Our Schools Should be About Collaboration Among Teachers, Not Competition

“Collaborate” :intransitive verb. Noun form is “collaboration” – 1:to work jointly with others or together especially in an intellectual endeavor 

Simply put, collaboration as described in that first definition from the Merriam-Webster Dictionary website is the best resource/tool that a school can have and that leaders can encourage.

What makes schools work best are the relationships between the people: administration, teachers, students, parents, and community. No set of standards, no checklist, no standardized test, and no evaluation criteria can ever really measure the importance of people using other people as their best resources to create a collaborative learning environment where students can achieve optimally.

In a “reform – minded” culture that promotes business models for education and screams for “competition” on an uneven playing field, the very entity that really gets eroded is the ability for professional educators to “work jointly with others or together.” Initiatives like merit pay, bonuses for test scores, removal of class size caps, and elimination of due-process rights creates a culture of insular competition.

Public education is not a partisan issue. The state constitution specifically ensures that each student is entitled to a quality public education. It is a public good and a public service. The key word there is “public” and not “private.”

The picture below from WRAL.com shows the meeting room of the State Board of Education.

SBOE

In rather ornate fashion the state constitution is quoted on the wall. It says, “THE PEOPLE HAVE A RIGHT TO THE PRIVILEGE OF EDUCTION AND IT IS THE DUTY OF THE STATE TO GUARD AND MAINTAIN THAT RIGHT.”

The two people sitting right below that quote are Bill Cobey, Chairman of the Board, and Mark Johnson, the State Superintendent.

To say that those two are not collaborating is putting it mildly. And it’s the fault of one of those two more so than the other. Mr. Johnson knows who he is.

For months, the State Board of Education and the State Superintendent were in court – facing each other in competition. Melissa Broughton’s report in NC Policy Watch last September highlighted the inability for the very people who control schools to actually collaborate amongst themselves. From Broughton:

“The three-judge panel that ruled in favor of Johnson in a lawsuit over a transfer of power from the Board will hear a motion for a temporary stay pending the Board’s appeal. According to the motion, counsel for both parties spent six weeks trying to come to an agreement for a temporary stay but were unsuccessful”(http://pulse.ncpolicywatch.org/2017/09/11/nc-board-education-superintendent-mark-johnson-return-court-later-week/#sthash.D186QZe3.dpbs).

That same piece also included a rather telling graphic.

PUBLIC-EDUCATION-300x251

It suggests that the stability of our state’s capacity to offer a quality free public education rests on the willingness of the “legs” to collaboratively work together. However, that is not happening. They are too much in competition.

Most people who follow education in North Carolina know that when Mark Johnson was elected state superintendent, he was almost immediately granted excessive legislative powers to run the public schools by the NC General Assembly in a power grab. That is what precipitated the lawsuit that is still ongoing and the current “stay” of the latest court decision. What the NCGA granted Johnson was power that was not thought to be in the hands of a state superintendent when people elected Johnson.

Broughton further reported,

Without a temporary stay pending the Board’s appeal, the law in question that transfers power from the Board to Johnson will move the entire $10 billion public school system under the control of a single individual for the first time in North Carolina history, the motion states.

We know how that court case ended. That transfer of power changed that three-legged dynamic in the graphic above seismically.

Two legs grew longer and one would shrank. And the seat that represents our “quality free public education” is not balanced. Whoever sits on it would fall over.

The checks and balances that help make sure that access to a quality free public education exists for all students relies on the checks and balances of the three entities that help shape educational matters. But rather than collaborate, there has been collusion and competition, especially from Johnson and the NCGA.

And our schools have suffered from it.

It seems that people like Berger, Moore, Barefoot, and other GOP stalwarts as well as Johnson could take a lesson from our teachers in public schools who see collaboration as the key to success in schools.

Of course there are other definitions of “collaboration.” The second one on the Merriam-Webster Dictionary website states,

2:to cooperate with or willingly assist an enemy 

Maybe that’s the collaboration that Johnson and the NCGA are thinking about.

Public School Teachers: 10-Month Employees, But 12-Month Educators

Many times over this summer, I have heard from many well-intentioned people that it must be nice to have a job that allows one to only work 10 months out of a year.

Write a blog or some op-eds about conditions of the teaching profession and the state of public schools in North Carolina and one of the first counterarguments you will receive is that you only have to “work 10 months a year, but get paid for twelve. “

Yes, we might be what is termed “ten-month” employees, but we are 12 month educators. And to set the record straight, teachers are paid for ten months, some just spread it out over twelve month increments.

One of the obviously overlooked aspects of the 10-month calendar is that it is a system that society has created, not teachers. If you want teachers to teach 12 months, then open schools for twelve months. Change the law about the number of days students have to be in school. Be willing to invest more tax money into keeping schools fully operational for that time.

There’s bus transportation, food, extracurriculars, etc. that must be resourced. If someone wants schools to be teaching students twelve months a year, then finance it.

One would also have to convince the tourism industry that having a vast majority of students go to school during prime travel and vacation months will have no bearing on the economy. The calendar as it stands today for traditional public schools is somewhat driven by the tourism industry.

What about those “year-round” schools? Well, they go the same number of days as traditional schools, but it’s just spread out over the entire year. Same with those teachers.

But to think that when school is not in “session,” teachers do not do anything professionally speaking is ludicrous. What many mistake is that that “eight weeks of vacation” is actually unemployment. Teachers have 10-month contracts. What one may call “vacation” is actually unpaid time that is spent getting renewed certification, professional development, or advanced degrees—all of which are paid with teachers’ own money that gets taxed by the state. Until recently, the only way teachers could get a pay increase is to fund their own advanced education. But even that is no longer the case because of a crusade led the current NCGA to eliminate advanced-degree pay increases.

And don’t even begin to quantify what coaches in any sport are doing as far as camps, workouts, summer leagues, and fundraising to get teams ready for the next year. And most every coach at any given high school is also a full-time teacher.

Summers are also a time for credit recovery for students among other administrative duties. Just in the first week of “summer vacation” at my own school:

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

That school is still doing other things related to education the other seven weeks, as are many of the teachers whether they are on campus or not.

months

Yes, we might be 10-month “employees.”

But we are 12-month educators.

Why The Cost Of Living Adjustment Argument is Erroneous When Discussing Teacher Salary

On August 11th, The Civitas Institute released a report by Leah Byers entitled “The Problem with Average in Teacher Pay” (https://www.nccivitas.org/2018/problem-average-teacher-pay/).

It starts,

Education funding has been a heated topic in North Carolina again this year. Progressives and others on the Left say the state is underfunding schools and teachers. These claims come despite years of spending increases and teacher pay raises. When asked to provide specifics about what constitutes a proper level of funding, advocates are conspicuously hesitant to offer a number or range that they believe would be adequate.

This is especially true with regard to teacher salaries. Instead of setting a specific goal, progressives prefer to tie North Carolina teacher pay to the ever elusive “national average.”  According to the National Education Association (NEA), the national average for 2016-2017 was $59,660. The NEA also reports average teacher pay by state; North Carolina ranked thirty-ninth that year with an average teacher salary of $49,970.

Perhaps the biggest and most obvious flaw with using the national average as a benchmark is that it fails to reflect differences in the cost of living. It costs more to live in Manhattan than in Manteo. Salaries reflect those differences. Comparing salaries across states is inherently biased towards places with higher costs of living. Adjusting for these considerations alone improves North Carolina’s rank to 29th, according to the John Locke Foundation.

Of course the Civitas Institute would trumpet the John Locke Foundation. They are literally the same.

That part when she says, “When asked to provide specifics about what constitutes a proper level of funding, advocates are conspicuously hesitant to offer a number or range that they believe would be adequate,” is actually humorous.

But it’s the reliance on the “cost-of-living” argument where she falls short. She makes a link to a post by Dr. Terry Stoops of the John Locke Foundation from back in the spring when the NEA released it’s annual report on education.

Back in April, John Hood of the John Locke Foundation tweeted the following in response to the NEA’s report on teacher pay that had North Carolina still well below the national average.

hood1

Interestingly, he tagged it to #nced and referred all readers to a recent post by his colleague Dr. Terry Stoops (the one Myers references), the Vice President for Research and Director of Education Studies for the John Locke Foundation. He must have wanted a lot of people to read this.

The John Locke Foundation is a libertarian-leaning think tank whose findings and studies on North Carolina’s public schools are so bent toward a political ideology that celebrates “school choice” and vouchers that it tends to spin data and research so much that it hopes readers will not take the time to actually look into the data themselves.

Stoops wrote in that April 2018 post,

Earlier today, the National Education Association (NEA) released their annual Rankings and Estimates report.  According to the report, North Carolina’s average teacher salary for 2018 ranked 39th out of the 50 states and Washington, D.C.

But the NEA ranking does not adjust for cost of living.  When C2ER cost-of-living indices for 2017 are applied, North Carolina’s rank jumps to 29th in the nation.  Last year, North Carolina’s cost-of-living adjusted average salary was 33rd in the nation(https://lockerroom.johnlocke.org/2018/04/23/adjusted-teacher-pay-rank-29th-in-the-nation/).

Stoops then presents a table that uses the C2ER index for each state.

table1

And if one took Stoops’s interpretation at face value, then he is exactly right.

The Cost of Living Index used by Stoops is represented in the map below that the C2ER uses (https://www.missourieconomy.org/indicators/cost_of_living/).

map

But Stoops simplifies it too much. Even C2ER says so.

C2ER stands for the Council for Community and Economic Research and it even warns against using the cost of living index in such a broad stroke as Stoops has done. Within its 2017 Cost of Living Index, it states,

“For 23 years, participation in the Cost of Living
Index was open to all places, regardless of size.
In the late 1980s, however, several rural places
with very small populations began
participating, and it became apparent that
adherence to the specifications in many such
places wasn’t possible. There’s no doubt that
small rural places offer an alternative to an
urban professional or managerial standard of
living that many people find attractive, but such
places are qualitatively different from urban
areas, and they simply don’t support the kind of
urban lifestyle embodied in the Cost of Living
Index.

The Committee has concluded that
participation in the Index should be restricted to
areas that can reasonably be considered urban
and patterned its restrictions after the federal
government’s distinction between urban and
rural areas.”

You can read that document here: http://coli.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/06/2016-COLI-Manual.pdf. The above is on page 4. In fact, the the C2ER site actually prefers that the index be used when comparing cities to cities – not state to state.

C2ER

The very warning that C2ER gives in using its COL Index is deliberately ignored by Stoops in order that he keep on his shallow narrative that teacher pay in North Carolina is not all that bad.

Take this a little deeper and one can see that another factor Stoops conveniently ignores is that average teacher pay in North Carolina varies LEA to LEA. Local supplements that are given to teachers in some counties are much better than in other localities because those places can afford to do that. That creates a wider disparity in salaries for teachers within the state.

Metropolitan LEA’s like Wake County can give a bigger salary boost to teachers than many of the rural counties, some of whom cannot give a local supplement at all. And Stoops as well as Hood should know that rural counties suffer more when it comes to staffing schools.

This simplification of the data is not an oversight. It’s part of a plan – a deliberate attempt to sway the narrative to favor those who see simply investing in the public school system at a reasonable rate a burden.

So when Hood says in his tweet, “Even if you disagree, here’s where we really are,” it seems that he doesn’t really know where we are.

#NCReadsConfusingNewAmendments – Taking Mark Johnson’s #NCReads Tips to Understand the Wording of the Constitutional Amendments

Every week, State Supt. Mark Johnson releases an “NC Reads Reading Tip” on his Twitter account to give suggestions to parents and guardians about how to help foster and greater love of reading at home.

ncreads1.jpg

Considering those who have propped up Johnson as the state’s leader of the public school system also intentionally wrote the text for the constitutional amendments to be confusing and opaque, maybe using some of the NC Read Reading Tips to try and understand these six amendments would be helpful.

It could show whether the tips are helpful and/or show the clarity that is not present in the NCGA’s wording of the power grabbing amendments they hope to confuse voters with.

Below are some suggestions of how to use those reading tips solely for the understanding of the constitutional amendments.

1.Actual NC Reads Reading Tip: “Traveling for #FourthOfJuly celebrations? Try to spend some time reading with your child to pass time. If you are driving, play audio-books that your child picks out or encourage them to read on their own. #NCReads

NC Reads Confusing New Amendments Tip: Traveling for late summer vacations? Try to spend some time reading with your family those newly worded amendments to see if you can make sense of them. If you are driving, have someone else read those newly worded amendments and determine if they sound just as convoluted from someone else’s mouth as they do from yours. #NCReadsConfusingNewAmendments.

2. Actual NC Reads Reading Tip: “If you’re excited about a book or article that you’ve recently read, talk to your child about it! Your enthusiasm will show your child just how fun reading can be.”

NC Reads Confusing New Amendments Tip: If you’re exhausted about having to decipher those new amendments you’ve recently read, talk to others about it! Your frustration will show your friends just how stupidly worded those new amendments really are! #NCReadsConfusingNewAmendments.

3. Actual NC Reads Reading Tip:“After finishing a story, have your child repeat the big events of the story in chronological order. Incorporate #drawing to make it even more engaging! “

NC Reads Confusing New Amendments Tip: After finishing reading the new amendments as worded by the special session, try to explain what the amendments really said. Incorporate #handjestures to make it even more frustrating! #NCReadsConfusingNewAmendments.

4. Actual NC Reads Reading Tip: “Give your child books with predictable vocabulary and clear rhythmic patterns. This way they can “hear” the sound of fluent reading as they read the book aloud. #AudioBooks are great for them to follow along with as well.”

NC Reads Confusing New Amendments Tip: Pray that these amendments could actually have more predictable vocabulary and rhythmic patterns and that they actually get to be written in a comprehensible manner. This way people can “hear” just how ludicrous these power grabbing measures are. #NCReadsConfusingNewAmendments.

5. Actual NC Reads Reading Tip: “Have your child examine the cover of a book before starting it. Ask questions such as: “What might the book be about?” Making predictions and building connections between stories will help your child better comprehend what they read.”

NC Reads Confusing New Amendments Tip: Have your friends examine a sample before starting to read it. Ask questions such as: “Do you think you will maintain consciousness after reading the wording of those new amendments?” Making bets about who may be most frustrated might help make the time more worthwhile. #NCReadsConfusingNewAmendments.

6. Actual NC Reads Reading Tip: “Before children can identify letter sounds in words or reading, they can learn how spoken language can be broken down into smaller pieces. Help children learn to break sentences down into words, then words into syllables.”

NC Reads Confusing New Amendments Tip: Before people can identify exactly what the amendments say with the wording of the special session, they can try and break down the text into smaller pieces. Help them learn that no matter how you slice these amendments, they still are horrible. #NCReadsConfusingNewAmendments.

7. Actual NC Reads Reading Tip: “Reading just 20 minutes a day with your child will help them read on grade level. Be sure to ask questions about what they read. Talking about the words in the book will help them understand what they are reading even more. #NCEd#NCReads

NC Reads Confusing New Amendments Tip: Reading these amendments just 20 minutes a day with friends will not make them any less confusing. #NCReadsConfusingNewAmendments.

8. Actual NC Reads Reading Tip: “Let your children pick articles about their interests for you to read & discuss together. If your child has a tablet or video-game console, research apps & games that revolve around improving literacy skills & problem solving. #NCReads#Engagement

NC Reads Confusing New Amendments Tip: Let your friends pick news reports and opinion pieces about the amendments for everyone to read and discuss. Then you will see how badly worded they are. Then grab the nearest electronic device to divert your attention spans as the people who called the special session do not want you to actually pay attention to what is really going on. #NCReadsConfusingNewAmendments.

9. Actual NC Reads Reading Tip: “Bring along a book or a magazine any time your child has to wait for something. Whether it be at the doctor or in the cart at the grocery store, it is always helpful to fit in reading practice!”

NC Reads Confusing New Amendments Tip: Bring along a pillow any time you and your friends have to wait for something. You can have something to scream into if you pass that time reading the texts of those new amendments. #NCReadsConfusingNewAmendments.

10. Actual NC Reads Reading Tip: “Early readers can practice retelling a story after reading by drawing pictures of the beginning, middle and end of the story. As they continue to grow as a reader, they can label the pictures and write their own summaries for each.”

NC Reads Confusing New Amendments Tip: Early readers can practice retelling a story after reading by drawing pictures. Try that with the newly worded amendments and see if anyone can make sense of what you drew. #NCReadsConfusingNewAmendments.

11. Actual NC Reads Reading Tip: “Try to make reading with your child a regularly scheduled event (ie: every night before bed). By doing this, you are improving their literacy skills and also getting them used to being a routine, active reader.”

NC Reads Confusing New Amendments Tip: Try to make reading the newly worded amendments every night before going to bed. You will pass out quickly and have dreams in which you are always the confused protagonist. #NCReadsConfusingNewAmendments.

12. Actual NC Reads Reading Tip: “Read a story over and over to your child, even if it feels like the 100th time! As you read, pause and ask your child about what is going on in the book. Be sure to ask about pictures too. You are helping your child build comprehension!”

NC Reads Confusing New Amendments Tip: Read those newly worded amendments over and over to yourself, even if it feels like the 100th time! Notice how they still don’t make sense. #NCReadsConfusingNewAmendments.

13. Actual NC Reads Reading Tip: “When reading at home, try to do so in a place where your children can see you reading, like a living room. When parents set this kind of example, children are more likely to try to emulate them and read on their own as well! #NCReads#NCEd

NC Reads Confusing New Amendments Tip: When reading the newly worded amendments at home, try to do so in a place where your family can see you reading, like a living room. When parents start getting irritated because they can’t decipher the NCGA’s wording, children will more than likely understand that the NCGA is deliberately confusing people. #NCReadsConfusingNewAmendments.

ncreads

 

 

Top 10 Reasons You Can’t Fairly Evaluate Teachers on Student Test Scores

gadflyonthewallblog

Screen Shot 2018-08-02 at 12.49.24 AM

I’m a public school teacher.

Am I any good at my job?

There are many ways to find out. You could look at how hard I work, how many hours I put in. You could look at the kinds of things I do in my classroom and examine if I’m adhering to best practices. You could look at how well I know my students and their families, how well I’m attempting to meet their needs.

Or you could just look at my students’ test scores and give me a passing or failing grade based on whether they pass or fail their assessments.

It’s called Value-Added Measures (VAM) and at one time it was the coming fad in education. However, after numerous studies and lawsuits, the shine is fading from this particularly narrow-minded corporate policy.

Most states that evaluate their teachers using VAM do so because under President Barack Obama they…

View original post 1,822 more words

North Carolina Has a Huge Urban/Rural Divide – Our Public Education System Can Build and Be a Strong Bridge

Below is a map of how counties voted in the past presidential election.

2016 map

Lots of red in rural areas. Blue in metropolitan places and where the most attended colleges and universities are located. Those blue counties in the northeast are mostly African-American in population.

Mix these colors up as they are shaded and we get a fairly purple shade. But looking at the map broken down by the 100 counties in North Carolina, it is apparent that we as a state have a very deep and wide urban/rural divide.

North Carolina has 100 counties, each with a county public school system (and 15 other city school systems). According to the Labor and Economic Analysis Division of the NC Dept. of Commerce, the public schools are at least the second-largest employers in nearly 90 of them—and the largest employer, period, in over 60. That means educators, administrators, and support staffs represent a base for most communities.

Simply put, it means the public school system is as concrete a foundation in every county in North Carolina from the reddest rural municipalities to the bluest urban districts.

Every state budget makes public education its highest monetary commitment. It has to be that way; the state constitution that presides over us stipulates that.

Our state (like all the other states) attracts industry, talent, and other priceless investments because of the strength of our existing infrastructure. But that infrastructure is only as strong as the very aspects that help to keep the state connected. And in a time where we have growing political polarities not just between political parties but within political parties, we have a deep urban / rural divide.

Public education bridges that divide.

When we as a state fully invest in public education, we invest in our students, our growth, our future, our economy, and most importantly our common connections.

And public education is based on the human aspect. People. Investing in public education means investing in people and fully funding the very resources and development those people need to help the most important people: our students.

Whether one sends his / her children to private schools or home schools them. the state of the public education system still affects them greatly. Whether one has no children in school but owns a business and hires people, the state of the public education system still affects them greatly. Anybody who owns a home or real estate knows that the strength of the local school system has an effect on the value of their property.

In some direct or indirect way, the effect of a strong public education system can be seen and felt in so many facets of both rural and urban localities that to try and identify those effects would require its own dissertation – from a public university.

Yes, public education is a political issue, but it does not have to be a partisan one. It shouldn’t be partisan. Decades ago, public education was championed by both democrats and republicans alike. Think of governors like Holshousher and Martin and you will see a commitment to funding public education like NC saw with Sanford, Hunt, and Easley. The governor’s office and the General Assembly were often in different hands politically speaking, but on the issue of public education, they stood much more united than it is today.

They wanted to make sure there was a bridge over any urban / rural divide.

The surest way to help keep strong connections in our state is to make sure that those who are in power as politicians are pro-public education, not just with their words, but with their actions.

Bridges are great constructs. No matter how deep the chasm or the divide. they help connect different sides.

 

 

 

 

 

Friday Night Lights – The Power of the Student Section

wacko2

Not long ago,  I caught a tweet from my school’s spirit club about “theme nights” for the upcoming football season.

  • wacko schedule

Those themes are for all of the games – home and away.  And students will come to those games – home and away. And they will scream their heads off. And they will chant. And they will turn a game on another school’s campus into home field advantage.

In college football, the home crowd is sometimes called the “12th Man.” Sometimes in college basketball, it is the “6th Man.”  I am not sure what it is called in high school, but I do know that when a bunch of students show up to cheer on their team in a sports contest no matter the sport, then something neat has happened.

But there is something about a Friday night in Clemmons when 600-800 students (yes, we’ve tried to count), show up before a class even starts  in mid-August to yell for the football team and announce their presence.

They will be decked out in theme wear and have chants ready.  A fantastic student band will come out and keep a rhythm going. A drum line will keep a beat going. A dance team and cheer-leading squad will engage the crowd. And what might be lost in the whole frenzy of the game is that over a third and maybe even half of the student body is at one singular extracurricular activity – cheering, performing, playing, or socializing.

As a community. As a family.

When Raleigh thinks about measuring schools, I might just send them a picture or a video of our students when we score.

The Amendment to Lower the Cap on Taxes, Also Known as TABOR – A Tourniquet Around the Bloodlines of Our Republic and it Could Cripple Our Public Schools

In the current session, it’s called Senate Bill 75. To many around the country, it’s called TABOR.

The TAxpayer Bill ORights. Makes it sound like it truly benefits those in our state. It doesn’t. It’s just another catchy acronym that acts like a Trojan horse for something more destructive.

 

amendment

Acronyms are easy to shape and easier to sound beneficial. However, the “benefits” of this piece of legislation would be far reaching and would take years to heal from especially for our schools. It will be put on the ballot as a constitutional amendment.

In reality TABOR is a Terribly Awful Breach ORepresentation, a Totally Asinine Bit OReform, and a Truly Abusive Bit ORubbish in which people are being forced to Turn All Backs OReality. It’s a Tremendously Atrocious Bunch ORefuse Taken Amidst the Bowels ORapacity and passed off with a Total Assortment of Baloney ORigmarole.

It’s a metaphorical tourniquet, a Tourniquet Around the Bloodlines of Our Republic.

Just think of a tourniquet, a device that constricts blood flow to a limb or extremity. Only in times of medical emergency should a tourniquet be used. Maybe for a poisonous snakebite or a bloody wound. Sometimes one is used to allow for blood to be taken for testing and health purposes.

tourniquet

But one does not place a tourniquet on an arm or leg for kicks and giggles. There are consequences because blood is the very life force that carries oxygen and nutrients to the very parts of the body that need them. Cutting off blood flow has deleterious effects. Bones weaken and muscles atrophy.

That’s not good for a growing body.

Now think of a metaphorical tourniquet, one in which a constricting element is placed on a part of society that cuts off resources and funding for those who are most invested.

GOP leaders in the North Carolina General Assembly have pushed in the past and are now making a proposal to place a constitutional amendment on the November ballot that would cap the income tax rate a 5.5% (currently it is 10%).

That proposal is a political tourniquet, pure and simple. And just as limited blood flow would cause harm to the skeletal system in a body, this measure would cause our state’s infrastructure to slowly disintegrate.

Chris Fitzsimon put it very bluntly in his posting for  “The Follies” from June 17, 2016 (http://www.ncpolicywatch.com/2016/06/17/the-follies-253/).  He stated,

“As the N.C Budget & Tax Center points out, that cap would cut off a vital source of revenue that the state needs and make it virtually impossible for future lawmakers to use the income tax to increase state investments, even in times of emergencies.

It also locks in place the massive tax cuts for the wealthy passed in 2013 that will cost more than $2 billion a year when fully in effect, more than the entire budget of the community college system and early childhood programs combined.

The new lower tax cap could threaten the state’s coveted AAA bond rating and force increases in the state sales tax and could lead local governments to raise property taxes and fees.  It’s a terrible idea that threatens funding for public schools, health care, and environmental protections and makes decisions for future members of the General Assembly that will be elected by the voters just like the current members were.”

Imagine what 2018’s version would be in a NCGA that will be using a nuclear option to pass a budget. That’s scary to think about. The very fabric, the very sinews of society like schools, healthcare, and environmental protections would be instantly jeopardized and it would take years to recover as part of the GOP’s plan is to change the constitution of the state.

Remember that all three of those areas (schools, healthcare, and environment) have already been hazardously affected in the last three years here in North Carolina.

Per pupil expenditures are lower, charter school growth is uncontrolled, and veteran teacher pay is still low despite what the current administration wants to boast.

Medicaid expansion was denied and we as a state are still paying into a system that benefits other states but not ours because of political ideology.

The fracking industry have practically been given an open door and permission to do whatever it wants. Duke Energy’s coal ash spills have still gone relatively unpunished.

Those three areas alone form a large part of our state’s infrastructure, or rather the skeleton of the state’s body. When these areas are harmed, then the need to help them heal is paramount. When bones and muscles have been damaged in a body, then one does not place a tourniquet on the wounded limb. You make sure that blood is flowing amply into the affected area.

It promotes healing. It promotes health.

That is unless those who want to place the tourniquet on those parts of society want to create a situation where amputation is the only option in the end. And while we could not literally amputate the public school system or the environment, we can do the political equivalent – privatize them. It would allow a few select people to profit over the very institutions that our state is supposed to provide.

Think about the effects on K-12 public education, community colleges, the public university system, public assistance programs, health care, correctional facilities, transportation, economic development, parks and recreation, environmental projects, state police forces, and aid to local governments.

You place a tourniquet on those items and you stagnate the growth of a state whose population is growing. And when the bone structure cannot handle the weight of a growing body, then… well you can imagine.

Proponents of the amendment to cap income taxes will tout that it means more money for people to spend on their own. It would allow for people to have more choices within their power. But unless you can send your students to private schools, have your own libraries and media outlets, pay for all out of pocket medical expenditures, hire your own security team, have your own environmental control, or set up your own recreational facilities, then you may be out of luck.

Even John Hood of the John Locke Foundation, a self-professed “conservatarian,” expounded on the role of the state in keeping a strong infrastructure. He said in his op-ed “How to read this column” printed in the June 19th , 2016 edition of the Winston-Salem Journal(http://www.journalnow.com/opinion/columnists/john-hood-how-to-read-this-column/article_1b7789ac-1fcf-5389-a6be-eca653d233bc.html) ,

“So I believe government should (and always will) exist to protect individual rights and to finance certain core services that, because of collective-action problems, will not be adequately provided through purely voluntary means. At the state and local level, those services include public safety and health, education and some infrastructure.”

And to place a cap on state income tax as being proposed would hurt the ability for the state to finance those “core services”.

Ironic that people who are pushing for this cap are public officials elected by the public who seem more interested in placing a tourniquet on the very services that they are sworn to protect and provide the public.

Actually, it isn’t ironic, but rather consistent and predictable.

Just look at what has happened in the last six years here in North Carolina.

So tell Tillman, Arp, Barefoot, ORabon that this is nothing more than surreptitious politics. Let them know this is not good.

And vote it down in November.

Dear NCGA, Where is the $730 Million You Owe Us? Signed, North Carolina School Districts

As the midterms approach and partisan electioneering is ramping up, there is one particular item that hopefully voters will not forget when deciding to cast a ballot in November, especially if public education is a focal point for making a decision.

On Aug. 1st, the News and Observer ran a report entitled “Give us the $730 million you owe us — NC schools taking state leaders to court.” It begins,

North Carolina school districts are going back to court to try to enforce a 10-year old court decision ordering state leaders to turn over nearly $750 million that was improperly withheld from public schools.

In 2008, Wake County Superior Court Judge Howard Manning ordered the state to turn over $747.9 million in civil fines that should have been given to public schools over a nine-year period. With only $18 million provided so far, the N.C. School Boards Association and 20 school boards filed a new lawsuit Wednesday in Wake County Superior Court to get the state to meet its state constitutional obligation to provide the remaining $730 million” (https://www.newsobserver.com/news/politics-government/article215827195.html).

Interestingly enough, “the money can only be used for technology and would be split among all of the state’s school districts based on how many students they have.

And that would be welcome money for so many school systems because of outdated technology. Yes, many in Raleigh will brag that we as a state are one of the first to connect all school systems to the internet, but it takes good equipment to navigate those information highways. Plus, to service and update as needed costs much.

Take a look at the following tables for the breakdown of that money according to each school system. It was compiled by red4ednews.com and is a website that each public school advocate should bookmark for useful and insightful information.

money1money2money3

One might argue that it can only be used for technology. But think of how much money could be used in other high need areas that might have already been designated in local budgets for technology. It can now be used elsewhere.

Of course the Tim Moore’s and Phil Berger’s of Raleigh will point out the fact that those court decision was made before the current powers that be came into office.

“The judgment was reached against Democrat lawmakers over a decade ago as they were slashing education spending by over $700 million in two years, furloughing teachers and cutting their pay, but since that time Republican leaders in the state General Assembly made schools their top priority by doubling K-12’s share of new state spending and increasing total public education appropriations by nearly $3 billion a year,” Joseph Kyzer, a spokesman for House Speaker Tim Moore, said in a written statement.

That explanation would be a lot more digestible if they could explain the effects of the Great Recession.

Furthermore, bragging about having already funded the class size mandate when clearly they have not and allowing per pupil expenditure to remain stagnated complicates the digestibility of their claims.

Wake County just had a $25 million dollar shortfall in their upcoming budget. According to the table above, they are owed three times as much. In the N&O report, there is a link to the actual filed lawsuit – all 18 pages.

lawsuit

One of the defendants named is Mark Johnson. But don’t worry, he is all about giving out technology with recent news that he magically found funds to purchase a lot of iPads for k-3 reading teachers.

With this money, he could almost by one for every student in the state. But each county’s needs are different which is why if they got the money supposedly owed to them, they could do what the saw fit to do. And wasn’t one of Johnson’s mantras in the past election to give more control to LEA’s?

The fact that current lawmakers like Moore and Berger argue that this should have been taken care of in 2009 is in itself an admission of guilt; they are trying to defend their not holding up an obligation with what they perceive as sins from the past.

Their inaction now is a real sin in the present.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Malcolm is Ready for Titan Athletics – The Village Opens This Week

Classes may not start for another couple of weeks and teachers will be in classrooms for pre-planning beginning Thursday, but…

the Village is open.

Football. Soccer. Volleyball. Women’s Tennis. Field Hockey. Cross-Country. Women’s Golf. Cheerleading. Dance Team.

The summer camps. The scrimmages. The workouts. The practices.

Now go out and support them. All of them. And I mean that for all public schools because athletics are part of the very fabric that keeps schools and surrounding communities together.

All of the money that buys admission tickets, concessions, and raffle tickets goes right back into the schools to help students and athletes get better at what they do.

And buy some of the spirit wear.

This kid is ready to be on the sidelines. Wears a Titan shirt most every day.

See you at the games.

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