Before Someone Claims That “We Will Have To Raise Taxes On People To Fully Fund NC Schools,” Tell Him To Consider These Measures First

One of the better political cartoons in recent weeks came from Dennis Draughon at Capitol Broadcasting. It represents the Thanksgiving dinner where teachers and schools are sitting at a smaller table waiting to see what they will be given after everything is carved out for corporations and political interests.

Sen. Phil Berger throws a wishbone to those at the smaller table while he gluttonously partakes of the taxpayer-provided “meal.”

And yet many are blaming teachers and schools for wanting to be fully funded because there is a narrative that to do so would raise taxes on people.

Well, before that happens, maybe consider:

  1. Stop extending massive tax cuts to corporations and wealthy people. Maybe we as a state should not keep extending more corporate tax cuts for businesses and people who make significantly more than the average North Carolinian. We haven’t really seen the trickle-down effect from that here in our schools.
  2. Invest the budget surplus into our schools. The fact that there is such a huge surplus in this state’s budget while yet another round of large corporate tax cuts took hold this year is not really a sign of fiscal responsibility.
  3. Refund Unused Opportunity Grant Money. The money that this state has “invested” in vouchers has not even been totally used – maybe about half. That amounts to millions of dollars that could be put into public schools.
  4. In fact, do away with the Opportunity Grants. We should not invest almost a billion dollars’ worth into a voucher scheme over a ten-year period when it has not shown any real success and put that back into the public schools. No study has conclusively said that vouchers actually improve public educational outcomes because of “competition.” In fact, North Carolina’s version is the least transparent in the nation.
  5. Highly regulate the ESA’s and allow them to be spent on public schools as well. How about taking some of the money earmarked for Special Needs Education Savings Accounts (which might be one of the most unregulated versions in the country – just look at Arizona) and allowing parents to invest it back into services for their children in public schools?
  6. Not extend so much money into new unregulated charter schools. No report on the state level has shown they are working in the way that charter schools were intended to work: to be laboratories for public schools to find new ways of teaching and bring back to traditional schools to help all students. Instead many are run by private entities.
  7. Dissolve the Innovative School District. There is not community buy-in and all models of such “reforms” have proven to not help. Furthermore, it is giving money to a private entity. Besides look at the turnover rate of the people who are supposed to run the ISD.
  8. Repeal HB514. Bill Brawley’s Municipal Charter Bill bill is nothing more than legalized segregation and allows for municipalities to ask for county property taxes to create charter schools that only service certain zip codes. In essence it allows for more property taxes to be used to fund local schools and possibly state mandates.
  9. Allow ballot measures for school bonds to remain on the ballot. Remember when this was taken off the ballot in 2018? Let the voters actually decide, especially after destructive hurricanes destroyed so much in the eastern part of our state.
  10. Pass the budget in a democratic process. No more “nuclear options” to pass a state budget.  No more “stalling” like with this year’s budget. Let the democratic process have its say. That means debate and amendments and actually voting on veto-overrides.
  11. Consider who has been elected through unconstitutionally gerrymandered districts who also champion bad budgeting policies. Didn’t Phil Berger get his district lines changed to avoid having Guilford County being in his district?

Then we can start talking about “raising taxes.”

Besides, out kids are worth it.

“Protect The Village” – There Is No Better Place To Spend A Friday Night

Not many high school teams get to host a Friday Night football game after Thanksgiving, and that’s what makes today a special one.

West Forsyth gets to “Protect the Village” again tonight in a quarterfinal matchup.

#PROTECTTHEVILLAGE has become this year’s mantra. If you didn’t know, West Forsyth is one of the few schools in this area that serves the entirety of one town in a fairly large county system.

All of Clemmons claims West. All of West claims Clemmons.

Clemmons is a village by definition, and when West plays a home game, it’s called playing “in the Village.”

No better place to spend a Friday night.

No place.

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How The “Average” Bear Became The Unofficial State Mammal Of North Carolina (At Least For The NCGA)

Officially, the gray squirrel is the official state mammal of the Old North State. And as ubiquitous its presence is in our state, there is an animal that seems to be more revered by lawmakers in Raleigh – at least concerning the terrain of education.

It’s the “average bear.”

Related image

These animals roam freely in the halls of the NCGA and particularly hibernate in the offices of top-ranking lawmakers like Phil Berger and Tim Moore.

A few have been seen in the offices of Lt. Gov. Dan Forest and State Superintendent Mark Johnson.

“Average bears” have a special gift for spinning, especially figures and statistics. And policy makers like those mentioned before make great use of this power. No where is that seen more than in talking about public education.

Most of the nation now knows that Berger and Moore have placed the blame of the current budget impasse upon the issue of teacher pay, and both Berger and Moore have gone out of their way to talk about the immense raises they have given to teachers over the past few years.

Berger has even got a website called ncteacherraise.com to show off his ability to tame the “average bear.”

teacherpay4

But remember that “average” does not mean “actual.” And with the removal of longevity pay and graduate degree pay bumps, it is very easy for “average bears” to work their magic with numbers because if you think that this veteran teacher’s pay has gone up over 20% in the last six years, then you are sadly mistaken.

Below is a salary scale for 2018-2019. Imagine if there was one teacher being used for each step – 31 total with each step represented by one teacher. An average pay increase of 5% will be applied to the the salaries in two different scenarios.

The point is that lawmakers can achieve an average of 5% across the board in a variety of ways – some much cheaper than others, especially when raises are concentrated on those whose salaries are on the lower rungs of the salary schedule.

average bear

Notice that the NCGA can create an “average” raise of 5% for those 31 different teachers by front-loading the raises with an investment of $62,250 and leave veteran teachers out of the pay increases. That is what has happened under Berger and Moore these last six years.

If each experience level received an actual 5% raise, it would have been an investment of $72,100.

Additionally, a retiring teacher’s pension is based on an average of the last four years’ salary. In the two scenarios above, the 30-year educator could retire with a final four-year average of $52,000 or $54,600.

Berger and Moore would rather see the first scenario because it makes the retirement payout over the retiree’s life lower.

That’s the power of the “average bear.”

 

 

 

 

“Study shows strong teachers’ unions preserve education spending” – One Reason Berger And Moore Fear NCAE

“The study points to well-organized teachers’ unions as being the important defender of education spending. Since education is the biggest part of state’s budget, it’s the easiest place to cut during a recession. We’re not saying that these states have bad intentions, we’re saying that if advocacy from the group that’s directly impacted by those cuts is weakened, then they’re going to be quicker to cut them.”

The above is a quote by the main researcher in a recent study released from the University of Georgia which studies the impacts on education spending by states when there is a strong teacher union present.

The abstract is below.

UGAstudy

“We find that states with laws prohibiting collective bargaining for teachers and states with lower union dues per teacher made substantially larger cuts to overall educational expenditures, even after controlling for time-invariant state characteristics, secular trends, and an extensive set of time-variant state-level covariates.”

North Carolina has laws that prohibit collective bargaining for teachers. And the NCGA has gone out of its way to try and make it harder for teachers to have their membership dues

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

Image result for map of states with collective bargaining rights 2018

Anyone who says that teachers wanting to unionize and having collective bargaining rights are just indications of teachers demanding more money in their pockets might need to read this study.

It’s really about protecting our state public school system – one whose funding has never really recovered from the Great Recession in a state that keeps boasting of giant surpluses.

 

School House Rock and The Parts of Speech – How the NCGA Taught Us About Prepositions In Their Actions AGAINST Public Schools

The English language as we speak it has eight parts of speech. Can you name them?

Hint: they are nouns, verbs, pronouns, adjectives, adverbs, conjunctions, interjections, and prepositions. If you younger than 40, you might want to google School House Rock or maybe go to You Tube. School House Rock probably taught me more about the parts of speech than any other entity.

schoolhouserock

Many of you can probably sing a few of the jingles; they are priceless and timeless.

“Conjunction Junction, what’s your function? Hooking up words and phrases and clauses.”

“Interjections (hey!) show excitement (Yow!) or emotion, (Ouch!)
they’re generally set apart from a sentence by an exclamation point,
or by a comma when the feelings not as strong.”

“Busy prepositions,
Always on the go.
Like a bunch of busy bees,
Floating pollen on the breeze.”

“Lolly, Lolly, Lolly, get your adverbs here.
Father, son, and Lolly selling adverbs here.
Got a lot of adverbs, and we make it clear,
So come to Lolly! (Lolly, Lolly, Lolly)”

“Well, every person you can know
And every place that you can go
And anything that you can show
You know they’re nouns – you know they’re nouns, oh…”

“Now, I have a friend named Rufus Xavier Sarsaparilla,
And I could say that Rufus found a kangaroo
That followed Rufus home
And now that kangaroo belongs
To Rufus Xavier Sarsaparilla.”

“Adjectives are words you use to really describe things,
Handy words to carry around.
Days are sunny or they’re rainy
Boys are dumb or else they’re brainy
Adjectives can show you which way.”

“I get my thing in action (Verb!)
In being, (Verb!) In doing, (Verb!)
In saying
A verb expresses action, being, or state of being.
A verb makes a statement.
Yeah, a verb tells it like it is!”

I’m getting a little emotional and nostalgic for my youth. Heck, I’ve got tears in my eyes.

So back to the parts of speech. Of the eight parts of speech, three are fairly set in their place in the lexicon. The other parts rather evolve as some are created with an expanding language and some are forgotten. We can create new nouns and verbs and adjectives and adverbs and interjections, but we cannot really add new pronouns or conjunctions or, my favorite – prepositions. (Did you notice the number of conjunctions used in the last sentence?)

Prepositions express a relation between entities: the object of the preposition and another word outside the prepositional phrase but in the same clause. More simply put, it shows a relationship between two nouns/pronouns (if it is an adjectival phrase) or a noun and a verb (if it is an adverbial phrase) .

In elementary school, I was first taught that a preposition was anything a squirrel could do to a tree or a plane could do to a cloud. However, you could make a lesson plan concerning prepositions by coming up with a list of relationships between, say, the current North Carolina General Assembly and the public school system of North Carolina.

The following is a list of the twenty-five most used prepositions in the English language from wordfrequency.info. Using these prepositions in sentences showing a relationship between the NCGA and North Carolinians might be a perfect lesson in how powerful these words really are. In some instances more than one preposition may be used.

  1. Of – The people elected to the North Carolina General Assembly are supposed to be representatives of the people in whose districts they reside and should be committed to the funding of public schools.
  2. In – The people in North Carolina should be served by the lawmakers in Raleigh.
  3. To – The NCGA should be enacting legislation for the betterment of the public school system in the state, not to the detriment of our schools.
  4. For – See the preceding sentence for an example of this one.
  5. With – Lawmakers should be working with educators, not against educators.
  6. On – The NCGA meets on West Jones Street, sometimes behind opaque closed doors at midnight.
  7. At – Look at the sentence for #6.
  8. From – Many lawmakers come from counties in which the public school system is the largest employer in the county.
  9. By – The past few stifling state budgets have been passed by a GOP supermajority  in both sides of the NCGA, but now Berger and Moore blame the Democrats when no “compromise” was reached in last 130 days of the extended session.
  10. About – Why did the NCGA pass so many bills about not regulating the charter school industry?
  11. As – Some of the approved bills from the last eight years make about as much sense as cutting one’s nose off.
  12. Into – A once progressive and leading state public school system has turned into a petri dish of reform .
  13. Like – Claiming to have multiple years of budget surpluses but not fully funding public schools is like making my family go hungry when we had the funds but bragging about the money I saved.
  14. Through – Hopefully we will get through this ordeal when elections come in November of 2020.
  15. After – After November of 2020, we will hopefully have better people in office.
  16. Over – But it will many years to get over the last eight years.
  17. Between – Between you and me, there has not been much to praise when it comes to the NCGA’s treatment of public education.
  18. Out – Veteran teacher pay fell out the window in the last few years.
  19. Against – Oftentimes, the NCGA works against  people in their lack of funding of public services.
  20. During – During the last eight years, the NCGA has passed a lot of ridiculous laws and bills.
  21. Without – Without proper funding, many schools will not be able to provide constitutionally mandated services to public school students.
  22. Before – Before the current iteration of the NCGA, teachers felt more appreciated.
  23. Under– Now teachers feel like they are under a mountain of regulation and red tape.
  24. Around – Many legislators should be around more public schools to see exactly what great work is being done.
  25. Among – Alas, many in the NCGA refuse to be among those they supposedly serve.

 

Ironically, when one looks at these sample sentences, many interjections come to mind.

The ones with exclamation points behind them.

 

Go Ahead, Rep. Craig Horn – Run For State Superintendent. Then Maybe You Can Explain Your Voting Record.

“Our schools of education are designed by white women for white women,” Horn said. “… We need to reach down into our high schools, no, we need to reach down into our middle and elementary schools, and promote the career of education.”Rep. Craig Horn on November 22, 2019.

At this point, I’m planning on filing,”  – Rep. Craig Horn as quoted in NC Policy Watch.

If he does run for state superintendent for NC , Rep. Craig Horn will need to answer for his voting record concerning the following reforms and explain how that would transfer to his vision of promoting teaching as a profession to a younger generation.

  • revamped teacher pay scale
  • removal of due-process rights for newer teachers
  • removal of graduate degree pay for newer teachers
  • bonus / merit pay
  • uneven “average” raises
  • elimination of longevity pay
  • removal of retiree health benefits for new hires after 2021
  • HB17 that gave state superintendent new powers
  • financing a lawsuit between state superintendent and state board
  • per-pupil expenditures
  • removal of class size cap
  • instituting of a school performance grading system
  • cutting teacher assistants
  • creation of a voucher system
  • deregulation of charter schools
  • removal of charter school caps
  • virtual charter schools
  •  ISD
  • elimination of the Teacher Fellow program and reviving it as a small version of its former self
  • allowing a municipal charter school bill to pass

Oh, and that virtual pre-k thing.

And how can Horn even think about “promoting” the career of teaching in NC when there is no way that a future teacher can obtain the pay and due-process rights that this veteran teacher has that not only allows him to stay in the profession but enables him to advocate for public schools against the very “reforms” Horn has championed?

In reality, Horn has been part of the problem in what ails our future teacher pipeline.

And if he runs for state super, then he should answer for the policies he has voted to enact.

 

 

“Leaders don’t ask teachers what they think” – Mark Johnson Is Actually Right, But…

Too often in education, leaders don’t ask teachers what they think before the leaders design new education initiatives.” – Mark Johnson in a video announcement on November 25, 2019. 

That remark came at the 37-second mark of the video tagged above.

No truer words have been said – except Mark Johnson forgot to tell you a few things.

Specifically, he didn’t say that he was one of those leaders who ever really listened.

No. Questionnaires, surveys,  and glossy flyers do not allow for dialogue, much less speaking and listening. And there have been times when teachers have literally come to Raleigh to talk about public education.

One time it looked like this:

IMG_6484

Johnson wasn’t there listening.

When teachers have to take to the streets and form lines in front of schools before the bell rings to bring attention to conditions in our public school system, then there is a deliberate shunning of the teaching force.

When a budget is held hostage by the very leaders that Johnson says needs to listen to teachers but who also prop Johnson up as a state super, then this video is nothing but hot air on the internet.

It is insulting to be asked by a lameduck “educational leader” to “make your voice heard” on another emailed video when it is apparent to so many that none of the leaders to whom Johnson refers really does not want to listen to teachers.

makevoiceheard

And in all of his spewing about reducing testing, Mark Johnson still has not mentioned changing the school performance grading system to accommodate schools not being measured so much by tests.

NC is the only state (out of 16 which use a school grading system) that puts more emphasis on proficiency than growth and counts proficiency for 80% for a school performance grade. That proficiency is calculated by student test scores. Reducing testing but not changing the school performance grading dynamic ultimately leads to a rather negative effect: fewer tests will have much more power over proficiency grades for schools. In other words, fewer tests now have much more effect on schools. That’s increasing pressure on schools and students.

But will Johnson do anything about that?

No.

Because there has been no hint in his three years in office that he actually listens to teachers himself.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dear North Carolina Lawmaker, Exactly What is the Job Description of a Public School Teacher?

Almost five years ago, Sen, David Curtis delivered a rather uneducated response to a letter from a young teacher in which he outlined a close-minded viewpoint of the teaching profession.

Needless to say, it garnered quite a response from teachers around the state.

Other public education critics have gone out of their way to express a narrow-minded take on the teaching profession. For instance:

tim-peck-tweet

Actually, the answer to that is over $100,000. I did the math here.

In a state where the teaching profession has undergone assault after assault from lawmakers, many in Raleigh pin their opinions of teacher and school performance on test results and financial bottom lines. They then craft policies that match those opinions.

So I want to ask a non-rhetorical question of any lawmaker in North Carolina (and actually anyone else), what exactly is the job description of a North Carolina public school teacher?

This is by no means a loaded question or one that is asked to create a nebulous web of answers that would cloud the actual debate. But if public education is to be the issue that defines another session of the NC General Assembly which holds the budget hostage ove teacher pay,  that decides votes in a huge upcoming election year, and that all people already have some sort of stake in, then what the role of a public school teacher in North Carolina might need to be more understood.

Is it to deliver curriculum and teach mastery?

Is it to help students grow into productive citizens?

Is it to “teach” the whole child – intellectually, mentally, emotionally, etc.?

Is it to get students to pass standardized tests?

Is it to keep students safe?

Is it all all of those things and much more?

Below is a screenshot from the statutes of the General Assembly concerning the “duties” of teachers.

duties of teachers

They include a variety of “duties,” some more defined than others: discipline, “teaching,” reporting, provide for well-being, medical care, keep order, etc.

Now throw in some other factors and variables that have a direct effect on those “duties” like poverty, hunger, sickness, apathy, lack of resources, overcrowding, and respect for the profession. It makes those duties in the above statute seem a little more expansive.

So, what is the real job description of a public high school teacher in North Carolina that considers the defined duties, expectations, and realities of public educators? And are you willing to share that as a lawmaker who makes decisions on how teachers are resourced, treated, and viewed? If not, then you might need to educate yourself.

And if you are willing, are you ready to hear from teachers the truth?

But after all the platitudes, accolades, and lip service that so many in Raleigh have paid to the teaching profession, every lawmaker must ask him/herself, what is it really worth?

Because teachers are about to vote in less than a year.

With some new maps.

Advanced Degree Pay, Longevity Pay, and Local Supplements: What’s Really Happening Under Berger’s Watch

The way that NCGA leaders (primarily Sen. Phil Berger) have spun the narrative of advanced degree pay, longevity pay, and local supplements is more than disgraceful.

It’s flat-out egregious.

The GOP-led NC legislature decided in 2013 to end graduate degree pay bumps for new teachers entering the teaching profession. This is what Phil Berger said about those “pay bumps” this past spring in an interview with WFMY:

“Having an advanced degree does not make you a better teacher. We took the money we would have spent on masters pay and plugged it in to teacher raises.”

Add to that “investment” back into teacher salaries the fact that “longevity pay” was eliminated in 2013 as well under the guise of putting it into the actual salary scale for teachers.

From the summer session of 2013:

SECTION 9.1.(d) In lieu of providing annual longevity payments to teachers paid
on this salary schedule for the 2014-2015 fiscal year and subsequent fiscal years, the amounts of those longevity payments are built into this salary schedule.

So according to this, both advanced degree pay and longevity are still “there” for teachers except that it has been put back into the pool and re-disbursed into overall teacher salaries. Remember this from April 12th, 2019?

berger1Berger2berger3

A pay raise financed a lot with the money that would have been used for advanced degree pay and longevity pay. No wonder the veteran teacher in North Carolina will become a more endangered “species” in the years to come.

It makes this table compiled by John deVille, NC public school activist and veteran teacher who has chronicled the various changes in educational policy for years. He tracked the recent teacher pay “increases” and used DATA-DRIVEN logic to show this.

teacherpay2019

Now, add to the mix the issue of local supplements.

Well, a local supplement is an additional amount of money that a local district may apply on top the state’s salary to help attract teachers to come and stay in a particular district. While people may be fixated on actual state salary schedule, a local supplement has more of a direct effect on the way a district can attract and retain teachers, especially in this legislative climate.

But while Berger & Co. do not in any way finance local supplements, they more than gladly use the numbers to help bolster the average teacher salary in North Carolina for spinning purposes because that “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, facilities, and other initiatives like the municipal charter school bill.

So, advanced degree pay was “reinvested.” Longevity was “put into your salary.” And local supplements which will be threatened because of state mandates are gladly used to help spin a narrative on average teacher salaries.

Hmm.

DAN Can’t See The FOREST For The Trees – The Lt. Gov. Intentionally Looking At Public Education With Blinders On

Simply put, there is really no positive thing that Lt. Gov. Dan Forest has done for North Carolina public education.

He may tout “hooking” up all schools with high-speed internet, but then he will not stop that from being an avenue for replacing teachers with computerized instruction.

He may tout “school choice,” but his record of supporting a constitutionally mandated public school system is negative at best.

He may tout a strong record on holding schools accountable, but he made sure to present charter schools in a positive light no matter the truth. Remember this from 2016?

State education leaders sidetracked a report describing the overall student population at North Carolina’s charter schools as whiter and more affluent than student bodies at traditional public schools after Lt. Gov. Dan Forest complained it was too negative.

What makes that above snippet even more ironic (since it concerns diversity) is what Forest said a little over three years later at a church service this past July.

“No other nation, my friends, has ever survived the diversity and multiculturalism that America faces today, because of a lack of assimilation, because of this division, and because of this identity politics. But no other nation has ever been founded on the principles of Jesus Christ, that begin the redemption and reconciliation through the atoning blood of our savior.” – Lt. Gov. Dan Forest

He gave us license plates that never were. That’s because the demand never reached 500 to start the production.

plate1

And there’s that personal finance class that each student in North Carolina must now take. Forest championed a class that will supposedly teach students how to look at numbers correctly and navigate their way through a state economy that still has over 1 in 5 public school children living at or below the poverty level.

But he spends a lot of time running for governor in North Carolina. And not only is he running against Roy Cooper; Dan Forest is running against the North Carolina Association of Educators.

forest ncae

And for a man who supposedly made a career in the detailed-oriented field of architecture whose very basis is math and proper support for structures, Dan Forest is proffering an argument whose foundation is not only faulty, but intentionally false.

Attached to that tweet is a video presentation devoted solely to NCAE. It first makes reference to a recent report by Beth Wood concerning automatic pay deductions for organizations.

forest ncae2

From that Forest claims that NCAE has barely over 5,000 members.

forest ncae3

What he conveniently forgets to tell you is that the report clearly shows most organizations have many if not most of its members not use that form of payment for membership dues.

The very report he “quotes” tells us that. Look again.

HiseNCAE4

Only one group on that list has a membership that fully pays through payroll deductions. In fact, at least two of the groups have memberships that are ten times the amount of people who use payroll deduction. Any statistician would know better than to misrepresent the numbers in a statement (unless he did it for political purposes).

There are two other teacher advocacy groups on that list whose memberships are mostly represented by people who do not use payroll deduction. PENC has 4.59 times the total number of members as their payroll deduction members. The NCCTA has 16.39 times the total number of members.

If NCAE followed those trends (and it does), it could might have a membership of at least 24,744.

Dan Forest should be very scared of that – especially since the governor’s race in Kentucky was very aligned with teacher activism.

Then in the same presentation, Forest makes this claim.

forest ncae4

Forest says that the NCGA was to give teachers a 3.9% raise. Anyone taking a personal finance class can tell from the actual numbers in the bill that “raise” was introduced that Forest is not being detailed and refuses to show the foundational integrity of that claim.

Forest makes sure to note that Gov. Cooper vetoed that bill.

forest ncae5

That particular veto concerned Senate Bill 354.

SB354 1

That bill would have put the following salary schedule in place for teachers.

SB354 2

It would have replaced this salary schedule.

schedule4

The problem is that there is not much of a difference. In fact, it would only affect teachers with 16+ years and even then, not much at all. Just look at the comparison.

SB354 3

What that translates to is a monthly increase of $50 for all teachers with 16-20 years of experience.

150$/month for teachers with 21-24 years of experience.

$60/month for teachers with 25+ years.

How that translates into a 3.9% raise for teachers in this state is nearly impossible to even spin. And that’s coming from the guy who championed a personal finance bill for high schools.

Oh, by the way, Cooper had more raises for all teachers in his budget.

As an architect, Dan Forest should go back to the drawing table and build a better argument.