House Bill 800 – The Further Privatization of “Public” Charter Schools

HB800

Question: When does a supposedly “public” charter-school become a private entity?

Answer: When it opens in North Carolina.

For anyone who believes that public charter schools are actual public schools, there are a plethora of realities that contradict that idealistic view, at least here in the Old North State.

Here, public tax payer money is used to fund the creation of an “alternative” school that caters to a specific population that is not supposedly well serviced in traditional public schools which uses different approaches to instruct students in order to achieve better academic outcomes.

However, they are allowed to run as private businesses without the same oversight. Furthermore, they do not have to use certified teachers. But most importantly, there is no empirical information that shows that charter school in North Carolina perform better than traditional schools even with preferential treatment.

But try telling that to some lawmakers in Raleigh.

Today a bill was advanced that sheds even more light onto the incestuous relationship that private entities have with tax payer money in the name of public welfare.

As reported by Billy Ball on April 24th on NC Policy Watch in an article entitled, “House panel OKs charter school growth bill, corporate “perks” for charter partners (http://pulse.ncpolicywatch.org/2017/04/24/house-panel-oks-charter-school-growth-bill-corporate-perks-charter-partners/#sthash.CiIsfYLY.qgOZXEvz.dpuf),

A divided House Education Committee gave their approval Monday to a pair of controversial charter school bills, one of which will allow charters to expand student enrollment by up to 30 percent with no additional state review of their performance and finances.

The second proposal, House Bill 800, led by Rep. John Bradford, R-Mecklenburg, would speed “perks” for private charter school partners by providing their children enrollment priority for up to half of the school’s population, a provision that critics likened to making public charters into “de facto, segregated private schools.”

That second bill, HB800, was actually called a “jobs’ bill” by Bradford, who according to his website electbradford.com/meet-john/, is

“the President & Founder of Park Avenue Properties, a Cornelius based residential property management and real estate investment firm with operations in five states and eight cities.”

What many people may not know is that a charter school may already reserve up to fifteen percent of its enrollment for children of teachers, employees, and board members.

That’s right. Charter schools have private board members. Public schools do not.

Now Sen. Bradford wants to help create jobs in a right-to-work state by allowing companies to invest in a publicly funded charter school to “buy” enrollment that can take up another 50 percent of the charter schools enrollment.

Rep. Graig Meyer out of Orange County was quoted as saying this bill “really pushes us down the road to privatization that we resisted on charter schools. This allows you to set up the equivalent of a company store, but it’s a company school” (http://pulse.ncpolicywatch.org/#sthash.MoRg9TFe.dpuf).

Meyer is right. Very right.

House Bill 800 is nothing more than a tax payer funded form of segregation that allows for a public charter school to provide only 35% of its space for the general public.

Does it not seem odd that the very political party that Sen. Bradford aligns himself with actually at one time called funding traditional public schools fully and treating certified teachers as professionals was the equivalent of a “jobs’ bill?”

Those older conservatives looked at that as an investment that attracted business and industry to the state and allowed North Carolina to at one time brag of having the strongest public education system in the southeastern United States.

Now, Sen. Bradford’s idea of a “jobs’bill” is another way of segregating our population with tax payer money because if we live in a right-to –work state, any company can control who goes to its newly “bought school.”

In looking at HB800, it is hard not to think of Betsy DeVos’s comments about money and influence when it comes to crafting public policy. She wrote in the Capitol Hill newspaper Roll Call in 1997.

“I have decided to stop taking offense,” she wrote, “at the suggestion that we are buying influence. Now I simply concede the point. They are right. We do expect something in return. We expect to foster a conservative governing philosophy consisting of limited government and respect for traditional American virtues. We expect a return on our investment. People like us must surely be stopped.”

When a public school advocate like myself argues that businesses should invest in schools, I do not mean that they “buy” spaces in schools financed by the public to house a select few students that benefits a chosen few. I would like to think that businesses would invest in schools as a public institution that benefits society as a whole.

But what Sen. Braford is offering is divisive and conflicting and should be thought out much more carefully. He was in favor of and voted for HB2 in the spring of 2016 that costs NC a number of jobs, and to his credit he was one of the few on the GOP side to seek a compromise in repealing it this year even when his own party was against it.

He said in the Charlotte Observer on March 8 of this year (“If there’s a way to get rid of HB2, this Mecklenburg lawmaker could help find it”),

“You can’t underestimate the economic impact it’s had on our state,” (http://www.charlotteobserver.com/news/politics-government/article137213863.html#storylink=cpy).

But HB800 is not “jobs’ bill.” It’s a “privatization of public schools’ bill.” If Bradford wants to create jobs by ensuring good schools then he should be more willing to fully fund all traditional public schools.

Then he can talk to Chad Barefoot about it.

Sen. Chad Barefoot’s Walking Contradiction on HB13

hb13-nc_orig

The term “walking contradiction” describes someone who says one thing and then acts in a contradictory fashion.  Nowhere do we get a better example of the “walking contradiction” than with politicians who knowingly and blatantly make statements that contradict their own actions or professed value systems.

In North Carolina, we have many of our own walking contradictions. One of them is Sen. Chad Barefoot, the co-chairman of the NC Senate Education Committee which has refused to move on HB13 after the House passed it unanimously.

His reasoning?

“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? …The data that we have received from the districts varies, and some districts did not fully respond to our information request. 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/).

That’s all he has said. No proof of the data. No explanation of what he has seen. No transparency. If he is to make the claim, then he needs to show us where those “misallocations” really are.

But until then, he is just a “walking contradiction” especially for two specific reasons.

First, the 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.

Even Louisburg College, “America’s Premier Private Two-Year College”, here in North Carolina understands the value of these “necessities.

https://www.louisburg.edu/

Just look at its introductory screen on the website. There is even a link to the “Humanities” department.

And the description is rather telling.

“The humanities cover a broad range of academic disciplines that have been, and continue to be, a crucial component of the educational goals of Louisburg College. The Humanities Division’s learning objectives of competent written and oral communication, critical thinking, creative thinking, and aesthetic engagement support Louisburg College’s mission statement of building a strong foundation to prepare students for an academic journey that leads to a four year college.”

The Humanities Division includes Art, Communications, Drama, English, Film, Music, Religion/Philosophy, and Spanish.

So “creative thinking” and “aesthetic engagement” are needed t support a “strong foundation to prepare students?” I could not agree more. With classes in art, drama, film, music, and foreign languages it seems that Louisburg values the continuation of a curriculum that teaches the whole body and mind.

And yes, there is a strong athletics department.

And guess who the is the Vice-President of Institutional Advancement as of this past July 1st.

Chad Barefoot
Vice President for Institutional Advancement
919.497.3325
cbarefoot@louisburg.edu

His responsibilities? According to Louisburg’s press release on his hiring (https://www.louisburg.edu/news/barefoot.html),

“Barefoot will serve as chief development officer for the college, which includes directing and overseeing annual fundraising programs and alumni and community relations. He will also serve as a member of the President’s cabinet and as a strategic partner to the Board of Trustees.”

Is it not ironic that Sen. Barefoot raises funds for an institution that is a private industry so that it can fully fund its “necessities” when he is also actually elected to do the same for the public schools and he is stalling a bill called HB13 that if not passed would force public school systems to spend much more money to come into accordance with an ill-conceived mandate while eliminating the very same type of “necessities?”

Secondly, Barefoot’s actions and words concerning HB13 and fully funding public schools show a glaring contradiction to the religious platforms that he and many 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).

Not passing HB13 is egregious. It’s backwards. It’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. It’s either drop those courses or cutting teacher assistants and that would be yet another detrimental blow against public education.

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 that Barefoot reads 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 that Barefoot heartily champions have plentiful art programs and physical education opportunities.

So why put these programs for public schools in jeopardy if they reach so many more children?

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.

Rather contradictory to what is supposed to happen.

Betsy DeVos – Pleasant Platitudes and The “Status Quo Fallacy”

Betsy DeVos’s most recent op-ed may have been intended to smooth over some of the rough edges of her brief tenure as the most unqualified secretary of education ever, but it actually shows her reliance on two rather tiring strategies as it pertains to reforming public education: “pleasant platitudes” and the “status quo fallacy.”

devos oped

The text of DeVos’s cliché’-ridden statement can be found here – http://www.cleveland.com/opinion/index.ssf/2017/04/i_support_all_schools_that_put.html.

The title of the op-ed – “I support all schools that put students first” – is an ignorant, yet pleasant, platitude that not only shows her total disconnect with her duties as the secretary of education, but that her viewpoint of public education is from the exterior because she has never been a part of the system itself as a student, teacher, administrator, parent, or leader.

Why is it ignorant? Because aren’t all schools trying to put students first already?

Some of you may say no. Then I would challenge you to see what is keeping those schools from “putting kids first.”

And “failing test scores” or “not teaching students” are not ample answers because if you really want to see what might be holding students back, it probably has more to do with conditions that surround them in their lives and in their communities rather than just the schools.

Take for example my home state. The school performance grading system here in North Carolina may be a means for a polarizing General Assembly to identify schools that “don’t put students first,” but what that system really shows is that poverty affects communities in such a way that schools in those areas are dealing with many more variables than they are resourced to cope with effectively.

In reality, that system shows where lawmakers are not putting communities first.

And DeVos’s “pleasant platitudes” keep coming in the first few paragraphs even as she opens her op-ed with two personal “facts.”

“In today’s polarized environment, it can often be hard to discern the truth. So allow me to lay out two facts plainly and clearly:

I believe every student should have an equal opportunity to get a great education.

And I believe many of those great educations are, and will continue to be, provided by traditional public schools.”

Those should be very nice words to hear if you are a public school teacher. “Equal opportunity” and “great educations” provided by “traditional public schools” sounds great.

But considering that she opens up with the words “polarized environment,” it is hard not to think of how much DeVos herself has been a part of that very polarization. Here is a woman who has contributed money directly to institutions such as:

  • The Acton Institute
  • The American Enterprise Institute
  • The Council For National Policy
  • The Federalist Society
  • The Heritage Foundation
  • The Mackinac Center For Public Policy

Anyone can research the “unpolarizing” actions of these groups.

There is also the now famous quote she wrote in the Capitol Hill newspaper Roll Call in 1997.

“I have decided to stop taking offense,” she wrote, “at the suggestion that we are buying influence. Now I simply concede the point. They are right. We do expect something in return. We expect to foster a conservative governing philosophy consisting of limited government and respect for traditional American virtues. We expect a return on our investment. People like us must surely be stopped.”

No. That’s not polarizing at all.

Then (back to the op-ed) DeVos lets out her credo. Her driving principle. Her maxim. Her apothegm.

“School choice is pro-parent and pro-student.”

That statement alone has triggered more debate than I could ever begin to tackle in this post, but I will offer Jason Blakely’s recent Atlantic expose’ entitled “How School Choice Turns Education Into a Commodity” as a starting place and invite DeVos to explain how her view of school choice does not create losers in a competitive market. That article can be found here – https://www.theatlantic.com/education/archive/2017/04/is-school-choice-really-a-form-of-freedom/523089/.

DeVos then tries to pull off a maneuver that many others in the re-forming movement have done to justify their actions in altering the landscape of public education: changing the “status quo.”

“What we will not do, however, is accept the status quo simply because it’s how things have always been done. We owe the rising generation more than that. The complexities they will face in life look very little like the environment of the mid-19th-century, which underpins much of the thinking behind our current educational system.”

And what DeVos and people like her conveniently ignore, forget, or simply misunderstand is that she is actually the “status quo.”

Consider the following quotes:

The heat is already intense not just because it involves the future of our children but also because a lot of money is at stake. Essentially, it’s a debate between those in the education establishment who support the status quo because they have a financial stake in the system and those who seek to challenge the status quo because it’s not serving kids well.” – Mitt Romney in the Washington Post endorsing DeVos, January 6, 2017.

We just can’t accept the status quo in education anymore.” – Sen. Joe Lieberman at DeVos hearing, January 16, 2017.

Asked by George Stephanopoulos what the single most important thing teachers could do to ensure the success of the Common Core, Gates’ answer was simple: The status quo must go. “Grasping the standards requires more than just the standards being present themselves, and disrupting the status quo is key to maximizing individual attention available to each student to ensure their success.”– “Bill Gates: Common Core misunderstood by opponents” (http://www.educationdive.com/news/bill-gates-common-core-misunderstood-by-opponents/239635/).

What Romney, Lieberman, and Gates, and now DeVos consider the “status quo” is intrinsically linked to a final product, measured by standardized testing and other mercurial measurements.

However, the real “status quo” is not really linked to that final product. It is more a reflection of the constant infusion of reform models that have altered the process by which public schools have been able to teach our children. The truth is that the existing state of public education is always being subjected to scrutiny, modification, alteration, and change from outside forces for political or profit-minded reasons.

What I would consider the “status quo” is the commitment to flux and change to the variables that measure student achievement and school success by people outside of the actual education process. And in that regard, I do agree that the status quo should change.

Again and again each has misinterpreted the situation of public education because there really has been no “status quo” in public education. If anything, the terrain of public education has been in a state of constant flux for the past thirty years. With the “Nation at Risk” report to “No Child Left Behind” to the advent of high stakes testing to the innumerable business models infused into education to “Race to the Top” to Common Core to charter school movement to vouchers, the thought of even calling what we have had in our country “status quo” is not just wrong –

It’s ignorant. And it is purposefully done. That’s how we get Betsy DeVos, the most unqualified candidate for secretary of education, as a cabinet member of a president who touts his business acumen.

If one were to simply look at all of the initiatives introduced into public education (both nationally and state-based) while considering changes in curriculum and requirements, that person would see an ever changing landscape.

If one were to track all of the tests that have been constructed, graded, and disseminated by “experts” outside of public education, that person would see that measurements that grade students and schools are like invisible targets constantly being moved without any warning.

Ironically, the conversation about changing the “status-quo” in public education has been fueled more by the business world and politicians who have been altering the terrain of public education with “reforms.”

A Nation at Risk, No Child Left Behind, Race to the Top, Every Student Succeeds Act, Common Core, SAT, ACT, standardized tests, achievement gap, graduation rates, merit pay, charter schools, parent triggers, vouchers, value added-measurements, virtual schools, Teach For America, formal evaluations – there are so many variables, initiatives, and measurements that constantly change without consistency which all affect public schools and how the public perceives those schools.

If there is any “status quo” associated with the public schools, it’s that there are always outside forces acting on the public school system which seek to show that they are failing our kids.

DeVos is one of those forces.

That’s the status quo that should not be accepted.

Next Stop on the “Listening Tour” – NC State Superintendent Mark Johnson vs. The NC State Board of Education

It appears that there may be more bickering in the backrooms of Raleigh than many have been hearing in the other parts of North Carolina.

At least that is what some people claim to be hearing on their own “listening tours.”

Lynn Bonner’s recent April 13th report in the Raleigh News & Observer entitled “NC Republicans fighting among themselves over education, court papers show” opened with the following:

The State Board of Education and the Superintendent of Public Instruction Mark Johnson are on opposite sides of a legal battle over who controls public education.

Lawyers for both sides filed court documents in the case this week, asking a three-judge panel to decide the case in their favor.

The state education board is suing the state over a law passed in December that transfers some of its powers to Johnson, who is serving his first term. Johnson has entered the suit on the state’s side. Republicans run both the legislature and the state education board, and Johnson is a Republican (http://www.newsobserver.com/news/local/education/article144469134.html#storylink=cpy).

This is actually humorously confusing and quite telling when it comes to the gridlock that power can create.

DPI

So, let me get this straight. Mark Johnson is a republican who was elected in a wave of republican sentiment to take over a job that was held for years by a democrat and then given a lot more power as a state superintendent by a republican super-majority in a special session of the NC General Assembly that was meeting to really address a republican-driven HB2 law that was responsible for a republican losing the governor’s mansion when another republican long shot won the presidency the same night and the first republican mentioned in this chain of thought is now being sued by the republican controlled State Board of Education who claim that the new republican heading DPI is overstepping his authority.

Yep. That’s right. A republican is being sued by republicans after republicans gave him powers in a special session that republicans called to “help repeal” a law passed by republicans that actually cost republicans the governor’s race.

The fact that the State Board of Education is suing to keep powers that it has always had is the right thing to do, but Bonner’s report does highlight a huge disconnect that Mark Johnson has with politics and education.

Bonner states,

Lawyers for the state board said the law is unconstitutional, while Johnson said he should be able to do the job voters elected him to do

Actually, Johnson is wrong there. The “law” was passed after Johnson was elected. Voters did nor elect him to do something that a special session supposedly gave him power to do after November’s election day.

More from Bonner:

Johnson said in an affidavit that the system the state board has for hiring people who report both to him and the board doesn’t work.

Actually, it has worked. It just doesn’t work well enough for those who are wanting to control Johnson as the state superintendent. That’s why there was a special session at the end of the calendar year under the auspices of repealing a damaging HB2 law to grant his office more power than it has ever known when the office is being held by a gentleman who has just as much experience running for office than he does in education itself.

The least experienced person to ever hold the job was to have the most power the job ever had.

Johnson’s quote toward the end of the article is rather telling as well.

“Having both the State Board and the Superintendent of Public Instruction – up to 14 individuals in total – involved in the day-to-day management of DPI slows decision making to a crawl and makes it difficult to implement any changes or be responsive to the needs of the education community.”

What decisions is Mr. Johnson referring to?

What changes are needed to be done for the education community?

And those are not rhetorical questions. Johnson came into the office with really no new ideas to present, just overarching “goals” about less testing and more local control which is ironic with the HB13 debacle going on in the very chamber that gave Johnson so much power in that special session last calendar year.

When Johnson took office in 2017, he announced he was going on a “listening tour” and then release his “legislative agenda” this summer – months after he took office. That means he did not really have any “changes” in mind when he got into office.

Is it not ironic that Johnson has held most of his listening tour behind closed doors and that most of the actions he has been most public in regards to his brief tenure is about how he is trying to establish a form of transparent leadership in the Department of Public Instruction?

Does it not sound like a teacher who walks into a class and wants to just observe the students for a few months while claiming to be gathering information to best instruct those students, but spends most of his time arguing with the administration about what supplies he thinks he should have in his desk?

Maybe, just maybe, the “listening tour” should be more public and also include stops within Raleigh inside DPI.

Mark Johnson did once say on January 5th in the State Board of Education meeting (and his first week in office),

“Every day that we don’t take bold actions for our students is a day that our students lose. Every day that we don’t take bold actions for our teachers is a day that our teachers lose.”

It’s been over three months and the school year is rapidly coming to an end.

Yet what is happening right now is not bold and it is certainly nor benefiting students or teachers.

Passing Off Politicized Propaganda as Pseudo-Academic Research – UnLOCKEing the John Locke Foundation

There are those who cherry-pick data points.

Then there are those who cherry-pick the pits of cherry-picked data points and present that one small factoid as representative of the whole situation, and to do so willingly is nothing more than passing off politicized propaganda as pseudo-academic research.

Consider Dr. Terry Stoops’s latest attempt to marry Art Pope – libertarian, John Locke Foundation ideology with North Carolina public school reality concerning numbers of teachers who cross state lines to teach in other states.

In an article for The John Locke Foundation for which he serves as the VP for Research and the Director of Educational Studies, Stoops states,

“Public school advocacy organizations and their allies contend that North Carolina is no longer a desirable destination for teachers. They claim that Republican policies, both those related to public education and otherwise, have sullied our state’s reputation in the eyes of the nation’s educators. Nevertheless, data show that North Carolina continues to welcome many more out-of-state teachers than it loses to other states. Even so, lawmakers should consider additional policies that make it easier to ensure that North Carolina public schools can recruit and retain the best teachers in the nation” (https://www.johnlocke.org/research/north-carolina-a-destination-for-teachers/).

And dammit, he’s right. We do see more certified teachers from out of state come to NC to get state certification than the converse. The way he makes it sound, public school advocates like myself and my allies should just shut up because we obviously are a great place for teachers because so many more are coming to teach here than we are sending to other states.

Dr. Stoops even gave a nice data table from the Department of Public Instruction.

stoops1

But Dr. Stoops purposefully neglects to tell readers the rest of the story when it comes to “teacher recruitment” and “teacher retention.”

Simply put, when a teacher “leaves” the state of North Carolina as a teacher, it may not be because that teacher is going to teach in another state. In fact, when a teacher “resigns” from a teaching profession in North Carolina, he/she is asked by DPI a reason for leaving. And even then, that teacher is not bound to give a reason.

“To pursue a teaching job in another state” is only one explanation attached to 28 official “Self-Reported Reasons For Leaving” a teaching position in North Carolina.

I repeat. There is a list of 28 possible answers, or rather reasons with multiple explanations (+50) attached to them, that a teacher can SELF-REPORT to DPI. Teaching in another state is but one of many reasons for teachers resigning positions.

To say that North Carolina is a desirable destination for teachers in light of one data point in a myriad of variables is simply irresponsible, especially from a researcher whose background includes a doctoral degree from one of the top public institutions in the nation in a state which just stopped the growth of charter schools as a means of reaffirming its pledge to public schools.

One simply needs to go to DPI’s website and access the report entitled “Teachers Leaving the Profession Data.” In fact, it is released every year. You may access that page here: http://www.dpi.state.nc.us/educatoreffectiveness/surveys/leaving/.

The report for 2015-2016, a 36-page .PDF file, contains massive amounts of information concerning the “desirability” of North Carolina as a state to teach. But Consider Appendix A: Self-Reported Reasons For Leaving.

stoops2stoops3

That’s 5 categories, 28 reasons, and 60 possible explanations.

Dr. Stoops use of “Table 1: Outgoing and Incoming Teachers By School Year” lists “1556 NC licenses granted to out-of-state teachers” while “only “828” resigned to teach in another state for a difference of 728 teachers.

But according to DPI where Dr. Stoops received the above information, we as a state saw an overall state attrition rate of 8,636. Refer to the below data table from the DPI report mentioned beforehand.

stoops4

When one looks at these numbers along with the population growth that NC has experienced, the number of retiring teachers (534 of whom retired with reduced benefits which suggests early retirement), and the shrinking numbers of teacher candidates in our public and private university programs, Dr. Stoops’s assertion in his article comes across less as academic research and more like propaganda – which is what he is paid for.

Take a closer look at that table.

stoops5

Those 828 teachers in the highlighted line are the same 828 teachers in the first line of the table Dr. Stoops uses as a premise in his leaky argument.

Those 828 teachers represent less than 10% of those who resigned from a teaching profession in North Carolina.

And Dr. Stoops uses that as a foundation to argue that NC is an enviable place to come and teach? Where rural counties cannot keep teachers because local supplements and limited resources cannot compete with other more affluent areas? Where many school systems still have teacher shortages? Where a General Assembly stubbornly keeps helpful bills like HB13 from being passed? Where a Duke University report literally exposed a shoddy voucher system? Where a charter school expansion plan has gone unregulated?

Then it’s a foundation of sand and not stone. And with climate change, there’s no telling how fast those sandy foundations will erode.

But of course, the John Locke Foundation ignores most of the variables in that issue as well. Just read their “Desmog Blog” (https://www.desmogblog.com/john-locke-foundation).

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 Sen. Bill Rabon – Be a Civil Servant and Allow House Bill 13 to Come to the Senate Floor

class size rose

Dear Senator Rabon,

I was disheartened as a public school teacher to learn that House Bill 13, which earned unanimous support in the state House, has been tabled in the state Senate, a situation that you could easily remedy.

And I am incensed as a parent of a special needs child in a public elementary school that this may very well cause local school districts to cut teacher assistant positions to fulfill a shortsighted legal statute concerning class sizes.

Last Sunday my hometown newspaper, the Winston-Salem Journal, reported in “Schools could cut assistants to hire more teachers, meet class size requirements,”

The Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools district has started contingency planning in case the N.C. General Assembly doesn’t pass a bill that would give schools relief from impending class size reductions.

The district will keep any teacher assistants hired from now until the end of the school year on temporary employee rolls in an effort to avoid layoffs over the summer. If the state mandate on smaller class sizes kicks in, district leaders say they might be forced to cut some teacher assistant positions for next school year in order to keep offering art, music and physical education classes (http://www.journalnow.com/news/local/schools-could-cut-assistants-to-hire-more-teachers-meet-class/article_9440fea2-c230-5128-8cff-270cefb7d83b.html).

And today Billy Ball in NC Policy Watch reported in “School officials preparing to fire thousands of specialty teachers in order to meet K-3 classroom mandate,”

(Linda) Welborn, a Republican member of the Guilford County Board of Education, says her district—the third largest in the state—will need to find an additional $16.6 million and 242 new teaching positions to meet the state’s legislative mandate to cut class sizes for kindergarten through third grade beginning next school year.

“We would have to make such drastic cuts, we literally don’t know where we would come up with the money,” says Welborn. “You just don’t do that unless you have absolutely no choice but to do it.”

All across North Carolina, districts like Guilford County say a statutory loss of flexibility over class size may soon yield massive job losses statewide among arts, music and physical education teachers, as well as teacher assistants (http://www.ncpolicywatch.com/2017/04/06/school-officials-preparing-fire-thousands-specialty-teachers-order-meet-k-3-classroom-mandate/).

And what made that news so hard to digest was what Ball stated later.

One bipartisan-supported reprieve to the looming class size order, House Bill 13, gained unanimous approval in the state House in February, but despite advocates’ calls for urgent action this spring, the legislation has lingered in the Senate Rules Committee with little indication it will be taken up soon.

Sen. Bill Rabon, the influential eastern North Carolina Republican who chairs the committee, did not respond to Policy Watch interview requests, but his legislative assistant said this week that Rabon’s committee will not consider any House bills until the General Assembly’s April 27 crossover deadline.

Senator, this is unacceptable, especially in light of comments and stances you have taken in the past.

Consider what was reported in the summer of 2014 in the Wilimington StarNews Online edition for July 21st.

Sen. Bill Rabon, R-Brunswick, co-chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, said the “jury is still out” on the final budget and he can’t give teacher assistants a “definite how it’s going to come out in the wash.” Still, Rabon said he didn’t think the final budget would result in teacher assistants being laid off.

“It would be nice if we can work out an agreement to keep them, and I’m sure we will work toward that end,” Rabon said.

Rabon argues that the state is spending too much money on Medicaid and not enough on education and said an agreement could be reached on funding teacher assistants if the House would agree to make cuts to the program that provides health care for people who are poor and disabled (http://www.starnewsonline.com/news/20140721/funds-for-teacher-assistants-in-doubt).

Well, considering that NC now is bragging about a surplus and is also bragging about not having expanded Medicaid, is funding education fully still a priority in your eyes because it appears that we as a state are not spending too much on Medicaid.

In May of 2014, you gave an interview to WHQR’s Katie O’Reilly concerning your stances on state issues (http://whqr.org/post/candidate-profile-bill-rabon-r-nc-senate-district-8#stream/0). This is what you said about public education:

“I would like to see all teachers—I would like to see all state employees, for that matter—have an increase in salary. Hopefully we can get there; it’s gonna take revenue reform, or tax reform, to do that. It’s going to take a change in the way the state does business to do that. The conundrum is, where do we get the money? Fifty-six cents or so out of every dollar that is spent in Raleigh now goes to education. Maybe we’re spending that fifty-six cents in the wrong place. Maybe the legislature should step back, and look at the forest, and stop looking at the tree, and say a dedicated portion of that money must go to teacher salary. And give a little more direction, if you will, to those people that are spending the money that the taxpayers are sending to us. The legislature doesn’t spend the money; we allocate the money. Maybe we should give them a little more direction.”

I appreciate your wanting to pay teachers and state employees more. I hope that also included wanting to teach teacher assistants more.

Yet that question you asked in the above quote is what confuses me. You asked, “Where do we get the money?” That’s the same exact question that each local school district is asking right now to come into compliance with a law you and your cronies in Raleigh have put on the books. And yet you seem to complain about how much money the state is spending on education: fifty-six cents on the dollar.

Fifty-six cents out of each dollar sounds like a lot the way you put it.

But you grossly misrepresent the situation.

Actually, the state is supposed to finance public education at that level because the North Carolina State Constitution stipulates it. That’s the same constitution you’re sworn to uphold.

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 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 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 your tenure in the NC Senate 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 General Assembly. It is a reflection that the NCGA’s level of commitment to public education is wavering.

Since most of the state funding goes to salaries of certified and classified employees, the fact the percentage of funds from the state is not higher than it was in years past is indicative of the stagnated salaries NC gives to teachers and assistants. With the elimination of funds for professional development and talk of cutting thousands of teaching assistants, how can you brag about the level of money spent on public schooling?

In 2015, you became fairly well-known for a supposed “hit list” of 56 DOT jobs on the principle that more and more government jobs should be moved to the private sector. Never mind that a recent investigative report by WBTV out of Raleigh entitled “Senator steers millions in NCDOT contracts while taking campaign cash” talked about how you possibly benefitted from privatizing former government jobs (http://www.wbtv.com/story/34548894/senator-steers-millions-in-ncdot-contracts-while-taking-campaign-cash) .

What is ironic is that the three counties you fully represent (Bladen, Brunswick, and Pender) actually rely on the public school system to educate over 85% of the school aged children who reside there if numbers from the EdNC.org Data Dashboard for 2014-2015 are still consistent.

If you investigate the EdNC.org Data Dashboard even further, you may recognize that the three counties you represent also have very high levels of students receiving free and reduced lunches. Bladen County alone has over 90% who qualify. Certainly the refusal to expand Medicaid has affected people in your district as well.

Poverty, health, hunger all have effects on education.

What is more ironic is that in both Brunswick and Pender counties, the local LEA (public school district) is the NUMBER 1 EMPLOYER in the county. In Bladen County, the LEA is the second largest employer.

So the very entities that educate the vast majority of your constituents’ children and employ more people than any other entity may be compromised even further because of your unwillingness to put forth a bill that could do nothing but help?

All in the name of smaller class sizes and smaller government while we are experiencing an economic upswing?

If Guilford and Forsyth counties are having to consider letting go of teacher assistants, then I can only imagine what might happen in rural counties like the ones you represent.

Even just last week, DPI and retired Congresswoman Eva Clayton hosted an “Advocacy Day for Making Rural School Districts a Priority in North Carolina.” They called together leaders, educators, and policy makers to discuss issues that affect rural school districts – districts like Bladen, Brunswick, and Pender counties. Don’t complicate their situation by forcing them to make cuts to vital resources and personnel.

Allowing House Bill 13 to come to the floor would be a great step in the right direction. However, your lack of action would be a giant leap backwards.

 

 

For Once I May Have Liked What Lt. Gov. Dan Forest Said – But Not For the Reasons He Would Like

Rural Center county classifications

Lt. Gov. Dan Forest’s recent comments concerning “bridging the digital divide” at the “Advocacy Day for Making Rural School Districts a Priority” event were actually very heartening to hear – for more than one reason.

If you have followed the North Carolina public school funding discussion, disparities between affluent metropolitan areas and economically depressed rural areas are hard to ignore, especially when it comes to getting local funds to help subsidize teacher salary supplements and resources. It might be one of the reasons that charter schools and voucher advocates have has so much traction in the rural parts of the Tarheel state.

But Lt. Gov. Forest said something that was very encouraging. Refer to Alex Granados’s article in EdNC.org entitled “State leaders speak out on education at rural advocacy day” (https://www.ednc.org/2017/03/30/state-leaders-speak-education-rural-advocacy-day/).

He said that five years ago, before he was in his current position, he thought the state could lead the nation in high speed broadband access to classrooms. Now, North Carolina is on the verge of achieving that goal. That will help “students in poor rural North Carolina have the same hope and opportunity for an excellent education as students in wealthier parts of our state that have had for years,” he said.  

He also decried the fact that even with all the technological advances, the education field still is not level. 

“Shame on us in this day and age that we still have schools that are not at par with one another across our state,” he said. 

There are two operative words here: “poor” and “shame.” However, the reasons for the propagation of poverty in North Carolina and our need to feel shame for that is more than a single post could ever handle. But it is something that the Lt. Gov. could do a much better job of addressing on West Jones Street. Instead of using poverty and shame as fuel for privatizing education, he should listen to what he said very closely and then read this op-ed that appeared in The New York Times this past Sunday entitled “Who Needs Charters When You Have Public Schools Like These?” by David Kirp (https://www.nytimes.com/2017/04/01/opinion/sunday/who-needs-charters-when-you-have-public-schools-like-these.html).

Kirp is a professor at UC-Berkley which is considered by many to be the finest public university in the nation. California’s public university system is also a leading world-class system. Ironically, so is North Carolina’s, despite what the current administration in the General Assembly and the past administration in the governor’s mansion have done to weaken it.

Lt. Gov. Dan Forest has been a part of both of both of those.

In this op-ed, Kirp talks about the use of technology in poor rural areas for public schools that are helping students bridge achievement gaps that people have been touting charter schools and vouchers as being the solutions for –people like Lt. Dan Forest and another recent visitor to North Carolina, Betsy DeVos.

The same technology that Kirp talks about in his op-ed is easily facilitated in the scenario that Forest claims North Carolina has put into place, so much that we as a state are “on the verge” of “lead(ing) the nation in high speed broadband access to classrooms.”

Here are some of Professor Kirp’s observations:

“Ms. DeVos, the new secretary of education, dismisses public schools as too slow-moving and difficult to reform. She’s calling for the expansion of supposedly nimbler charters and vouchers that enable parents to send their children to private or parochial schools. But Union shows what can be achieved when a public school system takes the time to invest in a culture of high expectations, recruit top-flight professionals and develop ties between schools and the community.”

Investment? Recruitment of high-quality teachers? Retaining those teachers? Allow for ties between schools and communities? Wow! Novel ideas.

But lawmakers like Lt. Dan Forest seem to be too busy protecting us from nonexistent transgender sexual assaults in school locker rooms, clouding up any transparency for charter school growth, and funneling untold amounts of money into a voucher system that is inappropriately named “Opportunity Grants.”

Kirp further discusses,

“The school district also realized, as Ms. Burden put it, that “focusing entirely on academics wasn’t enough, especially for poor kids.” Beginning in 2004, Union started revamping its schools into what are generally known as community schools. These schools open early, so parents can drop off their kids on their way to work, and stay open late and during summers. They offer students the cornucopia of activities — art, music, science, sports, tutoring — that middle-class families routinely provide. They operate as neighborhood hubs, providing families with access to a health care clinic in the school or nearby; connecting parents to job-training opportunities; delivering clothing, food, furniture and bikes; and enabling teenage mothers to graduate by offering day care for their infants.”

Again, wow!

Supporting the arts and a holistic approach to curriculum? Health care clinics? Job training?

But lawmakers like Lt. Dan Forest have been too busy in the last few years suffocating public school systems to the point where they have to meet demands for class sizes that force them to sacrifice these very same programs. And health care? Just look at the hardened reluctance to expand Medicaid for these “poor” rural people.

That’s real “shame.”

Kirp concludes his op-ed,

“Under the radar, from Union City, N.J., and Montgomery County, Md., to Long Beach and Gardena, Calif., school systems with sizable numbers of students from poor families are doing great work. These ordinary districts took the time they needed to lay the groundwork for extraordinary results.

Will Ms. DeVos and her education department appreciate the value of investing in high-quality public education and spread the word about school systems like Union? Or will the choice-and-vouchers ideology upstage the evidence?”

Ironically, you would only have to substitute LT. Dan Forest’s name in that op-ed for Betsy DeVos as Forest is an avid supporter of DeVos’s policies. He was one of 70 leaders and organizations to sign an open letter of support for DeVos during her contentious confirmation process (http://www.excelined.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/01/2017.01.27-OpenLetterEndorsementforBetsyDeVos-FINAL.pdf?utm_source=ExcelinEd&utm_campaign=50bf72e4fa-EMAIL_CAMPAIGN_2017_01_27&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_0473a80b81-50bf72e4fa-).

“Betsy DeVos is an undisputed champion of families and students. For nearly 30 years she has devoted time and resources to improving education options for our nation’s children. Yet millions still languish in failing schools in an education system more than a century old. It’s time for a new vision.

Betsy DeVos provides that vision. She embraces innovation, endorses accountability and—most especially—trusts parents to choose what is in their unique child’s best interests. She also believes in providing every parent with the resources and choices to pursue those decisions.

On this week, National School Choice Week, we the undersigned endorse this champion of choice and the education reforms needed to improve the future of every child in America. And we strongly advocate for her confirmation as our next U.S. Secretary of Education. “

Remember that last year, Forest admonished DPI for its report on charter schools because it was not “positive” enough. He also is one of the most ardent supporters of HB2 because of his strident cause of protecting women and children from a nonexistent threat. And in a recent visit to Texas during their push for a bathroom law, he was keen to point out that there has been no economic fallout from HB2 in North Carolina contrary to multiple reports including a recent one from the Associated Press.

He called it “another attempt to mislead and confuse the public through a bogus headline.” The he added, “Our economy is doing well. Don’t be fooled by the media.”

But that internet thing and getting the rural areas connected? He’s totally right about that.

April 3, 2017 – An Especially Antipodean Day in the Walking Contradiction That is the Antithetical Secretary of Education

There was a disturbance in the Force today in the Old North State.

No not…

darth-vader-10-most-dangerous-star-wars-villains

But…

Betsy DeVos testifies before the Senate Health, Education and Labor Committee confirmation hearing

As Alex Granados of EdNC.org reported on April 3rd,

On Monday, U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos made her first visit to a Department of Defense Education Activity (DoDEA) school since being sworn in.

She came to Kimberly Hampton Primary School in Fort Bragg as part of the Month of the Military Child. 

“It’s a real privilege to be able to come here today and highlight the important role that military children have — that we have on behalf of military children, whose lives are often very transient as you all know,” DeVos said. “And we need to pay a special tribute to they and their families and to ensure that they have the best opportunity for a great education” (https://www.ednc.org/2017/04/03/education-secretary-visits-fort-bragg/).

First, I must thank Mrs. DeVos for coming to our military friendly state.

Secondly, I want to thank her again for butchering the English language when she stated that she wanted to “pay a special tribute to they.”

But most of all, I want to point out the absolute impeccable timing of this visit and the ancillary activity that surrounded it.

During that visit, DeVos tweeted the following,

devos fort bragg

And she’s right about that. North Carolina is the most military friendly state in the country as far as bases are concerned. Children of the military and their parents face challenges like no other.

But I find it ironic that someone who touts school choice, vouchers, and charters would say that about students who are, as she says, “very transient.” Wouldn’t that mean that their schools should be well-funded and well-resourced to be successful so that no matter where their families were stationed they would receive a good education?

At least that what DeVos says. And she is touting a budget that actually forced the DoDEA to have to seek an exemption because it created a hiring freeze. As reported in places like http://www.feaonline.org/passport/issues/hiringfreeze.htm,

By blocking the hiring of any new employees, the President’s plan could make it impossible for DoDEA to replace educators who retire or otherwise separate from the school system. Since the students would still remain and still require a teacher to teach them, it is not clear how DoDEA would deal with such vacancies without relying on substitutes (who are already in short supply and are not a viable long-term solution) or increasing class sizes (and thereby doing serious harm to the quality of education).

But what really was interesting was what broke in the Washington Post later that day.

Blackwater founder held secret Seychelles meeting to establish Trump-Putin back channel

Blackwater was founded by Erik Prince.

Erik Prince is Betsy DeVos’s brother.

Listen to this junk.

The United Arab Emirates arranged a secret meeting in January between Blackwater founder Erik Prince and a Russian close to President Vladi­mir Putin as part of an apparent effort to establish a back-channel line of communication between Moscow and President-elect Donald Trump, according to U.S., European and Arab officials (https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/blackwater-founder-held-secret-seychelles-meeting-to-establish-trump-putin-back-channel/2017/04/03/95908a08-1648-11e7-ada0-1489b735b3a3_story.html?utm_term=.ccae3abbad8e).

What?

Go further.

Prince is best known as the founder of Blackwater, a security firm that became a symbol of U.S. abuses in Iraq after a series of incidents, including one in 2007 in which the company’s guards were accused — and later criminally convicted — of killing civilians in a crowded Iraqi square. Prince sold the firm, which was subsequently re-branded, but has continued building a private paramilitary empire with contracts across the Middle East and Asia. He now heads a Hong Kong-based company known as the Frontier Services Group.

Prince would probably have been seen as too controversial to serve in any official capacity in the Trump transition or administration. But his ties to Trump advisers, experience with clandestine work and relationship with the royal leaders of the Emirates — where he moved in 2010 amid mounting legal problems for his American business — would have positioned him as an ideal go-between.

2300-Seychelles-0401

 

So this is what seems to have happened today:

Betsy DeVos visited North Carolina (the most military friendly state in the country) today to tout school choice for a segment of the population that was originally ignored by a budget she touted while her brother, who set up a charter school version of a paramilitary overseas that took tax payer money and killed innocent Iraqi civilians who had no weapons of mass destruction during a war that claimed lives of American soldiers who trained at the very base DeVos was visiting, was being exposed as having set up secret meeting for Trump to assist in communicating with a man known for meddling in the affairs of the free-world all while living in one of the two predominantly Muslim nations that were not on the original banned list for Trump’s executive order because of original business ties to the president.

Yep. That sounds about right.

And one of the men who backed DeVos’s confirmation without any hesitation was North Carolina’s senior senator, Richard Burr who now is helping to head the Senate Intelligence Committee that is investigating the very role that Russia had in meddling with the election.

Damn, I’ve learned a lot with Betsy at the helm. A hell of a lot.

A Lesson From Baseball That Includes Not LollyGagging

I respect great coaches because they teach young people that life is not just a game, but a journey.

This showed up on a twitter feed this evening and it applied somewhat to what I have been explaining to my students in class as the AP exams come up. It’s from Joe Maddon of the Chicago Cubs who now has a little jewelry to put on his ring finger.

But like a great coach, he has no time to admire what he has done. He’s to busy guiding his team.

maddon

Be present. You have to show up and be in that moment.

I teach four sections of Advanced Placement English. I have some bright, motivated students, many of whom take upwards of six AP classes, play sports, and do extra-curriculars. Some even have jobs.

They are stressed about right now. My class is not easy. If it was, then I would not be teaching it. With about a month until AP exams, students begin asking how many multiple choice questions they need to get correct or how well they need to do (on average) to pass the AP exam.

And I tell them the same thing every time. “Why would you have me tell you what you should do to do the bare minimum of what others may consider adequate? Only you can determine that.”

I am hoping they take more pride in the process of becoming self-learners who are self-motivated and self-driven and ultimately self-defined. Ultimately, if they seek to always improve instead of always being perfect, then there will be a point where they do not seek validation from an exam grade from a nameless face.

They will get validation because they believe in the process.

How appropriate that this quote comes out on Opening Day.

 

Play ball.  And don’t be a lollygagger.

Skip: You guys. You lollygag the ball around the infield. You lollygag your way down to first. You lollygag in and out of the dugout. You know what that makes you? Larry!
Larry: Lollygaggers!
Skip: Lollygaggers.

lolly

By the way, Bull Durham is one of the best written movies ever.