Like most every other year, 2019 has so far been a rather contentious, perplexing, and trying year for public school advocates. There is simply a lot working against us.
However, that only means that we keep fighting for public schools because with the removal of the supermajority in the NCGA there has been progress.
As the new school year arrives, it might be worthwhile to review the top ten public education issues that surround North Carolina’s public school system. They are not listed in any particular order as all of them have an incredible amount of gravity.
1. May 1st
Again, thousands of teachers and public school advocates marched and rallied in Raleigh. School systems cancelled classes and many who could not come to Raleigh for that day rallied in their own districts. People called for a minimum wage for all school personnel, more support staff, restoration of graduate degree pay and two issues that actually have a lot of attention on them right now: health care benefits for retirees and Medicaid expansion.
2. The Budget
Gov. Cooper vetoed the budget set by the NCGA GOP leadership; however, Tim Moore & Phil Berger do not have the votes to override that veto. Over a month into the new fiscal year, a budget still not has been passed and Cooper’s budget compromise is much better for public education.
3. The Innovative School District
The“innovative” school district run by an out-of-state for-profit charter chain that has only one school just got its third superintendent and its second principal – after only one year in operation.
4. State Health Plan
Last October, State Treasurer Dale Folwell 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?”
5. iStation Debacle
When Mark Johnson announced that he signed a contract with iStation to replace mClass right at the end of the previous school year against the recommendations of a DPI-formed committee, it sent shock waves around the state and the brush-back from that was intense – just read Justin Parmenter’s great work on that on his blog Note From the Chalkboard.
There were three RFP’s and a strange “Exhibit C.”
There were Cease & Desist letters, interesting campaign contributions, the word “ass,” and more questions now than before.
6. Teacher Salary
Below is the proposed salary schedule in the vetoed budget for 2019-2020.
Look at it this way. For the first 15 years of a career in NC, a teacher will receive a 1,000 raise for each year. It will go from $35,000 to $50,000.
In Years 16-20, a teacher will make $50,500 – each year. No raises within that time. And a $500 raise overall compared to Year 15.
In Years 21-24, a teacher will make $51,500 – each year. No raises within that time. That’s a $1,500 raise compared to Year 15 and a $1,000 raise compared to Year 20.
In Years 25+, a teacher will make $52,600 – for the rest of his/her career.
Granted, that schedule may change in the next year or years, but it proves one thing: this NCGA does not value veteran teachers.
Look at the salary schedule above just based on raises.
Now consider there is no longer longevity pay and that all teachers now coming into the profession in NC will be on an “A” certificate because of the removal of graduate pay.
This turned out to be another example of bad legislation to take more control over local districts and stifle every LEA’s ability to use funds for vital needs.
From the N&O :
North Carolina lawmakers plan to give each teacher $400 to spend on classroom supplies by taking $37 million away from local school districts that they say hasn’t been properly spent.
Several Republican lawmakers and GOP State Superintendent Mark Johnson announced Wednesday the creation of the N.C. School Supply Program that would be funded by new legislation requiring school districts to transfer $400 to each teachers. Educators would use the ClassWallet app to spend the money and to submit reimbursements for supplies they purchase.
“Giving teachers the maximum control over classroom supply funds is the ultimate local control,” Johnson said at a news conference. “Teachers can be nimble and they can use these funds to buy what they need, when they need it.”
There’s a problem with that. It uses existing monies already allocated to districts. And ClassWallet makes money from this as well.
8. A Private Dinner and #NC2030
Remember that special dinner with BIG announcements from last February?
Then he launched his #NC2030 initiative. It’s not even 2020.
9. North Carolina Virtual Public School
From the News & Observer this past week:
Hundreds of teachers at the N.C. Virtual Public School are being temporarily laid off, costing those educators thousands of dollars and reducing the online options that will be provided to students across the state this fall.
Teachers who are working this summer at the Virtual Public School were notified Tuesday that they will not be allowed to work the fall semester to satisfy state laws for temporary employees. The late notice is causing those 220 teachers to scramble to find ways to replace the lost income and the school to figure out how to staff classes without those educators.
It is very hard to believe that the state superintendent who has been so outspoken in his support of the two virtual charter schools in this state that have performed so poorly would not have known about the troubles of the actual PUBLIC virtual school that services 50,000 students throughout the state.
The single largest school as far as number of students is concerned was not on the radar of the very person who claims that technology is the key for our schools in the 21st century?
10. A Mandatory Personal Finance Class
Championed by Lt. Gov. Dan Forest, this was an electioneering tactic that really does nothing but add more obstacles into the high school curriculum.
It was not a standalone bill. In fact it was part of another larger issue that Forest and others hijacked in order to make it pass. Students already encounter curriculum concerning personal finance. It’s part of the required course called Civics & Economics. Students can actually take an extended personal finance class through the school’s CTE department. A Personal Finance course would take away a US History requirement for most students.
And 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.