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.”
Teachers and other state employees received those words from Dale Folwell, CPA in late 2018. Folwell is 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.
Simply put, that letter was rather insulting at he time, at least to me and to some other teachers.
I could not help to think that in a missive meant to outline benefits to a person whom “North Carolina values,” I was also being told that I literally cost too much, was promised too much, and that it was my job to not be as much of a burden on the state, that it was my job to not put myself in situations where I might even risk becoming a financial burden on the state.
“This is probably the most intense thing I’ve ever been through, and my message to the readers is that taking the advice from both federal and state officials is going to ensure the safety from all of us,” Folwell said.
He went to the hospital Sunday, March 29, on the advice of his doctor after his oxygen levels dropped. Folwell said he only experienced the cough and breathing difficulties, and the other symptoms — such as fever — never appeared.
Before being diagnosed, Folwell traveled out of the state — to the “hinterlands of Utah with friends and family — and made several stops at various North Carolina newsrooms and media outlets, including the Winston-Salem Journal.
Two Journal employees self-quarantined after learning of Folwell’s diagnosis.
Folwell said he thinks he got the virus in North Carolina, not in Utah, and said no one on his trip showed any symptoms. He said he is not sure where in North Carolina he got the virus.
Again, Folwell said, “taking the advice from both federal and state officials is going to ensure the safety from all of us.”
The day that that particular article ran was April 8th and it was after Folwell had recovered. But on April 8th, the state had a little over 200 new cases confirmed with COVID-19.
On July 30th, that number was eleven times higher.
And just a week ago, Folwell was wanting to help seek waivers for school districts that were thinking about going to in-person instruction when the school year started.
“State Treasurer Dale Folwell asked if there’s a waiver process for districts or charter schools that feel they can operate safely under Plan A, the least restrictive model that allows for in-person instruction.”
I wonder if he resent that initial letter about “taking control” of healthcare decisions to the teachers of those schools.
Charter schools occupy a blurry space between public schools and small businesses. They are free to attend and funded like traditional districts, with public money given for every student. Yet, charters are managed independently, autonomous from the traditional school district in which they reside.
In North Carolina, charter schools typically receive less local funding than their district counterparts, though unlike traditional public schools, charters aren’t obligated to provide students with transportation or free meals.
Last year, there were close to 200 charter schools in the state.
In addition to PPP loans, many charters received federal CARES Act funds. For example, Sugar Creek Charter School in Charlotte reportedly received a PPP loan between $2 million to $5 million while also getting $438,000 in federal CARES Act money.
In contrast, school districts only collected CARES Act relief.
“Our public schools are being thrown to the wolves,” said Renee Sekel, founder of the parent-run public education advocacy group Save our Schools NC. Sekel accused charters of “double-dipping” by acquiring both businesses loans and public school funds.
You can make your own decision as to whether an entity that claims to be a public school can take out “business loans” while taking public money. But the North Carolina Association for Public Charter Schools anticipated that charters taking PPP money would raise eyebrows.
The Small Business Administration is expected to release data today, showing which organizations received loans through the Paycheck Protection Program. The names of recipients who received loans of $150,000 or more will be revealed, as well as addresses, NAICS codes, zip codes, business type, demographic data, nonprofit information and the number of jobs supported.
Rather than providing the precise dollar amounts of the loans, they will be categorized in the following ranges:
$150,000 to $350,000
$350,000 to $1 million
$1 million to $2 million
$2 million to $5 million
$5 million to $10 million
This could generate renewed interest and fresh reporting on charter schools receiving PPP loans. In advance of the data release, the National Alliance has prepared guidance to help with possible media queries.
If you are contacted by a reporter who is writing about this story, we strongly urge you to respond. If you are uncomfortable providing an interview, it is also fine to offer a written statement. Being unresponsive will suggest there is something to hide. Since the information will be public and the funds were lawfully accessed to address emergency needs, there is nothing to gain from being unresponsive. Please do not use this as an opportunity to reinforce that charter schools are traditionally underfunded when compared with traditional public schools, as PPP loans were not intended to address ongoing funding inequities. Attached to this email, please find a communications toolkit and a template for a media statement that can be customized, in case this is helpful in providing a quick response.
The National Alliance has provided these talking points that may also be helpful:
Equity – We believe this is the most important message…
While many district schools reduced instructional time and in some cases called for a halt to all distance learning, charter schools chose to lean in and do whatever is necessary to keep educating their students, and in many cases they offered to support students outside their community.
Charters are frequently mischaracterized as taking from the public school system – of which they are a part, and those same people who mischaracterize charter schools immediately remember we are public schools when we step up to secure the resources our students need, deserve and are entitled to under the law.
Charter school students are disproportionately black and brown – members of the communities most affected by the current health, social justice and economic crises.
During the pandemic, charter schools stepped up and did what was right – whatever it took to keep educating their students – extra hours, extra staff, extra resources. And that costs money. It costs money to do it right. And it’s money that was available to them under the law.
Why Did Schools Apply for the Money?For some charter schools, this was a lifeline. Charter schools disproportionately serve underserved students who had greater needs. Sixty percent of charter schools are single site, independently run schools with small budgets. There was a real risk of layoffs because charter schools had to pay overtime to teachers, hire supplemental staff, and they were unable to do fundraising for the funds needs to cover mortgage/rent payments and utilities. Typically, charter schools receive 80% of what district schools receive in public funding and they have to raise funds to cover the rest.
Why do Charters Have Different Costs than Districts? Single-site charters don’t have a central office staff. Paraprofessionals had to be paid out of their local budget. The PPP allowed them to do things like pay administrative staff, cafeteria workers and janitors, while still covering expenses for extra instructional needs and support for families. Charters had to take money from the operating budget to pay for extra expenses like providing internet access and digital devices.
Without the PPP funding some charter schools would have been more vulnerable to default on a mortgage or rent, or forced to lay people off. Collective bargaining agreements in district schools prohibited the number of hours teachers could work, while charter schools were able to supplement staffing and pay for extra hours needed to train staff and support students. Conversely, we saw examples across the nation where collective bargaining agreements were used to justify cutting work hours and time for instruction.
LA Unified District is just one example of how a collective bargaining agreement was used to pull back on instructional time.
Guidance to Schools from the National Alliance The Alliance has always stated clearly that if schools don’t need it, then they shouldn’t apply for it. Schools were advised to consult with their attorneys and accountants and determine whether it was the right thing to do. The National Alliance provided important information to charter schools who were struggling financially, but the determination of a crisis was made at the operator level.
Was it “double dipping?” For certain charter schools the PPP funding was an absolute lifeline. There are about 1700 charters that sit under LEAs and have no guarantee of receiving any portion of the $13.5 billion in CARES Act emergency funding the K-12 schools. They had immediate expenses that many districts do not have – paying rent, hiring substitute teachers, and paying overtime hours for their teachers working to provide student support. Many district schools had CBAs that limited the amount of hours that teachers could work. In some instances, they used those CBAs to halt instruction all together. Charters had the flexibility to lean in and do whatever was required in that moment to make sure students had what was required for distance learning. Often, that meant extra hours and teachers had to be compensated for it.
Charter Schools are Public Schools Charter schools are public schools that qualify for this emergency assistance. The PPP was not only set up for small businesses – it was also set up for nonprofits. We believe appropriators had an understanding of the complexity of charter schools, and that’s why they were not prohibited from receiving relief funding. District schools have other options available like taking out bonds.
INSERT NAME applied for and received a Paycheck Protection Program loan to meet the urgent needs of our students during a time of crisis.
The PPP allowed our school to pay administrative staff, cafeteria workers and janitors, while still covering expenses for extra instructional needs and support for families. Our school had to take money from the operating budget to provide internet access and digital devices to students. Without the PPP funding we would have been more vulnerable to default on our [MORTGAGE OR RENT] or forced to lay off staff.
As a charter school, our nimble, innovative structure gave us the flexibility to pivot quickly to keep our focus on what is most important: continuing to provide a high-quality education, though done remotely, to students during the COVID-19 pandemic. (Discuss how your school continued to serve students). It takes money to sustain this level of educational programming.
As non-profit organizations, charter schools were legally provided the ability to apply for PPP funds. These funds provided financial support to pay employee wages during the coronavirus pandemic, ensuring employees kept their positions. For many charter schools, whose students already receive less funding than their local district peers, this program provided essential financial assistance.
An “Opportunity Grant” in North Carolina is worth up to $4200 a year to cover (or help cover) tuition at a non-public participating school.
According to the Private School Review, there are 34 private schools in North Carolina for which an Opportunity Grant could cover the entire tuition ($4200 or less).
The average cost of tuition at a private school in NC is almost $10,000. The most expensive has a tuition of over $55,000.
All 34 of those aforementioned schools are religiously affiliated schools. Over 20 of them take Opportunity Grants.
Please remember that tuition is only one of the costs. There tend to be other fees and expenses like books, supplies, transportation, costs for extracurricular activities, and food. What a voucher can’t cover, the family must fund themselves.
Currently NC is on pace to give almost a billion dollars to vouchers within the next ten years.
Here is some more food for thought from the NCSEAA, the North Carolina State Education Assistance Authority.
Again, mostly religious schools that do not have regulations on curriculum and nothing really to enforce open admission standards. In fact, in most cases, it is hard to even measure how well voucher students do academically compared to public schools which are highly regulated and very transparent. From that most recent Duke study:
Now just view the schools in the past few years that have taken the most voucher money.
And Dan Forest wants all students in North Carolina to have these.
It’s always nice when Phil Berger pretends to care about issues in North Carolina that truly affect the citizens. And when he gets his lackeys to communicate his devotion to “equity” and “gaps” it almost reaches comically tragic proportions.
Below is a tweet from his “special counsel:”
That’s actually hilarious. Why? First, this conveys the absolute fear that Berger and his cronies have for organized teachers fighting for better public schools. Secondly, Justin Parmenter is right that “nobody in the last ten years has worked harder against equitable education outcomes in NC than Senator Berger.”
Consider that no Senate budget in the state of North Carolina gets released without Phil Berger’s approval.
And the one he was trying to pass before the pandemic did nothing to help relieve what has been ailing public education in NC.
If Berger had his way all then NC Senate’s budgets would all have:
Schools still being judged by the 80/20 formula where the %80 is achievement. NC is the only state where achievement is over half of the formula.
No graduate pay restoration.
No longevity pay restoration.
No Medicaid expansion.
No minimum wage for school employees.
More money for vouchers.
If you do not think then prove it otherwise. Just look at the voting records of people in his party and you will see that he controls the rank and file. And if you want to make the argument that a post like this is targeting a certain political party, then it sure is. But this is not the party that my grandparents knew. This is the party that has drifted from its roots of supporting strong public schools in this state and done what Phil Berger dictates.
Under the leadership of Sen. Phil Berger, the NCGA has done this to public schools in North Carolina:
Teacher Pay – Manipulated raises to make it appear that the “average” teacher salary raise is higher than “actual” raises.
Removal of due-process rights – Teachers who are not protected by due-process will not be as willing to speak out because of fear.
Graduate Degree Pay Bumps Removed.
Push for Merit Pay and Bonus Pay – The bottom line is that merit pay destroys collaboration and promotes competition.
Health Insurance and Benefits – Simply put, health benefits are requiring more out-of-pocket expenditures, higher deductibles, and fewer benefits. Legislation has also taken away retirement health benefits for those who enter the profession now.
Attacks on Teacher Advocacy Groups (NCAE) – Seen as a union and therefore must be destroyed, the North Carolina Association of Educators has been incredibly instrumental in bringing unconstitutional legislation to light and carrying out legal battles to help public schools.
Revolving Door of Standardized Tests – Like other states, we have too many. Such a revolving door makes the ability to measure data historically absolutely ridiculous.
Reorganization and a Weakening of the Department of Public Instruction – It all started with HB17 that was “passed” in a special session of the North Carolina General Assembly after the 2016 elections and before the new terms began.
Less Money Spent per Pupil – When adjusted for inflation.
Remove Caps on Class Sizes – The math is simple: more students per teacher.
Jeb Bush School Grading System – This letter grading system used by the state literally shows how poverty in our state affects student achievement.
Cutting Teacher Assistants – NC has lost nearly 7500 teacher assistant jobs in the last ten years.
Opportunity Grants – Opportunity Grant legislation is like the trophy in the case for the GOP establishment in Raleigh. It is a symbol of “their” commitment to school choice for low-income families. But it is the least transparent system in the nation.
Charter Schools – Many charters abuse the lack of oversight and financial cloudiness and simply do not benefit students. Especially in rural areas, uncontrolled charter school growth has been detrimental to local public schools.
Virtual Charter Schools – There are two virtual charter academies in NC. Both have been run by for-profit entities based out of state. Both also have rated poorly every year of their existence.
Innovative School District – Only one school is part of this ISD which has its own superintendent and was really was never wanted in the first place.
Reduction of Teacher Candidates in Colleges – At last report, teaching candidate percentages in undergraduate programs in the UNC system has fallen by over 30% in the last five years.
Elimination of Teaching Fellows Program – Once regarded as a model to recruit the best and brightest to become teachers and stay in North Carolina was abolished because of “cost”. Yes, it was reintistited, but as a shadow of its former self.
Class Size Chaos – It was never funded by the NCGA.
Municipal Charter School Bill – Passed as a local bill, it now has gone statewide to literally allow for segregated schools.
A Puppet of a State Superintendent – If someone wants to make an argument for how great a job Mark Johnson has done, then I am ears.
There is more.
Too many kids are hungry and poor in this state. ALEC style reforms have not worked. Veteran teachers are being ignored.
The graphics below chart actual data during the time that Phil Berger has been leader of the NC Senate.
The above tweet is a little off on DeSantis’s kids going to schools and might misrepresent Rubio, but…. From the Tampa Bay Times:
“With Florida’s schools emerging as the latest battleground in the fight over coronavirus public health measures, the state’s three top Republicans aren’t entirely in agreement about what they think is the safest way to go to school when it comes to their own family members.
Gov. Ron DeSantis said his children, who are too young to attend school, would be going in person if they were old enough.
Sen. Rick Scott said his grandchildren will not attend school in person.
And Sen. Marco Rubio did not say if his children would attend classes in person when asked by the Miami Herald, but said he wants to see Miami’s community spread decrease in the coming weeks before students return.”
Might be a good time to ask of Phil Berger’s grandchildren will be attending school in person.
Or Catherine Truitt’s?
Or any other NC lawmaker who has called for fully reopening schools.
You will not need to ask Dan Forest. His school-aged children are homeschooled.
And the President of the United States’s youngest child (from the NYTimes)?
In 2011 North Carolina got a super-majority in the NC General Assembly and the rise of Sen. Phil Berger as the most powerful lawmaker in the state. Then we got the removal of due-process rights, graduate degree pay bumps removed, less per-pupil expenditures, vouchers, unregulated charter school growth, school performance grading system, class size cap removed, etc.
And then came the 2016 election of Mark Johnson and a special session in late 2016. It was supposed to be for hurricane relief after another busy storm season.
It gave us HB17.
With the effects of House Bill 17 from the surreptitious special session of December in 2016, Mark Johnson became the most enabled incoming state superintendent in state history. He gained powers that even his predecessor did not possess one-half the magnitude of.
DPI got reorganized. The State Board of Education got less control over the state’s public school system.
And Phil Berger got his puppet.
Below is what DPI’s organizational chart was prior to the new reorganization.
This is what it looks like now.
But Mark Johnson will not be the state superintendent after this term. In fact, he will not be in Raleigh. If this teacher has his way, Jen Mangrum will be the new NC State Super.
And Phil Berger fears Jen Mangrum. She forced him to actually campaign in his 2018 state senate race in a district that if it had not been redrawn, Mangrum could have won. She scared the hell out of him. She met every ill-conceived obstacle he threw at her head on and she overcame. In the final month of the campaign season, Berger resorted to an old method of electioneering: hyperbole mixed with appeals to unfounded fears.
That message sent by Berger was one of fear – the fear that the voters in his district might have seen through his empty rhetoric and partisan actions and voted for someone who actually will represent all people.
Interestingly, the word “mob” can be looked upon in a few different ways, but in many instances it is a group of citizens galvanized for immediate action. And that mob just might put Jen Mangrum in the state superintendent’s office with the power that was originally designed for Mark Johnson.
Johnson did Berger’s bidding.
Mangrum will not.
And there is no super majority for Berger to call a special session and allow him to reverse the effects of HB17 at his will.
Just released. And you can buy a print of it here.
Here’s the website’s “description:”
“I have been discouraged by the times in which we live—a battered economy, a confusing pandemic, civil unrest, riots, and the blind rage of those who seek to destroy our country. What’s even more troubling, is that many in the mainstream media have seemingly joined forces with those who are actively (and seditiously) trying to burn America to the ground.
While thinking about these things, the White House released a photograph—a photograph that gave me… hope.
The photograph shows a group of black religious and political leaders, surrounding President Trump and praying for him—praying for the nation. To say that this image inspired me would be an understatement. Here stood a group of men and women—Americans—praying for God to help President Trump!
It was a photograph of faith and hope for the future.
And as I thought about that hope, I couldn’t help but think about our HISTORY—our legacy of hope. Contrary to what some might tell you, the United States didn’t begin in 1619, with the first importation of slaves. The United States has a specific birthdate—it began in 1776. It began when we not only declared our independence from a system that introduced slavery to the New World, but our country also began when we declared that all men and women are created equal.
From that day forward, great men and women—people like George Washington, Harriet Tubman, Abraham Lincoln, Thomas Jefferson, and Frederick Douglass—have risen up and have fought and died to ensure that this nation lives up to its founding creed.
As Americans, we share a legacy of hope that should never be forgotten.
The original images that inspired this painting were released by the White House and are licensed under a Creative Commons License (CC BY 3.0 US).
Additionally, I want to thank those who stood in the image—those brave men and women who stood with our duly-elected President and continue to stand for our country. Thank you.“
Harriet Tubman and Robert E. Lee standing in the same picture.
Frederick Douglass standing next to Lincoln with his hand on Trump’s shoulder.
Might be hard to convince many an American that the people in this painting would approve of what Trump is doing as president. But remember, this is the the same artist who drew this:
“Public schools should delay reopening in coronavirus… “
This report from NPR highlights many specific issues surrounding school buildings reopening.
1. It isn’t about schools reopening; it’s about school buildings reopening.
Even the report says it: “As of Thursday, according to Education Week, nine of the 15 largest school districts in the country plan to start the year remote-only.” Starting is opening.
2. Trump is keeping money from those schools that do not reopen buildings.
Let’s finish that quote from the NPR report aboe that was previously eneded with an ellipsis.
“Public schools should delay reopening in coronavirus hot spots but should open fully if they want to receive tens of billions of dollars in new federal aid, President Trump said in a White House briefing.“
There is that “if they want to receive tens of billions of dollars” caveat.
Trump’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic and the racial divide that has widened with recent events has him trying to pivot his reelection on manufactured victories. Right now that seems to be the economy. He knows that for the economy to “open” up, schools need to have their buildings open.
3. Teachers are essential.
He said it.
“Teachers are essential workers,” Trump said. “But every district should be actively making preparations to reopen.”
Then why not provide more funding and resources to school systems that are starting remotely to maybe look at ways to open buildings safely?
And Trump seems to be in the minority as far as reopening school buildings. A very small, but vocal minority.
4. Trump is pushing a school choice agenda even more that diverts funds from public schools to private entities.
This has always been part of his agenda, but he is becoming very vocal about it. In fact, it’s becoming a foundational part of his reelection platform.
He said the White House was recommending that the Senate include $105 billion for schools in the coronavirus aid package currently being debated to support smaller class sizes and more teachers — but only if schools reopen in person. If not, he said, the money should go directly to parents to pay for private schools or home schooling. He specifically mentioned religious schools.
“If the school is closed, the money should follow the student,” he said.
5. Betsy DeVos still is a terrible Secretary of Education.
In fact, she’s worse now than she was just a couple of months ago.
“Education Secretary Betsy DeVos has been a strong advocate for alternatives to public schools. She’s being sued by several state attorneys general, school districts and the NAACP for what they allege is illegally siphoning money from the initial coronavirus aid package toward private schools.”
That’s right. The NAACP is suing her as well.
6. Trump never defines what a “coronavirus hot spot” really is.
It took over 140,000 deaths from COVID-19 and around 4 million known US cases for Trump to even tout wearing a mask.