HB499 – A Bill to Bring More Guns Into Schools?

In February of 2018, Rep. Larry Pittman offered his own legislative opinion on how to increase school safety in out public school system.

As reported by the Associated Press on Feb. 16, 2018,

A North Carolina lawmaker says allowing teachers to bring guns to school would save lives in situations such as the deadly school shooting in Florida.

The News & Observer of Raleigh reports Republican State Rep. Larry Pittman of Cabarrus County told colleagues Thursday that he met with a police officer who wants to talk to lawmakers about training school personnel.

And earlier in 2019, he introduced more legislation to allow the schools to arm teachers.

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While that particular did not gain traction, another one has been filed that would still bring more guns into the schools under the guise of “safety.”

It is HB499.

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It is an omnibus bill. Still on the table.

Twenty-seven pages of changes to gun laws.

And one of them is this:

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On page 19 – “Subject to the condition set forth in subsection (m) of this section, a volunteer school faculty guardian, while on the grounds of the school the person is employed by or assigned to, who meets all of the following requirements:”

The first criteria is “16 hours of active shooter training.”

16 hours is the equivalent of two workdays.

Teachers have a whole week of “workdays” before schools open for the new academic year. That’s the equivalent of 40 hours.

Not only is this a horrible idea, but to put it into an omnibus bill is careless.

And the ironic part of this bill is that Rep. Pittman is not one of the main sponsors.

He’s too busy re-writing history – “NC Republican argues with Tillis wife, compares Lincoln, Hitler.” 

 

Thank You Sen. Berger – NC Schools From 2011 to 2018 Went From 19th to 40th

According to the 2011 Education Week Quality Counts Report, North Carolina’s public school system ranked 19th out of 50 states and D.C.

Then Sen. Phil Berger and others of his ilk decided to “reform” public education in NC.

They did the following (and more):

  • revamped the teacher pay scale
  • removed due-process rights for newer teachers
  • removed graduate degree pay for newer teachers
  • instituted bonus / merit pay
  • gave out uneven “average” raises
  • eliminated longevity pay
  • removed retiree health benefits for new hires after 2021
  • attacked teacher advocacy groups
  • increased standardized tests
  • gave ACT more power over how schools are measured
  • passed HB17 and gave state superintendent new powers
  • financed a lawsuit between state superintendent and state board
  • reorganized DPI
  • kept per-pupil expenditures low
  • removed class size cap
  • instituted a school performance grading system
  • cut teacher assistants
  • created a voucher system
  • deregulated charter schools
  • removed charter school caps
  • enabled virtual charter schools
  • created an ISD
  • eliminated the Teacher Fellow program and revived it as a small version of its former self
  • allowed a municipal charter school bill to pass

According to the 2018 Education Week Quality Counts Report, North Carolina’s public school system ranked 40th out of 50 states and D.C.

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Remember The March Last Year? It’s a Big Reason This Year’s Budget Can’t Go Nuclear

After thousands of teachers and education advocates marched on Raleigh on May 16th  of 2018 calling for better treatment of public schools, the GOP super-majority invoked what was akin to a “nuclear” option in passing its budget. Rather than allowing for debate on matters of money from elected representatives and the opportunity of amendments, Phil Berger and Tim Moore had the budget voted on in committee.

It is commonly speculated that this maneuver was exercised because of the teacher rally and to avert dialogue that would force them to show their hypocrisy on the treatment of teachers and traditional public schools.

Ironic that one of the very items in that budget was “transparency.”

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But it is commonly thought that that march helped raise awareness in the 2018 election cycle and helped to defeat the supermajority.

And something is different this year.

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Now they have to talk about it. Openly.

And debate.

 

The Head of DPI is Not Mark Johnson – He’s Just the Most Enabled Man in Raleigh

Consider this – a corporate attorney who taught for two school years through a program that historically does not place many long term teachers into the public schools and who did not complete a full term as a school board member was elected in the most contentious election year in recent memory to become state superintendent.

After he was elected and before he took office, he was granted more power as a state superintendent by a gerrymandered legislature in a special session that was thought to be called to repeal HB2. He has spent more than half his entire term “embroiled” in a legal battle with the state board of education that was controlled by the same political party and literally was (still is) a non-public figure while budgets expand vouchers, keep charter schools from being regulated, stagnate per pupil expenditures for traditional public schools, and cut the budgets for the very department he is supposed to run.

All on the taxpayers’ dime.

Remember what Phil Berger had to say about Johnson in 2017 when Johnson won his initial round in courts with the state board?

“Voters elected Superintendent Mark Johnson based on his platform of strengthening our state’s public schools, and I’m pleased the court recognized the constitutionality of the law and that our superintendent should be able to execute the platform voters elected him to do”

There’s a tremendous amount of smug irony in that statement. Why? Because what voters elected Johnson to do was based on the job description that at the time was associated with the state superintendent’s job. What power Johnson now has was augmented by Berger and his cronies after Johnson was elected in a wave of conservative electoral victory.

If it was so important for the state superintendent to have new power over the public school system that was originally in the hands of the state board of education, then should not have each preceding state superintendent been given the same power?

Apparently not. Because each preceding state superintendent was much more qualified to be such than Johnson is. Each preceding state superintendent would have fought against the measures that have been enabled, enacted, and empowered by the current NCGA because that would have been in the best interests of the traditional public school system.

Especially June Atkinson. But Dr. Atkinson was no puppet for the NCGA.

Mark Johnson is.

When Berger stated that Johnson was elected on “his platform of strengthening our state’s public schools,” what he really inferred was that Johnson was going to allow “reformers” like Berger to strengthen charter schools and voucher programs – initiatives that actually hurt traditional public schools.

And it is a little sadistically humorous that a man (Berger) who has championed a variety of policies that have been ruled unconstitutional (gerrymandered districts, Voter ID law, etc.) would brag about upholding the constitutionality of the law. That same man also pushed to not extend Medicaid in this state when so many people needed it and the very hospital in his hometown of Eden filed for bankruptcy.

Consider the reorganization that occurred at DPI last summer after the final decision of the lawsuit between the state board and Mark Johnson.

Below is what it was prior to the new reorganization.

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This is what it looks like now.

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The first thing to notice is that on the older chart some positions were titled with ALL CAPS and had a thicker border surrounding them. That meant that these people were Dual-Report Positions. In short, they answered to both the state board and to Johnson. However, that went away on July 1, 2018.

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

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

Have you ever seen Mark Johnson rally for traditional public schools? Have you ever seen him actually go to a large group of teachers and hold himself accountable? Has he ever gone in front of a group of superintendents and held himself accountable?

That’s because Johnson seems to only do the bidding of one person: Phil Berger.

In actuality the organizational chart at DPI looks more like this:

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The state of North Carolina needs an educational leader to lead the public school system – a person not afraid to confront a the likes of Phil Berger and instruct him that he has been abusing the system. We need someone who will fight for the public schools and place principles before personalities.

What we have now is a weak, ineffective, timid individual who does the bidding of one person who has sought to dismantle the public school system to open it up to “reforms” that benefit a very few.

 

The NCGA Needs The Economics and Financial Literacy Class More Than Students – Concerning SB 681

Senate Bill 681 is entitled the “Rural Health Care Stabilization Act.” It is a bill that provides an $18 million dollar “bailout” for rural hospitals in financial peril outside of the UNC Healthcare system that have been affected by the stalemating of certain NCGA lawmakers in expanding Medicaid.

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Simply put, people like Sen. Phil Berger and Sen. Jerry Tillman want to spend 18 million dollars of taxpayer money to “help” a small number of rural hospitals with a “Band-Aid” when simply expanding Medicaid that would be of no cost to NC taxpayers would benefit every rural hospital greatly and provide healthcare benefits for half a million people in the state.

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And as a state we are already paying into the Medicaid national funds. Expanding Medicaid in NC would simply keep some of that money here in NC to help North Carolinians and rural hospitals.

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So, should we spend 18 million dollars to bail out maybe a couple of rural hospitals for a short time and keep people without healthcare benefits or expand Medicaid at no more expense to the state and cover another 500,000 North Carolinians and help all rural hospitals stay open?

That is a question that should never have to be asked, but we have many in power who place personalities before principles.

Actually Mark Johnson Needs The Economics & Financial Literacy Class

With news that an economics and personal finance class could possibly be mandatory for NC public school students and course standards for that class would be developed by DPI, it seems that maybe the very person running DPI might practice his own “financial literacy” and provide a more positive model.

  1. Johnson called for an audit of the Department of Public Education. And that million dollar audit to find wasteful spending actually showed that DPI was underfunded.
  2. Johnson’s reorganization of DPI came after he won an empty lawsuit against the state board over having more powers over the DPI budget. That lawsuit lasted until the second summer of his term.
  3.  Johnson seemed rather complicit with the legislature cutting the budget for DPI while he was actually taking taxpayer money to fight the state school board over the power grab that the NCGA did in a special session that gave him control over elements of the school system that the voting public did not actually elect him to have.
  4. Johnson allocated almost $5 million to early grade literacy for the Read to Achieve Initiative.  Remember that $200 dollars for each reading teacher int eh state? That money was part of funds originally provided in 2016, yet its allocation in 2018 was something that Johnson seemed to want to get credit for.
  5. Johnson bought 6 million dollars worth of iPads for some teachers. They never requested them. And the money came from where?
  6. Johnson supported both the extensions and renewed investment of two failed initiatives: Read to Achieve and the NC Virtual Charter Schools.
  7. Johnson championed the Innovative School District which to date has one school. One. With its own superintendent.
  8. Johnson has dispersed countless glossy flyers. Those very flyers spread rather debatable “facts.” And gloss costs a lot.
  9. Johnson made a unilateral decision to replace a reading program that schools invested lots of money in just this year. The decision he made to replace mClass with iStation was against the recommendations of state experts and wastes any investment in the previous program.

Just some thoughts.

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From “Tales of an Educated Debutante” -NC Public Schools Are In Danger

From Adrian Harrold Wood – posted on her blog Tales of an Educated Debutante:

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NC Public Schools Are in Danger

Attorney Mark Johnson, also NC’s Superintendent, has once again made a decision that directly contrasts with what expert committees recommended to him.

His announcement to replace mCLASS/Amplify with Istation leaves districts gravely concerned. One superintendent shared, “No one asked us. How are we supposed to train teachers who won’t be back until mid August? What about the thousands of dollars we spent last year on mCLASS materials?”

Amplify has been used successfully to evaluate NC’s children as readers. Part of that is Dibels, the strongest research based measurement to determine risks in all areas of reading.

In short, teachers assess children by listening to them read. They listen for first sound fluency, ask children to retell the story and examine nonsense word fluency- this means a child reads a combination of letters that aren’t actually words.

In kindergarten, this process led to my oldest son being diagnosed with dyslexia when we realized he could not read words that he had not memorized.

Istation does not measure ANY expressive language components. Young children, like my Amos, will be expected to listen to sounds via a computer and click. Computer adaptive technology can not assess early literacy skills like a real person.

In the last year, two committees of NC educators were formed to assess literacy and related assessments. The committees, which included educators as well as DPI folks, made singular recommendations to Mr. Johnson, but he disregarded their recommendations.

According to one team member, “Mark Johnson’s decision went against the recommendations of the committee. He did not listen to the team that stated our schools need a tool that accurately determines risk in all domains of reading and serve as a screening for dyslexia (as required).

Instead, NC Superintendent Mark Johnson waited until the last day of the school year to surprise districts with his decision that students would have more screen time and more assessment time beginning in 2019-2020.

What happened to his listening tour? 
What happened to allowing districts to make decisions? 
What happened to research based practice?

Perhaps it suits Johnson’s political platform of “personalized learning.”

Rather than read to a teacher, a computer will churn out a score based on how many words a child can read per minute.

My Amos who is just five and has special needs is a gifted reader, yet it was his teacher that discovered his talent, not a computer.

Speak up, North Carolina. ❤️

Email State Board of Education members: https://simbli.eboardsolutions.com/Index.aspx?S=10399

Email your legislators: https://www.ncleg.gov/Members/RepresentationByCounty/H

About Lt. Gov. Dan Forest’s Tweet About the Economics & Personal Finance Class

The following was tweeted yesterday by the official Twitter account of Lt. Gov. Dan Forest.

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And it’s hard not to see that what Forest is talking about is:

  • the need to raise the minimum wage in NC,
  • the need to address systemic poverty in this state, and
  • the need to pass laws against predatory student loans.

It’s also worth mentioning that using the PISA as a benchmark is a little shaky.

  • “The U.S. average performance appears to be relatively low partly because we have so many more test takers from the bottom of the social class distribution.”
  • “A sampling error in the U.S. administration of the most recent international (PISA) test resulted in students from the most disadvantaged schools being over-represented in the overall U.S. test-taker sample.”
  • “Conventional ranking reports based on PISA make no adjustments for social class composition or for sampling errors.”
  • “If U.S. adolescents had a social class distribution that was similar to the distribution in countries to which the United States is frequently compared, average reading scores in the United States would be higher than average reading scores in the similar post-industrial countries we examined (France, Germany, and the United Kingdom), and average math scores in the United States would be about the same as average math scores in similar post-industrial countries.”
  • “On average, and for almost every social class group, U.S. students do relatively better in reading than in math, compared to students in both the top-scoring and the similar post-industrial countries.”

The above is from a study by Richard Rothstein and Martin Carnroy entitled “What do international tests really show about U. S. student performance?” Published by the Economic Policy Institute, the researchers made a detailed report of the backgrounds of the test takers from the database compiled by the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA).

And the last time that North Carolinianians took the PISA?

2015.

And of the countries that do better than the US on those tests many have economic systems that Lt. Dan Forest opposes.

 

I Want a Teacher Working Conditions Survey With Questions About State Leadership

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I have one big (among smaller ones) complaint about the Teacher Working Conditions Survey issued by the state every two years: it should ask about teachers’ views not only of their school, but of their perceptions of the state leadership.

You can see the questions that were administered on the 2018 version and the results here:  https://ncteachingconditions.org/results. We will get to do another one next school year in the spring of 2020.

The results from this 2018 version do nothing more than demonstrate the disconnect that those who want to re-form schools have with the reality of schools; they displayed that what really drives the success of a school are the people – from the students to the teachers to the administration to the support staff and the community at large.

It is hard to take a survey very seriously from DPI when the questions never get beyond a teacher’s actual school. There is never any way to convey in this survey from the state what teachers think about the state’s role in education or how standardized testing is affecting working conditions.

It should ask teachers’ views not only of their school, but MORE of their perceptions of the county / LEA leadership and state leadership.

Below are the main questions (there are subsets) asked on the survey that actual teachers answer.

  • Please rate how strongly you agree or disagree with the following statements about the use of time in your school.
  • Please rate how strongly you agree or disagree with the following statements about your school facilities and resources.
  • Please rate how strongly you agree or disagree with the following statements about community support and involvement in your school.
  • Please rate how strongly you agree or disagree with the following statements about managing student conduct in your school.
  • Please rate how strongly you agree or disagree with the following statements about teacher leadership in your school.
  • Please indicate the role teachers have in each of the following areas in your school.
  • Please rate how strongly you agree or disagree with statements about leadership in your school.
  • Please rate how strongly you agree or disagree with statements about professional development in your school.
  • Please rate how strongly you agree or disagree with the following statements about instructional practices and support in your school.

There is nothing about how teachers feel about the state’s role in how public schools operate. If Johnson and DPI was really keen on “listening” to teachers concerning their views about working in NC public schools, then the questions need to go beyond the “School” and explore the “state.”

Imagine if we as teachers got to answer questions such as:

  • Please rate how strongly you agree or disagree with the following statements about how the state helps schools with facilities and resources.
  • Please rate how strongly you agree or disagree with the following statements about the state’s support and involvement in your school.
  • Please rate how strongly you agree or disagree with the following statements about state leadership at the Department of Public Instruction.
  • Please rate how strongly you agree or disagree with statements about state leadership.
  • Please rate how strongly you agree or disagree with statements about professional development sponsored by the state.
  • Please rate how strongly you agree or disagree with the following statements about  support for schools from the state.

When NC public schools receive a majority of their funds, mandates, stipulations, guidelines, and marching orders from the state, then should not the NC Teacher Working Condition Survey include teacher perceptions on the role of the state and its influence?

Yes.

But the results of those questions on the survey would tell a much more pointed story: one that Mark Johnson may not really want to know or have published on a glossy piece of propaganda and nicely timed emails.

Simply put, we need more pointed questions because looking at this picture and using Johnson’s math seems to strongly indicate that it is possible to love your schools as a teacher and be disgusted with how the state treats them.

Seven Reasons Why a Personal Finance Course in NC Is a BAD Idea Other Than Lt. Gov. Dan Forest’s Electioneering Purposes

Yesterday, the NC Senate passed HB 924 by an overwhelming majority. Lt. Gov. Dan Forest in one of his rare statements about actual public education other than bathrooms and his love for charter schools tweeted the following:

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While this “bill” might seem like a winner on the surface, there are many reasons for the NCGA House chamber to consider not passing it.

1. It is not a standalone bill. In fact it is part of another larger issue that Forest and others have hijacked in order to make it pass.

HB 924 is really a bill about teacher contracts.

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Teachers hired now (and in the recent past) are not able to get career status –  a move by the NCGA when Berger came to power with a puppet governor. With the teacher shortage that NC is experiencing and the backlash to “reforms,” having a bill allowing for extended contracts for teachers seems to be a win for many public school advocates.

And that’s exactly why the personal finance bill was put into the bill – unless Forest wants to convince us that teacher contracts and a personal finance class requirement for students are genetically linked.

And Forest would also need to explain why HB 924 is needed in the first place. See Point #2.

2. HB 924 is a redundant bill. Why?  MULTI-YEAR CONTRACTS ALREADY EXIST.

Makes one think of North Carolina’s state motto: “To be, rather than to seem.”

3. Students already encounter curriculum concerning personal finance. It’s part of the required course called Civics & Economics. Below is a screenshot of the standards for that course.

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4. Students can actually take an extended personal finance class through the school’s CTE department. CTE stands for Career and Technical Education and it is a vital part of the high school academic setting. Below is a snapshot of the NC CTE Essential Standards Guide:

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Finance is the sixth one down on that cluster list.

5. A Personal Finance course would take away a US History requirement for most students. As it stands, most every student has to take two courses in American History.

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This new course would take away one of those American History courses which is odd because we are literally adding content to that EVERY DAY and replacing it with a course that covers material already in the high school curriculum.

6. It won’t cover some of the glaring aspects of the personal finance challenges that many students will encounter.

  • Systemic Poverty.
  • Over 20% of the students in NC public schools are at or below poverty levels.
  • Student Loan Debt.
  • Racial disparities in economics.
  • Refusal to expand Medicaid when it costs NC next to nothing.
  • Why so many tax breaks are given to corporations that affects social services funding.

7. Lt. Gov. Dan Forest already has shown his view of students and financing. Consider this quote:

“If our action in keeping men out of women’s bathrooms and showers protected the life of just one child or one woman from being molested or assaulted, then it was worth it. North Carolina will never put a price tag on the value of our children. They are precious and priceless.” – Dan Forest, April, 2016 concerning HB2, the “Bathroom Bill”

The amount of money that bill cost NC in revenue because of the national backlash was tremendous. All for a nonexistent issue.

Please contact your representatives. HB 924 should not be passed.