The Best Explanation on Why Teachers Should March This Year As Well Is From…

…Angie Scioli, founder of Red4EdNC and fierce public school advocate, penned not only an incredible piece on why we should also march this May 1st, but one tjhat could not have been more perfectly timed.

She begins,

I went on a “listening tour” this week and talked to some NC teachers.  I sensed some ambivalence from a few about whether they should participate in this year’s May 1 education march, though they had enthusiastically attended last year.  A version of “we did that last year, what good did it do?” was a common refrain.

Let me answer that honestly.  It did a HELL OF A LOT OF GOOD, and that’s why this year is very different than last year.  What good did it do?

Read the rest. 

Really. Read the rest.

angie

Apples, Raised Fists, and Communism. A Teachable Moment From a Single Tweet.

Imagine you as a teacher found out that a symbol associated with you and your profession was the actual antithesis of what you are supposed to stand for.

Take for instance the apple. A shiny red apple.

However, there is a sordid version of its history.

There is that fruit closely associated to that original fall of humankind when in Genesis a serpent tempted Adam & Eve to take a bite thus allowing sin and death into the world.  (It doesn’t get more historical than that).

And there was that time when three goddesses from a polytheistic society decided to use an apple to instigate the greatest war in the mythical world which spawned not only two epic poems that have haunted students for decades but also gave rise to a rather inconsistent movie in which Brad Pitt had to use a stunt double to perform those acts of barbarism. (But nice hair!)

And there was that time an apple was eaten by a single woman who was living with seven older “men” in one house and it made her overdose on some sort of witchcraft. That then spawned a story line which told young ladies that true love was being a damsel in sleepy distress and waiting for some man to come and make it right for her because she could not do it herself.

Disney had a habit of that for a few decades.

Yet does having an apple associated with my procession make me a polytheistic individual bent on causing strife by sewing discord and bringing sin and death into the world while making sure that gender stereotypes are reinforced in my classrooms?

Actually, I see apples as a rather nutritious crop that is widely grown in North Carolina and provides sustenance to many. In fact, I spend a good deal of time looking at news and email on a smartphone that is named after this legendary fruit.

But if one wants to look at apples in that rather limited point of view, then it’s America. One has every right to do that.

So, on Saturday this particular tweet was sent out by John Hood, president of the John Pope Foundation and former president of the John Locke Foundation.

Hood

He expressly insinuates in this tweet that NCAE has adopted a communist symbol for its May 1st rally in Raleigh. It was meant as a jab to NCAE, the one “union” that literally threatens people like Hood and Art Pope.

The tweet is nothing but an “apple of discord” thrown into the social media world to cause a little bit of strife. Let that apple ferment a little and it might intoxicate people enough to make a decision about whether to support the May 1st rally in Raleigh based on one person’s interpretation.

And that’s fine. It’s America, but if you are a teacher or public school advocate in North Carolina who is thinking about advocating for the students in public schools, then name calling and logical fallacies of association should not even sway you from doing what is best for kids.

We as teachers have been called worse. Much worse. In fact, you have already been called communists.

Remember these?

pittman

RepBrodyFacebookPost

And those are lawmakers.

Even the son of President of the United States whose last budget slashes funding for public schools said this in February of this year:

“You know what I love? I love seeing some young conservatives because I know it’s not easy. (Crowd applauds and shouts.) Keep up that fight. Bring it to your schools. You don’t have to be indoctrinated by these loser teachers that are trying to sell you on socialism from birth. You don’t have to do it. Because you can think for yourselves. They can’t.” 

So, if I am a teacher who tries to practice the values of inclusiveness and equality in my classroom who happens to think that the teaching profession should have collective bargaining rights in order to keep public schools strong in the state of North Carolina and wants to rally in Raleigh for tangible issues that would improve our schools, then I am a “communist democratic,” a “thug.” and a “loser teacher?”

Maybe a “loser communistic democratic teacher thug.” If that is what Hood and others are defining it as, then I will gladly wear that label.

But if I ever see a fist clenched in victory in a game or raised at a concert, the thought that these people are communists will not appear in my mind.

That is unless, I have been poisoned by one of those apples.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Betsy DeVos is Our Dolores Umbridge

This picture is rather brilliant, eerie, humorous, yet foreboding.

And it’s appropriate because Betsy DeVos is our Dolorous Umbridge.

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(Credit:?)

And funny. I do not know who the credit should go to, but if you find out, then let me know.

Here are two women who have no real experience with public education (or the education of wizards) and no IDEA of what growth is versus proficiency. Entitled with the power of a ministry, both women have a certain agenda to force into schools that seems more in line with their own personal ideologies rather than the public benefit.

And then there are the standards that each strives to put in place within the schools.

For Dolores Umbridge it was the use of Educational Decrees. Defined by the Harry Potter Wiki website (http://harrypotter.wikia.com/wiki/Educational_Decree), these decrees are,

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

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

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In the book the Educational Decrees were as follows (thanks to Harry Potter Neoseeker – http://harrypotter.neoseeker.com/wiki/Educational_Decrees).

  • Educational Decree Number Twenty-four: All Student Organizations, Societies, Teams, Groups, and Clubs are henceforth disbanded. An Organization, Society, Team, Group, or Club is hereby defined as a regular meeting of three or more students. Permission to re-form may be sought from the High Inquisitor (Professor Umbridge). No Student Organization, Society, Team, Group, or Club may exist without the knowledge and approval of the High Inquisitor. Any student found to have formed, or to belong to, an Organization, Society, Team Group, or Club that has not been approved by the High Inquisitor will be expelled.
  • Educational Decree Number Twenty-five: The High Inquisitor will henceforth have supreme authority over all punishments, sanctions and removal of privileges pertaining to the students of Hogwarts, and the power to alter such punishments, sanctions and removals of privileges as may have been placed by other staff members.
  • Educational Decree Number Twenty-six: Teachers are hereby banned from giving students any information that is not strictly related to the subjects they are paid to teach.
  • Educational Decree Number Twenty-seven: Any student found in possession of the magazine The Quibbler will be expelled.
  • Educational Decree Number Twenty-eight: Dolores Jane Umbridge (High Inquisitor) has replaced Albus Dumbledore as the Head of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.

And in the movie where so many got to meet Dolores Umbridge in a more personal way, these decrees were more numerous and amended somewhat. (Again, thanks to Harry Potter Neoseeker – http://harrypotter.neoseeker.com/wiki/Educational_Decrees).

  • Educational Decree Number 22 – In the event of the current Headmaster being unable to provide a candidate for a teaching post, the Ministry should select an appropriate person.
  • Educational Decree Number 23 – Dolores Jane Umbridge has been appointed to the post of Hogwarts High Inquisitor.
  • Educational Decree Number 24 – NO MUSIC IS TO BE PLAYED DURING Study Hours.
  • Educational Decree Number 25 – The High Inquisitor will henceforth have supreme authority over all punishments, sanctions and removal of privileges pertaining to the students of Hogwarts, and the power to alter such punishments, sanctions and removals of privileges as may have been placed by other staff members.
  • Educational Decree Number 26 – Teachers are hereby banned from giving students any information that is not strictly related to the subjects they are paid to teach.
  • Educational Decree Number 27 – Any student found in possession of the magazine The Quibbler will be expelled.
  • Educational Decree Number 29 – Although never actually passed, it was mentioned by Argus Filch, and would have presumably allowed Filch to torture the students as a punishment.
  • Educational Decree Number 30 – ALL WEASLEY PRODUCTS WILL BE BANNED IMMEDIATELY.
  • Educational Decree Number 45 – PROPER DRESS & DECORUM IS TO BE maintained AT ALL TIMES.
  • Educational Decree Number 68 – All Student Organizations, Societies, Teams, Groups, and Clubs are henceforth disbanded. An Organization, Society, Team, Group, or Club is hereby defined as a regular meeting of three or more students. Permission to re-form may be sought from the High Inquisitor (Professor Umbridge). No Student Organization, Society, Team, Group, or Club may exist without the knowledge and approval of the High Inquisitor. Any student found to have formed, or to belong to, an Organization, Society, Team, Group, or Club that has not been approved by the High Inquisitor will be expelled.
  • Educational Decree Number 82 – ALL STUDENTS WILL SUBMIT TO QUESTIONING ABOUT Suspected ILLICIT Activities.
  • Educational Decree Number 98 – THOSE WISHING TO JOIN THE INQUISITORIAL SQUAD for Extra Credit May sign up in the High Inquisitor’s OFFICE.

decree5decree2

While I cannot confirm if DeVos has an affinity for cats or for the color pink or office décor centered on putting plates on the wall, it is this adherence to the wishes of the “ministry” where she and Umbridge have a magical connection.

Since Cornelius Fudge is the Minister For Magic who places Umbridge in her educational post, he directs what Hogwarts can and cannot do in the classrooms. In fact, Umbridge on many occasions simply talks about herself as an extension of Fudge within Hogwarts.

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

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

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

Now that’s loyalty.

Betsy DeVos in her confirmation hearing and two years in office has continuously stated her allegiance with her own Cornelius Fudge, Donald Trump, as she backs up his policies, especially when it comes to privatizing public schools.

And when you talk about advancing the wishes of a “ministry,” then DeVos certainly is a proud disciple of that. The Mother Jones magazine article (yep, it’s liberal) entitled “Betsy DeVos Wants to Use America’s Schools to Build ‘God’s Kingdom’” is rather eye-opening and it includes some rather zealous statements about DeVos’s devotion to another cause that may be rather cloudy according to the separation of church and state (http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2017/01/betsy-devos-christian-schools-vouchers-charter-education-secretary).

Asked whether Christian schools should continue to rely on philanthropic dollars—rather than pushing for taxpayer money through vouchers—Betsy DeVos replied, “There are not enough philanthropic dollars in America to fund what is currently the need in education…[versus] what is currently being spent every year on education in this country…Our desire is to confront the culture in ways that will continue to advance God’s kingdom.”

From 1999 to 2014, the Dick and Betsy DeVos Family Foundation gave out $2.4 million to the Grand Rapids Christian High School Association, $652,000 to the Ada Christian School, and $458,000 to Holland Christian Schools. All told, their foundation contributed $8.6 million to private religious schools—a reflection of the DeVoses’ lifelong dedication to building “God’s kingdom” through education.

Makes the word “ministry” take an even more celestial meaning.

Imagine the new guidelines for finding effective teachers if all of DeVos’s Common Core issues are finally politically cemented and then implemented.  Umbridge went after many of Hogwarts’s most established professors with the acumen of an educational novice, but with the authority derived from being granted undeserved powers by a man bent on profit, there’s no telling how DeVos will measure effectiveness or growth or proficiency once she looks those words up in her dictionary.

Makes one want to put a Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher in each traditional public school and maybe release a few centaurs in Washington D.C.

Three Things To Consider About Berger’s April Fools Day Announcement Concerning “Education Legislation”

The following was sent out today as a statement from Sen. Phil Berger’s office.

berger

Since when does an announcement need to be announced?

It seems reminiscent of the big announcements that Mark Johnson was building suspense for in February to be revealed at a privately held dinner. And it screams of three specific things.

First, the political terrain has changed in a once-veto proof North Carolina General Assembly. And Berger knows it. Unless you have not been paying attention to the current legislative maneuverings of the NCGA this session, it has been heavily education related. Graduate degree pay, calendar flexibility, school construction bonds, etc.

It speaks to the need for the current NCGA powers to try and save face because the race for 2020 began the day after the 2018 elections were over and now Gov. Cooper can issue vetoes that can stick.

Secondly, it is happening literally right after NCAE announced another day of public education advocacy in Raleigh on May 1st. Last year’s May 16th rally brought around 30,000 people on a day where many school systems had to close down because of the sheer number of teachers who came to Raleigh by financing their own personal leave days.

Except this year’s rally is specific to five issues and is much more organized at the same point in planning as last year’s. Maybe Berger’s statement of an announcement is to address one of these issues and try to stave off any momentum.

Make no mistake. May 1st’s potential scares many in Raleigh. To be able in a “Right-to-work” state to make politicians have to take notice of a collective body eager to affect change scares the hell out people like Berger and Moore.

And lastly, this announcement planned ironically on April Fools Day shows everyone in the state of North Carolina just how much of Berger’s puppet Mark Johnson really is.

Yes, it is nice to have the head of the NCGA Senate Chamber, the head of DPI, and a democrat on the Sate Board come out to announce something big about public education. But it seems that Mark Johnson cannot talk without Berger either controlling the narrative or taking some sort of credit for it. It’s simple grandstanding that will more than likely fire up the public school advocacy base than it will ameliorate years of intentional legislative neglect.

Or it could be a simple April Fools Day joke.

But in this state legislature there seems to be a “Fools Day” at least twice a month.

“Everybody Hurts” – How R.E.M.’s Iconic Song Tells Us To March on May 1st for More Services in NC’s Public Schools

Simply put, North Carolina needs more counselors, nurses, social workers and psychologists in public schools. Why?

Because “everybody hurts. Sometimes.”

Teach for twenty years in public high schools and you become entrenched in the lives of young people. Thousands of them. Literally thousands.

If you take the avocation of being a teacher seriously, then that investment in young people is not confined to the four walls of a classroom and not restricted by one or two school years. You will be invited to celebrate their weddings, meet their children, even work with a few in the same school. And those dividends are worth more than the paycheck.

But you will help families say goodbye to them as well.

Attending the funeral of a former student who seems to have his/her whole life to look forward to is one too many. Yes, there are tragic events that occur, but there are also other forces at work in the lives of many of our students that while unseen to the naked eye could be confronted to give the possibility of renewal and reclamation – if we are willing to invest more in our kids.

Simply put, North Carolina needs more counselors, nurses, social workers and psychologists in public schools.

The latest budgets from the North Carolina General Assembly does not do enough to even start addressing some of these issues. When almost 1 in 4 public school children experience poverty in a state that will go to lengths to not expand Medicaid and redirects federal monies slated for pre-K programs, making sound bites about “prioritizing” student needs is pharisaical.

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.

Simply put, North Carolina needs more counselors, nurses, social workers and psychologists in public schools.

I teach in one of the larger school systems in the state of North Carolina. In a workshop during pre-planning for last school year, I was presented with rather disturbing statistics shared by our school’s social worker.

To summarize, social workers in my school system served 7,688 individual students for an average of 248 students per social worker during the 2016-2017 school year. Those social workers received 13,995 different referrals and provided 21,716 different interventions – 192 of them were interventions for suicide which was a 53% increase from the previous school year.

Those numbers are for ONE school district in ONE school year. And that was only what was reported.

It is rather sobering that tragedy becomes the very instance that forces us to consider preemptive actions on mental health. Just like the idea that we can physically do things to make our bodies healthier, we can do the same for our emotional and mental well-being.

Simply put, North Carolina needs more counselors, nurses, social workers and psychologists in public schools.

Because “everybody hurts.” But not everyone gets a chance to heal.

Think opioid epidemic. Think cyberbullying. Think xenophobia. Think homophobia. Think white supremacists. Think “The Wall”. Think transgender ban. Think Muslim ban. Think the threat of war.

Then think of how that is just a slice of what is going on. To be frank, it is no wonder why so many of our students look for ways to not hurt so much in a society that refuses to acknowledge that “everybody hurts.”

I am not convinced that people who take their own lives are performing selfish acts. If you have listened to people who suffer from depression or severe mental issues, it becomes apparent that the idea of suicide for many is actually a last resort because so many other options have not either worked or never presented themselves. Obstacles for healing have been placed in their way in the name of profit or taboo.

Simply put, North Carolina needs more counselors, nurses, social workers and psychologists in public schools.

I am convinced that addiction is not a choice as much as it is a sickness, a disease, and every time there is an active period of substance abuse, the one thing that gets most compromised is the ability to rationally think about what is happening. It is almost like losing the very capacity to make healthy decisions.

And don’t think that students are not paying attention to the deaths of people – famous people –  people who seemed to have life in the cusp of their hands. Recently, Robin Williams’s son opened up about his father’s life.

R.E.M.’s song “Everybody Hurts” has come to mind for many reasons here in the last few months. I thought about it during that presentation from the school social worker. I googled the lyrics on my phone. Afterwards, I listened to the song.

The words are sweet, concise, heartfelt and set to a somber, yet inviting rhythm. Michael Stipe’s voice is clear and unfettered.

Later, I took time to look at the video made for the song. It had been years since I saw it, yet the metaphor of the traffic jam with each individual contemplating what is happening in his/her life that keeps that person from being a shiny happy person is like watching a school day unfold in the halls of the buildings.

rem-everybody-hurts-1965-01

There are a lot of struggling young people in schools, affluent and poverty stricken alike.

Then I realized that the video is shot on I-10 in Texas (primarily in San Antonio).

That’s the same major thoroughfare that runs through Houston which was devastated by Hurricane Harvey a year and a half ago. North Carolina was hit by two major hurricanes just this past season.

Yes, houses and schools can be rebuilt. Roads resurfaced. Material possessions can be replaced. Yet “homes” and “pathways” and “memories” cannot be simply restored. Attached to those are mental, emotional, and spiritual ties that need the most attention and most care. Life altering events can cause many teens to be at greater risk of suicidal thoughts.

Simply put, North Carolina needs more counselors, nurses, social workers and psychologists in public schools.

And to think that the current NCGA budget did not even fund the statewide suicide hotline until outcry made them correct the error.

For many students, school might be the firmest “constant” in a life that seems to be hopeless and alone. If we as a society were serious about the welfare of our students, then we would make more of an effort to offer avenues for help. We could make it a priority to staff schools with more social workers, give teachers more resources to confront issues that affect students’ wellbeing, and stop using a profit line as the final determination of health in society.

The same playlist that has “Everybody Hurts” also includes some Soundgarden and Linkin Park. I know that Chris Cornell  is not foreign to today’s high school students. His music spans generations, and Chester Bennington is on a lot of student iPhones. There are students who wear Kurt Cobain t-shirts who weren’t even born until a decade after his death. Does that mean these students are contemplating the same end these musical giants had in the physical world? Maybe not.

Maybe it might be a way to not let go and to “hold on.”

Either way, what a powerful force it can be to always give students a means to “hold on” and not “be alone” in the very setting that most will inhabit – schools.

“Everybody Hurts”

When your day is long
And the night, the night is yours alone
When you’re sure you’ve had enough
Of this life, well hang on

Don’t let yourself go
‘Cause everybody cries
And everybody hurts sometimes

Sometimes everything is wrong
Now it’s time to sing along
When your day is night alone (Hold on, hold on)
If you feel like letting go (Hold on)
If you think you’ve had too much
Of this life, well hang on

Everybody hurts
Take comfort in your friends
Everybody hurts
Don’t throw your hand, oh no

Don’t throw your hand
If you feel like you’re alone
No, no, no, you are not alone

If you’re on your own in this life
The days and nights are long
When you think you’ve had too much of this life to hang on

Well, everybody hurts sometimes
Everybody cries
Everybody hurts sometimes
And everybody hurts sometimes

So hold on, hold on
Hold on, hold on, hold on, hold on, hold on, hold on
Everybody hurts

About the Statement Issued Today From the State Superintendent Who Has Never Rallied For Public Schools

Does it not make sense that if Mark Johnson and his cronies were listening to teachers closely and acting upon what those teachers were concerned about in these last few years, that we as public education advocates would not even have to entertain the thought of another protest on May 1st?

Below is Johnson’s reply to last year’s May 16th protest.

Johnson2018

That whole idea of not rallying for public schools on a school day? Seems rather hypocritical coming from someone who headlined a school choice rally on a school day in January of 2018.

rally

Johnson was the keynote speaker. He rallied for charter schools in a state that has gone out of its way to deregulate charter schools, ramp up vouchers, and use taxpayer money to fund those endeavors when no empirical data shows an overall increase in student achievement.

There were students, parents, and charter school officials at that rally. Makes you wonder of they missed school that day.

Yet on May 16th, 2018, when nearly a fifth of the state’s teaching force showed up in Raleigh where was Mark Johnson?IMG_6484

Not there in Raleigh. He didn’t even tweet about it. What a great opportunity it was for him to “support” educators and public school advocates.

And with the coming rally for May 1st, 2019, Johnson has already issued a statement concerning his “support” for teachers, but his “nonsupport” for their protesting actual issues that affect schools.

Johnson2019

The statements from Johnson about the rallies of 2018 and 2019 are actually somewhat similar. Both talk about teacher pay. Both talk about his cursory support for teachers. But the 2019 statement talks about construction needs, over-testing, and school safety. If Johnson is identifying even more issues that need attention in 2019 than he did in 2018, then he is literally telling us that the only way he may try and affect change is having a protest come to him.

It’s hard to believe that a puppet of a state superintendent is willing to listen to “educators’ concerns” when he never has rallied with teachers or for public schools, but rather seems more interested in being friendly with those who seek to privatize public schools like in the following instance:

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That was on June 26th, 2018, a little over two months after the big rally for public education. By the end of the week, Johnson laid off over 40 DPI veterans. Actually, the Human Resources Dept. did the laying-off. Johnson wasn’t there like he wasn’t in May of 2018.

And like he will not probably be on May 1st, 2019.

Today’s statement also did not show his understanding of what specific issues are being addressed by the May 1st protest. There is no mention of Medicaid expansion, raises for classified employees, funding for student services, restoration of graduate degree pay, and restoration of retiree benefits for new hires.

Not one mention. And he claims to be listening to educators’ concerns?

 

 

The Most Insane Education Bill of the 2019 NCGA Yet Belongs to…

Rep. Craig Horn. For finding ways to use technology for technology’s sake and for trying to use preschoolers as bait to fuel an already sketchy industry.

It is HB 485.

A Virtual Early Learning Program.

In other words, it is virtual preschool for 3 to 4 -year olds.

HB485 1

In the three page proposal, Horn and other co-sponsors want to “evaluate the effectiveness of giving preschool-age children access, at home, to interactive individualized instruction delivered by computers and the Internet to prepare them academically for success in school; and (ii) test the feasibility of scaling a home-based curriculum in reading, math, and science delivered by computers and the Internet to all preschool-age children in the State.

He wants preschool kids to be in front of a computer screen to run through a curriculum program that would obviously make some private entity more money. He wants to allow preschool children to help the bottom line of the virtual school industry.

North Carolina already has two virtual charter schools for school-age students. N.C. Connections Academy is associated with the giant company Pearson. It is almost doing as badly as the other for-profit virtual charter school in the state, N.C. Virtual Academy.

virtual charter

Both schools were successful in getting their contracts extended this past summer, even when Stanford University (as Billy Ball stated last year) “reported serious deficiencies in student performance nationwide in like programs” ((http://pulse.ncpolicywatch.org/2017/11/07/controversial-virtual-charter-school-seeks-funding-boost-permanent-status/#sthash.I8Prd1UE.dpbs).

And now Rep. Horn wants to expand the “clientele” to preschoolers? And expand the potential for more failure.

So what would a virtual preschool do to help preschoolers to get outside and exercise and learn to socialize with other kids to build those foundational skills that kids so need?

In a day and age where so much research is showing that our kids do not need to be in front of a screen but in other activities that require more kinetic outlets, Horn is talking about making them more dependent on computers.

And it assumes that all students who would use it would be to have a connection to the internet in a state where over a fifth of our already enrolled students in public schools live in poverty.

Unless the state will be providing computers.

Maybe Mark Johnson can find some more iPads.

 

 

 

Expanding Medicaid for Students: A Reason to Go All Out on May 1st

When 500,000+ people in the state of North Carolina could have health insurance if North Carolina simply expanded Medicaid as so many other states already have, then you are dealing with a legislative body that is not interested in helping many stay healthy.

Medicaid expansion would be a great step in combating the forces of poverty with which over a fifth of our public school students fight against every day.

Simply put:

  • Students who do not get the basics on a daily basis have a hard time achieving in school.
  • Students who cannot get health care have a hard time achieving in school.
  • Students who worry about loved ones who cannot afford healthcare have an extra burden upon their shoulders when they come to school.

That’s why  ALL OUT ON MAY 1st is a critical event. The issue of expanding Medicaid is a focus of that day. And advocating for students is advocating for the very things that make students succeed optimally.

In October of 2016, the North Carolina Poverty Research Fund published a report entitled“Putting a Face on Medicaid Expansion in North Carolina.”

The title graphic literally explains it all.

medicaid

Look at that map closely and imagine transposing it on top of a map that shows the school performance grades on a state basis. In fact, you almost can.

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.

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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.

Now look at that map of school performance grades right next to the map from the UNC report.

maps

There is a strong correlation between the school performance grades and the percentages of uninsured people within each county.

Of course it is not a one to one, but it is a strong correlation – enough to literally see how expanding Medicaid could put so many more students into a position of better health that would in turn put them in a position of better school achievement and learning.

The idea that we as a state cannot expand Medicaid is ludicrous. We as taxpayers already put money into the national coffers to pay for Medicaid . In fact, by not expanding Medicaid in this state is like not reclaiming federal tax dollars that we as North Carolinians already pay in the form of health insurance for hundreds of thousands of our fellow North Carolinians.

March with us on May 1st. Let Raleigh know we need all of our students as healthy as they can be.

 

DeVoid of the Need of Special Needs Students: The Absolute DeVastation of Betsy DeVos

If you do not remember the confirmation hearings of Betsy DeVos from a little over two years ago, here is a refresher:

  1. She did not know what IDEA was – the Individuals With Disablilties Edcuation Act – and that it was a federal mandate that covers all schools.
  2. She did not know the difference between growth and proficiency when it came to student achievement.
  3. She would not commit to keeping from privatizing public schools.
  4. She talked about needing guns to defend schools from bears but would not back up “gun-free” zones in schools. Bears killed exactly zero students last year. She said that to Sen. Murphy from Connecticut, home of Sandy Hook
  5. She never really admitted to the fact that she and her family have contributed tens of millions of dollars to efforts to privatize public schools.
  6. She has not given over all documents for the ethics committee.
  7. 10 of the 12 Republicans on the HELP committee had received financial contributions from her.
  8. She smiled to damn much. It simply looked manufactured.

devoshearing

There is a Washington Post video entitled “6 head-scratching moments from Betsy DeVos’s confirmation hearing” which summarizes some of the more poignant moments of the hearing.

It’s the first item that I as a parent of a child who happens to have Down Syndrome and also resides on the autism spectrum still thinks about on a daily basis. The very person who controls the highest office in the land for public education was (and still is) ignorant of the very law that ensures that my son receives a quality education.

For parents like me (and actually many parents of typical students), the need for the whole child to be nurtured and nourished is paramount. Physical education and athletic opportunities are actually some of the most vital therapies a child with disabilities can receive.

And for many parents of children with disabilities, the costs for getting vital help and therapy can be back-breaking. That’s why federally-supported programs such as Special Olympics are so significant and meaningful.

Yet, the very person who showed she had no “idea” of what IDEA was now wants to take money from the very program that so many students with disabilities are involved in to give to other reforms that actually exclude children with disabilities.

From the Detroit Free Press on March 26th:

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos on Tuesday defended deep cuts to programs meant to help students and others, including eliminating $18 million to support Special Olympics, while urging Congress to spend millions more on charter schools.

“We are not doing our children any favors when we borrow from their future in order to invest in systems and policies that are not yielding better results,” DeVos said in prepared testimony before a House subcommittee considering the Department of Education’s budget request for the next fiscal year….

While proposing to add $60 million more to charter school funding and create a tax credit for individual and companies that donate to scholarships for private schools, DeVos’ budget proposal would still cut more than $7 billion from the Education Department, about 10 percent of its current budget. Trump proposed a $4.7 trillion overall budget this month with an annual deficit expected to run about $1 trillion.

In the case of the $17.6 million cut to help fund the Special Olympics, a program designed to help children and adults with disabilities, DeVos suggested it is better supported by philanthropy and added, “We had to make some difficult decisions with this budget.”

Over $17 million to be taken away from Special Olympics because it is “better supported by philanthropy?”

If DeVos still has not found out, many students like my son will not ever be accepted into a private school nor could we afford one. His father is a public school teacher in North Carolina. Plus charter schools in NC, as well as other states, do not usually have the bandwidth to educate a child like mine.

What children like my son do benefit from is having smaller class sizes, teacher assistants, technological aids for communication, and a school staff that has been trained to help children of all learning styles and backgrounds as well as athletic avenues to build their bodies and create relationships.

DeVos may call them “redundant” or “ineffective” and suggest we take money away from them to give to charters. I call them necessary and essential. In fact, they are very much a part of the concept of the Individuals With Disablilties Edcuation Act, the very law that DeVos is supposed to uphold.

Speaking of charters, it was interesting to read the latest report by the Network for Public Education entitled “Asleep at the Wheel.”  From its Executive Summary:

This report details the Network for Public Education’s two month examination of the U.S. Department of Education’s Charter Schools Program (CSP). Our investigation found a troubling pattern of insufficient applicant review, contradictions between information provided by applicants and available public data, the gifting of funds to schools with inadequate financial and governance plans, a push-out of large grants to the states with little supervision by the department, and the waste of hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars.

By comparing claims made by charter grant applicants to information on state databases and school websites, we found numerous examples of federal tax dollars being misspent due to an inattentive process that routinely accepts applicants’ claims without scrutiny.

Talk about “ineffective.” And the amount of wasted money? Nearly a billion dollars.

That’s money that could go to the very endeavors that help children with disabilities in public schools. That’s money that could go to Special Olympics. That’s money that could stay helping the public good instead of lining pockets of private schools and privately run charter schools.

But alas, Betsy DeVos has already shown she has no idea when it comes to IDEA.

And she certainly does not have my child’s best interest at heart.

 

 

It’s 2019 And Now The NCGA Is Interested In Helping Public Schools?

News today that HB377 (test reduction) passed through the house chamber of the NCGA is another indication of the the shift in power that has occurred in the General Assembly since the last election.

Actually, that testing bill is not the only one to gain some traction.

There are multiple bills with support concerning calendar flexibility for school systems.

There are bills that hope to curb the catastrophic stigma surrounding the school performance grading system: keeping the 15-point grading system, giving growth a higher weight, etc.

There are bills to restore Masters Degree pay for teachers.

There is talk of putting the school construction bond on the next ballot.

Even the state superintendent wants to give a 5% salary increase to all teachers.

So why now in 2019? Why not in 2018?

Easy. Both chambers of the NCGA are no longer veto-proof. The swell that began last year and manifested itself in a variety of public school advocacy and grassroots work helped to swing many districts to pro-public education candidates.

And now the pro-public education governor can use a veto that can actually stick. Furthermore, a budget can not be passed through the nuclear option.

veto

All of those issues have been identified and talked about loudly and fully for years. That bond could have been put on last year’s ballot. Salary increases to veteran teachers could have been given in years past. Restoring graduate degree pay could have been done earlier as well as calendar flexibility and eliminating the school performance grading system.

All of those representatives in Raleigh know that election season is never really over. To continue to ignore public schools as in years past can not serve their political purposes now.

So, how much of this is really veneer and how much is solid oak? That remains to be seen, but what is clear is that lawmakers in Raleigh will have to listen to teachers one way or the other.

May 16th last year showed that.

May 1st this year will be even bigger.