Actually, Teachers Have First Amendment Rights As Well

First Amendment – INDIVISIBLE – DOOR COUNTY, WI

In that one amendment is:

  • Separation of state and religion,
  • Freedom of speech,
  • Right to assemble peaceably,
  • Petitioning the Government.

Those rights were exercised on May 16th, 2018 and May 1, 2019 in Raleigh when thousands of teachers and school employees and advocates marched and rallied for public education in North Carolina. Yet North Carolina still has a General Assembly which is supposed to uphold the tenets of the constitution filled with lawmakers decrying the assembly of teachers on important issues.

And those people who assembled on those two May days at those marches and rallies were really quite peaceful.

There have been rumors of school administrators and local school board members who have told teachers to not speak out on school reopening plans or engage in the debates over what reopening should look like. Whether those are isolated incidents or widespread, the fact that many teachers might feel discouraged from speaking out on school safety is antithetical to one of the most important duties we as educators have: to advocate for students and students.

Many of use teachers are speaking out against a NC General Assembly that has for all intents and purposes been intact for the last decade.

This is the same General Assembly that took away due-process rights from new teachers in 2014. That effectively instilled a fear of reprisal in newer teachers who may need to advocate for students and schools.

This is the same General Assembly that had a voter ID law declared unconstitutional because it targeted minorities and those in poverty in a state that is considered one of the most gerrymandered in the country.

Gerrymandering on the scale that was used these past few years and limiting those who can exercise right to vote is really akin to squashing people’s First Amendment rights, rights that include free speech.

Or rather free speech in a peaceful assembly to petition the state government to fully fund public schools as stipulated by the state constitution so that they can operate safely.

It is less than four months until November 3rd when the polls open for elections. Lots of offices on local, state, and national levels will be decided.

That same Constitution that guarantees free specch also guarantees the right to vote.

Even if it comes through the mail.

“Person. Woman. Man. Camera. TV. ” – About Standardized Tests

So, what did you make on that standardized test?

Washington Post, July 10

From a recent interview of Donald Trump by Fox’s Chris Wallace.

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From Business Insider:

Below is the home page of the Montreal Cognitive Assessment.

Below is an example housed on the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs website on a page specifically devoted to Parkinson’s Disease.

Later Trump explained on Fox more about the test.

It’s like listening to someone compare himself to you by using an SAT score from 30 years ago.

1 In 10? Who Really Wants To Fully Reopen Schools?

Posted by the Winston-Salem Journal yesterday afternoon:

Here’s a closer look:

Meanwhile, only about 1 in 10 Americans think daycare centers, preschools or K-12 schools should open this fall without restrictions, according to a new poll from The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs. Most think mask requirements and other safety measures are necessary to restart in-person instruction, and roughly 3 in 10 say that teaching kids in classrooms shouldn’t happen at all.

Trump wants to fully open schools this fall.

DeVos wants to fully open schools this fall.

Berger wants to fully open schools this fall.

Moore wants to fully open schools this fall.

Forest wants to fully open schools this fall.

And what does State Superintendent candidate Catherine Truitt want? What her party wants.

From a cbs17.com report:

Truitt said her first preference would be to have in-person instruction five days a week. She said accommodations should be made for anyone who is high-risk for COVID-19.

Everyone is going back to work, and I don’t think it should be any different for teachers. And, quite frankly, what I’m hearing from teachers is they want to be back with their kids,” said Truitt.

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Truitt must not be talking to many teachers, because from what I can tell, teachers want to be back with their students if schools can open safely.

She’s not offered any plans on how that can happen except to leave it up to the local systems. And if she doesn’t know that locals can’t front the amount of money right now to even think about fully opening school buildings in August, then she doesn’t even need to be anywhere close to the state super’s desk for the next four years.

Dane West, teacher at Knightsdale High School in Wake County, has been keeping a map marking the number of LEA’s that are starting the year remotely after school board votes.

It’s still a work in progress, but with Charlotte-Meck and Guilford leaning remote, NC is nearing half of its public school students starting the year remotely. Many charter schools have voted for Plan C as well. Plus, there are a whole lot more meetings to determine fall plans coming in the next few days.

I Would Like to File a Missing Person’s Report For Our State Superintendent of Public Schools

As North Carolina school systems and charter schools debate whether to open under a Plan B model or under Plan C (remote), it is strange that we as public school teachers, staff, parents, and students have nor heard from State Superintendent Mrk Johnson in quite a while..

None of those once plentiful inbox-filling emails.

No glossy flyers.

No press releases from Graham Wilson about elite insiders.

No mention of the Deep State.

Just… silence.

It would make sense that the leader of the public school system in the state be one of the first to speak out about what the General Assembly is doing to help schools in this unprecedented time.

Be reminded that on Thursday, January 5th, 2017, just days after he took office, Mark Johnson stated the following at his first State Board of Education meeting:

“Every day that we don’t take bold actions for our students is a day that our students lose. Every day that we don’t take bold actions for our teachers is a day that our teachers lose. Complacency is the antithesis of urgency, so I ask that we act with urgency and not be complacent in anything that we do. If we don’t act with urgency, we will continue to betray students and we will continue to lose teachers and have difficulty retaining them and recruiting them.”

The operative word there is “urgency.” Johnson really gives it renewed vigor juxtaposing it with the word “complacency.”

In that same prepared statement, he also said,

“We have a lot of issues and challenges facing us. We have to own them. We have to own that we need to do something about testing. We have to own that there are students graduating from our schools that we are giving diplomas to that are not prepared for college or the workforce. We are the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction. It is our job to own those challenges and find solutions. We must be innovative to find solutions.”

“We” have some really big issues right now.

So much for “urgency.”

So much for “we.”

So much for “bold.”

So much for “ownership.”

So much for “action.”

have you seen johnson

What The Foo Fighter Said About Reopening Schools

It takes a fragile political ego in a state that does so much to work against organized groups of essential people to make the following claim.

Tim Moore knows damn well that NCAE represents more 5% of teachers, but he wants to play victim by saying that he is being “bullied” by what he claims is a small group of people.

Apparently it doesn’t take much to scare Tim Moore. Or Phil Berger.

But the narrative that school buildings not reopening fully this fall semester is because of teacher unions and in this state NCAE is really just gaslit propaganda.

That push is coming from many places because of safety. Not a price line.

Here’s an example from The Atlantic written by a guy named Dave Grohl.

Dave Grohl fronts a band called the Foo Fighters. Fairly well-known. He also was the drummer of an iconic band named Nirvana whose album Nevermind might be one of the most influential albums ever recorded.

His mom is a retired public school teacher.

He wrote in this Atlantic op-ed,

“It takes a certain kind of person to devote their life to this difficult and often-thankless job. I know because I was raised in a community of them. I have mowed their lawns, painted their apartments, even babysat their children, and I’m convinced that they are as essential as any other essential workers. Some even raise rock stars! Tom Morello of Rage Against the Machine, Adam Levine, Josh Groban, and Haim are all children of school workers (with hopefully more academically rewarding results than mine). Over the years, I have come to notice that teachers share a special bond, because there aren’t too many people who truly understand their unique challenges—challenges that go far beyond just pen and paper. Today, those challenges could mean life or death for some.”

Dave Grohl is not part of the teacher union.

Just the Rock N’Roll Hall of Fame.

In fact, New Orleans, which really is a school system made up of charter schools, is starting the school year with remote instruction.

He’s right – “it’s a false narrative abt (sic) unions driving online shift. Unions are just reflecting widespread teacher concern abt health.”

So when someone like Tim Moore wants to place blame for what is happening, maybe he should go and look in the mirror.

NC Is In A Pandemic, But Look What Sen. Phil Berger Is Selling – Tax-Funded Vouchers

Name the only state in the country with the lowest legal minimum wage, no collective bargaining rights, no Medicaid expansion, loosely regulated vouchers and charter school expansion, and a school performance grading system that measures achievement over growth.

North Carolina.

Now name a state that has a lower state corporate flat tax than NC. 

You can’t. There are none.

AND ALL OF THIS AFFECTS PUBLIC EDUCATION. EVEN WITHOUT A PANDEMIC.

All of that has happened under the watchful eye and enabled hand of one Phil Berger who maintains power through racially gerrymandered districting.

And when he and other lawmakers could help fully fund public schools and give them resources to aid in opening up in-person instruction, Berger’s too busy “selling” tax-payer money through vouchers so students can go to private schools.

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A couple of things that Phil does not tell you.

First, well-off parents who send their kids to private schools usually send them to private schools that have a tuition that is much higher than an opportunity scholarship would allow.

Secondly, Berger has no proof that sending students to private schools through vouchers increases student achievement. He’s helped to keep the voucher program too opaque for measurement.

And third, I can imagine that “not-well-off people” need money to survive and just get the basics, especially if they are unemplyed right now.

Why? Because Phil Berger helped make sure that employment benefits in NC are among the worst in the nation.

And one more thing. Berger might want to go back to his home district and try and sell his idea.

What the Surgeon General Said Today About School Reopening

From the United States Surgeon General today:

“What I want people to know is the biggest determinant of whether or not we can go back to school actually has little to nothing to do with the actual schools – it’s your background transmission rate,” Adams said, speaking on CBS This Morning. “And it’s why we’ve told people constantly that if we want to get back to school, to worship, to regular life – folks need to wear face coverings, folks need to practice social distancing. Those public health measures are actually what’s going to lower the transmission rate.”

I would also say that he might want to go into actual schools and see what resources, space, time, and staff available for a safe reopening.

The Political Hypocrisy About Virtual Learning In NC

This is from Politico in 2017:

As DeVos seeks to expand school choice nationwide, including online options, Pennsylvania serves as a case study in the shortcomings of the virtual charter school model, or cyber charter schools, as they are known there. The state’s 14 virtual charter schools have flourished in rural communities over the last 15 years — so much so that Pennsylvania, along with Ohio and California, now account for over half the enrollment in the nation’s full-time virtual charters, according to the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools.

Actually, DeVos has had a financial stake in virtual charters. From NPR:

Betsy DeVos and her husband, Dick DeVos, formerly owned stock in K12 Inc. In October, Kevin Chavous was hired as K12 Inc.’s president of academics, policy and schools. Chavous was a founding board member of the American Federation for Children, the organization DeVos chaired before joining the Trump administration.

K12 has had a presence in NC.

But of course, this is what DeVos is saying now:

The differences between “remote” and “distance” and “virtual” are hard to peg, but they seem to change when it comes to the narrative that is being pushed. Especially when it comes to private money and politicians.

This “aboutface” has happened in NC as well with Senator Phil Berger. This morning Rob Schofield from NC Policy Watch released a post today that is very much worth the read. Entitled “Phil Berger does a 180 on virtual learning,” Schofield calls out the hypocrisy of the lawmaker.

Here is part of it:

Now flash forward a year and see how — apparently in deference to President Trump’s desperate efforts to reopen schools in order to help jump-start the economy at all costs — the Right is now singing a wildly different tune.

First, there’s Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, a supposed passionate defender of local control in education and virtual schooling, threatening to withhold federal money from schools that don’t reopen right away.

And now comes Senator Phil Berger (or his staff, anyway) in a new post on the website Medium warning readers about the terrible threat that virtual education poses to — we’re not making this up — poor kids. In the post, Berger cites a recent story on Yahoo! News that highlighted research by pointy-headed liberals at Harvard in which they documented the challenges that virtual education poses to low-income kids.

That post on Medium?

Maybe Berger should honor the Leandro decision.

This Teacher Appreciates What These Doctors Said, But They Seem To Forget…

Today on EdNC.org a perspective was posted written by three pediatric medical experts from Duke University’s School of Medicine.

No doubt their credentials are valid and their expertise should be respected. Duke University is one of the finest institutions in the nation, despite the fact that I root against them in every sport (especially men’s basketball) as I am the graduate of another Tobacco Road school.

But I do not think they really got to the meat of the situation when it comes to the reopening of schools this fall semester in North Carolina.

Within their perspective they share the following:

And I am not going to argue much there other than we are dealing with a novel virus whose full power still has not been totally as far as its long term effects are concerned. At least that is what I see.

But it is their suggested avenue of action that raises some questions.

With schools opening, we should mount a focused effort to document transmission patterns among children, teachers, and staff. Resources should be immediately made available to school systems for protective equipment and cleaning supplies, and importantly, additional staff for reduced class sizes plus larger teaching spaces to allow for social distancing. Furthermore, policies on the length of time that classmates must quarantine after a classroom exposure to the virus should be refined to limit continual disruptions of moving between virtual and in-person learning for both children and caregivers.

Finally, to make informed decisions about managing schools throughout the fall and winter, we must develop child-specific metrics to monitor the virus’ spread in children’s settings. Potential metrics include numbers of outbreaks tied to childcare or school settings, proportion of children and school staff that test positive for the virus, and absenteeism tied to respiratory illnesses. Moreover, to balance risk of infections with overall child well-being, decision-makers should consider taking a harm-reduction approach that considers not only the number of COVID-19 cases but also child metal heath, food security, and academic progress.”

Just look at those suggestions:

  • “Resources should be immediately made available.”
  • “Protective equipment.”
  • “Cleaning supplies.”
  • “Additional staff.”
  • “Reduced class sizes.”
  • “Larger teaching spaces.”
  • “Quarantine protocols.”
  • “Managing metrics.”

It sounds as if these medical professionals are offering solutions based on the most ideal of situations. And it assumes that we teachers haven’t already mentioned these. Many times. But…

NORTH CAROLINA’S PUBLIC SCHOOLS DO NOT OPERATE UNDER IDEAL SITUATIONS EVEN IN ECONOMIC BOOMS WITH NO PANDEMIC.

Sure, it would be great if we could just hire more staff devoted to making sure that social distancing was occurring along with other proper protocol.

Sure, it would be nice to have smaller classes and be able to teach in uncrowded buildings, but space does not magically appear.

Sure, it would be nice to have all of those supplies like protective equipment and cleaning supplies, but many schools don’t have enough of the basics in a good uneventful school year.

And who is going to do all of that managing metrics and quarantine protocols?

What happens if a teacher does get sick? Or a an elderly family member in a student’s home?

The intentions are fantastic. The problem is that it ignores the reality of the situation: this legislature with its powers that be will in no way offer up the resources and monies to even think about putting this “Plan B” offering into practice.

Even on a minimum level.

Yes, teachers want to be with their students – face-to-face. SAFELY.

And we want to be able to teach – not just manage metrics.

Care To Comment On This, Candidate For State Superintendent Catherine Truitt?

Candidate for NC State Superintendent Catherine Truitt has made it no secret that she wants schools to be fully open to start the school year even though trends are showing more infections.

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Nowhere has she laid out a plan to show how accommodations would be made or how they would be financed.

Plus, this teacher is fairly sure that her outreach to teachers has been minimal.

Of course teachers want to be back with their kids.

BACK SAFELY!

But it would be interesting to hear her take on this from the governor of Missouri who seemed to forget that their are teachers, staff, and family members in contact with school age kids – you know the ones who will be getting COVID-19 “when they go to school.”