Remembering Why We Marched in May and Will Vote in November (#2) – Removal of Due-Process Rights and Career Status for Teachers

due process

If due-process rights are not restored for new teachers, then the idea of having a rally or a march to advocate for students and schools ten to fifteen years from now would likely never happen.

They are that important! Their removal was a beginning step in a patient, scripted, and ALEC-allying plan that systematically tries to weaken a profession whose foundation is advocating for public schools.

Due-process removal actually weakens the ability of the teaching force in NC to speak up and advocate a little each year as veteran teachers retire and are replaced by new teachers who do not receive those rights.

One of the first items that the GOP controlled General Assembly attempted to pass in the early part of this decade was the removal of due-process right for all teachers. Commonly called “tenure,” due process rights are erroneously linked to the practice that colleges use to award “tenure” to professors. Actually, they really are not the same.

What due-process means is that a teacher has the right to appeal and defend himself / herself when an administrator seeks to terminate employment. It means that a teacher cannot be fired on the spot for something that is not considered an egregious offense.

Of course, if a teacher does something totally against the law like inappropriate relations with students, violence, etc., then due-process rights do not really apply. But a new principal in a school does not have the right to just clean house because of right-to-work laws. Teachers with due process rights cannot just be dismissed with the swish of a wand.

Thanks to NCAE and some courageous teachers like my friend in my district, the courts decided that it would be a breach of contract for veteran teachers who had already obtained career-status. But that did not cover newer teachers who will not have the chance to gain career status and receive due process rights.

What gets lost in the conversation with the public is that due-process rights are a protective measure for students and schools. Teachers need to know that they can speak up against harsh conditions or bad policies without repercussions. Teachers who are not protected by due-process will not be as willing to speak out because of fear.

Simply put, veteran teachers’ records prove their effectiveness or they would not have gotten continuing licenses. Teachers with due-process rights actually work to advocate for schools and students without fear of sudden reprisal.

What LeBron James Can Teach North Carolina About Fully Funding Schools

This week on, a story was released that highlighted LeBron James’s recent foray into helping the local school system.

AKRON, Ohio — LeBron James drove down the streets he grew up on Monday afternoon and parked his vehicle outside the I Promise School that he helped build before roaming the halls for the first time.

The Akron native’s LeBron James Family Foundation partnered with the Akron Public Schools system to create the learning center, which opened its doors for the first time to 240 third- and fourth-grade students who enrolled in the full-immersion program to benefit at-risk youth (

While people may assume that it might be like what Andre Agassi and Pitbull created in the realm of the charter school industry, what LeBron did was actually open a school in Akron that works with the public school system and renovates an old city building.

And it does a lot more.

Like pay attention to the fact that poverty has so much to do with how students perform.


Food, transportation, college tuition, parental support, uniforms, longer school days, services for mental and physical threats, etc.

And a bike. Exercise.

There is no prescribed price tag for per-pupil expenditure or the length at which the school will help kids and families.

In North Carolina we are dealing with almost the exact opposite. We don’t even have a nurse in every school on any given day.

Maybe what LeBron is showing is that when investment in public schools is a priority, then students are better prepared to succeed. He is also showing that wrap-around services are vital.

And his “school” works in conjunction with the local public school system – not a charter school set up in an area free from public control using public money to pay some private entity.




Remembering Why We Marched in May and Will Vote in November – “Average” Raises and Still Below Average Salaries

It was reported this year that North Carolina finally had an average salary for teachers over $50,000 a year.

“Recently released figures from the state Department of Public Instruction put the average salary for a North Carolina public school teacher at $51,214 this school year. That’s $1,245 more than the previous school year.

The $50,000 benchmark has been a major symbolic milestone, with Republican candidates having campaigned in 2016 about how that figure had already been reached” ( ).

But that is incredibly misleading. So is the claim that NC has given some of the highest “average” raises in the country because NC is still very far behind the national average for teacher pay.

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”.  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.


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.

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.

Our Public Schools Are Better Than the NCGA Would Want You to Believe

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.

Those who control the dialogue in North Carolina and in many other states only tell their side of the spin and neglect to talk of all of the variables that schools are and should be measured by.

Consider the following picture/graph:

schools 1

All of the external forces that affect the health of traditional public schools generally are controlled and governed by our North Carolina General Assembly, rather by the supermajority currently in power.

The salaries and benefits that teachers receive are mandated and controlled by the NCGA. When graduate degree pay bumps and due-process rights were removed from newer teachers, that affected recruitment of teachers. When the salary schedule became more “bottom-heavy” for newer teachers, it affected the retaining of veteran teachers.

With the changes from NCLB to RttT, from standard Course of Study to Common Core, from one standardized test to another, and from one curriculum revision to another, the door of public school “requirements” has become an ever-revolving door. Add to that the fact that teachers within the public schools rarely get to either help create or grade those very standardized tests.

North Carolina still spends less on per-pupil expenditures than it did since before the Great Recession when adjusted for inflation. Who has control of that? The North Carolina General Assembly.

Within the next ten years, NC will spend almost a billion dollars financing the Opportunity Grants, a voucher program, when there exists no empirical data showing that they actually improve student outcomes. Removing the charter school cap also has allowed more taxpayer money to go to entities that do not show any more improvement over traditional schools on average. When taxpayer money goes to vouchers and charter schools, it becomes money that is not used for the almost %90 of students who still go to traditional public schools.

And just look at the ways that schools are measured. School Performance Grades really have done nothing but show the effects of poverty. School report cards carry data that is compiled and aggregated by secret algorithms, and teacher evaluation procedures have morphed more times than a strain of the flu.

When the very forces that can so drastically affect traditional public schools are coupled with reporting protocols controlled by the same lawmaking body, how the public ends up viewing the effectiveness of traditional public schools can equally be spun.

schools 2

If test scores truly dictated the effectiveness of schools, then everyone in Raleigh in a position to affect policy should take the tests and see how they fare. If continuing to siphon taxpayer money into reforms that have not shown any empirical data of student improvement is still done, then those who push those reforms should be evaluated.

So much goes into what makes a public school effective, and yes, there are some glaring shortcomings in our schools, but when the very people who control the environment in which schools can operate make much noise about how our schools are failing us, then they might need to look in the mirror to identify the problem.

Because in so many ways our schools are really succeeding despite those who want to reform them.

Actually, School Started Today

Sure. Most people here in North Carolina might think of the beginning of the school year as being closer to the end of August, but it actually begins much earlier.

Well before students will begin roaming the halls to re-acclimate themselves to a bell schedule, teachers will report to school for “pre-planning,” which is a series of days to get prepared for the new school year.

Academically that is.

If you are a coach of a fall sport, then your year officially starts much earlier – July 3oth  to be exact as that is the first day of practice allowed for fall sports in North Carolina.


To be exact, that means:

  • Cheerleading
  • Cross Country
  • Dance Team
  • Field Hockey
  • Football
  • Men’s Soccer
  • Volleyball
  • Women’s Golf
  • Women’s Tennis
  • and the activity that has the longest season – Band.

Many actual games will be played before the first day of school and while that may seem a little odd to some people, it is quite necessary because of the school calendar placed in motion by the state and the county system. (Yes, there are some year-round schools).

If you follow the banter that surrounds public schools, many believe that teachers have this extended summer “off” to do anything they may want. But get to know a coach for any high school sport who tries to help build exceptional teams and you will probably meet someone who spends quite a bit of time in summer getting teams prepared. That includes all of the camps, workouts, and fundraisers that almost all teams (fall, winter, and spring) and activities must do to have the necessary funds just to function.

Because the state sure isn’t helping with its emphasis on less spending. Just look at the “Pay to Play” systems being used in some school systems to help with costs (


  • Athletic fields don’t magically stayed manicured.
  • Equipment doesn’t magically come ready to be used.
  • Papers and eligibility forms don’t magically complete and file themselves.
  • The weather doesn’t magically cooperate.

Yet there are a lot of good people who “work” in the summers who are ten-month employees on paper, but they will allow school to start in August with a sense of cohesiveness and purpose.


Because the stands will be filled before the classrooms will.

Drink plenty of water and go to the games. School starts in a week.


According to Rumor, Mark Johnson is to Hire Dolores Umbridge as NCDPI’s Deputy Superintendent of Operations

This month, Mark Johnson announced a reorganization at the Department of Public Instruction, one of the many results of a recent court case that took over a year to settle and an audit that cost over a million dollars which said that DPI was underfunded.

Part of the official announcement contained this new position that at that time had not been announced : the Deputy Superintendent of Operations.

“The Deputy Superintendent for Operations has not been announced yet.”



Under that title comes duties associated with overseeing the Chief Financial Officer, Chief School Business Officer, Human Resources, and Information Technology – the kinds of positions that seem to be the glue of the establishment.

For someone to fulfill the duties of such an office, that person would need to know the in’s and out’s of school operations and functions from the minute details to the most visibly seen and carry out the wishes of the boss.

And there is one person above all most qualified to carry out the wishes of the establishment and its leader to such a loyal fault that to enact all of that leader’s decrees would always be more important than actually keeping the best interest of the public schools in mind.

And no one has a better resume for such a position than Dolores Umbridge, the former High Inquisitor at Hogwarts.


Think about it. All of those “decrees” that the North Carolina General Assembly is attempting to enact in all traditional public schools? Umbridge is literally a master of that. No one “decrees” better than she.

At Hogwarts she adored delivering her “Educational Decrees.” Defined by the Harry Potter Wiki website (, these decrees were,

“…laws created by the Ministry of Magic to set or modify standards at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.

…the Ministry (spearheaded by Dolores Umbridge) created new educational decrees to suppress and outlaw behavior of which the Ministry did not approve, some of which would outright expel the students found to be in transgression of. In truth, however, is just an excuse to strip Albus Dumbledore of his headship of the school and give it to Umbridge.”

Sounds like North Carolina right? Even the NCGA is using a special session as an excuse to strip Gov. Cooper of his office’s powers and give it to the same people who control the person who is supposedly the boss at DPI.

Imagine seeing these decrees posted at each school under “In God We Trust” on a wall visible to all.


Maybe a decree that says, “Teachers shall report all video titles shown in class to an anonymous person in Raleigh to keep tabs on them.”

And it doesn’t seem far-fetched to hear someone loyal to Mark Johnson say the following when a citizen or veteran teacher calls into question the manner in which DPI is being run:

“I am sorry, dear, but to question my practices is to question the State Superintendent, and by extension, the NCGA themselves. I am a tolerant woman, but the one thing I will not stand for is disloyalty.”

“Your previous instruction in this subject has been disturbingly uneven. But you will be pleased to know from now on, you will be following a carefully structured, Mark Johnson-approved course of curriculum. Yes?”

“It is the view of Johnson’s DPI that a theoretical knowledge will be sufficient to get you through your examinations, which after all, is what school is all about.”

Apparently, in reaction, some local systems are already placing in local schools bands of centaurs.

And more Latin courses.




When .gov Allows .edu To Be Governed By .com – North Carolina’s Allegiance to SAS and EVAAS

At the beginning of each school year, I am required to fully disclose my syllabus to all perspective students and parents.

On the first day of class, I give each student a set of rubrics that I use to gauge written work throughout the year.

Any student can ask how any assessment was graded and conference about it.

That’s part of my job.

Does the state do that for each school when school performance grades and school report cards are published?

This blog published a post on the opaque relationship that our state has with SAS and and its EVAAS value-added measurement tools –

And here is another item to consider.

Last schoolyear, State Superintendent of Public Schools Mark Johnson released a video to all public school teachers announcing the new revamped state school report card system.

Here is a frame that is closed captioned –


It says, “Recently, I launched the brand-new website for school report cards:”

That means it should be controlled by the state, correct?

Put that into your search bar and you get:


It’s not the actual report card site – just a “Welcome” page. Notice that it has a link to the actual school report card site along with the following text:

The School Report Card website has been completely redesigned for 2017. This interactive website, designed and hosted by SAS, includes printable versions of the North Carolina School Report Card snapshots. For researchers and others who want to dig into the data further, an analytical site is available here.

The actual “School Report Card” website has a different domain name.



Actually, the chain is from a .gov to a .org to a .com.

There is a link “for researchers and others who want to dig into the data further – an analytical site.”

There is a lot to explore in the analytical site, but where is the actual rubric, the formula for calculations, the explanation of how achievement and growth come together to get this report card?

If a teacher could not explain exactly how a grade was calculated, then that teacher’s assessment would be called into doubt.

Except here, we have an entire state spending taxpayer money to a company that will not publish its “rubric” and “calculations” for its own assessment.

The NCGA Special Session – What That 50K Could Have Financed

It is largely accepted that to convene the North Carolina General Assembly for one day in 2018 during a special session costs NC taxpayers roughly $50K.


Think about it.

$50K to rewrite six amendments that were already to be written by a bipartisan panel to make sure that a certain spin was added to it.

$50K to create a bill to transfer more power away from a duly elected governor to the NCGA over judicial seats that are designed to keep the NCGA in check when it passes unconstitutional laws.

$50K is near the top of the very salary schedule the same NCGA has for a veteran teacher’s salary – an English teacher who could in one day could teach a lot of students how to interpret what the text on a ballot for a constitutional amendment says and does not say.

$50K is near the top of the very salary schedule the same NCGA has for a veteran teacher’s salary – a civics teacher who could in one day could teach a lot of students how what the NCGA is doing to seize more power from the executive branch by taking over the judicial branch is really not lawful.

But in that $50K’s worth of unnecessary meetings and votes is a massive amount of time. Think about 170 members (House and Senate) who come together for approximately ten hours. That’s 170 multiplied by 10. 1700 hours.

An average student in a traditional public high school spends about six hours a day in instructional time. The average year for a student is 180 days; therefore, a student’s yearly time spent in class is supposed to be around 1,080 hours.

And it would only take one class for one student (maybe 60 minutes at most) to understand that what the NCGA is doing in this special session is a waste of time and money.

Money that could have gone into investing into public schools.

And time that could have gone into drawing up an amendment for a statewide school bond.

So Are Private Schools Better At Educating Our Students Than Public Schools?


From Valerie Strauss at the Washington Post on The Answer Sheet blog:

University of Virginia researchers who looked at data from more than 1,000 students found that all of the advantages supposedly conferred by private education evaporate when socio-demographic characteristics are factored in. There was also no evidence found to suggest that low-income children or children enrolled in urban schools benefit more from private school enrollment.

It is part of a longer post entitled “No, private schools aren’t better at educating kids than public schools. Why this new study matters.

In the wake of what Brian Jodice of PEFNC and Dr. Terry Stoops have written giving unfounded praise to an inconclusive NC State Study concerning vouchers, it might bear reading this post from Ms. Strauss that highlights a study that concludes:

In sum, we find no evidence for policies that would support widespread enrollment in private schools, as a group, as a solution for achievement gaps associated with income or race. In most discussions of such gaps and educational opportunities, it is assumed that poor children attend poor quality schools, and that their families, given resources and flexibility, could choose among the existing supply of private schools to select and then enroll their children in a school that is more effective and a better match for their student’s needs. It is not at all clear that this logic holds in the real world of a limited supply of effective schools (both private and public) and the indication that once one accounts for family background, the existing supply of heterogeneous private schools (from which parents select) does not result in a superior education (even for higher income students).”

Given the sample size and the depth of the UVA study compared to the NC State study, it might shed a little more light into the incredible effects that socio-economic factors have in the performance of our students.

Here is a link to the entire study:


About That Op-ed in the Charlotte Observer By PEFNC – If NC’s Voucher System Is Working, Then Really Prove It

This week the Charlotte Observer carried an op-ed penned by the interim president of Parents for Educational Freedom in North Carolina (PEFNC) Brian Jodice entitled “Public money for private school scholarships is working, and will soon expand dramatically” (

The premise of the piece is celebratory as explained in the first line:

“Thursday marks the anniversary of a major victory in the fight for educational freedom in North Carolina.”

Five years ago, the NCGA opened up the Opportunity Grants or as many would call them vouchers which take public taxpayer money and funnel it to private schools.

If Jodice wants to declare victory for choice, then that is his privilege. Yes, almost 7400 students use the vouchers, but in his claim of victory that is his only real hard piece of evidence to draw upon. That, and the fact that he has an NCGA that is bent on throwing money at vouchers even though they have not been proved overall as effective.

Jodice took over for Darrell Allison who recently joined the American Federation For Children, a school choice advocacy group in Washington D.C. founded by none other than Betsy DeVos. And like Allison, Jodice has to cheer-lead for the PEFNC, even if it means negating the lack of substance about how well the voucher system is doing in North Carolina.

Almost a year ago, Lindsay Wagner wrote a piece for the AJ Fletcher Foundation entitled “Are publicly-funded private school vouchers helping low-income kids? We don’t know” that  showcased one of the primary redundancies purposefully used by funded “school choice” advocates in the quest to make sure that the best way to argue for “freedom in choosing schools” in North Carolina is to control what information parents have in “choosing” educational avenues for their students.

Wagner focused much of her article on the most vocal proponent of the school choice movement in North Carolina at that time – Darrell Allison, the then-leader of PEFNC. She raised a rather glaring inconsistency when it came to whether vouchers were really helping low-income students.

The leader of Parents for Educational Freedom in North Carolina, Darrell Allison, said recently that school vouchers aren’t likely to hurt children from low-income households who use them. But he couldn’t say definitively that the voucher program actually helps these children, either.

Why? Because despite the fact that North Carolina spends millions of taxpayers’ dollars each year on vouchers, we have no meaningful data that can tell us if this is an effective way to help poor students who deserve a high quality education (

It makes one wonder if Jodice has a better explanation for what Allison could not really explain. Other than money from the NCGA and people who are taking the money, the fact still stands that NC’s voucher program is not regulated and can not be measured.

Last year, Duke University released a rather damning report on the Opportunity Grants in NC. The entire report can be found here:

It would be interesting to see if Jodice , who uses the editorial page of what might be the biggest newspaper in the state to tout the voucher system, could refute or explain the following excerpted observations:

  • Approximately 93% of the vouchers have been used to pay tuition at religious schools (3).
  • Based on limited and early data, more than half the students using vouchers are performing below average on nationally-standardized reading, language, and math tests. In contrast, similar public school students in NC are scoring above the national average (3).
  • The North Carolina voucher program is well designed to promote parental choice, especially for parents who prefer religious education for their children. It is poorly designed, however, to promote better academic outcomes for children and is unlikely to do so (3).
  • Previous research on North Carolina private schools in general showed that more than 30% of private schools in North Carolina are highly segregated (more than 90% of students of one race) and 80% enroll more than half of the same race.10 Without data on racial enrollments in voucher schools, it is not clear whether vouchers contribute to school segregation. Because of the overall data on private schools, however, the voucher program may well be contributing to increasing school segregation (7).
  • Of the participating schools, less than 20% were secular schools; more than 80% were religious schools. This does not line up exactly with the percentages of vouchers used at religious schools versus secular schools (93% at religious schools), because several religious schools enrolled large numbers of students (8).
  • The most typical size for a participating school is between 100 and 250 students. However, 33 schools (7%) have ten or fewer students, with another 42 (9%) enrolling 20 or fewer students. Together, that means that nearly a fifth of the schools accepting vouchers have total enrollments of 20 or fewer students (8).
  • Although it is not an “apples-to-apples” comparison, the most recent data shows that comparable students who remained in public schools are scoring better than the voucher students on national tests (12).
  • In comparison to most other states, North Carolina’s general system of oversight of private schools is weak. North Carolina’s limited oversight reflects a policy decision to leave the quality control function primarily to individual families. Under North Carolina law, private schools are permitted to make their own decisions regarding curriculum, graduation requirements, teacher qualifications, number of hours/days of operation, and, for the most part, testing. No accreditation is required of private schools (13).
  • Unlike some laws, the law creating the Opportunity Scholarship Grant Program does not set out its purpose (15).
  • In fact, there is no requirement that the participating private schools meet any threshold of academic quality. Thus, to the extent that the program was established to provide options for better academic outcomes for children, nothing in the program’s design assures or even promotes that outcome (15-16).
  • The North Carolina program allows for participation in the program by children who are not in failing schools and by private schools that do not offer a more academically promising education (19).

The positively charged diction that Jodice uses in his op-ed doesn’t seem to drown out the cold reality of that study.

Jodice’s reference to the recent NC State study is probably the biggest indicator that what he pins his hope upon to verify the validity of the voucher program is not stable at all. And it should not be worthy of praise because he deliberately misspeaks what the conclusion of that study was.

He said,

Early academic evaluation is encouraging. In June, independent researchers from NC State University released findings from the first-ever academic analysis of the program, revealing “large, positive impacts” on student achievement associated with using a scholarship. Follow-up studies are needed, but this early report card represents very good news.

Even the people who conducted the study cautioned against drawing conclusions. This is from  WUNC –


That sample they used? Over half were from established Catholic schools in NC which represent in reality a very small percentage of the voucher recipient pool. In fact, that study has been attacked so much from non-academics that it begs to ask why it was done in the first place. That’s how many holes it has.

Yes, there will be students who are successful who use the vouchers. The student that Jodice highlights is one of them. But while the student may be successful does not mean that the program is successful because measuring the effects of the voucher system in comparison to traditional public schools is impossible.

It’s meant that way.

NC’s voucher system is by far the least regulated in the country. Back to the Duke report:

Duke study

That’s very telling. The lack of measurables in NC’s voucher program allows for Jodice to make claims that while sparkling carry no real substance.

Just like his op-ed.