There are teachers in this state who literally are teaching both in-person students and still required to provide synchronous instruction to those students whose families have elected to begin this school year remotely. That could mean teaching one class section as if it were two. But there were no new hours in the day created.
There are teachers in this state who had to learn new online platforms and try to master new resources during the summer without synchronous professional development and at their own expense and on their own time.
There are school systems that have stipulated different parameters for grading and student work and expectations that differ greatly from what would happen in a typical school year which require more work and time to maintain.
And for most every teacher in a school operating under hybrid or remote learning schedules, the expectations of classroom management have been morphed to include aspects that are simply out of the control of any teacher.
Add to that the fact that communication with students and parents have more obstacles attached with remote learning as this pandemic has exacerbated the connectivity divide in this state not to mention the economic woes that many face.
Oh, and the state is still talking about bringing in students to complete EOC, EOG, and NC Finals Exams as well as have observations.
THIS IS NOT THE TIME FOR CENTRAL OFFICES TO BE ASKING FOR MORE PAPERWORK, RECORDINGS OF MEETINGS, AND MORE REPORTS TO PROVE THAT TEACHERS ARE ON TASK.
Teachers have been on task so much since last March that today feels like March 192nd rather than September 12th.
Teachers have families, their own children trying to navigate remote learning, bills, and personal lives.
Or we might as a state see a teacher burnout like never before.
And this state already does a bad job in recruiting teacher candidates.
Some of the more eye-opening, yet not surprising elements of the story included:
“A controversial online university that credits students for their existing skills and knowledge could soon have a larger role in North Carolina, with a funding stream carved out in the state House’s version of the budget.”
“Though WGU is not named directly in the budget, a reference deep in the 317-page proposed budget (pages 86 and 87) written by House Republicans would allow a private online school that uses the competency model of education to receive some of the nearly $90 million slated for need-based scholarships the state provides to low-income students attending private colleges and universities in the state.”
“Critics say WGU’s model, which uses classes developed by third-party vendors and has less faculty involvement than that of traditional community college or university classes, delivers a subpar education at costs not all that different from what some public university and community colleges can offer.”
“The online school is also quick to accept students’ previous college credits, but once students began taking classes at WGU, it can be difficult to get those classes recognized outside the online university, Pressnell said.”
“WGU’s six-year completion or graduation rate is only about 38 percent, a number that WGU hopes to raise to over 60 percent in coming years, said Mitchell, the spokeswoman for the Utah-based online university.”
With names such as Art Pope and Tim Moore associated with it in 2015, there had to be more incestuous synergy to make WGU a reality in 2017.
“The 2015 state budget included a $2 million allocation to Western Governors University, or WGU, even though it already had enrolled students in North Carolina. Sen. Chad Barefoot, a Wake Forest Republican, told WRAL at the time that the money would help forge relationships with other schools and hospitals to allow students to do practical learning and internships.
The grant required WGU to raise $5 million in private funds in order to receive the $2 million. Donors included the Golden LEAF Foundation – which administers the state’s share of tobacco settlement funds – as well as Strada Education Network and Utah developer Dell Loy Hansen. WGU North Carolina’s leader will be Catherine Truitt, who served as Gov. Pat McCrory’s education adviser before joining the UNC system’s general administration as an associate vice president. McCrory was involved in the 2015 grant.”
McCrory’s involvement? That was an executive order as explained on page 86 of the 2015 budget.
“Satisfies the competencies for online educational institutions established by executive order of the Governor.”
North Carolina still boasts one of the nation’s premiere public university systems even after the assault on it by the General Assembly. The pretense of it being some place where people can work at their own pace with “previous” experience used as credits makes it sound more predatory than needed. Models such as WGU’s have not worked in the past and prey upon low-income individuals who cannot afford the time and money to physically go to a campus and meet with actual classes and professors.
“Because WGU is an online university, its only physical presence in North Carolina will be an office staffed by Truitt and others. It uses what’s called a “competency-based” approach to education, where students progress through course material at their own pace and can advance as soon as they show they’ve mastered the subject through writing papers, making presentations and taking tests.”
The U.S. Dept, of Education has on its College Scorecard site the following profile of WGU.
The State Policy Network (SPN) is a web of right-wing “think tanks” and tax-exempt organizations in 50 states, Washington, D.C., Canada, and the United Kingdom. As of October 2019, SPN’s membership totals 162. Today’s SPN is the tip of the spear of far-right, nationally funded policy agenda in the states that undergirds extremists in the Republican Party.
SPN describes itself as a network and service organization for the “state-based free market think tank movement,” and its stated mission is “to provide strategic assistance to independent research organizations devoted to discovering and developing market-oriented solutions to state and local public policy issues.” It was founded in November 1991 and incorporated in March of 1992.
Last night in a socially distanced manner, both Catherine Truitt and Jen Mangrum participated in an open forum answering questions about their candidacies for the office of state’s highest public school office.
That quote above by Truitt is one that references her history as a senior advisor for Pat McCrory. And making that claim was supposed to be a positive.
But just examine the record that Truitt had as that senior advisor to the former former governor – particularly claims that she made in the past.
“K-12 education funding has increased by 18 percent under McCrory. In fact, 57 cents of every taxpayer dollar spent goes to fund education. That means that 57 percent of our $22.3 billion General Fund budget is spent on education, compared with a national average of 46 percent. Funding for textbooks and digital resources has tripled under this administration, and we are leading the nation in school connectivity.”
About teacher pay and “recruiting” people to teach:
“Teacher pay in North Carolina is growing faster than in any other state in the country under McCrory’s leadership. Since 2013, North Carolina has invested more than $1 billion in teacher raises, and the budget signed by McCrory increases average teacher pay to more than $50,000 for the first time in state history.”
“He (McCory) also signed legislation that will dramatically increase access to summer reading camps to ensure every student achieves the needed literacy by third grade.”
About the Opportunity Grants:
“In 2014, the governor increased choice for low income parents by enacting the Opportunity Scholarship that provides financial assistance for alternative schooling for students who are not succeeding in a traditional school setting.”
Funding, teacher pay, Read to Achieve, and vouchers are all hot-button topics, but they are not the trophies that Truitt made them out to be.
And she should be called out for it.
Truitt has mentioned in the past that there are three sources of financing for NC public education – federal, state, and local. And she has said that 57% of that coming from the state is far higher percentage than the national average.
But that’s because it is supposed to be. The state constitution declares it.
The Public School Forum of North Carolina’s publication the 2014 Local School Finance Study provides a great history of the state’s practice in funding public schooling which is rooted in the proclamation that all children in the state ages 6-21 are guaranteed a good public education.
However, I do want to point out that before we had a Republican governor (McCrory) and a Republican-controlled legislature, the state spent an even higher percentage on public education because THAT IS WHAT THE STATE CONSTITUTION DECLARED.
Her assertions about teacher pay are interesting as well. The operative word here is “average.” Beginning teachers saw an average pay hike of over ten percent, yet the more years a teacher had, the less of a “raise” was given. It was not an even distribution. In fact, some veterans saw a reduction in annual pay because much of the “raise” was funded with what used to be longevity pay.
Oh, and under McCrory, graduate degree pay bumps were eliminated for new teachers.
Truitt talked about Read to Achieve as a success back in 2016. But is this a success?
Truitt argued that the Opportunity Grants could help alleviate high tuition costs, but if the grants were targeted for lower income students, then how can those families even think about allotting their already limited funds for a private education, especially when NC has refused to expand Medicaid services for many who would qualify to obtain an Opportunity Grant? That’s not really giving families choices.
If you scroll down on the North Carolina State Education Assistance Authority website for the Opportunity Scholarship and click on the link called “Current List of Nonpublic Schools”, you will find a list of schools participating in the grant program. Notice a vast majority of those schools have religious affiliations. Ironically, many of those schools are already supported by churches that do not have to pay taxes. And now those entities are getting more taxpayer money to support curricula and processes that are not even regulated like those of public schools?
If Truitt became the state super for PUBLIC schools, is she going to keep supporting private schools?
If Truitt thinks that it is necessary for funds to be given to people to get them a good education, then why not invest that very money in the very public schools the state super would be constitutionally supposed to support to help those very students succeed in their public schools?
Yep, that “direct experience working with the governor’s office” doesn’t sound so great. So why brag about it?
If you are a public school teacher in North Carolina, you are working harder this year than ever before.
There is talk of the state and the feds still mandating standardized tests. You have had to deal with adapting to a virtual platform and in many cases teaching twice as long to accommodate all of the conditions that this pandemic has thrown at public schools.
And there is that feeling that what will happen to budgets for next school year (2021-2022) could absolutely decimate local school systems and their ability to get the proper resources.
Most school systems have had a hiring freeze which means that those people who have retired or left the profession will leave unfilled positions whose responsibilities and duties are spread to others. My school alone has fewer teachers this year than last with the same number of students. And when NC had budget surpluses, we were already reducing the number of support staff and teacher assistants.
Plainly stated, this ain’t the time to give out raises in the tens of thousands to central office personnel in the name of being competitive when teachers and other frontline employees (especially certified staff) are doing everything possible to just procure what is needed to teach students.
And as elected officials and appointed public servants, they can be constructively criticized.
About 3 hours into the meeting, salary for central office personnel was brought up and recommendations for raises for some were quite large.
And to give a little bit of perspective, this is from October of 2019, a month after the current superintendent was brought to WSFCS. The document sets a new minimum for some central office jobs.
The positions that have asterisks next to them were newly created positions. It seems as if many positions may have gotten a financial boost with a new minimum just last year, but now there is a push to have more financial recompense within jsy another calendar year.
The reasoning? (Yes, it’s fuzzy.)
It says that right now four principals have a higher salary than the Deputy Superintendent. Ten principals in the system have a higher salary than the Assistant Superintendents. Seventeen principals have a higher salary than the highest paid Area Superintendent. And over 70 principals have a higher salary than the minimum CPO 1 salary.
They are saying that it is too hard to recruit central office personnel in comparison to other school systems that are around our size.
It’s a business decision.
First let it be known that we are experiencing a teacher shortage. Actually we have a bigger problem in that we are suffering from a huge teacher candidate shortage. Even last year, many central office personnel were taken out of their central office jobs and placed inside of classrooms.
Secondly, those principals who may be making more than some of these central office people could have many more years of experience in education and they have a salary that is based on experience in education. A principal who has more than 35 years in the public school system may have many, many more years than a central office person.
This system has many veteran principals. And thank goodness. We are in unprecedented times. And for students, parents, and faculty members, the face of a school is the principal. He / she is the most visible.
Another reason many principals may be making more than some central office personnel is that principals are on a salary scale that is attached to the number of students in their schools or ADM. From the NC Employee Salary and Benefits Manual:
West Forsyth is the biggest school outside of Wake and Meck counties. Look how many other high schools are 4A or 4AA in the county. We do not have that many middle schools in comparison. They are big as well.
And they are having to deal with fewer teachers in their schools. In many cases they are still trying to find people and resources to deal with teaching and learning in this pandemic.
Does this take away from what many central office people do or what their importance is? No. But it would mean that people at Central Office (some in newly created positions) would be receiving rather sizable raises any one of which could pay for another TA in a high needs school or help to give certified workers at least some sort of raise to keep from being at the poverty level.
Maybe the reasoning for these raises is that in order to keep qualified people in these jobs they have to compete with the “work force” and offer competitive salaries. But the very people they are supposed to be supporting, the very people who make the public education system work are having to do more work because there are fewer teachers now in our schools then there were this time last year. Let’s add to that the fact that teachers are some of the only state employees that do not get paid based in respect to what they could get in the private sector and that part of the “package” that is supposed to attract teachers (benefits and health insurance as retirees) was beginning to be eroded in the past ten years and that other incentives like longevity pay, due process, and graduate degree pay bumps have been taken away.
Instances like these present that ever-growing predicament of teacher compensation. Many in Raleigh are running campaigns on spun rhetoric that talk about what all has been done for teacher salaries. If teachers were paid based on labor market trends then data like the following would not be true any longer.
That $30K raise is about labor market trends.
Within that video of the working session, the comment is made that teachers will be getting a $350 bonus as if that should excite people in a time of budgetary crisis but that not giving tens of thousands of dollars to people not connecting with students on a daily basis is not enough and warrants explanation. It almost assumes that we should not look at bonuses any differently than salaries. They are both “compensation,” but one has effects for years even with retirement. The other is nonrecurring.
There’s too much nonrecurring money and resources we already are not getting in our schools. This state still has not passed a budget which usually devotes the largest part to the public schools.
Look at the optics of this. Not good.
Look at the reasoning for this. Not logical.
Yes, the person who wrote this is a teacher. A veteran teacher.
But he is also a taxpayer and a parent of a public high school graduate and a current special needs middle schooler who has an IEP thicker than a Russian novel and has a teacher assistant who has worked with him for years. And his teachers and TA are literally moving heaven and earth to help him engage and learn during remote learning.
Giving someone at central office a $30,000 raise just to be “competitive”?
Actually there are a lot of people in our schools who deserve that kind of raise.
I was forwarded your response to an invitation sent by the North Carolina Association of Educators for Sen. Phil Berger to participate in a webinar to discuss educational policies in North Carolina.
It has a rather acidic tone.
I do not speak for NCAE officially. This response to your response is strictly personal, but I do know that my views are shared by many of our members and by many public school teachers who may not be NCAE members per se but are supportive of NCAE. Some of them are below in this picture from May of 2018.
I am not going to make comment on your tone. There is no need to. Anybody reading this can ascertain that the good senator and the person writing this letter have a contentious relationship with NCAE and even see this group of public school advocates as a threat.
And in the only state in the country that is both a Right to Work and At Will state along with having the the lowest legal minimum wage, no collective bargaining rights, no Medicaid expansion, loosely regulated voucher and charter school expansion, and a school performance grading system that measures achievement over growth, it is easy to see how a group of fragile egos such as those of Phil Berger’s and his cronies would want to avoid a group of teachers who know the public school system much better than a bunch of lawmakers.
Sorry. I digress.
Simply put, your response is loosely based on arguments founded on nothing more than surface dwelling of some data points that really are not accurate. That is not surprising. It is very representative of the propaganda that Sen. Berger has been producing for the last decade.
But, I will try to clarify some of your oxygen-depraved claims in an attempt to at least get the truth out there.
Because it sure as hell can’t be found in your letter.
You state, “Considering the N.C. Association of Educators is an arm of the Democratic Party and this invitation is for a campaign event, I thought it best to respond.”
You might be surprised how many NCAE members are actually registered Republicans. I was at one time. But if you want to argue that Senator Berger and his politics are in any way like the politics of the Republican Party of years ago in North Carolina that helped propel NC as an educational leader in the South, then go ahead.
Furthermore, it’s pretty apparent that one political party has a much more public-school friendly platform than the other. And before you succumb to the fallacies of your own arguments, that party is not Berger’s.
You state, “Sen. Berger joined teachers in his district at school on the first day of classes. He spent much of the school day listening to and hearing from educators, staff, administrators, and students.”
You sure about that “at school” thing with students? Below is a map from Dane West, who kept direct tabs on each LEA in the state and their plans for reopening school buildings.
Most of the LEAs in Sen. Berger’s district were on remote plans because the local school boards voted it that way.
If Sen. Berger “spent much of the school day listening to and hearing from educators, staff, administrators, and students” could you at least tell us which schools he went to that had students and how that would be a good representation of the state?
You then state, “Unfortunately, your group has lost all legitimacy as a purported voice for teachers.” How do you know? Again I refer to the picture below.
You then make a list of assertions beginning with “Your organization helped kill a 4.9% pay raise plus $1,000 bonuses for the teachers you purport to represent.”
Do you mean Senate Bill 354 from 2019? The one that proposed a disproportionately given raise in a budget that people forget is biennial?
And it wasn’t 4.9%. It was lower.
What you neglect to mention is that NCAE was in favor of what Gov. Cooper proposed – a higher average raise for all teachers that was an actual raise rather than a nonrecurring bonus.
You then state, “Your organization, in defiance of the near-consensus opinion of experts, led the charge to prohibit students, including some with disabilities, from receiving in-classroom instruction.”
Wait, you previously made mention of NCAE’s dwindling numbers and loss of “all legitimacy,” yet you credit NCAE with the monstrous power of convincing many partisan controlled school boards (like the one in Sen. Berger’s home county) to dismiss “near-consensus opinions of experts.”
Could you share who those experts are and what they might be experts of?
Your third bullet point claims, “Your organization has at best willfully ignored, and at worst intentionally misrepresented, the education progress made over the past several years because the narrative is inconvenient to your Democratic Party allies. For example, your organization has opposed the first-, second-, and third-highest teacher pay raises in the country; top-five increases in per-pupil expenditures; and evidence-based elementary reading reforms.”
If you are referring to Read to Achieve as the “evidence-based reading reform,” then you truly have sworn off the truth. And you might want to reexamine exactly the difference between an average “cooked” raise percentage and actual raises. Maybe you could explain this?
Your bulleted list then ends with “Your organization claims to support “equity,” but is currently suing to strip parents, many of whom are Black, of the funding they rely on to send their kids to private schools.”
You mean the least transparent voucher system in the country known as the Opportunity Grants that give out $4200 to families when the average tuition price of a private school in NC is around $10,000?
You mean the voucher system in which almost 90% of funds go to religious schools that can discriminate against certain students to make sure they do not enroll?
And you want to collide the words “equity” and “Phil Berger” in the same sentence? The man who if he had his way would make sure every budget in NC would all have the following?
Schools still being judged by the 80/20 formula and tracks effects of poverty where the %80 is achievement. NC is the only state where achievement is over half of the formula.
No graduate pay restoration.
No longevity pay restoration.
No Medicaid expansion.
No minimum wage for school employees.
More money for vouchers.
But this point about the vitality of NCAE might be one of the most overused and easily debunked “points” you present: “NCAE has reportedly lost large numbers of its membership over the past several years. Of course, it is impossible to verify those reports because you refuse to share any information with North Carolina’s auditor, Beth Wood.“
I remember that audit report. It’s the one referred to in this “press release” by Sen. Ralph Hise last year, the statistician for whom you also speak.
Only one group on that list has a membership that fully pays through payroll deductions. In fact, at least two of the groups have memberships that are ten times the amount of people who use payroll deduction. Any statistician would know better than to misrepresent the numbers in a statement (unless he did it for political purposes).
There are two other teacher advocacy groups on that list whose memberships are mostly represented by people who do not use payroll deduction. PENC has 4.59 times the total number of members as their payroll deduction members. The NCCTA has 16.39 times the total number of members.
If NCAE followed those trends (and it does), it could might have a membership of at least 24,744.
That’s a pretty big number. What would that look like? Something like this?
But there is one aspect of your response that should be praised. It certainly is consistent with the message that your gerrymandering boss is trying communicate.
Oh, by the way, how’s that supermajority working for you now?
About a year ago, my wife gifted me with a red t-shirt she purchased from The Bitter Southerner. This one to be precise.
I wear it on many Wednesdays and think a lot about how the landscape of public education has changed and might still be altered after this pandemic. I also think about how all of the talk concerning how schooling needs to be revamped in the future. Most of all, I try to see if teachers are part of this planning or even asked to give input.
And look who he put in charge – Bill Gates. In fact, that task force left out teachers.
In North Carolina, State Superintendent Mark Johnson’s short-lived “Schools Reopening Task Force” included no current teachers and no people from the three most hard hit areas by the coronavirus.
Even the man who crafted the precursor of North Carolina’s Read To Achieve Program and the School Performance Grading System while playing governor in Florida penned an op-ed in the Washington Post last May offered some ideas that would surely make his cronies some money.
When Jeb Bush came to NC in the summer of 2018 at the behest of NC lawmakers, I don’t remember any teachers at that table.
It’s kind of like re-imagining health care without input from health care professionals or receiving marital advice from someone who has never been in a long-term relationship. It’s like getting counseling from someone who cannot even empathize with your situation.
But with the continuation of an altered traditional school year and the need to start talking about how we will proceed with the rest of the calendar, it is apparent that the input of teachers is paramount.
Why? Because “Teachers Can Turn This Thing Around.”
U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos has informed states that they should not count on getting the same waivers from federal testing mandates for this school year that they got last spring as the pandemic shut down schools.
In a Thursday letter to chief state school officers, DeVos said that these annual, summative assessments in English/language arts, math, and science are “at the very core” of the bipartisan agreement behind the Every Student Succeds Act, the main federal K-12 education law. And at a time when vulnerable students have been hurt the most by the pandemic, such tests are “among the most reliable tools available to help us understand how children are performing in school.”
Look at that last part again.
The woman who just got her hand slapped three times by the courts for trying to divert more CARES money to private schools that do not have to be measured by such tests wants to “understand” how children are performing in school.”
The woman who said the following about virtual learning wants to still test students to see how they are performing.
The woman who has no degree in education, no teaching experience, never attended a public school or state supported university, and supports vouchers like no other wants to make sure that schools are measured for the effects of a lack of a national plan against COVID-19.
We could make sure that she is not the person to make this decision in the spring.
Last week Mark Johnson issued this press release in an attempt to bolster a fragile ego and possibly make it appear that his tenure as state superintendent has had its positives.
Here’s the meat of the release:
Earlier this year, Superintendent Johnson and DPI developed a plan to allow districts to select their own diagnostic tools from a list of approved vendors. As a result, five vendors were approved for local districts to choose from.
Superintendent Johnson said that other states are now watching closely as North Carolina employs this innovative approach in schools.
“I am pleased to report today that based on conversations I have had with other leaders, the nation is watching North Carolina with excitement because we have innovated in a way that others want to emulate,” said Superintendent Johnson. “I want to express my gratitude to the team at DPI who helped bring into action our idea of being able to use multiple K-3 reading diagnostics across the state for the Read to Achieve program.”
The problem with Johnson’s claim here (as well as with others he has made in the past) is that it’s not true.
What happened with allowing local districts to have a choice in diagnostic tools is not new.
In fact, it’s being late to the game.
Alabama, Arkansas, Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Mexico, New York, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Texas, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, and West Virginia.
All of those states already had a state-approved list of vendors for their districts to choose from.
That’s not innovation. That’s trying to appear innovative. Nothing really new about that with Mark Johnson.