The Gift of Living in the Present – A Musing With Malcolm

“Thirty-six,” he said, looking up at his mother and father. “That’s two less than last year.”

“Darling, you haven’t counted Auntie Marge’s present, see, it’s here under this big one from Mummy and Daddy.”

“Alright, thirty-seven then,” said Dudley, going red in the face. Harry, who could see a huge Dudley tantrum coming on, began wolfing down his bacon as fast as possible in case Dudley turned the table over.

Aunt Petunia obviously scented danger too, because she said quickly, “And we’ll buy you another two presents while we’re out today. How’s that, popkin? Two more presents. Is that alright?”

Dudley thought for a moment. It looked like hard work. Finally he said slowly, “So I’ll have thirty … thirty …”

dudley

“Thirty-nine, sweetums,” said Aunt Petunia.

“Oh.” Dudley sat down heavily and grabbed the nearest parcel. “Alright then.”

– From Chapter 2 of Harry Potter and the Sorceror’s Stone

There are still unopened Christmas gifts in our home with Malcolm’s name on them. He’ll get around to them when he gets the inclination. And it’s not that he is ungrateful or apathetic to the idea of gifts.

It’s because he has an indigenous understanding of living in the present.

Every time that Malcolm has a birthday or Christmas, there are always gifts that will not be opened up for a while. Sometimes he opens something and it needs to be played with right then and there.

For a long time.

Because it’s interesting.

Sometimes he opens a gift and goes to ask for help in how to use it. He forgets maybe that there are others, but for that moment he has placed his full attention upon something else.

He’s good at focusing his attention on one thing and it usually is something in front of him in the present, not something that already happened in the past or something that may happen in the future.

Malcolm knows that the best present is the present – moment that is.

If I could live in the moment like this kid does, then worry and anxiety would not have as much a hold on me. So, I do the next best thing.

Hang out with someone who does live in the “now.”

Someone like this boy right here who wanted to go outside and swing in the backyard…

Malcolm

 

… knowing that there were still presents to unwrap at home from a week ago.

The Top 10 Educational Issues From 2018 That Need Our Attention in 2019

Like every other year, 2018 has been a rather contentious, perplexing, and frustrating year for public school advocates. There is simply a lot working against us.

However, that only means that we keep fighting for public schools. As the new year arrives, it might be worthwhile to review the top ten public education issues that surround North Carolina’s public school system.

And they are not listed in any particular order as all of them have an incredible amount of gravity.

  1. May 16th

Over 20,000 teachers and public school advocates. Around half of the schools in NC were closed for the day. Aside from the Women’s March of 2017, it might have been the largest demonstration on the NCGA in history. Not a single time was there a word given to discourage what teachers and public educators were trying to support. There was a single purpose. Complete focus. And support from others.

IMG_6484

2. School Performance Grading System Still Shows How Poverty Affects Student Achievement

Last year when DPI released the school performance grades for the state included in the report was a data table that showed a correlation between poverty levels and school letter grades received. This year’s report did not include the “Grades by School Poverty Percentage” bar graph, but the good people at the Public School Forum did the work for us.

poverty

Sure does look like poverty levels still have a lot to do with school performance grades. Makes one wonder why DPI’s budget was cut and those support positions were eliminated in DPI to help high-poverty LEA’s.

3. HB514 – The “Resegregation” Bill 

This past spring, the NCGA voted to approve the Municipal Charter School bill 64-53. And because it was a local bill, it did not require the governor’s approval.

This is beyond egregious and potentially sets North Carolina back decades as far as treating all people equally. It exacerbates an already fractious situation that has endured gerrymandering, a Voter ID law, cowering to big industry instead of protecting the environment, and giving massive tax cuts to corporations that hurt public services.

This bill allows for cities to use property tax money to fund local schools. It also allows for cities and towns to establish their own charter schools with enrollment preference for their citizens using taxpayer money.

And with the recent veto override of the Technical Corrections Bill, HB514 can be a reality for any municipality in NC.

4. Mark Johnson Vs. State School Board Decision

It is not that all sides won in this lawsuit. It is that all lost.

nordstrom

Remember that this lawsuit came about because of a special session after the election of Johnson as state superintendent that granted him more power than any previous state superintendent ever had.

A GOP-led NCGA transferred powers from a GOP heavy SBOE to a GOP State Super. For almost 18 months, this lawsuit has been floating in the courts and funded by the very taxpayers who also fund public schools.

And in the end, what happened? Certainly not winning.

What adds to the “defeat” is the timing. Less than two weeks removed from a budget that really does not address key issues that 20,000 teachers marched for and was passed without debate and amendments, this court decision only reaffirmed what most public school advocates already know: Mark Johnson is the face not of DPI, but of the puppet used by the NCGA to control DPI.

Interestingly, three republican school board members resigned their posts to allow for Gov. Cooper to appoint new people to combat the policies of the state superintendent.

5. Calendar Flexibility 

With the loss of days by other school systems due to the recent winter weather and subsequent snow and ice will be eating away at more days. And if the NCGA is to keep pace with its previous decisions, there will be no flexibility given because of the almighty exam schedules and rigid norms that obey special interests and not the schools wishes.

In October, those school systems wanted flexibility to extend the school year so that they could physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually begin to heal from the disaster that was Hurricane Florence. Now many other school systems will need to figure out how to make up days in due to more weather inside of a constricted school calendar.

Weekends, holidays, nights, and early mornings be used to rebuild and recover. If the state was serious about helping weather-affected schools, then it would allow for local school systems to have calendar flexibility to address the academic needs of their students in the time frame that would be best decided by the local school systems.

Forcing the schools to still end at the same calendar date (with the missed time) as other systems that may never have missed school days is forcing those students to take state tests without the same preparation time and affect school performance grades. That can be really severe to school systems who are already dealing with the after effects of weather-related closures.

6. DPI Reorganization and Audit

In June of 2018, Johnson entertained former Florida Governor Jeb Bush and a multitude of other politicians who have made it their job to privatize public education in North Carolina.

meeting1

jebmark1

Days later, he laid off 40 people from the Department of Public Instruction due to a budget cut made by many lawmakers in the same room as Johnson and Bush in a year where the state supposedly had a surplus.

The next month, Johnson did a reorganization of DPI. Below is what DPI organizational flowchart was prior to Johnson’s actions:

chart1

This is what it looks like now.

orgchart

The first thing to notice is that on the older chart some positions were titled with ALL CAPS and had a thicker border surrounding them. That meant that these people were Dual-Report Positions. In short, they answered to both the state board and to Johnson. However, that went away on July 1 with this:

With the 8 June 2018 North Carolina Supreme Court ruling upholding the constitutionality of Session Law 2016-126, I am now exercising my authority under that Act to manage administrative and supervisory personnel of the Department. Accordingly, I am changing your position appointment from “dual report” to reporting [only to the Superintendent directly] or [to the Superintendent through the Deputy State Superintendent]. The change in your appointment is effective immediately,” Johnson wrote (https://www.ednc.org/2018/07/17/state-board-of-education-loses-power-over-dpi-leadership/).

What that means is that those people who held those positions not only now answer to Johnson alone, but he has total control over what they do. A man with less than two calendar years of teacher training and classroom experience combined along with an unfinished term on a local school board now “calls” the shots for all of those veterans in a DPI whose budget is being slashed by the very people who prop up Johnson and passed that original HB17 bill.

Also in the older chart, Johnson reported to the state board. In the new one, the state board of education does not even really have any ties to DPI except through an internal auditor. It’s like they do not exist, which is just what the powers that run the NCGA wanted.

Another change is that there are now FOUR Deputy State Superintendents: Operations, District Support, Early Education, and Innovation along with a Chief of Staff. That’s five people who run DPI and directly report to Johnson and no one else.

7. Supermajorities in Both Chambers of the NCGA Were Defeated

The breaking of that supermajority this November of 2018 did a lot to help public school advocacy in North Carolina.

  • A pro-public education governor can now use a veto. That’s really a big deal.
  • Budget process now has to be open. There is no way that a budget can successfully go through a “nuclear option.” Debate and amendments must now occur and that means that people like Berger and Moore have to actually talk about the budget.
  • Many municipalities and local LEA’s had school board shake-ups. For instance, the Winston-Salem / Forsyth County schools now have a school board that has a democrat majority. Look at Wake County.
  • Many privatizers and “non” public school advocates lost in races or had very close races. Nelson Dollar lost. He was the chief writer of the budget. Bill Brawley might might be gone after absentee votes due the HB 514 affair. Jeff Tarte lost handily after the stunt he pulled with DonorsChoose.org being used to fund affluent schools in his district.
  • With more seats to Democrats, Mark Johnson is held in check. Think about it. With current makeup of lawmakers, secretly crafted bills that take power away from the state school board and give it to a puppet of a state superintendent would be harder to pass.
  • The power of the judicial branch was preserved. Those two amendments were defeated and most all of the races for state-wide judicial races went to people favored by education advocates.

And there were some trends that were established that are incredibly encouraging for the 2020 election which will feature lots of state-wide races.

  • Look at the numbers of people who voted. It was a midterm election and over %50 of registered voters came out in a time where public education was a hot button item on many platforms.
  • Young people came out. Those civic lessons are working. Imagine what kind of force they could be in 2020 when state level positions are up for elections.

8. Read to Achieve Just Is Not Working

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 2018 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

9. That NC State Study on Vouchers

In June of 2018, NC State released another evaluation of the Opportunity Grants Program. It is entitled ““An Impact Analysis of North Carolina’s Opportunity Scholarship Program on Student Achievement.” A link to the report can be found on EdNC.org (https://www.ednc.org/2018/06/04/researchers-release-an-impact-analysis-of-north-carolinas-opportunity-scholarship-program-on-student-achievement/).

It states that there are “large positive impacts associated with voucher usage in North Carolina.”

When reading about the recruitment of the students to be used in the study, the researchers relied heavily on the Parents for Educational Freedom in North Carolina (PEFNC). From page 11 of the report:

ncstate1

That reads “the bulk of recruitment support was ultimately provided” by PEFNC. To say that PEFNC has an extreme bias as to needing to show a positive spin on vouchers is an understatement – a giant understatement.

And there’s so much that this study could not even begin to measure as the voucher system in NC is the most non-transparent in the country.

Duke study

10. Class Size Chaos

Remember when Sen. Chad Barefoot said this in February of 2017 concerning House Bill 13?

For years, the General Assembly has been sending tens of millions of dollars to districts for new classroom teachers for the purpose of lowering classroom sizes,” he said. “The question we keep asking over and over again is, ‘What did they do with the money? …The data that we have received from the districts varies, and some districts did not fully respond to our information request. What some of the data has shown is that there are districts that did not reduce class sizes with the funding we sent them. Why are they holding art and PE teachers’ jobs hostage for their misallocation of classroom teacher funds?” (http://www.wral.com/law-reducing-class-size-has-music-art-pe-teachers-anxious-about-future-/16628678/).

I do. We only got a yearly reprieve. In 2019, we will have to fight for “specials” again.

Tests Can’t Measure the True Strength of Schools And Other Reasons Your Kids Aren’t Numbers

Invariably, in many social situations, I am asked that same ubiquitous question many people face: “So, what do you do for a living?” And when I answer that I am a teacher the reactions are varied.  “Wow, that must be exciting!”  “Do you guys still use red ink?” “How do you handle those kids?” “I wouldn’t have the patience.” Some people have even said, “I’m sorry.”

While there may be some lightheartedness involved, conversations about education usually ensue because everybody in the community has a stake in the public education system: students attend schools, parents support efforts, employees hire graduates, and taxpayers help fund buildings and resources. But there are those who really question the path that public education has taken and lack confidence in our young people and their role as future leaders. It is with these people that I talk about my school West Forsyth its community. In fact, I can speak glowingly of all our schools here in my school system. I can go even further than that. I can brag about all of our public schools here in North Carolina.

I am not here to compare schools, but having spent the last twelve-plus years at West Forsyth gives me insight into at least one of them. The fact that West Forsyth is recognized as a high-performing school and that our students pursue worthwhile post-secondary endeavors speaks incredibly well, but our students are more than achievers in academics. It’s because they succeed in being good people that helps set this school apart. I am more than confident that many people who read this post can substitute another school’s name in West’s place and still speak the truth.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr, once said, “We must remember that intelligence is not enough. Intelligence plus character – that is the goal of true education.” Most all of the young people I see every day understand the meaning of those words and the character they show inside and outside the classroom is a reason that we should celebrate the work our schools do.

In a country where we identify schools through acronyms like NCLB, EOCT’s, EOG’s, SAT’s, ACT’s, AP’s, ABC’s, and AYP’s, it’s reassuring to know that our young people also define themselves with more standards than those of an academic transcript. Don’t get me wrong; the academics are important, but if we want to educate the complete student, then we must honor character, and our students are very honorable because they distinguish themselves by their character and the impression they leave on others. If that is a criterion for having faith in this next generation, then the students I matriculate with every day at West have instilled confidence within me. The students I come across in other schools instill that same confidence within me.

When you as a teacher begin to see the third and fourth sibling from the same family in your classes, or have been sent wedding invitations from former students, or have embraced a family member at a funeral for a previous pupil, then you have been at the same school for a long time, or better yet, become a member of a community that loves and nurtures its own.

When you receive notes and visits from students who have long past graduated, then you know you have made an impression, hopefully a positive one. And when you are met by a parent whom you do not even recognize but wanted to thank you for what you taught his/her child, then you know that you are in the right profession. And when the first child of a former student graces my doorway for class, then I will be more than glad to talk of his/her parent’s adventures in school, possibly with some embellishment.

My own daughter now attends West as a junior. There was no need to show her around campus or introduce her to the administration or the teachers when she began here last year; she already was familiar with West. That’s because she already was invested in one of the cornerstones of our community: the public high school.

mlk

The Best “Technology” in the Classroom is The Well-Resourced Teacher

So much has been written and posted in education news outlets concerning the use of technology in North Carolina.

Yes, technology is important. And investing in technology is important. In fact, investing in making sure that we upgrade routinely in technology is important.

But the best “technology” in the classroom is the highly supported teacher. From Richard Gerver of EdSurge on December 24th:

In 2013, I had the opportunity to discuss the future of education with Eric Schmidt, who was then the executive chairman of Google. I was keen to find out his take: Would technology ever replace the teacher? At that time, this question was being debated throughout the education world. We had seen two decades of technological revolution in schools, starting with desktop computers, then networks, laptops, interactive whiteboard boards and on and on it went…

His answer to me was immediate and unequivocal. “No,” he said. “Never.”

He went on to explain that whilst technology was incredible, more than just a catalyst for change, it shouldn’t and wouldn’t ever replace teachers. Why? And why, especially, would one of the world’s foremost technology leaders believe this? Because, in his words, “Education, is, at its heart, about the development of human beings. To do that, you will always need high levels of human interaction.”

Schools in my district use Chromebooks. Students are put into Google Classrooms to collaborate. Papers and presentations come to my inbox via Google Docs and Google Slides. In fact, Google has more “free” applications” that are useful in the classroom. And its executive chair said, “Education, is, at its heart, about the development of human beings. To do that, you will always need high levels of human interaction.”

In over twenty years in a public school classroom in both rural and urban settings, I have seen curriculum changes, NCLB, RttT, EOC’s, EOG’s, AYP’s, and countless other standardized tests plus a countless flux in how teacher effectiveness and student achievement are measured.

The only constant is the student / teacher relationship.

It is about people – the best technology a classroom can have.

 

 

 

 

 

These Were Ten of the Top Education Issues Entering 2018…

What has been done in the last twelve months to address these issues?

And what can a break in the NCGA’s supermajorities do to further ameliorate these issues?

From a post in December 2017:

Like every other year, 2017 has been a rather contentious, perplexing, and frustrating year for public school advocates. There is simply a lot working against us.

However, that only means that we keep fighting for public schools.

For the calendar year of 2017, Caffeinated Rage had over 75,000 hits and over 200 new posts most all of which dealt with education in North Carolina. As the new year arrives, it might be worthwhile to review the top ten public education issues that surround North Carolina’s school system.

And they are not listed in any particular order as all of them have an incredible amount of gravity.

  1. Betsy DeVos became Secretary of Education.

Betsy DeVos has no degree in education meaning she is not even educated in how to educate. Betsy DeVos has no teaching experience. Betsy DeVos never attended a public school or state supported university. None of her children have either. Betsy DeVose’s monetary contributions to Christian-based schools and evangelical organizations has been conservatively estimated at $200 million. Betsy DeVos is totally anti-union and believes that teachers are paid too much. Betsy DeVos supports vouchers.

https://caffeinatedrage.com/2017/01/20/taking-dolorous-umbrage-at-betsy-devos-with-no-apologies-to-dolores-umbridge-but-i-miss-alan-rickman/

  1. Mark Johnson became state superintendent.

Consider this – a corporate attorney who taught for two school years through a program that historically does not place many long term teachers into the public schools, who did not complete a full term as a school board member and has never had a child in the public schools was elected in the most contentious election year in recent memory to become state superintendent. After he was elected and before he took office, he was granted more power as a state superintendent by a gerrymandered legislature in a special session that was thought to be called to repeal HB2. He then spent the first six months of his term “embroiled” in a legal battle with the state board of education that is controlled by the same political party and literally has been a non-public figure while a budget that expands vouchers, keeps charter schools from being regulated, lowers per pupil expenditures for traditional public schools, and cuts the budget for the very department he is supposed to run.

https://caffeinatedrage.com/2017/07/15/the-most-enabled-man-in-raleigh-north-carolinas-state-superintendent/

What SB599 means is that for-profit outfits can make money fast-tracking teacher candidates in a rather precarious preparation programs.

The original bill was introduced by Sen. Chad Barefoot who has shown himself to be the most recent poster child of the privatization movement in North Carolina’s public education system.

https://caffeinatedrage.com/2017/06/29/the-stench-of-sb599-raleigh-knows-why-we-have-a-teacher-shortage-they-created-it/

  1. The Privatization Movement.

That’s because there exist too many relationships between business leaders, lobbying groups, wealthy benefactors, politicians, and educational reformers to be coincidental. In fact, many in the “reform” movement that have started to dismantle the public school system are strategically linked to each other, including BEST NC.

Look at the graphic below:

graph1

https://caffeinatedrage.com/2017/02/11/the-dramatis-personae-in-the-privatization-of-public-schools-in-north-carolina-or-who-is-trying-to-reform-education-through-deformation/

  1. School Performance Grading System.

The 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 of achievement scores of amorphous, one-time testing rather than student growth throughout the entire year.

graph2

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 keep both the school performance grading system formula where it is and still expand vouchers ABSOLUTELY UNDERSTAND THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN PROFICIENCY AND GROWTH. IT HELPS TO VALIDATE THEIR WANT OF MORE VOUCHERS.

https://caffeinatedrage.com/2017/07/05/the-ncgas-plan-to-make-school-performance-grades-fuel-voucher-expansion/

  1. HB13 and #ClassSizeChaos.

Remember when Sen. Chad Barefoot said this in February of 2017 concerning House Bill 13?

“For years, the General Assembly has been sending tens of millions of dollars to districts for new classroom teachers for the purpose of lowering classroom sizes,” he said. “The question we keep asking over and over again is, ‘What did they do with the money? …The data that we have received from the districts varies, and some districts did not fully respond to our information request. What some of the data has shown is that there are districts that did not reduce class sizes with the funding we sent them. Why are they holding art and PE teachers’ jobs hostage for their misallocation of classroom teacher funds?” (http://www.wral.com/law-reducing-class-size-has-music-art-pe-teachers-anxious-about-future-/16628678/).

I do.

https://caffeinatedrage.com/2017/12/26/a-convenient-lie-or-rather-the-ncgas-deliberate-distortion-of-the-truth/

  1. Lack of Student Services especially those that deal with mental health.

Addiction, depression, and hopelessness are becoming more prevalent in today’s youth, and this public school teacher can emphatically state that it is causing us to lose too many of our young people. And while society as a whole can debate the extent to which mental health issues should be dealt with, there should be no doubt whatsoever that more should be done.

https://caffeinatedrage.com/2017/08/29/everybody-hurts-prioritizing-mental-health-in-high-schools-with-some-r-e-m/

IF YOU OR ANYONE YOU BELIEVE NEEDS HELP THERE ARE RESOURCES AVAILABLE. PLEASE SEE THIS ARTICLE FOR FURTHER INFORMATION: https://www.betterhelp.com/advice/therapy/get-free-online-therapy-should-you-use-free-counseling/.

  1. Attack on Governor’s School.

An amendment offered by none other than Sen. Chad Barefoot on May 10, 2017 was yet another assault by the North Carolina General Assembly against the arts in our schools.

Amendment #2 to Senate Bill 257 proposes 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.

In short, Chad Barefoot and others of his ilk want to do away with Governor’s School and replace it with a “Legislative School of Leadership and Public Policy.”

https://caffeinatedrage.com/2017/05/11/sen-chad-barefoots-bid-to-end-governors-school-and-establish-a-legislative-school-for-gerrymandered-leadership-and-public-policy-to-suit-private-interest/

  1. Principal Pay Plan.

If there is one thing that BESTNC’s involvement in the new principal pay plan has shed light upon, it is that being fully financed does allow for groups to take action and have influence, especially behind closed doors in Raleigh.

https://caffeinatedrage.com/2017/09/21/open-letter-to-best-nc-about-their-principal-pay-plan-and-their-shallow-response-to-the-push-back/

  1. State Board vs. Mark Johnson.

The State Supreme Court’s decision to hear the case means that it is considered so important that the appeals courts are being bypassed. Simply put, it might be the most important battle in the five-year fight against privatization of the public school system here in North Carolina.

It is a fight to keep the “public” in public education.

https://caffeinatedrage.com/2017/12/11/nc-state-board-of-education-vs-mark-johnson-and-the-fight-to-keep-public-schools-public/

Even At Christmas, the NCGA Uses School Children as Political Pawns – SB 469’s Modification of the Disabilities Grant

Our public schools should be able to go out of their way to accommodate children with disabilities. Whether that means more resources, more teacher assistants, more trained personnel, or more professional development, then that should be invested in.

Actually, it’s the law. It’s called IDEA: the Individuals With Disabilities Education Act. It stipulates that students with a disability (ies) are provided with a free quality public education that is tailored to each student’s needs.

idea4

If you recall, it was almost two years ago that Betsy DeVos began her confirmation hearings that resulted in the only time a cabinet member had to be confirmed by a tie-breaking vote.

In that series of interrogations, DeVos, who had no experience in public schools, showed that she had absolutely no “idea” of the scope and stipulations of the Individuals With Disabilities Education ACT. What she had experience with were vouchers, privately-run charter schools, and other privatization reforms.

When you are a parent of a child with “disabilities,” the absolute mass of cryptic information, the onslaught of responsibility, and the time and energy needed just to find the resources available to help with your child can be more than consuming.

And you are not given extra time in the day to study all of the laws like IDEA that were created to help your child. In fact, you are trying to use what limited means you might only have to get the medical attention and therapies needed just for basic tasks.

In this past few years, states are starting to advance reforms such as Educational Savings Accounts and Disabilities Grants to “help” families with students that have disabilities. In most cases, these involve some sort of voucher that can be used to send these students to private schools instead of educating them in public schools.

North Carolina uses both the ESA’s and Disabilities Grants. Both lack transparency. And in many cases students and their families end up waiving their rights as expressed in the Individuals With Disabilities Education Act to take “advantage” of the voucher.

Kris Nordstrom wrote an excellent piece for NC Policy Watch which outlined the trappings of SB 469, a “Technical Corrections Bill” that bundled a legislation that would have positively affected students in Wayne County who are about to taken over by the Innovation School District with other legislation that further exacerbates NC’s privatization efforts of public school.

SB 469, inaccurately titled as a “Technical Corrections” bill, creates several substantive changes to the state’s education policies. Notably, the bill would grease the rails for school segregation by making it easier for wealthy suburban communities to create “municipal charter schools” that would exacerbate gross inequities within North Carolina’s school system. Additionally, the bill would needlessly funnel $8,000 a year to certain families of private school students. Both are moves in the wrong direction.

The last sentence in the previous paragraph refers to a new loophole in the state’s Disabilities Grants.

Nordstrom continues to explain this use of vouchers :

The move is clearly an attempt to prop up demand for the unpopular voucher program. In FY 17-18, the program was over-funded by $1.1 million. The state appropriated $9.6 million for the program, but just $8.5 million was distributed. Despite the lack of demand, lawmakers boosted funding by over $3 million in the 2018 budget. Instead of subsidizing private programs that might be harmful to students, these funds could be used to boost support for students with disabilities in our under-funded public school system.

He also references an article in the New York Times by Dana Goldstein from 2017 in that part: “Special Ed School Vouchers May Come With Hidden Costs.” It should be read by anyone who has a child with special needs or any family member or advocate.

It begins with these words:

For many parents with disabled children in public school systems, the lure of the private school voucher is strong.

Vouchers for special needs students have been endorsed by the Trump administration, and they are often heavily promoted by state education departments and by private schools, which rely on them for tuition dollars. So for families that feel as if they are sinking amid academic struggles and behavioral meltdowns, they may seem like a life raft. And often they are.

But there’s a catch. By accepting the vouchers, families may be unknowingly giving up their rights to the very help they were hoping to gain. The government is still footing the bill, but when students use vouchers to get into private school, they lose most of the protections of the federal Individuals With Disabilities Education Act.

So, how transparent is that program here in North Carolina? Not very.

The ESA program is not transparent. The Opportunity Grants Program is not transparent. The Disabilities Grants are not transparent.

What SB 469 is allowing is just not frightening. It’s malicious and uses tax payer money to help students go to private schools to possibly bypass the responsibilities of the Individuals With Disabilities Education Act.

As the parent of a child who has special needs it is astounding to realize how much my wife and I did not know about the laws surrounding education. About IEP’s. About our rights.

And I am a veteran public school educator and my wife is an editor / researcher by trade. We have health insurance. We are plugged into some support networks. We have been able to get some help outside of the school setting.

Imagine those families with students who have disabilities who are not as fortunate. We do live in a state where over %20 of our public school students live at or blow the poverty line.

What NC’s lawmakers should do is go out of their way to empower public schools to extend every possible effort and resource to accommodate students with special needs. They should invest the money that is being wasted in voucher programs back into the public schools to allow for more services and individualized attention to be given to students.

Actually, it’s the law.

And if there are students whose needs cannot be met in a public school setting because of the severity of the situation, then allow for a TRANSPARENT PROGRAM to help get those students the resources needed.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Save the Date! Respect For Public Education Regional Meetings

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From NCAE:

SAVE THE DATE:
• What: A day of connecting, learning, and collective planning to win the public schools our students deserve led by the North Carolina Association of Educators
• Who: All public school educators, students, parents, and community supporters
• When/Where: 10 AM to 4 PM 
o January 19th→ Raleigh
o January 26th→ Asheville
o February 2nd→ Charlotte and Greenville

Were you inspired by the power of collective action May 16th when we Rallied for Respect and Marched for Students, as well as the other educator actions across the country? Do you feel more powerful now that voting together has eliminated the anti-public school supermajority from the North Carolina legislature? Do you want to gather with educators, parents, students, and community supporters from across the state to plan next steps and get ourselves organized to win the schools our students deserve?

After a year of historic organizing across the state, we have the opportunity to win real improvements in our schools and our communities. We cannot rest. Please join the North Carolina Association of Educators and our partners for a day of connecting, learning, and planning together for a Spring filled with organizing and advocacy in our cities, our counties, and our state. More details are on the way, but save a space on your calendar for these important events and plan to be part of the next steps in the movement to defend and transform public schools.

#InThisTogether #NCAEStrong

This North Carolina Teacher’s Letter to Santa

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Dear Santa,

With gerrymandered districts and continued emphasis on using public taxpayer money to finance unproven reform efforts that do more to privatize and divide our student bodies, I thought it might be worth adding a few items to my holiday wish list.

Sure, I want efforts to clean our environment and hold entities accountable for any damage they have done to water sources or quality of living. I want Medicaid expansion, and I want the state to do more in lowering the fact that 1 in 5 students in our public schools live at or below the poverty level.

But this letter specifically is about our public schools.

I would like for the North Carolina General Assembly to stop holding public school students hostage when trying to pass highly partisan legislation. For instance, this current “special session” has a Technical Corrections Bill that is allowing for Wayne County to not be part of the disastrous ISD district if it reclassifies as a “restart” school. While that is a great provision, it is tied to other provisions that allow for municipalities in any part of the state to open charter schools with county money that will further segregate student populations. There is also language in that bill to funnel more monies into private schools that were originally designated for public schools.

I would like for the state of North Carolina to put more emphasis on growth in student achievement than actual scores of standardized tests. I myself still do not know why we give so many standardized tests when there really are no “standardized” students.

I would like the NCGA to not again threaten schools with the class size mandate that might force many schools to get rid of “specials” just because the NCGA fails to finance an expensive mandate to lower class sizes.

I would like the General Assembly to stop looking at quick ways to build a “contracted” teacher pool like it has with SB599 so that education will not be more of a facilitated exchange of information rather than honoring the art and craft of what teaching really is.

I would like the NCGA to value its veteran teachers more and restore graduate degree pay bumps and due-process rights for new teachers so that they will be more likely to become veteran teachers.

I would like for the money spent per pupil in NC to at least equal the amount adjusted for inflation of what the state spent before the Great Recession.

I would like for there to be a cap on how many charter schools there are in the state and mandate that charter schools be under the umbrella of local school systems as they were originally intended to be.

I would like for the School Performance Grading System to be eliminated and have the state simply acknowledge that poverty affects student achievement and we do not need some nebulous system to report that. And then do something to better combat poverty.

I would like for the Opportunity Grants to not receive any more funding. The system in place in this state is by far the least transparent of any in the country and there has been no proof whatsoever that outcomes for students who receive these grants do better academically on a wide scale.

I would like for the state to stop funding for-profit virtual charter schools. They have shown no success. That also goes for the Innovative School District. There is no basis that any form of that reform plan has been successful.

And lastly, I would like for this state to have a state superintendent who actually advocates strongly for public schools instead of unproven reform efforts that seem to profit a select few rather than the state as a whole.

Thanks for considering, Santa.

 

 

 

 

We Lost a Titan Today – Remembering Coach Mark Kinney

We lost a Titan today. A beloved coach, mentor to young men, and vibrant member of our community.

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There are many realizations that I have come to understand as a high school teacher. One is that community involvement in a school is paramount to a school’s success. Another is that school athletics are a vital avenue to positively help build young people outside of academics.

A third is that a great coach on any level, but especially in high schools, is worth more than any accolade or supplement could ever hope to measure.

Mark Kinney personified all of those and more.

It is no secret that baseball has always been my favorite sport and one of the reasons is that it is the most patient sport I know of. There is no time expiring. Every team gets the same number of outs. A team can rally at any time.

And players are always in contact with the coaches. In fact, it is the only game in which the coaches literally are in uniform as well because the proximity of coaches and players. To play a game that is both mentally and physically infused requires coaching that is patient and meticulous.

It takes a special person to coach baseball. It takes a special person to positively mentor young men to become great people. It takes a special person to have an impact on the lives of so many.

Mark Kinney was that person.

If you are a member of the Titan family, please make sure to not only send thoughts and prayers, but help take care of those young men and coaches on the baseball team through actions. Let them know you care. Go see them play. Help their fundraisers (one is happening on January 12th). Support them however you can.

That’s what Coach Kinney would do.