Devaluing Veteran Teachers – Looking at the Proposed NCGA Salary Schedule for 2019-2020

Want to see how this NCGA values its teachers, especially its veterans?

Below is the proposed salary schedule just released this week for 2019-2020.

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Look at it this way. For the first 15 years of a career in NC, a teacher will receive a 1,000 raise for each year. It will go from $35,000 to $50,000.

In Years 16-20, a teacher will make $50,500 – each year. No raises within that time. And a $500 raise overall compared to Year 15.

In Years 21-24, a teacher will make $51,500 – each year. No raises within that time. That’s a $1,500 raise compared to Year 15 and a $1,000 raise compared to Year 20.

In Years 25+, a teacher will make $52,600 – for the rest of his/her career.

Granted, that schedule may change in the next year or years, but it proves one thing: this NCGA does not value veteran teachers.

Look at the salary schedule above just based on raises.

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Now consider there is no longer longevity pay and that all teachers now coming into the profession in NC will be on an “A” certificate because of the removal of graduate pay.

And the consider this.

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This NCGA budget proposal is a slap in the face of veteran teachers.

 

Mark Johnson, Where is Your !@#$%^& Transparency?

“Urgency.” “Status-Quo.” “Innovation.” “Transparency.”

Of all the words that Mark Johnson claims to not only talk about but adhere to in his actions, the word “transparency” seems a lot more murky of late when it pertains to DPI’s actions.

He talks about “transparency” with school report cards.

This brand-new website provides the transparency parents and educators need into the characteristics and performance of North Carolina’s public schools, all in an easy-to-use format,” said Mark Johnson, North Carolina State Superintendent on December 5, 2017 concerning the school report card system.

And with how money is spent.

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And it is stated in the budget that passed last year through a nuclear option…

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And it is one of his chief overall goals.

One of our goals is greater transparency,” State Superintendent of Public Instruction Mark Johnson said in a statement on April 16, 2019.

And it is one of his defining buzzwords.

Throughout the interview, Johnson frequently returned to his often-used talking points, promising to bring urgency, ownership, innovation and transparency to the state’s education system. He also spoke about his past and how that has shaped his beliefs about public education” – from a Sept. 2017 interview covered by WRAL.com.

So when it pertains to iStation and how DPI came to recommend it and how those iPads were acquired, where is the transparency?

When it comes to how decisions are now made in DPI since the reorg and the elimination of positions that report to the state board as well, where is the transparency?

And when it comes to engaging teachers in large numbers who come specifically to Raleigh to question policies, where is the transparency?

If anyone should practice what he/she preaches, then it should be a teacher because students are constantly watching.

Mark Johnson claims to have been a teacher. And people in this state are watching.

 

Privatization, a Petri Dish, And a Possible Patsy – A Look at North Carolina Public Education

Long before Mark Johnson was elected state superintendent, people like Phil Berger and those he controlled began to institute “reforms” into public education without fear of reprisal.

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 in 2011 and continue to champion today is making 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.

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These “reforms” are not original – just maybe some adjustments to make them especially “effective” in North Carolina.

Vouchers are certainly not an NC original, but the fact that the Opportunity Grants are the least transparent voucher system in the country was intentionally determined in Raleigh and most of the money from vouchers goes to religious schools.

The School Performance Grading system came from Florida. Make the formula favor test scores over student growth and then it becomes the North Carolina version. The Read to Achieve model also comes from Florida and has led to a number of interesting purchases and use of money like six million dollars in iPads for reading teachers. The latest scandal with iStation centers around Read to Achieve as well.

Charter School growth has gone rather wild with the number of charter schools doubling in the last few years and many of them are operated by out-of-state entities.

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The Educational Savings Accounts for special needs students is more deregulated than most others in the nation and other states who use it report rampant abuse of the money.

Business model reforms have helped to guide policy on teacher pay with unsuccessful initiatives involving merit pay and bonuses for a select few.

North Carolina now has more than 50 standardized tests given to its students and all high schoolers have to take an administration of the ACT even if they are not college bound.

The push to “innovate” and “personalize” learning has led to more technology in the classrooms that seems to take away students from engagement with a professional teacher. Again, look at iStation and the virtual pre-school idea set forth by Rep. Craig Horn.

And then there was HB17 that was “passed” in a special session of the North Carolina General Assembly after the 2016 elections and before the new terms began. That bill gave the office of the state superintendent more power over the public school system than any previous state superintendent had and removed part of the checks and balances that the state board of education provided.

In short, it was a power grab. And that new state super, Mark Johnson, walked into the office with more power than any predecessor. He also had by far the least experience of any in public school administration.

And Mark Johnson was not given this power to champion the public schools; he is there to champion those entities that want to weaken public schools and allow more private entities to take a foothold in North Carolina such as charter schools.

He is there to keep the Petri Dish that is North Carolina full of “reforms.”

The state board did not go easily after HB17. For the next 18 months Mark Johnson and the SBOE fought in court over control of the public school system. Johnson “won” in a state that has seen the NCGA try everything in its power to gain a stronghold of the judicial branch of the state government. After that win, Johnson reorganized DPI into its own silos.

That reorg made sure that Mark Johnson was in complete control of what happened in DPI without having to answer fully to the State Board of Education.

It also made sure that Phil Berger retained control of public education in North Carolina because it is more than apparent that the neophyte currently serving as the state superintendent is under the control of Berger.

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But what happens if there is some sort of push back against what is happening in educational policy here in North Carolina? It goes against the person whose name is affixed in the head office at DPI: Mark Johnson.

It is Johnson who sends the emails, glossy flyers, and video messages concerning what is happening in NC education.

It is Johnson holding invitation only dinners for delivering news on public schools like TeachNC and #NC2030.

It is Johnson who has to attend the NC State Board of Education meetings.

It is Johnson who gets to deliver news to area superintendents like the following at the superintendents’ quarterly meeting in Asheville this week:

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(That is an actual tweet from a school system superintendent).

Berger is in a position to break that association with Johnson if he needs to distance himself. But the converse is not true.

It makes one think though. What happens if there is a democrat who is elected state superintendent in 2019? Does Berger try and hold a special session to withdraw the powers extended to the office of the state super that came with HB 17?

That’s not a rhetorical question.

The elections for 2020 can not come soon enough because it’s time that this “experiment” of dismantling public education in North Carolina stops.

 

 

 

 

 

 

“One Tweet to Rule Them All” – Lt. Gov. Dan Forest’s Education Policies in One Picture

If anyone has any doubts as to the educational policies that Dan Forest would champion if he were to be elected governor, then this picture that was tweeted out this week should remove those doubts.

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This from the man who tried to pass along the raising of teachers’ salaries through private donations. One of those ways was with with license plates that honored teachers an idea shared by Forest in 2015.

The plates were to look like this.

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The demand never reached 500 to start the production.

HB499 – A Bill to Bring More Guns Into Schools?

In February of 2018, Rep. Larry Pittman offered his own legislative opinion on how to increase school safety in out public school system.

As reported by the Associated Press on Feb. 16, 2018,

A North Carolina lawmaker says allowing teachers to bring guns to school would save lives in situations such as the deadly school shooting in Florida.

The News & Observer of Raleigh reports Republican State Rep. Larry Pittman of Cabarrus County told colleagues Thursday that he met with a police officer who wants to talk to lawmakers about training school personnel.

And earlier in 2019, he introduced more legislation to allow the schools to arm teachers.

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While that particular did not gain traction, another one has been filed that would still bring more guns into the schools under the guise of “safety.”

It is HB499.

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It is an omnibus bill. Still on the table.

Twenty-seven pages of changes to gun laws.

And one of them is this:

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On page 19 – “Subject to the condition set forth in subsection (m) of this section, a volunteer school faculty guardian, while on the grounds of the school the person is employed by or assigned to, who meets all of the following requirements:”

The first criteria is “16 hours of active shooter training.”

16 hours is the equivalent of two workdays.

Teachers have a whole week of “workdays” before schools open for the new academic year. That’s the equivalent of 40 hours.

Not only is this a horrible idea, but to put it into an omnibus bill is careless.

And the ironic part of this bill is that Rep. Pittman is not one of the main sponsors.

He’s too busy re-writing history – “NC Republican argues with Tillis wife, compares Lincoln, Hitler.” 

 

Thank You Sen. Berger – NC Schools From 2011 to 2018 Went From 19th to 40th

According to the 2011 Education Week Quality Counts Report, North Carolina’s public school system ranked 19th out of 50 states and D.C.

Then Sen. Phil Berger and others of his ilk decided to “reform” public education in NC.

They did the following (and more):

  • revamped the teacher pay scale
  • removed due-process rights for newer teachers
  • removed graduate degree pay for newer teachers
  • instituted bonus / merit pay
  • gave out uneven “average” raises
  • eliminated longevity pay
  • removed retiree health benefits for new hires after 2021
  • attacked teacher advocacy groups
  • increased standardized tests
  • gave ACT more power over how schools are measured
  • passed HB17 and gave state superintendent new powers
  • financed a lawsuit between state superintendent and state board
  • reorganized DPI
  • kept per-pupil expenditures low
  • removed class size cap
  • instituted a school performance grading system
  • cut teacher assistants
  • created a voucher system
  • deregulated charter schools
  • removed charter school caps
  • enabled virtual charter schools
  • created an ISD
  • eliminated the Teacher Fellow program and revived it as a small version of its former self
  • allowed a municipal charter school bill to pass

According to the 2018 Education Week Quality Counts Report, North Carolina’s public school system ranked 40th out of 50 states and D.C.

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Remember The March Last Year? It’s a Big Reason This Year’s Budget Can’t Go Nuclear

After thousands of teachers and education advocates marched on Raleigh on May 16th  of 2018 calling for better treatment of public schools, the GOP super-majority invoked what was akin to a “nuclear” option in passing its budget. Rather than allowing for debate on matters of money from elected representatives and the opportunity of amendments, Phil Berger and Tim Moore had the budget voted on in committee.

It is commonly speculated that this maneuver was exercised because of the teacher rally and to avert dialogue that would force them to show their hypocrisy on the treatment of teachers and traditional public schools.

Ironic that one of the very items in that budget was “transparency.”

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But it is commonly thought that that march helped raise awareness in the 2018 election cycle and helped to defeat the supermajority.

And something is different this year.

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Now they have to talk about it. Openly.

And debate.

 

The Head of DPI is Not Mark Johnson – He’s Just the Most Enabled Man in Raleigh

Consider this – a corporate attorney who taught for two school years through a program that historically does not place many long term teachers into the public schools and who did not complete a full term as a school board member was elected in the most contentious election year in recent memory to become state superintendent.

After he was elected and before he took office, he was granted more power as a state superintendent by a gerrymandered legislature in a special session that was thought to be called to repeal HB2. He has spent more than half his entire term “embroiled” in a legal battle with the state board of education that was controlled by the same political party and literally was (still is) a non-public figure while budgets expand vouchers, keep charter schools from being regulated, stagnate per pupil expenditures for traditional public schools, and cut the budgets for the very department he is supposed to run.

All on the taxpayers’ dime.

Remember what Phil Berger had to say about Johnson in 2017 when Johnson won his initial round in courts with the state board?

“Voters elected Superintendent Mark Johnson based on his platform of strengthening our state’s public schools, and I’m pleased the court recognized the constitutionality of the law and that our superintendent should be able to execute the platform voters elected him to do”

There’s a tremendous amount of smug irony in that statement. Why? Because what voters elected Johnson to do was based on the job description that at the time was associated with the state superintendent’s job. What power Johnson now has was augmented by Berger and his cronies after Johnson was elected in a wave of conservative electoral victory.

If it was so important for the state superintendent to have new power over the public school system that was originally in the hands of the state board of education, then should not have each preceding state superintendent been given the same power?

Apparently not. Because each preceding state superintendent was much more qualified to be such than Johnson is. Each preceding state superintendent would have fought against the measures that have been enabled, enacted, and empowered by the current NCGA because that would have been in the best interests of the traditional public school system.

Especially June Atkinson. But Dr. Atkinson was no puppet for the NCGA.

Mark Johnson is.

When Berger stated that Johnson was elected on “his platform of strengthening our state’s public schools,” what he really inferred was that Johnson was going to allow “reformers” like Berger to strengthen charter schools and voucher programs – initiatives that actually hurt traditional public schools.

And it is a little sadistically humorous that a man (Berger) who has championed a variety of policies that have been ruled unconstitutional (gerrymandered districts, Voter ID law, etc.) would brag about upholding the constitutionality of the law. That same man also pushed to not extend Medicaid in this state when so many people needed it and the very hospital in his hometown of Eden filed for bankruptcy.

Consider the reorganization that occurred at DPI last summer after the final decision of the lawsuit between the state board and Mark Johnson.

Below is what it was prior to the new reorganization.

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This is what it looks like now.

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The first thing to notice is that on the older chart some positions were titled with ALL CAPS and had a thicker border surrounding them. That meant that these people were Dual-Report Positions. In short, they answered to both the state board and to Johnson. However, that went away on July 1, 2018.

What that means is that those people who held (or hold now) those positions not only answer to Johnson alone, but he has total control over what they do (or the person who controls Johnson), A man with less than two calendar years of teacher training and classroom experience combined along with an unfinished term on a local school board now “calls” the shots for all of those veterans in a DPI whose budget is being slashed by the very people who prop up Johnson.

Also in the older chart, Johnson reports to the state board. In the new one, the state board of education does not even really have any ties to DPI except through an internal auditor. It’s like they do not exist, which is just what the powers that run the NCGA wanted.

Have you ever seen Mark Johnson rally for traditional public schools? Have you ever seen him actually go to a large group of teachers and hold himself accountable? Has he ever gone in front of a group of superintendents and held himself accountable?

That’s because Johnson seems to only do the bidding of one person: Phil Berger.

In actuality the organizational chart at DPI looks more like this:

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The state of North Carolina needs an educational leader to lead the public school system – a person not afraid to confront a the likes of Phil Berger and instruct him that he has been abusing the system. We need someone who will fight for the public schools and place principles before personalities.

What we have now is a weak, ineffective, timid individual who does the bidding of one person who has sought to dismantle the public school system to open it up to “reforms” that benefit a very few.

 

The NCGA Needs The Economics and Financial Literacy Class More Than Students – Concerning SB 681

Senate Bill 681 is entitled the “Rural Health Care Stabilization Act.” It is a bill that provides an $18 million dollar “bailout” for rural hospitals in financial peril outside of the UNC Healthcare system that have been affected by the stalemating of certain NCGA lawmakers in expanding Medicaid.

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Simply put, people like Sen. Phil Berger and Sen. Jerry Tillman want to spend 18 million dollars of taxpayer money to “help” a small number of rural hospitals with a “Band-Aid” when simply expanding Medicaid that would be of no cost to NC taxpayers would benefit every rural hospital greatly and provide healthcare benefits for half a million people in the state.

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And as a state we are already paying into the Medicaid national funds. Expanding Medicaid in NC would simply keep some of that money here in NC to help North Carolinians and rural hospitals.

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So, should we spend 18 million dollars to bail out maybe a couple of rural hospitals for a short time and keep people without healthcare benefits or expand Medicaid at no more expense to the state and cover another 500,000 North Carolinians and help all rural hospitals stay open?

That is a question that should never have to be asked, but we have many in power who place personalities before principles.

Actually Mark Johnson Needs The Economics & Financial Literacy Class

With news that an economics and personal finance class could possibly be mandatory for NC public school students and course standards for that class would be developed by DPI, it seems that maybe the very person running DPI might practice his own “financial literacy” and provide a more positive model.

  1. Johnson called for an audit of the Department of Public Education. And that million dollar audit to find wasteful spending actually showed that DPI was underfunded.
  2. Johnson’s reorganization of DPI came after he won an empty lawsuit against the state board over having more powers over the DPI budget. That lawsuit lasted until the second summer of his term.
  3.  Johnson seemed rather complicit with the legislature cutting the budget for DPI while he was actually taking taxpayer money to fight the state school board over the power grab that the NCGA did in a special session that gave him control over elements of the school system that the voting public did not actually elect him to have.
  4. Johnson allocated almost $5 million to early grade literacy for the Read to Achieve Initiative.  Remember that $200 dollars for each reading teacher int eh state? That money was part of funds originally provided in 2016, yet its allocation in 2018 was something that Johnson seemed to want to get credit for.
  5. Johnson bought 6 million dollars worth of iPads for some teachers. They never requested them. And the money came from where?
  6. Johnson supported both the extensions and renewed investment of two failed initiatives: Read to Achieve and the NC Virtual Charter Schools.
  7. Johnson championed the Innovative School District which to date has one school. One. With its own superintendent.
  8. Johnson has dispersed countless glossy flyers. Those very flyers spread rather debatable “facts.” And gloss costs a lot.
  9. Johnson made a unilateral decision to replace a reading program that schools invested lots of money in just this year. The decision he made to replace mClass with iStation was against the recommendations of state experts and wastes any investment in the previous program.

Just some thoughts.

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