Remembering The Glaring Falsehoods In Lt. Gov. Dan Forest’s December, 2019 Letter To Teachers

Last December many teachers across the state have received a campaign letter from Lt. Dan Forest concerning his “record” on public education. It was a “response” to Gov. Cooper’s earlier letter about education spending and teacher pay.

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So why did Forest send this letter? He’s hoping that teachers will forget what the NCGA that he has aligned himself with has actually done since 2011. Here’s a list.

  • Removed due process rights for new teachers to keep them from advocating loudly for students and schools.
  • Removed graduate degree pay bumps for teachers entering the profession.
  • Instituted a Value Added Measurement system which are amorphous and unproven way to measure teacher effectiveness.
  • Pushed for merit pay when no evidence exists that it works.
  • Attacks on teacher advocacy groups like NCAE.
  • Created a revolving door of standardized tests that do not measure student growth.
  • Lowered the amount of money spent per pupil in the state when adjusted for inflation.
  • Removed class size caps.
  • Instituted a Jeb Bush style school grading system that is unfair and does nothing more than show how poverty affects public schools.
  • Created an uncontrolled and unregulated system of vouchers called Opportunity Grants.
  • Fostered charter school growth that has not improved the educational landscape and siphons money from the public school system.
  • Created failing virtual schools outsourced to private industry.
  • Allowed for an Innovation School District to be constructed.
  • Eliminated the Teaching Fellows Program and brought it back as a former shell of itself.
  • Created an atmosphere of disrespect for teachers that teaching candidate numbers in colleges and universities have dropped over 30%.

It is rather entertaining to see the Lt. Gov. run for the office of governor by touting the record of an eight-year NCGA leadership which has crafted the very policies he is “owning” in an example of transference. Those are the same policies that have brought thousands of the very people he addressed in this letter to the streets of Raleigh to protest.

It is rather confusing to see the Lt. Gov. run for governor and not just campaign against Gov. Cooper but also against the North Carolina Association of Educators when he claims that their membership is so few.

It is rather hypocritical for a man who once said the following about the value of our students and not do anything to help expand healthcare for thousands of them this past year.

“If our action in keeping men out of women’s bathrooms and showers protected the life of just one child or one woman from being molested or assaulted, then it was worth it. North Carolina will never put a price tag on the value of our children. They are precious and priceless.”

And it’s infuriating for a man who scolds the virtues of diversity and inclusiveness and then talk about how he has done so much for PUBLIC schools.

“No other nation, my friends, has ever survived the diversity and multiculturalism that America faces today, because of a lack of assimilation, because of this division, and because of this identity politics. But no other nation has ever been founded on the principles of Jesus Christ, that begin the redemption and reconciliation through the atoning blood of our savior.”

Dan Forest is not a teacher. The office he has held has not crafted any policy that has helped public education. He is not a parent of a child in public schools. But he seems to talk a lot about what he has done for NC’ public schools when in actuality he should answer for a WHAT HE HAS DONE TO PUBLIC SCHOOLS.

Most of the statistical fallacies that Forest brags about are taken straight from Sen. Phil Berger’s spun assertions many of which he puts on his website www.ncteacherraise.com.

It’s humorous that Dan Forest begin his baseless letter with a reference to the pay freezes and budget cuts that occurred right before 2011 when current NCGA leadership took control. In history classes in the future (which Forest’s personal finance class will affect), they will talk about the Great Recession that occurred in the years between 2007-2011. Funny Forest doesn’t mention that. Revenue coming to the state was cut so drastically because of the carelessness of Wall Street that every state government in the country went through pay freezes and budget cuts.

Then Forest tells teachers about why Medicaid costs so much when he is part of a group of lawmakers who will not expand its services in North Carolina when we as taxpayers are still sending our money to other states who have expanded it because while the decision to expand Medicaid is a state decision, it is a federally subsidized program.

But the bullet pointed “facts” really deserve a deeper explanation.

Those “facts” about rising “average teacher pay?” They may be true in the sense of “average,” but those raises have heavily been on the front end of the teacher scale. That means fewer dollars can affect a greater change in the percentage of pay increases. And Tim Moore even admitted that previous pay raises have been for beginning teachers.

Moore said that previous pay plans focused on teachers earlier in their careers because lawmakers were hearing from the state Department of Public Instruction that those were the ones most likely to leave their jobs. Now, things have changed, he said.

“Now we want to go back and do more for our veteran teachers,” said Moore. 

Furthermore, all of Forest’s numbers take only a teacher salary with a bachelor’s degree in consideration.  The removal of graduate degree pay bumps tells a whole new story when comparing teacher salaries to other states.

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Oh, and he’s taking credit for that “average” salary when they include local supplements from local LEAs. The state has nothing to do with that.

“65% of public education costs funded by the state” compared to the national average? Actually, the state is required to fund public schools in North Carolina, but what is more important to consider is how much does it take to fully fund public schools.  It is ludicrous to think that he can compare how NC funds public education to other states when each state uses a different formula for funding schools. How North Carolina funds schools with federal, state, and local dollars really is not the same as far as what percentage comes from what entity because the real measurement is how much tax money is invested in schools overall. You pay local, state, and federal taxes. It’s a combination of the three that funds schools.

“20% average teacher raise” for teachers? Do a survey of teachers with over 15 years of experience and ask them if this is true. Ask them also to quantify the actual dollars they have gained in “raises” and then offset that with the losses they’ve accrued with the removal of longevity pay and see what “raises” they have actually gotten.

“Career teachers will earn $237,500 more in salary” under the newest salary schedule? Misleading. First, the $54,000 salary cap is designed to make sure that veteran teachers do not stay in the profession. Secondly, this projection is not taking into account that the current retirement system may change. Look at all of the changes that have occurred in only the last six years. Imagine what might be planned for the next thirty. Oh, no longevity pay. Forest would need to explain this as well.

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Funny that Forest never mentions graduate degree pay raises have been removed. In fact, under the new salary plan, a new teacher would never make as much as a current veteran who possesses a Master’s Degree.

“$3+ billion more in education spending?” Remember that education spending affects the public university system as well. It’s not all for K-12. But Forest doesn’t tell you that the state still spends less per pupil than we did before 2008 when adjusted for inflation. Actually, in order to keep up with inflation and maintain the same per-pupil expenditures that we once had, then we would have to spend even more than that 3+ billion. NC is a fast growing state and a top-ten in population.

Oh, and tuition costs at UNC system colleges and universities has gone up rather quickly.

“$100 million per year investment in school connectivity?” Forest can claim a lot of credit for this and on the surface it is a grand achievement. But couple that with less investment in other classroom resources and you get a formula for more use of “personalized” education, a nice way of saying we are using online education to actually “depersonalize” the classroom. Just look at iStation.

And Forest spends an entire paragraph in his letter to teachers denigrating NCAE, and that’s rather eye-opening for a man who seeks the highest office in the state to attack a teacher group in a letter to teachers delivered in government owned email accounts. He states, “…of the 100,000 public school teachers only about 5,000 are members (according to a recent State Auditor’s report).”

NCAE has a much larger membership than what he claims.

What he conveniently forgets to tell you is that the report clearly shows most organizations have many if not most of its members not use that form of payment for membership dues.

The very report he “quotes” tells us that. Look again.

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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 if not more.

Lt. Gov. Dan Forest is an intelligent man. He knows that the governor’s race in Kentucky last year was very aligned with teacher activism and that what happened in the state of Virginia in 2019 had a lot to do with the “teacher vote.”

And you don’t have to believe what Dan Forest says.

Because it is baseless.