacher-preparation programs that can be controlled by the state weakens the profession overall. This bill was supposedly introduced to help with the shortage in teachers. Why would we have a shortage of teachers?

That’s not a rhetorical question.

If the trends stay in place and we as a state do not replace those in Raleigh with lawmakers who will fully fund public schools and reinstate the very items that attract the best and brightest, then we will literally make the North Carolina veteran teacher an extinct entity.

Just look at the recent use of a “nuclear” option to pass a budget without open debate or chance for amendment. That budget supposedly does have more raises for teachers, just not for veteran teachers who have served this state for over two decades. If there is one thing that many GOP lawmakers like Berger, Moore, Barefoot, Tillman, and others of their ilk (who don’t have term limits) despise more than veteran public school teachers, it’s open dialogue that may expose their hypocrisy.

And they sure as hell don’t collaborate unless it is in a locked room with only those of like opinions.

Veteran teachers openly discuss, study, and collaborate.

And we will fight.

The Civics Lesson the NCGA Should Remember – It’s In the Textbooks They Won’t Supply Schools

From the North Carolina Essential Standards Social Studies –American History: The Founding Principles, Civics and Economics Course:

The Civics and Government strand is framed to develop students’ increased understanding of the institutions of constitutional democracy and the fundamental principles and values upon which they are founded, the skills necessary to participate as effective and responsible citizens and the knowledge of how to use democratic procedures for making decisions and managing conflict (http://www.dpi.state.nc.us/docs/curriculum/socialstudies/scos/civics.pdf).

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It is in Civics class where North Carolinian high schoolers learn about the democratic process and the “skills necessary to participate as effective and responsible citizens and the knowledge of how to use democratic procedures for making decisions and managing conflict.”

Remember when Sen. Chad Barefoot wanted to do away with Governor’s School and replace it with another version that dealt with legislation?

Amendment #2 to Senate Bill 257 from last summer proposed to establish a “Legislative School For Leadership and Public Service” using the very funds that would have financed Governor’s School starting in 2018-2019.

To teach civics and the democratic process.

If that rabid adherence to teaching students the ways that a democratic society still resides in our actual government, then would it not make sense to see it played out presently with the budget. But alas.

The rumor out of West Jones Street is that the NCGA GOP super-majority will enact a parliamentary procedure that will allow them to not only write a budget behind closed doors, but pass it through committee without any public debate or possibility of amendments.

That sounds democratic, right?

And that committee. All members appointed are from the same political party.

committee

Look at those names again.

The chair of the committee, Rep. Dollar, really took those essential standards for civics class when he said that the budget being crafted behind closed doors away from debate and criticism actually had been debated and ironed out – last year.

Most of the budgeting was done for the second year last year in the budget. It was obviously fully debated, fully discussed, fully amended” (https://www.wral.com/democrats-gop-fears-over-teacher-raise-gun-votes-behind-budget-maneuver/17575715/).

Fully debated? Fully discussed? Fully amended just like it was explained in a basic civics textbook? Probably not. Why is that?

Because the same lawmakers who are rewriting what that democratic process is here in North Carolina made sure that civics classes don’t have up-to-date textbooks. That, and the fact that the very schools which teach these essential standards are the very institutions that are being hurt most by the budget that will be passed with the nuclear option.

A budget to make sure that public schools don’t have enough in their budget.

Democracy at its best? Not.

 

 

Berger and Moore Go Nuclear – The Fear Of Teachers

Today, Rep. Nelson Dollar – (R) Wake – delivered a statement that will be heard for months – the next six months hopefully.

The rumor out of West Jones Street is that the NCGA GOP super-majority will enact a parliamentary procedure that will allow them to not only write a budget behind closed doors, but pass it through committee without any public debate or possibility of amendments.

Dollar defended the move saying,

Most of the budgeting was done for the second year last year in the budget. It was obviously fully debated, fully discussed, fully amended” (https://www.wral.com/democrats-gop-fears-over-teacher-raise-gun-votes-behind-budget-maneuver/17575715/).

Fully debated by whom? Fully discussed by whom? Fully amended by whom?

This is a first. Sen. Jeff Jackson, a Democrat from Charlotte, posted the following today on Facebook. It needs to be read.

Legislative leadership just invoked the nuclear option with respect to the budget.

For the first time in modern history, it appears our budget will be passed as a conference report instead of a regular bill.

Why does this matter? Because a conference report gets to skip over the committee process and isn’t subject to any amendments.

That means that whenever we see the budget – and it’s still being written behind closed doors – it’s essentially final.

And we’re hearing the budget vote will be as soon as next week, so without having seen a single line of it, it’s basically done.

You only pull a move like this if you are so entrenched in power that you’re ok with openly insulting every taxpayer in the state.

Think of it like driving over your neighbor’s mailbox while giving them a thumbs up. You only do something like that if you’ve become totally detached from what people think of you.

If you’re a fiscal hawk, you should be especially concerned by the fact that this budget will spend $23 billion of your tax money without anyone being able to publicly question or amend a single letter of it.

Ultimately, this is about teachers. Republicans know that Democrats are going to offer amendments to raise teacher pay and Republicans don’t want to be on record voting against that. So they’re going to torpedo the whole process to avoid publicly saying “No” to teachers.

Add this to your list of reasons why voting this November is absolutely essential.

 

It’s the “ultimately, this is about teachers” part that really grabs the eyes. Jackson is a staunch public-school advocate. His words and the reporting by WRAL.com today parallel: Berger and his cronies seem to be very concerned over what issues were brought about over the teacher rally the week before where over 20,000 people rallied and marched.

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Ironic of Dollar to say all of the matters and concerns about the budget had been discussed because the mood in Raleigh last week on May 16th seemed to pretty much center on how much more needed to be discussed and debated.

Perhaps this is just a stunt to see if the backlash is strong enough to withhold using it.

Perhaps the GOP goes through with the budget approval and hopes that negative sentiment dies down in the next few months. That probably will not happen; teachers have been shown to be vocal and the budge that was passed last year adds more tax cuts to corporations and freezes veteran teacher pay.

But what this really means is that May 16th scared Berger and Moore. Last week’s march and rally had an effect, one so much that the GOP stalwarts are doing something to make sure their plans still go through – hiding behind closed doors.

If this nuclear option is exercised in this next week, every person in NC whether democrat, republican, libertarian, or independent should be angered that the very democratic process that should be used to pass laws, budgets, and mandates is being thrown out the window in order to satisfy the political addiction of a few people.

No debate. No discussion, No questioning. No representation. No voices heard. That’s shameful. What a teachable moment for this state – created by teachers.

Make no mistake, Berger, Moore, and Dollar are afraid of a united teacher front. This probably would not have been floated if it had not been for May 16th. That idea of it being just a moment just became a little easier to digest.

What started last month and culminated last week is still in the minds of those who want to use this nuclear option. That will still be in the minds of a lot of teachers and public school advocates come November. As Sen. Jackson said, “Add this to your list of reasons why voting this November is absolutely essential.”

 

 

 

Dear District 30, Every Public School in NC Needs You To Elect Jen Mangrum to the NC General Assembly

News today that Sen. Phil Berger and Rep. Tim Moore might be considering a maneuver to ramrod their budget through the NC General Assembly without any debate or chance for amendment is not surprising.

“According to top Democrats who spoke to Policy Watch this week, that may be because Republican lawmakers are considering a maneuver that would dramatically limit debate on the privately negotiated spending plan in the coming days.

State House Democratic Leader Darren Jackson says members of his party believe the GOP may pack the entire budget bill—negotiated by House and Senate leadership behind closed doors—into a conference committee report either late this week or early next week. While such a tactic is not unheard of at the General Assembly, this would be an unprecedented move with respect to the state budget according to several longtime lawmakers and legislative staffers” (http://www.ncpolicywatch.com/2018/05/22/democrats-berger-moore-budget-process-may-quash-debate-amendments/). 

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.

I hope she is the person who unseats Phil Berger.

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The Long, Deliberate, Slow Surgical Cut into North Carolina’s Public Education System

When Phil Berger and Tim Moore held a press conference in which they feigned surprise and indignation at the thought that teachers would even consider rallying on May 16th, it was rather apparent that it was a scripted endeavor.

From WFMY.com:

During the conference, the two said, “Republicans in the General Assembly made a promise to dramatically raise teacher pay in North Carolina, and we’ve kept our promise. Despite the lack of information in the media and the politically-motivated misinformation coming from the local affiliate of the national teachers’ union, the numbers speak for themselves, and we’re glad to have the opportunity to share North Carolina’s success story and set the record straight.”

For the 2018-19 school year, Moore and Berger said teachers should expect to see an average 6.2 percent pay raise. They say this increase comes without a tax hike (https://www.wfmynews2.com/article/news/education/nc-lawmakers-pledge-4k-plus-pay-raise-ahead-of-teacher-rally/83-552338553).

Forget that the word “average” is included in that statement. The fact that it was stated on the very first day of the convening of the NCGA should give concern. Without any debate, committee amendments, or input from the roughly 4.5 million North Carolinians who are represented by democrats, Berger and Moore seem to prognosticate the future with arrogant surety.

Why? Because they already have a budget (biannually made) and they plan on not opening it up for debate at all.

From WRAL.com just today:

House Speaker Tim Moore said Tuesday that he and Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger plan to huddle Wednesday to knock out final areas of House/Senate disagreement on the state budget, which he expects to be ready for votes next week.

Moore also confirmed plans to roll that budget out as a conference report, a process that precludes amendments once House and Senate negotiators sign off on a deal worked out behind closed doors.

Democrats howled Tuesday as the plan circulated at the statehouse, partly because it will keep them from being able to offer amendments for public debate (https://www.wral.com/gop-seeks-to-prohibit-amendments-to-proposed-state-budget/17572652/).

Calculated with precision planning from a playbook straight from the American Legislative Exchange Council.

Think of what all has happened since the current GOP establishment took control of North Carolina’s General Assembly.

  • “Average Bear” salary hikes
  • Removal of Due-Process rights for new teachers
  • Removal of career status for new teachers
  • Removal of graduate degree pay raises for new teachers
  • Low per-pupil expenditures
  • School Performance grading system that really just tracks poverty
  • SB599
  • Merit Pay inititatives
  • Cutting teacher assistants
  • Elimination of old Teacher Fellow program
  • Threats to Governor’s School
  • Giving ACT too much power in measuring schools
  • Vouchers
  • Unregulated Charter Schools growth
  • Flawed principal pay plan
  • SAS and hidden algorithms
  • Class Size Chaos
  • Lack of textbook funding
  • Attacks on Advocacy Groups
  • Cutting of benefits for new teachers
  • Unregulated virtual charter schools
  • Innovative School District
  • ESA’s
  • Propping up a puppet state superintendent
  • Lack of Student Services

Think of the privatization efforts in the nation that have hooks in NC and to whom they are connected to within this state.

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For a full explanation, check this link: https://caffeinatedrage.com/2018/02/13/the-privatization-of-north-carolinas-public-schools-a-whos-who/.

Now add laws and mandates like HB2, the Voter ID Law, the gerrymandered districts, and the attempted judicial system overhaul.

Calculated. Patient. Crafted. Delicately Executed. Driven by dogma.

It’s been happening for six years.

Makes November 6th so important.

In fact, imperative.

Dear Guilford and Rockingham Counties, Every Public School in NC Needs You To Elect Jen Mangrum to the NC General Assembly

News today that Sen. Phil Berger and Rep. Tim Moore might be considering a maneuver to ramrod their budget through the NC General Assembly without any debate or chance for amendment is not surprising.

“According to top Democrats who spoke to Policy Watch this week, that may be because Republican lawmakers are considering a maneuver that would dramatically limit debate on the privately negotiated spending plan in the coming days.

State House Democratic Leader Darren Jackson says members of his party believe the GOP may pack the entire budget bill—negotiated by House and Senate leadership behind closed doors—into a conference committee report either late this week or early next week. While such a tactic is not unheard of at the General Assembly, this would be an unprecedented move with respect to the state budget according to several longtime lawmakers and legislative staffers” (http://www.ncpolicywatch.com/2018/05/22/democrats-berger-moore-budget-process-may-quash-debate-amendments/). 

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.

I hope she is the person who unseats Phil Berger.

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Actually, Teachers Have 1st Amendment Rights As Well

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedophold of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.” – First Amendment

In that one amendment is:

  • Separation of state and religion,
  • Freedom of speech,
  • Right to assemble peaceably,
  • Petitioning the Government.

Those rights were exercised on May 16th in Raleigh when thousands of teachers and school employees and advocates marched and rallied for public education in North Carolina. Yet North Carolina has a General Assembly which is supposed to uphold the tenets of the constitution trying to pass a bill to place “In God We Trust” in each public school filled with lawmakers decrying the assembly of teachers on the first day of the NCGA’s session.

And those people who assembled at that march and rally were really quite peaceful.

There have been rumors of school administrators who told teachers to not participate in the rally and to take down any references to the march and rally from personal social media accounts. Whether those are isolated incidents or widespread, the fact that many teachers felt discouraged from speaking out on “a school day” is antithetical to one of the most important duties we as educators have: to advocate for students and students.

Last Thursday an editorial appeared on WRAL.com calling out school administrators on not overtly siding with teachers in their efforts to affect change for public schools (https://www.wral.com/editorial-n-c-school-administrators-should-side-with-schools-not-politicians/17560064/).

It referenced a letter from the NC Association of School Administrators to the General Assembly sent the day before the march and rally.

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The editorial did not mince words.

“If the association had been doing its job, teachers wouldn’t have been left with no other choice but to RELUCTANTLY leave their classes to be heard in Raleigh. The letter is another example of a state association choosing to avoid confrontation with the legislative leadership, House Speaker Tim Moore and Senate leader Phil Berger. Everybody knows they only increase public school support when the public demands it.”

This is the same General Assembly that took away due-process rights from new teachers in 2014. That effectively instilled a fear of reprisal in newer teachers who may need to advocate for students and schools.

This is the same General Assembly that had a voter ID law declared unconstitutional because it targeted minorities and those in poverty in a state that is considered one of the most gerrymandered in the country.

Gerrymandering on the scale that was used these past few years and limiting those who can exercise right to vote is really akin to squashing people’s First Amendment rights.

The teachers who marched and rallied serve schools filled with students whose voices are compromised because of various reasons – lack of resources, discriminatory laws like HB2, lack of Medicaid expansion among others. Some of those students are Dreamers.

What the letter from the NC Association of School Administrators really stated was that it would not speak up for students and the very people who know them and their situations well: teachers.

No wonder May 16th was needed if just to give voice.

Or rather free speech in a peaceful assembly to petition the state government to fully fund public schools as stipulated by the state constitution.

It is less than six months until November 6th when the polls open for elections. It is almost guaranteed that most all of those people who marched and rallied on May 16th will voting that day.

And voting is also guaranteed by the constitution.