Moving Toward Dystopian Higher Ed In North Carolina: Art Pope’s Appointment The The UNC Board

If you have not heard just yet, Art Pope has been nominated to finish the term of resigning UNC Board of Governor Bob Rucho.

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Most public school advocates know of Art Pope as the founder of libertarian think tanks the John Locke Foundation and the James G. Martin Center for Academic Renewal.

The John Locke Foundation (and its sister entity the Civitas Institute) are no strangers in the educational reform movement that has plagued North Carolina’s public school system. Both lobby hard for the privatization of public schools through vouchers, charters, ESA’s, etc.

Art Pope was also Gov. Pat McCrory’s first deputy budget director. Those initial budgets that began to redefine how teachers were paid in the early 2010’s and still hamper recruitment of teachers in our schools have Pope’s fingerprints all over them.

But Pope becoming a member of the UNC Board of Governors should also be noted as he has been eyeing reforming the UNC system. That’s why he founded the James G. Martin Center for Academic Renewal, an arm of the Koch brothers ambitious quest to redefine post-secondary education.

From Rob Schofield in a post today on NC Policy Watch:

And when it comes to higher education, North Carolinians should have no doubt what that “vision” entails. For years now, people funded with Pope contributions at the James G. Martin Center for Academic Renewal (formerly the Pope Center for Higher Education) have churned out a torrent of hard right propaganda — relentlessly attacking supposed left-wing biases in American colleges and universities, calling for less public spending on higher education, arguing that too many young people attend college in the first place, lamenting the supposed suppression of conservative voices, and, well, you get the picture.

Given this backdrop, there seems little doubt as to the kinds of policies Pope will champion at UNC.

All that said, it’s also clear that Pope, unlike so many of the conservative cronies with which the legislature has stocked the Board of Governors in recent years, is not a loudmouth blowhard or a corrupt schemer looking to line his pockets. He’s serious about this stuff. It almost feels like, having watched the crazy dysfunction that conservatives have brought to UNC in recent years, the head coach is coming down off of his high perch to take direct control.

Those who care about the UNC system and its longstanding position as one of the nation’s great public universities should be very concerned.

But Pope’s obvious quest to redefine the UNC system (which is considered one of the best in the country) is also tainted with some rather disturbing history.

From The Daily Tar Heel in in 2017:

TO THE EDITOR:
In January 1975, a campus organization called the Union Forum used student fees to bring the National Information Director of the KKK to campus. His name was David Duke.

Black students at the time were outraged.

A press release from the Black Student Movement read in part “The mere sanctioning of the spread of Duke’s decadent philosophy is an unforgivable display of latent racism. Many have construed the argument of objectivity out of proportion. It is such “objectivity” that allows racial oppression even to this date. We as Black people feel divinely justied (if not obligated) to repress the rejuvenation of the Klan philosophy at its very on-set.”


And so they resisted.

Shortly after Union Forum Director Jim Conrad introduced Duke to the stage, black and white students began to protest.

Despite attempts from University Ofcials, Student Body President Marcus Williams, and even Duke himself, the students refused to leave or to be silent until David Duke left the building and his podium and microphone were removed from stage. They disrupted his speech.

In the aftermath of this protest, The Daily Tar Heel received over fty letters offering opinions in favor of and in opposition to the actions students took that day.

But one freshman from Raleigh was especially perturbed. So much so, that he decided to sue the then President
of the Black Student Movement, Algenon Marbley, in undergraduate honor court for “disruption”, a charge that could’ve led to Marbley being expelled from school.

The freshman from Raleigh who brought the suit, who tried to get the BSM President kicked out of school for disrupting a speech on campus by the KKK, was Arthur “Art” Pope UNC ’78.

Now, Art Pope is one of the most prolific funders of the Republican Party in the State of North Carolina. A Party that continues its assault on civil rights and against black, brown and trans people to this day.

Does Arthur Pope still believe the KKK have a legitimate claim to rst amendment protection when they speak and recruit students at campus sponsored events?

Someone should ask him when he visits campus Tuesday as part of the Institute of Politics’Fellows Program. Graham Memorial Hall Room 035. Starts at 515.


Andrew Brennen
Political Science
Junior

And from the Twitter feed of @antipyrine (Groucho Marxist) from 2017 when the the above letter to the editor ran:

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Please vote in November and help make Pope’s tenure on the UNC BOG a very temporary one.

5G, Pancake Syrup, And A Cow – What Will Future Students Think When They Study 2020?

From just the last two days.

When nebulous standardized tests become the way to measure “student achievement” and curriculum is written within a framework of societal dominance instead of truth, we get this.

When we have people in power who spend time denying science and using rhetoric to divide, we get this.

Please vote in November.

Sen. Kathy Harrington Penned An Op-Ed About Teacher Pay In NC -It’s Grossly Misleading

This past Monday in the Charlotte Observer, state senator Kathy Harrington from Gaston County penned an op-ed entitled “NC Republicans have provided meaningful teacher raises.

She begins:

For years, Democrats have seized upon teacher pay as an electioneering tool to convince people to vote for them.

The logic goes something like this: Teachers educate your children, North Carolina Republicans haven’t provided teachers with “meaningful” raises, therefore you should support Democrats.

Here’s the problem with that logic: North Carolina Republicans provided teachers with the third-highest pay raises in the entire country since 2014. If that’s not truly meaningful, what is?

She also sprinkles other misleading claims throughout her op-ed in the newspaper of the state’s largest city in what might be the most important elections year we have seen in our lifetimes.

And all the while she deliberately does not tell you of other actions made by her and her political cronies in the North Carolina General Assembly that allow for her argument to premise its logic on appearances.

Why? Because the reality is much different.

Here is the rebuttal that has been sent to the Charlotte Observer for consideration:

Sen. Kathy Harrington’s recent words about teacher pay (“NC Republicans have provided meaningful teacher raises“) are not as truthful as she claims. Her biased version of events deliberately mistakes appearance with reality.

In her op-ed she states, “Since Republicans took control of the legislature, North Carolina’s average teacher pay has increased from 47th in the country to 29th.

The state senator bases her argument on “average” teacher pay in NC, a figure that is one of the most grossly misinterpreted statistics in this state. The operative word here is “average.” What Harrington purposefully fails to tell you is that most of the raises since 2014 have occurred at the very low rungs of the salary schedule. You can raise the salary of first year teachers by a few thousand dollars and it would give them an average raise of perhaps 10-15%. You would only have to give veteran teachers a very small raise and the OVERALL “average” raise still looks good. 

However, “average” does not mean “actual.” 

The last ten years have seen tremendous changes to North Carolina teacher pay. For new teachers entering the profession here in NC, there is no longer a graduate degree pay bump, no more longevity pay, and an altered scale that only makes it possible for a teacher to top out on the present salary schedule with around 54K per year. 

So how can it be that the average pay in NC is over 54K when no one can really make much over 54K as a new teacher in his/her entire career?

Easy. Harrington and her cohorts are counting all of the veteran teachers’ current salaries in that figure. The very people whose salaries simply disgusted the former governor and the General Assembly to the point that they had to take measures to “lower” them are actually being used to tout this wonderful “average.” 

Furthermore, this average is counting on local supplements. Local school districts have to raise the money to fund those, and not all localities provide the same supplements. Some can not provide a supplement at all. Harrington never mentions that. Nor did she mention that the “highest pay raise in the country in 2014” for NC teachers was largely financed by the elimination of longevity pay for veteran teachers. Nor does she mention that the current salary schedule she seems to brag about cannot begin to sustain an average pay that is the “second-highest in the southeast.” 

Remember the word “average” is a very easy word to manipulate. In this case, the very teachers who are driving the “average” salary up are the very people the state wants to not have in a few years. There will then be a new average. It can’t possibly be over 54K then if current trends keep going. 

Harrington should know this. She’s a five term senator and one of the Senate’s budget writers.

Since Harrington has been in office she has helped remove due process rights for new teachers, created a greater reliance on standardized tests, eliminated class-size caps, instituted a punitive school grading system, and fostered unregulated charter school growth and vouchers. North Carolina has also seen a drop in teacher candidates of over 30% during her tenure. 

That June 22nd op-ed ended with the following statement: “Politically-minded operators will keep spinning half-truths to convince you of a reality that simply doesn’t exist.”

Ironic that Sen. Harrington is the “politically-minded operator” trying to “spin” a “good story” in this election year.

Concerning The John Locke Foundation’s “Perspective” On The LEANDRO Ruling

Yesterday the libertarian think tank John Locke Foundation hosted an online event to talk about the LEANDRO case in NC and the judicial system’s ruling concerning the funding of public schools.

Please remember that the John Locke Foundation is one of two official North Carolina affiliates of the State Policy Network established by the Koch brothers, one of whom recently passed away.

The other NC affiliate is the Civitas Institute, a sister organization to the John Locke Foundation.

It’s hard not to guess what angle the JLF will take in this “argument,” but the last little part of the EdNC.org blurb about it in today’s posting seemed a little odd.

Just as troubling, a forced-funding court order would turn the North Carolina Constitution on its head, taking the power to appropriate money away from the legislature and giving it to the judicial branch. In this conversation, our experts will look at the possible scenarios, the experience of other states that are operating under these types of orders, research on the relationship between funding and outcomes, and the overall impact on school kids, parents, taxpayers, and policymakers.

That whole “look at possible scenarios” and “research on the relationship between funding and outcomes” and “overall impact” seems like staged ignorance.

Why? Because that’s what the WestEd report released last fall did. Again, here is the entire report – Sound Basic Education for All – An Action Plan for North Carolina.

These were the 12 basic findings listed below.

  • Finding #1: Funding in North Carolina has declined over the last decade.
  • Finding #2: The current distribution of education funding is inequitable.
  • Finding #3: Specific student populations need higher levels of funding.
  • Finding #4: Greater concentrations of higher-needs students increases funding needs.
  • Finding #5: Regional variations in costs impact funding needs.
  • Finding #6: The scale of district operations impacts costs.
  • Finding #7: Local funding and the Classroom Teacher allotments create additional funding inequities.
  • Finding #8: New constraints on local flexibility hinder district ability to align resources with student needs.
  • Finding #9: Restrictions on Classroom Teacher allotments reduce flexibility and funding levels.
  • Finding #10: Frequent changes in funding regulations hamper budget planning.
  • Finding #11: The state budget timeline and adjustments create instability.
  • Finding #12: There is inadequate funding to meet student needs.

These are 12 of the many many data exhibits that helped to summarize some of those issues as far as the effects of poverty on school systems, lower numbers of teacher candidates, attrition levels, per-pupil expenditures, and how it is hard to compare NC to other states in how it funds its schools.

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And then that “we don’t have the money” thing? Well, they could look at doing some of these things:

  1. Stop extending massive tax cuts to corporations and wealthy people. 
  2. Invest the budget surplus into our schools. 
  3. Refund Unused Opportunity Grant Money. 
  4. In fact, do away with the Opportunity Grants. 
  5. Highly regulate the ESA’s and allow them to be spent on public schools as well. 
  6. Not extend so much money into new unregulated charter schools. 
  7. Dissolve the Innovative School District. 
  8. Repeal HB514. 
  9. Allow ballot measures for school bonds to remain on the ballot. 
  10. Pass the budget in a democratic process. 

And look at #9 again because Rep. Tim Moore actually advertised that as a great possibility.

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In fact, Tim Moore is one of JLF’s favorite people.

The Cruel Irony Coronavirus Is Teaching Us About “Standardized” Testing

Depending on which math and science track is taken in high school, it is conceivable a student who matriculates in NC’s public schools will take around 40 standardized tests.

That list does not include any local benchmark assessments, the PSAT, the ACT, the Pre-ACT, or any of the AP exams that may come with Advanced Placement classes.

Throw in some PISA and NAEP participants. Maybe the ASVAB and the Workkeys.

There’s probably more.

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And there’s never been a shortage of them. The state and local districts have always been able to have tests ready to give. In some cases multiple times.

And each of those tests has to be administered which equals time, resources, space, and people dedicated to a single measurement of academic “wellbeing.”

But this outbreak has continued to really “test” this state, one where Medicaid was not expanded, rural hospitals have been jeopardized, and many remain uninsured.

Coronaviruses research, conceptual illustration. Vials of blood in a centrifuge being tested for coronavirus infection.conceptual illustration

Makes one reassess how important some testing is and how unimportant some is not.

Think about how much money, time, and energy could be saved by canceling federal and state testing and dedicating those resources to not only making sure that schools will be safe enough to reenter for learning…

But also make sure that anyone who wants to get a test for COVID-19 can get one.

Actually Phil, We Do Have Money – 10 Things NC Can Do Now To Begin To Honor The LEANDRO RULINGS

Justin Parmenter, who writes the Notes From The Chalkboard blog and is as fierce a public school advocate as I have ever had the privilege of working with, shared this sound clip from this past month in which Sen. Phil Berger comments on the Leandro report’s findings about school funding in NC.

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In that sound clip, Berger states, “Our Constitution does not provide for judges to appropriate dollars. We’ve said on multiple occasions if judges want to get into the field of appropriating they need to run for the legislature. We’ll see what the order is, but again we cannot spend money we don’t have.

Funny that the state Constitution does stipulate that the state is responsible for a quality, sound public education for all students and that the Leandro finding was based on how well NC was adhering to that stipulation. But…

Even as late as June 17th, the court system has told the state that it must begin to fund improvements to the public school system per the Leandro Case findings. Below is from the N&O

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Actually, NC does have the money.

Here’s what could be done now:

  1. Stop extending massive tax cuts to corporations and wealthy people. Maybe we as a state should not keep extending more corporate tax cuts for businesses and people who make significantly more than the average North Carolinian. We haven’t really seen the trickle-down effect from that here in our schools.
  2. Invest the budget surplus into our schools. The fact that there is such a huge surplus in this state’s budget while yet another round of large corporate tax cuts took hold this year is not really a sign of fiscal responsibility.
  3. Refund Unused Opportunity Grant Money. The money that this state has “invested” in vouchers has not even been totally used – maybe about half. That amounts to millions of dollars that could be put into public schools.
  4. In fact, do away with the Opportunity Grants. We should not invest almost a billion dollars’ worth into a voucher scheme over a ten-year period when it has not shown any real success and put that back into the public schools. No study has conclusively said that vouchers actually improve public educational outcomes because of “competition.” In fact, North Carolina’s version is the least transparent in the nation.
  5. Highly regulate the ESA’s and allow them to be spent on public schools as well. How about taking some of the money earmarked for Special Needs Education Savings Accounts (which might be one of the most unregulated versions in the country – just look at Arizona) and allowing parents to invest it back into services for their children in public schools?
  6. Not extend so much money into new unregulated charter schools. No report on the state level has shown they are working in the way that charter schools were intended to work: to be laboratories for public schools to find new ways of teaching and bring back to traditional schools to help all students. Instead many are run by private entities.
  7. Dissolve the Innovative School District. There is not community buy-in and all models of such “reforms” have proven to not help. Furthermore, it is giving money to a private entity. Besides look at the turnover rate of the people who are supposed to run the ISD.
  8. Repeal HB514. Bill Brawley’s Municipal Charter Bill bill is nothing more than legalized segregation and allows for municipalities to ask for county property taxes to create charter schools that only service certain zip codes. In essence it allows for more property taxes to be used to fund local schools and possibly state mandates.
  9. Allow ballot measures for school bonds to remain on the ballot. Remember when this was taken off the ballot in 2018? Let the voters actually decide, especially after destructive hurricanes destroyed so much in the eastern part of our state.
  10. Pass the budget in a democratic process. No more “nuclear options” to pass a state budget.  No more “stalling” like with this year’s budget. Let the democratic process have its say. That means debate and amendments and actually voting on veto-overrides.

And look at #9 again because Rep. Tim Moore actually advertised that as a great possibility.

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To which Kris Nordstrom replied bluntly and truthfully:

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So, what were you saying Phil?

So, We Will Make Sure To Add These Events To The Social Studies Curriculum?

It was about one year ago when Lt. Gov. Dan Forest began pushing to have a personal finance class become a mandatory course in NC public high schools. And in order to make that work (after it was passed), what had been a mandatory course in US History was taken away as students went from two to one required class in this country’s history.

History is always being made and the need to learn from history has become even more apparent in these last few years.

In fact, the history of the year 2020 could be its own elective – except it should be mandatory.

So, if Lt. Dan Forest was so keen on changing social studies curriculum requirements to further include “real world” lessons last summer, will he be willing to make sure that these historical events are also included and presented in an unbiased manner?

 

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It’s Juneteenth. Not A Day For…, But A Day For….

Juneteenth: What the Juneteenth flag symbolizes - CNN

It’s June 19th. Juneteenth. On this day in 1865, slaves in Galveston, Texas became the last to learn of the Emancipation Proclamation.

Emancipation Proclamation - Definition, Dates & Summary - HISTORY

I do not remember ever studying the origins of this day in high school.

It took two years after Lincoln declared slavery in 1863 abolished for people in Texas to find out.

Today should not be a day to name a new president of the UNC system. Today should not be about passing bills in the NCGA without debate or chance for amendments. Today should not be about rallies in Tulsa.

Today should be about making sure that what really happened in history is taught. Today should be about being more willing to have uncomfortable conversations.

Today should be about learning about what many textbooks deliberately leave out of their pages.

Georgia Just Did This For Its Schools. It’s Time The NCGA Did The Same For Ours.

From the Atlanta Journal-Constitution in my native state of Georgia:

Gov. Brian Kemp and state school Superintendent Richard Woods are asking the federal government to waive the public school testing requirement for another school year.

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And there’s more.

Georgia will also look to not use a school grading system next year that is a little like our school performance grades used in NC. Furthermore, GA is looking to suspend the teacher evaluation system protocols next year as well.

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You listening, NCGA?

So, If It Costs This Much To “Protect” The NCGA, Imagine What Schools Need

Yesterday, the News & Observer ran a story on the return of temperature checks and other preventative measures to help curb the spread of COVID-19 in the chambers of the NC General Assembly.

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Paul Coble, the legislative services officer, had stopped measures of screening in the past few days. He said that it cost a lot.

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He said it cost one-million dollars to keep the building clean and offer protective measures.

Later in the report:

Wednesday, Coble said the screenings would resume.

“I made the decision to cease the temperature checks and move to a nurse-based model of care due to the fact that we have not had a single case of an elevated temperature reading during the past six weeks,” Coble wrote.

“However I can appreciate your concern that the procedure provided an extra feeling of safety,” Coble said. “Therefore, I have asked our nursing team to staff back up and work with our police officers to provide the temperature checks next week while the Senate and House are in session.”

So, what will the NCGA fight for in the fall for each school to care for students and educators that so many lawmakers want to “open up?”

You know, the buildings that are “in session” for an entire school year and do not have a “nursing team” on sight?