The Underachieving “Read to Achieve” – Stop Listening to Jeb Bush and Invest More in Early Childhood Education

In 2012, the North Carolina General Assembly passed legislation for the “Read to Achieve” initiative.

Six years later, it has not really achieved.

From a recent Charlotte Observer report:

The General Assembly passed Read to Achieve legislation in 2012. It was modeled on literacy efforts in other states, including the “Just Read, Florida!” program created by Gov. Jeb Bush in 2001. The goal in North Carolina was to end “social promotion” by keeping students in third grade until they could read at grade level and providing extra support to help them get there.

But in the years that followed the percent of North Carolina third- and fourth-graders graders passing state reading exams stayed flat or declined. National reading exams showed equally discouraging results.

First, we should never try and emulate anything that Jeb Bush does to “reform” education. Read to Achieve and the School Performance Grading system have done nothing to help our students except funnel money into private hands and create empty excuses for other “reforms.”

Secondly, this is a failure that lies on the part of Phil Berger who was one of its biggest champions when it was introduced as a NC initiative. He needs to own it, but he seems too busy trying to blame people for his election signs disappearing in his race with Jen Mangrum rather than backing up his claims for his #NCSuccessStory.

The scores for those 3rd grade reading tests are eye-popping.

rta2rta1

The Charlotte Observer report references a recent study by NC State in conjunction with the Friday Institute that found really no success in the Read to Achieve initiative on a state level.

rta3

However, on a local basis, there are some local initiatives that have shown some promise. Look at pages 23-24 of the study report and see how actually fully funding a reading instruction initiative and supplying those initiatives with effective instructors makes a difference.

“Indeed, we have heard from many practitioners from across the state who believe their localized versions of RtA are having an impact on their students, but because of the sometimes very small size of the group of students impacted in most of the state’s (school districts), we are not able to test these intuitions statistically,” the report says.

In fact, fully funding schools and making sure that there are enough professionals in the rooms with the students are vital in any place. The fact that any success in this depends on the local professionals (teachers, assistants, administration) being able to dictate what can be done and having the faith that required resources will be available simply flies in the face of people like Berger who preach “smaller government” but actually practice more overreach.

What really stands out in this study is the suggestion that the state needs to front-load more support and resources for Pre-K through second grade students as well as continuing interventions through all grades.  Again, from the Observer,

The study suggests Read to Achieve has been too tightly focused on third grade, saying children need help as soon as they begin school and after they’ve advanced to fourth grade.

And while Mark Johnson and Phil Berger’s spokesperson offer glossy explanations and calls to do better, they still do not seem to take the word of local officials and educators over the words of deep-pocketed “reformers.”

Like Jeb Bush.

But alas.

meeting1

That’s from a summer meeting here in June of this year. There’s Berger. There’s Johnson. There’s a lot of older white men. And there’s Jeb Bush at the head of the table.

Our kids deserve better.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If Mark Johnson Wants to be “Data-Driven,” Then He Might Want to Look at These Data

“We will continue to use data-driven analyses, including feedback from classroom teachers, to drive changes ….” – Mark Johnson last Friday concerning the report on the ineffectiveness of Read to Achieve.

The idea of using data to drive policy is not a new occurrence. But it is sometimes hard to quantify the qualitative aspects of public education.  Some officials like to look at proficiency levels and scores. Teachers tend to look at growth. One is a snapshot. The other is a look at the terrain traveled.

But if Mark Johnson is now going to use some data-driven analyses, there is some irrefutable data that provides a very clear picture of what can be done to help public education here in North Carolina.

1. Poverty Influences How Well Students Perform in a State Where Over 1 in 5 Public School Students Lives in Poverty

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That is from the 2015–16 Performance and Growth of North Carolina Public Schools Executive Summary, NC DPI.

In Sept. of 2016, Mark Johnson said, “The transformation of our public education system will open true pathways out of poverty” (https://www.ednc.org/2016/09/07/our-american-dream/).

Maybe attacking poverty at its root sources could do so much to help education. The data tends to show that.

2. Average is Not Actual When It Comes To Teacher Pay

Johnson and the people he allies himself to in the GOP super majority take a lot of time talking about how “average” teacher pay has risen.

Here’s a data point.

  • In 2017 the average teacher pay in North Carolina was %16 behind the national average. In 2018 the average teacher pay in NC was STILL %16 behind the national average.

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. He tracked the recent teacher pay “increase” and used DATA-DRIVEN logic to show something rather interesting.

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.

Look at the charts below from the recent Teacher Working Conditions Survey released by Johnson’s office this past spring.

years employed

Take notice of the number of veteran teachers in the state. Compare that to the number of teachers in the state who have less than ten years experience. There’s a trend going on in teaching here in NC. More teachers are leaving the classroom at earlier times in their career. The number of veteran teachers in the state will drop as years go by.

Even Mark Johnson left the classroom after two years. That’s a data point.

3. Public Education is the Top Employer in Most Counties

North Carolina has 100 counties (with 115 LEA’s), each with a public school system. According to the Labor and Economic Analysis Division of the NC Dept. of Commerce, the public schools systems are at least the second-largest employers in nearly 90 of them—and the largest employer, period, in almost 70. That means teachers represent a base for most communities, the public school system.  And teachers are strong in numbers.

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If people went to the polls in November and had public education as a top priority and had unspun information helping to inform decisions on whom to elect, then there could be significant change occurring quickly.

4. When Lawmakers Say They Are Spending More on Education, It Doesn’t Mean That Per-Pupil Expenditures Have Risen

Here’s a 2018 Facebook post from Senator Joyce Kraweic.

kraweic facebook post

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 like Kraweic 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.

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.

5. Lots of Teachers Already Know These Data Points

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Debunking 13 Common Electioneering Claims Made by Current Politicians Concerning NC’s Public Schools

When an NC lawmaker makes a claim about how well they have treated public education, the whole story may not be told – only a glossy version. In this season of electioneering and rather important midterms, it is important to know that the biggest part of the iceberg is under the water level where most people do not look.

Consider the following claims:

  1. We are now spending more on public education than we ever have before. In fact, the new budget has much more.”

Well, that is true. We are spending more money on education as a whole. But why is our per pupil expenditure still lagging behind earlier years? 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.

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.

  1. “We are spending over 56% of our budget on public education!”

We are supposed to. It’s in our constitution.

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. It is a reflection that the NCGA’s level of commitment to public education is wavering.

Here are a couple from Tim Moore’s office.

  1. “Over the combined period of 2014, 2015 and 2016 budget years, North Carolina gave the largest percentage salary increase to teachers in the United States, according to the data currently available” – http://speakermoore.com/north-carolinas-teacher-income-rising-faster-than-any-state-since-2014/.

That is the most recycled, spun statement used by West Jones Street concerning public education in the last five years. And it barely has validity. Why? Because this fastest growing teacher income designation is only true when it pertains to “average.” It does not mean “actual.”

Those raises Moore refers to were funded in part by eliminating teachers’ longevity pay. Like an annual bonus, all state employees receive it—except, now, for teachers—as a reward for continued service. Yet the budget he mentions simply rolled that longevity money into teachers’ salaries and labeled it as a raise.

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Furthermore, why are NC teacher’s still 16% behind the national average in teacher pay?

  1. North Carolina’s teacher salaries since 2014 are the fastest rising in the country, with average annual teacher pay crossing $50,000 for the first time in state history this year” (http://www.timmoorenc.com/education/).

So how can it be that 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) according to the new salary schedule?

2

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.

  1. Our Democratic predecessors had failed to plan ahead and ultimately furloughed many of the hardworking educators our students had” (http://www.timmoorenc.com/education/).

No one party is immune from criticism, but it is interesting to point out that Moore and other lawmakers really never point to the GREAT RECESSION. No one got raises in any government jobs. McCrory gave raises as state revenue started to gain momentum, but those raises came with a price.

And many teachers voted to furlough days back then – to save jobs for others.

  1. “Principals are receiving a pay increase.”

That new principal pay plan is not as well received as many may think. The model came from some political playbook used by ALEC-leaning bodies. The planning occurred behind doors without actual educators. The data that was analyzed involved monetary bottom lines. The math and the computational thinking come from entities that benefit from this pay plan like SAS. Explanations given have been broad and nebulous. There is no evidence. And lastly, a body of lawmakers that uses special sessions and secret meetings which shut out other points of view does not practice communication well.

  1. “Tenure is a bad thing for teachers to have.”

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.

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.

  1. “Gov. Cooper vetoed a budget that would give teachers a raise.”

Actually, Gov. Cooper vetoed the entire budget, probably because lawmakers in power refused to listen to debate and hear amendments and passed the budget through a “nuclear” option. Cooper’s plan called for higher raises to be more evenly distributed across experience levels.

  1. “The recent budget is giving over $240 million to help reconstruct schools.”

Advocates for public schools wanted a $1.9 BILLION dollar school bond for the state to go on the ballot in November. That’s a lot more than $240 million and it would actually allow for the public to make the choice.

And with Florence and Michael having done so much damage…

  1. “Opportunity Grants are working!”

It would be nice if lawmakers could refute or explain conclusions of the Duke University study released last year which was a rather damning report on the Opportunity Grants. Or maybe the recent NC State University study that concluded our voucher program suffers from lack of transparency.

  1. “Charter School growth has been a great thing for NC.”

Where is the empirical date to make this claim? Most reports have talked about more segregation and lack of oversight of finances.

  1. Public Schools are failing!”

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.

3

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.

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.

4

  1. Poverty is not as big a factor in school performance as many would lead you to believe.”

Then explain this:

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That is from the 2015–16 Performance and Growth of North Carolina Public Schools Executive Summary, NC DPI

Vote!

About Those “Low” Average ACT Scores Here in North Carolina

As reported yesterday’s News & Observer, NC’s ACT scores reside near the very bottom in the nation.

logo-act-blue-300

“New results released Wednesday from the Class of 2018 show that North Carolina’s average score remained at 19.1 out of a possible 36. The state was below the national average of 20.8 and tied for 46th among the 50 states and the District of Columbia.”

There are lots of reasons why NC’s averages are that low compared to the rest of the nation – most of which are related to how North Carolina’s policy makers have altered the terrain of public education system.

When a report like this comes out and displays some “shocking” numbers, it becomes fuel for many who wish to offer interpretations to sway public sentiment. It’s an election year for goodness sake.

A big election year.

That is why the following quote does not sit well with this public school teacher. Why? Because it’s wrong and blatant misrepresentation of what is actually happening. Because it’s nothing more than shilling for a partisan ideology that here in North Carolina has been pushing for privatization.

“This is just the most recent example of the disconnect between inputs and outcomes,” said Terry Stoops, vice president of research and director of education studies at the John Locke Foundation. “Despite substantial increases in teacher compensation over the last five years, there have been no meaningful improvements in overall student performance on ACT tests.”

That’s the first quote in a piece by the Carolina Journal on the ACT score report – ACT scores show national downward trend as N.C. remains below average.

It’s as if he said, “Well look at all of the money we have spent raising teachers’ pay and what do we have to show for it? These pathetic below-average ACT scores.”

When NC still lags behind the national average in teacher pay by %16 after it removed longevity pay and graduate degree pay bumps, using the term “substantial raises” is really empty electioneering.

It makes one want to have Stoops explain 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. He tracked the recent teacher pay “increases” and used DATA-DRIVEN logic to show something rather interesting.

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.

But Stoops calls those “substantial raises.”

Furthermore, North Carolina is only one of seventeen states that makes all students in NC public schools take the ACT. As related in the aforementioned News & Observer article:

“One reason for North Carolina’s low national ranking is that it’s one of only 17 states that requires all its high school students to take the ACT. Scores are much higher in states where the standardized exam is not mandatory and might only be taken by students who intend to go to college.”

But NC is still near the bottom of that seventeen state cohort.

Stoops offers some other possible reasons, but there requires so much more honest reflection on the part of the policy makers whom Stoops and the John Locke Foundation support would want to perform to make a difference. It would mean that the “reforms” that Stoops and others like him would be exposed as pure privatization efforts of public education.

“There are many possible explanations for our state’s inability to prepare a larger share of students for college-level work,” Stoops said. “Effects from changes in student demographics should not be discounted. Instructional practices that followed the statewide adoption of Common Core English and math standards and revised state science standards likely play a role.”

Besides, those thoughts are given as an afterthought.

Maybe there are more direct and indirect reasons for these “dismal” scores because so much has been enacted to erode the landscape of public education. Possibly:

  • uneven salary increases
  • removal of due-process rights
  • no more graduate degree pay bumps
  • low per pupil expenditure rates on the national scale
  • a school grade performance system that literally only shows the effects of poverty
  • insipid bills like SB 599 and HB 514
  • allowing privatizing entities to enter NC and have influence on policy
  • merit pay and bonus pay schemes
  • lack of teacher input into educational “reforms”
  • removal of over 7500 teacher assistants
  • elimination (and the shadowed re-creation) of the Teacher Fellow Program
  • unregulated charter school growth
  • vouchers
  • a horrible principal pay plan
  • reliance on secret algorithms like those found in EVAAS to measure teacher effectiveness
  • class size chaos
  • horrible charter virtual schools
  • an unproven Innovative School District
  • attacks on educational advocacy groups
  • a revolving door of standardized tests
  • a revolving door of teacher evaluation protocols
  • lack of student services
  • lack of textbooks
  • and a state superintendent who seems more loyal to everybody except the public school system that he was elected to serve.

And that does not even begin to cover the effects of poverty. The ACT report refers to poverty specifically when it released the scores. Again, from the Carolina Journal article:

“The ACT report suggests a few ways to turn around the dismal scores, such as providing equitable resources for underserved students and providing educators with more resources.”

To which Stoops replied,

“Regardless of how we got here, it’s important for state education officials to explain to taxpayers why only 18 percent of North Carolina high-schoolers met all four college readiness benchmarks.”

Fully funding public schools, providing more wrap-around services, and giving teachers more of what they say they need to help students would make that comment by Stoops crumble.

And the officials who run state education? Does he mean Mark Johnson and the powers in the NCGA that enable him? Maybe they can proctor that day in which the ACT is given.

Voting for pro-public education candidates on November 6 (or earlier) would be more proactive.

Get to the polls!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Using Systemic Poverty to Privatize Public Education

If one thing is for certain, North Carolina’s school performance grades are a confirmation that student poverty levels have so much to do with how schools perform.

Those performance grades also help to fuel “reform” efforts.

EdNC.org released a new version of its Data Dashboard that allows users to filter for different variables when viewing data pertaining to NC’s school performance grades.

This is what this year’s performance grades look like when viewing them as plotted on a map of the state.

map1

Look at that more closely.

map2

And look at the numbers of student body percentages that received free & reduced lunches as correlated with the school performance grades.

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No school that had 0 – 25% free and reduced lunch (low poverty) received a score of “D” of “F”. The other bars explain themselves.

The default settings are set at how the current grades are calculated: 15 point scale and 20% growth / 80% “achievement”. But that grading point scale will be changing soon.

Budget fact

That will seismically change things and the interactive map shows that.

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Just changing the grading scale to a ten point scale would increase the number of students in “low performing” and failing schools nearly threefold.

Those school performance grades are based on a model developed by Jeb Bush when he was in Florida. It’s disastrous and places a lot of emphasis on achievement scores of amorphous, one-time testing rather than student growth throughout the entire year.

It’s part of the “proficiency versus growth” debate that really came to the forefront during the Betsy DeVos confirmation hearings when she could not delineate between whether test scores are used to measure student “achievement” or student “growth.”

The people who made the decision to change the school performance grading system formula next year, expand vouchers, create an ISD school district, and deregulate charter school growth ABSOLUTELY UNDERSTAND THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN PROFICIENCY AND GROWTH. IT HELPS TO VALIDATE THEIR WANT OF REFORMS THAT ACTUALLY PRIVATIZE PUBLIC EDUCATION.

Imagine if more emphasis was placed on “growth” than achievement as measured by amorphous standardizes tests. Here is what the scores would look like on a 15 point scale if growth and achievement were equally balanced.

map6

But the current NCGA will not allow that to happen. Those test scores mean too much to a plan.

It is no wonder the most recent school chosen to be taken over by the Innovative School District is a “high poverty” school: Carver Heights Elementary School in Wayne County.

It is a school that has a 90% free & reduced lunch population.

And just recently, DPI under Mark Johnson (who is all in for these “reforms”) received a grant to open up more charter schools for “economically disadvantaged” students.

The North Carolina Department of Public Instruction’s Office of Charter Schools will receive $23.6 million over five years to help the state’s charter schools meet the needs of economically disadvantaged students. North Carolina is one of eight states to receive the Expanding Opportunities Through Quality Charter School Program grants from the U.S. Department of Education. 

The funding, which totals $10.4 million for the federal fiscal year that began Monday, will be used for sub-grants to new and existing charter schools to:

  • Assist new charter schools that will serve a large economically disadvantaged student population in their planning year 
  • Assist charter schools in their first three years of operation that serve a large, economically disadvantaged student population
  • Assist high-quality charter schools that serve a large economically disadvantaged population and want to replicate
  • Assist high-quality charter schools that want to expand to serve a larger economically disadvantaged population

“North Carolina’s charter schools should be laboratories of innovation, proving grounds for ideas that can be scaled across all our schools and all student populations,” said State Superintendent Mark Johnson. “This funding will allow schools to better serve our students in the most need and increase the diversity of students served by charter schools (https://www.ednc.org/2018/10/03/department-of-public-instruction-wins-federal-grant-to-expand-charter-school-opportunities-for-traditionally-underserved-students/).”

Makes one want to look at the districts that were redrawn by the current powers that be to help make the political landscape remain intact; that is what gerrymandering is supposed to do.

Makes one want to see what schools were most affected by the hurricanes that forced many to close for a while and while being allowed to “forgive” missed days, the NCGA did not allow for much in the way for calendar flexibility. Will that affect  “achievement”scores? That’s not a rhetorical question.

What this really shows is that in a state that did not expand Medicaid, gave huge tax breaks to corporations and the wealthy but not to the average North Carolinian, runs on a supposed surplus, and chooses not invest fully in its public schools, systemic poverty becomes a reason to enact “reforms” that profit a few and not the state as a whole.

Vote this election year to change that.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Nix All Six – A Reading Comprehension Test for NC’s Six Constitutional Amendments

nixallsix

When a student takes a standardized test in North Carolina, it is always good to realize that there is a certain psychology that goes into the making of a test: “distractors,” almost correct answers, the “throwaway,” etc.

Imagine taking a reading comprehension test on what exactly the six constitutional amendments are on the November 6th ballot. There certainly was a plan to write them a certain way – a sick psychology to say the least. It’s almost like they are like “trick” questions on a test.

The good thing is that you only have to choose one of two answers on actual Election Day, but maybe this pretest will give you some insight.

Amendment #1 – 

As it appears on the ballot:

“Constitutional amendment protecting the right of the people to hunt, fish, and harvest wildlife.”

What the amendment actually said in legalese:

“Sec. 38. Right to hunt, fish, and harvest wildlife.
The right of the people to hunt, fish, and harvest wildlife is a valued part of the State’s heritage and shall be forever preserved for the public good. The people have a right, including the right to use traditional methods, to hunt, fish, and harvest wildlife, subject only to laws enacted by the General Assembly and rules adopted pursuant to authority granted by the General Assembly to (i) promote wildlife conservation and management and (ii) preserve the future of hunting and fishing. Public hunting and fishing shall be a preferred means of managing and controlling wildlife. Nothing herein shall be construed to modify any provision of law relating to trespass, property rights,
or eminent domain.”

Question #1 – What does the ballot form amendment actually mean?

A. That those who made it wanted to leave out certain key parts of the description so that it would pass.
B. It does not stipulate what would happen around parks and schools.
C. Don’t people hunt and fish already and is this just something being pushed by pro-gun lobby?
D. All of the above.

Amendment #2 – 

As it appears on the ballot:

“Constitutional amendment to strengthen protections for victims of crime; to establish certain absolute basic rights for victims; and to ensure the enforcement of
these rights.”

What the amendment actually said in legalese:

Enforcement of rights. Except as otherwise provided herein, the General Assembly shall further provide, by general law, the procedure whereby a victim may assert the rights provided in this section. The victim or, if the victim is a minor, is legally incapacitated, or deceased, a family member, guardian, or legal custodian may assert the rights provided in this section. The procedure shall be by motion to the court of jurisdiction within the same criminal or juvenile proceeding giving rise to the rights. The victim, family member, guardian, or legal custodian have the right to counsel at this hearing but do not have the right to counsel provided by the State. If the matter involves an allegation that the district attorney failed to comply with the rights of a victim when obligated to so do by law, the victim must first afford the district attorney with jurisdiction over the criminal action an opportunity to resolve any issue in a timely manner.

Question #2 – What does the ballot form amendment actually mean?

A. That those who made it wanted to leave out certain key parts of the description so that it would pass.
B. It does not stipulate who pays for it because there is too much ambiguity.
C. It delays justice by adding more paperwork.
D. All of the above.

Amendment #3 – 

As it appears on the ballot:

“Constitutional amendment to reduce the income tax rate in North Carolina to a maximum allowable rate of seven percent (7%).”

What the amendment actually said in legalese:

Income tax. The rate of tax on incomes shall not in any case exceed ten seven percent, and there shall be allowed personal exemptions and deductions so that only net incomes are taxed.”

Question #3 – What does the ballot form amendment actually mean?

A. That those who made it wanted to leave out certain key parts of the description so that it would pass.
B. It actually allows for the potential for higher sales tax and property taxes to make budgets meet in times of recession.
C. It saves a lot of rich people money.
D. All of the above.

Amendment #4 – 

As it appears on the ballot:

“Constitutional amendment to require voters to provide photo identification before voting in person.”

What the amendment actually said in legalese:

“Photo identification for voting in person. Voters offering to vote in person shall
present photographic identification before voting. The General Assembly shall enact general laws governing the requirements of such photographic identification, which may include exceptions.”

Question #4 – What does the ballot form amendment actually mean?

A. That those who made it wanted to leave out certain key parts of the description so that it would pass and it actually does not go into specifics.
B. It does not stipulate what ID’s are allowed.
C. It is a form of voter suppression.
D. All of the above.

Amendment #5 – 

As it appears on the ballot:

“Constitutional amendment to change the process for filling judicial vacancies that occur between judicial elections from a process in which the Governor has sole appointment power to a process in which the people of the State nominate individuals to fill vacancies by way of a commission comprised of appointees made by the judicial, executive, and legislative branches charged with making
recommendations to the legislature as to which nominees are deemed qualified; then the legislature will recommend at least two nominees to the Governor via
legislative action not subject to gubernatorial veto; and the Governor will appoint judges from among these nominees.”

What the amendment actually said in legalese:

“Sec. 23. Merit selection; judicial vacancies.
(1) All vacancies occurring in the offices of Justice or Judge of the General Court of
Justice shall be filled as provided in this section. Appointees shall hold their places until the next election following the election for members of the General Assembly held after the appointment occurs, when elections shall be held to fill those offices. When the vacancy occurs on or after the sixtieth day before the next election for members of the General Assembly and the term would expire on December 31 of that same year, the Chief Justice shall appoint to fill that vacancy for the unexpired term of the office.

(2) In filling any vacancy in the office of Justice or Judge of the General Court of Justice, individuals shall be nominated on merit by the people of the State to fill that vacancy. In a manner prescribed by law, nominations shall be received from the people of the State by a nonpartisan commission established under this section, which shall evaluate each nominee without regard to the nominee’s partisan affiliation, but rather with respect to whether that nominee is qualified or
not qualified to fill the vacant office, as prescribed by law. The evaluation of each nominee of people of the State shall be forwarded to the General Assembly, as prescribed by law. The General Assembly shall recommend to the Governor, for each vacancy, at least two of the nominees deemed qualified by a nonpartisan commission under this section. For each vacancy, within 10 days after the nominees are presented, the Governor shall appoint the nominee the Governor deems best qualified to serve from the nominees recommended by the General Assembly.

(3) The Nonpartisan Judicial Merit Commission shall consist of no more than nine
members whose appointments shall be allocated between the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, the Governor, and the General Assembly, as prescribed by law. The General Assembly shall, by general law, provide for the establishment of local merit commissions for the nomination of judges of the Superior and District Court. Appointments to local merit commissions shall be allocated between the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, the Governor, and the General Assembly, as prescribed by law. Neither the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, the Governor,
nor the General Assembly shall be allocated a majority of appointments to a nonpartisan commission established under this section.

(4) If the Governor fails to make an appointment within 10 days after the nominees are presented by the General Assembly, the General Assembly shall elect, in joint session and by a majority of the members of each chamber present and voting, an appointee to fill the vacancy in a manner prescribed by law.

(5) If the General Assembly has adjourned sine die or for more than 30 days jointly as provided under Section 20 of Article II of this Constitution, the Chief Justice shall have the authority to appoint a qualified individual to fill a vacant office of Justice or Judge of the General Court of Justice if any of the following apply:
(a) The vacancy occurs during the period of adjournment.
(b) The General Assembly adjourned without presenting nominees to the
Governor as required under subsection (2) of this section or failed to elect a
nominee as required under subsection (4) of this section.
(c) The Governor failed to appoint a recommended nominee under subsection (2)
of this section.

(6) Any appointee by the Chief Justice shall have the same powers and duties as any other Justice or Judge of the General Court of Justice, when duly assigned to hold court in an interim capacity, and shall serve until the earlier of:
(a) Appointment by the Governor.
(b) Election by the General Assembly.
(c) The first day of January succeeding the next election of the members of the
General Assembly, and such election shall include the office for which the
appointment was made. However, no appointment by the Governor or election by the General Assembly to fill a judicial vacancy shall occur after an election to fill that judicial office has commenced, as prescribed by law.”


Question #5
– What does the ballot form amendment actually mean?

A. That those who made it wanted to leave out certain key parts of the description so that it would pass and it actually does not go into specifics.
B. It is a power grab by the legislative branch over both the executive branch and the judicial branch.
C. It is a means to pack the court with favorable candidates for the NCGA.
D. All of the above.

 

Amendment #6 – 

As it appears on the ballot:

“Constitutional amendment to establish an eight-member Bipartisan Board of Ethics and Elections Enforcement in the Constitution to administer ethics
and elections law.”

What the amendment actually said in legalese:

“Sec. 11. Bipartisan State Board of Ethics and Elections Enforcement.
(1) The Bipartisan State Board of Ethics and Elections Enforcement shall be established to administer ethics and elections law, as prescribed by general law. The Bipartisan State Board of Ethics and Elections Enforcement shall be located within the Executive Branch for administrative purposes only and shall exercise all of its powers independently of the Executive Branch.


(2) The Bipartisan State Board of Ethics and Elections Enforcement shall consist of eight members, each serving a term of four years, who shall be qualified voters of this State. Of the total membership, no more than four members may be registered with the same political affiliation, if defined by general law. Appointments shall be made by the Governor as follows:
(a) Four members upon the recommendation of the leader, as prescribed by
general law, of each of the two Senate political party caucuses with the most
members. The Governor shall not appoint more than two members from the
recommendations of each leader.
(b) Four members upon the recommendation of the leader, as prescribed by
general law, of each of the two House of Representatives political party
caucuses with the most members. The Governor shall not appoint more than
two members from the recommendations of each leader.

(3) The General Assembly shall enact general laws governing how appointments shall be made if the Governor fails to appoint a member within 10 days of receiving recommendations as required by this section.”

Question #6 – What does the ballot form amendment actually mean?

A. That those who made it wanted to leave out certain key parts of the description so that it would pass and it actually does not go into specifics.
B. Changing the number from 9 to 8 allows for gridlock, which is what the NCGA wants.
C. It is a form of stalling the elections process.
D. All of the above.

The simple fact that the ballot version of the amendments leave out vital pieces of information deliberately is enough reason to vote against all of them.

Nix all six.

nixallsix

 

 

 

The Fear-Slinging Hyperbole of Phil Berger And Why The “MOB” Should Vote for Jen Mangrum

Call it for what it is: Phil Berger fears Jen Mangrum. She’s met every ill-conceived obstacle he has thrown at her head on and she has overcome. And now as the final month of the campaign season, Berger has resorted to an old method of electioneering: hyperbole mixed with appeals to unfounded fears.

PhilBergerMOB

“Destroy.” “Abortion.” “Gun control.” “Higher taxes.” “Complete control.” “Anarchists.” “Socialists.” “Radical.”

And the worst part? No Oxford comma!

That message sent by Berger is one of fear – the fear that the voters in his district will see through his empty rhetoric and partisan actions and vote for someone who actually will represent all people.

Interestingly, the word “mob” can be looked upon in a few different ways, but in many instances it is a group of citizens galvanized for immediate action.

But Carl Sandburg, the great common-man’s poet (who did reside on NC for a while), had maybe the best description of the “mob.”

I Am the People, the Mob

I am the people—the mob—the crowd—the mass.
Do you know that all the great work of the world is done through me?
I am the workingman, the inventor, the maker of the world’s food and clothes.
I am the audience that witnesses history. The Napoleons come from me and the Lincolns. They die. And then I send forth more Napoleons and Lincolns.
I am the seed ground. I am a prairie that will stand for much plowing. Terrible storms pass over me. I forget. The best of me is sucked out and wasted. I forget. Everything but Death comes to me and makes me work and give up what I have. And I forget.
Sometimes I growl, shake myself and spatter a few red drops for history to remember. Then—I forget.
When I, the People, learn to remember, when I, the People, use the lessons of yesterday and no longer forget who robbed me last year, who played me for a fool—then there will be no speaker in all the world say the name: “The People,” with any fleck of a sneer in his voice or any far-off smile of derision.
The mob—the crowd—the mass—will arrive then.
That’s a good “mob” to be in. Hopefully the “crowd” and the “mass” will “arrive” on Election Day and vote for Jen.
MOB

Could This Happen to North Carolina? Because The Ingredients Are There

We have a state superintendent with an eye for charters and school choice.

We have a General Assembly that wants to grow the voucher system exponentially.

We have a DPI that is slowly being overtaken by charter school champions.

We have enacted every sort of “reform” known.

We are still spending less per pupil when adjusted for inflation than before the Great Recession.

We have just received a grant from Betsy DeVos’s federal office to expand charter school opportunities for traditionally under-served students in the same year that HB 514 was passed to allow for affluent white municipalities to create charter schools to serve only their residents.

Take a look at this: When Communities Lose Their Public Schools For Good, What Happens To The Students? Michigan May Soon Find Out.

“What if some communities no longer have public schools? That question, once unthinkable in America, may now be something policy leaders and lawmakers in at least one state may want to consider.

In Michigan – home state to US Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos whose political donations and advocacy for “school choice” and charter schools drastically altered the state’s public education system – some of the state’s largest school districts lose so many students to surrounding school districts and charter schools that the financial viability of the districts seems seriously in question.

According to a new report, more than half of Michigan school districts experienced a net loss in enrollment last year, and the percent of student attrition in many of the state’s large districts is shocking, upwards of 60 to 70 percent.

Can a school district experiencing such losses in student enrollment continue to keep the doors open?”

nc_district_map_large_1280

Why Service Work Matters For High Schoolers And the Rest of Us

October 15th is rapidly approaching and I am busy rereading drafts of recommendations for those students who have deadlines for early decision applications and scholarship awards. This year, most early decision recs are being sent to UNC-Chapel Hill, my wife’s alma mater. Some to App State’s Honors College. A couple to USC in Columbia. One to my beloved Wake Forest.

volunteer

I am also honored to write a few for Morehead-Cain and Park scholarship consideration.

A transcript can say many things about academic achievement and course work mastered. Test scores can be sent easily. Numbers can be measured against other numbers.

So, when I write a recommendation I try and write about what kind of service work a student may have performed. It helps paint a better picture of a student and an even better image of a person who is committed to community.

Just today, West Forsyth played host again to the Piedmont Down Syndrome Support Network’s Buddy Walk. It is the biggest event of the year and its most vital fundraiser. In the years that it has occurred at West, nearly $450,000 has been raised to help families of children with special needs, specifically Down Syndrome. I am in one of those families. My son, Malcolm, happens to be “genetically enhanced.”

I get to recruit the student volunteers for this big day, and literally about an hour ago I looked at the volunteer sign-in sheet. Over 200 students from West volunteered and came to help.

200+.

That’s nearly ten percent of the student body came out to help other people.

Our country talks of deficits, usually in quantifiable ways like money and materials and even time. However, the biggest deficit I believe we have as a country is a deficit of empathy. We simply have forgotten to empathize and put ourselves in the shoes of others.

But when you see as a teacher, parent, taxpayer, voter, and concerned citizen over 200 students from one school going out of their way on a Saturday morning to help some families like mine with some special kids, then you see how that deficit can quickly be eliminated.

I will write about that all day long on a recommendation because service work matters to us as a society. We never know when we will need it for ourselves.

Just last week West had a fundraiser for an adopted school in eastern NC drastically affected by recent hurricanes. Students wanted to help other students. In a span of about two hours, a bunch of students raised several hundred dollars for some other students because they wanted other school families to be able to stay together the way these kids bonded with each other tonight.

It would take several hands with many fingers to count all the ways that students in many high schools are performing service work that is not necessarily documented on some time sheet to fulfill a requirement that might make a college application look good.

If a student cares about his/her community, then that student will find a way to help. That action to help creates a bond and whittles away at the deficit of empathy. It creates community. And it shows that we adults could learn a lot from these students.

In fact, we need that desperately.

That and it makes writing a lot of these recs so much easier.

Buying Teachers’ Votes

What was reported in a recent edition of the Independent Tribune out of Cabarrus County is the epitome of a politician trying to buy the teacher vote under the guise of truly being pro-public education.

Staples

From October 9th,

On Monday afternoon, teachers at Royal Oaks Elementary and Northwest Cabarrus Middle School were asked to stay after school for a quick staff meeting.

When they walked into their media centers to see some special guests— including Senator Paul Newton— they knew something was up.

Newton has teamed up with the Cabarrus County Education Foundation and Staples to present certified classroom teachers at all of the schools in the Cabarrus County Schools district with a $100 Staples gift card to use for school supplies.

The foundation kicked the giveaways off with these two schools and plans to visit all of the others to give out gift cards in the next few weeks.

“One of the things we know is that teachers end up spending a lot of their own money for classroom supplies. One of the things we kind of look at and try to figure out how best to support you guys with that,” Cabarrus County Schools Superintendent Dr. Chris Lowder told the Royal Oaks teachers after the surprise was revealed. “This past summer the North Carolina legislature and the senate tried to take up that issue too and deal with ways they may help with that area. We just want to say thank you to him (Newton) and the North Carolina legislature and senate and what they are trying to do to help our teachers” (https://www.independenttribune.com/news/teachers-surprised-with-staples-gift-cards-more-on-the-way/article_614371d4-cbd7-11e8-9bab-cb7f6bde9760.html).

So, a state politician in an election year has used a provision from a budget passed through a nuclear option and funneled tax payer money to give “money” to teachers less than a month from election day.

Senator Newton’s past voting record is nothing more than rubber-stamping what his party’s leadership has championed. One just needs to look at his voting record: https://www.ncleg.net/gascripts/voteHistory/MemberVoteHistory.pl?sSession=2017&sChamber=S&nUserID=990.

That voting record is not one that has championed public education, but Newton’s rhetoric in his 2016 says that he prioritizes public education while he supports “school choice.”

From Nov 1, 2016’s copy of the Independent Tribune quoting Newton’s stance on public schools:

Better Schools .  Our public schools should be the #1 choice for teachers all across America.  I see no reason we cannot become the best performing and most desired educational choice in the nation.  We must restore respect in the classroom. I place the highest value on our teachers.  They are having an enormous impact on our next generation.  In addition, we must continue to offer choice.  Private, Charter and Home schools all belong in the education mix. Parents should be able to choose the educational path that is best for their children (https://www.independenttribune.com/news/n-c-senate-district-robert-brown-and-paul-newton/article_f46a996e-a079-11e6-b174-fbe50531be97.html).

This recent action of giving teachers “supply money” is reminiscent of another lawmaker’s actions this past spring.

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

Not other districts. His district.

DonorsChoose

He literally was trying to get 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.” Why? Because it is electioneering – pure and simple.

Just like what Sen. Newton is doing here.

With all that has happened to the public school system under those whose policies that Sen. Newton rubber-stamps, giving teachers money for supplies after the school year has started in an area not decimated by the recent hurricane in a state that still lags in per-pupil expenditures on the national scale with statewide taxpayer money is nothing more than pure electioneering.

But if I was in his district and he wanted to “buy my vote” he could have pushed to fully fund schools statewide for all students and all teachers and all citizens.

And not make it a publicity stunt.