UNIONIZE! NC Teachers (And All Public Employees) Should Have Collective Bargaining Rights

It’s a special kind of cruel irony that the only state in the country with the lowest legal minimum wage, no collective bargaining rights, no Medicaid expansion, loosely regulated vouchers and charter school expansion, a school performance grading system that measures achievement over growth, and the lowest corporate flat tax in the nation allows for its state education leaders to have a group hire a public relations firm on their behalf to help control the narrative for a spectacularly flawed teacher licensure proposal that had no real teacher input.

AND at the same time be a Right to Work / At Will state. 

As reported by Justin Parmenter on his blog that included this screen shot of a rather incriminating email:

In a summer following what could have been the toughest year yet for NC public school teachers where many have had to endure a relentless flow of mandates and extra duties, it is disheartening to think that this state is taking advantage of public employees’ inability to collectively bargain.

In fact, in North Carolina it is unlawful for public employees to have collective bargaining. And it has been brought up. Rob Schofield posted a piece in April of 2019 on NC Policy Watch that reported on an effort for all of North Carolina’s public employees to have collective bargaining rights.

More than 600,000 public employees throughout North Carolina would obtain a right that’s been denied to them for 60 years under a pair companion bills introduced in the North Carolina House and Senate and highlighted at a press event this morning in Raleigh. House Bill 710 and Senate Bill 575 would repeal North Carolina General Statute section 95-98, the six-decade-old ban on collective bargaining by public employees.

At an event in the state Legislative Building this morning, an array of public officials and advocates decried the ban as both a Jim Crow-era violation of basic human rights and an impediment to the delivery of safe, affordable and efficient public services. North Carolina public employees — including state, county and municipal workers like teachers, police officers, and firefighters — “deserve a seat at the table” said Senator Wiley Nickel (D-Wake). North Carolina is one of only three states with such a statutory ban, Nickel added — a fact he linked to low retention and high turnover rates among public workers at all levels.

The ban itself was established in the Jim Crow-era. It literally is the last holdover as far as those laws are concerned. And NC is one of seven states that makes collective bargaining illegal.

If you have been following public education issues in NC to any degree, you probably know that the John Locke Foundation, the libertarian think tank funded by Art Pope, spends an inordinate amount of time and money trying to keep public employees from unionizing – especially teachers. Here’s the argument that their education expert Dr. Terry Stoops gave in 2020 against public employee collective bargaining power:

This comes from a group that has ignored the fact that there is a court decision (LEANDRO) that already stipulates that NC has grossly underfunded public education for years and that the state has a big surplus in yearly budgets becasue it doesn’t fully fund all social services and continues to drive down corporate tax rates to nearly 0%.

Here’s another nugget from the JLF.

Ironic, that on the map above only seven states outlaw collective bargaining rights. Look at those states. Included is Texas and Arizona. They are having a hard time filling teacher vacancies. Those others which all reside in the Southeast (big surprise!) place similar restrictions to public sector employees, but North Carolina seems to distinguish itself even more.

Maybe that’s why we have so many vacancies.

We need to allow for unions to represent public sector employees.

Our State Superintendent Doesn’t Stand With Teachers. She’s Too Busy Working For Politicians And Privatizers.

In April of 2021, an editorial appeared on WRAL.com that took State Superintendent Catherine Truitt to task about her commitment to the Leandro decision in the wake of a fast-tracked bill to bring more “science of reading” into elementary classrooms.

It began,

In her first opportunity since becoming state Superintendent of Public Instruction Catherine Truitt missed the mark.

She chose to take a partisan side-seat with the leadership of the General Assembly instead of standing up for the children of North Carolina and the State Constitution.”

It then stated,

“She should be in the forefront – out ahead – in pushing the legislature to adopt the comprehensive plan that has been developed by bringing together the various parties in the Leandro court case in to meet the State Constitutional right to give every child access to a quality education.

There’s nothing secret about the Leandro plan. It was put together through a court order and overseen by Superior Court Judge David Lee. It has had a very significant public airing, subject to review by the defendants including the State Board of Education and the plaintiffs – the students who have been denied access to a quality education and the several local school boards.”

Over a year later, Truitt has never really openly argued for or even hinted at acting on the LEANDRO decision. The budget released today by the NC Senate (or by Phil Berger) still does not address the LEANDRO decision.

That op-ed was spot on and remains a reminder that following the campaign contributions of a candidate gives insight into the priorities that that candidate stands for.

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 Truitt’s campaign run in 2020 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 was 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.

BEST NC also has had more than a big hand in the recent teacher licensure and pay proposal that is being ever more revealed as a political ploy by advocates such as Justin Parmenter. His recent work is must-read material.

Oh, and that new licensure/ teacher pay plan? It uses EVAAS scores to measure teachers.

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 just 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. Again, back to Truitt’s campaign contributions.

And his wife gave the maximum as well.

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

graph5
  • There’s Jerry Tillman, the former public school administrator who was a champion for opaque charter school regulation until his recent retirement.
  • And there’s Jason Saine who loves charters as well. He was recently the national chairman of ALEC.
  • There’s former Lt. Gov. Dan Forest, who sat 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 ran for governor with a platform to drastically expand vouchers.

Back to Truitt’s campaign finance report. Look there was Jason Saine again – this time as a contributor.

And lastly, Truitt listed herself as a contributor making sure that she hit the maximum contribution in three different ways.

If you go to the report for the third quarter of 2020 contributions, more names appear.

There’s Baker Mitchell, the founder of the Roger Bacon Academies which have campuses in our state.

Mitchell wrote his own op-ed in the Wall Street Journal about charter schools making claims that were easily debunked.

Here’s another well known person in NC: Art Pope.

Pope bankrolls a few entities in the state that trumpet his libertarian ideals. He was also the first budget director for Gov. Pat McCrory, a man who cowered under people like Berger, Tillis, Moore, and others who sought and still seek to “reform” public education in NC. It’s also worth noting that Truitt was a senior education advisor to McCrory.

And here’s Dr. Terry Stoops of the John Locke Foundation, an entity founded by Pope. Stoops founded his own charter school in Wake County.

Last summer, he appeared with the new Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson at a press conference announcing an “indoctrination” hotline to allow the public to report teachers to a task force that will “investigate” those claims.

Image

That’s Stoops third from the right.

So, there are multiple founders of out-of-state for-profit charter school chains, the leading funder of ultra-conservative think tanks in the state, the richest man in NC who also happens to own the private company that generates those unfounded EVAAS scores and school performance grades, and the educational mouthpiece of the John Locke Foundation whose was in favor of the indoctrination witch-hunt started by the new LT. Gov. who denies the existence of systemic racism.

Yes, Catherine Truitt does need to be asked who she really stands with and who she works for.

Because it sure as hell isn’t teachers.

Damn! The Average Teacher Compensation In NC Is $79,996? But Maybe Consider…

Not too long ago, BEST NC published its annual report called Facts & Figures: Education in North Carolina.

BESTNC stands for Business for Educational Success and Transformation North Carolina. Their legal name is North Carolina Business Leaders for Education. They tout a very impressive list of business leaders among their ranks, but their name is in direct contradiction to what they have practiced in helping shape policy like the principal pay plan and the current draft of the licensure/compensation proposal in PEPSC.

On page 27 of that report is this table:

Looks like we teachers make a lot of money benefits are considered.

And they are not wrong with these figures if you look at them the way they want you to.

The following explanation of the added benefits comes from Marge Foreman at NCAE (North Carolina Association of Educators) who was consulted to help explain these benefits:

“This year the employer contributes a total retirement contribution rate of 22.89% of each employee’s total pre-taxed salary. In 2022-2023, the total employer retirement contribution rate climbs to 24.19%. The contributions are broken down into four distinct funding categories:

Retirement — is the fund used to pay the employer’s pension upon retirement.

Disability Fund – is the disability trust fund that pays an employee who becomes disabled from the job they were hired to perform. It’s a work requirement test, which is different from Social Security Disability, which means you cannot work on any job. The income received is a certain percent of total salary, based on whether the disability is short term (50%, if temporary), or long term (65%, if permanent).

Death – is the State’s death benefit trust fund, which pays a death benefit to an employee’s beneficiary, if an employee dies in active service, or if a retiree dies within 180 days of their effective retirement date. The amount of the death benefit is the employee’s current annual salary, no less than $25,000, if an employee’s salary is less than $25,000; and no more than $50,000, if the employee’s salary is greater than $50,000.

Retiree Health is the health trust fund, which pays health insurance premiums required to be paid by the employer for all eligible retirees, upon retirement. Note: There are different eligibility requirements employees must meet to qualify for health insurance coverage upon retirement. The rules to receive retiree health coverage changed in 2006 and again in 2021. In 2006 you had to be employed on or before October 1, 2006, to be eligible for coverage upon retirement eligibility. On January 1, 2021, new hires on and after that date, no longer receive any health coverage upon retirement. Note: They do have health insurance coverage during active employment.

Total Contribution Rate – is the total of all funding categories employers are required to pay monthly for each employee. Note: The General Assembly funds all employer’s contributions needed for all state funded employees, both public and state government.”

Yes, that’s sounds like a lot.

But consider these insights:

  1. Most teachers will never see income from the Disablility Fund. It’s there, yes. But is it used? Not often at all. In fact, in my 25 years fo teaching, I can not name a teacher who has received money from this. That does not mean it has not happened with a coworker of mine. But, it has never come up in conversation. Many teachers like myself pay for disability coverage on their own.
  2. To get the death benefit, well….
  3. Retiree health benefits are no longer given to new teachers as of 2021. AND…
  4. This assumes that teachers will retire with full pension in North Carolina. We are seeing more and more teachers switch careers before retirement because of the pay and benefits.

Now go back to the BEST NC graphic.

Not all employees accept the State Health Plan coverage. Many teachers are on plans that are provided by a spouse’s workplace because many teachers are not the only breadwinners in a family. And the local supplement is not the same for all teachers. In fact, there are LEA’s that cannot even offer a local supplement.

The “added costs” of benefits is also an argument that the people at the John Locke Foundation like to trumpet. As long time adversaries of the public education system in NC and especially NCAE, they frequently argue that if teachers want more income, then they should cut out some of the benefits.

From May 5th, 2022 on the website for the John Locke Foundation:

See this part? “Adding together salary and benefits means the average teacher compensation package approaches eighty thousand dollars ($79,996).”

See that last line? “Want to improve teacher salaries? Reign in the escalating cost of benefits.”

Ironically, that article and the BEST NC graphic are supposed to make us teachers feel ashamed for fighting for higher salaries, but take a look at the following graphic that came from the Fiscal Research Division of the NC General Assembly.

It is from a presentation by the House Select Committee on an Education System in North Carolina on May 9th, 2022. That committee is meeting to redefine education in NC. All of their graphics are in the public domain.

Tells a different story.

Because there is no retiree medical for new teachers, there is no “green” in the graphic for NC. And looking at how the “blue” and “brown” compare to our neighboring states, NC is looking pretty bad.

Oh, and look at Mississippi and Arkansas and what they just did with their teacher pay.

10 Frozen Years: The NCGA’s Plan To Eliminate Career Teachers

Here is the salary schedule that was in place for the 2020-2021 school year and was in place at the beginning of this last school year until the NCGA FINALLY passed a new budget:

For those who are not teachers, make sure to pay attention to years 15-24.

Frozen.

10 years of the same.

There is no longevity pay during these years as well.

Someone who has been teaching for 24 years makes the same as someone who has been teaching for 15.

Amounts toward retirement will be the same.

Oh, but did we not pass a new budget with raises just this past school year?

Not much of a raise in a year of rapid inflation.

AND STILL TEN FROZEN YEARS.

If anyone in Raleigh cares to explain how those 10 frozen years of pay is supposed to attract teachers to the profession, then speak up. But it looks blatantly like a ploy to keep people from being career educators.

They Are Already Cutting Teacher Retirement. Just Look.

Below is the salary schedule for a teacher in North Carolina for the 2021-2022 school year.

Any teacher new to the profession in the last eight years would never be on the second schedule because newer teachers are not allowed a pay bump for graduate degrees. Notice how the salaries also plateau after year 15.

So…

In essence, that second salary schedule would not exist for new teachers in the last few years.

There is no longevity pay included as it does not exist for teachers any longer.

Retirement is based on the average of four highest paid years of a teacher’s career. According to the 2021-2022 salary schedule, the most a teacher with a master’s degree and NBPTS certification could make (and be eligible for full pension with the correct number of years of service) is $58,240.

And as of 2021, new teachers are not even going to get retiree health benefits.

Now go back a few years before the Great Recession.

schedule1
schedule2

If you went back to the 2008-2009 salary schedule, a teacher with a master’s degree and NBPTS certification could make (and be eligible for full pension with the correct number of years of service) an average of $64,750. And all veteran teachers would have received longevity pay above and beyond what the salary schedule said.

Now imagine if that same schedule was in play for teachers today and adjusted for inflation.

Oh, and now new teachers will not be able to have retiree health benefits.

They are already cutting into retirement benefits.

The Endgame: To Make Public School Teaching A Short-Term Contract Job In North Carolina

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.

State Tests For NC Should Not Be Graded By Third Party Vendors

Any 10th grade teachers in North Carolina still waiting for their EOCT test grades to be sent back so that final grades can be tabulated?

Even if it is an end-of-course test that can be scanned through a machine or a test that has a writing component, those tests should be graded and rated “in house” by teachers familiar with the actual test because they have taught the curriculum before. Even if it is not done by the actual teachers in the school, then it can be faciliated by the teachers within the same school system who are paid for their expertise and will treat the tests in a serious and professional manner.

This state has the people who are willing to do it and the money to pay them well for their time and the capacity for those EOCTs to be taken and graded before the end of the school year instead of having a situation that is occurring now with late reporting.

Furthermore, with the caliber of schools of education within our university system, this state should never need to go to outside vendors for any standardized tests that is used in grading for a high school transcipt.

Because it’s just giving money away.

A Lesson In Gender Studies & Rhetoric By An Unintentional Teacher

You probably have now heard of Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson’s latest “lesson” that he taught from his favorite type of classroom: the pulpit.

Think of it as a lesson in gender studies.

From WRAL.com (where the youtube link was found):

Ironically, someone that Robinson caters to made a recent statement about gender studies not needing to be taught. This is what Donald Trump, Jr. said in the wake of the massacre in Uvalde, TX.

Then Robinson goes “cross-curricular” and makes a reactionary statement about his words and inadvertently gives a lesson in bad rhetoric.

He literally denies that he meant what he was directly quoted as saying.

This is the top ranking party member of the state and the same State Board of Education member who has attacked public school teachers for indoctrination, teaching CRT and gender studies, as well as having a lack of dicipline in the classroom.

He has belittled the LBGTQ community and preached politics in pulpits for tax-exempt religious bodies that have taken state tax money for vouchers.

And for all that he has accused public schools of doing, it seems that the real guilty party he is looking for is the reflection in his mirror.

If he cares to look at it.

March 811th: Time For Teachers To Start Healing

When schools closed their buildings in this state on March 20, 2020, little did we know how long the effects of the pandemic and our response to it would last.

Sadly, we are still reeling from the politicized reactions of COVID-19.

I can’t speak for all teachers, but I can honestly say that we have not stopped as educators since this pandemic started. We went from in-class to virtual in a matter of days. Then we spent the summer of 2020 learning platforms to allow for both in-person and virtual classes to be taught simultaneously.

The 2020 – 2021 school year brought the teaching profession under the largest microscope in my career. There was social unrest, a contentious national election, and many people all of a sudden became experts in education contradicting science. It continued throughout the following summer as we had blind accusations of indoctrination, more budget battles, and hightened attacks on the teaching profession and the role of public schools.

As 2021 – 2022 brought students back into school buildings, with them came the expectation that things would go back to normal quickly. That was not the case. Under the pressure of combating “learning loss” and “summer slides,” educators were holding school communities together academically, emotionally, psychologically, and mentally all while attacks concerning CRT and banning books were mounting in school board meetings.

Teachers saw new “reforms” being proposed that had all of the markings of backdoor negotiations between non-educators andf lawmakers. There were endless sessions of online professional development that had to be completed during a teacher’s free time as duties seem to double in a short time.

Teachers have been suggested to carry weapons in the wake of more school shooting massacres. Those same teachers have also been told they should not pick the books to be read in their classrooms because of impressionable students.

Teaching became the most visible and most politically polarizing occupation in the American landscape and that has correlated with extremely high vacancies in schools and a potentially record teacher (and teacher candidate) shortage in history.

Teachers so deserve any summer break available to them this year. They deserve it every year, but most are working on their own time to get ready for the next school year.

But this summer is different. It’s time for us to take care of ourselves.

And begin to heal from the last 27 months.