Ask Public School Principals – Every One Of Them

Don’t take a poll of community members on an open forum about whether this state should open school buildings and leave it there.

It’s not about what we want to do.

It’s not about what we think we can do in ideal situations with plans that work perfectly in our minds.

It’s not even about all sides having the best of intentions.

It’s about what actually can be done.

If we are to open school buildings because of a bill in Raleigh or a “unified” suggestion coming from Gov. Cooper, Supt. Truitt, and the Chair of the State Board, then you must ask those who run our schools if it can be done.

So, have all the principals in this state of a public school been asked what they know can and cannot be done?

And have their voices been heard?

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Hard to imagine high schools having the ability to keep social distancing protocols in effect in reopening school buildings.

Actually Our Lt. Gov. Is Preaching Indoctrination In Schools

Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson is going a long way in giving the facade that he is defending our public schools from teaching a “version” of history that “indoctrinates” students with radical beliefs.

He’s even started a petition to lobby the very state school board he serves on.

If you have not met our new NC Lt. Governor, he is a staunch believer that this country does not have system racism.

From a recent Facebook post that was recently highlighted on NC Policy Watch:

“These divisive standards consistently separate Americans into groups in an effort to undermine our unity. The proposed standards indoctrinate our students against our great country and our founders.”

Many of those same founders owned slaves and those same founders intentionally ignored the issue of slavery in writing policy for the nation when it gained its independence.

But focus on the word “indoctrination” here. According to Merriam Webster online the word “indoctrinate” means:

So here is a man who is telling us what we should teach our students by intentionally pushing his point of view as to what should not be included using his politically partisan social media accounts to keep students from being indoctrinated by a radical agenda.

Sounds like indoctrination in a classic sense.

Today’s main editorial in the Winston-Salem Journal did a good job of explaining Robinson’s hypocrisy as far as indoctrination is concerned.

As for America’s missteps, we are not even a year removed from the death of George Floyd under the knee of a Minneapolis police officer. Both Republicans and Democrats have acknowledged the disproportionate toll mass incarceration has taken on people of color, and they addressed it in the 2018 First Step Act. As for the past …

Government-sanctioned, forced sterilization of some North Carolinians lasted into the 1970s.

The Tuskegee experiments in Alabama (1932-1972) intentionally allowed Black sharecroppers with syphilis to go untreated. Conducted by the U.S. Public Health Service, the study resulted in more than 100 deaths from the disease or from complications related to it.

The Wilmington insurrection in 1898 not only was aided and abetted by government leaders and the media — it was allowed to happen by the federal government, without consequence for either the mob or the instigators.

The federal government’s redlining practices denied loans and housing opportunities for African-American borrowers and created much of today’s racial wealth gap.

These are only a few examples, all of them, arguably, examples of “systemic racism.”

It’s What Cooper Didn’t Say

No question. Gov. Cooper did not endear himself to many teachers today when he participated in a press conference aside both State Super Catherine Truitt and State Board Chair Eric Davis in appealing to all public school systems to offer in-person teaching.

Currently, 90 of the 115 physical LEA’s offer some sort of Plan B or Plan A options.

Cooper did not issue a mandate, but it did seem like a capitulation to the wishes of Berger & Co.

Yet in announcing a desire for schools to all offer in-person instruction, he said absolutely nothing about vaccinating teachers.

If the opening of school buildings is the hinge upon which the mental, economic, physical, and political well-being of much of our society swings, then would it not be important to make sure that teachers get vaccinated quickly?

Dr. Jen Mangrum said it well with this post:

Seems a little hypocritical when the very press conference Cooper where made this announcement and the state school board meetings where this was discussed were not really in-person events.

“North Carolina Personal Education Student Accounts For Children With Disabilities Program” – A New Name For An Old Unregulated Reform With More Money

Within the wording of a new bill by the North Carolina General Assembly is a new name for an old unregulated reform that could easily be used for students in our public schools.

It starts on page 4 of HB32.

Notice that the words “Education Savings Account” have been replaced with “Education Student Accounts for Children with Disabilities.”

It’s an ESA with a different name. Rebranded but not imporved.

In my career, not many things have given me insight to how much schools in North Carolina have been hampered by under-funding and ill-gotten policies in allotment for teachers as going through an IEP process.

Remember that an IEP is a legally binding document. As a parent, I want to do everything for my own special needs child to help ensure his chances at success. As a teacher, I would want to be able to offer anything that could help a student. I see both sides. In an IEP meeting for my son, I am a parent. But as a teacher, I can reflect on how teachers and schools look at IEP’s.

The last IEP meeting we had for Malcolm was a great example of simple collaboration even if it was over a Zoom call because of the pandemic. The teachers in the virtual room wanted what was best for Malcolm. The specialists wanted was was best for Malcolm. The parents felt like they were listened to.

The people made it work. But imagine if there were more resources and time at their disposal. And does this happen at all schools?

There has been something available to parents like me and my wife for students like my son. It is called the Personal Education Savings Account. It allows for a maximum of $9,000 of taxpayer money to be used on educational services that parents or guardians deem necessary.

From edchoice.org (https://www.edchoice.org/school-choice/programs/north-carolina-personal-education-savings-accounts/):

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We would qualify.  But we will not apply for it, and we would never criticize a family for using one. There truly are needs that require certain measures.

But there are a few reasons why we would not apply.

The first is that like many other endeavors in the reform minded views of lawmakers, this is highly unregulated. It is crafted much like Arizona’s program and that one has been highly abused because it is not regulated. Instances of using funds for non-educational purchases were not uncommon.

Also, if you look at the requirements, using the ESA “releases the school district from all obligations to educate the student.” That can be interpreted in a few different ways, but ultimately it absolves the school system from being responsible for the services it would have already provided if the ESA was not used. An IEP would cover it, if that IEP was constructed so. In short, it absolves the state from having to provide legally binding services by paying families to go elsewhere.

Furthermore, it would seem like taking money away from other students in a state where per-pupil expenditure still rates in the bottom rungs in the country.

If 10% of the state’s student population  is eligible for an ESA, and each of those ESA’s can go up to $9,000 per student, it makes one wonder why the state would not consider simply going ahead and adding that amount of money to the very public school that the student with special needs already attends.

In fact, it would be great if we as a family could apply for the ESA and simply give it to Malcolm’s public school.

But Raleigh made sure that was not the way it worked.

And now they want to rename it.

To make it look more legit. And this bill ramps it up even more.

Look at how broadly “disability” is now defined. (What is crossed out is older language in previous bills and laws).

And it changes the amount of money available.

Again, why not allow that money to be used in the local public school of the recipient?

Because the state would still have to legally provide for the everything the child needs as stipulated in an IEP if the child is in a public school.

Take The Pledge To Stop The Spread – For Our Schools

The Community for Safe Opening of WSFCS has started this petition to bring more awareness to the need to make sure we curb the spread before reopening our school buildings. These two statements from the petition especially convinced this teacher to sign.

In-person school is safest when community spread of Covid-19 is low.

We can come together as a community to slow the spread, protect one another, make our schools safer, and prevent our healthcare system from becoming overwhelmed.  

The petition can be found here.

The NCGA Is Using The Pandemic To Further Fund The Least Transparent Financing Of Religious Schools With Taxpayer Money In The Nation

From the same group of lawmakers who made sure to not pass a new budget for the state that directly affects our public schools comes this bill.

From the same group of lawmakers who made sure to not dip into the “rainy-day” fund to help schools comes this bill.

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.

According to the Private School Review, there were 34 private schools in North Carolina for which an Opportunity Grant could cover the entire tuition ($4200 or less) last school year.

The average cost of tuition at a private school in NC last school year was almost $10,000. The most expensive had a tuition of over $55,000.

All 34 of those aforementioned schools are religiously affiliated schools. Over 20 of them took and still take Opportunity Grants.

Please remember that tuition is only one of the costs. There tend to be other fees and expenses like books, supplies, transportation, costs for extracurricular activities, and food. What a voucher can’t cover, the family must fund themselves.

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

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And 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:

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

Here is some more food for thought from the NCSEAA, the North Carolina State Education Assistance Authority.

Again, mostly religious schools that do not have regulations on curriculum and nothing really to enforce open admission standards. In fact, in most cases, it is hard to even measure how well voucher students do academically compared to public schools which are highly regulated and very transparent. From that most recent Duke study:

Now just view the schools in the past few years that have taken the most voucher money.

And these lawmakers want all students in North Carolina to have these.

During a pandemic.