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.