NC is Not a “Prudent” Employer of Teachers: About Berger and Moore’s Recent Staff Raises

From a February 1, 2019 column by Colin Campbell in the News & Observer concerning staff raises for Sen. Berger and Rep. Moore’s staff:

Senate leader Phil Berger and House Speaker Tim Moore have seen a lot of turnover on their staffs since 2017, but some of the staffers who stuck around have been rewarded with pay increases of 20 to 50 percent.

The NC Insider compared current salary records for the president pro tem’s office and speaker’s office with records from January 2017, at the beginning of the last biennium. The records show pay increases varying significantly among staffers who have kept the same job titles for the past two years.

By contrast, most state employees received a $1,000 raise in 2017 and a 2 percent raise in 2018.

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Asked if the employees with bigger raises had seen changes in job responsibilities, Berger spokesman Pat Ryan said “we can’t comment on personnel matters involving specific employees. In general, we increase salaries to reflect additional job responsibilities, more prominent roles, and to retain talented employees, as would any prudent employer.”

Read that last statement again if you are a teacher.

“In general, we increase salaries to reflect additional job responsibilities, more prominent roles, and to retain talented employees, as would any prudent employer.”

I wonder if Berger’s spokesperson had teachers in mind when he said this.

So, if the “prudent” employer here is the state and teachers are employees, can teachers say that the state has been “prudent” with them?

Yes, the article does reflect that some of those who received substantial raises have taken on extra responsibilities in the last couple of years.

So have public school teachers. More students per class. More classes. Less planning time. More duties and committee responsibilities. Coaching. Fundraising. Community outreach. Physical facilities maintenance (ask those Down East what they have had to do to help get  schools ready after hurricane damage). Resource gathering. Professional development (state doesn’t fund it any longer).

The list goes on. And on.

And on.

So,  has the state of North Carolina been a “prudent” employer for teachers who have served far longer than those people who work for Berger and Moore who received those monstrous pay increases?

No. In fact, the longer a teacher has been in the state long after he/she has proven to be effective, that idea of North Carolina being a “prudent” employer is completely nullified.

By the very salary schedule it produced for this year.

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In fact, if one went back to calculate how teacher pay has changed over time in this state with adjustments for inflation, then you will get a real sense of what “prudence” is not (courtesy of the venerable John deVille).

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So much for “prudence.”

 

 

 

 

The State of North Carolina Should Restore Professional Development in the State Budget

From WUNC.org from last December:

“The General Assembly cut the budget line item for teacher professional development from the state budget during the recession and has never restored it. In 2008, the state budgeted $12.6 million for educator professional development. That line item has been reduced to zero. Now schools might pay for some professional development from other budget areas—like federal funding or state funding to support digital learning — or teachers can turn to grants.”

“Never restored” are two words most associated with public school education in North Carolina when comparing today’s climate to the one before the Great Recession and the advent of ALEC-inspired “reforms” to public education championed by current NCGA leadership.

Ask any professional in an ever-changing, global society about the need to keep up with latest practices and approaches to serving those who depend on them. He /she will probably cite the need to keep learning and coming into contact with others who are attempting to not staying stagnant or becoming out-of-date. They will talk about the need for ongoing professional development.

Teachers are no different. And the state of NC used to help make that happen for teachers, but in a day of a supposed economic boom, the fact that this investment in teacher professional development has not been restored and expanded is either completely ignorant or outright spiteful.

Actually in NC it could be both.

As of now, teachers usually go to limited professional development during planning periods or directly before / after school  – times that are usually needed for planning and grading and collaborating directly with department members and cross-curricular teams. For the professional development that happens outside of the classroom, the LEA’s tend to foot the bill unless there is an outside source that is helping.

If the class-size chaos debacle taught us one thing, it is that the state has a habit of passing the cost of items onto the LEA’s. They are already stripped for funds: local supplements, physical facilities, etc. Another observation about NC is that when it cuts a line-item, it has a hard time returning it to the budget. It’s part of that, “Well, you’ve been getting along without it” line of reasoning.

Many budgetary line items were eliminated because of the Great Recession, and they should be put back in including the need for professional development. And our state superintendent should be the first to champion that cause considering the cuts in DPI’s budget he oversaw last year and did not fight against went to support positions for low-income school districts that relied on the state to help professionally develop working professionals with support training.

And once that investment has been made in professional development, the NCGA can make another investment in public education: TIME to participate in that professional development. Whether that means paying for subs or allowing for more planning time through more budgetary flexibility, allowing teachers the time to actually be able to professionally develop in collaborative cohorts can be incredibly beneficial to student outcomes.

2008 to 2019 is a long time.

Actually eleven academic years.

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The North Carolina General Assembly Should Pass SB 28 – Restore Master’s Supplement for Teachers (And Include Other Vital Staff Members)

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The GOP-led NC legislature’s 2013 decision to end graduate degree pay bumps for new teachers entering the teaching profession was not only misguided, but another wave in the assault on public education here in the Old North State.

I confess there exist numerous studies that have shown that advanced degrees do not correlate with higher test scores and/or higher graduation rates. Even John Hood’s October 2015 op-Ed “Not a matter of degrees” on EdNC.org makes note of these studies. He states:

Since 1990, scholars have published more than 100 studies in academic journals that tested the relationship between teachers having graduate degrees and some measure of educational success, such as test-score gains or increases in graduation rates. In more than 80 percent of the studies, there was no statistically significant relationship. A few of the studies actually found a negative effect. Only 15 percent produced a positive association.

Yet, those words do not convince this teacher that having advanced degrees is not beneficial for teachers, students, and schools.

Since 1990, we as a nation have transitioned from Clinton to Bush to Obama; we have survived No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top. As a state, we have gone from the Standard Course of Study all the way to Common Core (and its amorphous successor). And we have used several versions of EOCT’s, EOG’s, SAT’s, ACT’s, AP’s, ABC’s, and AYP’s.

The point is that we have employed so many different barometers of learning utilizing various units of measurements that to actually compare current data on student achievement to historical data becomes almost futile. Even the SAT has changed multiple times since I took it in high school.

However, there is one constant in our classrooms that has provided the glue and mortar for public schools since 1990 and well before that: experienced teachers.

If the North Carolina General Assembly thinks that abolishing the graduate degree pay increases for teachers is a good policy, then it needs to convince North Carolinians that our state does not need veteran teachers who are seasoned with experience. Teachers who seek graduate degrees in education (and/or National Certification) are themselves making a commitment to pursue careers in public education. When the state refuses to give pay bumps for graduate degrees, then the state just ensured that North Carolina will not have as many veteran, experienced teachers in our schools in the near future. Those teachers will not be able to afford to stay in the profession. Yet, we as a state cannot afford to lose them.

Some teachers do not wish to earn graduate degrees simply because of time constraints and financial barriers. Some do not need graduate degrees to feel validated as master teachers, but the choice to further one’s education to advance in a chosen occupation should always remain and be rewarded. And if a teacher believes that it is beneficial to earn an advanced degree, then it can only help the teacher’s performance. Besides, it is an investment made by teachers who wish to remain in the educational field, especially when teachers here in NC still make salaries that rate near the bottom of the national scale. Even Governor McCrory called the recent budget’s influence on teacher salaries “chicken feed” in an episode of NC Spin.

In a report published in Education Week in March, 2015 entitled “New Studies Find That, for Teachers, Experience Really Does Matter”, Stephen Sawchuck recounted findings by Brown University scholars saying:

The notion that teachers improve over their first three or so years in the classroom and plateau thereafter is deeply ingrained in K-12 policy discussions, coming up in debate after debate about pay, professional development, and teacher seniority, among other topics.

 But findings from a handful of recently released studies are raising questions about that proposition. In fact, they suggest the average teacher’s ability to boost student achievement increases for at least the first decade of his or her career—and likely longer.

 Moreover, teachers’ deepening experience appears to translate into other student benefits as well. One of the new studies, for example, links years on the job to declining rates of student absenteeism.

 Although the studies raise numerous questions for follow-up, the researchers say it may be time to retire the received—and somewhat counterintuitive—wisdom that teachers can’t or don’t improve much after their first few years on the job.

 “For some reason, you hear this all the time, from all sorts of people, Bill Gates on down,” said John P. Papay, an assistant professor of education and economics at Brown University, in Providence, R.I. He is the co-author of one of two new studies on the topic. “But teacher quality is not something that’s fixed. It does develop, and if you’re making a decision about a teacher’s career, you should be looking at that dynamic.”

This reiterates that we need experienced, veteran teachers  – many of whom believe that advanced degrees or even national certification are ways to improve their performance in the classrooms. That is not to say that all teachers who have advanced degrees are better than those who do not. I work with many teachers in my school who have earned just a bachelor’s degree and are master teachers who possess traits I wish to emulate.

What many who work on West Jones Street in Raleigh do not mention is that while beginning teachers have seen a big increase in pay, those with more experience have not. In fact, the salary schedule for public school teachers ensures that a teacher who enters the profession today will never make over fifty thousand dollars ever in a year throughout his/her career. That is one major reason we are seeing fewer and fewer teaching candidates in undergraduate education schools here in North Carolina.

Because advanced degree pay is abolished, many potential teachers will never enter the field because that is the only way to receive a sizable salary increase to help raise a family or afford to stay in the profession. Furthermore, the amount of money it would take to repay the cost of a master’s degree would still take a teacher many years to make on a teacher’s salary, and in most cases that tuition is being paid to public colleges and universities. In essence, many teachers are reinvesting in the very public education system that they serve.

Ironically, not many of those who agree with eliminating graduate degree pay increases argue against that veracity of National Board Certification, which also leads to a pay increase. North Carolina still leads the nation in NBCT’s (National Board Certified Teachers). National certification is defined by a portfolio process which many schools of education emulate in their graduate programs. Additionally, national certification is recognized across the country and its process of validating teacher credentials has rarely been questioned.

But what really seems to be the most incongruous aspect of the argument against graduate degree pay increases is that it totally contradicts the message we send to students in a college and career ready curriculum. If we want students to be life-long learners and contribute to our communities, then where else to better witness that than with our teachers who want to get better at what they do. When students witness a teacher actually going to school (or knowing he/she went back to school), then the impact can be incredible because it means that teachers still “walk the walk” when it comes to furthering an education.

Besides, most all students know that public school teachers do not get into the profession to get rich.

Dear NC State Board of Education, Please Stop Listening to Jeb Bush

The following tweet appeared today:

excelined

ExcelinEd is the think tank founded by Jeb Bush right after his tenure as the governor of Florida.

Their donors (2018) include:

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Gates. Walton. Pearson. Zuckerberg. Koch. Charter Schools USA.

And ExcelinEd was in NC today talking about how to improve Read to Achieve, the initiative passed in 2012 has been a complete failure.

Simply put, it has not “achieved.”

From an October, 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 (yep, that’s Jeb’s thing as well) 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.

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

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That 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.

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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 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 through think tanks like ExcelinEd.

But alas.

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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.

 

 

 

 

North Carolina: A State Where Ice Cream and Doughnuts Are Important Than Fully Funding Schools

If you have not read the latest post by the gifted teacher / writer Justin Parmenter on his blog Notes From the Chalkboard, then do so. Entitled “After ice cream, could state lawmakers address our practice of assigning F’s to schools of poverty?”, Parmenter talks about yet another empty bill presented in the NCGA.

Yesterday Representative John Torbett filed a bill entitled ‘Official State Frozen Treat.’ If passed, this legislation would end years of confusion which had residents wasting valuable time eating popsicles, slurpees, and even frozen yogurt. Finally, ice cream will be adopted as North Carolina’s official frozen treat.

What Parmenter brings to light is the fact that while bills such as this are being introduced, real problems such as how poverty affect student achievement and are literally being ignored and only discussed in partisan echo chambers.

But the sweet tooth of empty rhetoric is not just confined to West Jones Street.

Last Saturday, State Superintendent Mark Johnson ran the “Krispy Kreme Challenge” to “reward” the teachers of North Carolina for having a high response rate to a teacher survey that really never allows teachers to convey their attitudes toward the state’s policies on public education. Johnson seems more willing to run for doughnuts than rally for public schools.

Ice Cream and doughnuts. Poverty and fully funding schools.

Which pair is the more important?

 

 

 

About That “State of the Teaching Profession in NC” Report

Today, a draft of a new 2019 state report on teaching was released. Entitled “State of the Teaching Profession in North Carolina,” it chronicles last year’s numbers as far as teacher attrition and  turnover are concerned.

As highlighted by NC Policy Watch’s Clayton Henkel, here are the key stats involving teacher turnover:

  • 94,909 – total number of teachers employed in North Carolina between March 2017 and March 2018
  • 7,674 – of that total, the number of teachers who are no longer employed in NC public schools (including those not teaching in public charter schools).
  • 8.09% – the overall statewide attrition rate of North Carolina public school teachers in the 2017-18 school year
  • 8.70% – the overall statewide attrition rate of North Carolina public school teachers in the 2016-17 school year
  • 15,595 – the number of Beginning Teachers (BTs) employed statewide between March 2017 and March 2018
  • 12.34% – the attrition rate for Beginning Teachers in NC in 2017-2018
  • 79, 314 – the number of Experienced, Licensed Teachers in NC in 2017-2018
  • 7.25% – the attrition rate for Experienced, Licensed Teachers in NC in 2017-2018
  • 5,636 – the number of Lateral entry (LE) teachers who were employed between March 2017 and March 2018
  • 874  (15.51%) – the number of Lateral entry (LE) teachers who were no longer employed in
    NC public schools in March 2018
  • 261 – the number of Teach for America (TFA) Teachers who were employed in March 2017
  • 82 (31.42%) – the number of Teach for America (TFA) Teachers who were no longer employed in NC public schools in March 2018
  • 53.9 – the percentage of teachers who left employment in NC public schools who cited “Personal Reasons” for their decision to depart
  • 21.5 – the percentage of teachers who left employment in NC public schools who cited retirement (with full benefits) as their reason for departure
  • 12.3 – the percentage of teachers who left employment in NC public schools who cited family relocation as their reason for departure
  • 84 (11.5%) – the number of teachers who resigned due to career change
  • 704 (9.2 % ) – the number of teachers who resigned to teach in another state
  • 32.5% – the attrition rate of teachers in Warren County Schools for 2017-2018 (the highest teacher vacancy rate in NC)
  • 25.5% – the attrition rate for Northampton County Schools
  • 10.3% – the attrition rate for Wake County Schools
  • 12.5 % – the attrition rate for Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools

Dr. Terry Stoops of the John Locke Foundation concluded those numbers led to a concrete conclusion: that teachers really must like their jobs or they would be leaving for other plentiful opportunities created by the Trump presidency.

“Teacher attrition declined for the third straight year and dropped by nearly a percentage point since 2016.  The overall state attrition rate for 2015-2016 was 9.04 percent.  It dropped to 8.70 percent in 2016-17.  It dropped again to 8.09 percent in 2017-18.

Thousands of teachers walked out of their classrooms last year to travel to Raleigh to protest Republican education policies and encourage voters to vote for Democratic candidates in the November election. Despite those efforts, Republicans maintained majority control of the N.C. General Assembly.

If teachers truly felt “disrespected” by Republican legislative policies, one could argue that they would be leaving the profession in greater numbers, pursuing the plentiful opportunities supplied by the Trump economic boom.”

Odd that he simply look at the attrition percentages and automatically conclude what he did.

Beginning teachers had a higher rate of attrition than veteran teachers although all of those “historic” raises targeted those teachers in the early years of their careers. But those teachers will never get career status or graduate degree pay like many veteran teachers do as of now. Their retirement maybe has not vested or they are young enough to realize that living on a teacher’s salary may not be as easy in their veteran years as one might have hoped.

Teach For America teachers show a high attrition rate as it is commonly known that most only stay in the profession for 2-5 years. Just ask our state superintendent.

Those numbers do not show the transfer rate of teachers who may go from one county to another LEA that might offer a substantially higher local teacher supplement.

And is it not ironic that after the cut-off date for the data collection for the report there was a march of over 20,000 educators in Raleigh to advocate for public schools? Stoops may cite a victory in the fact that the GOP kept majorities in a gerrymandered state, but that is nothing more than a refusal to  look at the the reality more closely.

The governor got the power of concrete vetoes. No more nuclear options for passing budgets. Key privatizers were defeated. The NC Supreme Court is about to become a 7-1 majority.

And the young voters really showed up – in midterms. And as Stoops’s boss said not long ago in the Washington Post,

“One reason the wealthy donors are so amenable to investing so much in education is alarm about the next generation. Recent polling shows younger people have a more favorable impression of socialism than capitalism. “The younger generation is less sympathetic and less understanding of limited government conservatism,” said Art Pope of North Carolina, a fixture of Koch meetings. “They’re more sympathetic or more willing to give not just social justice but outright socialism a chance. … It used to be you didn’t have to have a serious conversation about socialism in American politics. Now you do. So what is the appeal of that? How do you message?”

But the best rebuttal to the “teachers complain too much when so much ‘good’ is happening” comes from long time education activist and public school advocate John deVille. He articulates:

“It would be hard to cram more fallacies in a smaller space than Dr. Stoops has been able to achieve.

Stoops points to miniscule drops in NC teacher attrition rates over the past three years as sufficient evidence to call into question the wisdom, relevance, and appropriateness of our 20,000 to 30,000 teacher march last May 16th. In Dr. Stoop’s mind our NC teacher ire isn’t really legitimate if we aren’t leaving in larger numbers?

Huh?

Many American workers are dissatisfied but remain where they are because of insurance, mortgage payments…we have bills, you know.

We just learned through the calamitous Trump shutdown and the withholding of pay from 800,000 federal employees that we live in an economy where 78% of American workers live paycheck to paycheck, so leaving a position which has substantial shortcomings isn’t always an option…not when it means significant deprivation and massive damage to a household’s economic health when there is just a one to four week gap in pay.

So that might be a reason why the attrition numbers are slightly down.

It could be that we are almost natural born advocates for children, that we feel a responsibility for them. We see children in increasing numbers in our classrooms suffering from the ravages of poverty and trauma and abandoning them isn’t in our collective DNA. It could be that we marched because we want the school supply budget which remains less than half of what it was in 2008 restored to these children. Maybe we were marching for more wrap around services, for counseling and for nurses.

Maybe we are leaving in slightly fewer numbers because so many teachers have already left. Basic math suggests that when your overall teacher population has already been depleted that the aggravating source of the depletion, the attrition, even if it remains constant, won’t have the same mathematical impact because the target has already diminished.

I’m sure that all of my fellow teachers who were in the streets on May 16th are not aware of Dr. Stoop’s fanciful and false premise of the “plentiful opportunities supplied by the Trump economic boom.” I’m assuming that Dr. Stoops is aware of the phenomenon of rising income inequality in the Tarheel state and the nation which has been a constant and increasing figure on the landscape since 1980. So while here in NC, since the Great Recession, our overall economy has, like the national economy, expanded, the opportunities of which Dr. Stoops speaks, have not. According to a report published last year by the Economic Policy Institute, only six states are doing worse since 2008 when it comes to rising income inequality. For most of us, while the challenges in our classrooms are formidable, we know that those problems nor our economic woes will not be solved by becoming 30 hour a week baristas.

Finally, Dr. Stoops concludes with some exceptional humor, that things for our students and our classrooms can’t be all that bad since the Republicans hold the majority in the General Assembly.

Indeed they do.

The questionable and consistently challenged in court gerrymandering performed by the GOP in 2011 has made retaking either chamber exceptionally difficult. Nevertheless, far more NC voters voted FOR the classroom and against the parsimony and callousness which is the stock and trade of the NC GOP. A progressive, pro-public school coalition did indeed break the supermajority AND received far more votes than those elected officials who oppose the children’s interests in our classrooms. Moreover, many Republicans have shifted their stances viz the NC public school classroom and have become more supportive since the march and the election. “

income inequality

About the Funding of the Opportunity Grants – What is Kept From Traditional Public Schools

Budgets for the state of North Carolina are made biannually. The current budget that helps fund our schools was put together in 2017. Although, there was the power to come back to a budget and make adjustments in the summer fo 2018, a veto-proof majority led by ultra-conservative NCGA members made sure that the budget they first established in 2017 remained mostly untouched. That’s why they passed it within committee rather than have an open debate with possible amendments.

In short, they used what is sometimes referred to as a “nuclear” option.

That budget includes the following table on how the Opportunity Grant voucher scheme is to be financed. (And please note that is states “due to the CRITICAL NEED in this State to provide for school choice for North Carolina students”).

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In 2017-2018, almost $45 million dollars were invested in a pool for vouchers.

From Public School First NC.org: https://www.publicschoolsfirstnc.org/resources/fact-sheets/the-facts-about-school-vouchers/

In the 2017-18 school year, 7001 students attended 405 private schools at a cost of $20.3 million. The largest cohort of Opportunity Scholarship recipients attended a single religious school in Fayetteville, with those 201 students making up more than half of its student population. The largest dollar amount, $451,442, went to Liberty Christian Academy in Richlands, NC where 122 of the 145 students are voucher recipients. The 2018-2019 Budget Adjustments bill increased funding for the Opportunity Scholarship program from $45 to $55 million.

Over $24 million dollars that were budgeted for vouchers were never used where there was supposed to be a CRITICAL NEED. If anything deserves an audit for “wasting money” as Mark Johnson did with DPI last year, then maybe this would be the place to do so.

And the state is going to add another $10 (to $55 for 2019) million dollars to the funds this year. If trends stay in place, not all of that money will be used either. But an additional $10 (to $65 for 2020) million will be added for the next year.

Why are we as a state adding more money to a fund that is not being totally used in the first place? Just this past year over half of the funds went unused.  Why put more money in that reserve when it could be used in the actual public school system?

Eventually NC will give over $134 million annually to vouchers by 2027.  Makes one wonder how much money is literally staying in a pool of funds not actually being used and how much money that could have been used to help traditional public schools over a decade’s time.

Just this year alone $24 million dollars could have been used to cover the cuts to DPI and rehire those people who were helping impoverished school systems with coaching and professional development.

$24 million dollars could have hired several hundred teacher assistants.

$24 million could have bought a lot of textbooks.  Maybe a bunch of more iPads?

By 2017, the state will have (according to the current table) invested over $900 million dollars in the least transparent voucher scheme in the entire nation. If we didn’t spend even half of this year’s allotted funds, how much would not be spent in the next decade?

Money that could be helping our underfunded public school system.

There probably exists a line of reasoning by those who champion the use of vouchers that keeping the money in reserve for future use is important because school choice will become a “right” that more and more people will take advantage of. But there is no conclusive evidence that the voucher system actually is working and despite all of the advertising and “privatizing” efforts by many in Raleigh, an overwhelming majority of parents and students still choose traditional public schools.

Remember that aforementioned “due to the CRITICAL NEED in this State to provide for school choice for North Carolina students” part?

There is critical need in traditional need in public schools. And the majority of parents and students “choose” traditional public schools.

Seems odd not to put that money not used back into traditional public schools.

The NCGA’s Absolute Fear of the Veteran Public School Teacher

Veteran teachers openly discuss, study, and collaborate.

And they fight for public schools.

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

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

Let me rephrase that.

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

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

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

Students will suffer; communities will suffer.

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

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

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

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

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

That’s not a rhetorical question.

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

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

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

Veteran teachers openly discuss, study, and collaborate.

And we will fight.

In 2019, 2020, 2021, ….

When Mark Johnson or Phil Berger Talk About “Average” Teacher Pay, They Fail to Mention…

Consider the following excerpt from the spring of 2018:

The average salary for a North Carolina teacher has increased to more than $50,000 a year for the first time.

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

The $50,000 benchmark has been a major symbolic milestone, with Republican candidates having campaigned in 2016 about how that figure had already been reached. Democrats argued that the $50,000 mark hadn’t been reached yet and that Republicans hadn’t done enough, especially for highly experienced teachers.

The average teacher salary has risen 12 percent over the past five years, from $45,737 a year. Since taking control of the state legislature in 2011, Republicans raised the starting base salary for new teachers to $35,000 and gave raises to other teachers (http://www.journalnow.com/news/state_region/n-c-teachers-are-now-averaging-more-than-a-year/article_e3fe232c-1332-5f6e-89e5-de7c428436fb.html ).

Below is the latest salary schedule for teachers in North Carolina.

salaryschedule.png

Now that a new teacher in North Carolina cannot get a pay bump for a graduate degree, the most he/she will ever make in a career according to this schedule is 58,240 if he/she chooses to invest money into national certification (which NC used to pay for).

One might argue that this salary schedule will show increases in the years to come. That same argument could be made for all salaries; therefore, the average salary for anyone with a comparable educational background will rise as well.

But, it is different when it pertains to NC’s public school teachers.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What follows is a chronological list of quotes, statistics, and other reports about teacher pay, the need to raise the teaching profession, and the walking contradiction that is State Superintendent Mark Johnson.

April 18, 2016:

According to media reports, average teacher pay in North Carolina ranks 42nd nationally. Last year, the state legislature increased starting teacher pay and gave teachers a one-time bonus of $750.

Atkinson said average principal pay in North Carolina public schools is 49th or 50th in the nation.

She said a 30 percent drop in enrollment in university and college teacher education programs statewide since 2010, was largely due to low teacher pay.
“Our teachers are better educated than ever today, but we’ve got challenges,” she said (http://www.journalpatriot.com/news/atkinson-teacher-shortage-looms/article_066628f0-0592-11e6-9d1f-97e69c4ecc03.html).

September 7, 2016:

“Most teachers and school leaders work tirelessly for their students despite the challenges. They are not to blame, and I am grateful to lawmakers in Raleigh (and my fellow board members in Forsyth County) for seeking much-needed, overdue raises for them.” – Mark Johnson (https://www.ednc.org/2016/09/07/our-american-dream/).

September 30, 2016:

Johnson supports continued salary increases, the teacher-leader model and increasing pay for teachers working in struggling schools. But Johnson said teachers also need better professional development opportunities and to be treated “like professionals” – Mark Johnson (http://www.journalnow.com/news/local/education-candidates-spar-on-teacher-salaries-charter-schools-and-more/article_a75fbf84-9f8b-5a81-8ad3-8f4b24880b5d.html).

December 20, 2017:

“So, we worked with the General Assembly to secure $105 million for desperately needed new schools in our most economically disadvantaged counties and to reestablish NC Teaching Fellows scholarships to support future educators who will teach hard-to-staff subjects” – Mark Johnson (https://www.ednc.org/2017/12/20/north-carolina-public-schools-accelerating-2018/).

January 26, 2018:

The median weekly salary nationally for full-time workers between the age of 20 and 24 in the last quarter of 2017 was $528 a week, or $27,456 a year, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. It increased to $724 a week, or $37,648 a year, for people between the ages of 25 and 34 (http://amp.newsobserver.com/news/local/education/article196911774.html?__twitter_impression=true).

January 26, 2018:

But looking only at college graduates, students majoring in other professions reported much higher starting salaries than new teachers. The average salary for an education major in the Class of 2017 was $37,046 nationally, compared to $74,183 for computer science majors, $64,530 for engineering majors and $53,259 for math and statistics majors, according to the National Association of Colleges and Employers(http://amp.newsobserver.com/news/local/education/article196911774.html?__twitter_impression=true).

January 26, 2018:

During a question-and-answer session Thursday at the N.C. School Boards Association’s policy conference in Raleigh, Johnson said that the base state starting salary of $35,000 for North Carolina teachers was “good money” and “a lot of money” for people in their mid-20s (http://amp.newsobserver.com/news/local/education/article196911774.html?__twitter_impression=true).

January 26, 2018:

“But that $35,000 mark for a starting salary if you’re in your early 20s, that is really good, especially in some of our rural districts.” – Mark Johnson (http://www.wral.com/nc-superintendent-defends-teacher-pay-comments-amid-criticism/17292076/).

January 26, 2018:

“Teaching is the most important job. It’s one of the most difficult. Without teachers, no one else has a profession.” – Mark Johnson (http://www.wral.com/nc-superintendent-defends-teacher-pay-comments-amid-criticism/17292076/).

January 26, 2018: 

From Thad Ogburn of the N&O – @thadogburn

johnson salary

Yes, teachers have an argument that we need to receive higher salaries. But look at it in the light of what teachers receive in comparison to other professions that require a comparable educational background (4-year degree, etc.). Then make an honest decision about how important it is to keep great qualified teachers in the classroom for their entire careers.