Irony Makes The World Go ‘Round: “Budget impasse frustrates preparation for financial literacy course requirement”

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If Rep. Craig Horn could literally step back and truly listen to what he says in this article in the Carolina Journal, then he just might have an idea of what it is like to be the public school system in North Carolina for the past eight years.

Rep. Craig Horn, R-Union, said the financial literacy course requirement doesn’t need the budget to be law. But without a budget, implementing the requirement will be more difficult.

“The bottom line is we can limp along with the financial literacy requirement, but it would be very challenging and possibly impossible for some [school districts],” Horn said. “Many of our public high schools already offer a financial literacy course, and they could enroll more students in the course.”

But, Horn said, that could put a significant burden on the state’s teaching corps, as the state lacks enough qualified teachers to implement the requirement in every public high school.

Horn said some financial institutions across the state have indicated a willingness to help provide training, funds, or teaching materials for a serious course in financial literacy. But what the law — and the state — really needs is a budget, Horn said.

“The lack of an enacted budget is devastating to our state and our future,” Horn said. “The governor and the General Assembly must set aside political differences and get the budget bill into law.”

Says the man who allowed for a budget last summer to be passed through a committee so that no amendments or debate could take place.

 

Being a Teacher Who Lives With a “Special -Needs” Child

I am the proud parent of  two children. One is a highly intelligent and academically driven young lady who looks like her mother. The other one is what some in the educational field might call “special.”

He looks like his mother as well.

Specifically, that child has Down Syndrome and is on the autism spectrum and needs modifications in school that help him to learn optimally.

Some may say that I am the parent of a Special-Ed, DS-ASD child.

I rather think of being a parent of a child named Malcolm who happens to have an IEP.

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And both my kids are special to me.

I also teach high school coming into contact with as many different personalities and learning styles that can possibly be contained in overcrowded classrooms with overarching standards.

In my twenty-year career, nothing has made me more attuned and more aware of the spectrum that exists in all classrooms for learning than being a parent of a child who happens to have DS-ASD and needs modifications in school.

That includes:

  • The need to keep engaging and reengaging students.
  • The need to have individual tie with students to focus on individual work.
  • The need to allow students to engage with each other collaboratively.
  • The need to allow students to be exposed to various options for learning.
  • The need to expose students to other students’ methods.
  • The need for sufficient resources and space.
  • The need to revisit parts of the curriculum to ensure mastery.
  • The need for unstructured time spent in curious endeavors.
  • The need to offer some choices in what is pursued as far as learning is concerned.
  • The need for students to be exposed to all subject areas as each student is intelligent is multiple ways.
  • The need for students to have self-guided learning.
  • And the list goes on and on.

And in my twenty-year career, not many things have given me insight to how much schools in North Carolina have been hampered by under-funding and ill-gotten policies in allotment for teachers as going through an IEP process.

Remember that an IEP is a legally binding document. As a parent, I want to do everything for my child to help ensure his chances at success. As a teacher, I would want to be able to offer anything that could help a student. I see both sides. In an IEP meeting for my son, I am a parent. But as a teacher, I can reflect on how teachers and schools look at IEP’s.

The last IEP meeting we had for Malcolm was a great example of simple collaboration. The teachers in the room wanted what was best for Malcolm. The specialists in the room wanted was was best for Malcolm. The parents felt like they were listened to.

The people made it work. But imagine if there were more resources and time at their disposal. And does this happen at all schools? What we got in out last meeting was a way to look at Malcolm in a holistic way.

When you live with a child who happens to have special needs, you learn to celebrate tiny victories that mark moments of growth. But before you can do that you have to learn what those moments of growth really are. You have to learn how to be more “holistic” in your approach to “assessing” what is learned and mastered.

When you live with a child who happens to have special needs, you learn to not necessarily compare your child with others. Nothing could be more self-defeating. What you learn to do is to relate with other parents and teach your child to relate to others. If any comparison needs to go on, then compare what you once were to what you would like to be.

That “special” child that I live with probably has taught me more about teaching because I think that it is my job to help each student grow. If there is growth, the achievement comes.

What we have in the bureaucratic view of public education that exists in government buildings is a mindset bent on comparison, narrow in its scope, and focused on a product rather than a process. That mindset also depersonalizes students and looks at formulas to set policy on class size, resources, and what it means to have “learned.”

My child who happens to have DS-ASD and needs modification in school could teach these people so much.

Just don’t take away from his play time.

Or his baseball hats, specifically his Titan baseball hats.

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Before We Challenge Books, We Should Be Challenged By Them – In Defense of Being Uncomfortable And What Toni Morrison Taught Me

 

Toni Morrison passed this past week. She was the first African-American woman to win the Nobel Prize for Literature and what she did (and still does) for this white, upper middle class male teacher is something that I will always value as a life-long student: she made me understand that I don’t understand.

And she made me uncomfortable in my own skin to the point it still forces me to take a hard objective look at myself, my actions, and how I treat others. She also makes me look at the past through different lenses, especially my upbringing in a small rural town in Georgia.

Tomi Morrison was the author of some of the most banned and challenged books in American libraries and classrooms. From a February, 2016 article by Micheal Schaub in the Los Angeles Times:

Maybe they should call it Toni Morrison week. In 2016, Banned Books Week will spotlight works by authors of color. And Morrison, winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature, is one of the authors of color whose works are now most banned and challenged.

Morrison’s “The Bluest Eye” was in the top 10 most challenged books in 2014 (the most recent year for which data are available) and 2013. In 2012, it was her novel “Beloved.” In 2006, both “The Bluest Eye” and “Beloved” made the top 10. During the decade prior, a tally of the 100 most banned and challenged books has three Morrison titles: “The Bluest Eye” at No. 32, “Beloved” at No. 45 and “Song of Solomon” at No. 84.

In a news release, the American Library Association said that estimates indicate that more than half of challenged or banned books are from non-white writers. The group says this year’s Banned Books Week “will celebrate literature written by diverse writers that have been banned or challenged, as well as explore why diverse books are being disproportionately singled out in the first place.”

Other books by writers of color that are perennial targets are Sherman Alexie’s “The Absolutely True Diary of A Part-Time Indian,” Alice Walker’s “The Color Purple,” Khaled Hosseini’s “The Kite Runner,” Rudolfo Anaya’s “Bless Me Ultima” and Maya Angelou’s “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings.”

That town I grew up in Georgia? It’s just 25 miles from where Alice Walker grew up, and I had the privilege of taking one of Maya Angelou’s classes while attending Wake Forest University.

Experiences reading both and actually interacting with one challenged me as a student, but especially as a teacher in public schools whose students come from a wide range of experiences and backgrounds and are experts of where they have come from. That means I always have to be willing to learn and listen and be challenged, and sometimes be uncomfortable.

Thinking about how Toni Morrison’s books have been challenged reminded me of a post I had in December of 2016. My view has not changed.

From that post:

News that a Virginia school district recently pulled its copies of To Kill a Mockingbird and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn from all of its classrooms and school libraries is another disturbing sign of what might be part of what divides America so much as evidenced by the recent presidential election: the fear of being challenged by what others have to say.

Of course, I am biased on the issue of banning books and removing them from circulation in libraries in schools based on the concerns of one or a couple of parents. I am a high school English teacher who teaches AP classes. It infringes on censorship in my mind, especially if that book has been a staple in American schools for quite a while such as Harper Lee’s classic and Twain’s iconic work.

Now, that does not mean that I want all students to read Portnoy’s Complaint by Philip Roth or Lolita by Nabokov, but great literature is meant to be an exploration of sorts into the perspective of society in which the book was written.

It’s sort of like an archaeological dig into the past that allows us to experience how society viewed itself, viewed others, and what society held dear. It also teaches us how we have changed, whether for the better or for the worse. Great literature is meant to challenge us on a variety of levels.

  • If you want to read how the Industrial Revolution and the rise of cities began to change the nuclear family, then read Dickens.
  • If you want to see how the rise of the atomic age and Communism changed our perception as a society, then read Bradbury, Huxley, or Orwell.
  • If you want to see how the role of women in society has been more of a battle for equality than we would like to admit as a country, then read Chopin and then pick up some Atwood.

Great social movements tend to be preceded by works of literature and music that allow for ideas of thought and emotion to be expressed and take root. Look at the Harlem Renaissance and the subsequent Civil Rights Movement. Less than half a century after the Civil Rights Act, we elected our first minority president.

I distinctly remember in 2013 one parent in Randolph County, NC complained about Invisible Man, arguably the most famous novel from the Harlem Renaissance. The school board removed it from the schools for a short while. From NPR.org:

“A North Carolina county voted this week to ban Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man from school libraries. The Asheboro Courier-Tribune reports that the decision followed a complaint from a parent, who called the novel “too much for teenagers.” The decision was 5-2, with one board member claiming, “I didn’t find any literary value.” The 1952 novel, which won the National Book Award, is among the most famous novels dealing with black identity — and black invisibility — in America. The famous opening lines of the novel read, “I am an invisible man. No, I am not a spook like those who haunted Edgar Allan Poe; nor am I one of your Hollywood-movie ectoplasms. I am a man of substance, of flesh and bone, fiber and liquids — and I might even be said to possess a mind. I am invisible, understand, simply because people refuse to see me.”

My first argument is if the book itself is too much for teenagers, then teenagers are in for a rude awakening when they as teenagers go off on their own in the world of college or the work force.

Just look at the news today.

However, my second inclination is to ask the parent and that school board member who made the comment about literary value of Ellison’s (or even Morrison’s) work if either had actually read the book.

And allowed the book to challenge him/her.

Great literature teaches us about ourselves, especially the parts of ourselves that we do not want to acknowledge but that control how we perceive others and how we treat others. And in a nation where many hold the Second Amendment and guns with as much fervor as it does the Bible (which by the way is one of the most challenged books in the country), should we not also look at the First Amendment and its protection of the freedom of speech as dearly?

The very man who is the president of the United States freely exercises his right for freedom of speech through his Twitter account. He exercises that right because he can.

Do I agree with him? Hardly ever. And that’s my right. But having read great works of literature challenges me and forces me to have difficult and uncomfortable, yet peaceful, confrontations with issues and society.

I do not believe that our current president is willing to be challenged and be uncomfortable. I think part of the reason is that he doesn’t read. And what I mean by that is that he does not allow himself to be challenged by the words, the actions, the viewpoints, and the events that have shaped this country. In fact, when he “writes” his books, he has someone do it for him.

Take a look at this report from a 2013 issue of The Week entitled “America’s most surprising banned books.”

It includes: Tarzan, the DictionaryCharlotte’s Web, Anne Frank’s account of her hiding, The Lorax, “Little Red Riding Hood”, Eric Carle’s Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? and Twelfth Night by Shakespeare.

You need to read it. And if you are going to challenge works of literature based on sexual imagery, then that would eliminate almost all of Shakespeare except Julius Caesar, but that has people washing the hands in the blood of a murder victim, soothsayers, and talking ghosts.

Maybe the fact Toni Morrison is one of the most challenged and banned authors is a statement that our society is afraid to look at itself through the eyes of others who have lived lives along different paths. That fear leads to division and that division manifests itself in so many ways, including violence.

This country desperately needs to learn about itself and listen to those whose viewpoints and experiences and words can challenge us to be better than we were yesterday and better than we are today.

This country needs to be a country of learners.

And Toni Morrison was and still is a great teacher.

 

 

iStation’s “Red Cape” & The Handmaid’s Tale

One of the best ways to gather a pulse of what is happening in the public education world of North Carolina is to follow the Twitter feeds of educational journalists, researchers, writers, teachers, and bloggers.

That includes following Greg Flynn. Today he tweeted:

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Full credit where credit is due. His tweet is the impetus for this post, but it would not be as much if I were not also an English teacher who will be teaching one section of AP English Literature and Composition this coming school year.

And I plan on teaching The Handmaid’s Tale. Its relevance to today’s cultural dialogue cannot be denied and Margaret Atwood is a living legend in modern literature. She should be strongly considered for a Nobel Prize. And as a father of a teenage daughter about to embark on life after secondary schooling, it is important to hear voices that are not coming from canonized white men.

iStation’s use of a red cape as part of its logo can not be mistaken. Nor can its wanting to expand its reach as a brand in the world of personalized learning in a day and age where so many in power turn to technology for technology’s sake.

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No, iStation did not deliberately use a red cape with knowledge of the symbolism The Handmaid’s Tale. What it had in mind was probably more akin to superheroes like Superman and Dr. Strange who wear red capes. “Use our program and see students soar into another realm of learning. They will become their own superheroes.”

But it is not a simply twist of irony that allows Flynn to make the link between iStation’s red cape to Atwood’s iconic wardrobe placement in her dystopian novel.

Why? Because that red cloak in The Handmaid’s Tale is becoming a rather visible symbol for social movements, particularly women’s reproductive rights.

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Read Atwood’s work and you will quickly understand her commentary on gender and social power. The Hulu series that currently is in its fourth season strikes many a nerve and has a wide audience.

Art represents life. As it always has.

iStation’s CEO Richard H. Collins is a rather big political donor. Below is a snapshot of an OpenSecrets.org profile of his giving.

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That money is probably not going to candidates and PACs that support a woman’s choice in her reproductive rights.

And those Cease & Desist letters that were given out by iStation’s legal representation in North Carolina were meant to silence people. Keep them from talking.

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Seem to have seen that before.

Our Public Schools Are Better Than The North Carolina General Assembly Wants You to Believe

Our public schools are better than many lawmakers portray them to be – lawmakers who have never spent time as educators.

A lot better. And the problem is not the schools. The problem is the lawmaking body that controls the narrative of how schools are performing.

With the constant dialogue that “we must improve schools” and the “need to implement reforms,” it is imperative that we as a taxpaying public seek to understand all of the variables in which schools are and can be measured, and not all of them are quantifiable.

And not all of them are reported or allowed to be seen.

Betsy DeVos’s March, 2018 assertion on 60 Minutes that America’s schools have seen no improvement despite the billions and billions of dollars thrown at them was a nearsighted, close minded, and rather uneducated assessment of public schools because she was displaying two particular characteristics of lawmakers and politicians who are bent on delivering a message that public schools are not actually working.

The first is the insistence that “they” know education better than those who actually work in education. DeVos has no background in statistical analysis, administration, or teaching. The second is the calculated spin of evidence and/or the squashing of actual truth.

The premise of DeVos’s argument was the performance of US students on the PISA exam. She was trying to control how the public saw the results. She framed the context to promote a narrative that her “reforms” were the only solutions.

What she did not say was that:

  • “The U.S. average performance appears to be relatively low partly because we have so many more test takers from the bottom of the social class distribution.”
  • “A sampling error in the U.S. administration of the most recent international (PISA) test resulted in students from the most disadvantaged schools being over-represented in the overall U.S. test-taker sample.”
  • “Conventional ranking reports based on PISA make no adjustments for social class composition or for sampling errors.”
  • “If U.S. adolescents had a social class distribution that was similar to the distribution in countries to which the United States is frequently compared, average reading scores in the United States would be higher than average reading scores in the similar post-industrial countries we examined (France, Germany, and the United Kingdom), and average math scores in the United States would be about the same as average math scores in similar post-industrial countries.”
  • “On average, and for almost every social class group, U.S. students do relatively better in reading than in math, compared to students in both the top-scoring and the similar post-industrial countries.”

Those bulleted points come from a study by Richard Rothstein and Martin Carnroy entitled “What do international tests really show about U. S. student performance?” Published by the Economic Policy Institute, the researchers made a detailed report of the backgrounds of the test takers from the database compiled by the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA).

Either DeVos did not want you to know that information because it would defeat her reformist narrative or she just does not know. But when the public is not made aware, the public tends to believe those who control the dialogue.

Those who control the dialogue in North Carolina and in many other states only tell their side of the spin and neglect to talk of all of the variables that schools are and should be measured by.

Consider the following picture/graph:

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All of the external forces that affect the health of traditional public schools generally are controlled and governed by our North Carolina General Assembly, rather by the majority currently in power.

The salaries and benefits that teachers receive are mandated and controlled by the NCGA. When graduate degree pay bumps and due-process rights were removed from newer teachers, that affected recruitment of teachers. When the salary schedule became more “bottom-heavy” for newer teachers, it affected the retaining of veteran teachers.

With the changes from NCLB to RttT, from standard Course of Study to Common Core, from one standardized test to another, and from one curriculum revision to another, the door of public school “requirements” has become an ever-revolving door. Add to that the fact that teachers within the public schools rarely get to either help create or grade those very standardized tests.

North Carolina still spends less on per-pupil expenditures than it did since before the Great Recession when adjusted for inflation. Who has control of that? The North Carolina General Assembly.

Within the next ten years, NC will spend almost a billion dollars financing the Opportunity Grants, a voucher program, when there exists no empirical data showing that they actually improve student outcomes. Removing the charter school cap also has allowed more taxpayer money to go to entities that do not show any more improvement over traditional schools on average. When taxpayer money goes to vouchers and charter schools, it becomes money that is not used for the almost 85% of students who still go to traditional public schools.

And just look at the ways that schools are measured. School Performance Grades really have done nothing but show the effects of poverty. School report cards carry data that is compiled and aggregated by secret algorithms, and teacher evaluation procedures have morphed more times than a strain of the flu.

When the very forces that can so drastically affect traditional public schools are coupled with reporting protocols controlled by the same lawmaking body, how the public ends up viewing the effectiveness of traditional public schools can equally be spun.

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If test scores truly dictated the effectiveness of schools, then everyone in Raleigh in a position to affect policy should take the tests and see how they fare. If continuing to siphon taxpayer money into reforms that have not shown any empirical data of student improvement is still done, then those who push those reforms should be evaluated.

So much goes into what makes a public school effective, and yes, there are some glaring shortcomings in our schools, but when the very people who control the environment in which schools can operate make much noise about how our schools are failing us, then they might need to look in the mirror to identify the problem.

Because in so many ways our schools are really succeeding despite those who want to reform them.

 

About That “Is it time to hit reset on public education in North Carolina?” Piece on EdNC.org

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Where to begin?

That recent op-ed by Bob Luebke of the Civitas Institute on EdNC.org entitled “Is it time to hit reset on public education in North Carolina?” might be one of the most condescending and intentionally ignorant a piece this public school advocate has read in quite a while.

Yes – intentionally ignorant. Why? Because in an argument that tells me that “a brief history lesson is in order” in what has happened since the 1970’s in public education and literally does not even glean the issues of civil rights, desegregation, and gender inequality and still holds a moral high ground with a condescending tone is being intentionally ignorant.

Forget that the title really has nothing to do with the rest of the argument.

It starts,

Opponents of school choice can be an angry lot. Their list of grievances is long; 

Maybe that should be reworded a bit.

“Opponents of my position (that is enabled with a lot of money from a wealthy benefactor) can be inconveniently tenacious defending underfunded public schools with a list of concerns that I really have no counterarguments to accept my own publications that echo other wealthy conservative think tanks.”

He continues:

Much of the anger of school choice opponents derives from a different understanding of the term “public education.” What do I mean? A brief history lesson is in order.

Luebke seems to fixate on the word “anger.” And then he says he will teach us his own version of revisionist history.

In North Carolina — as in the rest of the United States for that matter — public education means education developed, funded, controlled, and delivered by the government.

That’s what it means. But what it is in NC is education that is developed by non-educators, underfunded, controlled politically, and delivered with fewer resources and support than it was before the Great Recession.

What Luebke is doing is giving a slanted “idealized” version of what public education should be and claims that it hasn’t been achieved. What he is intentionally ignoring is that the reality of public education in North Carolina has more to do with actions by the very people his “thinktank” supports. Actions like:

  • Removal of due-process rights
  • Graduate Degree Pay Bumps Removed
  • misplaced Bonuses
  • Last in nation in Principal Pay
  • Nebulous Evaluation Tools
  • Push for Merit Pay
  • “Average” Raises that Ignore Veteran Teachers
  • Health Insurance and Benefits Attacked
  • Attacks on Teacher Advocacy Groups (NCAE)
  • Revolving Door of Standardized Tests
  • Less Money Spent per Pupil When Adjusted For Inflation
  • Remove Caps on Class Sizes
  • Jeb Bush School Grading System
  • Cutting Teacher Assistants
  • Opportunity Grants
  • Virtual Charter Schools
  • Innovation School Districts
  • Reduction of Teacher Candidates in Colleges
  • Elimination of the Teaching Fellows Program

Luebke then talks about the word “uniform.”

What does uniform mean? Today, North Carolina public schools are required to follow a standard course of study and take the same tests. Schools are financed in much the same way, possessing similar staffing and administrative policies. Of course, this is not to deny differences of degree, but the intent is to make a public-school education uniform; the same in Wilmington as it is in Asheville.

This from the same person who squawked about how school systems spent money for “supplies” when those schools were also trying to finance the resources they needed to help their students.

But it’s this part of Luebke’s op-ed that really shows his “intentional ignorance.”

For a long time, the public school system worked well for many. But about 40 years ago, things started to change. The pressures of urbanization, immigration, economic upheaval, and changing moral norms started to not only challenge the foundations of the common school ideal but also to fracture the consensus that helped to sustain public education.

This is not the time to discuss the cause and impact of the changes. Suffice it to say, as these changes occurred, parents sought out other educational options. 

The “this is not the time to discuss the cause and impact of the changes” part is a cop out. An evasion. “Suffice it to say” a way of avoiding  actually not talking about what this article should have addressed.

Luebke is avoiding talking about the 1970’s, a decade that History.com called,

“a tumultuous time. In some ways, the decade was a continuation of the 1960s. Women, African Americans, Native Americans, gays and lesbians and other marginalized people continued their fight for equality, and many Americans joined the protest against the ongoing war in Vietnam. In other ways, however, the decade was a repudiation of the 1960s. A “New Right” mobilized in defense of political conservatism and traditional family roles, and the behavior of President Richard Nixon undermined many people’s faith in the good intentions of the federal government. By the end of the decade, these divisions and disappointments had set a tone for public life that many would argue is still with us today.”

Is Leubke covertly arguing that marginalized people fighting for rights and equality forced others to seek educational avenues that would not have to deal with these societal shifts and call it the “school choice” movement?

If not, then he needs to offer more clarity. Because brushing aside a chance to “discuss the cause and impact of the changes” of what was happening 40 years ago to spur the school choice movement is an attempt to not even acknowledge it.

Luebke spends the rest of his op-ed talking about how we “drew” and “draw” hard lines between public and private.

When discussing the benefits of educated children, where the child is educated shouldn’t be as important as to why. 

“Where” and “Why?” What about “How” and “With?”

The most important thing is that, whether it be a private school or public, students are being educated.

Alright then, make each institution equally transparent on how “well” each is doing –  like the private religious schools that get voucher money.

Individuals motivated by faith and altruism started many of the first colleges, hospitals, and charities in this country. Do we say that private hospitals, because they are privately financed and managed, produce only private benefits?

Interesting he talks about private hospitals in a state where the State Treasurer literally is making moves that will force all private hospitals to consider all public sector employees “out of network.”

If a well-educated populace creates public benefits, as we are told, it matters not where the children were educated.

What he should have said is “If a well-educated populace from a fully funded public school system creates public benefits.” And what has happened in NC these last few years with voting rights acts, gerrymandering along racial lines, and not fully-funding schools has done nothing more than show how scared those in power really are of a well-educated population.

Private schools create the same social benefits as traditional public schools. Because what happens in private schools is often just as public as what goes on in many public schools, it is wrong to think public education only happens in public schools.

That needs a lot of explaining.

In fact, all of this op-ed needs a lot of explaining.

But for a guy who championed a voucher system that is by far the least transparent in the nation, unregulated charter schools that have shown to be less diverse than traditional public schools, and an educational savings account that lacks proper oversight, it is no surprise that he ends his op-ed with this platitude:

If one of our most important goals is to produce informed and educated citizens who contribute to our society and workforce, our only concern should be finding the best way of doing that. We shouldn’t care whether that involves a public or private school. When our policies recognize these realities, North Carolina will encourage education and that education will be truly public.

There it is: private schools are public schools.

It’s like multiplying both sides of an unequal equation by “0” just to make the look equal.

NCVPS Has a Solution For This Fall

Educators for the North Carolina Virtual Public School just received this email from Mark Johnson.

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Very glad a solution has been found to keep teachers in their positions and for students to have these classes available.

But I have to ask – if Johnson supposedly worked out a solution for this in a relatively short amount of time, why have we not seen a similar “urgency” in other matters that have been raised in our public schools by teachers?

Dear NCGA – For The Health Of Your Constituents, It’s Time To Take Up House Bill 184

The new deadline for hospitals to sign on to the State Treasurer’s new version of the State Health Plan has passed.

And there really is no change to the list of hospitals who are willing to accept the new reimbursement model that Folwell has presented in the same way as someone who is playing a poker game and goes “all in” with his first hand.

The UNC Health Care system has been fairly outspoken in its opposition to Folwell’s plan. From an article this week in the Winston-Salem Journal:

The second sign-up deadline for the controversial State Health Plan reimbursement contract came and went Monday with just one hospital agreeing to join during the 14-day period.

Only four out of 126 hospitals have signed the Clear Pricing Project contract backed by the SHP and state Treasurer Dale Folwell.

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UNC Health Care took a lead lobbying role with legislative leaders from both parties and Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper to get Folwell and the SHP to delay, if not halt, the contract roll out. Cooper’s office said it is reviewing the UNC Health Care proposal.

Folwell and UNC Health Care have held negotiations, including Monday.

UNC Health Care said Monday that while it has not agreed to sign the contract, “board members had a good discussion (with Folwell) and we expect to engage in additional discussions.”

“We have the same goal as Treasurer Folwell — improving the health of employees, and that is accomplished through the provision of a sustainable health plan, implemented in a transparent fashion.”

Folwell took a less diplomatic stance on the current negotiations with UNC Health Care.

“Taxpayer-owned UNC Health Care has turned down a reasonable 100% profit and boycotts its own employees, and others, in favor of secret contracts and higher costs,” Folwell said.

“We can no longer be involved in activities that are designed to restrict competition and raise prices. We look forward to partnering with UNC Health Care when they are committed to the same.”

When asked about another deadline extension, Folwell said “deadline or no deadline, our responsibility is to figure out what we are spending $3 billion of taxpayer and employee money on.”

Cynthia Charles, communications director with N.C. Healthcare Association, said Monday that “we are not aware of any other hospitals having that level of discussions” as UNC Health Care.

 

Wake Forest Baptist is not going to sign on. Duke Medicine is rumored to release its position today and that position is to not sign on. Atrium and Novant have already given a public answer.

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If Folwell is not going to extend the deadline, then he needs to lobby the NCGA, specifically Phil Berger and Tim Moore, to take House Bill 184 off of the committee table and allow the North Carolina General Assembly to vote on it.

House Bill 184

This would delay Folwell’s plan for a year and study the effects in the meantime.

It has been tabled for months by Berger and Moore, the same guys who are so adamantly against expanding Medicaid in North Carolina.

Passing HB 184 would go a long way into easing tensions in this state for the almost 750,000 people covered by the State Health Plan. If Medicaid was expanded in NC, then that would affect around another 750,000 North Carolinians.

1.5 million people.

About 15% of the entire state.

It would be interesting as well to hear how Folwell and Berger would respond to WalletHub’s recent rankings of Best and Worst States For Health Care.

wallethubwallethub2wallethub3

 

NC is next to last.

Next to last.

 

 

 

 

 

In Praise of the High School Band

band

In less than three weeks, my high school will play its first football game. In fact, before students even take a class, a game will have been played and put in the record books.

And the band will be there with them.

There is a tradition at the end of each game at our school in which the marching band plays the school’s alma mater as the players come near the stands and raise their helmets in tribute to the school and those who support them.

They stand in front of the band. The student section stands beside the band.

It is done whether the game is won or lost. And I marvel at the energy and commitment of our band and how willing they are to travel with the team.

I have also thought many times about the huge presence that our band (and for that matter, any school band) has in the culture and fabric of our school.

Well before school year even officially starts as I begin planning for the year and coming to school to secure resources and get things ready, our band and color guard is already preparing for their season.

Hours of concentrated collaboration. Months of dedicated preparation.

Their season is literally the longest of any “team” in our schools and they are a team. Think of all of the competitions, jamborees, county and regional concerts, and parades. And think of all of the games where the band has led the crowd in its mood.

I recently reread a draft of a recommendation I wrote for a band member a couple of years ago. It stated,

“We are fortunate here to have an extremely talented, motivated faculty and student body. Our school rates extremely well academically and our athletic teams compete at the highest levels, but what makes our school complete is that all students can find an outlet to pursue their interests. That is especially seen with our  Marching Band. __________has been a member since 2011 and the number of accolades and awards that this marching band has received is staggering. Starting in July, members begin practice for the fall, yet because of the many competitions and opportunities to perform in showcases, their actual season takes nearly six months. Members who finish each season are awarded athletic “letters” and the pride that these students show in being part of the Marching Band is contagious. The student body respects the band as it respects any of our other sponsored sports.”

If you ever get a chance to see how well kids can work together collaboratively, then go witness how the school band operates.

If you want to see a group of individuals completely dedicated to a vision defined by a common goal, then go witness how a school band operates.

If you want to see dedication to performance and arts, then go see a school band perform.

And if there is any lawmaker, school board member, or citizen who does not think that the arts and music should not be taught and nurtured in our public schools, then I invite you to go to a game and stay for the halftime show or go to a jamboree or showcase and catch a glimpse of how many of our students are displaying teamwork while growing in mind, body, and spirit.

If there is some sort of fundraiser that a band member of any school is trying to help raise money with, then help out. The three frozen Moravian chicken pies in my freezer this past year was money well spent.

And the work ethic, collaborative mentality, preparation, and attention to detail that these band students bring to my class is priceless.

 

Actually, School Started Last Week

Sure. Most people here in North Carolina might think of the beginning of the school year as being closer to the end of August, but it actually begins much earlier.

Well before students will begin roaming the halls to re-acclimate themselves to a bell schedule, teachers will report to school for “pre-planning,” which is a series of days to get prepared for the new school year.

Academically that is.

If you are a coach of a fall sport, then your year officially starts much earlier – August 1st to be exact as that is the first day of practice allowed for fall sports in North Carolina.

august-1-2019

To be exact, that means:

  • Cheerleading
  • Cross Country
  • Dance Team
  • Field Hockey
  • Football
  • Men’s Soccer
  • Volleyball
  • Women’s Golf
  • Women’s Tennis
  • and the activity that has the longest season – Band.

Many actual games will be played before the first day of school and while that may seem a little odd to some people, it is quite necessary because of the school calendar placed in motion by the state and the county system. (Yes, there are some year-round schools).

If you follow the banter that surrounds public schools, many believe that teachers have this extended summer “off” to do anything they may want. But get to know a coach for any high school sport who tries to help build exceptional teams and you will probably meet someone who spends quite a bit of time in summer getting teams prepared. That includes all of the camps, workouts, and fundraisers that almost all teams (fall, winter, and spring) and activities must do to have the necessary funds just to function.

Because the state sure isn’t helping with its emphasis on less spending. Just look at the “Pay to Play” systems being used in some school systems to help with costs (http://www.journalnow.com/sports/pay-to-play-system-not-being-considered-in-forsyth-davie/article_6671d31c-747c-54b1-b95f-5030f480c6f1.html).

Consider:

  • Athletic fields don’t magically stayed manicured.
  • Equipment doesn’t magically come ready to be used.
  • Papers and eligibility forms don’t magically complete and file themselves.
  • The weather doesn’t magically cooperate.

Yet there are a lot of good people who “work” in the summers who are ten-month employees on paper, but they will allow school to start in August with a sense of cohesiveness and purpose.

Why?

Because the stands will be filled before the classrooms will.

Drink plenty of water and go to the games. School has started.