Four Letters That Display The Intentional Disconnect Leaders Have With Teachers & Public Education

Two of them were delivered just this week.

And all four of them were penned by State Board of Education members.

1. That Letter From Dale Folwell.

Remember this from last April?

“Did You Know?

During 2017, the state spent $3.3 billion on medical and pharmacy benefits. At the same time, costs have increased 5 to 10 percent while funding for the Plan only saw a 4 percent increase. In addition, the state has a $34 billion unfunded liability for retiree health care. This liability is a result of promises that were made for lifetime benefits but no money was ever put aside to pay for that benefit.

What Can You Do?

You can help sustain this benefit by taking control of your medical costs.”

Many teachers and other state employees received those words from Dale Folwell, CPA who is also the State Treasurer for North Carolina. He sent that letter with new ID cards for the state health plan that is contracted through Blue Cross and Blue Shield.

And simply put, his letter was rather insulting.

It was hard not to think that in a missive meant to outline benefits to a person whom “North Carolina values,” one was also being told that he/she literally cost too much, was promised too much, and that it was that teacher’s 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.

What if the words associated with benefits were replaced with words associated with public education?

2. Lt. Gov. Dan Forest’s  To Teachers.

lt dan letter1

2lt dan letter1

On December 6th teachers across the state received in their school email accounts a letter from Lt. Gov. Dan Forest concerning his “record” on public education. It was a “response” to Gov. Cooper’s recent letter about education spending and teacher pay.

In his missive, Forest bragged a lot about what he has done for public schools as the lieutenant governor when in actuality he has acted against them. Simply put, Forest is hoping that teachers will forget what this current NCGA he is aligning himself with has actually done to public education since 2011. That includes the removal of due process rights and graduate degree pay increases for new teachers, a greater reliance on standardized tests, the elimination of class size caps, instituting a punitive school grading system, fostering unregulated charter school growth and vouchers to religious schools, as well as the creation of an ineffective Innovation School District.

Add to that at least a 30% reduction in teacher candidates in our state’s education programs.

Every claim from pay freezes to Medicaid expansion to teacher salaries to per-pupil expenditures to NCAE membership numbers was a simple spun view of issues that require much more explanation.

Reading Forest’s letter is like listening to a man running for an office against a group of teachers rather than the incumbent.  And if Forest considers the actions of a group of five thousand people enough to send a letter like this to tens of thousands of public servants, then imagine what a group of over twenty thousand would make him do.

Wait, that happened twice – May 16, 2018 and May 1, 2019.

3. Mark Johnson’s Response To DIT’s Decision On iStation’s Stay.

First read Justin Parmenter’s post on Johnson’s statement. He nails it.

Aside from the prodigious use of quotations, the tone of teenage angst, and the pace of a first draft narrative from high school, this letter sums up the state superintendent’s love/hate relationship with actual transparency.

And it brings to mind…

4. Mark Johnson’s “I Am Also A Lawyer” Letter. 


Here’s the entire text that was sent this last August:

I’m the NC Superintendent of Public Instruction, but I’m also a lawyer. That’s a good thing on weeks like this one. 

 DIT improperly issued an injunction on the reading diagnostic contract this week that ignored due process and was in contradiction of state law and their own agency rules. DIT rendered a decision after only hearing arguments from one party, the losing vendor, and failed to give DPI its proper chance to respond.  

Today, DPI has filed a motion to dissolve this improper stay. DIT lawyers need to understand they are accountable to North Carolinians, not the CEO of Amplify. Given that DIT procurement specialists advised DPI throughout the procurement process, it is odd to begin with that the same department that approved the process is now in charge of reviewing that same process.  

We are reviewing our options to eliminate the uncertainty in our schools that DIT and this frivolous protest have recklessly created. 

Istation is the best reading diagnostic for NC students, parents, and educators. If you get outside the Raleigh Beltline or out of Uptown Charlotte, you get to read how Istation is already working. In Scotland County for example, the Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum and Instruction told the Scotland County Board of Education, “This is something that is really solid for students that’s going to make a difference,” and “It [Istation] is something that can really make a difference for the students.” 

And, we are getting similar feedback across North Carolina. The State Board and I made the right decision after a fair, just, and legal procurement process. It might not be supported by those who prefer to always go the more of the same route regardless of frustrations from teachers or lack of results for students. But, this is the right decision for the State of North Carolina. DIT has thrown this process into chaos, which is unacceptable, careless, and unnecessary. We are moving forward at DPI because we owe nothing less than positive change for our students and educators. 

For a man who has wanted you to know for over two years that he was a teacher for less than two years, he now wants you to know that he is a lawyer who knows the legal workings of Raleigh.

Maybe he could have saved the state money while defending his own office in the lawsuit over HB17 that lasted over a year.

Maybe he could have advised the very people who prop him up that their gerrymandered districts are unlawful.

And while he was at it maybe he could have fully and legally disclosed how he got money and made the agreement to purchase iPads that stayed in a warehouse for a full year.

All three of these men – Folwell, Forest, and Johnson – all serve on the State Board of Education.

Makes you want to educate as many as you can on why to not vote for them in 2020.