If the NCGA Looks to the NEA for Average Salaries, Then Will They Accept This?

Many in Raleigh who defend the ill-tempered reforms that have been introduced over the last eight years point to the NEA’s calculations of “average” teacher pay as evidence of “progress” in the public education system due to those reforms.

But will they give the same credence to the the National Education Association for this report as they do for average state salaries?

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This week the NEA released its report cards for each state’s handling of charter schools. As expected, North Carolina did not receive a stellar grade.

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Each state was graded by  the same criteria. North Carolina achieved a 48/100 which is an “F”.

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This grade makes a lot of sense as the criteria were measured by examining the laws, statutes, and legislation of the state. And it makes sense in that the low number of points (or even zeroes) given can easily be explained by those who have followed public education these last few years.

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It is true that a for-profit entity cannot apply to open a charter school here in North Carolina, but they can be contracted by those who do apply to open a charter sometimes on behalf of the for-profit entity.

Think of the Innovative School District and look for the political contributions made by for-profit entities to politicians who can help craft legislation to enable these for-profit entities to get contracts with charter schools in NC, a state that has no cap on how many charter schools can exist in the state.

Look at Team CFA (based in Oregon) and its founder, John Bryan. He has been donating money left and right to specific politicians and PAC’s here in North Carolina to extend the charter industry including Lt. Gov. Dan Forest (through a PAC). He spear-headed the attempt to win the contract of the ISD school in Robeson.

Look at Charter Schools USA based in Ft. Lauderdale. It is run by Jonathan Hage whose political contribution to politicians in North Carolina are rather numerous. Just look at Followthemoney.org.

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Local school systems (LEA’s) have no control over the charter schools in their districts, but have to give money to those charter schools. Next year Wake County will have to give over $45 million to charters in Wake County but have no oversight over those charters who report to DPI, and DPI is run by a man enabled by the very people who want unrestricted charter school growth.

And look at what happens to a charter school when it opens in a rural area. It can cripple the funding for the very few traditional public schools in that small district.

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If anyone needs to look up how well the two virtual charter schools are doing in NC, then it will not be hard. In fact, they are two of the lowest performing schools in the state.

North Carolina’s grade is a valid one. So, will people like Phil Berger, Mark Johnson, and Jerry Tillman dismiss this report? Probably.

 

 

Summers Are Not Paid Vacations For Teachers – Far From It

“You expect at least eight weeks paid vacation per year because that is what the taxpayers of North Carolina gave you back when you were a poorly compensated teacher.”Sen, David Curtis in May of 2014 in response to a teacher letter.

“I suspect that most people, if told they could work 10 months a year doing something they love, and make $54,000, would leap at the opportunity. Most would be content, if not elated. Very few, I suspect, would be protesting.” – Charles Davenport in the News & Record on May 5th, 2019 in reference to the May 1st teacher march and rally.

July August 2018 Calendar Printable | Larissanaestrada throughout July And August Calendar 2018 Printable

AP Exams will end this week, and soon after Memorial Day many schools will enter long exam periods for all students – both state exams and teacher-made exams. That means that summer break for students and schools is approaching.

Many critics of public school teachers and advocates who are asking for fully funding public schools seem to rely on an argument that teachers only work ten months out of the year and get their summers as “paid vacation.” And there is really no truth to that claim.

True, there will not be any traditional classes on campuses, but much is going on in the summer.

In fact, the first week of summer there will be on my campus:

  • Offices open to conduct business.
  • Student Services open for registration and transcript analysis.
  • Teachers on campus conducting various tasks.
  • The yearbook staff will at camp in Chapel Hill working on next year’s edition.
  • Rooms being cleared and cleaned.
  • Coaches will be conducting camps for community youth.
  • State sanctioned workouts will happen on fields and the weight rooms.
  • Summer school classes will begin to help students regain credits.
  • Some teachers back from grading AP tests and fulfilling end-of-year duties.
  • Some teachers will be in professional development classes in various places.
  • Some teachers will be prepping for new courses they are to teach because populations change and numbers of sections change.
  • Some teachers will be preparing for National Boards.
  • Some teachers will be moving materials on campus to facilitate summer cleaning and maintenance.
  • Some teachers will be helping interview potential new teachers and then helping those hired get more acclimated with the campus.
  • Some teachers will be taking inventory.
  • Some teachers will just come to campus to get work done to prepare for next year like send items to print shop or get websites and databases ready.

What teachers have are 10-month contracts. What Curtis and Davenport call a “vacation” is actually unpaid time that is spent by many getting renewed certification, professional development, or advanced degrees—all of which are paid with teachers’ own money that gets taxed by the state.

In reality, those “summer vacations” are actually periods of unemployment in which many teachers still do lots of work.

If people like Curtis and Davenport do not like that fact that teachers must abide by a 10-month contract and not a 12-month one, then they can do one thing that really is quite complicated and goes against the very fiber of the current NCGA and many in our communities: get the state legislature to send students to school for eight more weeks.

That’s right. Get the legislature to dismiss the tourist industry lobbyists and ask the state and local school systems to help finance the needs to allow for more school days – monies for physical facilities, supplies, resources, etc.

As a teacher, I would be there. Students could learn more and may not suffer from a summer “slump” in retaining things they have learned. If businesses are willing to pass on summer employees and families are fine with students going to school for 220 days a year instead of 180 (even more if breaks are not taken as much throughout the year), then let’s do it.

But until that happens, the argument that teachers get all this “paid vacation” really does not add up.

Besides, so much happens on a public school campus during the summer by people who already extend themselves beyond their contracts.

 

 

Can We Change NC’s Civics Classes To Include:

If Raleigh is going play around with Civic and Economics classes to include lessons on personal finance, then can they also tweak the curriculum to make sure and cover real life applications of civics and economics as well?

Could they include the fact that North Carolina is the only state in the country that does not allow a woman to change her consent to sexual intercourse?

North Carolina may remain the only state in the country where someone cannot be charged with rape for continuing to have sex with a partner who told them to stop. It stems from a 40-year-old legal precedent.

Another bill was introduced to change this heinous loophole in defining sexual assault this year.

It never made it our of committee.

Could they include a lesson on how it is not illegal for someone to have sex with an incapacitated person if that person responsible for “causing that condition?”

Could they also make sure that students know that we as a state have not outlawed “tampering” someone’s drink? You can literally “spike”someone’s drink and never be charged for it because it is not illegal.

Could they make sure that the use of extreme gerrymandering is covered? Especially in NC is that craft been practiced to the point of unconstitutionality based on racial divides.

Civics students could learn how to draw a gerrymandered district . For instance,

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No. That is not an internal organ. It is not a paramecium. It is not an ink blot. It is not a lake on a map. It is a real district. Specifically, it’s the 12th congressional district. It somehow connects Winston-Salem, Greensboro, High-Point, Charlotte, and multiple sites in between in a way that only crafty politicians can do. In fact, this district was called the most gerrymandered in the nation.

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Could the students learn the difference between fabricated voter fraud and actual voter fraud? Maybe we could use former Gov. Pat McCrory’s facade of a lawsuit in which he screamed voter fraud as an example of fabricated whining and compare that to the recent Mark Harris scandal which actually was proven to be true.

Could students maybe revisit the economic impact of HB2 on the state? That would be a great way of showing the relationship of civics and economics. Students could see how an unfounded claim of bathroom assaults by transgender people led to many an economic consequence.

And don’t let the irony of the fact that the person who wrote the bill is now the new republican nominee for the 9th Congressional District that has to have a new election because of Mark Harris get lost in the process.

That’s some civics for you.

North Carolina Needs to Stop Being So SASsy

In 2013, the state of North Carolina started using a value-added measurement scale to help gauge teacher effectiveness and school performance. Developed by SAS which is headquartered in the Triangle area of Raleigh, Durham, and Chapel Hill, EVAAS collects student data and creates reports that are used to measure teacher and school effectiveness.

EVAAS stands for “Education Value-Added Assessment System.” For teachers, it is supposed to give an indication of how well students are supposed to do in a given year on the tests that are used on evaluations. (Do not let it be lost on anyone that “EVAAS” scores were just released at the end of most schools’ first quarter after half of the block classes have already completed more than half of the curriculum’s work).

EVAAS has been the subject of a lot of scrutiny. It deserves every bit of that scrutiny. Why? Because the algorithms that it uses to come up with its calculations and reports are like a tightly held secret – by a private entity that receives money from DPI.

During the 2017-2018 school year, State Superintendent of Public Schools Mark Johnson released a video to all public school teachers announcing the new revamped state school report card system.

Here is a frame that is closed captioned –

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It says, “Recently, I launched the brand-new website for school report cards: schoolreportcards.nc.gov.”

That means it should be controlled by the state, correct?

Put that into your search bar and you get http://www.ncpublicschools.org/src/.

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It’s not the actual report card site – just a “Welcome” page. Notice that it has a link to the actual school report card site along with the following text:

North Carolina’s School Report Cards are presented two different ways, designed to meet the needs of all users. An interactive, easy-to-navigate section was redesigned in 2017 and is available here. This citizen-friendly website addresses the need for quick reference on topics that are most important to parents and educators. A more analytic section is intended for those who prefer a more detailed view of the data. The two areas, both designed and hosted by SAS and available to anyone, include printable versions of the North Carolina School Report Card snapshots.

The actual “School Report Card” website has a different domain name.

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It’s https://ncreportcards.ondemand.sas.com/src.

Once again, it’s SAS.

Then in the final days of April of 2019, Johnson introduced a new website designed for financial transparency.

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When one accesses that NC School Finances website, this screen appears:

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Look at the web address. Yes, it’s housed at SAS.

Many outlets such as one from WRAL have shown how flawed this “dashboard” is.

So, SAS controls/houses/computes the following:

  • EVAAS scores
  • School Performance Grades
  • Public School Financial Dashboard

Or rather, how teachers are measured, how schools are measured, and how financial data can be manipulated.

It seems rather ominous that three important components of how public education is perceived in NC is controlled by a private entity taking public money but not really sharing how they come to conclusions and data points that guide legislation in Raleigh.

Doesn’t seem right.

Because it’s not.

 

Dear PEFNC, Whether It’s “Our Money” or “Your Money,” There is No Proof That Vouchers Are Working

Last Friday, WRAL posted an editorial board opinion on its website entitled “Editorial: Private school vouchers to be even more open to corruption, waste.

It stated,

Let us be clear, we DO NOT oppose private school vouchers. We DO strongly believe there should be reasonable and responsible accountability and transparency in how these tax dollars are spent. It is tragically lacking today. The new Senate-passed bill makes it worse. It is an invitation to corruption and waste.

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As the state Senate voted to expand eligibility for the voucher program – mostly because a good chunk of the millions set aside for the program has been going unclaimed – the House of Representatives budget weakens what is already the least accountable private school voucher program in the nation.

The budget bill withdraws the very limited required testing to track students’ achievement. Some of the money intended for paying for private school tuition can now be diverted to marketing – by a non-profit organization with close ties to the legislature’s leadership. The annual third-party evaluation of the program would be ended.

What the op-ed is talking about mostly is transparency and it is CORRECT in doubting the intentions of the people in the NCGA who promote it.

Apparently Mike Long, the president of Parents for Educational Freedom in North Carolina, did not take WRAL’s op-ed well. And according to a report from NC Policy Watch’s Billy Ball, Long issued a rebuttal.

“OUR money.

Those are the words of the Capitol Broadcasting Company’s (CBC) latest attack on North Carolina’s Opportunity Scholarship Program. The program currently enables over 9,600 students from low-income and working-class families in North Carolina to attend the private school of their parents’ choice.

These families are taxpayers, too. But CBC is protecting systems and the status quo, playing politics, and demonizing educational choice.

Here is the downright disrespectful and harmful language used by CBC’s editorial board in full:

If these parents were spending their own money, Clark might have a case. But these parents are not spending their own money, it is OUR money, tens of millions of dollars’ worth. We not only have the right, we have the responsibility to be sure that OUR tax dollars are being spent as intended – to educate North Carolina children.

“Our money” is nothing more than a disingenuous attempt to turn one group of people—those of us paying taxes but not using a “scary” voucher—against another group of people—those of us paying taxes who use an Opportunity Scholarship.

Even Governor Roy Cooper says Opportunity Scholarships are “an expense that we should stop” while talking about investing more in education. Apparently to the governor, poor and working-class families are nothing more than “an expense.”

Divide and conquer is his plan, pitting those families against the state that thinks it knows best where parents should send their kids to school.

The governor and CBC are demanding that “our money” shouldn’t be allocated to “these parents” unless the state controls every penny, regardless of the accountability requirements already in place, the positive impacts schools of choice have on their students, and the overwhelming support for the Opportunity Scholarship Program from the parents using it.

Thousands of families on the Opportunity Scholarship Program (taxpayers, mind you) dig into their own pockets every month to cover what’s left in tuition and fees after the Opportunity Scholarship has provided them a much-needed boost. Yet, there is a real disconnect when CBC questions if “these parents were spending their own money.”

That rebuttal deserves a rebuttal.

Long’s rebuke actually reaffirms the concerns that WRAL’s editorial board brings up in their op-ed about the lack of transparency and ultimate intent in the NCGA’s Opportunity Grants.

There has never been any empirical evidence that the vouchers actually work. Maybe PEFNC would like to point to NC State’s study last year, but that study ultimately did not make conclusions on the veracity of the vouchers. In fact, it said that the Opportunity Grants need much more research as it is hard to assess the program.

Or they might point to “satisfaction surveys” like Joel Ford of PEFNC did in an op-ed on EdNC.org. If that is the only variable by which they can measure the effectiveness of the grants, then that is absolutely weak.

Long also states, ” Thousands of families on the Opportunity Scholarship Program (taxpayers, mind you) dig into their own pockets every month to cover what’s left in tuition and fees after the Opportunity Scholarship has provided them a much-needed boost.” 

Opportunity Grants are for $4200. First, it makes one want to have a list of highly rated private schools and their tuition fees because that amount of money will not even cover a third of costs at a respected school for one school year let alone supplies and books. And Long even says that these  families have to dig into their own pockets every month to cover other expenses.

What he is saying is that giving money to people to send their students to private schools causes them to spend more of their own limited funds to help make that happen when the money could have gone to the very public schools that already serve them and are free for them to attend. Doesn’t that seem odd?

But it’s all about school choice – so much that people like Long and other lawmakers will sacrifice revealing the truth about the lack evidence of success with the appearance of a moral high road and empty rhetoric.

And Long spends a lot of time talking about “taxpayer money.” Of the schools in NC that receive vouchers, over 90% of them are religious schools. In fact, the top ten “voucher” schools in NC are all religiously affiliated.

From page 8 of the Public School Forum of NC’s report Top Ten Education Issues of 2018:

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Churches and religious organizations are generally exempt from income taxes or “business” taxes. But many of them are receiving “our tax money” to benefit their non transparent use of curriculum that may not even align to state standards.

Wonder if Long sees a double standard there.

WRAL did.

 

 

North Carolina: Voucher Program is Unaccountable, Nontransparent

Thanks to Dr. Ravitch.

Diane Ravitch's blog

Stuart Egan writes that members of the General Assembly seek adjustments to the state’s voucher program to make it even less transparent and less accountable than at present. 

The General Assembly has committed to spend nearly $1 billion on this program by 2026-2027 even though the schools that get the vouchers have no standards for academics or for teacher qualifications.

93% of the voucher schools are sectarian.

In 2018, a study hailed academic gains but critics (including the editorial board of the state’sleading newspaper) quickly pointed out that the study oversampled established Catholic schools, which are a small fraction of the voucher schools. A review of the NC study by the National Education Policy Center found it to be so methodologically flawed as to be useless.

Ever since the Tea Party fringe of the Republican Party took control of the General Assembly, its leaders have been determined to shift…

View original post 29 more words

When Someone Who Needs to be Educated About Education Writes an Op-Ed About Public Education

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Charles Davenport Jr., an Editorial Board Member for the N&R, last year penned one of the most blatantly ignorant op-eds in recent memory when he made a claim that NC teachers were probably paid enough if not too much because “as far as academic rigor is concerned, education majors are not even in the same league with engineers, lawyers and scientists.”

This blog responded to Davenport’s  uneducated claims even asking that the N&R consider not publishing him.

Apparently that did not work because he just published another op-ed about public education that shows how uneducated he is about public education.

In last Sunday’s edition of the N&R, Davenport narrowed his already short-sighted view of education with “Do teachers, who are getting mediocre results, really deserve higher pay?” The text follows.

There they go again.

Thousands of teachers descended on Raleigh a few days ago to air their grievances before the General Assembly. Foremost among the protesters’ demands, as you might expect, is a significant increase in compensation for educators and support staff.

According to recent polling on the matter, most North Carolinians agree with the teachers. In a High Point University/News & Record poll three weeks ago, 75% of respondents expressed the belief that public school teachers are paid too little. In fact, 60% of respondents said they would agree to a tax increase in order to “raise teacher pay to the national average in five years.”

A few days later, a liberal organization called Public Policy Polling revealed the results of its own survey, in which 69% of the respondents expressed the belief that teacher salaries in North Carolina are too low.

I was not called to participate in either poll, but I have a few thoughts on the matter.

To begin with, the timing of the protest was not ideal. May 1 was not a scheduled day off for students. The N.C. Association of Educators chose to conduct the rally on a school day, which prompted disgruntled teachers and staff members to request the day off in order to attend the protest. Consequently, most school systems in the state canceled classes with short notice. Rarely mentioned is the inconvenience inflicted on thousands of parents of young children — parents forced to either take the day off work themselves, or scramble to arrange child care.

Mark Jewell, the president of the educators association, said, “We will never apologize for advocating on behalf of our most precious citizens: our children.”

But it is far from certain that the group’s highest priority is children. We rarely hear the organization lament — or strive to do anything about — the mediocre academic performance of public school students. The educators association’s objective is — and always has been — to increase funding for public education (and to increase teacher salaries). It has often succeeded in acquiring additional taxpayer money, but academic performance remains stagnant.

The purpose of public education is not to provide high-paying jobs but to teach children the fundamentals of reading, writing and arithmetic. By any objective measure, our public schools are failing about half of the students. Why should we reward teachers for lackluster results?

Speaking of academic struggles, the unfortunate truth is, those who choose to teach are a far cry from the “best and brightest.” Syndicated columnist Walter Williams recently spoke to the issue: “The major selected by the most ill-prepared students, sadly enough, is education. When students’ SAT scores are ranked by intended major, education majors place 26th on a list of 38.”

For the sake of comparison, the average pay for police officers in North Carolina is $47,000 a year, and the average for firefighters in the state is $37,130 a year. One could conceivably argue that teachers deserve more money than cops and firefighters, but that’s a steep hill to climb.

The educator association’s protest has drawn token criticism from some people on the right, which Jewell responds to by asking, “Why is it a left-wing agenda for kids to have a textbook?”

Why is it a right-wing agenda to expect kids to be able to read, write and understand basic math?”
The ambiguity, unfounded claims, and stench of someone who will always complain about public education keeps this op-ed from ever making a valid point.

In fact, it is too easy to dispute Davenport’s claims.

Foremost among the protesters’ demands, as you might expect, is a significant increase in compensation for educators and support staff.

Actually, teacher pay was not really the focal point of the march and rally except restoring graduate degree pay that had been the normal practice of this state until 2014 and raising the minimum wage for non-teaching staff members to $15/hour.

What Davenport seems to be arguing is that restoring graduate pay to previous levels and raising the minimum hourly wage to a point that is still below a living wage for an adult and child to live is a “significant increase.”

I was not called to participate in either poll, but I have a few thoughts on the matter.

Neither was I.

But it is far from certain that the group’s highest priority is children. We rarely hear the organization lament — or strive to do anything about — the mediocre academic performance of public school students. The educators association’s objective is — and always has been — to increase funding for public education (and to increase teacher salaries). It has often succeeded in acquiring additional taxpayer money, but academic performance remains stagnant.

No. As a member of NCAE and a veteran teacher with two children in the public school system, I can assure you that the people who marched and rallied on May 1st have students as our highest priority.

But that mediocre academic performance? Davenport might want to offer some proof of that. Which tests? Which measures? Which data sets is he talking about? Because I can assure him that most every student in my English classes could read his op-ed and specifically identify where he lacks in evidence and explanation of how that evidence backs up his claims.

Speaking of academic struggles, the unfortunate truth is, those who choose to teach are a far cry from the “best and brightest.” Syndicated columnist Walter Williams recently spoke to the issue: “The major selected by the most ill-prepared students, sadly enough, is education. When students’ SAT scores are ranked by intended major, education majors place 26th on a list of 38.”

This is a recycled argument by Davenport. It’s what the 2018 op-ed focused on.

Interestingly enough, many teachers like myself and many others didn’t major in education. Our certification was an add-on or was a minor or was through another program. Most of the teachers I teach with majored in the field that they are actually teaching.

If Davenport truly believes that then I would dare him to address that in education classes at the universities in this state with schools of education. There is one right down the road at UNC-G. Maybe UNC-CH? Maybe App? Maybe even where I got my degrees – Wake Forest.

And quoting Walter Williams, an economist funded by the Koch brothers at George Mason University? That’s not partisan at all.

According to the National Education Association, average teacher pay in North Carolina is about $54,000 a year, which ranks 29th in the nation.

I would love to hear Davenport explain how that very average salary can be sustained by the current salary schedule given by the NCGA when verteran teachers retire or leave the profession.

I suspect that most people, if told they could work 10 months a year doing something they love, and make $54,000, would leap at the opportunity. Most would be content, if not elated. Very few, I suspect, would be protesting.

Maybe Davenport can try doing one of those polls since he didn’t get to participate in the other two that he mentioned.

“Most people” would “leap at the possibility”? That must explain why we do not have a teacher shortage in NC… wait a second.

And that “teachers only have to work ten months out of the year” argument is really old and has nothing to do with teachers.

Davenport mistakes eight weeks of vacation with what is actually unemployment. Teachers have 10-month contracts. What he calls “vacation” is actually unpaid time that is spent by many getting renewed certification, professional development, or advanced degrees—all of which are paid with teachers’ own money that gets taxed by the state.

Furthermore, if Davenport does not like that fact that teachers must abide by a 10-month contract and not a 12-month one, then he can lobby the state legislature to send students to school for eight more weeks. That’s right, Davenport can get the state to dismiss the tourist lobbyists and ask to finance the needs to allow for more school days.

As a teacher, I would be there. Students could learn more and may not suffer from a summer “gap” in retaining things they have learned.

For the sake of comparison, the average pay for police officers in North Carolina is $47,000 a year, and the average for firefighters in the state is $37,130 a year. One could conceivably argue that teachers deserve more money than cops and firefighters, but that’s a steep hill to climb.

Teachers are state employees. Police officers and firefighters are paid by local counties and municipalities. But it is interesting that Davenport bring up the average salaries of those public servants because it is further proof that public servants do not make nearly as much as they deserve.

Why is it a right-wing agenda to expect kids to be able to read, write and understand basic math?

Updated textbooks would actually really help in this “expectation.”

 

 

 

What Mark Johnson Didn’t Tell You About Those Teacher Salaries in One Graph

When Mark Johnson sent one of his “informative” emails this past week in honor of Teacher Appreciation Week, he made the following statements:

We should talk to our students about considering the teaching profession. Teacher compensation is competitive with other careers. (Starting salaries for teachers in NCrange from $35,000 to $41,000 per school year — the average is $39,300 — while the average salary for graduates from our UNC system is $26,400 one year after college.)

The claim that the average salary for grads from UNC system schools does not clarify a few things. Justin Parmenter posted an excellent piece on his blog, Notes From the Chalkboard, concerning this claim. In short, Johnson was including all grads who were unemployed, semi-employed, and actually attending grad school.

Parmenter also included a chart representation from Derek Scott that lends visual clarity.

Scott (@twslart ) has been following trends in public education and possesses that gift of explaining concepts that many politicians hope to keep vague (for spinning purposes) in ways that make startling sense. His wife is a newly elected school board member in the state’s largest school system and many of us public school advocates really respect his work. In fact, he has been translating numbers and trends in public education for years.

And he does it well.

He tweeted out this chart last week and what it shows is something that Mark Johnson totally refuses to acknowledge because it would destroy his aforementioned arguments even further.

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It’s the starting and mid-career salaries of those with a Bachelors Degree in NC from not only UNC system schools, but of the larger private institutions – many of which have teacher prep programs. It focuses on the fact that they are the average starting salaries for those who obtain full-time jobs.

And it paints a far different picture than Mark Johnson is trying to draw.

Now if Johnson had any guts, he would address this in an email to perspective teachers.

And he would also compare mid-career salaries and end-of-career salaries of teachers with others in the state.

Let’s see how far that gets him.

Sen. Phil Berger’s Definition of Bipartisanship and What It Means For the May 1st March and Rally

Remember when Phil Berger kept calling the All Out For May 1st march and rally an action by the far-left and a partisan attack against his party’s “reforms” which he thinks have strengthened public schools?

Apparently, Phil Berger never really clarified his definition of what it was to be “partisan” in those press releases he “released” before the beginning of this month.

Until May 8th.

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It begins with “Senate Passes Bipartisan Legislation.”

“Bipartisan.” That what it says.

That bill is Senate Bill 609: K-12 Scholarship Changes. Notice that there are four sponsors: three republican and one democrat.

Below is the voting tally of the bill.

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45 total offered a vote.

27 ayes and 15 noes.

Every republican voted aye.

All of the noes were from democrats.

ONE DEMOCRAT VOTED AYE: Sen. Clark.

One vote in Berger’s eyes made it “bipartisan.” Apparently, it just takes one to change “partisan” to “bipartisan.”

Under Berger’s “logic” and reasoning, one could then deduce having someone from “the other side of the aisle” on board with an action, movement, or initiative would make it “bipartisan.”

Well, then the May 1st march and rally wasn’t a partisan action on behalf of educators and public school advocates because I know of registered republicans who marched  and rallied that day who do not even belong to NCAE.

It was a “bipartisan” effort united by supporting public schools.

At least under Phil Berger’s definition.

 

 

When A State Has To Make Its Voucher System Less Transparent, Then It’s Not Working

Many public school advocates, especially the teacher who writes this blog, have argued that the Opportunity Grants are a detriment to public schools in that it takes public money meant for public schools and gives it to private, unregulated entities which can practice admission standards that would never be allowed in public schools and can offer curricula that is not aligned with preparing students for 21st success.

It also strikes this teacher that 93% of vouchers used in NC when a 2017 Duke study was published went to entities that are affiliated with churches and are possibly housed within churches that do not have to give tax dollars due to religious exemptions.

And don’t forget that we as a state are expanding vouchers by $10 million year until the year 2026-2027.

By that time we will have spent over $900 million dollars on vouchers in North Carolina in a system that is considered the least transparent in the entire country.

Duke study

Last summer the Charlotte Observer carried an op-ed penned by the interim president of Parents for Educational Freedom in North Carolina (PEFNC) Brian Jodice entitled “Public money for private school scholarships is working, and will soon expand dramatically”.

Jodice’s reference to that 2018 NC State study is probably the biggest indicator that what he pins his hope upon to verify the validity of the voucher program is not stable at all. And it should not be worthy of praise because he deliberately misspeaks what the conclusion of that study was.

He said,

Early academic evaluation is encouraging. In June, independent researchers from NC State University released findings from the first-ever academic analysis of the program, revealing “large, positive impacts” on student achievement associated with using a scholarship. Follow-up studies are needed, but this early report card represents very good news.

Even the people who conducted the study cautioned against drawing conclusions. This is from  WUNC .

study

That sample they used? Over half were from established Catholic schools in NC which represent in reality a very small percentage of the voucher recipient pool. In fact, that study has been attacked so much from non-academics that it begs to ask why it was done in the first place. That’s how many holes it has.

And of the money that was allocated this past year to the vouchers, almost half was not used.

This past April, former legislator Joel Ford penned a rather disappointing op-ed about NC’s voucher system called “Disappointed.”  As a board member of PEFNC, he is charged with always presenting the Opportunity Grants in a positive light. His variable that vouchers in NC are working? Satisfaction surveys.

And it’s clear that these families are happy with their choice. A new survey from Parents for Educational Freedom in North Carolina (PEFNC) of nearly 1,500 scholarship recipients showed that 97 percent are “satisfied” or “very satisfied” with the program. That’s why I’ll keep fighting for families like these as a board member of PEFNC.

He presented no other variable of measure for the “success” of the vouchers than “satisfaction.” No scores. No data.

If satisfaction is a variable by which we should measure schools, then we as a state should change the entire school performance grading system. And the opposite of “satisfied” is “unsatisfied” which would also be a measurable in the Joel Ford system of validity.

And there is a lot of “unsatisfaction” from teachers and public school advocates concerning the NCGA which, by the way, finances the Opportunity Grants and is taking steps to make the voucher system in North Carolina even LESS TRANSPARENT.

Lindsay Wagner from the NC Public School Forum summed up  the latest NC House proposals for the voucher system in a recent report posted by NC Policy Watch. In it she states,

The House budget includes a few other proposed changes to the Opportunity Scholarship Program that raise concern:

  • Would enable unspent voucher dollars to be redirected to a nonprofit organization for marketing and advertising to promote the voucher program ($500,000);
  • Would enable unspent voucher dollars to be redirected to the Division of Nonpublic Education for data collection from nonpublic schools and to maintain a web site to provide information to students and parents to assist them in the selection of private schools;
  • Strikes language that currently requires the agency overseeing school vouchers to file annual reports with the General Assembly and the Department of Public Instruction that detail the learning gains or losses of students receiving vouchers, and the competitive effects on public school performance on standardized tests as a result of the voucher program; and
  • Eliminates a third party evaluation of the program intended to produce annual reports.

And she ends with this poignant observation,

The lack of transparency and accountability for publicly-funded private schools is a real head scratcher when you consider how closely the state scrutinizes public schools. The General Assembly sets the precise date that all public schools must start and end the school year, and the number of instructional hours each year must include. The state created and mandates dozens of standardized tests starting as early as pre-K, the results all publicly reported. The finances and academic outcomes of public schools are held to a very high standard by state leaders every day, and at a time when public school state investments fall well short of where they were a decade ago, when adjusted for inflation and student growth. Yet for some reason, we don’t expect the same for our private schools, in which we are investing more and more state dollars in the name of better educational options. It’s past time that North Carolina does better — families and taxpayers have a right to know.

What Wagner does (and others have voiced) is show the hypocrisy of the North Carolina General Assembly when it pertains to fully funding public schools: it will give money to a program shrouded in secrecy and not truly measured while underfunding the very institution it constitutionally should maintain while scrutinizing any and every variable that comes to mind.

And that should end.