North Carolina’s Opportunity Grants – STILL The Least Transparent Voucher System In The Nation

The Children’s Law Clinic At Duke University’s Law School just issued its latest report on the voucher program of North Carolina called the Opportunity Grants.

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And while it shows that more students are using them for secular private schools, the majority of the vouchers are going to religiously affiliated schools. In fact, since they were created six years ago, over 90% of the vouchers given have gone to religious schools.

Below are some of the more illuminating data tables and graphs.

A sizable numbers of those new students awarded vouchers this year never have been to a public school.

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The vast majority of vouchers used in 2019-2020 still went to religious schools.

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Most of the schools that receive voucher students have a total enrollment of 250 students or less.

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Trinity Christian still ranks as the largest receiver of voucher funds. The top five are religious based schools.

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The largest receiver of voucher funds for secular schools closed suddenly in January of this year. FOR FINANCIAL REASONS.

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But probably the biggest takeaway is that NC literally has no good oversight as to how the vouchers are working.

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Hence, the list of recommendations makes incredible sense.

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The Anemic & Reactionary School Re-Opening Plan Of NC

EdNC.org published a post yesterday entitled “Expecting school to reopen like normal next year? Don’t.

And there were two rather disturbing aspects about what was reported concerning the State Superintendent’s plan to address the reopening of public schools this next school year.

First, Johnson was quoted as communicating to members of the COVID-19 taskforce,

“I will be blunt. Since the start of our switch to remote learning in March, I have held the belief that we are going to need to utilize remote learning next school year as well in some form or fashion.”

That’s what state Superintendent of Public Instruction Mark Johnson said in an email to members and advisors of a task force looking at how to safely reopen schools amid COVID-19.

The first part of March was two months ago. That’s two months of exploring options, talking to people, consulting experts, collaborating with other officials in other states, etc.  And truthfully, there really has not been any communication to local school systems or schools about what has happened in those two months among the decision makers.

That actually speaks volumes.

The second alarming reality of EdNC’s post is the comparison one can make among working drafts of plans to reopen schools that different states have put together.

Maryland has a plan:

It’s 54 pages right now.

Missouri has one that is over 90 pages.

Oklahoma has one that is now 45 pages.

And what is NC’s? Just this.

One page.

Says a lot.

The Average NC Teacher Salary is $54,682. Here’s Why That Polished Turd Is Grossly Misleading.

From the libertarian think tank John Locke Foundation today,

“According to DPI budget analysts, North Carolina’s average teacher salary reached $54,682 this year.  The 2019-20 average was an increase of $742 or 1.4% compared to the previous school year.  DPI declares that North Carolina’s average teacher compensation ranks second only to Georgia in the Southeast.  Last year, North Carolina ranked fourth in the region.”

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Of course, Stoops would spin this “statistic”into an empty narrative. Even Tim Moore tweeted out some praise for this empty “victory.”

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That figure is one of the most grossly manufactured statistics in this state. Let’s 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 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 (unless they use their own money to pursue a rigorous national certification process).

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So how can that be the average pay in NC be over 54K 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. Imagine what the pandemic will be doing to these funds.

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 54K then if current trends keep going.

And Stoops even knows that. From a report in the News & Observer in March of 2019:

Terry Stoops, vice president of research for the John Locke Foundation, says he agrees that the average teacher salary is misleading. But he questions why critics didn’t make more of an issue of its accuracy before Republicans began raising the state average.

“The fact that the average is influenced by factors such as the experience of teachers and the credentials that they possess is one of the reasons why the average is a misleading figure to use when discussing teacher compensation,” Stoops said. “But the problems preceded the Republicans.”

Interesting that he did not mention that the Republicans took away step increases and longevity pay and that they have been in power for almost a decade.

The Worst Commencement Speech of 2020 – It’s From a National Lawmaker

Just watch the video below.

And, no. It’s not satire.

Sen. Ben Sasse of Nebraska is not capable of satire.

Sums up a lot of what we as teachers and students have to work against.

 

 

May 17, 1954 – Brown Vs. Board of Education

Brown v. Board of Education (1954)

Brown vs. Board of Education. The decision on this landmark case was delivered 66 years ago yesterday. Below is the “Syllabus” of the court’s decision which was unanimous.

Syllabus

Segregation of white and Negro children in the public schools of a State solely on the basis of race, pursuant to state laws permitting or requiring such segregation, denies to Negro children the equal protection of the laws guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment — even though the physical facilities and other “tangible” factors of white and Negro schools may be equal.

(a) The history of the Fourteenth Amendment is inconclusive as to its intended effect on public education.

(b) The question presented in these cases must be determined not on the basis of conditions existing when the Fourteenth Amendment was adopted, but in the light of the full development of public education and its present place in American life throughout the Nation.

(c) Where a State has undertaken to provide an opportunity for an education in its public schools, such an opportunity is a right which must be made available to all on equal terms.

(d) Segregation of children in public schools solely on the basis of race deprives children of the minority group of equal educational opportunities, even though the physical facilities and other “tangible” factors may be equal.

(e) The “separate but equal” doctrine adopted in Plessy v. Ferguson, 163 U.S. 537, has no place in the field of public education.

(f) The cases are restored to the docket for further argument on specified questions relating to the forms of the decrees.

 

So, how far have we come here in North Carolina?

The Best “Technology” In Education Is Still The Well-Resourced Teacher

So much has been written and posted in education news outlets concerning the use of technology in North Carolina over the years.

That use of technology and the conversation surrounding it has only grown with the pandemic and the closing of physical school buildings and the use of remote learning.

Yes, technology is important. And investing in technology is important. In fact, investing in making sure that we upgrade routinely in technology is important.

But the best “technology” in education is the highly supported teacher. From Richard Gerver of EdSurge on December 24th, 2018:

In 2013, I had the opportunity to discuss the future of education with Eric Schmidt, who was then the executive chairman of Google. I was keen to find out his take: Would technology ever replace the teacher? At that time, this question was being debated throughout the education world. We had seen two decades of technological revolution in schools, starting with desktop computers, then networks, laptops, interactive whiteboard boards and on and on it went…

His answer to me was immediate and unequivocal. “No,” he said. “Never.”

He went on to explain that whilst technology was incredible, more than just a catalyst for change, it shouldn’t and wouldn’t ever replace teachers. Why? And why, especially, would one of the world’s foremost technology leaders believe this? Because, in his words, “Education, is, at its heart, about the development of human beings. To do that, you will always need high levels of human interaction.”

Before the pandemic, schools in my district used Chromebooks. Students were already put into Google Classrooms to collaborate. Papers and presentations came to my inbox via Google Docs and Google Slides. In fact, Google has more “free” applications” that are useful in the classroom when there is no emergency situation as we have now.

And its executive chair said, “Education, is, at its heart, about the development of human beings. To do that, you will always need high levels of human interaction.”

In over twenty years in a public school classroom in both rural and urban settings, I have seen curriculum changes, NCLB, RttT, EOC’s, EOG’s, AYP’s, and countless other standardized tests plus a countless flux in how teacher effectiveness and student achievement are measured.

The only constant is the student / teacher relationship.

It is about people – the best technology a classroom can have.

What makes a good teaching resource? | Opinion | RSC Education

May 16, 2018 Was Two Years Ago. So, What Are We Still Willing To Do?

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May 16, 2018. Much of what was at the center of that march is still relevant now. AND MORE!

No doubt that there are still some lawmakers who wish to forget what happened and let time work some magic in the memories of public school teachers and advocates.

But that was twp years ago. And for a lot of us, it is still fresh in our minds.

Tomorrow will be May 16, 2020. Almost six months divides this day in May with Election Day in November, and although there is still much to figure out in this recent pandemic and time of school closures, much can still be done between now and November.

Lots.

  • You can canvas for political candidates who are pro-public education.
  • You can make sure that friends and relatives are apprised of the current situation in North Carolina’s public education system and make sure that they are voting.
  • You can join education activist efforts to help galvanize more and more people.
  • You can call or email your legislators about issues and ask questions.
  • Be sure to look at local elections for school boards and county / city commissioners and make sure which ones are most sensitive to the plight of public schools.
  • Connect with others on social media and spread the word.
  • Volunteer to register voters and maybe even drive some to the polls when we are allowed to.
  • Find out about early voting and absentee voting options and help those in your family or circle of friends who may need these avenues to participate.
  • If you are not a teacher, then volunteer for a school when they reopen or go to events sponsored by the school and take others with you so they can see how important public schools are.
  • Wear Red 4 Ed.
  • Wear spirit wear from your local schools.
  • Remember what 20,000 teachers looked like on May 16, 2018 and how much that rattled the current powers-that-be.

The NCGA – Where Shrubs & License Plates Mean More Than Helping Public Education

The following tweets show various bills that were filed to help improve conditions for public education. These come from Keung Hui, the education reporter for the News & Observer in Raleigh.

Please notice a common theme.

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No GOP sponsors.

There’s a bill to restore Masters Pay for new teachers.

There’s a bill to postpone the class-size mandate for a year.

There’s a bill to help Pre-K funding.

There’s an infrastructure bond request for the next election ballot.

There’s a bill to require more transparency of how vouchers are really working.

There’s a bill to help address findings in the Leandro report.

AND NO GOP SPONSORS.

But we do have these…

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And those TeachNC license plates? Those aren’t for raising money for public education. They’re for providing “advertisement” of a program to recruit teachers through non-traditional avenues because this state has gone out of its way to create a teacher-candidate shortage.

 

 

 

Come August, Trump Might Hear Teachers Speaking Very Loudly

“It’s just — to me it’s not an acceptable answer, especially when it comes to schools.” 

That’s what Donald Trump said in response to Dr. Fauci’s comments about not reopening schools without more answers to existing questions about COVID-19.  

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You can listen to Trump’s “logic” and his “expertise” on the science of infectious diseases here.

While Trump and others like Sen. Rand Paul question the validity of Dr. Fauci’s words, high ranking government officials might want to heed the words of teachers and public education advocacy groups.

Consider this:

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The nation’s two biggest teachers unions say they would consider strikes or major protests if schools reopen without the proper safety measures in place or against the advice of medical experts — raising the possibility of yet more school disruptions.

American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten, previewing a reopening plan first with POLITICO, said funding is needed for a host of public health measures for schools, including personal protective equipment. Collective bargaining, strong enforcement of safety standards and protections from retaliation will be important for teachers and staff so they feel safe to speak up as schools try new approaches, she said.

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Teachers are united after more than two years of strikes for more state funding and they have “tremendous power” as advocates for children’s safety, said Lily Eskelsen García, president of the National Education Association. She didn’t rule out strikes if state leaders move prematurely on a reopening of schools, and she said she believes parents would protest too.

“You put all things on the table when it comes to student safety,” Eskelsen García said. “And … I don’t think we’ll be alone.”

Remember that according to Berger and Hise NC doesn’t have a teacher union but a left-winged group of 5,000 teachers that tries to speak for the profession. Well, that group did this one day when we didn’t have a pandemic and student safety wasn’t the primary issue.

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That number and more can make just as big a statement even while socially distant over this issue if it comes to that in August.

 

 

Not Billionaires, Private Interests, Or ALEC-Aligned Stooges – Teachers Need To Be At The Heart Of What Happens To Public Schools This Fall

About a year ago, my wife gifted me with a red t-shirt she purchased from The Bitter Southerner. This one to be precise.

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I am wearing it today since it is Wednesday and thinking a lot about how the landscape of public education has changed and might still be altered after this pandemic. I am also thinking about how all of the talk concerning how schooling needs to be revamped in the future. Most of all, I am trying to see if teachers are part of this planning or even asked to give input.

Gov. Cuomo of New York just put together atask force to “reimagine” schools in the coming year after the COVID-19 outbreak.

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And look who he put in charge – Bill Gates. In fact, that task force leaves out teachers.

In North Carolina, State Superintendent Mark Johnson’s Schools Reopening Task Force included no current teachers and no people from the three most hard hit areas by the coronavirus.

Even the man who crafted the precursor of North Carolina’s Read To Achieve Program and the School Performance Grading System while playing governor in Florida penned an op-ed in the Washington Post last week offered some ideas that would surely make his cronies some money.

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When Jeb Bush came to NC in the summer of 2018 at the behest of NC lawmakers, I don’t remember any teachers at that table.

It’s kind of like re-imagining health care without input from health care professionals or receiving marital advice from someone who has never been in a long-term relationship. It’s like getting counseling from someone who cannot even empathize with your situation.

But with the end of the traditional school year coming and the need to start talking about how we will proceed with fall, it is apparent that the input of teachers is paramount.

Why? Because “Teachers Can Turn This Thing Around.”

And don’t forget to vote this November.