State Superintendent Johnson, Whom Do You Serve?

Dear Supt. Johnson,

I appreciated the words in your video address to teachers thanking us for our work during the National Teacher Appreciation Week. For those who may not have seen that video, here is a link: https://youtu.be/asLHLCxjQ6k.

You talked about how teachers are not thanked enough, and while it is nice to hear those sentiments, the teacher, the public school parent, and the voter in me wants to see something else: action.

Why? Because during this week of “Teacher Appreciation” and polite ceremony, schools in many districts were still struggling to find the necessary resources and having to ask for essential support as the North Carolina General Assembly’s Senate chamber rolled out a budget proposal that did nothing to improve funding for public schools.

In fact, what happened on West Jones Street this “Teacher Appreciation Week” showed how much many in Raleigh do not appreciate what happens in public schools.

And this teacher, parent, voter, and advocate needs to ask you as the chief administrator of public schools, “What are you willing to do?”

First, it is quite disconcerting to not have heard you speak about the proposed cuts to the Department of Public Instruction. Actually, they aren’t really cuts. It’s more of a severing of limbs.

As suggested in the budget proposal, http://www.ncleg.net/Sessions/2017/Bills/Senate/PDF/S257v2.pdf, there would be a 25 percent cut in operation funds for DPI.

NC Policy Watch’s Billy Ball reported on May 12th, 2017 in “Senate slashes DPI; state Superintendent silent,”

North Carolina’s chief public school administrator may be silent on Senate budget cuts to North Carolina’s Department of Public Instruction, but the leader of the state’s top school board says the proposal has the potential to deal major harm to poor and low-performing school districts.

“There’s no question about that,” State Board of Education Chairman Bill Cobey told Policy Watch Thursday. “A 25 percent cut, which I can’t believe will be the result of this process, would cut into very essential services for particularly the rural and poor counties.”

Cobey is referring to the Senate budget’s 25 percent cut in operations funds for the Department of Public Instruction (DPI), a loss of more than $26 million over two years that, strangely, has produced no public reaction from the leader of the department (http://www.ncpolicywatch.com/2017/05/12/senate-slashes-dpi-state-superintendent-silent/).

Whether or not you want to give a statement to NC Policy Watch, the fact that you have not openly responded to this is actually quite surprising. And this is happening in a year where the same lawmakers are touting yet another SURPLUS in revenue.

Frankly, your power struggle to obtain authority over segments of public school policy with the state board has pretty much put a lot in limbo as far as crafting what you said in January were “urgent” reforms needed in our education system. Furthermore, those reforms and changes do not seem to have any shape or form in your first 120 days in office.

And it seems to have helped bring about a reduction of the very office that many look to help sustain many needed facets of public education in the state, especially in rural districts – by a fourth!

Some of those very districts were hurt by some late night underhanded partisan backstabbing this past weekend.

Colin Campbell of the News &Observer reported in “At 3 a.m., NC Senate GOP strips education funding from Democrats’ districts” on May 13th,

“The session finally resumed around 3 a.m., and Republican Sen. Brent Jackson introduced a new budget amendment that he explained would fund more pilot programs combating the opioid epidemic. He cited “a great deal of discussion” about the need for more opioid treatment funding.

Jackson didn’t mention where the additional $1 million would come from: directly from education programs in Senate Democrats’ districts and other initiatives the minority party sought” (http://www.newsobserver.com/news/politics-government/state-politics/article150397682.html#storylink=cpy).

What is your position on that?

Those districts’ schools are your schools. That proposed cut of twenty-five percent to DPI affects your schools. This prolonged lawsuit against members of your own party affects your schools.

Actually, they are our schools. And you were elected to work for our schools.

At the beginning of your term that you stated you would be conducting a “listening tour” for your first few months. I and others are very interested in learning what you have heard and how it may guide your policies.

However, a LOT WAS SAID THIS WEEK in words and actions – budget cuts, falling from 42nd to 43rd in per pupil expenditures, “super-vouchers,” and attacks on programs that help small districts. So, the obvious question might be, “What are you going to do about this?” It appears if you truly appreciated teachers and public schools, it seems that you would be screaming at all of this.

But the real question might be “Who do you serve?”

That same budget which is causing many people to doubt our state’s commitment to public schools also gave you money to do a couple of things. The first concerns a legal fund.

unnamed1

That’s three-hundred thousand dollars to use so you can sue the State Board of Education to get powers as a state superintendent that have never been placed in the hands of the office before. The face of the State Board of Education is the same person who commented above about the cuts to DPI when you did not.

The second is to secure loyalty.

unnamed2

This allows you to have five more people to work for you than the previous state superintendent which is odd considering that the same people who gave you this appropriation and the money to sue your own state board are the very ones who have cut DPI’s operation budget by a quarter.

So I ask again, “Who do you serve?”

Actions say so much.

And in this case a lack of a reaction screams.

Open Letter to NC Lawmakers Concerning HB13 and Funding the Arts & PE

Dear Senator Chad Barefoot, Senator Bill Rabon, and other lawmakers concerning the amended HB13 law,

This week marks the beginning of Advanced Placement testing in schools around the country (and world), and while the validity of AP classes and testing results has become the subject of much debate, I have a multitude of students working hard to do well on those exams.

The state of North Carolina seems to put a lot of emphasis on AP tests. In fact, the General Assembly actually pays for each administration of an AP test (over $90 per) in public schools. It’s a measure of success apparently to see how many students are actually taking the tests in the state. And if it is increasing success overall for students, then that is good.

Maybe that’s the same reasoning that goes into the forced administration of the ACT in North Carolina public schools. Making every student in public schools, whether they are invested in the test or whether they have no inclination of entering college, take a test that gives really no more feedback than a score point has become another source of measurement that lawmakers use to judge the public school system.

Either way, some company is making of a lot of money from the tax payers to create a measure to arbitrarily see how well our North Carolinian students are performing. And decision makers like yourselves seem to take a lot of stock in arbitrary test results, especially in comparison with the results of other countries.

But there are many variables that a test cannot measure which are vital to student success and our state’s health – variables like creativity, inventiveness, collaboration, teamwork, and innovation whose ingredients are found in classes like visual arts, music, physical education. Ironically, those are the very classes in jeopardy next year with the porous version of HB13 passed this past week.

Valerie Strauss writes and publishes an educational blog called “The Answer Sheet”. It is published primarily through the Washington Post and is widely read. The following is from a February 13, 2017 posting entitled “Three global indexes show that U.S. public schools must be doing something right.”

It starts,

Nancy Truitt Pierce is a member of the Monroe School Board in Washington state who was appointed by Gov. Jay Inslee to his STEM Alliance Advisory Board. In her day job, she is a consultant who convenes monthly peer group meetings of top executives in Seattle and hears what they are looking for when recruiting new employees. What do they want?

 Here’s what she wrote in an email:

 What I hear from the key corporate leaders I meet monthly with is that they want candidates coming out of our public schools who are creative, innovative, collaborative problem solvers. Yes, the candidates must also have strong foundational skills of math, science and language arts but I suggest we are putting too much emphasis on the PISA math score as a key indicator of public school quality. I suggest there are other indicators that would serve us in much better ways (https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/answer-sheet/wp/2017/02/13/three-global-indexes-show-that-u-s-public-schools-must-be-doing-something-right/?tid=a_inl&utm_term=.40a032ddd1c3).

I chose this particular part of the posting because of Ms. Pierce’s job as a consultant with business executives and as a STEM proponent. Interestingly, her words about creativity reminded me of the recent debate that you and others simply avoided when it concerned the arts and its funding in our elementary schools when HB13 was front and center.

Later in the posting there is a reference to three specific indicators that measure the very elements of creativity, innovation, and collaboration.

 We win where it matters. If you look at other indicators more related to innovation, creativity and entrepreneurship, the USA does very well.

To be clear, the Global Creativity Index “ is a broad-based measure for advanced economic growth and sustainable prosperity based on the 3Ts of economic development — talent, technology, and tolerance” (http://martinprosperity.org/content/the-global-creativity-index-2015/).

The Global Innovation Index? Look at some of the indicators (https://www.globalinnovationindex.org/gii-2016-report).

AP2

The Global Entrepreneurship Index utilizes the “Global Entrepreneurship and Development Index’s (GEDI) 14 Pillars of Entrepreneurship as its primary measurement.

  • Pillar 1: OPPORTUNITY PERCEPTION
  • Pillar 3: NONFEAR OF FAILURE
  • Pillar 4: NETWORKING
  • Pillar 5: CULTURAL SUPPORT
  • Pillar 8: HUMAN RESOURCES
  • Pillar 13: INTERNATIONALIZATION

All of those variables are directly attributable to skills learned in classes like visual art, music, and physical education. The items listed under the Global Innovation Index concerning investment in education brings to mind the very heart of the discussion of bills like HB13 and HB800 and other initiatives that take monies away from public schools and put them into unproven methods of education that actually segregate rather than allow for us to collaborate.

And Nancy Pruitt Pierce says we need more people who collaborate. More people who are creative. More people who are innovative.

Does the ACT measure those elements? Do the EOCT’s? Maybe to a very small, small degree.

One could make an argument that the AP tests could measure for those items, because students are often asked to elaborate or be required to show their thought processes or support their arguments. In fact, here is a prompt from the 2014 administration of the AP English Language and Composition Test.

AP1

The part of the prompt that states, “the scores of younger children in America – from kindergarten through sixth grade” has the decline that is the “most serious” really seems to fit into the dialogue here in North Carolina.

I would very much like to see how many of you would respond to this prompt. Actually, I would like to see you make a coherent argument for your actions to jeopardize funding for the very classes that essentially foster those very skills that others testify are crucial to building stable economic futures in our state and country.

If you do offer that argument, make sure to back up your claims with hard evidence and verifiable data as well as explain how that evidence and data support your claims – out loud and clearly.

Not behind closed doors or in secret sessions.

Dear Fmr. Gov. McCrory, I Have an Idea for Your Next Job – Substitute Teaching

Donald Trump Campaigns In Key States During Weekend Ahead Of General Presidential Election

Dear Former Gov. McCrory,

I read without surprise in the past couple of months that you have had a little more than a hard time obtaining gainful, full-time employment since your last day as governor of our state.

No doubt many potential employers in North Carolina are hesitant because of your role in passing and defending the controversial “bathroom law” otherwise known as HB2.

Even you have made such an admission. For instance, there was the News & Observer report on March 13 by Colin Campbell entitled “McCrory, working as consultant, says HB2 makes some employers ‘reluctant to hire me’” (http://www.newsobserver.com/news/politics-government/state-politics/article138266443.html#storylink=cpy).

It begins,

Former Gov. Pat McCrory says the backlash against House Bill 2 is making some employers reluctant to hire him but he’s currently doing consulting and advisory board work.

McCrory has been appearing frequently in interviews with national media outlets to defend the controversial LGBT law, but he hasn’t announced what’s next for his career. In a podcast interview recently with WORLD, an Asheville-based evangelical Christian news website, McCrory talked about his challenges on the job market.

The former Republican governor says HB2 “has impacted me to this day, even after I left office. People are reluctant to hire me, because, ‘oh my gosh, he’s a bigot’ – which is the last thing I am.”

Well, there will be many who will always judge you by that one ill-fated bill. And you did have every opportunity to veto it and not sign it into law. But you did and you did a rather bad job of defending it to the rest of the country and even the world.

There is a reason that over 20,000 voters who voted for Donald Trump in North Carolina did not vote for you. Well, maybe there’s more than one reason. History will tell.

But as far as being unemployable beyond the “consulting” realm is concerned? I think I have a solution.

Substitute teaching.

I know. It sounds a little “out there.” But you might actually be ready for it. Think about it and imagine…

  • Imagine being able to teach fill in for a math teacher and using math to see how one candidate gets more votes than another candidate.
  • Imagine being able to teach a civics class and talking about how democracy works when the candidate who gets more votes actually wins the election.
  • Imagine then being able to go to a social studies class and could talk about how that doesn’t always work when we have an Electoral College that allows a man who loses the popular vote by nearly three million votes can still become president.
  • Imagine being able to teach an English class that is reading your favorite book (Orwell’s 1984) and being able to actually refer to passages from a dystopic novel that seem eerily true 100 days into this current presidency.
  • Imagine being able to talk about the effects of coal ash residue into clean drinking water during a science class.
  • Imagine instructing students in a speech and debate electives class about the need to verify “pseudo-facts” before proceeding with unfounded claims of voter fraud.
  • Imagine being able to help a physics class be able to see how much hot air it really takes to make a giant balloon float above reality.
  • Imagine being able to help an economics class calculate the effects of a law like HB2 on the economy of a state like North Carolina. Wait, already been done.
  • You could even imagine being able to perform hall duty near a bathroom and be bold enough to ask everyone who goes into the facility for his/her birth certificate.

But maybe the primary reason for this possible venture is to see the real effects that our state government has had on public education and the students who attend those schools – effects that either you allowed and/or even abetted.

  1. HB2 – Bathroom Bill
  2. Medicaid Expansion Denied
  3. Teacher Pay still at the bottom tier in the nation
  4. Removal of due-process rights for new teachers
  5. Graduate Degree Pay Bumps Removed for new teachers
  6. Bad Teacher Evaluation Systems
  7. Push for Merit Pay
  8. “Average” Raises and neglecting veteran teachers
  9. Central Office Allotment Cuts
  10. Attacks on Teacher Advocacy Groups (NCAE)
  11. Revolving Door of Standardized Tests
  12. Less Money Spent per Pupil in Traditional Public Schools
  13. Remove Caps on Class Sizes
  14. Jeb Bush School Grading System
  15. Opportunity Grants Expansion
  16. Allowing Private and Religious Schools To Profit From Tax Payer Money
  17. Charter School Growth Without Regulation
  18. Virtual Schools Deregulation
  19. Achievement School Districts
  20. Reduction of Teacher Candidates in Colleges
  21. Elimination of Teaching Fellows Program
  22. Attacks on Teacher Assistants
  23. Elimination of State Employees Rights to File Discrimination Suits in State Courts
  24. Dan Forest’s request to have Charter School Report to be Rewritten
  25. House Bill 539 – Giving Charters Money For Services They Do Not Provide
  26. Chad Barefoot’s Appt. to Senate Education Committee Chair
  27. Teach For America Expansion Plans
  28. SB 873 – Access To Affordable College Education Act
  29. Arresting of Teachers Who Protested and Saying They Were At Fault
  30. Appointing People Who Are Not Qualified to the SBOE
  31. Special Sessions of the General Assembly

It also might give you the incredible opportunity to maybe actually become that which you always claimed you were – a public servant.

Maybe after your tenure as a substitute teacher, you could then become a true advocate for public schools. Maybe start focusing on the Charlotte-Mecklenburg School system. Considering the possible effects of HB13, HB800, and HB514, your hometown is literally becoming a breeding ground for “reformist” agendas that seek to reinstitute segregation.

But then again, I am only making a suggestion.

 

Open Letter to Sen. Chad Barefoot Concerning His Words on HB13

Dear Sen. Barefoot,

Your recent comments concerning the stalled House Bill 13 that would help local school districts navigate a stubborn legislative obstacle is yet another example of why so many people who advocate for the constitutionally protected public school system view you as hypocritical and piously partisan.

While Guilford County has already served notice to many teacher assistants about their possible non-renewal, systems such as the one I work for (Winston-Salem / Forsyth County) are waiting to see if waivers will be given by DPI.

As reported by WRAL on April 6th,

Sen. Chad Barefoot, R-Wake, co-chair of the Senate Education/Higher Education committee, says lowering class size is a priority.

“For years, the General Assembly has been sending tens of millions of dollars to districts for new classroom teachers for the purpose of lowering classroom sizes,” he said. “The question we keep asking over and over again is, ‘What did they do with the money?'”

Lawmakers requested financial data from school districts in the state and are analyzing it to try to get that answer.

“The data that we have received from the districts varies, and some districts did not fully respond to our information request,” Barefoot said. “What some of the data has shown is that there are districts that did not reduce class sizes with the funding we sent them. Why are they holding art and PE teachers’ jobs hostage for their misallocation of classroom teacher funds?” (http://www.wral.com/law-reducing-class-size-has-music-art-pe-teachers-anxious-about-future-/16628678/).

First, did you remember that teachers of classes for vital subjects such as art, music, and physical education are not dictated by a particular state allotment and ,therefore, do not count into student-teacher ratios for core subjects in the early grades?

Also, how will help these schools build more physical facilities to house the vast numbers of new classrooms that will be needed?

But more importantly, can you explain how your comments are not duplicitous when taken as a part of a bigger conversation?

You mentioned “tens of millions of dollars” over a period of “years.” Or at least, that is your assumption. The truth is that over the last several years we have seen a lower per-pupil expenditure for our students and an average teacher salary that still ranks in the last tier within the nation all while this state has experienced a boom in population.

But you talk about “tens of millions of dollars” that need to be accounted for so thoroughly that you are willing to hold LEA’s hostage.

If you want to look at how money is being spent (or not spent) with a fine-tooth comb, then maybe look at the Opportunity Grants program.

Just this past summer, you introduced a bill to further increase vouchers in NC under a system that many in the nation have found to be one of the most opaque in the country. Adam Lawson from the Lincoln Times News reported in May of 2016,

Senate Bill 862, filed by Republican state Sens. David Curtis (Lincoln, Iredell, Gaston), Chad Barefoot (Franklin, Wake) and Trudy Wade (Guilford) calls for 2,000 additional Opportunity Scholarship Grants to be available each school year beginning in 2017-18.

That comes with a $10 million annual rise in cost, from $34,840,000 in 2017-18 until 2027-28, when taxpayers would begin paying nearly $135 million for vouchers on a yearly basis. According to the Charlotte Observer, the state has spent just $12 million on the program this school year, 93 percent of which has gone to faith-based schools.

Actually, legislation that you championed will funnel nearly one BILLION dollars into North Carolina’s voucher program within the next ten years. And what results has the state seen from that venture so far?

I would invite you to look at the Duke Law School of Law’s Children’s Law Center’s recent March 2017 report called SCHOOL VOUCHERS IN NORTH CAROLINA: THE FIRST THREE YEARS.

Duke study

The entire report can be found here:  https://law.duke.edu/childedlaw/School_Vouchers_NC.pdf.

But just to give you a flavor of what the Opportunity Grants have done according to one of the more respected research universities in the nation, consider the following excerpted observations:

  • Approximately 93% of the vouchers have been used to pay tuition at religious schools (p.3).
  • Based on limited and early data, more than half the students using vouchers are performing below average on nationally-standardized reading, language, and math tests. (p.3).
  • It is poorly designed, however, to promote better academic outcomes for children and is unlikely to do so (p.3).
  • The most typical size for a participating school is between 100 and 250 students. However, 33 schools (7%) have ten or fewer students, with another 42 (9%) enrolling 20 or fewer students (p.8).
  • Although it is not an “apples-to-apples” comparison, the most recent data shows that comparable students who remained in public schools are scoring better than the voucher students on national tests (p.12).
  • In comparison to most other states, North Carolina’s general system of oversight of private schools is weak. No accreditation is required of private schools (p.13).
  • Unlike some laws, the law creating the Opportunity Scholarship Grant Program does not set out its purpose (p.15).
  • In fact, there is no requirement that the participating private schools meet any threshold of academic quality. (p.15-16).
  • THE LEGISLATIVE DECISION TO EXEMPT VOUCHER STUDENTS FROM PARTICIPATING IN THE STANDARD STATE END-OF-GRADE TESTS MEANS THAT NO RESEARCHER WILL EVER BE ABLE TO MAKE AN “APPLES-TO-APPLES” COMPARISON BETWEEN PUBLIC SCHOOL AND VOUCHER STUDENTS (p.18).
  • The North Carolina program allows for participation in the program by children who are not in failing schools and by private schools that do not offer a more academically promising education (p.19).

If you are analyzing the data from districts that have spent these “tens of millions” of dollars you mentioned earlier, are you analyzing the data from this report that spends this much taxpayer money?

Are you also analyzing recent improprieties of the use of monies in schools that use vouchers like Trinity Christian in Fayetteville? (http://ajf.org/employee-states-largest-recipient-school-voucher-funds-accused-embezzling-nearly-400000-public-tax-dollars/). The financial reports that were sent by Trinity were also incomplete (https://www.ednc.org/2017/04/07/serious-questions-arise-states-largest-voucher-school/) . It would be interesting to see if the financial reports from the suspected systems that you have focused on in your recent investigation, but you will not identify them.

And if analysis is so important to you to ascertain how money is being spent, then would you also not question analysis that talks about how your own actions have cost our state much more than “tens of millions of dollars?”

Your zealous defense of HB2 has according to many outlets cost the state of North Carolina hundreds of millions of dollars. A recent AP report even put that figure at over 3.5 BILLION (http://abc11.com/news/ap-hb2-estimated-to-cost-north-carolina-$376b/1819978/).

While lawmakers such as Lt. Gov. Dan Forest and possibly yourself may question the validity of the AP’s report, they were very transparent in their findings. And that does not even account for what may have been invested in North Carolina but never made it into public record.

Even if half of that number is correct, the loss to our state is tremendous.

Yet you remain steadfast in helping stall a bill that would greatly aid public school systems and greatly help students.

But in light of the actions you have taken and the comments that you have made that are simply rooted in biased politics, I am more prone to believe in the transparent analysis of Duke University or the Associate Press or even the unanimous passing of a bill in the highly divided North Carolina General Assembly House of Representatives (HB13) than your words.

Open Letter to Rep. Virginia Foxx Concerning Genetic Testing

Dear Rep. Foxx,

I read with great interest and increasing dread the report in today’s Winston-Salem Journal concerning workplace genetic testing.

The report entitled “Employees who decline genetic testing could face penalties under proposed bill” gives a brief outline of a bill that you have introduced as HR1313 that would

“undermine basic privacy provisions of the Americans with Disabilities Act and the 2008 Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act, or GINA.”

It goes on to further state,

“Congress passed GINA to prohibit discrimination by health insurers and employers based on the information that people carry in their genes. There is an exception that allows for employees to provide that information as part of voluntary wellness programs. But the law states that employee participation must be entirely voluntary, with no incentives to provide it, or penalties for not providing it (http://www.journalnow.com/news/local/employees-who-decline-genetic-testing-could-face-penalties-under-proposed/article_ec4136ca-650a-5ecd-9963-f5fb91acf1d4.html) .”

And now in a dystopian encore to the recently introduced “Trumpcare” bill that Paul Ryan has even defended as a means of taxing the poor more and giving the rich expanded tax cuts, you seem to be further proving that you are out of touch with the very constituency you represent.

You have said many controversial statements in the past and voted against the waves of common sense and decency. For instance:

  • You voted against relief for Hurricane Katrina in Sept. of 2005.
  • You defended Roger Clemens’s against steroid use by showing viewers on The Daily Show posters of the former Cy Young Award winner in an attempt to educate others on physique.
  • You co-sponsored a bill to make Jesus part of Christmas in 2008.
  • You have been quoted as saying, “Democrats have a tar baby on their hands,” that Matthew Shepherd’s death was a “hoax,” and that, “we have more to fear from the potential of the Affordable Care Act passing than we do from any terrorist right now in any country.”

Those are just a few examples. But this recent episode, I believe, might be the most egregious. Why? Because for someone who espouses such a strong public persona of faith in God and Jesus Christ, you are literally allowing for-profit companies to discriminate against people based on their genetics.

Simply put, you are proposing that people be discriminated against because of the way GOD MADE THEM!

Genetic testing can be a very scary experience. My wife and I experienced it when as older parents-to-be we received a prenatal diagnosis that our son had Down Syndrome. Extra chromosome aside, we have been blessed to raise our son just as God made him, but he does have a condition that can manifest itself in a variety of health-related obstacles.

You said in your comments concerning H.R. 3504, the Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act, “These tiny, vulnerable lives deserve the protection afforded all other persons under the law, and this bill ensures that their lives are protected.” Did that mean you would as a law maker and a Christian would help ensure that their lives would be protected even after they reached adulthood and became part of the tax-paying workforce who votes as well?

Your introduction of HR1313 seems to contradict that very notion.

Not only am I a parent of a child with special genetics, a voter in your district, but I am also a public school teacher. In fact, I teach high school English and I do actively read, not just for pleasure, but to keep learning how others view the world. A recent perusal of Amazon.com yielded a possible “next-read.”

god is in the house

The description reads as follows:

“A very inspired and original compilation for this election year, ”God Is in the House” is a collection of essays by members of Congress who reflect on their deep faith and how it guides them as legislators. The book was compiled by Representative Virginia Foxx who personally asked congressional colleagues who are devout in their faith to contribute, coworkers who are in Bible study with her, and colleagues she knows on a personal level.”

It’s the “how it (deep faith) guides them as legislators” part of the description that confuses me because HR1313 does not seem to be honoring your faith in God, but rather honors your faith in profits.

And is it not ironic that the foreword is written by Paul Ryan, the architect of the current version of “Trumpcare” that actually takes more from the poor and gives it to the rich? Now that’s “God in the House!”

Yes, I understand that this does not mean that HR1313 would allow any employer to force all their workers to submit to genetic testing. But what it does mean is that employers can control how wellness benefits can be applied to employees based on whether they do or do not voluntarily give into genetic testing. What is to keep a particular employer from defining what can and cannot be covered under a “wellness” program.

In fact, an employer under your bill would be able to keep employees from being able to get premium rebates if they chose not to submit genetic testing. That’s allowing companies to control rates for insurance and what coverage they can extend – pure and simple.

What if one of your own children or grandchildren was subjected to such a test and was denied critical coverage or had to pay a steep penalty or higher premiums that could financially hinder family finances because of some unforeseen genetic “malady” or predisposition beyond his/her control? Would you tell that loved one that a “legal certainty” for someone else’s bottom line was more important than making sure that people could get the best health care they could?

I have an idea what Jesus would say.

However, before you even consider pressing this bill any further in Congress, I suggest that you be willing to subject yourself (along with others who support this bill) to a genetic test.

Maybe, we would then discover the very gene that predisposes one to obey the influence of large insurance company lobbyists rather than the very people that person is supposed to serve.

An Open Letter to BEST NC Concerning Meeting With Michelle Rhee -Every Public School Teacher Needs To Be Aware Of This

Dear Mrs. Berg,

As the CEO of BEST NC, you and your team have led a coalition of business leaders who have helped steer the conversation surrounding public education in North Carolina. While many times as a public school teacher I have disagreed with your interpretation and analysis of the variables, causes, and effects that have shaped the public school system, I have appreciated your willingness to converse and exchange viewpoints.

I also have not only read, but studied the materials that BEST NC has released, and I did it with the thought that your coalition’s purpose was to remain non-partisan and open to all sides of the discussion.

As soon as one visits the “About Us” page of your website, best-nc.org, the following appears:

BEST NC is a non-profit, non-partisan coalition of business leaders committed to improving North Carolina’s education system through policy and advocacy. We do this by convening a broad constituency; encouraging collaboration around a shared, bold vision for education; and advocating for policies, research, programs, and awareness that will significantly improve education in North Carolina.

The word “non-partisan” really stands out to me, especially in a state where the public education system has been rather manipulated by partisan ideologies.

And then one can view the “Our Approach” tab and read:

BEST NC is a non-profit, non-partisan coalition of business leaders committed to improving North Carolina’s education system through policy and advocacy. We work to…

  • Convene a broad constituency of education stakeholders,
  • Inform an engaged business community, and
  • Advocate for policies, research, programs, and awareness that will move the needle…
  • …toward a shared, bold vision for education.

The words that resonate most in this are “convene,” “broad constituency,”” advocate,” and “shared vision.”

And while you tout that your group is pro-public education and seeks to “collaborate” with others, news that BEST NC will be holding a “legislative gathering” on February 7th makes me rather suspicious that the non-partisan approach you claim BEST NC maintains is not real.

My suspicion is not caused by the fact you are meeting. It arises because of whom you are meeting with.

In my 18 years of teaching in public schools and in my active advocacy for fully-funded public schools, I have never encountered a more polarizing figure than Michelle Rhee. In fact, I (and many others) consider Ms. Rhee the antithesis of how to approach helping public schools. In every endeavor she has undertaken in “improving” educational outcomes, she has left disunity, damage, and a large void in her wake.

No one really needs to exert much energy to see that her tenure in Washington D. C. was disastrous. She clearly endorses high-stakes testing, elimination of due-process rights, and the closing of schools she deems unsuccessful because she values a test grade over student growth.

No one really needs to dig deep and realize that her Project IMPACT initiative in Washington DC has been widely scrutinized because of the use of a “carrot and stick” mentality and its adherence to “teaching toward a test,” both of which run counter to the very premise of having a “skilled citizenry.” Michelle Rhee simply champions efforts to make teachers “jump” through hoops to get students to do well on arbitrary tests rather than empowering students to grow in their skills. It pays no attention to other factors that affect student achievement like poverty, lack of funding, overcrowding, all of which exist widely in North Carolina.

However, it is what she stands for now that is even more frightening considering current trends in North Carolina. As a strong advocate for charter school growth and vouchers for private schools, Ms. Rhee represents efforts to privatize public institutions which runs counter to our state’s constitution which your site quotes.

The General Assembly shall provide by taxation and otherwise for a general and uniform system of free public schools… wherein equal opportunities shall be provided for all students.– Article IX, Section 2(1), North Carolina Constitution

The invitation to include George Parker only reinforces that BEST NC is uniting champions of school choice and value added measurements with lawmakers and business leaders who can further those causes. You claim in Billy Ball’s article in NC Policy Watch (1/27),

“The legislative gathering is always closed to media, always has and always will be as a promise to members. Because they want to feel comfortable asking elected officials and experts candid questions off the record.” – See more at: http://pulse.ncpolicywatch.org/2017/01/27/public-education-advocates-cry-foul-legislators-private-meeting-controversial-school-reformer-michelle-rhee/#sthash.Zn4WUvda.vHutAkcx.dpuf

So much for open dialogue and collaboration. In fact, it makes it all appear that it is part of a larger agenda.

Consider the timing. The election cycle has just passed. Gerrymandering has enabled the GOP to maintain majorities in the NC General Assembly. We have a president who champions school choice and vouchers. North Carolina already has been infected with several “reforms” and our state is a “right-to-work” state which has no unions, contrary to what Mr. Ball reported.

And the two groups that will not be involved in your “candid” discussion are the two groups who have the biggest stake in public education: public school teachers and the public.

Ball’s article later reports,

“Still, Berg said there’s nothing secretive or inappropriate about BEST N.C.’s gathering with Rhee and lawmakers, which she described as a reception with a guest speaker, followed by a brief Q&A session. No state policies will be on the table; nor will legislators be holding a discussion of state public policy.

“The beauty of this is we want our members to ask really blunt questions,” said Berg. She acknowledged, however, that she’s not surprised, given the press attention surrounding Rhee’s education reforms, that some would be anxious over her attendance.

“I don’t have concern with people being upset about the national speaker,” Berg said. “She shut down schools. That made some people mad.”

When it comes to public education, “blunt” questions do need to be asked, but those discussions need to involve all parties.

  • Why is this “legislative gathering” about public institutions and public monies so secretive?
  • Why allow someone who clearly does not have a good track record with actually improving schools come and educate selected people who can make critical decisions about our public schools?
  • Why not have these discussions with actual scholars in educational research? Have they been invited?
  • Why are there not any teachers or teacher groups involved in this?

 

There are very concrete reasons why people would be “upset about the national speaker.”

But I am more upset that a group that supposedly celebrates open discussion and collaboration would broker a meeting such as this when what will be discussed are most certainly reform ideas that run counter to really improving public schools and still profit a selected few.

That is the reason that I am writing you. And that is the reason that I am making this an open letter in hopes that all public school teachers can learn more about what might be happening when a known privatizer who devalues teachers is coming to speak with the very lawmaking group that crafts how well public schools are resourced and how teachers are treated.

That is the reason I am also asking that you reconsider actually having this meeting with Michelle Rhee or make it more open to other stakeholders because BEST NC’s credibility as being “non-partisan” will suffer.

It certainly has changed my opinion of BEST NC.

 

Open Letter to Dave Machado, Charter School Chief for the State of North Carolina Concerning His Words About the Annual Charter Schools Report

Dear Mr. Machado,

As the Director for the State Office of Charter Schools in North Carolina, your words concerning the annual charter schools report just recently made to the State Board of Education prove not just interesting, but rather selective and uninformed and display an attitude to make sure that charter schools in North Carolina thrive at the expense of traditional public schools here in the Old North State.

charter-school-report

A WRAL.com report from January 4, 2017 entitled “NC charter schools chief: Need to increase diversity, open more rural schools” included some rather illuminating insights on your part that not only display a shortsightedness synonymous with an attempt to stretch and spin the truth, but an intention to create more of a market for an unregulated charter school industry that is enabled by the current political structure here in North Carolina.

Kelly Hinchcliffe reported,

“The report found that charters and traditional schools have about the same proportion of students who are American Indian, Asian, black and Pacific Islander. However, charters tend to have more white students and fewer Hispanic students than traditional schools.

The report also found that charter schools tend to serve fewer poor students than traditional schools. But Machado cautioned board members that some of that data may not be accurate. Schools may have under-reported how many low-income students they serve, he explained, because they must rely on parents to report income information.

Not all parents want to share that information.

“Parents would get mad when we sent those surveys out,” Machado said, referencing his time as chief administrator of Lincoln Charter School in Lincoln County (http://www.wral.com/nc-charter-schools-chief-need-to-increase-diversity-open-more-rural-schools/16400623/) .

There is a tad bit of faulty logic there. Are you suggesting that only charter school parents are unwilling to share information about income because of an assumed social stigma concerning socio-economics?

The truth is that all schools must rely on parents to report information for students – medical, past transcripts, addresses, etc. To suggest that traditional public schools do not have to struggle with having accurate measures of low-income versus high income students is ludicrous, because if that was not the case, then you just said that charter schools do a much poorer job of keeping up with records on their students.

Work in any public school and you will start to understand that many students will not report as low-income because they (or their families) do not wish to be identified as poor. And whether people in any office on the county level or on West Jones Street want to admit it, all public schools have students who face poverty, and poverty affects education.

And it is interesting that you mention Lincoln County, home of Rep. Jason Saine and Sen. David Curtis, current members of the North Carolina General Assembly who are sworn to uphold a state constitution to make sure that all children in North Carolina receive a quality public education. Yet, both champion charter school growth in Lincoln County using taxpayer money.

You may refer to the following letters that I penned to them for more information concerning their ventures.

https://caffeinatedrage.com/2016/12/08/open-letter-to-rep-jason-saine-youre-a-state-representative-fight-for-all-public-schools-not-a-new-charter-school/

https://caffeinatedrage.com/2016/04/28/hes-back-open-letter-to-sen-david-curtis-why-do-you-not-support-public-schools/

Ironically, the very charter schools they are associated with do not show up on the Lincoln County Public Schools website.

lincoln-county

There was another assertion that you offered in the WRAL report which actually opened the story that also piqued my interest.

Hinchcliffe opens the WRAL report with,

“North Carolina charter schools need to have more diversity among their students and open more schools in rural parts of the state,” the state’s charter school chief said Wednesday.

Dave Machado made the comments while presenting the annual charter schools report to the State Board of Education. 

You directly say that you want to open more charter schools in rural areas. I assume that means in counties that may have few traditional public schools to begin with where a charter school may come in and siphon away enough students into another entity that could adversely affect those traditional schools.

Considering how schools are funded by state, local, and federal monies, even a small change in student population in a small rural school could have drastic effects in the ability for that small rural school to apply for funds to have ample resources for those who are not fortunate enough to attend the charter school.

Also, why would you want more charter schools in rural areas when you could invest those monies in the very schools that exist for the students who already attend them? Why benefit a few at the expense of many?

You may claim that you want to offer more choice for students, but how is it really choice for those who would never be able to attend the charter school?

You may claim that you want to offer citizens a chance to attend a successful school in an area where schools have been “failing.” Well, when you can show empirical evidence that charter schools do better than traditional schools overall, then you might have an argument, and even then why wouldn’t those successful ventures then be invested in the traditional public schools anyway for the benefit of all students?

And you talked of the need for diversity.

I do know of a few measures that you could take that would make charter school more diverse, or at least less homogenous, but it would require being measured against traditional public schools again, which seems to something that touches a nerve with you.

  • You could make sure that all charter schools accept students that they may not have wanted in the first place like traditional public schools must – urban, suburban, and rural.
  • You could make sure that all charter schools accept students who have special needs whether they be developmental delays or physical disabilities like traditional public schools (even rural ones) already do.
  • You could make sure that all charter schools keep teaching students with low test scores like traditional schools do.
  • You could make sure that all charter schools accept students who do not speak English as their first language as traditional schools must.

It’s very interesting to see how an idea that was very altruistic in nature as the charter school once was become a championed cause for privatization of public education. Many credit Albert Shanker, the former president of the American Federation of Teachers, with the idea of charter schools, but his idea seems so foreign to the concept that is being advocated so much here in North Carolina and the words that you say.

Shanker wanted (and I paraphrase Dr. Diane Ravitch’s The Death and Life of the Great American School System pp. 122-124) charter schools should be a decision made with school districts to focus on those students who are the hardest to teach – those who were on the verge of dropping out. He would never have imagined charter schools using the type of admissions processes being used now. And most importantly, because the charter schools would be sort of an offshoot of the public schools, they would naturally be collaborative.

And yes, there are some charter schools that are doing the work of teaching students in newer, more experimental ways in hopes to help other students in traditional schools. And those schools are working with their respective public school systems, but they seem more the exception now than the norm.

Yet, Mr. Machado, what I see your mission being is to create a situation not based on collaboration, but of competition. And if public education was meant to be competitive, then should not both charter schools and traditional schools have to play by the same rules?

Because they certainly are not here in North Carolina.

 

 

Malcolm’s Letter to Gov.-Elect Roy Cooper

Dear Governor-Elect Cooper,

My name is Malcolm and I am a third-grader in the Winston-Salem/Forsyth County School system. I have vibrant red-hair and blue eyes like my mom, wear cool glasses, have a wicked follow through on my jump shot, and am quite the dancer. My dad also wears glasses, but he does not dance very well nor has much hair. My sister is in high school. She is very smart and she helps me with my homework.

And I also have an extra chromosome because of a condition called Trisomy 21. You may know it as Down Syndrome. It does not define me. It just is, but I do need a little extra help in school and in learning other skills on how to be independent.

I am having my daddy write this letter for me. He is a teacher in a public high school. In fact, I spend a lot of time at his school going to games and functions. A lot of people know me there like they do at my own school. My having an extra chromosome doesn’t seem to scare them so much because in the end we are all more alike than different anyway.

But I am worried about some of the things that have happened in public schools since I have started going.

The people in what my daddy calls the General Assembly seemed to have done a lot of things to weaken public schools like not fully give money to them or give them resources so that all kids in public schools can be successful. It seems that some money went to this thing called “vouchers” and some has been used to help make other types of schools – schools that will not accept me.

When I got to ready to go to school a few years ago, one of my grandparents offered to pay tuition at any school that could help me the most, but none around here would take me because I have a certain type of developmental delay. But the public schools welcomed me with open arms. And I am learning.

Yet when people in power have taken away resources, teacher assistants and forced local school systems to make due with less money, then all students, especially students like me, are not being helped as much. And it’s not our teachers’ fault. It’s the fault of those who control what we get.

I think you will be good for students like me because I think you will fight for schools like mine and all public schools. But I will ask you to do one thing – be loud about it. Make everyone know your commitment to public school children and their teachers and the staffs at each school as many times as you can.

I can be loud. It’s easy. Just make yourself heard when you see something that is not right.

Let each member of the General Assembly know that commitment and when they say or do something that might hurt how a school can help any of its kids, you tell them that is not right. You tell them, “NO!”

I say that word at least twenty times a day. In fact, according to my daddy, it’s the first word I learned.

But the last governor did not say that word. My daddy says that a governor can say “no” by doing something called a “veto.” And the last governor rarely ever did a veto. He let the people in the General Assembly do what they wanted. And it hurt our schools.

When people say “no” it makes others think why it should not be. It makes people have to talk about it. And according to my daddy, many in the General Assembly do not like talking in public about what they do in secret like “special sessions” or “midnight meetings.”

But you can be heard. And you need to talk for a lot of us.

And if you need someone to help you say “no” or yell loudly, let my daddy know and he can bring me to Raleigh so I can help out.

I’ll be the kid with the red hair and blue eyes who just happens to have an extra chromosome and likes going to school.

Sincerely,

Malcolm Egan,
Special Normal Public School Kid

malcolm

Open Letter to Rep. Jason Saine -You’re a State Representative; Fight For All Public Schools, Not A New Charter School

Dear Rep. Saine,

When you as a lawmaker were elected to office in North Carolina, you took a vow to uphold the state constitution no matter what area you represented. While the interests of any lawmaker’s constituents are of vital importance, it could be argued that the entire state is actually the represented area of any lawmaker. Any policy, law, or act passed will have an effect on all North Carolinians.

One of the most sacred components of the NC state constitution is the edict that the state will provide a quality public education for all students and will fully fund the schools that educate those students. If a lawmaker is beholden to supporting the state constitution and helping make public schools viable for all students, then it is almost as if each lawmaker is a de facto board member for each public school in the state.

That means you should be an advocate for all traditional public schools which is why it seems that having a state representative such as you serve as a board member for West Lake Prep Charter School and helping guide its application process seems a little more than contradictory to the very job you were elected to do.

In fact, you even created the private foundation that started the application.

According to a report from The Lincoln Times on Dec. 6, 2016, by Michelle Bernard “Another charter school proposed for Lincoln County”,

“An application for a new charter school was filed by Aaron Hoegle of Denver with the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction Office of Charter Schools.

West Lake Preparatory Academy would be located in eastern Lincoln County and would operate under the nonprofit Lincoln Charter Education Foundation, in partnership with the “education management organization” Charter Schools USA (CSUSA), which manages charter schools in seven states. The Lincoln Charter Education Foundation, according to the application, was initially created by state Rep. Jason Saine and former county commissioner Tom Anderson, who will each serve on the school’s board. The application says a waitlist of more than 1,000 students at Lincoln Charter School, the only charter school currently operating in Lincoln County, led Saine to create the foundation. Hoegle is listed as the foundation’s president, Anderson as its vice president and Saine as its treasurer. Preston Curtis, the son of state Sen. David Curtis, is listed as the board’s secretary. Former Lincoln County educator Glenda Walker and attorney Mathias Hunnoval round out the board’s membership” (http://www.lincolntimesnews.com/2016/12/06/another-charter-school-proposed-lincoln-county/).

If there is a waiting list of 1000 students in a rural county for a charter school, then what has not been done to help the very public schools that already service these students? Why is there a need to have a private company like Charter Schools USA come in a take state money to “manage” a school that will threaten the vitality of the very public schools that you are sworn to protect and uphold?

Why create another situation where some (NOT ALL) students get to go to a state-of-the art school based on a lottery system when you could take that money being used to pay CSUSA and reinvest it in schools that serve ALL Lincoln County students. As the “5th Most Effective Member of the State House” (www.jasonsaine.com), you could actually make all public schools more effective by acting as a true servant and being an advocate for all NC students.

Maybe a better question might be “Would you stand up in front of the State School Board and fight for funds for all Lincoln County Schools the way that you stood in front of the Charter School Advisory Board on December 8th to ‘fight’ for West Lake?”

Granted, you may respond with the argument for school choice and that there should be competition like there is in the free market. But when should a state service be based on competition when it is supposedly guaranteed by the state constitution? To say that competition is good for schools and that students would benefit from that choice is a loaded proposition as traditional schools are not allowed to even operate in such a way as charter schools are. Besides, traditional public schools accept all students. Charter schools do not. Yet, fully fund those traditional schools with resources and they sure can be competitive.

You may say that the public school system is failing the students and that charter schools are a viable solution. Yet, public schools provide a great reflection of a society and how it prioritizes education. When our schools are told that they are failing, those with the power to affect change are really the ones who deserve the failing grades. And as your website states, you are supposedly effective and can affect change.

You may say that you are honoring the parents who believe that tax monies allotted to their children should be spent in ways that best “educate” their children. But are not the tax monies we use to educate children really intended for the support of a viable public education system for those children? The state does not simply invest in children; it invests in a system that allows for children to be educated. As a sage old friend, mentor, and master teacher once stated, “Public education, despite the appalling trends of the past couple of decades, is a sacred trust the efficacy of which will assure that a participatory, representative democracy will thrive…or wilt. The best interests of all of us are well served by a sound public school system.”

He’s absolutely correct.

And money should not be an issue when it comes to funding our public schools, at least according to some of your actions and words. You made a lot of news in 2015 when you spent nearly $20,000 of campaign money on clothes. An August 10th, 2015 report by Jim Morrill (“Rep. Jason Saine defends $19,000 clothing buy“) stated,

“N.C. Rep. Jason Saine on Monday defended spending more than $19,000 in campaign money on clothes, including some from a custom tailor in Charlotte.

Saine, a Lincolnton Republican, cited the spending on his most recent campaign report. It was first reported on The Daily Haymaker, a conservative website.

Saine spent $17,908 on clothes from Tom James Co., which bills itself as “the world’s largest manufacturer of custom clothing.”

That’s over half the salary of many of the teachers I work with even after those “historic” raises.

Yet it is a quote by you in that report that really frames the need for fully funding the schools that we already have. You said,

“I get the sticker shock. But it’s part of the cost of doing the business that I’m in.”

Well, you are supposed to be in the business of supporting all of our public schools. So, instead of heading up private concerns to take public monies, why don’t you just be effective and fully fund the schools we already have for all students despite what you may think is sticker shock.

That’s the cost of doing the business of what the state is obliged to do.

Dear North Carolina General Assembly – Don’t Take Away The Arts and PE Because “Specialties Are Necessities”

Dear Members of the NCGA,

I am sure that many of you are familiar with Don McLean’s famous song “American Pie.” It has been the subject of tremendous amounts of explication. Websites devoted to explaining all of the lyrics and all of the rumored allusions can take a day or two to just peruse, but McLean himself has identified the “day the music died” as that day in Feb. of 1959 when a plane carrying Buddy Holly (“That’ll Be The Day”), Richie Valens (“La Bamba”), and J.P. Richardson (aka. The Big Bopper) crashed killing all three rock icons.

Many people who were not even alive in the 1970’s can quote the first verse from memory.

“A long long time ago
I can still remember how
That music used to make me smile
And I knew if I had my chance
That I could make those people dance
And maybe they’d be happy for a while

But February made me shiver
With every paper I’d deliver
Bad news on the doorstep
I couldn’t take one more step

I can’t remember if I cried
When I read about his widowed bride
Something touched me deep inside
The day the music died.”

McLean’s song highlighted our culture’s need for music, expression, and how important it is to cultivate our sense of being by developing not just the logical left side of the brain, but the creative right side as well.

What followed in the next 15 years after that fateful plane crash was possibly one of the most turbulent times in American history: the Civil Rights Movement, Vietnam, Watergate, Women’s Rights, ongoing Cold War, etc. And the music and the rest of its artistic siblings helped us to capture, reflect, express, communicate, and heal from those scars received.

And now with the current political climate on this global terrain, we will need to rely on our artistic expressions to help cope and grow from what we will experience in the near future.

How ironic that in such turbulent times our own leaders are searching for ways to quash our children’s opportunities to develop the very creative and physical skills that study after study shows make us more complete, well-rounded, and prepared for life’s situations.

A Nov. 14th report on NC Policy Watch by Billy Ball (“New rules to lower class sizes force stark choices, threatening the arts, music and P.E”) states,

“North Carolina public school leaders say a legislative mandate to decrease class sizes in the early grades may have a devastating impact on school systems across the state, forcing districts to spend millions more hiring teachers or cut scores of positions for those teaching “specialty” subjects such as arts, music and physical education” (http://www.ncpolicywatch.com/2016/11/14/new-rules-lower-class-sizes-force-stark-choices-threatening-tas-specialty-education-positions/).

First, I would make the argument that arts, music, and physical education are not “specialties” but “necessities.” In a nation that is spending more on health problems caused by obesity, the need to get kids moving and away from the television might be just as important as core subject material. Secondly, it shows a glaring contradiction to the religious platforms that many of you in state government have been professing while maintaining office.

The predominant spiritual path in the United States, Judeo-Christianity, talks much of the need for music, dance, movement, song, and expression. I think of all of the hymns and musicals my own Southern Baptist church produced, most complete with choreography, which is odd considering that many joke about Baptists’ aversion to dancing.

Even 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).

Yet, some of you who are cheering about a budget surplus are planning to “force districts into stark choices about how to allocate their resources.” Ball continues,

“In some districts, it may mean spending millions more in local dollars to hire additional teachers. Or in other districts, officials say, leaders may be forced to eliminate specialty education positions or draw cash from other pools, such as funding for teaching assistants.”

That’s egregious. That’s backwards. That’s forcing school districts to make decisions about whether to educate the whole child or part of the child in order to make student/teacher ratios look favorable.

That’s like going out of your way to get plastic surgery, liposuction, and body sculpting to create a new look while ignoring the actual health of your body. Without proper nutrition, sleep, exercise, mental health, and emotional support, we open doors to maladies.

When the Bible talks about a temple, it talks about the insides, not just the outsides.

Interestingly enough, many of the private schools and charter schools that receive public money through Opportunity Grants have plentiful art programs and physical education opportunities.

So why put these programs for public schools in jeopardy?

What our history has shown us time and time again is that we needed music, dance, arts, and physical education to cope and grow as people and we needed them to become better students. To force the removal of these vital areas of learning would be making our students more one-dimensional. It would make them less prepared.

Don McLean released “American Pie” in 1971. It is widely considered one of the top ten songs of the entire twentieth century. Fifty-five years later, it still has relevance.

The last verse (or “outro”) is actually a tad bit haunting.

“I met a girl who sang the blues
And I asked her for some happy news
But she just smiled and turned away
I went down to the sacred store
Where I’d heard the music years before
But the man there said the music wouldn’t play

And in the streets, the children screamed
The lovers cried and the poets dreamed
But not a word was spoken
The church bells all were broken

And the three men I admire most
The Father, Son and the Holy Ghost
They caught the last train for the coast
The day the music died.”

When we elect you as our public servants to serve, we gave you the keys to the vehicle that drives our state, a purple colored divided state that has HB2, vouchers, redistricting, Voter ID laws, underfunded public schools, and poverty.

Now imagine that vehicle being a Chevy. We don’t need to go to a dry levee.

We need to keep the music and the other “necessities.”

 

Sincerely,

Stuart Egan,
Public School Teacher