Apparently in 2012, Robinson posted the following on his Facebook account.
With his F.A.C.T.S. task force, slamming of public education, accusations of indoctrination, shaming of the LGBTQ community, and open disdain for those who do not agree with him, this man who is the top ranking GOP member in the state deserves every bit of the brush back he will get from this news story.
Ironic that just days before this news story broke, he sent out this particular campaign donation flyer to people.
What he says now doesn’t change what happened in the past, even though in every instance that he has been behind a pulpit, at a NC General Assembly meeting, or talking about social study standards at school board meetings, he has never acknowledged that his own true history totally contradicts what his mouth spews today.
But it’s a consistent politically-motivated pattern for Robinson.
Say in 2008, a school district had 1000 students in its school system and spent 10 million dollars in its budget to educate them. That’s a 10,000 per pupil expenditure. Now in 2022, that same district has 1500 students and the school system is spending 11.5 million to educate them. That district is spending more total dollars now than in 2008 on education, but the per-pupil expenditure has gone down – significantly to over 2300 dollars per student or 23 percent.
What many in Raleigh want to pat themselves on the backs about is that we as a state are spending more on education than ever before. And that’s true. Just listen for the many examples to come from legislators looking to get reelected this past year to the NC General Assembly yet never passing a new budget.
But when the average spent per pupil does not increase with the rise in the cost of resources and upkeep and neglects to put into consideration that the population of North Carolina has exploded in the last couple of decades, then that political “victory” becomes empty.
What many in Raleigh may also want to pat themselves on the back about is how much of the state budget is spent on public education. It’s about 56% now.
But we are supposed to. It’s in our constitution.
The Public School Forum of North Carolina’s publication the 2014 Local School Finance Studyprovides a great history of the state’s practice in funding public schooling which is rooted in the proclamation that all children in the state ages 6-21 are guaranteed a good public education. The publication stated:
North Carolina’s first state constitution in 1776 included an education provision that stated, “A School or Schools shall be established by the Legislature for the convenient Instruction of Youth.” The legislature provided no financial support for schools.
A century later, the constitution adopted after the Civil War required the state to provide funding for all children ages 6-21 to attend school tuition-free. In 1901, the General Assembly appropriated $100,000 for public schools, marking the first time there was a direct appropriation of tax revenue for public schools. Today, the constitution mandates that the state provide a “general and uniform system of free public schools” and that the state legislature may assign counties “such responsibility for the financial support of the free public schools as it may deem appropriate.” N.C. Const. art. IX, § 2 (see sidebar, “Sources of Local School Finance Law: The North Carolina State Constitution”).
Apart from the constitutional provisions, a major change in the school funding structure occurred during the Great Depression. Under the School Machinery Act (enacted in 1931 and amended in 1933), the state assumed responsibility for all current expenses necessary to maintain a minimum eight-month school term and an educational program of basic content and quality (instructional and program expenses). In exchange for the state’s expanded role, local governments assumed responsibility for school construction and maintenance (capital expenses). The School Machinery Act established counties as the basic unit for operating public schools, which is maintained today with large county-wide school systems, except in the 11 counties that also have city school systems.
What this means is that the state has the responsibility for the financing of basic functions for public education like salaries for personnel, services for special-needs students, technology, professional development, even textbooks. To say that the state spends around 56% of its budget on public education and then consider that to be the end-all-and-be-all to the argument is really ignoring the reasons why such a dynamic exists.
In the past before the GOP’s current majority in the NC General Assembly began, the state spent an even higher percentage on public education because THAT IS WHAT THE STATE CONSTITUTION DECLARED. Those percentages of spending are not a badge of honor that this General Assembly gets to wear; it was earned many decades ago. The fact that the percentage is getting lower actually is not a positive sign for this administration. It is a reflection that the NCGA’s level of commitment to public education is wavering.
Lest we forget, some of the very people who are bragging about how well they have treated public education in this state have really in fact weakened it – deliberately. How? Here is a sampling:
The financing of failed charter schools that have little or no oversight.
The funding of vouchers (Opportunity Grants) that effectively remove money for public education and reallocate it to private schools – actually over 93% of them go to religious schools.
The under-funding of our public university system, which forces increases in tuition, while giving tax breaks to companies who benefit from our educated workforce.
The dismantling of the Teaching Fellows Program that recruited our state’s brightest to become the teachers of our next generation.
The removal of the cap for class size for traditional schools and claiming it will not impede student learning. And now they want to make a class cap size for k-3, but are not willing to help finance the enormous amount of building that would have to occur to facilitate the massive number of new classes.
The removal of graduate pay salary increases for those new teachers who have a Master’s degree or higher.
The administration of too many tests (EOCTs, benchmarks, etc.), many of which are scored well after grades are due.
The constant change in curriculum standards (Standard Course of Study, Common Core, etc.).
The propping of an politically-enabled state superintendent of public instruction.
The number of LEA’s embroiled in a fight to fund its public schools is rather large– literally. Many parents and advocates are even asking to pay more taxes if they knew it would go to the schools.
If North Carolina’s leaders were serious about helping our public schools instead of praising themselves and trying to invent ways to create obstacles to validate “reform” then there would be no need for this fight.
And they sure as hell wouldn’t use our students as political pawns.
“The results: remarkable stability. Overall, North Carolina teacher attrition increased from 7.5% to 8.2%. Of the 94,328 teachers employed by the state, 624 more left the teaching profession than the year before. In fact, dissatisfaction within the teaching profession fell 35% from the prior year, with 137 teachers in the 2019-20 year versus 89 in 2020-21.”
Ten years ago teachers in North Carolina could receive an increase in salary and a higher certificate if they held graduate degrees.
That does not happen any longer.
Ten years ago teachers in North Carolina could receive due-process rights after a few years of teaching to allow themselves a chance for defense if their jobs were threatened. And that was before all of these claims of indoctrination, looking for books that need to be banned, and CRT hoaxes.
Since 2014, new teachers do not get due-process rights.
Ten years ago teachers in North Carolina received longevity pay if they had served for a certain number of years.
They no longer get that, even if all other state employees do.
Ten years ago, the salary schedule would provide step increases for each year that a teacher served in the classroom.
Now that salary scale tops off at year 15 for ten years.
10 years ago, schools were not measured by school performance grades.
North Carolina now uses a school grading system that weighs results of standardized tests much more than growth measures.
10 years ago EVAAS was not the powerful yet erroneous value-added measure system used to “label” teachers.
It is now.
And now new teachers will not be able to get retiree health benefits.
We as a state have been losing teachers. And that trend is gaining momentum.
So when a veteran teacher looks at this new plan to “strengthen” our teaching force:
It’s hard not to see that the goal in North Carolina is to make teaching a short-term occupation for contract workers willing to just deliver prepackaged “curriculum” to students who cannot afford private schools or homeschooling.
Below are screen shots of the application process for the Parent Advisory Commission set up by Superintendent Catherine Truitt.
Six parents from eight different “education regions” will be appointed from the application process to “help put together recommendations for elected officials and policy makers in North Carolina.”
They will also have “direct input” to Truitt.
If the math pans out each “region” gets six members. Only 2 of those singular region members are guaranteed to be parents for students in traditional public schools. That number becomes three if the at-large selection is a parent of a traditional public school student, but that is not guaranteed and that member also has to come from one of the bigger counties. 94 of NC’s 100 counties do not make that list.
Of those six region members, at least three will not be parents of traditional public school students. The argument will be made that one parent will be a charter “public” school parent, but charter schools are governed differently than traditional public schools. Charter schools are not overseen by local school boards.
There are eight regions. Of the 48 members on the commission, it is conceivable that only 33% of the members represent traditional public schools when well over 80% of students in schools (or homeschools) attend traditional public schools.
Seems a little if not a lot skewed.
References are asked for and short answers (some may say short essays) are required. That means only people who have the time and the technology to be on this commission could even attempt to apply much less serve.
Approximately 25% of our students in traditional public schools live at or below the poverty level. The pandemic showed how badly we need broadband connectivity for all people in the state, especially rural areas.
What is evident by this application process and the proposed makeup of this Parent Advisory Commission is that it is a publicity stunt disguised as a “representative” body of concerned citizens appointed through a gerrymandered process.
And as a teacher and parent, it is hard to look at this and then look at the Teacher Working Conditions Survey and realize that I have absolutely no way of being able to even articulate my thoughts and concerns on that survey.
But here, I could give answers that will be looked over to display a profile that might or might not fit an agenda in this political landscape that may or may not be chosen to serve on a volunteer commission that eliminates many people’s opportunities because of their financial situations.
So, I just completed the 2022 Teacher Working Conditions Survey.
Really felt heard.
There is still one glaring shortcoming about the Teacher Working Conditions Survey issued by the state every two years in the spring: it should ask about teachers’ views not only of their school, but of their perceptions of the state leadership.
You can see the questions that were administered on the 2020 version and the results here.
The results from this 2020 version do nothing more than demonstrate the disconnect that those who want to re-form schools have with the reality of schools; they displayed that what really drives the success of a school are the people – from the students to the teachers to the administration to the support staff and the community at large.
It is hard to take a survey very seriously from DPI when the questions never get beyond a teacher’s actual school. There is never any way to convey in this survey from the state what teachers think about the state’s role in education or how standardized testing is affecting working conditions.
It should ask teachers’ views not only of their school, but MORE of their perceptions of the county / LEA leadership and state leadership.
Below are the main questions (there are subsets) asked on the survey that actual teachers answer.
Please rate how strongly you agree or disagree with the following statements about the use of time in your school.
Please rate how strongly you agree or disagree with the following statements about your school facilities and resources.
Please rate how strongly you agree or disagree with the following statements about community support and involvement in your school.
Please rate how strongly you agree or disagree with the following statements about managing student conduct in your school.
Please rate how strongly you agree or disagree with the following statements about teacher leadership in your school.
Please indicate the role teachers have in each of the following areas in your school.
Please rate how strongly you agree or disagree with statements about leadership in your school.
Please rate how strongly you agree or disagree with statements about professional development in your school.
Please rate how strongly you agree or disagree with the following statements about instructional practices and support in your school.
There is nothing about how teachers feel about the state’s role in how public schools operate or are funded. If Truitt and DPI were really keen on “listening” to teachers concerning their views about working in NC public schools, then the questions need to go beyond the “School” and explore the “state.”
Imagine if we as teachers got to answer questions such as:
Please rate how strongly you agree or disagree with the following statements about how the state helps schools with facilities and resources.
Please rate how strongly you agree or disagree with the following statements about the state’s support and involvement in your school.
Please rate how strongly you agree or disagree with the following statements about state leadership at the Department of Public Instruction.
Please rate how strongly you agree or disagree with statements about state leadership.
Please rate how strongly you agree or disagree with statements about professional development sponsored by the state.
Please rate how strongly you agree or disagree with the following statements about support for schools from the state.
When NC public schools receive a majority of their funds, mandates, stipulations, guidelines, and marching orders from the state, then should not the NC Teacher Working Condition Survey include teacher perceptions on the role of the state and its influence?
Simply put, we need more pointed questions.
And this teacher wouldn’t mind having one to fill out.
Not many teachers leave the profession because of how they are treated by the students.
Most teachers leave the profession because how they are treated by other adults: lawmakers, parents, taxpayers, and even administration.
Students don’t write the curriculum and mandate tests.
Students generally don’t come to school board meetings and threaten lawsuits or boycotts.
Most students are not old enough to vote in legislators and policymakers who set salaries, budgets, mandates, and taskforces that investigate teachers for bogus accusations.
As a state, we are losing teachers.
More than DPI wants to admit.
More than we can replace.
Actually, it’s happening all over the country at a faster pace than usual. And it’s not the pandemic that is causing it.
The pandemic has just exacerbated already existing conditions and became a catalyst for more attacks on public education like Critical Race Theory hoaxes, the banning of books, accusations of indoctrination, calls for extreme transparency, and the “need” to write new standards in history.
Those attacks have all come from adults, not students.
If the pandemic has shown anything, it is that schools are a fundamental part of society. Schools do not work without people. At the very foundation of a strong school system is the teacher/student relationship.
But if teachers are leaving, then we are damaging the very foundation of a vital institution.
It’s simple – they don’t want us to have longevity in a career as a North Carolina public school educator.
In August of 2021, teachers began a new school year and their “step” increased by another year. That “step” is the number of years served in schools. Not long ago, teachers who served the state for at least ten years would receive what was called “longevity” pay as part of their commitment to public schools. In fact, all full-time state employees receive this – or did.
Teachers no longer get it.
In the long session of 2014, the NC General Assembly raised salaries for teachers in certain experience brackets that allowed them to say that an “average” salary for teachers was increased by over 7%. They called it a “historic raise.”
However, if you divided the amount of money used in these “historic” raises by the number of teachers who “received” them, it would probably amount to about $270 per teacher.
That historic raise was funded in part by eliminating teachers’ longevity pay.
Similar to an annual bonus, this is something that all state employees in North Carolina — except, now, for teachers — gain as a reward for continued service. The budget rolled that money into teachers’ salaries and labeled it as a raise.
That’s like me stealing money out of your wallet and then presenting it to you as a gift. And remember that teachers/educators are the only employees in this state financed by the state who do not get longevity pay.
It’s almost like the North Carolina General Assembly doesn’t even want to have teachers be considered worthy of something that others get..
For the many veteran teachers who have never really seen a raise in the past 6-7 years in actual dollars, the loss of longevity pay actually created a loss of net income on a yearly basis.
Longevity pay does mean that much to veteran teachers. It also means a lot to the NCGA because they used its elimination to help wage a systematic war against veteran teachers.
In the last eight years, new teachers entering the profession in North Carolina have seen the removal of graduate degree pay bumps and due-process rights. While the “average” salary increases have been most friendly to newer teachers (financed in part by removal of longevity), those pay “increases” do plateau at about Year 15 in a teacher’s career. Afterwards, nothing really happens. Teachers in that position may have to make career-ending decisions.
The removal of longevity might make those decisions easier to make on a personal level, but more difficult for the state to recover from.
Veteran teachers fight for schools, for students, for fairness in funding, and for the profession. When they act as a cohesive group, they represent an entity that scares the current leaders of the North Carolina General Assembly like nothing else.