Our Public Schools Are Better Than The North Carolina General Assembly Wants You to Believe

Our public schools are better than many lawmakers portray them to be – lawmakers who have never spent time as educators.

A lot better. And the problem is not the schools. The problem is the lawmaking body that controls the narrative of how schools are performing.

With the constant dialogue that “we must improve schools” and the “need to implement reforms,” it is imperative that we as a taxpaying public seek to understand all of the variables in which schools are and can be measured, and not all of them are quantifiable.

And not all of them are reported or allowed to be seen.

Betsy DeVos’s March, 2018 assertion on 60 Minutes that America’s schools have seen no improvement despite the billions and billions of dollars thrown at them was a nearsighted, close minded, and rather uneducated assessment of public schools because she was displaying two particular characteristics of lawmakers and politicians who are bent on delivering a message that public schools are not actually working.

The first is the insistence that “they” know education better than those who actually work in education. Just look at the current US Secretary of Education and the outgoing State Superintendent of NC.

The second is the calculated spin of evidence and/or the squashing of actual truth. Those who control the dialogue in North Carolina and in many other states only tell their side of the spin and neglect to talk of all of the variables that schools are and should be measured by.

Consider the following picture/graph:

schools 1

All of the external forces that affect the health of traditional public schools generally are controlled and governed by our North Carolina General Assembly, rather by the majority currently in power.

The salaries and benefits that teachers receive are mandated and controlled by the NCGA. When graduate degree pay bumps and due-process rights were removed from newer teachers, that affected recruitment of teachers. When the salary schedule became more “bottom-heavy” for newer teachers, it affected the retaining of veteran teachers.

With the changes from NCLB to RttT, from standard Course of Study to Common Core, from one standardized test to another, and from one curriculum revision to another, the door of public school “requirements” has become an ever-revolving door. Add to that the fact that teachers within the public schools rarely get to either help create or grade those very standardized tests.

North Carolina still spends less on per-pupil expenditures than it did since before the Great Recession when adjusted for inflation. Who has control of that? The North Carolina General Assembly.

Within the next ten years, NC will spend almost a billion dollars financing the Opportunity Grants, a voucher program, when there exists no empirical data showing that they actually improve student outcomes. Removing the charter school cap also has allowed more taxpayer money to go to entities that do not show any more improvement over traditional schools on average. When taxpayer money goes to vouchers and charter schools, it becomes money that is not used for the almost 85% of students who still go to traditional public schools.

And just look at the ways that schools are measured. School Performance Grades really have done nothing but show the effects of poverty. School report cards carry data that is compiled and aggregated by secret algorithms, and teacher evaluation procedures have morphed more times than a strain of the flu.

When the very forces that can so drastically affect traditional public schools are coupled with reporting protocols controlled by the same lawmaking body, how the public ends up viewing the effectiveness of traditional public schools can equally be spun.

schools 2

If test scores truly dictated the effectiveness of schools, then everyone in Raleigh in a position to affect policy should take the tests and see how they fare. If continuing to siphon taxpayer money into reforms that have not shown any empirical data of student improvement is still done, then those who push those reforms should be evaluated.

So much goes into what makes a public school effective, and yes, there are some glaring shortcomings in our schools, but when the very people who control the environment in which schools can operate make much noise about how our schools are failing us, then they might need to look in the mirror to identify the problem.

Because in so many ways our schools are really succeeding despite those who want to reform them.

NC Should Not Have People Crafting Public School Policy Who Deny Systemic Racism

No, I don’t think there’s systemic racism.” – Dan Forest, October 14th during gubernatorial debate.

“I don’t believe in systemic racism.” – Mark Robinson, Sept. 19th during Lt. Gov. candidate debate.

Think about it. The person who becomes the Lt. Gov. of North Carolina will sit on the NC State Board of Education and will help craft what is taught in our public schools.

The governor will have the power to sign or veto budgets for public schools and make stands for how money is apportioned.

But the two candidates above who are now doing rallies together have explicitly said that there is no systemic racism that exists in America.

They are wrong. What has been done in the past still has direct effects on today.

But it would be nice to hear these two candidates explain:

The "Three-Fifths" compromise - African American Registry
Trail of Tears | PBS LearningMedia
Japanese internment was wrong. Why do some of our leaders still try to  justify it? - Los Angeles Times
The Black Codes and Jim Crow Laws | National Geographic Society
The History of Forced Sterilization in the United States - Our Bodies  Ourselves
The Legacy of Loving v. Virginia | Share This Schools Blog | ProQuest
Criminal Justice Facts | The Sentencing Project
The Supreme Court's big racial gerrymandering decision, explained - Vox
Origins of the Civil Rights Movement - US History Civil Rights Project

2020 Is Showing Us That Local School Board Elections Are That Important For Every NC School System


Throughout North Carolina, every local school board is wrestling with how to manage maintaining safety and reopening school buildings trying to balance what resources they have with the needs of communities while anticipating how this pandemic will continue to play out. They are having to rush to give answers to questions that are fueled by more than logic but also partisan-fueled emotions.

And there are these big elections taking place in a couple of weeks.

I do not envy anyone having to fulfill the role of the local school board official. When those elected servants campaigned to be on the local BOE, navigating a pandemic probably did not weigh into possible obstacles. I have been teaching for over 22 years; I never thought I would have to go through what happened last school year starting in March.

But I am again assured that one of the most important offices for which anyone can place a vote is for the local school board, and 2020 is another big year for many local school board elections.

Communities are learning in a rather serious manner that each election for each seat on each local school board is of vital importance.

Of all the 2018 primary political signs that were spread throughout the city where I reside, at least three of five dealt with the local school board elections.

This was not an anomaly. I cannot remember a time in an election cycle in which the majority of roadside political signs of local and state office did not refer to the school board elections. Those elections are that important because so much is at stake.

2020 has been a big lesson on how much really is at stake.

The largest part of a state’s budget tends to be toward public education. A major part of a school board’s (city or county) identity is how it helps students achieve within what resources and funds are available. In North Carolina, where a state general assembly tends to pass more fiscal responsibility to LEA’s (think class size mandate), a school board’s calling to help all students achieve must be met by those who truly understand what best helps schools and students.

2020 is exposing that raw reality.

No wonder school board elections are so important.

At the heart of a school board’s responsibilities are supporting a selected superintendent, guiding the creation of policies and curriculum, making sure there are adequate facilities, and seeing that budgetary needs are met.

Here in 2020, the fight to have the proper facilities, resources, and budgetary supports is even more difficult.


That means understanding what students, teachers, and support staff need. That means understanding how schools operate and how they are affected by mandates and laws that come from Raleigh and how Raleigh’s actions in this pandemic have affected state services. And when policies that are handed down from the state that may not treat the local system favorably, then the school board must confront those in Raleigh and help fight for what is best for the local students.

Consider that before we had a pandemic we had a per-pupil expenditure rate that was lower when adjusted for inflation than before the Great Recession. Consider that before we had a pandemic we had a lack of textbook funds and overcrowded buildings and state mandates for testing that took many school days away from instruction. Consider that before we had a pandemic we had the funding of unproven reforms like an Innovative School District and vouchers. Consider that before we had a pandemic we had the growth of unregulated charter schools.

All of that brings to light what might be one of the most important jobs that a school board must undertake: it must be willing to challenge the state in an explicit and overt manner on matters that directly affect their local schools.

In a state where almost 1 in 4 students lives in poverty and where Medicaid was not extended to those who relied on such services, schools are drastically affected as students who walk into schools bring in their life challenges. If student achievement is a primary responsibility of a school board, whatever stands in the way of students being able to achieve becomes an issue that a school board must confront.

So, is the person whose name is on a political sign for school board candidacy willing to fight for our schools even if it means confronting Raleigh’s policies and its reactions to the pandemic?

That might be the first question I might ask of any candidate for local school board – the first of many.

So, How Many Substitute Teachers Does Your School System Really Have?

I work in a school system that has over 80 schools, 50,000+ students, and around 6200 teachers. There are around 1000 substitute teachers on the official sub list in the county.

That does not mean that there are 1000 people ready to go to any school on any day for any amount of time. Those who serve as substitutes can accept whatever openings that are desired.

Some only want to sub in elementary settings or strictly be in high schools.

Some only will sub in certain schools because of travel issues.

Some will only sub on certain days.

Some will only take the job if it is for certain subjects or even teachers.

When reopening plans have been shared in different systems there seems to be one common denominator: they have been planned with the most ideal situations in mind.

Conditions will not remain “ideal” for the plans being rolled out.

Many colleges spent the entire summer coming up with various ways to keep the spread of the coronavirus at bay during the first part of the school year. Classes were both remote and in person with social distancing. Large open spaces were provided for students to be able to stay distanced. Use of “revival” tents with WiFi were common and the weather was nice enough to promote more open air events.

Yet some of those schools sent students home within weeks: students who were high school graduates and were old enough to be considered adults.

Now many systems are looking to open up buildings to hybrid Plan B variations or full reopening Plan A for elementary, middle, and high schools.

Most public schools in the state do not have the resources to even outfit teachers and staff with proper PPE.

The weather will get colder soon. Flu season is already ramping up. Kids change classes. Hallways could still get crowded. And most people do not have the kind of health insurance that a president gets.

So, how deep is the substitute teacher pool and how willing are people on that list to take a job in a school where a teacher or students have been told to stay home and quarantine?

And considering that many students will still opt to stay home for remote learning, the teaching force will be stretched thin to accomodate instruction on more than one “campus.”

Something to consider.

Because I know that this one is not available.

A Substitute-Teacher Culture Leaves Students Floundering - Market Brief

DAN Can’t See The FOREST For The Trees – The Lt. Gov. Intentionally Looking At Public Education With Blinders On

Simply put, there is really no positive thing that Lt. Gov. Dan Forest has done for North Carolina public education.

He may tout “hooking” up all schools with high-speed internet, but then he will not stop that from being an avenue for replacing teachers with computerized instruction.

He may tout “school choice,” but his record of supporting a constitutionally mandated public school system is negative at best.

He may tout a strong record on holding schools accountable, but he made sure to present charter schools in a positive light no matter the truth. Remember this from 2016?

State education leaders sidetracked a report describing the overall student population at North Carolina’s charter schools as whiter and more affluent than student bodies at traditional public schools after Lt. Gov. Dan Forest complained it was too negative.

What makes that above snippet even more ironic (since it concerns diversity) is what Forest said a little over three years later at a church service in July of 2019.

“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.” – Lt. Gov. Dan Forest

He gave us license plates that never were. That’s because the demand never reached 500 to start the production.


And there’s that personal finance class that each student in North Carolina must now take. Forest championed a class that will supposedly teach students how to look at numbers correctly and navigate their way through a state economy that still has over 1 in 5 public school children living at or below the poverty level.

But he has spent a lot of time running for governor in North Carolina. And not only is he running against Roy Cooper; Dan Forest is running against the North Carolina Association of Educators.

forest ncae

And for a man who supposedly made a career in the detailed-oriented field of architecture whose very basis is math and proper support for structures, Dan Forest has been proffering an argument whose foundation is not only faulty, but intentionally false.

Attached to that tweet from last year was a video presentation devoted solely to NCAE. It first made reference to a then recent report by Beth Wood concerning automatic pay deductions for organizations.

forest ncae2

From that Forest claimed that NCAE had barely over 5,000 members.

forest ncae3

What he conveniently fotgot 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 “quoted” tells us that. Look again.


Only one group on that list had a membership that fully pays through payroll deductions. In fact, at least two of the groups had memberships that are ten times the amount of people who used 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 were mostly represented by people who do not use payroll deduction. PENC had 4.59 times the total number of members as their payroll deduction members. The NCCTA had 16.39 times the total number of members.

If NCAE followed those trends (and it does), it could have had a membership of at least 24,744 last year.

And NCAE is growing.

Dan Forest should be very scared of that – especially since the governor’s race in Kentucky last year was very aligned with teacher activism.

Then in the same presentation, Forest made this claim.

forest ncae4

Forest says that the NCGA was to give teachers a 3.9% raise for 2019-2020. Anyone taking a personal finance class can tell from the actual numbers in the bill that “raise” was introduced that Forest was not being detailed and refused to show the foundational integrity of that claim.

Forest made sure to note that Gov. Cooper vetoed that bill.

forest ncae5

That particular veto concerned Senate Bill 354.

SB354 1

That bill would have put the following salary schedule in place for teachers.

SB354 2

It would have replaced this salary schedule.


The problem is that there is not much of a difference. In fact, it would only affect teachers with 16+ years and even then, not much at all. Just look at the comparison.

SB354 3

What that translates to is a monthly increase of $50 for all teachers with 16-20 years of experience.

150$/month for teachers with 21-24 years of experience.

$60/month for teachers with 25+ years.

How that translates into a 3.9% raise for teachers in this state is nearly impossible to even spin. And that’s coming from the guy who championed a personal finance bill for high schools.

And NC has a biennial budget.

Oh, by the way, Cooper had more raises for all teachers in his budget proposal.

As an architect, Dan Forest should go back to the drawing table and build better arguments.

NC Needs To Elect A State Superintendent Who Will Do This For Our Public Schools

From the Atlanta Journal-Constitution in my native state of Georgia this past summer:

Gov. Brian Kemp and state school Superintendent Richard Woods are asking the federal government to waive the public school testing requirement for another school year.


And there was more.

Georgia will also look to not use a school grading system next year that is a little like our school performance grades used in NC. Furthermore, GA is looking to suspend the teacher evaluation system protocols next year as well.


ALEC, SAS, EVAAS, And Charter School Chains – Looking At The Campaign Contributions For Catherine Truitt

It is perfectly lawful to donate to a political campaign, and with the Citizens United case decision from the Supreme Court a few years back, it is now lawful for corporations to donate money through political action committees (PACs) and Super PACs.

However, while it is lawful, it doesn’t mean that some interesting ethical questions occur especially when well over two-thirds of the campaign contributions reported for the second quarter for your campaign come from donors whose actions and interests run totally antithetical of supporting public schools.

Two donors represent an out-of-state for profit charter school chain.

Two represent the private entity that controls the surreptitious algorithms that produce EVAAS scores and then calculates damaging school performance grades.

One is a recent chariman of ALEC.

One is a chancellor of an online university that received monies from the state to start up in NC. That person is also the candidate, Catherine Truitt.

Here’s one couple.

The state pays more than three million dollars annually to SAS which was co-founded and is still run by Jim Goodnight who according to Forbes Magazine is one of the top donating executives to political campaigns. In 2016 he donated much to a PAC for Jeb Bush who while in Florida instituted the school performance grade system that North Carolina uses now – the same one that utilizes EVAAS reports to measure schools (https://www.bizjournals.com/triangle/blog/techflash/2015/10/forbes-sas-goodnight-among-tech-execs-for-top.html).

It also is worth looking at the fact that his wife, Ann Goodnight, is a co-founder and board member of BEST NC. When BEST NC had its 2018 legislative meeting, it brought in the toxic Michelle Rhee and her campaign for value-added measurements to discuss policy. That “closed-door” meeting was held at SAS headquarters.

The most recent principal pay schedule that garnered well-deserved criticism was spearheaded by BEST NC with legislators behind the scenes over the summer of 2018 utilizes EVAAS data.

Too much is being dictated by a private entity that is privately calculating data in a secret fashion to measure a public good and how much should be spent on that public good in a state that wants to privatize that public good.

There’s too much incestuous synergy there. 

Jonathan Hages’s Charter Schools USA is based in Ft. Lauderdale. His political contributions to politicians in North Carolina are rather numerous.

And his wife gave the maximum as well.

Below is a screen shot from followthemoney.org from last summer which tracks campaign contributions to political candidates. Here is a list of candidates who have received money from Hage in NC.

  • There’s Jerry Tillman, the former public school administrator who was a champion for opaque charter school regulation.
  • And there’s Jason Saine who loves charters as well. He was recently the national chairman of ALEC.
  • There’s Lt. Gov. Dan Forest, who sits on the state school board and lambasted DPI under Dr. June Atkinson for its report on charter schools that said they were disproportionally representing populations. And he’s running for governor with a platform to drastically expand vouchers.

Oh, and look there’s Jason Saine again as a contributor.

And lastly, Truitt lists herself as a contributor.

Making sure that she hits the maximum contribution in three different ways.