Looking At The Leandro Report Through The Eyes Of An Epidemic

Below are the 12 basic findings from the WestEd Leandro Report released last fall entitled “Sound Basic Education for All – An Action Plan for North Carolina.”

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

Now, look at those basic findings through a lens that tries and accounts for an epidemic and state-wide school closures. Think about issues of equity and issues of actual connectivity.

Think about the hundreds of thousands of people and their families who have had to file for unemployment.

Think about how many families already lived from paycheck to paycheck.

Think about how Medicaid was never expanded.

Think about how we as a state are operating on a stalled budget that only funds at last year’s recurring rates.

Think about how before this epidemic even hit, over 20% of our public school students already lived at or below the poverty level.

Think about a state that has the lowest minimum wage legally possible in the country.

Think about how education funds were some of the first to be cut in the last recession and some the last to even begin to think about recovering.

And then look at every graphic below that came from the Leandro report and try and explain how every one of those is not exacerbated by the current situation and the system in place to try and “curb” it.

Vote in 2020.

leandro 1leandro 2leandro 3leandro 4leandro 5leandro 6leandro 7leandro 8leandro 9leandro 10leandro 11leandro 12

 

 

“Isolation leads to teacher love” -What One Pastor Said About The Role Of Schools And Educators

Richard Groves is a former pastor of Wake Forest Baptist Church and former adjunct instructor at High Point University.

I met him in the Fall of 1988 as a freshman at Wake Forest. His church met on the Wake campus in Wait Chapel, the most visible structure on campus. And I enjoyed hearing him speak many times.

Frequently, he writes for the Winston-Salem Journal. His tone is always disarming; his words are always easily heard. At heart, he’s a teacher.

Today’s edition of the WSJ featured an op-ed entitled “Isolation leads to teacher love.”The picture attached to the post is from Lewisville Elementary School, just a few miles from where I teach in the neighboring village of Clemmons. They had a “drive-through” for students to reconnect just for a few moments with their teachers.

And I am glad he wrote what he did. Please take a read.

groves

 

 

 

 

 

“To all the public school haters social media stars/self promoters, and critical friends” – This Superintendent Nailed It

Scott Elliott is the superintendent of the Watauga County School System that includes Boone, home of Appalachian State University, one of the best teacher colleges in Southeast.

Like so many superintendents in the state, not only is he having to spearhead the efforts to help feed students and provide resources for their well-being while this pandemic is occurring, he is still an educational leader. The following tweet he posted is not only correct, to the point, and clear, but it is an indication that there are many who want to capitalize on public education with ideas of reform and privatization.

Elliott reminds us that public schools are so much more than physical classrooms. And if “school haters social media stars/self promoters, and critical friends” want to “re-envision” them, they should actually begin by asking the people who work in them.

And then get out of the way.

elliott1

 

If Schools Can Go To Virtual Learning, We Can Do Mail-In Ballots In November

Below is one of the several headlines and ledesacross media outlets today concerning President Trump’s remarks about not wanting mail-in ballots to be used in case the country is still in an epidemic and shut-down.

the hill

If schools can be forced to go to virtual learning in a matter of a day or two, we can do vote-by-mail seven months from now.

If schools can still deliver meals to students and families in need on a daily basis, we can do vote-by-mail for one election day.

If I as a teacher can “grade” work coming in to my inbox from students on a consistent basis during this pandemic, then election boards can “grade” mailed-in-votes for a one day election period.

If the government can send each eligible person a stimulus check for hundreds of dollars, then we can send a ballot to each registered voter.

Oh and the president mailed in his vote for the Florida primary last month.

 

I Am A Member of NCAE. This Year’s State Officer Elections Are Important. That’s Why I Am Voting For…

… the two people committed to “Building Our Union” & “Reclaiming Our State.”

When I talk with a younger teacher hired after 2014, I make sure to inform him/her of what I have that the current North Carolina General has made sure they won’t (unless it changes).

I talk about due-process rights and graduate degree pay bumps.

When I talk to veteran teachers, we recall a time when teacher evaluations were not so tied to test results, the class size caps, more support from the state, professional development, and other resources provided. Sometimes we talk about the salary schedules that were in place back then and the fact that we like other state employees received longevity pay.

And we certainly talk about how the state made more of an effort to fund public schools in the past than they do now.

Throughout the last five decades, NCAE has been fighting for the rights of all teachers and for our state’s public school students. When due-process rights were to be removed from all teachers no matter their years of service, NCAE fought back and kept them for those hired before 2014. Remember the time when each system was to identify the top 25% of teachers to give a certain bonus to? NCAE fought back.

If there is any entity that provides a strong check and balance to a reform-minded General Assembly in its quest to privatize public education in North Carolina, then it is NCAE. In fact, many in Raleigh have gone out of their way to try and diminish what NCAE does. Remember this?

graph6

That website was established few years ago by the Civitas Institute, which was founded by Art Pope. It showed NCAE members how to withdraw their membership in NCAE and make $450 because that is what they would not be spending in dues at the time. Also remember that Art Pope was the architect of Pat McCrory’s first budget that began the process of de-professionalizing the teaching profession in North Carolina that NCAE is fighting to regain.

Remember this from Sen. Ralph Hise last fall? He went out of his way to release a statement trying to frame NCAE as an organization that does not actually have a large membership and the best interests of the teaching profession in mind.

In fact, he claimed that NCAE only represented a little over 5% of teachers in North Carolina.

HiseNCAE1

HiseNCAE2

What Hise was referring to was a report from the State Auditor’s office (Beth Wood) about membership in organizations that allow for automatic deductions for membership dues.

It had this data table:

HiseNCAE4

He failed to tell you that only a fraction of NCAE members pay with payroll deduction. He was trying to diminish what NCAE really is.

Remember this?

IMG_6484

That’s action at work. That’s organization. That’s a group of public education advocates from all over the state making themselves heard. That’s young and older people from rural and urban areas coming together bonded by a goal to make our public schools stronger for our students and communities.

This state has no set budget as of now.

North Carolina is still one of seven states to make collective bargaining illegal.

Image result for map of states with collective bargaining rights 2018

North Carolina is one of seven states with the deepest cuts to K-12 while also cutting corporate tax rates since the Great Recession.

taxes

This election year for our state and country is the most important one I can remember. The same can be said for NCAE as public education now more than ever needs strong leadership that can bring young and veteran teachers together, organize at the grassroots level, and understand that rural school systems and urban school districts all have a need for a voice of advocacy.

That’s why I am voting for…

tb

 

 

Learn more here: https://tamikaandbryanforncae.com/

 

NC Public Education Never Fully Recovered From The 2008 Recession. What About From This Pandemic?

Consider the following tweet:

recession1

Jennifer Berkshire is a well-known education blogger. Her tweet refers to a recent post on Valerie Strauss’s well-known education blog for the Washington Post called  “The Answer Sheet.” That post, entitled “Many public schools never recovered from the Great Recession. The coronavirus could spark a new education crisis,” includes this graphic – one which has been shared many times on this blog.

(Center on Budget and Policy Priorities)

North Carolina never fully came back to pre-recession levels of funding when adjusted for inflation. It’s now 2020. If unemployment claims and financial market drops are any indication, what we are experiencing now might make the effects of The Great Recession seem less catastrophic.

The events that occurred in 2008 and the following years helped to bring people like Phil Berger and Tim Moore to power in the North Carolina along with the election of Pat McCrory as governor. As a group, they and their cronies began to institute “reforms” into public education without fear of reprisal. THEY USED THE RECESSION AS AN EXCUSE TO PUSH THROUGH THOSE REFORMS.

Those reforms turned a once progressive state system of public education into one of regression. Eliminating longevity pay, taking away graduate degree pay and career status from newer teachers, revamping the salary scales,  and cutting teacher assistants were just a few of the actions taken to “reform” public education.

What Berger and others also started a decade ago and continue to champion today has made North Carolina the literal working laboratory for ALEC-inspired reforms that are targeting the vitality of public schools and enabling a variety of privatization initiatives that are padding the pockets of many at the expense of taxpayers.

In fact, in under a decade, NC has become the nation’s Petri Dish for harmful educational reforms.

petri.png

Add some gerrymandering and voter restriction attempts and you can see how much they want to hold on to what power they have.

And now there is the corona-virus epidemic that could lead to a situation where Berger & Co. could hurt public education even more. They can look at public education as the first places to make cuts and that graphic above showed how bad the 2008 recession was.

Remember THEY USED THE 2008 RECESSION AS AN EXCUSE TO PUSH THROUGH THOSE REFORMS. Imagine what could happen in this current situation.

So what do we do?

Vote for pro-public education candidates in November. That’s a great start.

 

Lt. Gov. Dan Forest’s Statement On The Vote To Not Extend Contract With iStation – Another Reason He Should Not Be Governor

Don’t let it be lost that Lt. Gov. Dan Forest’s response to the State Board of Education’s 8-2 vote to not extend the contract with iStation was made five days after the vote occurred.

Don’t let it be lost that Lt. Gov. Dan Forest is a State Board of Education member and was not present to make a vote himself.

Don’t let it be lost that Lt. Gov. Dan Forest’s response to the State Board of Education’s 8-2 vote to not extend the contract with iStation was made on April Fools’ Day.

But it should not be surprising that instead of proactively trying to lead as the current Lt. Gov., Dan Forest is simply loudly reacting to what other actual leaders are doing: making decisions based on the needs of citizens.

Remember this about Gov. Cooper’s decision to close restaurant seating a couple of weeks ago?

Forest’s office released a statement titled “Lt. Governor Forest Questions Validity of Restaurant Ban” in which he said Cooper’s order would doom the state’s economic vitality.

“His mandate will devastate our economy, shutter many small businesses and leave many people unemployed, especially in the rural areas of our state where food supply is already critical,” Forest said in the release. “After the press release, and shortly before a scheduled press conference, I, along with other Council of State members, was asked to concur with the Governor’s decision with no discussion. The Governor held his press conference and made the announcement even after a majority of the Council of State voted not to concur with the Governor. Thus, he does not have the authority to issue this part of his executive order.”

That order probably saved lives. Forest was worried about Cooper looking like a true leader.

And now he issues a statement on iStation?

danforestistation

Here is the statement:

“The decision made by the State Board of Education last week was not in the best interest of our students. At a time when we should be doing everything we can to provide stability and continuity in the distance learning plans for students in our state, this action does not.

“This decision sends mixed signals to parents, teachers and school districts on what our expectations should be for our students. When we have a Board of Education advocating for waivers from the General Assembly to eliminate benchmark diagnostics, it makes it seem as though learning at home is not necessary when students are out of school. I, for one, will not advocate for blanket waivers for our students. I am very interested to see how students learn and progress during distance learning, but you cannot gather a true understanding of how students grew (or didn’t) by eliminating diagnostic tools during this COVID-19 statewide school closure. Diagnostic tools, like Istation, show parents and teachers how much a student has grown in a subject by continually tracking the student’s progress, rather than administering a standardized EOG test.

“Finally, the guidance in the State Board’s own document for distance learning stated that ‘When remote learning occurs in grades K-5, LEAs/Charters will provide meaningful feedback to promote student growth.’ By not continuing the contract, the SBE decided to not proceed with the only statewide resource/tool for systematically measuring the reading progress of all 461,441 students, kindergarten through 3rd grade.

“During these uncertain times, it is more important than ever for the State Board of Education to provide certainty for parents, teachers and school districts. I had hoped the Board’s decision of discontinuing the state’s system to track the reading achievement of K-3 students would be reversed after significant conversations over the last several days among DPI staff, educators from across the state, and board members. However, it now seems that the original decision will most likely stand.

Still, I remain hopeful a positive outcome can emerge for our students.”

That’s rich considering his staunch loyalty to Betsy DeVos’s agenda and his wanting to expand vouchers to every student in the state.

That’s rich considering his “letter” to teachers last December that literally was full of so many spun claims that debunking them all was a simple exercise.

What Forest did seems more like helping Mark Johnson save face in what has become an absolute PR nightmare soon after losing a primary for Forest’s current office – badly, I might add.

But it also shows you the disconnect he has with public educators who have been loudly telling DPI and Raleigh that iStation does not provide what they need and that many parents were raising questions how accurate iStation really was. And now that we are in a pandemic with stay at home orders, iStation’s inability to truly and accurately measure a student’s reading skill gets even more exacerbated.

And it shows his ignorance to the fact that mClass is offering its services for free right now.

 

A One-Question EOC Test For The NC General Assembly

Consider the following maps and data graphs below and answer the question that follows.

From page 10 of the NC Justice Center BTC Report “Strong medicine: Why Medicaid expansion is the right treatment for rural hospitals, economies:”

And this is the map of cases of COVID-19 and other data graphs as of the writing of this post.

convid191

convid193convid192

Question: Taking into account the spread of COVID-19, the rising number of cases requiring medical treatment and hospitalization, and the number of closed and financially threatened hospitals in rural North Carolina, does it seem apparent that the insistence of the powers in the NC General Assembly to not expand Medicaid was not in the best interest of this state?

A. Yes

B. No. It is totally within the parameters of ALEC and that’s who many in the NCGA obey.

C. No. Giving constituents health care coverage is against the idea of freedom.

D. No. It makes too much sense.

E. No. It is a trick question.

 

Seven Graphics That This Epidemic Shows Should Be Changed For Our Schools & Communities

North Carolina currently has a minimum wage of $7.25 which is the federal minimum.

minimum wage

North Carolina is one of seven states to make collective bargaining illegal.

Image result for map of states with collective bargaining rights 2018

This is a map of the economic well-being of each NC county as reported be the North Carolina Department of Commerce. The LIGHTER the shade of blue, the more economic “distress.”

2019 County Tier Designations

North Carolina is one of seven states with the deepest cuts to K-12 while also cutting corporate tax rates.

taxes

North Carolina ranks #3 in lowest corporate tax rates.

corporate tax rate

North Carolina is one of 14 states to not adopt Medicaid expansion.

medicaidexpansion

North Carolina is one of two states that measures schools with a formula which allows achievement to weigh more than growth and that stigmatizes poverty stricken schools.

graph

 

Last Friday iStation Received Their Own “Cease & Desist” Order

Remember this from last July?

CD

Three people received those letters. Those individuals had in their calling as public school advocates and as tax payers sought information and exposed the reasonable doubts surrounding Mark Johnson’s unilateral decision to award iStation a contract.

All three Cease & Desist letters were published in WRAL. Here is the text of one of those letters all of which included the same language and claims.

This letter is to advise that Shanahan Law Group, PLLC represents Imagination Station, lnc. (“Istation”). As you are no doubt aware, Islation has been awarded the contract arising from the North Carolina Department of Public Read to Achieve RFP (“Contract”). Please direct all communication regarding this matter to me here at if you are represented by legal counsel, please direct this correspondence accordingly.

We have become aware that you have been making demonstrably false, misleading, and defamatory public statements about lstation. its agents, its products, and the process by which lstation was awarded the Contract by NCDPI. You were not involved in any part of the process by which this Contract was awarded, and NCDPI is just now beginning to release documents pertinent to the process. NCDPI has indicated that further documents will be released. Thus, your public statements are based on nothing more than unverifiable speculation and unsubstantiated statements by a former employee was not involved with the entire RFP process. Nevertheless, you have represented speculative, false, misleading, and defamatory information with respect to our client as fact in public media and other forums. Among other things, your conduct amounts to  defamation and tortious interference with the Contract that [station was legally and appropriately awarded by Accordingly, we hereby DEMAND that you immediately cease making false and misleading representations about Istation, its products, or the process by Which this Contract came into existence, whether in public or private, and retract your false statements,

Preservation Notice

As my client considers its legal options with respect to your conduct. please be advised that we believe that you are or may be in possession of documents, tangible items, and electronically stored information that will become an important and irreplaceable source of discovery and evidence. By this letter, you are hereby given notice not to destroy, conceal. or otherwise alter any papers, audio or video recordings, digital or electronic files, or data generated or stored on a computer or other storage media (6. g. hard disks or drives, floppy disks, CDs, DVDs, backup tapes, flash drives, PDAs, smart phones, tablet devices, laptops or netbooks, PCs, servers, or backup media) from January 1, 2018 to the present that in any way relate to Istation, its products, or the process by which this Contract came into existence. Please note that this notice includes e-mails, chat logs, instant messages, text messages, voice mails, and social media posts, messages or writings of every kind. Failure to comply with this notice may result in severe sanctions being imposed by a court for spoliation of actual or potential evidence.

Accordingly, you must make every reasonable effort to preserve all documents and information related in any way to the categories of items listed above. These efforts include, but are not limited to, an obligation to discontinue all relevant data destruction, backup tape recycling, and auto-deletion or auto-preservation policies. This obligation also includes, but is not limited to, preservation of all documents, tangible items, and electronically

If you have any questions regarding this correspondence, please do not hesitate to contact me, or have your attorney contact me. Nothing in this correspondence is intended to prejudice any and all rights and remedies available to Istation under applicable law. All such rights and remedies are specically reserved.

Sincerely,

SHANAHAN AW GROUP, PLLC

And from last Friday in an NC Policy Watch report:

Despite a plea from State Superintendent Mark Johnson, the State Board of Education (SBE) on Friday rejected a $1.2 million contract extension with Istation, the firm that provides the state’s K-3 reading diagnostic tool.

The SBE voted 8-2 during a remote conference call to table the contract until the General Assembly considers a request to waive the reading diagnostic requirement in the wake of the COVID-19 crisis.

Kind of like a Cease & Desist in its own right.