Let’s “Talk Poverty” And Consider Its Effects On Public Schools

Earlier this week one of Sen. Phil Berger’s cronies in the NCGA tweeted this:

“Billions of dollars in unreserved cash” is what he said.

Then this is reported by Carolina Forward today on Twitter:

It links to a report by Talk Poverty, an initiative from the Center of American Progress, about levels of poverty in each state. North Carolina does not sit very well in the rankings.

Overall we are 40th out 51.

41st in child poverty.

Nothing “systemic” here, is there?
And when it comes to Hunger and Food Insecurity:

Unemployment Insurance:

And Health Insurance Coverage:

North Carolina has one of the nation’s most miserly unemployment benefit systems, never expanded Medicaid benefits financed by the federal government, still maintains the lowest minimum wage legally possible, and is one of a few states to outlaw collective bargaining rights for public employees.

But we have “billions of dollars in unreserved cash?”

Just think about how those factors in a student’s life could affect performance in schools. From EdNC.org:

From “High-Octane Growth” In Public Education Spending To “No Comprehensive Spending Plan” In Months: Revisiting The NCGA’s Mission To Defund Public Schools

Remember that this state has not had a new budget in three years.

North Carolina has one of the nation’s most miserly unemployment benefit systems, never expanded Medicaid benefits financed by the federal government, still maintains the lowest minimum wage legally possible, and is one of a few states to outlaw collective bargaining rights for public employees.

A recent report from a landmark legal case that had been waged for over 20 years (Leandro) literally showed where under-funding of public education in North Carolina has been and still is occurring.

And now we are playing with cutting corporate taxes even more from a level that already ranks the lowest in the country. From Sen. Wiley Nickel this past week:

The argument from Sen. Phil Berger and his cronies is that we have had surplus budgets these last few years that necessitates all of these tax cuts they are proposing in a budget that the NC Senate is is no hurry to even release a draft of.

In other words, unreserved cash occurs when there is a deliberate withholding of funds in budgets for much needed social services like public education, unemployment, and other state financed networks that benefit North Carolinians.

It’s like my giving my kids an extra hundred dollars at Christmas as a “present” when I refused to fully fund necessities throughout the year.

It’s rather funny that Sen. Newton who delivered that gem of a tweet above talks about all of this surplus money when just a couple of years ago he did the following because there were not enough resources for teachers to purchasee needed items.

From the Oct. 8th, 2018 edition of the Independent Tribune out of Cabarrus County:


On Monday afternoon, teachers at Royal Oaks Elementary and Northwest Cabarrus Middle School were asked to stay after school for a quick staff meeting.

When they walked into their media centers to see some special guests— including Senator Paul Newton— they knew something was up.

Newton has teamed up with the Cabarrus County Education Foundation and Staples to present certified classroom teachers at all of the schools in the Cabarrus County Schools district with a $100 Staples gift card to use for school supplies.

The foundation kicked the giveaways off with these two schools and plans to visit all of the others to give out gift cards in the next few weeks.

“One of the things we know is that teachers end up spending a lot of their own money for classroom supplies. One of the things we kind of look at and try to figure out how best to support you guys with that,” Cabarrus County Schools Superintendent Dr. Chris Lowder told the Royal Oaks teachers after the surprise was revealed. “This past summer the North Carolina legislature and the senate tried to take up that issue too and deal with ways they may help with that area. We just want to say thank you to him (Newton) and the North Carolina legislature and senate and what they are trying to do to help our teachers.”

It’s that same duplicitous hypocrisy that Berger is using right now as his branch of the NCGA is not offering a new budget while both the governor and the NC House have released their versions.

“No Comprehensive Spending Plan?”

But just months ago, Berger was talking about “high-octane growth.”

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It makes reference to this July 2020 publication from the NEA which is the national teacher union of which NCAE is a state affiliate.

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And this is what Berger highlighted:

Here’s a few of the topline rankings for North Carolina:

· 2019–20 increase in K-12 funding: #1 in the Southeast (#7 in the country)

· 2019–20 increase in K-12 funding per student: #1 in the Southeast (#6 in the country)

· 2018–19 increase in public school instructional staff salaries: #1 in the Southeast (#4 in the country)

· 2018–19 increase in teacher salaries: #1 in the Southeast (#3 in the country)

What should be noted here is that these rankings really are based mostly on average change in dollars spent – not actual amounts. When the state ranks in the bottom part of the charts and then invests a little money, the percentage increase can look deceptively appealing. Berger calls it “high octane growth.”

Not really.

That report highlights almost 50 different “metrics” many for which it gives figures over the last two full years available: actual numbers from 2017-2018 and 2018 – 2019 and the change between those numbers.

Berger only cherry-picks a few of those metrics and avoids telling you the actual amounts of dollars spent – only the change.

And he neglects to tell you that those figures come from each state’s designated “reporting” entity. And it is not consistent across all states how reporting is done and what variables they use. For NC, that would be DPI. To assume that each state uses the same variables and methods of calculation to come up with their state’s figures is foolhardy at best.

Just think of who has been in charge of DPI the last three-plus years. And think of who has been in charge of those people.

The beginning of that NEA report sets some baselines on average teacher salary and expenditures per student.

Teacher Salary:

The national average public school teacher salary for 2018–19 was $62, 304. State average teacher salaries ranged from those in New York ($85, 889), California ($83, 059), and Massachusetts ($82, 042) at the high end to Mississippi ($45, 105), West Virginia ($47, 681) and New Mexico ($47, 826) at the low end.

The national average one-year change in public school teacher salaries from 2017–18 to 2018–19 was 2.5 percent. The largest one-year decrease was in Louisiana (−0.1%), and the largest one-year increase was in Washington (31.2%).

Expenditures per Student:

The national average per-student expenditure in 2018–19 based on fall enrollment was $12, 994, a gain of 2.7 percent from $12, 654 in 2017–18. The following states had the highest per-student expenditures: New York ($24, 749), New Jersey ($21, 326), and the District of Columbia ($20, 425). Idaho ($7, 459), Utah ($8, 150), and Arizona ($8, 722) had the lowest per-student expenditures.

Average teacher salary in the nation for 2018-2019: $62,304. North Carolina reported an average of $53,940.

Average per-student expenditure (on fall enrollment for 2018-2019) in the nation: $12,994. North Carolina reported an average of $10,165.

We aren’t even near the national average for either of those metrics.

Berger also makes it a point to highlight those selected “rankings” in the context of the Southeast. He doesn’t define exactly what the Southeast is but generally speaking it is a collection of 12 states.

SOUTHEAST REGION OF THE UNITED STATES - Printable handout | Teaching  Resources

The first thing to notice is that the four metrics mentioned in Berger’s press release deal with different school years. The first two come from the 2019-2020 school year. The second two come from the 2018-2019 school year. That’s important because the 2019-2020 numbers will not change for 2020-2021. Why? Berger made sure that the NCGA did not pass a new budget in NC forcing the schools to be funded with the same amounts as the last budget.

Now, take a deeper look at those “topline rankings.”

2019–20 increase in K-12 funding: #1 in the Southeast (#7 in the country)

That’s from page 57.

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That change from 2018-2019 to 2019-2020 for North Carolina was 5.15%. The fact that an extra $500 per year for students (based on attendance) would create that percentage change tells you more about the less than average amount we as a state spend per student. Ranking #7 in that metric for percent change when it is still almost $3,000 below the national average is really nothing to brag about.

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· 2019–20 increase in K-12 funding per student: #1 in the Southeast (#6 in the country)

That’s from page 56.

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It’s the same in this respect as the one before except in this one the funding per student is based on actual enrollment and not who actually attended.

That change from 2018-2019 to 2019-2020 for North Carolina was 4.60%. Ranking #7 in that metric for percent change when it is still almost $3,000 below the national average again is really nothing to brag about.

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· 2018–19 increase in public school instructional staff salaries: #1 in the Southeast (#4 in the country)

That’s from page 25.

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Yes, NC is #4 in the increase of AVERAGE salary in the nation for instructional staff.

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But when you already have a below average salary and raise it even a little, you can claim an average percentage that really is dwarfed by the actual raise.

In this metric, NC supposedly increased the average salary by $2,706. Still very much below the national average.

By over $10,000.

· 2018–19 increase in teacher salaries: #1 in the Southeast (#3 in the country)

That’s from page 26.

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Yes, NC is #4 in the increase of AVERAGE salary in the nation for teachers.

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We went from 32 to 30. And still well below the national average.

But something is a little odd here: the average salary of instructional staff and the average salary of teachers in NC is reported to be the same. How can different metrics show the same result? No other state in the Southeast even shows the same salary and nationally North Carolina is one of 8 states in the nation to do that. Just compare pages 25 and 26.

It seems that DPI reports an average salary of a teacher to include the averages of principals and AP and other people who are not actual classroom teachers but fit in a broader category of “Educators.” That changes the numbers. In essence, the average teacher salary that is touted in North Carolina takes in consideration administration and other certified staff at the school site. Not just teachers.

No one else in the Southeast measures average teacher salary in the same way. That misrepresents NC and it is intentional.

And of the eight states that do that type of reporting, NC is by far the lowest ranked of the bunch.

NEA can only report what the state gives them. So, DPI gives numbers that DPI knows uses different calculations in some metrics and then the state powers-that-be who control DPI can then even further manipulate how those numbers can be interpreted.

Go back to those four metrics that Berger highlights in his post without fully explaining them. They “list” NC as #1 in the Southeast. But that’s based on percent increase from year to year.

Look at actual numbers for the 2018-2019 numbers reported for the 12 southeastern states.

In average salary for instructional staff, North Carolina ranks 7th out of 12.

In average teacher salary, North Carolina ranks 2nd out of 12. BUT THIS IS MISLEADING. Look at the average pay for teachers and instructional staff for NC. They are the same. NC is the only one of the 12 on that list that puts all certified staff in that category so in relation to all of the other states listed, NC’s is inflated. ADD TO THAT, NC USES LOCAL SUPPLEMENTS IN ITS CALCULATIONS. Therefore, NC is taking credit for an uneven local supplement system that is controlled by the LEA’s, not the state.

That second place finish was because of performance-enhancing measures. And don’t forget that NC has eliminated graduate teacher pay bumps and longevity pay.

In the case of expenditures per student, NC ranked 8th out of 12.

Ask Berger to explain all of that.

He might have to redefine what “high-octane growth” is.

Dear Lt. Gov., Have You Found Any Witches Yet?

This past March, Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson put together a “task force” to root out indocitrination in our schools.

He even set up a website for people to issue a complaint on his Lt. Gov.’s official website.

Here are the criteria for submission:

What to submit:

  • Examples of discrimination or harassment related to a student’s faith, ethnicity, worldview, or political beliefs;
  • Examples of unequal, inconsistent, or disparate treatment of students in the enforcement of school rules and/or in disciplinary matters;
  • Examples of students being subjected to indoctrination according to a political agenda or ideology, whether through assigned work, teacher comments, or a hostile classroom environment;
  • Examples of students being required to disclose details regarding their individual race/ethnicity, sexual preference, religious ideology, or economic status
  • Examples of students being exposed to inappropriate content or subject matter in the classroom, including matters relating to substance abuse, profanity, or of a sexual nature.

So my question as a taxpayer and NC citizen to the Lt. Governor is “How many witches have you found?” It’s been well over two months.

We Have To Teach Real History In Our Schools

This week marks the one-year anniversary of the death of George Floyd while in police custody. Next week will be the 100th anniversary of the Tulsa race massacre. Last week UNC trustees denied tenure to Nikole Hannah-Jones, a Pulitzer Prize and MacArthur Foundation genius grant winner (and UNC-CH alumna) in what is obviously a political move in response to her 1619 Project.

And there is the current push to stop the teaching of anything that policy makers seem to remotely associate to Critical Race Theory in public schools.

Rep. Tim Moore said in that tweet above “schools should be places of dignity and respect for ALL students and teachers.”

The idea that we as public school educators must use a certain slant to present history in order to make all seem “equal” is rather seditiously ironic since the very body that screams “respect for ALL” is the same body that used racial lines to draw gerrymandered districts, incorporated a school grading system that systemically stigmatizes poverty, and tried passing a voter-ID law that was struck down because of its targeting of minorities.

That word “all” is interesting. Why? Because throughout the very history that is being disinfected by modern state lawmakers, the word “all” seems to have been more exclusionary, especially to lawmakers of the past.

When Thomas Jefferson penned the opening part of The Declaration of Independence what did he mean by “all”?

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that ALL men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

Did that “all” include non-white, non-landowning, and non-male people? If it did then NC will need to find a really sanitized way to explain why women and minorities were not granted the right to vote until generations later.

Or what about the Pledge of Allegiance after its final revision in 1954?

“I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the republic for which it stands, one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for ALL.”

Jim Crow laws were still in effect in much of the country in 1954. It would take another decade for the Civil Rights Act to be passed in the very country that holds that same Declaration of Independence and Pledge of Allegiance sacred.

“All” simply has not always meant “all”. And states like North Carolina, New Hampshire, Iowa, and Missouri along with many others want public schools to pass legislation to “address Critical Race Theory” as Tim Moore stated above.

Almost forty years after CRT was first introduced as a way to examine how race, society, culture, and the law interact, NC lawmakers all of a sudden do not want students to have a chance to examine those very forces as they interact in society today through an academic lens crafted decades ago.

The same lawmakers who used a study of how race, society, culture, and law interact to enact legislation and draw district lines do not want students whom they deem old enough to get married (14) to have the opportunity to critically think about the very factors that shape so much of their world – a world they will need to keep together long after most of the older white lawmakers in Raleigh are long gone.

If you look at the personal web pages of many of those non-educators who are obsessed with molding how history is presented in schools they never have worked in, then you will probably see in their “resume” a profession of faith and where they go to church to worship the man who once said “the truth shall make you free” (John 8:32).

This willful attempt to challenge how history is “supposed” to be taught so that we as a society do not have to confront our ugly truths is dishonest and divides us even more in a country that is supposedly “one nation under God” and “indivisible.” This is on top of that recent move by the same NC General Assembly to take away a year of American History from the required curriculum to have students take a personal finance course which purposefully does not address issues surrounding poverty and how accumulated wealth works for different people in our society.

It is often mentioned that if we do not learn from history then we are bound to repeat it. What might be more egregious is that if we refuse to learn from history we keep our future generations from MAKING positive history and do better than we did.

We as a society so much need these future generations to be free and make positive history. Hopefully, our posterity will be able to look back at this time in history and honestly see that we confronted our own history.

Financing A Contradiction: The Lack Of Transparency In NC’s Voucher System

Interesting that in a year where lawmakers in Raleigh are trying to create more “transparency” in the public school classroom, they are trying to extend the voucher system to include more families so they may send more students to private schools where there is hardly any transparency at all.

It’s by design.

It’s intentional.

It’s consistently contradictory.

Think of “transparency” as a finite entity that supposedly covers an entire education system where state money is used for educating students both in public schools and in private schools that take vouchers. However, what is happening here is that more of the “transparency” is being shoved into public school classrooms with short-sighted application. The “transparency” that should have been in the voucher-receiving private schools seems to be not be there any longer. In fact, it was never really there because North Carolina has the least transparent voucher system in the country.

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. Lawmakers in NC want to increase that amount and allow more families to be eligible.

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

The average cost of tuition at a private school in NC this year is almost $10,000. The most expensive has a tuition of over $55,000.

All 34 of those aforementioned schools are religiously affiliated schools. Over 20 of them 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.


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:

Duke study

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, these are 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 2020 Duke study:

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

And the same lawmakers who are pushing “transparency” in our public schools are actively pushing to have more vouchers be used in non-transparent private schools.

Please Read What This NC TOY Said About Trusting Teachers & Indoctrination

What Mariah Morris said in her perspective that appears on EdNC.org was both needed and welcome. As a recent winner of the NC TOY award, she has been an incredible voice for classroom teachers during her tenure on the State Board of Education and has used her platform as a positive space for public education advocacy.

And I bring forth these questions because my public school experience that spans approximately 15 years leads me to believe that teachers instruct, we lead, we love, and we care for our students. But we don’t indoctrinate our children.

Mariah Morris, May 20th Perspective

Please take the time to read.

And thanks to Ms. Morris.

We Need The Arts And Humanities In Our Public Schools More Than Ever

There has been an incredible emphasis on the STEM curriculum approach in our public schools. And I fear that because of the limiting of resources and reduction of per-pupil funding by our state government that other subject areas have and will suffer for it especially in wake of this pandemic and out current General Assembly’s inability to fully fund public schools.

There is no doubt that having a unique approach to engaging students in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics is important as we still adjust to instilling 21st century skills in our students. However, without the skills derived from other fields of study such as the liberal arts, the social sciences, the fine arts, and the humanities, that sole focus on STEM will create very knowledgeable but one-dimensional students.

(Besides, it’s not like we have powerful officials actually listening to science when it comes to this pandemic.)

Think of a physical body where all limbs are functional and useful. Yet, the right arm is much more developed and favored than the others. In exercises that require only the use of the right arm, this person does well. In exercises that require full body coordination and strength, this person is weakened.

This century requires a much more fully coordinated workforce and a more dynamic world economy. Communication, presentation, collaboration, and understanding of other cultures past and present are just as critical as the products that we produce.

Many decision makers in Raleigh believe that our country’s ability to maintain its position and even lead the world in innovation and economic development rests solely on how well our students become enmeshed with STEM curriculum and its related fields. I disagree. Not because I teach a subject area that is not STEM, but because I believe that the teachers of STEM subjects that I work with see and value the skill sets that non-STEM teachers teach.

For a state that expends a lot of energy and money allowing for “choice” in our schools, is it not ironic that many lawmakers seem to be favoring some of the choices above others? These same lawmakers should know that being able to take advantage of any option in life is contingent on critical thinking skills, problem solving capabilities, effective communications abilities, and an understanding of what has worked in the past. Simply put, all subject areas are vital in preparing our students to make those choices. In fact, in coming to grips with the apparent aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic, we might need the arts and social sciences even more.

With all of this emphasis on STEM, the acronym itself suggests that there is more that students need to be exposed to when it comes to creating an innovative citizenry for this new age. Why? Because a “STEM” is only part of the larger flower or plant. And while the STEM is important, so are the roots, leaves, soil, sun, and water in creating the bloom, fruit, crop, or plant. If we are to create a vibrant citizenry and recover from this year’s interruptions, we need to make sure that we pay attention to the whole student. And that means that we need to make sure that the very students who many claim need to be immersed in STEM curriculum are also nurtured with the arts – both the liberal and the fine arts.

Think about it. Before a plant can grow it needs to have a good root system that allows it to take in nutrients from the soil and water from the ground. The more elaborate the root system is, the better chance that the plant will grow and thrive.

Much like a root system, we make sure to give our students a foundation early. Remember the three “R’s”? Two of them refer to reading and writing, which are the basis for language arts. Reading is practically the most foundational aspect for almost every other type of learning. Establishing and nurturing that root system must happen. Besides, the bigger the plant, the need for a more elaborate root system. That’s why we always need good language arts instruction. And writing (all types of writing) enhances our language abilities. It allows us to interact with the environment.

The leaves are like the social sciences and other humanities. Leaves take in the sunshine and use photosynthesis to literally feed the plant. The leaves interact with what is around the plant. Much like the leaves, the social sciences and humanities lend perspective and teach lessons about what is around us and how we can interact with those entities. History, sociology, civics, health, and other types of classes lend us a lens to see how the world works and how we can function in that world. They also teach what has worked in the past and what has worked in other climates.

There is so much evidence and research that the fine arts enhance any student’s ability to improve in all academic areas. Theater, music, visual arts, and dance help students expand themselves and develop self-esteem, confidence, creativity, and self-expression. Think of the bloom or the fruit of a plant. What makes that plant attractive or wanted? What makes the fruit of produce eye-catching? Why would we be drawn to it? The very appearance and appeal to the senses has a lot to do with just how a plant presents itself.

What many in Raleigh forget is that they control the very soil and water that is used to help plants (students) grow. By fully funding our public schools (even if it means raising corporate taxes and using “rainy day” funds), they ensure that the soil is nutrient rich and able to help grow plants. By removing obstacles like vouchers for all and unregulated charter schools, they can ensure that there is enough rain falling on the plants for them to grow.

When they say we don’t need as many liberal arts, humanities, social sciences, and fine arts, they are literally saying that plants are nothing but stems. And the stem cannot survive on its own. It needs the other parts.

I truly believe that good teachers in good schools not only value the skills that other teachers help students obtain, they possess an understanding that the entire faculty and staff is one giant collaborative team. Cross-curricular cooperation should be common and chances to help reinforce concepts across subject areas show students the worth of what is being taught.

It would be disheartening to see lawmakers favor a set of courses over others.


Because they are all important.

Mark Johnson Is No Longer State Superintendent, But Not Much Has Changed

Actually, there might be a couple of differences.

There is not a school inbox full of platitudinous emails that ask teachers to take rigged questionnaires.

No glossy flyers.

No iPads to store in warehouses that were bought surreptitiously with funds that could have been used elsewhere.

But the similarities between Mark Johnson’s tenure as state super and Catherine Truitt’s first few months in the job are numerous.

1. There is that need to do an initial tour to “listen.”

When I took office as State Superintendent, I embarked on a statewide listening tour to hear directly from educators, parents, and community and business leaders. Now I am able to focus on priorities highlighted by teachers from Murphy to Manteo. I believe appreciating teachers means listening to their concerns and working to support them” – Mark Johnson from “Ways to show our teachers appreciation” from EdNC.org on May 8th, 2018 (https://www.ednc.org/2018/05/08/ways-to-show-our-teachers-appreciation/).

2. Both have tried to help save the disastrous Read to Achieve initiative with silver bullet solutions in which an out-of-state vendor was “chosen” to receive lots of NC money.


3. Both had campaigns financed by those who want to privatize our public schools.

Mark Johnson’s 2016 campaign had the following contributors:

  • Jonathan Sackler of Purdue Pharma, the makers of OxyContin.
  • John Bryan, the founder of the Team CFA based in Oregon which is a charter school chain.
  • Steuart Walton is CEO of Game Composites. He’s part of the Walton family (Walmart).
  • The Roger Bacon Academy Charter School Chain that has four different campuses in North Carolina. 
  • And LEE which stands for Leadership in Education Equity. It is a spin-off of Teach for America of which Johnson is an alumnus.

Over two-thirds of the campaign contributions reported for the second quarter in 2020 or Truitt’s campaign came from donors whose actions and interests run totally antithetical of supporting public schools.

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

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

One was a recent chariman of ALEC.

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

4. Both were scared/are to meet with NCAE.

5. Both have not (did not) adhere to the findings of the Leandro Report.

6. And both have never stood up to the likes of Phil Berger.

So much so that this diagram from Mark Johnson’s tenure has hardly changed.


Dear North Carolina Policy Maker, Exactly What Is The Job Description Of A Public School Teacher?

Today is the last full week for class at my school before the onslaught of final exams.

It’s been a rather a trying year for teachers and other educators in public schools. The adjustments, the outreach, the conversion of lesson plans to another format, the communication, the… you name it.

It is all a continuing reminder of what all goes into this job that most of us do not actually call a job, but maybe a calling. And it makes me again ask that question: so what is the job description of a teacher?

Around six years ago, then Sen. David Curtis delivered a rather uneducated response to a letter from a young teacher in which he outlined a close-minded viewpoint of the teaching profession.

Needless to say, it garnered quite a response from teachers around the state.

In a state where the teaching profession has undergone assault after assault from lawmakers, many in Raleigh pin their opinions of teacher and school performance on test results and financial bottom lines. They then craft policies that match those opinions.

They are still doing it in this session of the NC General Assembly with bills on “transparency” and limiting what “can be taught.”

So I want to ask a non-rhetorical question of any lawmaker in North Carolina (and actually anyone else), what exactly is the job description of a North Carolina public school teacher?

This is by no means a loaded question or one that is asked to create a nebulous web of answers that would cloud the actual debate. But if public education is to be the issue that defines another session of the NC General Assembly which holds the budget hostage ove teacher pay,  that decides votes in a huge upcoming election year, and that all people already have some sort of stake in, then what the role of a public school teacher in North Carolina might need to be more understood.

Is it to deliver curriculum and teach mastery?

Is it to help students grow into productive citizens?

Is it to “teach” the whole child – intellectually, mentally, emotionally, etc.?

Is it to get students to pass standardized tests?

Is it to keep students safe?

Is it all all of those things and much more?

Below is a screenshot from the statutes of the General Assembly concerning the “duties” of teachers.

duties of teachers

They include a variety of “duties,” some more defined than others: discipline, “teaching,” reporting, provide for well-being, medical care, keep order, etc.

Now throw in some other factors and variables that have a direct effect on those “duties” like poverty, hunger, sickness, apathy, lack of resources, overcrowding, and respect for the profession. It makes those duties in the above statute seem a little more expansive.

So, what is the real job description of a public high school teacher in North Carolina that considers the defined duties, expectations, and realities of public educators? And are you willing to share that as a lawmaker who makes decisions on how teachers are resourced, treated, and viewed? If not, then you might need to educate yourself.

And if you are willing, are you ready to hear from teachers the truth?

But after all the platitudes, accolades, and lip service that so many in Raleigh have paid to the teaching profession, every lawmaker must ask him/herself, what is it really worth?

Due-Process Rights and Career Status for Teachers Are That Important – Especially Now

One of the first items that the GOP controlled General Assembly attempted to pass in the early part of the last decade was the removal of due-process right for all teachers. Commonly called “tenure,” due process rights are erroneously linked to the practice that colleges use to award “tenure” to professors. Actually, they really are not the same.

What due-process means is that a teacher has the right to appeal and defend himself / herself when an administrator seeks to terminate employment or challenge what a teacher has done in class based on third-person accounts. It means that a teacher cannot be fired on the spot for something that is not considered an egregious offense.

Of course, if a teacher does something totally against the law like inappropriate relations with students, violence, etc., then due-process rights do not really apply. But a new principal in a school does not have the right to just clean house because of right-to-work and “at will” laws. Teachers with due process rights cannot just be dismissed with the swish of a wand.

Thanks to NCAE and some courageous teachers like a friend in my district, the courts decided that it would be a breach of contract for veteran teachers who had already obtained career-status. But that did not cover newer teachers who will not have the chance to gain career status and receive due process rights.

Just look at some of the bills that have been introduced and actions taken to “control” what people who are not in classrooms think is being taught in classrooms.

There is even a bill that is trying to force teachers to give an acceptable reason for taking a personal day.

What also gets lost in the conversation with the public is that due-process rights and career-status are protective measures for students and schools. Teachers need to know that they can speak up against harsh conditions or bad policies without repercussions. Teachers who are not protected by due-process will not be as willing to speak out because of fear.

Due-process removal actually weakens the ability of the teaching force in NC to speak up and advocate a little each year as veteran teachers retire and are replaced by new teachers who do not receive those rights.

Simply put, veteran teachers’ records prove their effectiveness or they would not have gotten continuing licenses. Teachers with due-process rights actually work to advocate for schools and students without fear of sudden reprisal.

They are that important! Their removal was a beginning step in a patient, scripted, and ALEC-allying plan that systematically tries to weaken a profession whose foundation is advocating for public schools.