This is How Scared the NCGA is Of Teachers – May 1st Is Already Working

In the new House Education budget released today, there is this provision:

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Simply put, this is to make it harder for teachers to again come together like we did last May 16th and this coming May 1st.

Think now that we don’t have power and that our collective voice do not carry incredible amounts of weight?

It does. So much that the NCGA is finding ways of not having to deal with us such as this certain provision in the budget.

This type of action could easily be avoided if the NCGA fully funded schools, had the guts to listen to people who disagree with them, or gave collective bargaining rights to public employees.

But in reality what this shows is that last May 16th and this May 1st scare the ever living s**t out of Berger and company and that one of the very things we helped to win for schools last year was breaking a supermajority that cannot simply overcome a veto.

A veto from a pro-public education governor.

Dear NC Teachers, Last Year’s March and Rally DID WIN Our Students and Schools MANY Victories

If there was ever a doubt that what resulted from May 16th’s march and rally in Raleigh on behalf of public education was nothing more than a moral victory, then please consider the following list of direct results of what happened in the months after the march that helped public education.

And still are helping public education.

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1.Super majorities were broken. 

Simply put, the governor now has veto power. Yes, Gov. Cooper could always veto a bill, but now it cannot be simply overridden automatically. Any bill that seems to favor a privatization effort like vouchers, or the ISD, or charter school funding must now be done in a more democratic fashion instead of behind closed doors.

And if you have not paid attention, Gov. Roy Cooper might be one of the most pro-public education governors any state could possibly have.

2. Budget process now has to be open.

It is hard to pass a budget in committee without a super majority- a budget with education as the top spending priority. There is no way that a budget could successfully go through a “nuclear option” as it did last summer. Debate and amendments must now occur and that means that people like Berger and Moore have to actually talk about the budget.

3. 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. These bigger systems sometimes provide a blueprint for how to handle issues that all school systems face. With new leadership that are more teacher-friendly and willing to stand up to Mark Johnson and others in Raleigh, this might be a very encouraging thing.

4. The two most egregious amendments to the constitution did not pass.

Do not forget that there have been instances that the the courts have delivered decisions that affected teachers directly (keeping veteran due-process rights, etc.). And now that the governor keeps powers over certain judicial appointments and the fact that he is very pro-public education, this should not be overlooked. Oh, and look what happened in the races for judicial seats for state level positions.

5. 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 lost after 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.

6. With more seats to Democrats in the NCGA and the State School Board, Mark Johnson is held more 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. Plus, with more people in Raleigh who would be willing to keep Johnson’s actions more in the limelight, the more he might actually have to serve public schools.

7. 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. Imagine what can happen in 2020 when major seats in NC’s government are up for election – as well as a president.

8. Teachers got galvanized.

May 16th started something. NCAE gained traction.

Teachers got people to the polls.

9. Young people came out and started to see how their voices could help their students and their professions.

Imagine what kind of force they could be in 2020 when state level positions are up for elections.

10. More eyes on the political process. 

More people are talking about the NCGA’s actions and inaction on the public education front on a variety of media – blogs, facebook groups, local gatherings.

11. Look at the bills that are being floated in the NCGA in this sessions.

Calendar flexibility, school bonds, master’s pay, school performance grading changes, etc.

12. Just look at Phil Berger and Mark Johnson’s released statements about the May 1st march and rally so far.

Simply put, they fear what a large collective voice for public education can do and how it can galvanize a profession of service.

About Mark Johnson’s Latest Letter of Empty Facts

Mark Johnson sent us another letter today filled with half-truths and intentionally unexplained “facts & figures” meant again to try and quell next week’s march and rally in Raleigh. He stated,

“We want to empower you with clear facts at your fingertips as we work together to improve public education in our state.”

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Those “facts” deserve further explanation because as a trained lawyer, Johnson knows that exposing the full truth of statements made in the public arena about education (especially if he is the “elected leader of the public schools”) is important and that misrepresenting information to the client (people of the state) is rather unethical.

1. The average teacher salary in NC is now $54,000 per school year. In NC, the median teacher salary per school year is more than the median household income per year.

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

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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.

Any veteran teacher who is making above 50K based on seniority, graduate pay, and national boards is 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 brag that average salaries will be higher in the future?

2. The average salary for a beginning teacher in NC is $39,300 per school year, which is more than the average starting salary for other college graduates and more than the median wage for individuals in North Carolina.*

Look at that salary table again. It is “front-loaded.” What would be a stronger indication of the strength of teachers’ salaries is not comparing just the first year, but increments of years. How do five year veterans compare to other five year workforce veterans? 10-year veterans? 20?

Johnson would also need to possibly explain the following data map and the research associated with it.

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Plus, look how Johnson conveniently goes back and forth between comparing teacher salaries to median salaries of all North Carolinians to others who may have a college degree. He is trying to have the best of both worlds there.

Johnson could also take the time to measure average lifetime wages (30 year working career) of teachers against other comparably educated professionals. He would have to explain himself quite a bit.

3. The state sends $1,300 per teacher to schools for textbooks and supplies each school year.

First, $1,300 may buy around 20-25 textbooks, period.

For high schoolers.

Just go to a college bookstore and see what an average student’s expense for textbooks is for one semester. Rather, ask the parents.

Teachers today usually have about a 150 students a school year, at least in high school. It would take 6-7 years of that funding to buy an entirely new set of textbooks. Many of them become outdated or overused before that time is up – and we have not even touched on supplies.

Justin Parmenter did a wonderful piece on his blog Notes From the Chalkboard on supply spending. It included this graph.

The complete posting is very worth the read.

4. North Carolina has over 2,500 public schools that serve more than 1,500,000 students.

5. Our largest school district serves almost 160,000 students, making it the 15th largest district in the nation, while our smallest serves about 600 students.

If one looks at 4 and 5 together (as they are related), what Johnson is really proving here is that out state is growing. If it’s growing, then it needs to funded at a higher level. It’s not. Just look at per-pupil expenditures as adjusted for inflation over the last 10-12 years.

Plus, it’s funny that he refer to the Wake County school system when he talks about the state’s largest school district because Wake County has more nationally certified teachers than any other county in the country and yet Johnson is overseeing a tremendous amount of privatization efforts being materialized in Wake County itself with vouchers and charter schools.

Furthermore, Wake County was one of the first county systems to shut down for May 1st because of the extreme number of teachers, students, and parents who will be going to march in Raleigh because they disagree with what Johnson stands for. It was also one of the first to do so last year for May 16th.

6. North Carolina’s 115 school districts receive mostly state funding, while other states are divided into many smaller school districts that rely more heavily on local funding. (Pennsylvania, for example, has 500 school districts.)

Well, the state of North Carolina has to fund schools that way – it’s in the state constitution. And if Mark Johnson wants to talk about how Pennsylvania funds its schools and praise them for it, then he might want to respond to this:

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This teacher trusts Bill Harrison about issues of education a hell of a lot more than a state superintendent who only speaks in half-truths.

But if Johnson “wants to encourage constructive discussions about our education system,” then I will be glad to talk with him. I’ll be in Raleigh on May 1st. He can find me on Halifax Mall.

 

About Sen. Berger’s Really Bad Sports Analogy Concerning the NCAE

A recent ABC11.com posting quoted another Phil Berger platitude that again shows his intentional disconnect with the state of public education.

“The far-left NCAE has changed the goalposts year after year,” Phil Berger said in a statement. 

He said the teachers union is “trying to mislead the public into thinking Republicans are bad for education.”

First, anything that does not agree with Berger is far-left. But his sports analogy really does not work here, especially considering that most athletic coaches in our public schools are also teachers.

So the NCAE has changed the goalposts? Hardly.  The goalposts are the same. The problem is that there are so many ill-conceived reforms that Berger and his cronies have championed and pushed through that he has lost sight what is at stake.

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In reality, NCAE has been the consistent party here.

If anything, what Berger and his ilk have done is to constantly change the playing field. New standards, under-funding, over-testing, school performance grading, salary scales changes, vouchers, unregulated charter school growth, elimination of benefits, etc., have been aimed at creating a constant flux for public school educators and advocates to navigate and yet we still effectively teach students.

And it’s hard to kick a ball through any goalpost when the person holding the very ball refuses to let the kicker actually boot it through.

Reminds this teacher of the classic Peanuts cartoon by Charles Schultz with Lucy and Charlie Brown except in this scenario… well, it’s apparent.

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The goalposts have always been in Raleigh planted on West Jones Street. Except, on May 1st, the plan will not be to kick a field goal.

It will be to score many touchdowns.

See you in the trenches.

 

 

NC Teachers (And All Public Employees) Should Have Collective Bargaining Rights

Rob Schofield posted a piece today on NC Policy Watch that reported on a new effort for all of North Carolina’s public employees to have collective bargaining rights.

More than 600,000 public employees throughout North Carolina would obtain a right that’s been denied to them for 60 years under a pair companion bills introduced in the North Carolina House and Senate and highlighted at a press event this morning in Raleigh. House Bill 710 and Senate Bill 575 would repeal North Carolina General Statute section 95-98, the six-decade-old ban on collective bargaining by public employees.

At an event in the state Legislative Building this morning, an array of public officials and advocates decried the ban as both a Jim Crow-era violation of basic human rights and an impediment to the delivery of safe, affordable and efficient public services. North Carolina public employees — including state, county and municipal workers like teachers, police officers, and firefighters — “deserve a seat at the table” said Senator Wiley Nickel (D-Wake). North Carolina is one of only three states with such a statutory ban, Nickel added — a fact he linked to low retention and high turnover rates among public workers at all levels.

The ban itself was established in the Jim Crow-era. It literally is the last holdover as far as laws are concerned. And NC is one of seven states that makes collective bargaining illegal.

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What today’s presentation of these bills reminded this teacher of was an op-ed by a young teacher in Durham named Matt Tyler who gave a very good argument on why teachers should push for collective bargaining rights. In “Teachers should take aim at North Carolina’s collective bargaining laws“, Tyler writes about last year’s march adn rally on May 16th. He stated,

“State legislators like Rep. Mark Brody – who last week called marching teachers “union thugs” – pit unions (which don’t exist in North Carolina) against quality education. To the contrary, states that allow for collective bargaining are less likely to see teachers’ strikes. This is a result, as Agustina Paglayan writes in the Washington Post, of a collective bargaining system that is responsive to distraught educators’ legitimate concerns. Because teachers in collective bargaining states have a legitimized outlet to voice their concerns, they do not need to strike to be heard. Indeed, collective bargaining agreements oftentimes impose stiff penalties for strikes. In other words, collective bargaining laws provide a relief valve for tensions between the government and public-sector employees.”

Ironic, that on the map above only seven states outlaw collective bargaining rights.

Eleven allow for them to be used.

32 require them to be used.

Of those seven states that make collective bargaining rights illegal, two will be holding marches on May 1st.

Another one of those states had a huge teacher protest last year.

 

 

 

 

-26.5%: How Underpaid NC Teachers Really Are

Remember when Mark Johnson said that $35,000 was a good salary for teachers in parts of North Carolina because it was higher than the median income in those counties?

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And there are others who say that teacher pay in NC should not be scrutinized because the “national average” argument is too mercurial to be a nationwide standard. Mitch Kokai’s article in EdNC.org entitled “Placing the ‘national average’ debate in context” tries to play that narrative and even states this:

“Note that the average North Carolina public school teacher makes significantly more money than the average private-sector worker. (This is true of average teachers nationwide compared to their private-sector peers as well.) Second, the average North Carolina public school teacher earns a paycheck much closer to the national private-sector average than his friends and neighbors working in this state’s private sector.”

There is a big omission in this argument. He compares teacher salaries to ALL private sector salaries. What he should have done is compare teacher salaries to others who HAVE COMPARABLE COLLEGE EDUCATED WORKERS. Such an omission is deliberate and an act of cherry-picking.

The Educational Policy Institute did such a comparison and summarized that data into one data rich map.

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North Carolina is at -26.5%.

You can read the rest of the research here.

 

How Mark Johnson Has Become the Face of the “Status Quo” – Why May 1st Is So Important

Mark Johnson claims that he wants to change the “status quo.”

But in reality he wants to protect the “status quo.”

In fact, he is the “status quo.”

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At the end of this press release Johnson is quoted as saying,

“We need leadership to come together to make this happen. Public education is too important to continue the status quo in North Carolina.”

The term “status quo” has become something of a nebulous term for public education and has evolved into a powerful logical fallacy used by reformers. The use of the “status quo” fallacy is not new, certainly for Mark Johnson. And it is a crutch that has reached absurdity because in actuality, Mark Johnson might be the very poster child for the “status quo.”

What Johnson and other business model reformers consider the “status quo” in education is intrinsically linked to a final product, measured by standardized testing and other mercurial measurements. However, the real “status quo” is not really linked to that final product. It is more a reflection of the constant infusion of reform models that have altered the process by which public schools have been able to teach our children. The truth is that the existing state of public education is always being subjected to scrutiny, modification, alteration, and change from outside forces for political or profit-minded reasons.

The real “status quo” is the commitment to flux and change to the variables that measure student achievement and school success by people outside of the actual education process. And in that regard, I do agree that the status quo should change.

If anything, the terrain of public education has been in a state of constant flux for the past thirty years. With the “Nation at Risk” report to “No Child Left Behind” to the advent of high stakes testing to the innumerable business models infused into education to “Race to the Top” to Common Core to charter school movement to vouchers, the thought of even calling what we have had in North Carolina “status quo” is not just wrong –

It’s ignorant. And it is purposefully done.

And all of those causes in the change to the “status quo” were not necessarily brought by educators as much as by politicians and business leaders, Johnson included as he echoes and rubber stamps the very policies and initiatives championed by NC General Assembly GOP stalwarts. The very actions that have caused their version of the“status quo” are allowing politicians to blame public education for failing to hit targets that are constantly moving or in many cases invisible so that “leaders” and reformers can come and claim to save the day.

That’s how we get Mark Johnson, the most unqualified state superintendent propped up by a General Assembly that not only has gerrymandered districts and pushed unconstitutional laws, but has spent taxpayer money to help transfer power away from the State Board of Education to a puppet superintendent to privatize the public good of public education even more.

It’s as if he conveniently forgot that the people elected him to be state superintendent based on the job description and powers of office attached to every other state superintendent before him.

It’s as if he forgot that what he claims he needs to lead the state’s school system has to include what powers were granted to him without the input of the people by a biased NCGA weeks AFTER he was elected.

It’s as if he forgets that in the months since he has assumed office he has done absolutely NOTHING to change what he claims to be the “status quo.” As a state, we have heard nothing about the innovations he said he would bring and the only “urgency” he has used is to keep going back to court with taxpayer money to gain the power to divert more taxpayer money to vouchers and unregulated charter schools.

It’s as if he forgets that he himself is the “status quo.”

If one were to simply look at all of the initiatives introduced into public education (both nationally and state-based) while considering changes in curriculum and requirements, that person would see an ever changing landscape.

A Nation at Risk, No Child Left Behind, Race to the Top, Every Student Succeeds Act, Common Core, SAT, ACT, standardized tests, achievement gap, graduation rates, merit pay, charter schools, parent triggers, vouchers, value added-measurements, virtual schools, Teach For America, formal evaluations – there are so many variables, initiatives, and measurements that constantly change without consistency which all affect public schools and how the public perceives those schools.

When entities like the Gates Foundation, the Walton Foundation, the Broad Foundation, the American Federation of Children, the American Legislation Exchange Council (ALEC), think tanks, and other PAC’s are constantly promoting reforms in public schools, the idea that there is a “status quo” becomes implausible. Those entities are all active in North Carolina and they see Mark Johnson as their man.

He will protect their “status quo.”

So if there is any “status quo” associated with the public schools, it’s that there are always outside forces acting on the public school system which seek to show that they are failing our kids.

And it has Johnson’s face attached to it.

That’s the “status quo” that should not be accepted.

Recent Research Makes Even More Imperative for NC To Make Its Voucher Program More Transparent

When Duke University’s Children’s Law Center’s released its March 2017 report called SCHOOL VOUCHERS IN NORTH CAROLINA : THE FIRST THREE YEARS one of the most glaring aspects of the program was how many vouchers were being used at religiously affiliated schools.

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And don’t forget that we as a state are expanding vouchers by $10 million year until the year 2026-2027.

By that time we will have spent over $900 million dollars on vouchers in North Carolina in a system that is considered the least transparent in the entire country.

Today, ChalkBeat posted a piece entitled “Do voucher students’ scores bounce back after initial declines? New research says no.”

It starts,

New research on a closely watched school voucher program finds that it hurts students’ math test scores — and that those scores don’t bounce back, even years later.

That’s the grim conclusion of the latest study, released Tuesday, looking at Louisiana students who used a voucher to attend a private school. It echoes research out of IndianaOhio, and Washington, D.C. showing that vouchers reduce students’ math test scores and keep them down for two years or more.

Together, they rebut some initial research suggesting that the declines in test scores would be short-lived, diminishing a common talking point for voucher proponents.

It is certainly worth the read.

 

Dear Supt. Johnson, Where Will You be “Standing” on May 1st?

Last year Mark Johnson made it clear where he stood on a couple of issues that were at the heart of the May 16th march and rally.

He also made it clear where he actually would not be physically standing on May 16th.

 

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In the eight days that remain before educators and public school advocates will come to hold class in Raleigh, it make one wonder where Mark Johnson stands on the five core issues at the heart of this year’s event.

  1. Provide $15 minimum wage for all school personnel, 5% raise for all ESPs (non-certified staff), teachers, admin, and a 5% cost of living adjustment for retirees
  2. Provide enough school librarians, psychologists, social workers, counselors, nurses, and other health professionals to meet national standards
  3. Expand Medicaid to improve the health of our students and families
  4. Reinstate state retiree health benefits eliminated by the General Assembly in 2017
  5. Restore advanced degree compensation stripped by the General Assembly in 2013​

Then one last item for Mr. Johnson: where will he be actually standing on May 1st? In Raleigh with educators and public school advocates or someplace else?

 

Look What Is Happening in South Carolina on May 1st

From the Post & Courier in Charleston, SC today:

“Public school teachers across South Carolina plan to leave work May 1 and protest in Columbia to demand higher wages, smaller classroom sizes and other changes to their working conditions.

It remains unclear how many teachers will participate and whether any school districts may opt to close schools that day.

The protest was announced over the weekend by SC for Ed, a teacher activist group. The group formed last summer and was inspired partly by teacher walkouts and strikes across the country, which have been widely promoted by the National Education Association labor union.”

SC is experiencing a teacher shortage.

Their classes are too big.

Per pupil expenditure is not where it needs to be.

They are wearing red on Wednesdays.

They are taking a personal day on May 1st.

They are converging in Columbia the same day we are going to Raleigh.

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