Look At This Map Of School Reopening Plans & Compare Them To NCGA District Lines. You Might Be Surprised.

Below is the latest map from Dane West, who has been keeping direct tabs on each LEA in the state and their plans for reopening school buildings. It’s as complete a map as any and he has actually been following as many school board meetings across the state as humanly possible.

Dane is a Social Studies teacher in the Wake County schools.

Every time there is a change, he re-posts the map to reflect the changes.

Below are two maps of the district lines that were used for the 2018 NC General Assembly elections. Note that they have changed in light of the gerrymandered lines that were struck down by recent court decisions.

North Carolina State Senate Districts Map - 2018 to 2022
2018 NC General Assembly District Maps | Public Radio East

Many vocal lawmakers and candidates who are adamantly opposed to the governor’s executive orders to have schools abide by either Plan B or Plan C for reopening buildings seem to want to attack organizations that have promoted safely reopening schools. Yet, that seems hypocritical considering that each Board of Education for each LEA has the power to make its own decision.

In fact, many of those lawmakers might need to talk to their own constituents if they want their desires for schools carried out. Why? Well, many of the counties these people represent or live in have made the decision to go remote.

Might be a little hypocritical of them to blame other entities when their own constituents made decisions to use Plan C. Here are some of the more vocal opponents of using Plan C. There district profiles come straight from the NCGA’s official site.

Candidate for State Superintendent of Public Schools, Catherine Truitt, has also been vocal about reopening schools. Currently she resides in Wake County according to her campaign website and her last three years of teaching were in Johnston County.

Now take a look at the map considering the areas where each of these people reside and represent.

Two of Hise’s counties are full Plan C.

And there is a lot of blue (Plan C) in the other areas. Even Berger’s home county went blue with a partisan school board aligned with Berger’s party. Same with Ballard.

Using Teachers (& Students) As Political Pawns

By now you have probably seen a photograph of a crowded school hallway during a class change in Paulding County, GA.

Not many masks. Not much social distancing.

Paulding County is in the northwest part of the Atlanta Metro Area.

Paulding County, Georgia - Wikipedia

Not far from Fulton County where Atlanta is.

Fulton County, Georgia - Wikipedia

The student who posted that picture has been suspended from school.

Right on the other side of Fulton County is Gwinnett County which has the largest school system in the state.

Just last week Gwinnett County schools made national headlines.

Strange that on each of the school buildings in that system there is a sign for the teachers and employees.

At the bottom of that sign it states, “You are assuming this risk by entering these premises.”

The school system – under a state bill – does not assume any liability of an emplyee gets sick from COVID.

But that same district is not giving teachers an option to work virtually.

Even when students are.

About That Visit To NC By Pence & DeVos To Praise Reopening Schools

If you didn’t catch it, VP Mike Pence and Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos came to NC to praise a private school’s reopening to in-person instruction.

That visit was at one of the eight campuses of the Thales Schools. All of them reopened in the same way.

But now one of the campuses has reportedly asked its fourth graders to quarantine.

From ABC News:

Fourth graders at a school in North Carolina have been asked to quarantine for 14 days after a student there tested positive for COVID-19.

The school, a Thales Academy in Wake Forest, said it was notified on Monday that the student became infected after having contact with an infected family member.

The student was asymptomatic and was last at school on Friday. Teachers who were exposed also will be quarantined.

Thales Academy, a network of private non-sectarian community schools with eight locations in North Carolina, made the news last week after Vice President Mike Pence and Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos visited a classroom and applauded the school for reopening.

Pence and DeVos visited a campus in Apex, not Wake Forest.

And take a look at the video to see who is not wearing a mask.

Another Action That Could Devastate Public Schools

This is a disturbing headline to an even more disturbing action.

It’s from the New York Times. It reads.

With the Trump administration’s decision to end the 2020 census count four weeks early, the Census Bureau now has to accomplish what officials have said it cannot do: accurately count the nation’s hardest-to-reach residents — nearly four of every 10 households — in just six weeks.

The result is both a logistical challenge of enormous proportions that must take place in the middle of a pandemic, and yet another political crisis for the census, historically a nonpartisan enterprise. The announcement, which came Monday evening, immediately generated sharp criticism.

On Tuesday, four former directors of the Census Bureau issued a statement warning that an earlier deadline would “result in seriously incomplete enumerations in many areas across our country,” and urged the administration to restore the lost weeks.”

Participating in the census helps funding for public education and other social services that directly affect our public school students. From the actual US government census website:

Census5

Ending it early with this many people not accounted for could be catastrophic for public schools and programs that support public school students.

And it’s deliberate.

During a pandemic.

Betsy DeVos Shows Her Ignorance – Again

Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos tweeted the following today.

This is coming from a woman whose boss has a son in a private school that chose to start the year remotely.

This is a woman who should know that many charter and orivate schools chose to shut their buildings down to begin the year.

And she seems to be someone who ignores that there is a pandemic going on and the administration she works for has done nothing to combat it.

Oh, and her brother is a hired mercenary. No, for real. Look up Erik Prince.

Dear NCGA, Go Ahead And Waive Standardized State Tests And School Performance Grades For Next Year

How public schools open this next school year are questions that still need some answers. What we do know is that there are over 1 million students who will not be starting school in person but remotely.

From what we already know from history is that even with a surplus in the budget, Phil Berger and Tim Moore will be sure not to fully fund public schools even though they constantly measure them in unfair ways.

Now we have what will surely be another prolonged budgetary battle with the economic depression that COVID-19 has caused.

Last fall, WestEd brought out its report on the Leandro case and the failings of the state to adequately fulfill its duties of funding public education. And that brought to mind a quote by Sen. Phil Berger from this past May.

leandroberger1

No doubt about that, Mr. Berger. You’ve already shown that you won’t spend money that you do have.

But there are some things that can be done now in a special session of the NC General Assembly to help schools this year. The first could be to waive all state testing next year and the use of school performance grades.

Unless Berger & Company can guarantee that schools will have ample resources, time, space, and support this next school year as we would have had if there was no epidemic, then standardized tests and the SPG’s that use them to measure schools should be waived for 2020-2021.

Come to think of it though, Berger & Company have never guaranteed that schools will have ample resources, time, space, and support.

Even during an economic boom.

Dear NCGA, Where is the $730 Million You Owe North Carolina School Districts? Remember, There’s A Pandemic Going On.

As the 2020 elections approach and partisan electioneering is ramping up to the highest levels, there is one particular item that hopefully voters will not forget when deciding to cast a ballot in November, especially if public education continues to be a focal point for making a decision.

On Aug. 1st, 2018 the News and Observer ran a report entitled “Give us the $730 million you owe us — NC schools taking state leaders to court.” It begins,

North Carolina school districts are going back to court to try to enforce a 10-year old court decision ordering state leaders to turn over nearly $750 million that was improperly withheld from public schools.

In 2008, Wake County Superior Court Judge Howard Manning ordered the state to turn over $747.9 million in civil fines that should have been given to public schools over a nine-year period. With only $18 million provided so far, the N.C. School Boards Association and 20 school boards filed a new lawsuit Wednesday in Wake County Superior Court to get the state to meet its state constitutional obligation to provide the remaining $730 million” (https://www.newsobserver.com/news/politics-government/article215827195.html).

Interestingly enough, “the money can only be used for technology and would be split among all of the state’s school districts based on how many students they have.” I imagine that there are some districts needing funds for the technology to start remotely or partially remotely.

And that would be welcome money for so many school systems simply because of outdated technology.

Actually, how about using that money for safety protocols in reopening school buildings?

Take a look at the following tables for the breakdown of that money according to each school system. It was compiled by red4ednews.com and is a website that each public school advocate should bookmark for useful and insightful information.

money1
money2
money3

One might argue that it can only be used for technology. But think of how much money could be used in other high need areas that might have already been designated in local budgets for technology.

We are in a pandemic. Have been for a while. North Carolina is a bit of a hot spot. That money could be used in a A LOT OF VALID WAYS!

Of course the Tim Moore’s and Phil Berger’s of Raleigh will point out the fact that those court decision were made before the current powers that be came into office.

“The judgment was reached against Democrat lawmakers over a decade ago as they were slashing education spending by over $700 million in two years, furloughing teachers and cutting their pay, but since that time Republican leaders in the state General Assembly made schools their top priority by doubling K-12’s share of new state spending and increasing total public education appropriations by nearly $3 billion a year,” Joseph Kyzer, a spokesman for House Speaker Tim Moore, said in a written statement.

And remember – this is a legislative body that kept the NCGA in session for four extra months to try and override a veto for a budget that still has yet to be passed.

But they are not in session now. Why?

You can guess.

Something Else To Consider In The NC State Superintendent’s Race – Public Vs. Privatization

If you are familiar with ALEC (American Legislative Exchange Council), then this might be of interest to you.

As a refresher from SourceWatch:

The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) describes itself as the largest “membership association of state legislators,” but over 98% of its revenue comes from sources other than legislative dues, primarily from corporations and corporate foundations.[1] After the 2010 congressional midterm elections, ALEC boasted that “among those who won their elections, three of the four former state legislators newly-elected to the U.S. Senate are ALEC Alumni and 27 of the 42 former state legislators newly-elected to the U.S. House are ALEC Alumni.” (A full list of the Congressional freshmen who are ALEC alums can be found here.) [2]

ALEC’s agenda extends into almost all areas of law. Its bills undermine environmental regulations and deny climate changesupport school privatizationundercut health care reformdefund unions and limit their political influencerestrain legislatures’ abilities to raise revenue through taxesmandate strict election laws that disenfranchise votersincrease incarceration to benefit the private prison industryamong many other issues[3]

ALEC is an “associate” member of the State Policy Network, a web of right-wing “think tanks” in every state across the country.[4]

What ALEC is in quick and dirty terms is an ultra-conservative “bill-mill.” And there are many connections ot North Carolina.

The State Policy Network is kind of a sister organization to ALEC that serves as an “umbrella” for ALEC aligned think tanks and institutions.

Again from SourceWatch:

The State Policy Network (SPN) is a web of right-wing “think tanks” and tax-exempt organizations in 50 states, Washington, D.C., Canada, and the United Kingdom. As of October 2019, SPN’s membership totals 162. Today’s SPN is the tip of the spear of far-right, nationally funded policy agenda in the states that undergirds extremists in the Republican Party.

SPN describes itself as a network and service organization for the “state-based free market think tank movement,” and its stated mission is “to provide strategic assistance to independent research organizations devoted to discovering and developing market-oriented solutions to state and local public policy issues.”[1] It was founded in November 1991[2] and incorporated in March of 1992.[3]

SPN groups operate as the policy, communications, and litigation arm of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), giving the cookie-cutter ALEC agenda a sheen of academic legitimacy and state-based support.

Let’s pull that last part out.

SPN groups operate as the policy, communications, and litigation arm of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), giving the cookie-cutter ALEC agenda a sheen of academic legitimacy and state-based support.”

ALEC and SPN are arms of the Koch Brothers empire of influence.

The State Policy Network is rather big. It reaches into practically every state and links “individual” entities together. Oddly many of those entities are already linked.

Look at the directory and explore North Carolina for instance.

And you get this:

They all are linked to Art Pope, who need no introduction to North Carolinians.

The Civitas Institute, John Locke Foundation, and Martin Center all are massively funded by Pope. In fact Civitas used to be named the John William Pope Civitas Institute (father to Art), and the Maertin Center used to be named the John William Pope Center for Higher Education Policy. Pope created the JLF and he was on the board of the Jesse Helms Center for a while.

School choice, school privatization, and other actions that have weakened public schools in North Carolina are usually championed by Pope and his organizations.

We are in a big election year – national, state, and local. No doubt that trying to exert influence through propaganda, slant media, and money will be on the agenda for the affiliates of the SPN here in NC. One such election is for the office of state superintendent.

Just take a look at this trail.

The State Policy Network will be holding its annual meeting toward the end of this month.

On that virtual announcement toward the bottom is a list of sponsoring entities.

For public school advocates in North Carolina, K12 and edChoice mighjt be familiar.

Take a look at that bottom row. There’s this sponsor:

Western Governors University.

Who is the top WGU official in NC for WGU and serves as its current chancellor?

She’s running for state super.

And simply look at her campaign twitter feed to see where she gets a platform for publicity.

Here’s an interview with the Civitas Institute:

For Those Who Say That Teachers Have A Two-Month Vacation

“You expect at least eight weeks paid vacation per year because that is what the taxpayers of North Carolina gave you back when you were a poorly compensated teacher.” – Sen, David Curtis in May of 2014 in response to a teacher letter.

“I suspect that most people, if told they could work 10 months a year doing something they love, and make $54,000, would leap at the opportunity. Most would be content, if not elated. Very few, I suspect, would be protesting.” – Charles Davenport in the News & Record on May 5th, 2019 in reference to the May 1st teacher march and rally.

That “2 month vacation” usually starts for most teachers in the middle of June and goes until the middle of August.

June July August 2020 Calendar – Calendar Options

In a typical summer things like the following would be happening just in the first week of our “vacation.”

  • Offices open to conduct business.
  • Student Services open for registration and transcript analysis.
  • Teachers on campus conducting various tasks.
  • The yearbook staff will at camp in Chapel Hill working on next year’s edition.
  • Rooms being cleared and cleaned.
  • Coaches will be conducting camps for community youth.
  • State sanctioned workouts will happen on fields and the weight rooms.
  • Summer school classes will begin to help students regain credits.
  • Some teachers back from grading AP tests and fulfilling end-of-year duties.
  • Some teachers will be in professional development classes in various places.
  • Some teachers will be prepping for new courses they are to teach because populations change and numbers of sections change.
  • Some teachers will be preparing for National Boards.
  • Some teachers will be moving materials on campus to facilitate summer cleaning and maintenance.
  • Some teachers will be helping interview potential new teachers and then helping those hired get more acclimated with the campus.
  • Some teachers will be taking inventory.
  • Some teachers will just come to campus to get work done to prepare for next year like send items to print shop or get websites and databases ready.

Even though campuses are closed for many teachers because of the pandemic, many of those actions were still happening – remotely. But in my 22 years of teaching, I have never worked as much in a summer to get ready for a school year than I have this summer.

And it isn’t over.

Professional development to learn an entirely new online platform. New textbooks. New technology. Meetings.

There are also new courses that I am teaching because the pandemic has done two distinct things to our school’s schedule: made classes bigger because we are operating on last year’s budgets and created more flux in the student body because of virtual academies being used as alternatives to traditional campuses.

Students are already asking about recommendations and reaching out concerning classes. Parents are as well. Communication with my school has been more frequent. Following what the school board has been putting in place for the beginning of the school year has taken more energy and time than ever. Even friends and neighbors ask more questions about school.

Teachers and parents in my system probably receive at least two to three updates a week via email or phone about new policies or existing ones.

And my school is still trying to get the schedule in order.

It’s ironic that as educators and administration, we had to switch to online instruction in matter of days last March. In some places in the state, that had to happen overnight. Teachers and schools were being praised for what they were trying to do for students and communities.

Now, after weeks of preparing for whatever may come in a state that has not fully supported us, schools and teachers are being villified for trying to do the best for health and safety of all involved and still make learning as authentic as possible. Why? Because now it’s all political.

When I think of that, I remember what people like David Curtis and Charles Davenport said in a time of no pandemic about our “summer vacations.”

Usually, I would remind them that what teachers have are 10-month contracts. What Curtis and Davenport call a “vacation” is actually unpaid time that is spent by many getting renewed certification, professional development, or advanced degrees—all of which are paid with teachers’ own money that gets taxed by the state.

In reality, those “summer vacations” are actually periods of unemployment in which many teachers still do lots of work.

This summer has been a lot of work, but it’s for the kids.

Worth it.

Vote in November.