North Carolina’s Quest to Make Veteran Teachers Extinct

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The powers that rule in the North Carolina General Assembly have been waging a war against public schools in our state for the last four years. Under the guise of “reform,” GOP conservatives driven by ALEC-crafted policies have successfully enabled and instituted privatization efforts in many forms: unregulated charter school development, expansive growth of unproven vouchers, underfunding traditional public schools, and even propped an educational neophyte as state superintendent who has passively allowed the very department that is set to protect public schools to be heinously undercut.

However, the latest move against public schools in North Carolina might signal the next step in overhauling education in the Old North State – the systematic elimination of the veteran teacher.

Let me rephrase that.

A gerrymandered lawmaking body has passed a budget that further indicates that many lawmakers in Raleigh will go to any length to poach the educational profession of veteran teachers.

In the last four 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, 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.

Without promise of much pay increase and no graduate degree pay bumps, those teachers may have to leave a profession they not only excel in and love, but serve as models for younger teachers to ensure professional integrity, the kind that was allowed to shine in a North Carolina of yesteryear when Republican governors and lawmakers were in the forefront of making sure public schools were a strength. And those teachers will not have due-process rights that would allow them to speak up about issues like compensation for fear of reprisal.

Student will suffer; communities will suffer.

The taking away of retiree state health benefits for teachers hired after January of 2021 is a step to create a system where students are more or less taught by contractors because the endangered species known as the “veteran teacher” will come to the point of extinction.

Lynn Bonner reported in the News & Observer today (“State retiree health coverage to end for future NC employees”),

Republican state senators want limits on future retiree benefits to control costs and get the state more in line with perks private-sector employees get. The state employee health plan has a $42.2 billion unfunded liability, estimated future costs that are outpacing revenue.

The retiree health care provision is in the budget the legislature passed this week. Republican senators filed a bill limiting future state employees’ retirement benefits that received a committee hearing earlier this year. That bill never went to a vote (http://www.newsobserver.com/news/politics-government/politics-columns-blogs/under-the-dome/article157928844.html).

That whole idea of getting “the state more in line with perks private-sector employees get” might be one of the most misleading mantras that rules the mindsets of these lawmakers. Why make a public sector service run like a business when public schools aren’t allowed to be businesses? If that were a reality, then schools could treat lawmakers like a Board of Directors of sorts and then rally to oust them at any time beside election years.

If a lawmaker wants to argue that public schools should run like a business and that teachers, staff, and administration should be treated like private-sector employees, then that lawmaker might need to look at the converse and see how unrelated those two entities really are. In fact, I would invite any lawmaker who favors this budgetary move to try and see if he/she could run a business like a public school. Maybe the differences between a public service and private enterprise might become more apparent because one is not even comparing apples to oranges. One is comparing apples to rocks.

Rest assuredly, that lawmaker would really need to be prepared to:

  • open up every book and have everything audited.
  • publicize all of the salaries of the people who work for you.
  • allow every stockholder to have equal power on how your run your business even if they own just one share.
  • to abide by protocols and procedures established by people outside of the business.
  • not get to choose your raw materials.
  • have everything open to the press.
  • not be allowed to advertise or market yourself.
  • raise funds because you are not really fully funded.
  • have your work hours, schedule, and calendar will be dictated by those who do not even work for your business.
  • communicate with all of your clients’ parents and guardians.
  • NOT MAKE A MONETARY PROFIT.

And that whole revenue debacle? When those same lawmakers enact laws like HB2 and make ill-informed and misguided expenditures like giving the state superintendent legal fund money to sue his own state board, financing pork barrel spending, and expanding unproven vouchers (despite evidence to the contrary http://www.charlotteobserver.com/opinion/op-ed/article157926389.html ) all the while bragging about a surplus as they lower taxes for wealthy people, it is easy to call into doubt that it is the state retirement system causing all of this financial unrest.

Bonner later reports,

Representatives from state employee, retiree and teacher organizations said eliminating the retirement benefit will hurt recruitment and retention. State salaries don’t compete with private-sector wages, they said, so retiree benefits are an important lure.

Mark Jewell, executive director of the North Carolina Association of Educators, said everyone thought the proposal to end retiree benefits was dead. “Then, it sneaks up buried in the budget,” he said.”

This proposal “snuck up” because it was meant to.

It was meant to surreptitiously take away more from the teaching profession, which has valiantly fought against the regressive “reforms” of the NC General Assembly. To say that educational issues did not weigh into the elections of Roy Cooper and Josh Stein into office in a state that overwhelmingly voted for Trump would sound uneducated. State Treasurer Dale Folwell called it a “knee-jerk reaction.”

No, it was not.

This General Assembly went out of its way to cut Stein’s budget, limit Cooper’s constitutional powers, and keep assaulting the very people who still pose a threat against the privatization of public education – veteran teachers.

Oddly enough, retiree benefits are one of the last recruitment tools that our school systems can use to bring in teachers who make education a profession. Bonner reports,

Richard Rogers, executive director of the N.C. Retired Governmental Employee Association, said the organization is going to try to get the decision reversed before 2021.

“There’s no doubt in my mind – having retiree health brings the best and the brightest to the state,” he said.

Right now, we are not attracting the best and brightest. Just look at the past four years and see what has been done to make teaching an unenviable career in North Carolina. This recent action is making sure that anyone who may want to teach in North Carolina in the future will not stay in the profession for long.

Sen. Chad Barefoot’s Bill SB599 should then not be so puzzling. Bringing in alternate teacher-preparation programs that can be controlled by the state weakens the profession overall. This bill was supposedly introduced to help with the shortage in teachers. Why would we have a shortage of teachers?

That’s not a rhetorical question.

If the trends stay in place and we as a state do not replace those in Raleigh with lawmakers who will fully fund public schools and reinstate the very items that attract the best and brightest, then we will literally make the North Carolina veteran teacher an extinct entity.

Something else in Bonner’s report really shed light on the process by which those in Raleigh have promoted their version of secretive “democracy.” It came in an email response from the Office of State Human Resources.

“We value state employees, and reducing benefits for them potentially sends the wrong message about the important work they do and the services they provide for the people of North Carolina. We would appreciate an opportunity to openly discuss, study and collaborate on this important issue.”

  • Openly discuss?
  • Study?
  • Collaborate?

If there is one thing that many GOP lawmakers like Berger, Moore, Barefoot, Tillman, and others of their ilk (who don’t have term limits) despise more than veteran public school teachers, it’s open dialogue that may expose their hypocrisy.

And if they actually studied and researched, they would see that most every “reform” that they are enacting has a terrible track record in other states.

And they sure as hell don’t collaborate unless it is in a locked room with only those of like opinions.

Veteran teachers openly discuss, study, and collaborate.

And we will fight.

Dear Sen. Krawiec, Use Some of That Lard – Concerning the “No Means No” Non-law


Dear Sen. Krawiec,

We need you to use some of that lard.

Remember that tweet you sent earlier this year about the Women’s March in Washington D.C.?

lard1.png

Not your best moment.

But since you equated lard with brains and the fact that much lard was actually sent to you directly, it might be time to use some of it to grease a pan and help sponsor a bill that could do away with something that many of those women who were at that Women’s March were protesting: a woman’s right to choose.

Specifically Senate Bill 553 (http://www.ncga.state.nc.us/gascripts/BillLookUp/BillLookUp.pl?Session=2017&BillID=S553).

Two days ago the News & Observer published a report entitled “‘NC is the only state where no doesn’t mean no’: Law says women can’t back out of sex.” In it Abbie Bennett talked about the State v. Way case that:

…set a precedent – ruling that a woman cannot revoke consent after intercourse begins, meaning that even if a woman said “no,” the intercourse would not be ruled rape.

The Supreme Court ruled that “if actual penetration is accomplished with the woman’s consent, the accused is not guilty of rape, although he may be guilty of another crime because of his subsequent actions.”

So for the next 38 years, women in North Carolina who allegedly agree to sex but change their minds or say “no” during intercourse aren’t protected by laws against rape (http://www.newsobserver.com/news/politics-government/state-politics/article157694194.html).

That Supreme Court was the N.C. Supreme Court.

Bennett goes further,

State Sen. Jeff Jackson of Mecklenburg County thinks that’s absurd.

“Legislators are hearing more and more about women who have been raped and are being denied justice because of this crazy loophole,” Jackson told The Fayetteville Observer. “North Carolina is the only state in U.S. where no doesn’t mean no.”

I think it would be very interesting to hear your take on this matter.

In fact, you could even tweet it. I am sure that “Twitter Lesson was learned” in the past few months.

lard2

 

 

Another Reason the North Carolina General Assembly Should Fund Specialties in Elementary Schools

The recent budget that will surely be vetoed by Gov. Cooper did nothing to address specialties in elementary schools in next year’s budget. The fight over class size restriction and keeping the arts in elementary schools will heat up again.

Many GOP state lawmakers seem quick to point out that classes such as art, dance, physical education, and drama may not be of “academic” benefit to our students.

To those legislators, I would like to direct the following report: Lynn Felder’s June 22 front page article form the Winston-Salem Journal entitled “Art and culture spending up $20 million from 2010” (http://www.journalnow.com/news/local/art-and-culture-spending-up-million-from/article_42ef908a-3a52-599a-8ad9-bd04f496d2ca.html).

The figures were absolutely encouraging when you put in perspective that they account for years affected by the Great Recession.

arts

A new study by Americans for the Arts, a national nonprofit organization, shows that spending on arts and culture in Forsyth County is up $20 million since 2010 when the last similar study was done. The results of the study were announced Wednesday at a meeting of local arts leaders.

Using budgetary figures from 2015 and cultural audience surveys in 2016, the study shows that combined spending by the nonprofit art and cultural sector in Forsyth County was nearly twice that of other similar areas in the national study.

Full-time jobs in the nonprofit arts and culture sector in Forsyth County rose from 4,769 in 2010 to 5,559 in 2015. Those organizations paid $13.7 million in state and local taxes in 2010 and $14.8 million in 2015. The median state and local taxes in similar study regions was $7.8 million in 2015.

The total economic impact of these sectors doubled from 2000 to 2015, going from $76.6 million to $156.8 million. The median total impact in similar study regions was $88.27 million in 2015.

Felder also talked about the effects on local businesses like restaurants, hotels, stores, etc. because of people going out to enjoy the arts.

Randy Cohen, the vice president of strategy and research at Americans for the Arts, said that nonprofit arts and cultural organizations in Winston-Salem and Forsyth County, which spent almost $105 million during 2015, leveraged $52 million in additional spending by their audiences for restaurants, hotels, retail stores, parking garages and other local businesses.

Oddly enough, or maybe not oddly enough, that appreciation of arts and culture may stem from exposure in early grades in school. For a legislature that is hell-bent on expanding vouchers so that students can go to private schools, it would be a great exercise to see how many private schools in the state do use arts in the curriculum, including the religious-based schools which receive the overwhelming majority of voucher money in this state. Even the religious schools based on Judeo-Christian ethics can’t ignore the arts and PE. Why?

The Bible commands “Sing to the LORD a new song; Sing to the LORD, all the earth” (Psalms 96:1), and “Praise Him with timbrel and dancing; Praise Him with stringed instruments and pipe” (Psalm 150:4).

Furthermore, the Bible often talks of the body as being a “temple of the Holy Spirit” and even commands Christians to stay physically fit. “Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body” (1 Corinthians 6:19-20).

So, for people like Sen. Chad Barefoot – fund the specialties.

Apparently, it stimulates the economy.

 

Dear Sen. Jerry Tillman, You Are Making Treebeard Very Angry and You Can’t Gerrymander Ents

Even before he dropped the gavel on the Senate Finance Committee meeting, Sen. Jerry Tillman, a notoriously cantankerous Republican from Randolph County, seemed to be in a particularly bad mood.

He mumbled about being angry. He barked at audience to take their seats, lest he start selling tickets. And with eight bills to plow through — he promised it would take no longer than 30 minutes — Tillman sped through the meeting as if he were herding cattle through a sale barn.

At that auctioneer’s pace, then, there was little discussion of the House Bill 374, legislation with far-reaching implications.

Thus began Lisa Sorg’s report today on NC Policy Watch concerning House Bill 374 entitled “House Bill 374 and its restrictions on the citizens’ right to contest environmental permits, advances in Senate” (http://www.ncpolicywatch.com/2017/06/22/house-bill-374-restrictions-citizens-right-contest-environmental-permits-advances-senate/).

And her specific use of diction and tone are very apropos for Tillman.

  • “cantankerous”
  • “bad mood”
  • “mumbled”
  • “angry”
  • “barked”
  • “plow”
  • “little discussion”

That’s the Jerry we know!

His amorphous defense of unregulated charter schools, his unwillingness to listen to open debate on issues concerning students, and his ramrodding bills for the Achievement School District and the weakening of DPI have all been wrapped in his special gruff manner.

Today was no different.

Remember that Tillman is a former teacher, coach, and administrator in public schools who retired long ago. Last year he tried to enact legislation that would require all high schools to offer two tracks of math.

I am not a math teacher. In fact, according to my wife, I am rather poor in explaining mathematical concepts to our children when they are faced with math homework. But I do know that all of a sudden changing the course tracks in high schools would present an incredible challenge for schools to adequately teach those differing courses in high schools in such a quick amount of time – especially when the likes of Tillman keep funding from going to public schools.

Sen. Tillman thought it could be done in the blink of an eye. He was quoted in an EdNC.org report ((https://www.ednc.org/2016/06/09/senate-moves-state-one-step-closer-split-high-school-math-tracks),

“If you can teach math, your same certifications are required, same students, same allotment of teachers. Not gonna change,” he said.

Tillman said the practical aspect of teaching could be accomplished by having a teacher teach Algebra I alongside Math 1 in the same class.

“With a good teacher, you can do it,” he said.

So, teaching two subjects in the same classroom? In the same amount of time? With two different pedagogical approaches? Of course, Sen. Tillman would think that.

He also thinks that one can go through eight bills in thirty minutes.

With an emphasis on STEM education, it would make sense that if someone like Tillman was to be so in tune with math, then he might also think of the importance of Science and Technology, both of which have overwhelmingly told us the ramifications of hurting the environment.

House Bill 374 would hurt the environment.

Sorg explains,

“The 17-page bill has morphed from a benign list of technical changes into a malignant mass of pernicious environmental provisions. These include language that would weaken coal ash recycling requirements and strip many citizens of their right to contest environmental permits.”

That last sentence really strikes me as shocking. But maybe it’s not too shocking when you investigate that Tillman’s allegiance to the American Legislative Exchange Council’s ultra-conservative view of teaching civics in American High Schools.

Refer back to 2015 and Senate Bill 524. From the venerable Lindsay Wagner when she reported for NC Policy Watch,

Senate Bill 524 adds principles to the high school curriculum that are, according to the conservative American Legislative Exchange Council, related to the founding documents of the United States government. They include:

“We the People.” 8 bills in thirty minutes.

“Limitations on government power.” Stripping as much power away from a democratically elected governor and the Department of Justice budget slashed by over one-third.

“Honest friendship.” Yet we the people get “cantankerous,” “bad mood,” “mumbled,” “angry,” “bark,” “plow,” and “little discussion.”

Makes one wonder who could go into those chambers in Raleigh and force some civil discussion about such bills that would have an impact on the environment.

Our water.

Our land.

Our resources.

Our trees.

And then I think of this guy who just might be as old as Jerry Tillman.

Treebeard

But he’s more friendly. More thoughtful. Would take his time and consider. And would certainly allow others to speak.

He would defend our water, land, and resources.

He understands STEM fairly well and I imagine only took one track of math in school.

Why Teachers Suck …

Rarely do I ever reblog anything, but as a public high school teacher in a state whose legislature is bent against public schools, I will gladly share with anyone.

Bert Fulks

A friend and I were grousing about ignorance run amok.

“Americans get their information from internet memes,” I laughed.  “And in the true spirit of democracy, dullards who have never cracked a book will cancel the votes of people who actually have a clue. What could go wrong?”

“You know what the problem is?” Tim challenged.  “Our country’s a mess because teachers suck.”

teacher2I bristled.

Although I’ve been out of the classroom for a number of years, once a teacher, always a teacher.  Plus, I have family and friends still slugging it out in the trenches.  I know their battles and the wounds they carry.

“Dude, do you know what teachers endure on a daily basis?” I asked Tim.  I found that, no, he didn’t.  I fear most Americans might be as clueless.

I emailed a former colleague (she’s two years from retirement) and asked one question:  “How has education…

View original post 1,411 more words

Become An Ordained Teacher Online Now! – Sen. Chad Barefoot’s SB599

If you grew up in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s, you might be familiar with a landmark television show called Northern Exposure which aired on CBS on Mondays during the 10 PM time slot.

It was about a quirky, eccentric small Alaskan town called Cicely who had literally secured the services of an Ivy-League trained physician from New York named Joel by funding his medical school costs.

The culture shock experienced by this Jewish guy from the East coast among his new peers fueled enough plot lines to make this show one of the best-written of the day.

One of the characters was Chris Stevens, who lived in a trailer by a lake, read literature, thought transcendentally, and hosted the local morning radio show spouting philosophical musings to a sparse, but loyal following.

He also was the only “ordained” minister in the town. Only he could perform certain ceremonies. He had answered an advertisement for the “Worldwide Church of Truth and Beauty” in the back of a Rolling Stone magazine.

Boom! He’s a holy man.

Now jump ahead a few decades and there appears this bill by another “ordained” man in the North Carolina General Assembly that would fast track teachers into the public school system here in the Old North State.

Sen. Chad Barefoot is the sole sponsor of Senate Bill 599. Alex Granados of EdNC.org talks about it in “Senate passes bill expanding teacher preparation options” (https://www.ednc.org/2017/06/13/senate-passes-bill-expanding-teacher-preparation-options/). Granados states,

SB 599,”Excellent Educators for Every Classroom,” would let organizations outside of colleges or universities offer educator preparation programs…

The bill’s primary sponsor, Sen. Chad Barefoot, R-Wake, said in an e-mail that the bill was far more stringent than Robinson said and “clearly lays out” the “paths” necessary to offer a teacher preparation program. 

The bill creates the Professional Educator Preparation and Standards Commission, a body comprised of teachers and administrators. They would make recommendations on educator preparations programs to the State Board of Education, which would have the final say on the standards for programs and if programs meet them. 

“What this bill does is, rather than say that the traditional educator preparation programs in North Carolina…are the only way you can be prepared to be a teacher, it says ‘no’ to that,” Barefoot said on the Senate floor. “You can come up with any way that you can dream of, but we are going to hold you accountable to a set of standards that are rigorous.” 

Forget that we already have lateral entry. Forget that even today there is another report by Granados that might connect Barefoot with a financial incentive for introducing the bill. In “Campaign contribution by teacher preparation organization complicates expansion bill,” Granados reports,

In the fourth quarter of 2016, the Committee to Elect Chad Barefoot received $5,000 from Texas Teachers of Tomorrow, an organization that could stand to benefit from the bill (https://www.ednc.org/2017/06/21/campaign-funds-complicate-teacher-prep-expansion-bill/).

Ethics aside, Barefoot should have gone further and taken a lesson from Rolling Stone and combined it with the power of the internet.

Maybe he would be open to an amendment although open-mindedness is something that many in the NCGA lack: becoming an Ordained Teacher online.

It’s not traditional and it sure as hell says “NO!” to the established educator preparation programs that Barefoot and his cronies are already trying to weaken.

And by saying it’s “ordained” gives it that “holier-than-thou” feeling.

Just take a look at this website for the Universal Life Church at https://www.themonastery.org/landing/get-ordained?gclid=EAIaIQobChMIsM2Yv4bP1AIVgTaBCh0wiwv2EAAYAiAAEgL9OPD_BwE.

minister1

In fact, this is a perfect template!

Think about it.

minister2

And the state could reap the benefits. We get more teachers. We make a profit from the certification process.

You don’t even have to subscribe to Rolling Stone.

Sen. Barefoot, what do you think?

The Interrogatophobia of Betsy DeVos – Or, The Secretary’s Kryptonite

Interrogatophobia – (noun)

  1. The fear of being asked a straightforward question

This post is not to dissect the various times that Betsy DeVos has appeared before a congressional committee to comment on her impending confirmation or her policies for protecting all students under the umbrella of civil rights. As the leader of the nation’s public school system, she has clearly shown an ineptitude worthy of remediation when it comes to answering questions about policy and law.

But she has to go to those meetings.

It’s where she chooses to go and not go that really answers a lot of questions, figuratively speaking. Why? Because Betsy DeVos chooses to go places where she does not have to answer questions.

Straightforward questions are her kryptonite. She’s deathly afraid of them.

large-feature-kryptonite-wallpaper

She avoids them like the plague which is why she declined an invitation to the recent Education Writers Association convention in the very town where she works, Washington D.C.

Mind you that every other secretary of education has addressed the convention (albeit not every year). It would have been an opportune time for DeVos to clarify some of her policies and positions.

But alas.

As reported on The Answer Sheet by Valerie Strauss,

Every U.S. education secretary has found time to address the Education Writers Association convention, and the organization was hoping that Betsy DeVos would agree to do the same thing at its 2017 convention in Washington. It’s not happening.

Caroline Hendrie, EWA executive editor, said the association invited DeVos to speak at the convention right after she was confirmed by the Senate as education secretary on Feb. 7 (which, you may remember, happened only after Mike Pence broke a tie in the Senate, becoming the first vice president in history to do so for a Cabinet nominee).

When no response was forthcoming, Hendrie said the invitation was renewed several times, but it was not until late April that a staff member at the Education Department called to decline. Why? According to Hendrie, “They couldn’t make it work for her schedule.”

The Education Department did not respond to a query about why they couldn’t make it work (https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/answer-sheet/wp/2017/05/12/betsy-devos-was-asked-to-address-education-reporters-at-their-annual-convention-she-said-no/?utm_term=.78cb4cf55585).

It does not take a mental stretch to know why she did not show; it is filled with reporters. Reporters ask questions.

Damn questions.

And those questions demand answers.

Strauss continues,

DeVos has not made herself easily available — or available at all — to reporters who are covering her, and the Education Department does not always respond to questions posed by education journalists. Now she is declining an opportunity to address the journalists who cover her.  Some would call that a missed opportunity.

Think of DeVos as a teacher and reporters as students. We like to think that students should be inquisitive. If DeVos is the leader of the public school system of the nation, should she not be the first to be willing to answer a question or two?

If not, then she opens herself to scrutiny. JUST LIKE A TEACHER. Imagine if the teacher refuses to answer the questions posed by a parent or guardian? An administrator? A school board member? A legislator?

But DeVos is totally ready to present herself as a speaker at the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) Denver summer conference this July.

According to a press release,

ALEC is pleased to announce that Education Secretary Betsy DeVos will be joining us for our 44th Annual Meeting in Denver, Colorado.

“Secretary DeVos has been a stalwart champion of educational choice in the states, elevating the outcry over the status quo to the highest levels of government,” said Inez Stepman, Education and Workforce Development Task Force Director.

DeVos is serving as the 11th United States Secretary of Education. She was confirmed by the Senate on February 7, 2017. Secretary DeVos has been involved in education policy for nearly three decades as an advocate for children and a voice for parents.

DeVos served as an in-school mentor for at-risk children in the Grand Rapids, Michigan Public Schools for 15 years.

Don’t miss your chance to hear Secretary DeVos speak and all of our great speakers at our annual meeting July 19-21 in Denver, Colorado.

If you don’t know what ALEC is then do some research, especially if you are in North Carolina because here in North Carolina, your General Assembly is literally enacting every policy in public education that ALEC has conceived. Think:

  • Vouchers
  • Charters
  • School choice
  • Education Savings Accounts
  • etc.
  • etc.
  • etc.
  • etc.

Mercedes Schneider, a leading voice in public school activism and a wicked researcher, published a book in 2014 called A Chronicle of Echoes in which she explains the various forces that are working in the education “reform”ing movement. One chapter deals with ALEC.

It opens,

If the education reform movement were reduced to a single organization, that organization would be the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). ALEC has existed for decades and is omnipresent in reformer circles, yet this colossal engine for privatization has managed to elude exposure until 2012. Though it might seem incredulous, through its membership, ALEC is present in every chapter in this book. Make no mistake: Privatization belongs to ALEC.

ALEC was formally organized in September 1973 in Chicago, Illinois, and received its 501(c)3, “nonprofit” designation in 1977. ALEC describes itself as, “a nonpartisan membership association for conservative state lawmakers who shared a common belief in limited government, free markets, federalism, and individual liberty” Chapter 24).

ALEC won’t ask DeVos questions. ALEC gives DeVos direction on how to privatize a public institution.

ALEC fills DeVos’s coffers with money and resources. ALEC validates DeVos and in return she validates them.

This is akin to the teacher who refuses to answer questions pertaining to the curriculum for inquiring, intellectually thirsty students during class, but incoherently rushes straight to the bell so she does not have to interact with students beyond a cursory level.

That’s not just fear.

That’s abominable.

School is Never Really Over – Thinking of Sen. David Curtis and “Summer Vacations”

It is the first day of “summer vacation” and at this time of year I am reminded of the iconic response to a teacher’s letter back in 2014 by one Sen. David Curtis.

It’s worth rereading for me at least because Sen. Davis Curtis’s response to Sarah Wiles literally started my foray into public school activism. It literally spawned the desire to start this blog.

You may review the texts of both Sarah Wiles’s letter and Curtis’s response here: http://wunc.org/post/teacher-email-legislators-draws-harsh-reply#stream/0.

My response to Sen. David Curtis was my first open letter to a legislator. He still has not written me back even though I have tried to engage him many times since. A copy of that initial one-sided conversation can be found here: https://dianeravitch.net/2014/05/20/a-teacher-in-north-carolina/.

I have even tried to visit Sen. Curtis. He was conveniently in a “meeting.”

curtis

There is one part of Sen. Curtis’s original missive that really comes to mind on this first day of “summer vacation.” He talked about our “eight weeks of paid vacation.”

Specifically, he said,

“Since you naturally do not want to remain in a profession of which you are ashamed, here are my suggestions for what you should tell your potential new private sector employer: …

  1. You expect at least eight weeks paid vacation per year because that is what the taxpayers of North Carolina gave you back when you were a poorly compensated teacher…

After taking my teenage daughter to her first of many driver education classes that in several cases are conducted on high school campuses and planning on what to do with a somewhat sick boy who would have gone to a summer enrichment that is run in conjunction with the school system and employs many elementary school teachers, I decided to just run by my high school to see if it had turned into a vast wasteland to be cocooned until preplanning of next year since teachers are on a paid vacation.

I envisioned what Sen. Curtis might have had in mind a traditional high school would look like in this intellectually barren time. Maybe that vision looks like the setting of The Shining – you know the hotel that is abandoned in the winter time because of seasonal trends and looked after by Jack Nicholson and his family, except this time there is no snow and ice.

shining

Yet nothing could be further from the truth. Just today,

  • Offices were open to conduct business.
  • Student Services was open for registration and transcript analysis.
  • Teachers were on campus conducting various activities.
  • The yearbook staff is already at camp in Chapel Hill working on next year’s edition.
  • Rooms were being cleared and cleaned.
  • The baseball coach was conducting a baseball camp for community youth. He also coached over the weekend at the state games helping local talent get more attention from college programs as that might be a key way for some of them to go to college.
  • The soccer coaches also had their camps going teaching community youth skills. Some of the current and past players for a state championship team were on hand to help out.
  • State sanctioned workouts were happening on other fields.
  • Summer school classes were about to begin to help students regain credits.
  • Some teachers were already back from grading AP tests.
  • Some teachers were in professional development classes in various places.
  • Some teachers are prepping for new courses they are to teach because populations change and numbers of sections change.
  • Some teachers are preparing for National Boards.
  • Some teachers are tutoring.
  • Some teachers are moving materials on campus to facilitate summer cleaning and maintenance.
  • Some teachers are helping interview potential new teachers and then helping those hired get more acclimated with the campus.
  • Some teachers are taking inventory.
  • Some teachers just come to campus to get work done to prepare for next year like send items to print shop or get websites and databases ready.

And this is just the first week of “vacation.”

Lawmakers like Sen. David Curtis are literally talking about the budget for public schools right now. If his current views of public schools, teachers, administrations, and support staff still holds with his views expressed in that response to Sarah Wiles, then I would suggest that Curtis take a tour of local high schools in the summer time. Just as long as he does not use an axe at the door and scream, “Here’s Johnny!”

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He might be surprised. More importantly, he may not look at the funding of traditional public schools in such a sterile, antiseptic fashion,

Our kids deserve better.

Where In The World Is State Superintendent Mark Johnson?

Last week ended the regular school year for at least many of us in the state who teach in traditional public schools and it was ironic to see that many teachers were having to wait until after “grade verification” deadlines passed before they could get test scores back from state and local entities.

I understand. It happens. Some years more than others. And this post is not to draw out that debate of timing.

But Liz Bell’s article on EdNC.org last week entitled “‘Tight timeline’ to return final exam scores burdens some teachers” raised my eyebrows in other ways.

She sought clarification on the matter from Dr. June Atkinson, the former state superintendent. She would know. She would have the experience, the insight, and the ability to explain all of the different cogs that are working in the system.

Yet my next inclination was to see if our current state superintendent had anything to say about the matter. And I found…

Nothing.

Approaching six months in office and really naught about the “testing” has been addressed from DPI’s standpoint. Needless to say that within those six months, multitudes of teachers have begun, taught, and completed classes that were tested with EOC’s and NC Finals in block schedules.

Yet no word from Johnson about this matter.

In fact, lots have happened in the past week about public education. For instance:

  • The Charter School Advisory Board met to discuss the future of a school in turmoil.
  • The Senate and the House budgets are still being negotiated with funding for DPI significantly altered in both versions.
  • There is still a huge debate about class sizes for the next year in elementary schools. Just look at the conversation happening in Wake County about funding schools.
  • Alternative teacher preparation programs are being pushed through voting processes.

And where in the state was Mark Johnson?

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In fact, the only blurb I heard to even come from Johnson’s office in the past couple of weeks involved a possible breaking of the law.

On June 6th, Billy Ball reported on NC Policy Watch in “State Superintendent may be violating law by ignoring public records request” that,

N.C. Superintendent of Public Instruction Mark Johnson’s inaction on a long-standing public records request from Policy Watch may be a violation of state law, a prominent North Carolina media attorney says.

And what did Johnson respond with? Nothing. He has someone do it for him.

A spokeswoman for the Department of Public Instruction (DPI), Vanessa Jeter, responded that day to say the records request had been received. In follow-up emails on Feb. 1 and Feb. 8, Jeter said the request had been forwarded to DPI’s information technology and legal departments, pointing out the superintendent’s emails would need to be reviewed in order to redact any confidential information.

Under North Carolina’s public records law, that would include certain types of protected information such as private employee records and attorney-client communications, among other exclusions.

In a March 22 email, DPI told Policy Watch that Johnson’s office was still working on the records request. And on March 31, Jeter wrote that the “hold-up” concerned a piece of software that would allow for a search of Johnson’s emails.

“If that is not important to you, we can handle it differently and move forward more quickly,” Jeter wrote.

In an April 4 response, Policy Watch asked for Johnson’s office to proceed without the software in order to obtain the records “sooner rather than later.”

Since then, there’s been little indication of any progress on the public records request, with follow-up emails from Policy Watch in late April, May and June often prompting no response from Johnson’s office.

Those last words from the above excerpt – “no response from Johnson’s office” – is becoming the running theme of his tenure.

 

When a North Carolina Lawmaker Says, “Well, We Are Spending More on Education Than Ever Before,” Then Consider This

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 2017, 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. Take for instance Kevin Corbin from Macon County.

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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 Study provides 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 underfunding 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, MSLs, CCs, NC Finals, 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 the most enabled yet invisible state superintendent of public instruction.

Wake County is currently embroiled in a fight to fund its public schools – 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.