A Vote For Dan Forest Is A Vote For Betsy DeVos And The Privatization Of Public Education In NC

Over 50% of the state budget for NC is spent on public education. Currently it stands around 56-57%.

And yes that is above the national average. And there is a reason for that.

Before we had a Republican-controlled legislature, the state spent an even higher percentage on public education because THAT IS WHAT THE STATE CONSTITUTION DECLARED.

Lost in this is the uneven fashion in which money from the state is actually dispersed to LEA’s on the county and city levels. One of the more cohesive explanations of North Carolina’s state funding practices is a publication by the Center for American Progress entitled “The Stealth Inequities of School Funding” produced in 2012. It summarizes our state’s practices in a fairly concise manner, especially on page 46.

When Dan Forest recently made known his education platform for his run at the governor’s office, he talked a lot about putting the state’s money for public education into the hands of parents who want to send their children to private schools as well as helping funnel more resources into charter schools.

foresteducation plan

Forest’s plan really mirrors that of another privatizer – Betsy DeVos. And Forest has made no secret that he is a fan of the absolute worst Secretary of Education that this country has ever endured.

In July, DeVos was in North Carolina to tout her new program about school choice. As reported by the News & Observer,

U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos and Lt. Gov. Dan Forest promoted a new federal school choice program Wednesday that could allow more families to attend private schools or to homeschool their children.

The N&O article quoted Kris Nordstrom who offered probably the most succinct critique of this new DeVos initiative.

Locally, Kris Nordstrom, education finance and policy consultant for the N.C. Justice Center’s Education and Law Project, said the proposed scholarship program is a terrible idea. He said it will likely result in more money going to help subsidize the tuition costs for parents who would have sent their children to private school anyway.

“We know that where we have these voucher programs we will be subsidizing religious extremist, anti-LGBTQ hate groups,” Nordstrom said in an interview Wednesday. “Schools that tell students dinosaurs walked with man, schools that tell students slavery wasn’t that bad.”

Nordstrom questioned the timing of the new program when DeVos is also talking about federal education cuts for initiatives such as afterschool programs and teacher training. DeVos attributed the cuts to Congress wanting the federal government to “tighten the belt.”

Nordstrom called Wednesday’s visit a “clown show all around” designed to help boost Forest, who is running for governor in 2020.

Nordstrom’s tweet later in the day clarified a little more about that “clown show.”

clown show

That license plate idea was an idea from back in 2015. The plates were to look like this.

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The demand never reached 500 to start the production.

Forest is aligning himself more and more with Betsy DeVos. This is from last June.

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It is ironic how Forest can be so anti pro-choice and so pro-school choice at the same time. But that is exactly what Betsy DeVos is as well.

At the end of June, 2019, Peter Greene, who writes the well-known Curmudgucation education blog wrote a piece for Forbes.com entitled “How School Choice Undermines Democratic Processes.”

In this very well-explained piece, he talks about something akin to what DeVos was pushing in North Carolina last summer – the Tax Credit Scholarship.

But Tax Credit Scholarships disempower taxpayers even further by putting the purse strings in the hands of wealthy individuals and corporations.

A TCS system essentially lets those folks give their dollars to schools instead of using the money to pay their taxes. In effect, the donors fund schools directly, rather than through tax dollars paid to the state (meanwhile, the state’s tax revenue drops a commensurate amount).

 

To The North Carolinian Gerrymandering & ALEC-Aligned Lawmaker Who Believes The Current School Performance Grading System Is Valid

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When lawmakers look at a school performance grade, do they even consider the other variables that help define a school. (And the following list is by no means complete).

  1. Does the school report card show how successful graduates are in post-secondary educational endeavors like Virginia which has dropped the performance grading system?
  2. Does the school report card consider the viewpoints of the parents whose students are being taught?
  3. Does the school report card consider the viewpoints of the students and how they feel about the learning experience and their security in the school and the classroom?
  4. Does the school report card consider how many students are taking “rigorous” courses?
  5. Does the school report card consider the amount of community service done by students in the school?
  6. Does the school report card consider the strength of the drama department and the quality of the productions?
  7. Does the school report card consider what is seen in the yearbook?
  8. Does the school report card consider the strength of the student newspaper?
  9. Does the school report card consider the strength of the JROTC program?
  10. Does the school report card consider the number of viable clubs and organizations on campus?
  11. Does the school report card consider the amount of scholarship money won by graduating students?
  12. Does the school report card consider the number of student participating in sports?
  13. Does the school report card consider the number of foreign languages offered?
  14. Does the school report card consider the number of students in the Student Section at a game?
  15. Does the school report card consider the number of students who wear spirit wear?
  16. Does the school report card consider the number of students involved in choral and musical endeavors?
  17. Does the school report card consider the number of students who attend summer academic study opportunities?
  18. Does the school report card consider the quality of the artistic endeavors of students through visual and performance arts programs?
  19. Does the school report card consider the strength of programs that hope to help marginalized students?
  20. Does the school report card consider the transient rate of the student body?
  21. Does the school report card consider the poverty levels of the surrounding area that the school services?
  22. Does the school report card consider the number of students who hold jobs?
  23. Does the school report card consider the effect of natural disasters such as hurricanes?
  24. Does the school report card consider the funding levels of the programs?
  25. Does the school report card consider the number of students on 504 plans or IEP’s?
  26. Does the school report card consider the rations of nurses and counselors to students?
  27. Does the school report card consider the class sizes?

Or does it just consider the power of poverty on a school?

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Give Schools and Students The Choice to Take Paper & Pencil Versions Of State Tests

During exams last year, the largest obstacles and tallest hurdles concerning giving exams dealt with technological issues. That’s because a vast majority of them were online.

This year, they are all online. And they begin a week after the winter break.

Knock out the Ethernet connections to a couple of buildings, have a bad connection in another building, and then some scattered wireless availability in a couple of other buildings, then a school can experience an immediate logistical nightmare.

And that’s before students even begin taking the actual tests.

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We have a state superintendent bent on making technology the pathway to “personalized” instruction and a Lt. Gov. bragging about how we as a state have connected every classroom in the state to the world wide web. And while that might be a tremendous benefit in handling data and sharing knowledge and applications, for testing it may not be that beneficial.

Ironic that both the state super and the Lt. Gov. are proponents of the school performance grading system that places so much emphasis on student achievement as measured by standardized tests and both the state super and Lt. Gov champion school choice.

More ironic is that the dependence on technology during many of the tests that measure the very “achievement” used to formulate school performance grades for schools (that embolden parents to make “choices” in the schools for their children to attend), might actually be adversely affecting the scores of the very exams students take.

Many studies show that most students do better when allowed to kinetically use paper and pencil on their tests and not have to interface with a computer online. Studies show that scores are higher, thinking is more critical, and confidence is heightened. But as a state, we are pushing these online versions.

Do students primarily take AP tests online? Do students primarily take IB tests online? Do students primarily take the SAT online? Do students primarily take the ACT online?

No, they do not. But those tests tend to have a fee associated with them that covers the cost of having them graded, especially the need to have critical human eyes grading critical writing samples measured by rubrics and not an algorithm.

And it is the monetary angle that is driving all of this online testing. Less paper, more streamlined, automatic delivery, and….

If we really want students to perform optimally on tests that are used to measure outlandish things like school performance grades should they not be allowed to take those tests in situations that benefit them the most?

Students and parents should be able to actually practice some sort of choice with how they can take a test (since “choice” is such a big buzzword with people like Mark Johnson). If a student wants to take tests on paper and pencil, then let that option be there. If a student wants to take it online, then let that option be there.

But, a student will not have to change rooms or have delays if the technology is not working for them if they take it on pencil and paper. And if money is a problem, then that might involve really examining what is important to invest in.

Besides, allowing for students to opt into taking state exams on pencil and paper is the very definition of letting them use “choice” to make their academics “personalized.”

And we have mentioned that we already take too many standardized tests.

Many times.

Lt. Gov. Dan Forest’s Attempt To Turn Teachers Against Teachers With An Unfounded Red Herring

Apparently Lt. Gov. Dan Forest is warning the state against one of the most evil entities known to humankind – teachers who advocate for public schools.

Not one week after he himself invaded schools with a misleading missive through actual teacher email addresses, he posts on social media that schools are being infiltrated by teachers with agendas to advocate for public schools and their students.

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Anonymous tips? Accusing schools of allowing NCAE members (only 5,000 members according to his letter) into schools? Keeping a list to punish schools? Calling on people to turn speculation into gospel to fuel electioneering efforts?

Of course he is! Because Dan Forest is not running a campaign for governor against Roy Cooper. He’s running a campaign against NCAE, and he is hoping to drive a wedge between teachers.

He uses the word “union” to identify NCAE. Remember that he wants to become governor of one of the seven states that bans unions and what those unions allow state workers to do: collectively bargain.

The ban itself was established in the Jim Crow-era. It literally is the last holdover as far as those laws are concerned.

Image result for map of states with collective bargaining rights 2018

Oddly enough, a recent study from the College of Education at the University of Georgia concluded that states which have strong teacher unions have a high correlation to stronger education spending especially after the Great Recession.

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In that letter referred to earlier that he sent to teachers, 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 was 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.

What he wants you to do is chase his red herring. As of right now, his Facebook post has garnered quite the response – over a thousand comments and over a thousand shares.

It’s a big red herring. But I would bet that most of the people who are offering comments are not teachers and could not express a perspective that best represents what is really happening in our public schools.

Yet it is humorous to see a man who in his eight years in office has really not done a thing for public schools try and turn teachers against each other over a group that he claims only has a few thousand members in a profession that totals over 100,000.

Actually, it’s not really humorous; it’s revealing. This candidate for our state’s gubernatorial race is scared of teachers.

 

A Question For Anyone Who Graduated High School Before 2002 (NCLB): How Many Standardized Tests Did You Take?

Can you name them?

Can you remember the score(s)?

Do you know if they are still administered today? If so, in the same form?

Were any given online?

Exam

Below is a list of the standardized tests administered by the state of North Carolina in our public schools last school year.

  1. North Carolina End of Grade Exam Math – Grade 3
  2. North Carolina End of Grade Exam English / Language Arts- Grade 3
  3. North Carolina End of Grade Exam Science – Grade 3
  4. North Carolina End of Grade Exam Math – Grade 4
  5. North Carolina End of Grade Exam English / Language Arts- Grade 4
  6. North Carolina Final Exam Social Studies – Grade 4 (Recently eliminated by DPI)
  7. North Carolina Final Exam Science – Grade 4 (Recently eliminated by DPI)
  8. North Carolina Writing Assignment – Grade 4
  9. North Carolina End of Grade Exam Math – Grade 5
  10. North Carolina End of Grade Exam English / Language Arts- Grade 5
  11. North Carolina Final Exam Social Studies – Grade 5 (Recently eliminated by DPI)
  12. North Carolina End of Grade Exam Math – Grade 6
  13. North Carolina End of Grade Exam English / Language Arts- Grade 6
  14. North Carolina Final Exam Social Studies – Grade 6
  15. North Carolina Final Exam Science – Grade 6
  16. North Carolina End of Grade Exam Math – Grade 7
  17. North Carolina End of Grade Exam English / Language Arts- Grade 7
  18. North Carolina Final Exam Social Studies – Grade 7
  19. North Carolina Final Exam Science – Grade 7
  20. North Carolina Writing Assignment – Grade 7
  21. North Carolina End of Grade Exam Math – Grade 8
  22. North Carolina End of Grade Exam English / Language Arts- Grade 8
  23. North Carolina End of Grade Exam Science – Grade 8
  24. North Carolina Final Exam Social Studies – Grade 8
  25. End of Course Test – Biology
  26. End of Course Test – English II
  27. North Carolina Writing Assignment – Grade 10
  28. End of Course Test – NC Math I
  29. End of Course Test – NC Math III
  30. NC Final – English I
  31. NC Final – English III
  32. NC Final – English IV
  33. NC Final – American History I
  34. NC Final – American History II
  35. NC Final – Civics
  36. NC Final – World History
  37. NC Final – NC Math II
  38. NC Final – Pre-Calculus
  39. NC Final – Discrete Math
  40. NC Final – Advanced Functions & Models
  41. NC Final – Earth & Environmental Science
  42. NC Final – Physics
  43. NC Final – Physical Science
  44. NC Final – Chemistry
  45. NC Test of Computer Skills

Depending on which math and science track a student has in high school, it is conceivable that a student who matriculates in NC’s public schools will take around 40 of these state tests.

That list does not include any local benchmark assessments, the PSAT, the ACT, the Pre-ACT, or any of the AP exams that may come with Advanced Placement classes.

Throw in some PISA or NAEP participants. Maybe the ASVAB and the Workkeys.

There’s probably more.

When I graduated high school last century, I never had to take even one-tenth of these kinds of assessments. I think I remember one of my SAT scores – certainly not my “superscore.”

But we wrote a lot of essays in my school.

Not short answers.

Essays.

Graded by real people.

Mark Johnson And His Terrible, No Good, Very Bad Week. Oh, And His Red Herring.

Three rather major events occurred this past week concerning North Carolina’s public schools and the state’s top educational leader did what he does best – attempt to deflect and pass the blame.

First, the “stay” on the implementation of iStation as the reading assessment tool for NC elementary students was upheld in a recent hearing. From EdNC.org on December 9th:

A Department of Information Technology (DIT) order Monday said the Department of Public Instruction (DPI) apparently took actions that favored Istation over the state’s former vendor, Amplify, when DPI awarded a new contract this year for its statewide K-3 reading assessment tool.

DIT General Counsel Jonathan Shaw’s order upheld a stay that has stalled the contract DPI awarded this past summer to use Istation’s services to test readers in early grades — but allowed Istation to continue supplying the state its services free of charge.

Amplify, the losing bidder and previous vendor, protested the state’s decision and procurement process in June. In August, Amplify was granted a stay of the contract until the process was reviewed. Last week, DPI and Istation asked DIT for a decision on the review by Monday. Shaw’s order was DIT’s response.

Johnson, who has reminded North Carolinians that he is also a lawyer, released a pathos-driven statement that of course placed blame on others.

RTAJohnson3

Secondly, it was reported on Friday that The Office of State Budget and Management had begun to investigate Mark Johnson’s authorization of money used to buy iPads to be utilized in the state specifically for reading assessment initiatives in elementary schools. From WRAL:

The Office of State Budget and Management (OSBM) sent a letter to the Department of Public Instruction on Oct. 22 challenging state Superintendent Mark Johnson’s purchase and distribution of iPads to public school teachers.

In the letter from Kristin Walker, deputy state budget director, to Barbara Roper, the chief financial officer at DPI, Walker said that the use of the money wasn’t appropriate and that her office was sending the letter to prevent this from happening again.

“…we wanted to bring this to your attention to prevent this oversight from occurring in the future,” she wrote.

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Then there was the release this past week of WestEd’s Leandro Report. What did the top official in the state as far as public education is concerned say about the findings in the Leandro Report?

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That’s right. Nothing. At least not yet.

iStation, iPads, and the Leandro Report. That’s not a very good week for DPI and especially its “leader” who reorganized the Department of Public Instruction to have all activities and actions funnel through him as he runs for Lt. Gov. in the 2020 election.

So, what does Mark Johnson – the lawyer, former two-year teacher, almost one-term school board member – do?

Plays politician – to try and deflect any responsibility and lay blame someplace else.

From WRAL this past Friday:

North Carolina Superintendent Mark Johnson says the State Board of Education violated the state’s Read to Achieve law, causing more than 70,000 students to be “improperly socially promoted,” according to a memo he sent to “interested parties.” The memo is not dated and does not list who the interested parties are.

For a man who touts transparency and accountability, he forgot to mention the dates and names of those who are accused in his memo. That makes it ambiguous enough to not have its details investigated. Even in his memo, Johnson does not really clarify when he really noticed this “violation.”

RTAJohnson

Numerous stories? Do any of those “stories” include the NC State review study of the Read to Achieve that found it horribly implemented and did not show any significant gains? Of course not.

The timing of this released memo does not seem coincidental, and its nebulous nature in how it identifies supposed culprits and violations makes it seem like a rushed attempt to save some face.

Ironically, all three news events presented earlier have something to do with Read to Achieve. Clearly the iStation procurement process and the purchase of iPads have direct ties to Read to Achieve.

And the Leandro Report even makes a mention of RTA. It stated on page 15 that it “reaches only a small share of the students who could benefit from it.” That’s a statement on the implementation of Read to Achieve as directed by the North Carolina General Assembly (who under Sen. Phil Berger pushed this legislative mandate based on a JEb Bush style program in Florida).

Makes one wonder if Johnson sent the memo to Berger.

In any case, this red herring by Mark Johnson was not thrown far enough away from him. The stench of incompetence still surrounds him.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Many Incumbent NC Lawmakers Brag About Average Teacher Pay In Their Campaigns. Here’s Why That is Misleading.

From March of 2019 in the News & Observer about the new 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-nine 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.

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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 the current spokesperson for Sen. Phil Berger care to debunk this?

What Our State Superintendent Said About The Leandro Report

The release of WestEd’s Leandro Report and its resounding call that NC should seismically increase its funding of public education will reverberate strongly in these next few months; 2020 promises to be a contentious election year.

And public education is one of the issues (along with Medicaid expansion) that has prompted Sen. Phil Berger to stall the passing of a budget that addresses the needs of our students.

As soon as the report was released last week, feedback and commentary came swiftly from the media, education professionals, lawmakers, and teachers.

And what has the top official in the state as far as public education is concerned had to say about the findings in the Leandro Report?

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That’s right. Nothing.

This is the leader who

  1. Conducted a “listening tour” around the state to gather ideas to help craft innovations in classroom teaching and never really presented those findings, who also
  2. Said that he would decrease the amount of standardized testing that NC would subject students, but continues to laud a faulty school grading system, who also
  3. Celebrated the “revamped” NC School Report Card website and further entrenched our state into a relationship with SAS and its secret algorithms, who also
  4. Called for an audit of the Department of Public Education, a million dollar audit to find wasteful spending that actually showed that DPI was underfunded, who also
  5. Did a reorganization of DPI and replaced high ranking officials with loyalists from the charter industry and made them only answer to him and not the State Board of Education, who also
  6. 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, who also
  7. Rallied for school choice advocates and never rallied with public school teachers, who also
  8. Bought 6 million dollars worth of iPads using unlawful procedures, who also
  9. Supported both the extensions and renewed investment of two failed initiatives –  Read to Achieve and the NC Virtual Charter Schools – who also
  10. Championed the Innovative School District which to date has not shown any success, who also
  11. Set up a personal website to act like a website for information about his job and initiative, but really looks more like a campaign website, who also
  12. Held a private dinner to make announcements about public education in February of 2018 launching his #NC2030 initiative of which nothing has been mentioned since, who also
  13. Used a for-profit company to “allow” teachers to get “supplies” for the new school year, and who also
  14. Unilaterally decided to sign a contract with iStation.

This leader who is running for a higher office next year has said this about the Leandro Report:

absolutely nothing.

 

 

What This Teacher Who Is A Parent Of A “Special-Needs” Child Saw In The Leandro Report – INCREASE FUNDING. (Here’s An Idea)

The recommendation of “Increase the cap on Exceptional Children funding” is used five times in WestEd’s Leandro Report 

I am the proud parent of two children in our public schools. One is a highly intelligent and academically driven young lady. The other one is a sixth grader and what some in the educational field might call “special.” Officially, he is an “EC” student.

Specifically, that child has Down Syndrome and is also on the autism spectrum and needs modifications in school that help him to learn optimally.

Some may say that I am the parent of a Special-Ed, DS – ASD child. I rather think of being a parent of a child named Malcolm who happens to have Down Syndrome and autism and an IEP.

And both my kids are special to me. As is every student in our schools.

I also teach high school coming into contact with as many different personalities and learning styles that can possibly be contained in crowded classrooms with overarching standards.

In my twenty-year-plus  career, nothing has made me more attuned and more aware of the spectrum that exists in all classrooms for learning than being a parent of a child who happens to have special needs and requires modifications in school.

That includes:

  • The need to keep engaging and reengaging students.
  • The need to have individual tie with students to focus on individual work.
  • The need to allow students to engage with each other collaboratively.
  • The need to allow students to be exposed to various options for learning.
  • The need to expose students to other students’ methods.
  • The need for sufficient resources and space.
  • The need to revisit parts of the curriculum to ensure mastery.
  • The need for unstructured time spent in curious endeavors.
  • The need to offer some choices in what is pursued as far as learning is concerned.
  • The need for students to be exposed to all subject areas as each student is intelligent is multiple ways.
  • The need for students to have self-guided learning.
  • And the list goes on and on.

And in my career, not many things have given me insight to how much schools in North Carolina have been hampered by under-funding and ill-gotten policies in allotment for EC teachers and resources as going through an IEP process.

Remember that an IEP is a legally binding document. As a parent, I want to do everything for my child to help ensure his chances at success. As a teacher, I would want to be able to offer anything that could help a student. I see both sides. In an IEP meeting for my son, I am a parent. But as a teacher, I can reflect on how teachers and schools look at IEP’s.

The last IEP meeting we had for Malcolm was a great example of simple collaboration. The teachers in the room wanted what was best for Malcolm. The specialists in the room wanted was was best for Malcolm. The parents felt like they were listened to.

The people made it work. But imagine if there were more resources and time at their disposal. And does this happen at all schools?

There is something available to parents like me and my wife for students like Malcolm. It’s called the Personal Education Savings Account. It allows for a maximum of $9,000 of taxpayer money to be used on educational services that parents or guardians deem necessary. From edchoice.org:

ECLEandro2ESA2

We would qualify.  But we will not apply for it, and we would never criticize a family for using one. There truly are needs that require certain measures.

But there are a few reasons why we would not apply.

The first is that like many other endeavors in the reform minded views of lawmakers, the NC ESA is highly unregulated. It is crafted much like Arizona’s program and that one has been highly abused because it is lacks oversight. Instances of using funds for non-educational purchases were not uncommon.

Also, if you look at the requirements, using the ESA “releases the school district from all obligations to educate the student.” That can be interpreted in a few different ways, but ultimately it absolves the school system from being responsible for the services it would have already provided if the ESA was not used. An IEP would cover it, if that IEP was constructed so.

Furthermore, it would seem like taking money away from other students in a state where per-pupil expenditure still lags behind the .

If 11% of the state’s student population  is eligible for an ESA, and each of those ESA’s can go up to $9,000 per student, it makes one wonder why the state would not consider simply going ahead and adding that amount of money to the very public school that the student with special needs already attends.

In fact, it would be great if we as a family could apply for the ESA and simply give it to Malcolm’s public school.

If that money is already available for families who qualify who choose to keep their students in public schools, then it could then be immediately plugged back into those public schools and help alleviate what the Leandro Report from WestEd recommends five times – “increase the cap on Exceptional Children funding.”

But Raleigh made sure that was not the way it worked.

Below are some excerpts and data points from the Leandro Report specifically dealing with Exceptional Children policy.

 

“The state reported 1,621 teacher vacancies — a consequence of declining supply and high turnover — that could not be filled by qualified teachers during 2017–18, with the greatest number of vacancies in positions for teachers of exceptional children at all levels, elementary school teachers, math teachers, and career and technical educators” (p.18). 

“Consistent with prior research (Duncombe & Yinger, 2004; Taylor, Willis, Berg-Jacobson, Jaquet, & Caparas, 2018), the research team’s education cost function analysis indicates that more funding is required to produce the same outcomes for student populations with greater needs (e.g., English learners, economically disadvantaged students (EDSs), and exceptional children). Similarly, the professional judgment panels consistently noted that additional resources are necessary to adequately serve students with greater needs” (p.35). 

(Recommendation of report) – “Revise the state’s funding system so that current and additional funding is distributed to students with the greatest need. In order to do this:
– Add weights to the position allotments to account for higher-need student groups.
– Increase the cap on exceptional children funding” (p.50).

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“During the needs assessment, district CFOs reported that restrictions on the allowable uses of allotments, along with new restrictions around the Classroom Teacher allotment, hamper their ability to align funding to student needs. The analysis indicated that in 2010–11, allotments with substantial flexibility represented roughly three quarters of K–12 state funding. By 2018–19, allotments with substantial flexibility represented only about one fifth of K–12 state funding. This finding corroborates North Carolina’s Program Evaluation Division 2016 report, which found that the system’s local flexibility has been drastically reduced in recent years. The report notes the General Assembly’s new restrictions on various allotments, including the Teacher Assistants, Exceptional Children, Academically or Intellectually Gifted, and Textbook allotments (186-187).”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Holding Teacher Pay Hostage Again – The Latest From Sen. Phil Berger

Earlier today, Sen. Phil Berger released the following statement.

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This is not the first time Berger has issued such a statement.

Remember the last part of October? From the News & Observer:

Republicans in the General Assembly are offering Democrats a deal that would mean raises for teachers and some other state employees if the state budget becomes law.

North Carolina teachers could get the 3.9% raises over the next two years that are in the state budget, which includes step increases for longevity, or an additional raise that would bring the total raise to 4.4% if Democrats vote with Republicans to override the governor’s veto of the budget, Republican General Assembly leaders announced Wednesday…

“There’s still time for Senate Democrats to come back to us with what more they need to override the veto. This bill can change in five minutes. Otherwise, this is it. If the Governor vetoes this bill, teachers and support staff are the only ones in the state who will get nothing,” Berger said.

Apparently, that ultimatum wasn’t “it” because now it is over forty days later than that time. And on October 30th, it had been over 100 days and 4 million dollars wasted on an extended session in which Phil Berger did not have the guts to even call a vote on a veto-override in the NC Senate.

It’s funny that Berger mention that it was “impossible to negotiate teacher pay in isolation.” Didn’t Berger and his cronies literally ram last summer’s (2018) budget process through a committee? That was done in “isolation.”

This is nothing more than holding teacher pay hostage. After the release of WestEd’s LEANDRO Report, this seems more like damage control.

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While “Bunker” Berger stays behind his sanctimonious trench of partisan politics, this veteran teacher will continue to do his job of teaching students…

…and encouraging others to vote in 2020 for pro-public education candidates.