Your Move Sen. Berger – Concerning iStation

Read to Achieve has been deemed a failure – not because of the teachers, students, or schools involved, but because of implementation and its failure to boost support for Pre-K through second grades.

Phil Berger was the champion of Read to Achieve being created in NC, and please do not forget that the iStation debacle has everything to do with Read to Achieve.

Mark Johnson’s unilateral move to award iStation the contract over mClass against the recommendation of a committee certainly has raised a lot of concern which has been discussed on the national level and has prompted legislative action in the NC General Assembly. And now the relationship between the iStation contract and Phil Berger’s office needs to be looked at.

First, ask yourself this question: Do you honestly think that Mark Johnson acted on the iStation contract without Phil Berger’s consent or input?

Remember the special session in late 2016 that gave us HB17? With that Mark Johnson became the most enabled incoming state superintendent in state history. He gained powers that even his predecessor did not possess the magnitude of.

DPI ended up getting reorganized. The State Board of Education got less control over the state’s public school system. Phil Berger got his puppet.

With less than two calendar years in the classroom and no experience in running a department, Mark Johnson assumed an office for which he was not prepared for, and he certainly has not shown any ability to confront lawmakers over issues that affect public schools.

If he has then please name one.

And the structure of how DPI worked became siloed and bottlenecked at Johnson’s office. Rather, DPI started getting steered through the office of whomever Johnson answered to.

This public school-advocate firmly believes that is Phil Berger.


Yesterday, NC Senate Democrats sent a request to Sen. Berger to open an investigation into the iStation contract.


They just threw the metaphorical ball into Berger’s court. How he plays his next move might be one of the first times that he has a situation in recent memory that may not play out well for him.

He could open an investigation which in and of itself would be a small vote of no-confidence in Mark Johnson. Results of that investigation (because Berger could control who actually runs it) may conclude that there was an error which would look bad for Johnson , or it could find that there was no error which could indicate two things: Berger is complicit in iStation’s contract approval and that Mark Johnson is the most enabled man in NC (which would give every opponent in the state superintendent’s race ample fuel to campaign).

Or, he could not open an investigation and simply remove all doubt that he is complicit.

A couple of days ago, the NC House gave a rousing vote of no-confidence to Mark Johnson’s actions to award iStation a contract. From the N&O:

Amid a growing statewide controversy, some state lawmakers want North Carolina school districts to be able to keep how they test the reading skills of their youngest students.

State Superintendent Mark Johnson picked the computer-based Istation program for a three-year, $8.3 million contract to test K-3 students under the Read To Achieve program. But the N.C. House passed a bill Monday night that would let schools use a different program to test students, which includes the Amplify mClass program that has been used since 2013.

Of course, that bill did not pass the NC Senate which is run by Phil Berger.

So, will Berger open the investigation and let it run without interference?

It’s his move.

And no matter what he does, it will speak a lot.

The Average NC Teacher Salary is $53,975. Here’s Why That is Misleading.

Rep. Jeffrey Elmore talked in an op-ed today about how great teacher pay has become in North Carolina over the last few years.

Besides never referring to the fact that furloughs and freezes were due to the Great Recession, Elmore clearly argues a fallacious talking point that seems to constantly need debunking.

He said,

When voters gave Republicans the majority in the General Assembly in 2011, North Carolina was ranked 47th in the nation in teacher pay — and due to decades of irresponsible spending and budgeting, school systems in the state were considering reduction in force. Hiring freezes and furloughs became a reality for our teachers. North Carolina is now 29th in the nation and second in the southeast in teacher pay.

So, here is a better look at what Rep. Elmore is almost talking about.

From the March 7, 2019 News & Observer about the average teacher pay in North Carolina:

The average salary for a North Carolina public school teacher has risen 5 percent to nearly $54,000 this year.

New figures released Wednesday by the state Department of Public Instruction estimate the average salary for teachers to be $53,975 — $2,741 more than the previous school year. The new number is 20 percent more than the $44,990 average salary five years ago.

According to DPI, North Carolina now ranks fourth in the Southeast in average teacher compensation, with Georgia being the highest at $56,392.

“These numbers are the result of record-breaking investments from Republicans in educators and students,” Pat Ryan, a spokesman for Senate leader Phil Berger, said in a statement Wednesday. “Over the last five years, Republicans have provided teachers with five consecutive pay raises, and in three of those years the raises were at or near the top in the entire country.

“Once the facts are laid bare, it’s easy to see that attacks against Republicans over education spending are simply Democrats and their special interest allies playing politics.”

Well, then lets lay bare the facts of how that figure has come about.

The operative word here is “average.” What GOP stalwarts purposefully fail to tell you is that most of the raises have occurred at the very low rungs of the salary schedule. Of course, you can raise the salary of first year teachers by a few thousand dollars and it would give them an average raise of maybe 10-15%. You would only have to give veteran teachers a very small raise funded by longevity pay (which we no longer get) and the OVERALL average raise still looks good, and not much money has to be invested.

“Average” does not mean “actual.” But it sounds great to those who don’t understand the math.

This report reflects a whopping double standard of the NC General Assembly and a total contradiction to what is really happening to average teacher pay. Just follow my logic and see if it makes sense.

The last eight years have seen tremendous changes to teacher pay. For new teachers entering in the profession here in NC there is no longer any graduate degree pay bump, no more longevity pay (for anyone), and a changed salary schedule that only makes it possible for a teacher to top out on the salary schedule with at 52K per year.


So how can that be the average pay in NC be over 53K when no one can really make much over 52K as a new teacher in his/her entire career unless they all become nationally certified (which takes a monetary investment by the teacher to start)?

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

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

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

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

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

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

The “average bear” can turn into a bigger creature if allowed to be mutated by election year propaganda. That creature is actually a monster called the “Ignoramasaurus Rex” known for its loud roar but really short arms that keep it from having far reaching consequences.

Remember the word “average” is a very easy word to manipulate. Politicians use it well. In this case, the very teachers who are driving the “average” salary up are the very people that the state wants to not have in a few years. There will then be a new average. It can’t possibly be over 53K then if current trends keep going.

Would Rep. Elmore care to debunk this?

A Few Questions For Rep. Jeffrey Elmore Concerning His Misguided Op-Ed on the Current Budget

Rep. Jeffrey Elmore published an op-ed on today entitled “Governor’s budget veto creates uncertainty for students, teachers, and schools.”

It’s pure political dribble from a lawmaker who championed SB599 a while back that created a teacher-preparation pipeline to address the very teacher shortage in NC that Elmore and his party have helped create.

Read it if you can. Then possibly consider some questions that if Rep. Elmore answered them honestly would nullify his argument.

He says,

This is exactly why the State Employees Association of North Carolina (SEANC) has been actively urging lawmakers to override the governor’s veto. Because they know the raises included in the budget for state employees — the largest in over a decade — should not be used as bargaining chips.

Question #1 – Then why don’t you go ahead and vote to override the veto?

Rep. Elmore, simply urge Moore and Berger to call a vote on overriding the veto. Go ahead and do it. If it gets overridden, then this argument is over. If not, it sounds like their are a lot of people besides the SEANC who are calling for the veto to stand.

Then there is this:

The budget already has language in it that allows for the governor to call the General Assembly back into a special session to deal with health care issues in North Carolina, but this is not enough for Governor Cooper.

Question #2 – “Do you remember all of the special sessions that were called and then something else was passed?”

Think HB2 (which literally got overturned in a very recent court decision) and that “special session”. Think of the special session concerning hurricane relief that produced HB17, that bill which granted a neophyte of a state superintendent power to dismantle DPI and help the privatization of public schools.

Rep. Elmore should remember that history. He was there.

And there’s this:

We welcome a debate on Medicaid expansion, but let’s not tie the most politically contentious issue with something as important as our state’s budget.

Question #3 – Is the “we” in that statement referring to the same “we” who so much shunned debate and discussion on amendments last year that they passed the bugetr behind closed doors within committee?


There’s more.

As the only active public school teacher in the N.C. General Assembly, I have a personal understanding of the challenges facing our teachers and schools. Sadly, teacher pay and education funding have been used as political footballs, even weapons, by politicians to advance their agenda and careers for decades.

Question #4 – So, as the only politician who also teaches, does Rep. Elmore think that he speaks for all of the teachers who also have a “personal understanding” and who marched the last two years and asked their representatives to fight for issues like Medicaid expansion?

Which brings us to another question.

Question #5 – Does Rep. Elmore have the ability to look back over the last decade when his party had a supermajority and see how often public education was used as a political football by him and his colleagues?

Then Elmore pulls out the “Well look at all of the teacher raises we have given since we came into power” platitude.

After five consecutive years of pay increases for our teachers, including over 9% in the past two years, this budget includes an additional 3.9% over the next two years with step increases and raises ranging from $500 to $2,600. The budget even includes two bonuses of $500 each for our most veteran teachers. 

Question #6 – Can Rep. Elmore explain this?



No more longevity pay. No graduate degree pay.

Under Elmore’s watch.



Following the Money – Looking at Who Helped Finance Mark Johnson’s 2016 Campaign

“My family is the biggest contributor of soft money to the Republican National Committee. I have decided to stop taking offense at the suggestion that we are buying influence. Now I simply concede the point. They are right. We do expect something in return. We expect to foster a conservative governing philosophy consisting of limited government and respect for traditional American virtues. We expect a return on our investment.” – Betsy DeVos, 1997

As of now, Mark Johnson has not openly said if he will be running for re-election for state superintendent. But there have been indications that he just might or events like the following would not be happening:

Elect Mark Johnson.png

The words “contribute” and “Paid for by Elect Mark Johnson” indicate that money is being raised. And when money is raised in a campaign, the law states that it must be itemized and that there are limits as to what can be given in certain channels.

The North Carolina State Board of Elections maintains a web site that allows citizens to view campaign finance transactions for anyone who has run for state office in North Carolina, including Mark Johnson in his 2016 campaign.


And while money for the 2020 campaign trail has yet to be indicated, looking back at the 2016 campaign and who contributed (along with the thoughts of DeVos above) gives an indication of who looks to Johnson as someone who supports their agenda.


Five such donors certainly stood out in the 2016 election. Four of them were from out of state, but certainly have interests in North Carolina.


1. If you have heard of the drug OxyContin, then you may have heard of the many lawsuits brought against its maker, Purdue Pharma. In fact, there are over 1600 lawsuits against Purdue Pharma and all states except two are suing the company over its role in the current opioid crisis which North Carolina is fighting. Purdue Pharma is owned by the Sackler family.

Jonathan Sackler contributed twice.



2. John Bryan, the founder of the Team CFA based in Oregon, has been donating money left and right to specific politicians and PAC’s here in North Carolina to extend the charter industry including Lt. Gov. Dan Forest (through a PAC). He spear-headed an attempt to win the contract of the ISD school in Robeson that was recently given a green light with Dr. Eric Hall as its first superintendent. Team CFA has many schools now operating in North Carolina with new campuses coming next school year.


3. Steuart Walton is CEO of Game Composites. It is located in Bentonville, AR. That’s the home of Walmart. Yes, he is part of the Walton family – the grandson of Sam Walton. Along with the Gates Foundation, and the Broad Foundation, the Walton Foundation has been a key player in the “education reform” business.


4. The Roger Bacon Academy Charter School Chain now has four different campuses in North Carolina. It is a for-profit charter school chain.

roger bacon


5. LEE stands for Leadership in Education Equity. It is a spin-off of Teach for America of which Johnson is an alumnus. In a EdWeek article from 2014, LEE was described as helping TFA alumni like Johnson into policy and advocacy. In the summer before the general election, they sent Johnson $5,100.



Pharmaceuticals, charter schools, ALEC inspired education “reforms”, and an initiative to put TFA alums in government positions – that’s what Johnson seems to champion.

And all of this is legal, but it indicates loyalties that someone may have. And as the leader of the state’s public school system, does Johnson’s acceptance of these contributions indicate a willingness to help their agendas?

Just look at his track record.


One Year Ago – The Reorganization of a Still Shrinking DPI

Last summer on July 24th, Mark Johnson announced a reorganization at the Department of Public Instruction, one of the many results of a court case that took over a year to settle with tax payer money and an audit that cost over a million dollars which said that DPI was underfunded.

Dear Colleagues:
As most of you know, since becoming state superintendent, I have advocated a strategy of bold innovation and true urgency at the N.C. Department of Public Instruction to support our state’s educators and students.
Today, we are taking major steps toward those goals by changing the way DPI is organized. To provide better support to the field, we need more efficiency and fewer silos in our organizational structure. (You can see the new structure here.)
To that end, I am creating a new deputy superintendent structure to drive innovation, collaboration, and operational efficiency. All deputy superintendents will now have a more effective number of directors reporting to them, which allows us to flatten the org chart and break down silos in the department. More division directors will be closer to leadership in this flatter structure.
Thank you for your patience as we move to implement these changes. I know there has been a significant amount of change at DPI over the past 18 months. I appreciate all the work staff and local districts have done while these shifts, sometimes painful and sometimes merely distracting, have played out around us. I sincerely hope that we are at a point where we can begin to focus on urgently driving the innovation our system needs to truly fulfill the educational aspirations of educators, parents, and students.
In the coming weeks, we will be communicating more with you and the field about how these changes will be implemented and what changes districts and charter schools can expect.
Thank you for all you do for North Carolina’s public schools. North Carolina is fortunate to have you.

Below is what it was prior to the new reorganization.


This is what it looks like now.


Today, Greg Childress published a post on NC Policy Watch that summarizes what has happened at DPI in the last couple of years since Mark has taken over.

Here’s a brief look at some of the DPI vacancy numbers through July 11:

  • 157 – Total number of vacancies at the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction
  • 46 – The number of vacant positions with no recruitment activity
  • 15 – The number of vacant positions posted
  • 18 – The number of vacant positions in screening
  • 32 – The number of positions for which candidates are being interviewed
  • 31 – The number of vacancies filled
  • 5 – The number of positions DPI is preparing to post
  • 1 – The number of positions being reallocated
  • 12 – The number of positions on hold

And North Carolina’s population is still growing.

But DPI is shrinking.

This Teacher Is Mad At Our State Treasurer Because I Don’t Know What Is Happening With The State Health Plan

Remember when you received this message from Dale Folwell, the state treasurer, at the end of 2018?

Simply put, his letter was rather insulting, at least to me and to some other teachers.

I could not help to think that in a missive meant to outline benefits to a person whom “North Carolina values,” I was also being told that I literally cost too much, was promised too much, and that it was my job to not be as much of a burden on the state.

And that paragraph under the “Did You Know?” heading actually shows a bit of a contradiction in how the state seems to treat the teaching profession: as prices for services and products go up in most every segment of the economy, the willingness to invest in those very things seems to not be the same.

Furthermore, idea that we teachers and government employees must try and cut costs to help the state finance insurance benefits when the state literally is giving massive corporate tax breaks and limiting the very revenues that come to the state to begin with is rather hypocritical.

Bottom line is that Dale Folwell has the power by himself to decide on the State Health Plan’s reimbursement levels to in-network hospitals.

Last October (right before he sent the above letter), he started to move the SHP to a Medicare reimbursement model which would pay less to in-network providers than in the past. He gave hospitals a July 1st deadline to sign on to that agreement.

Only 3 out of the state’s 126 in-network hospitals signed on.

If you follow some of the social media sites that educators frequent, the topic of the State Health Plan is becoming more discussed of late because nobody seems to know what is really going on. What is becoming very apparent is that Folwell has done a rather poor job of communicating what is happening and seems to have taken a stance of “Well, you should know everything that is happening already?”

Truthfully, it seems I have heard more from hospitals I have never been to about what is happening with my health plan than Folwell himself. Did you see this from a Moses Cone employee a few days ago?

burn in hell

It will forever be known as the “Burn in Hell” letter. It says,

As a resident and registered voter in the state of North Carolina, as a former teacher, and as a current employee of a health system, I am writing to you to express my extreme opposition to the changes set in place for the 2020 State Health Plan. Your plan to cut payments to hospitals could possibly be the most moronic idea I have ever seen come out of our state government, and since you Retardicans have taken power, that’s saying a lot. I realize your political party believes that government health care should consist of two plans: “Rich can pay for the services they need and the poor can die in the streets.” But this takes the cake. Members of the State Health Plan are, bar none, the most important people in our communities. They are the teachers, the police, the fire fighters, and our state troopers. They are the drivers of snow plows when roads are impassiblecq, the responders to natural disasters and the regulatory agents who make sure corporate criminals don’t pollute everything they can and abuse every worker they can.

I know a bit about health care finance because it’s been my job for the beter part of 20 years. Hospitals and health care organizations operate on a shoestring margin. Most of the big ones in our state (Novant excepted) are 501(c)(3)’s which means they cover their tax burden by providing care for the poor. As mentioned above, I know your political party just wants those people to die in the streets, but we don’t. In a good year, we make a 2.5 to 3.0% margin. Your insane plan would financially destroy every hospital in this state, but that’s your ultimate goal, isn’t it. Poor people generally don’t vote for your party, so you want them to die. The worst part is you’ve convinced a huge majority of poor voters in rural areas that you support their values and through the brain-washing of Fox News, conservative radio and blatant lies by your politicians you’ve convinced them to vote against their interests.

Burn in hell you sorry (SOBs)

It’s blunt. And the problem is that I feel more informed about what is going on with the State Health Plan from that than I do from Folwell. His communications and explanations of what he is trying to do have been pitiful, and the speed at which he is trying to make these changes happen seems to lack an understanding of how the hundreds of thousands of people who use the SHP will be affected.

This morning in the Winston-Salem Journal, Richard Craver wrote an article that does shed more light on the situation, at least for this teacher. It is very much worth the read.

But let me warn you that there is another very angering angle to this situation explained in this article.

House Bill 184, which would block Folwell’s initiative for at least a year in favor of a legislative study report, cleared the N.C. House by a 75-36 vote April 3. It has yet to be acted upon in the N.C. Senate since being sent to the Rules and Operations Committee April 4. Senate leader Phil Berger, R-Rockingham, has signaled he has no desire to take up HB184.

Berger. The same guy  who is refusing to expand Medicare in NC.

This might be the time to bombard the state treasurer’s office with inquiries into what is really happening with the State Health Plan. It also might be the time to contact your representatives about what is happening as well. Forcing them to explain what is occurring might lend a little light on the subject because if you are like me,  I am not sure what all is happening.

And I don’t really have a choice but to be on the State Health Plan.




Follow The Money – Looking At Political Contributions Among Those Involved With The iStation Contract

It is perfectly lawful to donate to a political campaign, and with the Citizens United case decision from the Supreme Court a few years back, it is now lawful for corporations to donate money through political action committees (PACs) and Super PACs.

However, while it is lawful, it doesn’t mean that some interesting ethical questions occur.

When iStation secured its contract with DPI last month amid some secretive circumstances and recently had its legal counsel send Cease & Desist letters to people questioning the process, three names came into focus.

They are:

  1. Richard H. Collins, CEO of iStation,
  2. Doug Miskew, lobbyist in NC hired by iStation, and
  3. Kieran Shanahan, legal counsel hired by iStation.

When DPI awarded iStation a contract over mClass, it seemed obvious that it was a unilateral decision on the part of the state superintendent, Mark Johnson. But for anyone who has followed North Carolina’s recent history in public education, it is apparent that Mark Johnson answers to the powers of the NC General Assembly led by Phil Berger who enable him. That’s why this blog and others do not really see Mark Johnson as the real leader of DPI.

In fact, the organizational chart for DPI now looks mostly like this.



If one was to investigate the political contributions of the three people above associated with iStation, then he would find this (from


Richard Collins is based in Texas and contributes a LOT of money to republicans across the nation. Above is a snapshot of his contributions to NC campaigns. There’s Phil Berger.


Kieran Shanahan has given well over $150,000K in this state, including to Phil Berger. It should also be noted that Shanahan is the NC Rep. Party Finance Chair.


Doug Miskew has given money as well, but not directly to Phil Berger’s campaigns – rather to Phil Berger Jr.’s campaigns. But that doesn’t mean he hasn’t given money for Phil Berger, Sr. to use to strengthen his cronies’ campaigns. He just does it through another channel.

In Feb. of 2017, Colin Campbell wrote a piece for the News & Observer that talked of a committee used by NC Senate republicans that was used to give money throughout the state to various campaigns.

Some people call it a “slushfund.”

Campbell started his article,

Republican N.C. Senate leaders raised and spent $2.2 million during the last election cycle through a new committee that bypassed the N.C. Republican Party, giving Senate leaders more say in campaign decisions.

The committee uses a 2015 law that allows groups of Republicans or Democrats in either the legislature or statewide elected positions to create fundraising committees that act like political parties, accepting and distributing unlimited donations for campaigns.

That fund is still going today. Millions of dollars passing through it. In fact, you can look for all of the documented contributions and expenditures required by law to be recorded here.


If one digs around enough, he can see who has contributed to this fund.


There’s Doug Miskew.

There’s James Goodnight. He founded SAS which is used heavily by DPI for EVAAS “calculations” and school performance grades.

There’s Jonathan Hage. He owns a chain of for-profit charter schools that have campuses in North Carolina.

Mark Johnson as the state’s highest public education official has given more control over student data to Goodnight’s SAS Corporation, catered more to for-profit charter schools run by people like Jonathan Hage, and awarded at least two contracts to companies lobbied for by Miskew, including iStation.

And Mark Johnson doesn’t really do anything unless Phil Berger affirms it, especially when it pertains to Read to Achieve.

And iStation is supposed to help with Read to Achieve.

You can draw your own conclusions.

“1 in 5 NC students don’t attend traditional public schools” – And It’s a Deliberate Plan

Today, the Raleigh News & Observer printed a report entitled “1 in 5 NC students don’t attend traditional public schools.” in which T. Keung Hui gave what is now an annual overview of the continuing trend of more and more students leaving traditional public schools and attending private, charter, and home schools.

Twenty percent of North Carolina’s students are not attending the state’s traditional public schools — and that percentage is expected to continue rising.

New statewide figures released this month show that homeschools, private schools and charter schools all continued to add students during the 2018-19 school year at the same time traditional public schools lost children for the fourth year in a row. The percentage of North Carolina’s 1.8 million K-12 students attending traditional public schools dropped to 79.9% this year.

It is a report that should be read but it should be read in conjunction with an editorial that the N&O Board released last summer. It is entitled “Shrinking public schools reflects the state’s neglect.” It is spot-on.

That editorial states,

What’s happening in North Carolina is that a concerted effort by the Republican-controlled General Assembly is starving public schools of resources and encouraging the expansion of educational options that lack standards and oversight.”

It was true last year and still true now.

That concerted effort is actually a three-headed attack aimed to shed an ill-favored light on public schools to help bolster more students attending non-traditional schools.

  1. Too many privatization entities outside of North Carolina are allowed to shape our education system.

Look at the graphic below:


That is a diagram of the relationships between entities that many public school advocates deem as detrimental to our public school system. It’s very busy and probably confusing. It’s supposed to be.

Consider the following national entities:

  • Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation
  • Walton Family Foundation
  • Eli Broad Foundation
  • KIPP Charter Schools
  • Democrats For Educational Reform
  • Educational Reform Now
  • StudentsFirst
  • America Succeeds
  • 50CAN
  • American Legislative Exchange Council
  • National Heritage Academies
  • Charter School USA
  • Team CFA
  • American Federation for Children

They are all at play in North Carolina, totally enabled by the powers-that-be in the NC General Assembly and their supportive organizations. If you want to see how all of those relationships have panned out in NC and are affecting traditional public schools, then refer to this post which will be updated soon for 2019-2020: Too Much Damn Privatization of Public Schools.

In fact, Betsy DeVos was here just this very week promoting yet another privatization initiative.

2. The North Carolina General Assembly is Ignoring the Factors That Hurt Public School Student Achievement.

In the fall of 2017, the venerable James Ford of the Public School Forum and the State Board of Education delivered the keynote address at the North Carolina English Teacher’s Association. It was more than exceptional as Ford highlighted that what hurts our schools are external factors that are not being dealt with such as systemic poverty.

Part of his presentation included a version of what is called the “Iceberg Effect” for education. It looks like this:


Ford talked about (and he is not alone in this belief) how what is above the water, namely student outcomes, is what drives educational policies in our state.

Notice that he means what is visible above the water line is what drives policy. That is what the public sees in the press. That is what lawmakers and leaders hark on when discussing what to do about public education.

But look under the water level and one sees poverty, violence, inequity & inequality, and lack of support of young families and for the schools that service the children of at least 80% of those families.

And then it is hard to not think of the state refusing to expand Medicaid for our most needy. It is not hard to think about the Voter ID restriction law amendment and HB2.

Those have effects. HUGE EFFECTS!

3. The North Carolina General Assembly Has Directly Attacked the State’s Public School System.

The list of actions gets longer everyday.

  • Removal of due-process rights
  • Graduate Degree Pay Bumps Removed
  • A Puppet of a State Superintendent
  • SB599
  • HB17
  • Ever-Changing Teacher Evaluation Protocols
  • “Average” Raises that do not translate to veteran teachers
  • Less Money Spent per Pupil when Adjusted for Inflation
  • Removal Caps on Class Sizes
  • Unregulated Charter Schools
  • Jeb Bush School Grading System
  • Cutting 7400 Teacher Assistants in last ten years
  • Opportunity Grants That will reach almost a Billion Dollars with no Proof of Success
  • Virtual Charter Schools That Have Failed
  • Reduction of Teacher Candidates in Colleges
  • Elimination of Teaching Fellows Program and reinvention in a different entity.
  • Municipal Charter Bill

All of the factors from these three fronts are synchronistically orchestrated by an eight-year super-majority (now majority) that is aiming to continue the trend of more students leaving traditional public schools.

Preserving traditional public schools is a paramount issue.

And that N&O editorial from last year stated it best:

If North Carolina is going to foster school choice, it should first ensure that choosing a traditional public school anywhere in the state is an excellent choice.

The NCGA is not doing that –  deliberately.

Why We Need To Allow Teachers To Get Into “Good, Necessary Trouble”

This morning my friend Justin Parmenter, whose advocacy of public education here in North Carolina is unmatched, published a post on his blog Notes From the Chalkboard that discusses his views on events that have happened this week concerning investigating Mark Johnson’s actions in awarding a contract under secretive circumstances.

Justin was one of three people to receive a rather bullying Cease & Desist letter from iStation’s legal representatives. He was the only classroom teacher to receive one. And he talks about that in his post. It is candid, classy, and full of integrity.

And the post reminded me and others of what great teachers really do:

  • explore and lend light to the details,
  • ask great questions that spark discovery and discourse, AND
  • do not mind getting into “good, necessary trouble” if needed when advocating for public education, especially in the public’s eye.

Justin started his post with a quote from Rep. John Lewis.


It’s the “never, ever be afraid to make some noise and get in good trouble, necessary trouble” part that really comes out in that quote.

If there is one thing that scares people like Mark Johnson, Phil Berger, and Tim Moore (and other NCGA lawmakers), it is a veteran teacher who is willing to get in to “good, necessary trouble.”

And this state needs teachers who are willing to get into “good, necessary trouble.”

That’s why when reading Justin’s post (and I read all of his posts), I thought of this state’s need to restore “career status” and due-process rights to all teachers in this state.

Their removal was a beginning step in a patient, scripted, and ALEC-allying plan that still systematically tries to weaken a profession whose foundation is advocating for public schools. Think of what is happening with the situation at DPI where a unilateral decision was made in spite of the recommendation from a viable committee.

Due-process removal actually weakens the ability of the teaching force in NC to speak up and advocate a little each year as veteran teachers retire and are replaced by new teachers who do not receive those rights.

One of the first items that the GOP controlled General Assembly attempted to pass in the early part of this decade was the removal of due-process right for all teachers. Commonly called “tenure,” due process rights are erroneously linked to the practice that colleges use to award “tenure” to professors. Actually, they really are not the same.

What due-process means is that a teacher has the right to appeal and defend himself / herself when an administrator or system seeks to terminate employment. It means that a teacher cannot be fired on the spot for something that is not considered an egregious offense by those who simply want to get rid of someone because he / she was advocating for schools.

If due-process rights are not restored for newer teachers, then the idea of having a rally or a march like that one on May 16th of 2018 or May 1st of this year to advocate for students and schools ten to fifteen years from now would likely never happen.

If due-process rights are not restored for newer teachers, then there may be fewer teachers willing to get into “good, necessary trouble.”

And this state needs teachers who are willing to get into “good, necessary trouble.”