How About This Ranking, Sen. Berger? About The Pay Gap For NC Teachers

Funny that just a few days after Sen. Phil Berger posted this as electioneering propaganda

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that this report is released on

It makes reference to a report from about teacher pay gaps in comparison to other occupations with comparable education requirements.

The report lists large, small, and mid-size metropolitan areas that have the largest such gaps.

The Charlotte area ranked #6 for larger metro areas.

Raleigh was #2.

And 3 of the 15 top small metro areas are from NC. Winston-Salem made the midsize list.

Chart4 Cities with the largest teacher pay gap

Actually, it isn’t a funny as it might seem.

Wake and Charlotte actually have the highest local supplements in the state.

And still that big a gap.

More Like Fool’s Gold: Looking At Berger’s Claims of “High-Octane Growth” Within NEA’s State Rankings

Senator Phil Berger’s “Press Shop” recently has been parading a new post that grossly misrepresents NC’s ranking in the Southeast and the nation as far as its treatment of public education, specifically the money spent on K-12 schools, money per pupil spent, and average salaries.

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It makes reference to this recent July 2020 publication from the NEA which is the national teacher union of which NCAE is a state affiliate.

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And this is what Berger highlights:

Here’s a few of the topline rankings for North Carolina:

· 2019–20 increase in K-12 funding: #1 in the Southeast (#7 in the country)

· 2019–20 increase in K-12 funding per student: #1 in the Southeast (#6 in the country)

· 2018–19 increase in public school instructional staff salaries: #1 in the Southeast (#4 in the country)

· 2018–19 increase in teacher salaries: #1 in the Southeast (#3 in the country)

What should be noted here is that these rankings really are based mostly on average change in dollars spent – not actual amounts. When the state ranks in the bottom part of the charts and then invests a little money, the percentage increase can look deceptively appealing. Berger calls it “high octane growth.”

Not really.

That report highlights almost 50 different “metrics” many for which it gives figures over the last two full years available: actual numbers from 2017-2018 and 2018 – 2019 and the change between those numbers.

Berger only cherry-picks a few of those metrics and avoids telling you the actual amounts of dollars spent – only the change.

And he neglects to tell you that those figures come from each state’s Department of Education. For NC, that would be DPI. To assume that each state uses the same variables and methods of calculation to come up with their state’s figures is foolhardy at best.

Just think of who has been in charge of DPI the last three-plus years. And think of who has been in charge of that guy.

The beginning of the NEA report sets some baselines on average teacher salary and expenditures per student.

Teacher Salary:

The national average public school teacher salary for 2018–19 was $62, 304. State average teacher salaries ranged from those in New York ($85, 889), California ($83, 059), and Massachusetts ($82, 042) at the high end to Mississippi ($45, 105), West Virginia ($47, 681) and New Mexico ($47, 826) at the low end.

The national average one-year change in public school teacher salaries from 2017–18 to 2018–19 was 2.5 percent. The largest one-year decrease was in Louisiana (−0.1%), and the largest one-year increase was in Washington (31.2%).

Expenditures per Student:

The national average per-student expenditure in 2018–19 based on fall enrollment was $12, 994, a gain of 2.7 percent from $12, 654 in 2017–18. The following states had the highest per-student expenditures: New York ($24, 749), New Jersey ($21, 326), and the District of Columbia ($20, 425). Idaho ($7, 459), Utah ($8, 150), and Arizona ($8, 722) had the lowest per-student expenditures.

Average teacher salary in the nation for 2018-2019: $62,304. North Carolina reported an average of $53,940.

Average per-student expenditure (on fall enrollment for 2018-2019) in the nation: $12,994. North Carolina reported an average of $10,165.

We aren’t even near the national average for either of those metrics.

Berger also makes it a point to highlight those selected “rankings” in the context of the Southeast. He doesn’t define exactly what the Southeast is but generally speaking it is a collection of 12 states.

SOUTHEAST REGION OF THE UNITED STATES - Printable handout | Teaching  Resources

The first thing to notice is that the four metrics mentioned in Berger’s press release deal with different school years. The first two come from the 2019-2020 school year. The second two come from the 2018-2019 school year. That’s important because the 2019-2020 numbers will not change for 2020-2021. Why? Berger made sure that the NCGA did not pass a new budget in NC forcing the schools to be funded with the same amounts as the last budget.

Now, take a deeper look at those “topline rankings.”

2019–20 increase in K-12 funding: #1 in the Southeast (#7 in the country)

That’s from page 57.

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That change from 2018-2019 to 2019-2020 for North Carolina was 5.15%. The fact that an extra $500 per year for students (based on attendance) would create that percentage change tells you more about the less than average amount we as a state spend per student. Ranking #7 in that metric for percent change when it is still almost $3,000 below the national average is really nothing to brag about.

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· 2019–20 increase in K-12 funding per student: #1 in the Southeast (#6 in the country)

That’s from page 56.

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It’s the same in this respect as the one before except in this one the funding per student is based on actual enrollment and not who actually attended.

That change from 2018-2019 to 2019-2020 for North Carolina was 4.60%. Ranking #7 in that metric for percent change when it is still almost $3,000 below the national average again is really nothing to brag about.

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· 2018–19 increase in public school instructional staff salaries: #1 in the Southeast (#4 in the country)

That’s from page 25.

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Yes, NC is #4 in the increase of AVERAGE salary in the nation for instructional staff.

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But when you already have a below average salary and raise it even a little, you can claim an average percentage that really is dwarfed by the actual raise.

In this metric, NC supposedly increased the average salary by $2,706. Still very much below the national average.

By over $10,000.

· 2018–19 increase in teacher salaries: #1 in the Southeast (#3 in the country)

That’s from page 26.

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Yes, NC is #4 in the increase of AVERAGE salary in the nation for teachers.

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We went from 32 to 30. And still well below the national average.

But something is a little odd here: the average salary of instructional staff and the average salary of teachers in NC is reported to be the same. How can different metrics show the same result? No other state in the Southeast even shows the same salary and nationally North Carolina is one of 8 states in the nation to do that. Just compare pages 25 and 26.

It seems that DPI reports an average salary of a teacher to include the averages of principals and AP and other people who are not actual classroom teachers but fit in a broader category of “Educators.” That changes the numbers. In essence, the average teacher salary that is touted in North Carolina takes in consideration administration and other certified staff at the school site. Not just teachers.

No one else in the Southeast measures average teacher salary in the same way. That misrepresents NC and it is intentional.

And of the eight states that do that type of reporting, NC is by far the lowest ranked of the bunch.

NEA can only report what the state gives them. So, DPI gives numbers that DPI knows uses different calculations in some metrics and then the state powers-that-be who control DPI can then even further manipulate how those numbers can be interpreted.

Go back to those four metrics that Berger highlights in his post without fully explaining them. They “list” NC as #1 in the Southeast. But that’s based on percent increase from year to year.

Look at actual numbers for the 2018-2019 numbers reported for the 12 southeastern states.

In average salary for instructional staff, North Carolina ranks 7th out of 12.

In average teacher salary, North Carolina ranks 2nd out of 12. BUT THIS IS MISLEADING. Look at the average pay for teachers and instructional staff for NC. They are the same. NC is the only one of the 12 on that list that puts all certified staff in that category so in relation to all of the other states listed, NC’s is inflated. ADD TO THAT, NC USES LOCAL SUPPLEMENTS IN ITS CALCULATIONS. Therefore, NC is taking credit for an uneven local supplement system that is controlled by the LEA’s, not the state.

That second place finish was because of performance-enhancing measures. And don’t forget that NC has eliminated graduate teacher pay bumps and longevity pay.

In the case of expenditures per student, NC ranked 8th out of 12.

Ask Berger to explain all of that.

He might have to redefine what “high-octane growth” is.

Judy Arnn Oakley Was The Best Of Us. She Still is.

I am not the teacher I am now without the unselfish mentoring of Judy Oakley. I am not the parent I am now without the example of Judy Oakley. Most importantly, I am not the person I am now without witnessing the way that Judy Oakley lived her life.

In the past couple of days as I have reflected on the loss of Judy Oakley, I find myself thinking of how she lived her life.

Authentically. Without pretense. In the present. Without reservation.

Judy Oakley understood life’s essential paradoxes and lived them.

And she was ever the teacher. While she may have retired from the WSFCS school system as an English teacher, Judy Oakley never stopped teaching others about how to wear life like a loose cloak while holding loved ones close.

She made you feel like you were the exact person she was coming to see and that your words and thoughts had value. She took any moment that you were sharing with her and framed it lovingly for your memory.

She was one of my favorite people. I am really going to miss her.

She simply was the best of us.

Please keep Coach and Blake in your thoughts.

Image may contain: 3 people, including William Oakley and Judy Arnn Oakley, outdoor

State Financed Discrimination & Homophobia: North Carolina’s Voucher System

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.

Currently NC is on pace to give almost a billion dollars to vouchers within the next ten years.


This is a system that was considered the least transparent in the entire country in 2017. From the Children’s Law Clinic at Duke’s School of Law:

Duke study

And still is in the 2020 version of the report from the same research team.

Below is a list of the applications to schools this school year from the NCSEAA, the North Carolina State Education Assistance Authority.

Now just view the schools in the past school year that have taken the most voucher money. From a recent report in the Asheville Citizen -Times from USA Today.

But that is not the entire table that was printed in that report.

That report is tracing all of the schools which receive voucher money that also discriminate against LGBTQ families.

Here is what the entire table looks like:

Four of the top five in receipt of voucher money last school year have policies stated against he admission of LGBTQ family members.

Again from that report:

There are other interactive data tables / maps in that news report which provide rather insightful data, but what is most apparent is that North Carolina allows for a voucher system that funds discrimination and homophobia.

And Dan Forest wants all students in North Carolina to have these.

School Systems MUST Be Truthful About COVID-19 To Teachers & Students

The two largest college campuses in the state have completely gone to online instruction and asked resident students to go home for the foreseeable future.

UNC – Chapel Hill did it within just a couple of weeks after school convened. When that happened, NC State was still “safe” except for a couple of clusters. At least that is what the public knew and the students. But within another two weeks, NCSU issued its “go home” orders.

That’s really quick. Almost too quick if we as the public were led to believe to know as much as the leaders in the school systems.

In fact, those two schools rank in the top 10 nationwide with number of cases known.

The Times said UNC-CH ranks second nationally with 835 COVID-19 cases as of Tuesday. N.C. State is sixth with 509 cases. East Carolina University ranks 12th with 392.

When the outbreaks in Georgia public schools began to make the national news, it would not be surprising if teachers found out about the severity of those situations at the same time as students, parents, and the even the public.

There are certainly privacy issues, but another recent report from the News & Observer makes this teacher want to ask whether those who are teaching in schools that are offering in-person instruction know as much as they should know about infection rates.

The report deals with Macon County Schools in western, NC. Its county seat is Franklin.

It’s the quote above that is most interesting. The superintendent seems to say that the closures are due to the fact that too many teachers are in quarantine to be able to get substitutes to fill the vacancies.

Nothing about infection rates among students.

Nothing about contact tracing and who might be tested. No need for names, but at least let teachers know the number of students infected or quarantining?

In fact, it seems to report that schools are not closing for in-person instruction because of a COVID-19 outbreak, but just because too many teachers need substitutes.

Why is there a need for quarantining after the school year had already started?

And why is it only teacher numbers that are reported?

And just imagine where teachers could have come into contact with the virus that would force them to be quarantined.

An Open Letter To Rep. Craig Horn About His Claim That “NC students have lost a year of educational progress”

Dear Rep. Horn,

In the years that I and many colleagues have been in active advocacy for North Carolina’s public schools, few people in Raleigh have demanded attention as much as you.

Your statements, your voting record, the bills you have sponsored, the reforms you have spearheaded, and the claims you have made over the last decade show a bit of a walking contradiction.

Why? Because for a man who has called himself the “Education Legislator” during his tenure, the “walk” and the “talk” do not seem to align. And if what was reported yesterday as a statement attributed to you is true, then we have yet another example of stinging contradiction.

According to the statement, you claim that in the matter of less than six months (counting March 13th as the beginning of the pandemic) and of that time less than four months of “remote” schooling, students have lost an entire year of “education progress.”

That’s a hell of a claim considering its broad stroke.

Either you said it flippantly for effect or “concern” or both, but it seems out of line considering what lengths and measures public schools and faculties/staff have gone to just to keep learning possible or even to keep students fed.

It would be nice if you offered any evidence of your claim, especially in light that you say that a whole year’s wroth of learning has been taken away in the matter of a few months.

It would be nice if you told us the actual metrics that measure that progress you claim that has been lost.

But be assured, any loss of learning that has occurred rests mostly on the shoulders of our lawmakers in Raleigh, especially people who have a voting record like yours.

It is rather ironic that this claim come from a man who recently championed a virtual pre-K program for many of the students who are being taught remotely now. From last summer:

A bill to create a virtual early learning pilot program for four-year-olds got a lot of attention after being introduced last month by State Rep. Craig Horn, (R-Union).

The program didn’t get a mention last week in the N.C. Senate as that body hammered out the details of its two-year spending plan in preparation for upcoming budget negotiations.

Horn said Friday that he’ll continue to fight for the program when the House and Senate meet this week to square differences in their budgets before shipping a joint spending plan to Gov. Roy Cooper to sign or veto.

“I not only plan to continue to push, but redouble my efforts,” said Horn. “The more I’ve learned about the program, the more I’m convinced of its efficacy.”

Convinced of the “efficacy” of a virtual teaching platform? And how does that mesh with the comments attributed to you from yesterday? In fact, the use of technology has been a big issue for you.

Almost three years ago, you received the distinction of being named an EdTech Hero. Rep. Tim Moore even highlighted it on his website.

The award highlighted your innovation. It came from a digital learning outfit.

It seems odd that for someone who seems to have been working to make virtual learning a viable avenue for years, he would then talk about how much “educational” loss we have experience as a state since we have had to go mostly… virtual on tools and resources that have been allocated to them through a budget that relies mostly on the state.

You never seem to explain that in your comment, Rep. Horn. Consider that literally overnight schools and teachers had to switch from in-person to remote learning without the technological support and training that any transition would need.

I am reminded of some other words that you gave last spring concerning the pandemic and its effects on schools. This is from the News & Observer in April:

And those comments make me wonder if income level and stability in the home is so crucial to academic success, what have you done to help alleviate those obstacles?

What have been your stances and actions concerning expanding Medicaid? What have you done to make broadband wireless internet available to all households? What have you done to make North Carolina’s unemployment benefits better considering we literally rank last in the nation? What have you done to combat educational reform efforts that actually have galvanized more segregation along racial and socio-economic lines?

Those are not rhetorical questions.

And what have your actions and voting record in the past nine years as a lawmaker done to help the teaching profession in ways that would allow us to have the resources and the means to make as smooth a transition as possible to remote learning?

I am just thinking about a few of those actions right now. Things like:

  • revamped teacher pay scale that hurt veteran teachers
  • removal of due-process rights for newer teachers
  • removal of graduate degree pay for newer teachers
  • bonus / merit pay schemes that never worked
  • uneven “average” raises
  • elimination of longevity pay
  • removal of retiree health benefits for new hires after 2021
  • HB17 that gave an inexperienced state superintendent new powers
  • financing a lawsuit between state superintendent and state board
  • per-pupil expenditures not rising when counting inflation
  • removal of class size cap
  • instituting of a school performance grading system that does nothing more than punish schools in impoverished communities
  • cutting teacher assistants by the thousands
  • creation of a voucher system that has literally no transparency and mostly sends funds to small religious schools
  • deregulation of charter schools
  • removal of charter school caps
  • virtual charter schools that have ranked among the lowest schools in the state
  •  an ISD that has shown nothing inthe form of success
  • elimination of the Teacher Fellow program and reviving it as a small version of its former self
  • allowing a municipal charter school bill to pass to further segregate communities

And to think that before the pandemic, this state was in a supposed “economic boom” and carrying record surpluses. To go from that to “a year’s worth of educational progress being lost” in a matter of months really says a lot more about leadership and how lawmakers have handled things more than the performance of teachers.

Oh, and where the hell is a new budget? We are operating on the 2018-2019 budget numbers without the non-recurring funds.

That pandemic you referred to last April is still raging. Colleges and universities that opened to in-person instruction have reversed course in a matter of weeks. But of course the NCGA made sure to already dismiss its session before any of that happened.

I can’t begin to fathom what some school systems have done to provide meals and resources to students just to get them by at this time. I can vouch for the time and efforts of teachers. I have never worked so hard in my career of over 20 years to get prepare for a school year during a time that I am not under contract from the state.

If anything, what this pandemic has done is exacerbate the ill-treatment that the powers-that-be in the NC General Assembly have levied against the public school system.

If you want to argue otherwise, then offer your proof.

But don’t throw out a loaded claim and let it appear that the fault does not reside more with lawmakers than it ever would with schools and its personnel.

North Carolina Must Hold Public School Budgets Harmless

When the North Carolina General Assembly concluded its 2019 session, it left without passing a budget. What that meant was that schools this past school year had to operate on the same amount of recurring funds that the last budget had allocated.

Schools this year are still operating on that same budget.

What should also be remembered is that that “long” session lasted about 4 months longer than usual because Phil Berger and Tim Moore were trying to override a veto that Gov. Cooper issued on an initial budget. Cooper said it did not do enough for teachers and public schools.

Moore got the NC House to vote in a surreptitious maneuver on 9/1/91. The Senate never actually voted on overriding.

Then came a pandemic.

True to form, Berger and Moore made sure that the NC General Assembly left without passing another budget. Furthermore, their intentional lack of leadership in helping North Carolina get out of this pandemic and their push to reopen schools without proper safety protocols has placed the public school system in more peril as far as funding is concerned.

The way that funding for schools in North Carolina operates is chiefly founded in the number of students that attend public schools.

Kris Nordstrom wrote a piece for NC Policy Watch that explains this situation much better than anyone else could.

Keep in mind that we as a state sit on quite a large “rainy-day” fund and that under Berger and Moore, corporate taxes have been cut much over the last few years.

As a state, we also have a credit rating that would allow us to borrow money at almost no interest.


But, the NCGA needs to act and Berger and Moore seem to be bent on making sure that public schools suffer in this pandemic. What the public school system loses could in the minds of Berger and Moore go to privatization efforts like vouchers and charter school expansion.

There is a petition that public school advocates can sign and show support for holding school budgets harmless during this unprecedented pandemic.

It’s here.

Help out.

Oh, and vote this election season for pro-public school candidates.

Actually, Mark Johnson “should at the very least resign.”

James Ford’s letter in response to Mark Johnson was simply power, not because he explained in no uncertain terms the lack of substance Johnson’s argument had, but because he used it as a teaching tool.

Ford met Johnson in the arena Johnson opened and responded by showing that the very message he is sending is the one needed to be heard most by those in power.

Ford was (and still is) the teacher. Johnson needs to be a student and listen.

Ford spoke as a voice for many. Johnson only pretended to.

Here are some direct words, phrases, and clauses from Mark Johnson’s ill-advised public epistle to James Ford last week:

"How can you continue to serve in this role ..."
"Your actions have called into question..."
"You should at the very least resign..."
"Your rhetoric harms our mission..."

And it makes me want to directly tell Mark Johnson that he “should at the very least resign” because his “rhetoric harms” a “mission” to bring equity into the NC public school system.

So many of Johnson’s “actions have called into question” his ability to “continue to serve in this role.”

Even if it is just for five more months.

Trump’s Platform: School Choice For All And “American Exceptionalism”

On the eve of the Republican National Convention that will “take place” in Charlotte, NC (where it was originally planned to be held before it was cancelled and then rescheduled), President Trump released a list of “50 Core Priorities” for a second term if elected again.

Two of those “priorities” are on education.

“Provide School Choice to Every Child in America.”

Nothing screams vouchers for all and privatization of the public school systems in America more than that.

“Teach American Exceptionalism.”

“American Exceptionalism” is a bit of a lightning rod in terminology. From Ian Tyrrell in a piece for The Week entitled “What, exactly, is ‘American exceptionalism’?”:

American exceptionalism is not the same as saying the United States is “different” from other countries. It doesn’t just mean that the U.S. is “unique.” Countries, like people, are all different and unique, even if many share some underlying characteristics. Exceptionalism requires something far more: a belief that the U.S. follows a path of history different from the laws or norms that govern other countries. That’s the essence of American exceptionalism: The U.S. is not just a bigger and more powerful country — but an exception. It is the bearer of freedom and liberty, and morally superior to something called “Europe.” Never mind the differences within Europe, or the fact that “the world” is bigger than the U.S. and Europe. The “Europe” versus “America” dichotomy is the crucible in which American exceptionalist thinking formed.

Rest In Creativity: Sir Kenneth Robinson

This weekend Sir Kenneth Robinson passed away from a brief sickness.

As an English teacher who believes that standardized tests are harmful and that our lawmakers on Raleigh seem to stifle the arts and other creative outlets for students (think Class Size Chaos), reading and observing Robinson was highly instructional.

In the fifteen years I have taught AP English Language and Composition, few prompts have elicited as much of a passionate response from students as this from the 2014 test.

Every year, I also introduce my students to the repository of TED Talks.: ethical and logical arguments made on stage by a variety of experts in fields that can capture almost anyone’s attention.

If you looked for the most watched TED Talks of all time, then Robinson shows up quickly.

In fact, his talk “Do schools kill creativity?” is the most watched TED Talk of all time.

But it is this visual TED Talk he presented that I think every person who is interested in public education should look at.

And then imagine what could be done if we didn’t spend so much time testing students for the sake of testing.