Dear Mr. Watts,
I was forwarded your response to an invitation sent by the North Carolina Association of Educators for Sen. Phil Berger to participate in a webinar to discuss educational policies in North Carolina.
It has a rather acidic tone.
I do not speak for NCAE officially. This response to your response is strictly personal, but I do know that my views are shared by many of our members and by many public school teachers who may not be NCAE members per se but are supportive of NCAE. Some of them are below in this picture from May of 2018.
I am not going to make comment on your tone. There is no need to. Anybody reading this can ascertain that the good senator and the person writing this letter have a contentious relationship with NCAE and even see this group of public school advocates as a threat.
And in the only state in the country that is both a Right to Work and At Will state along with having the the lowest legal minimum wage, no collective bargaining rights, no Medicaid expansion, loosely regulated voucher and charter school expansion, and a school performance grading system that measures achievement over growth, it is easy to see how a group of fragile egos such as those of Phil Berger’s and his cronies would want to avoid a group of teachers who know the public school system much better than a bunch of lawmakers.
Sorry. I digress.
Simply put, your response is loosely based on arguments founded on nothing more than surface dwelling of some data points that really are not accurate. That is not surprising. It is very representative of the propaganda that Sen. Berger has been producing for the last decade.
But, I will try to clarify some of your oxygen-depraved claims in an attempt to at least get the truth out there.
Because it sure as hell can’t be found in your letter.
You state, “Considering the N.C. Association of Educators is an arm of
the Democratic Party and this invitation is for a campaign event, I thought it best to respond.”
You might be surprised how many NCAE members are actually registered Republicans. I was at one time. But if you want to argue that Senator Berger and his politics are in any way like the politics of the Republican Party of years ago in North Carolina that helped propel NC as an educational leader in the South, then go ahead.
Furthermore, it’s pretty apparent that one political party has a much more public-school friendly platform than the other. And before you succumb to the fallacies of your own arguments, that party is not Berger’s.
You state, “Sen. Berger joined teachers in his district at school on the first day of classes. He spent much of the school day listening to and hearing from educators, staff, administrators, and students.”
You sure about that “at school” thing with students? Below is a map from Dane West, who kept direct tabs on each LEA in the state and their plans for reopening school buildings.
Most of the LEAs in Sen. Berger’s district were on remote plans because the local school boards voted it that way.
If Sen. Berger “spent much of the school day listening to and hearing from educators, staff, administrators, and students” could you at least tell us which schools he went to that had students and how that would be a good representation of the state?
You then state, “Unfortunately, your group has lost all legitimacy as a purported voice for teachers.” How do you know? Again I refer to the picture below.
You then make a list of assertions beginning with “Your organization helped kill a 4.9% pay raise plus $1,000 bonuses for the teachers you purport to represent.”
Do you mean Senate Bill 354 from 2019? The one that proposed a disproportionately given raise in a budget that people forget is biennial?
And it wasn’t 4.9%. It was lower.
What you neglect to mention is that NCAE was in favor of what Gov. Cooper proposed – a higher average raise for all teachers that was an actual raise rather than a nonrecurring bonus.
You then state, “Your organization, in defiance of the near-consensus opinion of experts, led the charge to prohibit students, including some with disabilities, from receiving in-classroom instruction.”
Wait, you previously made mention of NCAE’s dwindling numbers and loss of “all legitimacy,” yet you credit NCAE with the monstrous power of convincing many partisan controlled school boards (like the one in Sen. Berger’s home county) to dismiss “near-consensus opinions of experts.”
Could you share who those experts are and what they might be experts of?
Your third bullet point claims, “Your organization has at best willfully ignored, and at worst intentionally misrepresented, the education progress made over the past several years because the narrative is inconvenient to your Democratic Party allies. For example, your organization has opposed the first-, second-, and third-highest teacher pay raises in the country; top-five increases in per-pupil expenditures; and evidence-based elementary reading reforms.”
If you are referring to Read to Achieve as the “evidence-based reading reform,” then you truly have sworn off the truth. And you might want to reexamine exactly the difference between an average “cooked” raise percentage and actual raises. Maybe you could explain this?
Damn, those are some raises.
And how might you explain how big those raises are when the newest salary schedule doesn’t even allow most teachers on it to ever make the “average” salary that Berger claims the state gives teachers now?
Your bulleted list then ends with “Your organization claims to support “equity,” but is currently suing to strip parents, many of whom are Black, of the funding they rely on to send their kids to private schools.”
You mean the least transparent voucher system in the country known as the Opportunity Grants that give out $4200 to families when the average tuition price of a private school in NC is around $10,000?
You mean the voucher system in which almost 90% of funds go to religious schools that can discriminate against certain students to make sure they do not enroll?
And you want to collide the words “equity” and “Phil Berger” in the same sentence? The man who if he had his way would make sure every budget in NC would all have the following?
- Schools still being judged by the 80/20 formula and tracks effects of poverty 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.
But this point about the vitality of NCAE might be one of the most overused and easily debunked “points” you present: “NCAE has reportedly lost large numbers of its membership over the past several years. Of course, it is impossible to verify those reports because you refuse to share any information with North Carolina’s auditor, Beth Wood.“
I remember that audit report. It’s the one referred to in this “press release” by Sen. Ralph Hise last year, the statistician for whom you also speak.
What Hise was referring to was a report from the State Auditor’s office (Beth Wood) about membership in organizations that allow for automatic deductions for membership dues.
It has this data table:
Only one group on that list has a membership that fully pays through payroll deductions. In fact, at least two of the groups have memberships that are ten times the amount of people who use payroll deduction. Any statistician would know better than to misrepresent the numbers in a statement (unless he did it for political purposes).
There are two other teacher advocacy groups on that list whose memberships are mostly represented by people who do not use payroll deduction. PENC has 4.59 times the total number of members as their payroll deduction members. The NCCTA has 16.39 times the total number of members.
If NCAE followed those trends (and it does), it could might have a membership of at least 24,744.
That’s a pretty big number. What would that look like? Something like this?
But there is one aspect of your response that should be praised. It certainly is consistent with the message that your gerrymandering boss is trying communicate.
Oh, by the way, how’s that supermajority working for you now?
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