Open Letter to the Registered Voter Who Believes in Public Schools

The current General Assembly majority is very scared of public school teachers and those who support them. Without their support in this next election cycle, many candidates for office simply cannot win. That’s why the NCGA majority has touted so many “band-aid” style electioneering schemes to make them appear pro-public education.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

From the Voter ID law to HB2 to fast tracking fracking to neglecting coal ash pools, the powers that-now-be have furthered an agenda that has simply been exclusionary, discriminatory, and narrow-minded. And nowhere is that more evident than the treatment of public education.

Make no mistake. This GOP-led General Assembly has been using a deliberate playbook that other states have seen implemented in various ways. Look at Ohio and New Orleans and their for-profit charter school implementation. Look at Florida and its Jeb Bush school grading system. In fact, look anywhere in the country and you will see a variety of “reform” movements that are not really meant to “reform” public schools, but rather re-form public schools in an image of a profit making enterprise that excludes the very students, teachers, and communities that rely on the public schools to help as the Rev. William Barber would say “create the public.”

North Carolina’s situation may be no different than what other states are experiencing, but how our politicians have proceeded in their attempt to dismantle public education is worth noting. The list below is not by any means complete, but it paints a clear picture.

  • Removal of due-process rights – This keeps teachers from being able to advocate for schools.
  • Graduate Degree Pay Bumps Removed – Removed a means for teachers to invest in their profession.
  • Push for Merit Pay – Never has worked in education. Besides, all teachers assume duties outside of teaching.
  • “Average” Raises – Average and Actual do not mean the same thing.
  • Attacks on Teacher Advocacy Groups – specifically NCAE.
  • Revolving Door of Standardized Tests – And many of the tests are made and graded by for-profit entities.
  • Less Money Spent per Pupil – NC still has not approached pre-recession levels adjusted for inflation.
  • Remove Caps on Class Sizes – Teachers are teaching more students and sometimes more class sections.
  • Jeb Bush School Grading System – This actually only shows how poverty affects public education.
  • Cutting Teacher Assistants – Hurts elementary kids the most.
  • Opportunity Grants – A Voucher scheme that profits private and religious schools.
  • Unregulated growth of charter schools – No empirical data shows any improvement in student achievement with charter schools.
  • Virtual Charter Schools – These are hemorrhaging in enrollment and are among the least effective.
  • Innovative School District – Again, an idea that “profits” only those who take taxpayer money and has no successful track record no matter what state they have been established.
  • Reduction of Teacher Candidates in Colleges – We are lacking in numbers to help supply the next generation of teachers for a growing state.
  • Elimination of Teaching Fellows Program – Another way to discourage bright students from becoming teachers. It has been brought back, but is a shadow of its former self.
  • HB 514 – The bill that is allowing affluent communities to set up their own charter schools that will in essence resegregate school populations while using property tax revenue to help finance new charter school construction.

So what can be done? Actually lots. And it all starts in the ballot boxes.

Remember, North Carolina has 100 counties, each with a county public school system (and 15 other city school systems). According to the Labor and Economic Analysis Division of the NC Dept. of Commerce, the public schools are at least the second-largest employers in nearly 90 of them—and the largest employer, period, in over 60. That means teachers represent a base for most communities, the public school system.  And they are strong in numbers. Add to that their supporters. The numbers get bigger.

If public education matters to you at all, then please understand the damage this General Assembly has done to our public schools and communities. The number of teachers leaving the state or the profession is staggering. It is has given rise to a new state slogan: “North Carolina – First in Teacher Flight.” If our communities are to recover and thrive, then this trend must stop.

Do your homework and see which candidates truly support our public schools.

Educate yourself, then please vote.

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Principals Need More Respect Than This

If you want to look at the reason why a school performs well, then look to the relationships that surround the people: student, teachers, parents, community, staff, and what might be one of the most underappreciated roles in public education – the principal.

Principles-for-Hiring-Principals

The responsibility of a principal is hard to even describe, much less fathom, if you have not been in administration before. They are the face of a school, the sounding board of a community, and the instructional leaders.

When a principal is effective, great things happen in a school. When a principal is ineffective, all facets of a school can stagnate.

All effective principals understand that the most sacred dynamic in the school is the student-teacher relationship. They understand that education is a people centered endeavor, not a transaction. They understand that a single test does not define a person.

Yet, principals in North Carolina ranked 50th in the United States when it came to salary two years ago.

That’s 50th.

Out of 51.

So the powers that be in Raleigh did something about it. Maybe they finally realized that recruiting and properly compensating principals would be greatly enhanced if they had a competitive salary.

Therefore, they “reformed” it. The problem is that those lawmakers forgot that education is a people-centered avocation – not a production line manufacturing plant of knowledge dispensation.

As the venerable Lindsay Wagner (newly housed within the Public School Forum of NC) wrote last fall,

North Carolina’s principals, whose salaries ranked 50th in the nation in 2016, watched this year as lawmakers changed how they are compensated, moving away from a salary schedule based on years of service and earned credentials to a so-called performance-based plan that relies on students’ growth measures (calculated off standardized test scores) and the size of the school to calculate pay” (https://www.ncforum.org/new-principal-pay-plan-could-result-in-steep-salary-reductions-for-veteran-principals/).

Yep, they really did something about it. As Wagner states,

But the plan’s design has produced scenarios that result in some veteran principals conceivably earning as much as 30 percent less than what they earned on the old  pay schedules—prompting some to consider early retirements.”

They made a terrible situation even worse.

This salt-infused Band-Aid of a reform is yet another example of a rough-shod method that lawmakers have used to overhaul a once thriving public school system into a shadow of its former self –  all in the name of improving education.

If one reads the entirety of Wagner’s report, it becomes apparent that the new principal pay plan is long on political ideology and short of thoughtful research and reflection. Too many scenarios exist that could force many a principal to see stark reductions in salary based on arbitrary test scores. Veteran principals, which are becoming a rare breed in NC, would even be encouraged to retire early.

But one comment really stands out.

“Board member Tricia Willoughby repeatedly questioned who designed the principal pay plan.”

It seems no one really knows who came up with the new pay plan. And that is just further proof of the problem that truly exists in Raleigh.

The problem? Lawmakers and other bureaucrats forgot that education is centered around process and progress, not test scores. They forgot that growth means more than arbitrary proficiency. They forgot that educators collaborate and not compete.

It is telling when you read a state board member say,

“The General Assembly really needs a partner called DPI, who understands the implications of various legislative proposals and can prepare expert advice on the outcomes that might result.”

What that means is that there is no communication. No collaboration. No respect for process. No respect for growth.

A good principal could have told them that.

For a group of people who have so much power over public schools, they sure could use a good education in how schools really work.

Dear NC State Board of Education – Vote No on ISD Takeover of Carver Heights Elementary

“Local leaders know what we need.” – Mark Johnson, Sept. 29th, 2016 in debate with Dr. June Atkinson.

Apparently, claiming to trust local leaders to know best was only a political maneuver because right now Carver Heights Elementary is slated to be taken over by the ISD (Achievement School District). It is marked to be placed in the hands of a charter school chain that is privately held and more than likely an out-of-state entity like what happened with Southside-Ashpole.

EagleMascot

That does not sound like allowing “local leaders” being allowed to do what they should be able to do.

The State Board of Education can fight this. And they should.

There is no proof that the model the current ISD operates under improves outcomes. From the Action Network printing a petition for NCAE on Carver Heights:

The school takeover scheme called the Innovative School District is unproven at best, lacks clear accountability, does nothing to help school achievement, and would replace the proven support work of the transformation teams, now called Regional Support Teams. Having for-profit charter management companies take over public schools will do nothing but rip our communities apart. The bottomline is their key priority, not our students.

The Innovative School District is modeled after Tennessee’s Achievement School District which has not show the results promised. ISD is based on a flawed A-F grading system that does nothing more than point out schools with the highest rates of poverty.

The Innovative School District is being pushed by a wealthy out-of-state multimillionaire tied to the school privatization movement who does not know what is best for North Carolina’s students.

Parents, educators, and communities have made it loud and clear they do not want this hostile takeover.

The State Board of Education should reject the takeover of Carver Heights Elementary in Wayne County and should insist the General Assembly give our public schools the resources they need to be successful.

Also, Chalkbeat.org, an education news outlet published this: “Private groups have long tried to help turn around struggling schools. But it’s not clear if they’re doing any good.”

It stated:

But there’s little evidence on whether that school improvement industry, paid for by taxpayers, is actually boosting student learning, according to a study of 151 turnaround providers endorsed by various state agencies.  

When Mark Johnson talked about local people knowing what they need, he seems to have been lying. The first ISD school is now under control of  Achievement for All Children, which is linked to Team CFA and John Bryan.

Now Team CFA linked people are in charge of vital positions in the Department of Public Instruction: the Chief of Staff and the Deputy Superintendent of Innovation. Johnson put them there.

Taking over schools and taking over public education.

The State Board can stop that.

They should.

 

 

 

 

Almost Two Years Since He Was Elected And What Has State Supt. Mark Johnson Done? When the Leader of the Public Schools Refuses to be Part of the Public

This past summer the North Carolina General Assembly emphatically snubbed the state’s public school system when it refused to send a statewide infrastructure bond to the ballot in November to let voters decide on a 1.9 billion dollar package to help rebuild crumbling public schools around the state.

It is also issuing a ballot choice on an amendment to impose an income tax cap that may hurt public school funding in times of recession and economic downturn.

Two vitally important issues concerning the health of public schools. So where was State Superintendent Mark Johnson ? Did he say anything? Did he push back for the sake of the very schools that he is supposed to lead?

 

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When nearly a fifth of the state’s teaching force showed up in Raleigh on May 16th, where was Mark Johnson?

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Not in Raleigh.

But he will show up for “campaign” events like the one this past summer for Grow Great NC conversing with ALEC aligned politicians like Jeb Bush who might be one of the biggest privatizers in the nation.

In that same time frame, over 40 positions were cut from DPI because of a budget cut. Did Johnson fight against that?

jebmark1

So why is Mark Johnson being so “private?” That’s because we have an elected official who refuses to be part of the public.

Imagine you are an official of the state elected by the public. Your job is to lead the state’s public school system. You are the head of the Department of Public Instruction. You are the lead public school instructor. You control public information. You oversee taxpayer money that comes from the public.

Should you not be publicly available? Because that’s a lot of public involved – six “publics” in the first paragraph alone.

From the “Organization” page of DPI’s website (http://www.ncpublicschools.org/organization/):

The North Carolina Department of Public Instruction (NCDPI) is charged with implementing the state’s public school laws and the State Board of Education’s policies and procedures governing pre-kindergarten through 12th grade public education. The elected State Superintendent of Public Instruction leads the Department and functions under the policy direction of the State Board of Education.

The agency provides leadership and service to the 115 local public school districts and 2,500+ traditional public schools, 150+ charter schools, and the three residential schools for students with hearing and visual impairments. The areas of support include curriculum and instruction, accountability, finance, teacher and administrator preparation and licensing, professional development and school business support and operations.

The NCDPI develops the Standard Course of Study, which describes the subjects and course content that is taught in North Carolina public schools, and the assessments and accountability model used to evaluate student, school and district success. In 2016-2017 Department staff are developing North Carolina’s Every Student Succeeds Act plan. This work is being informed by public comments collected in 12 regional meetings and through feedback collected from educators and others. The states ESSA plan will be submitted to the US Department of Education in September 2017.

The NCDPI administers annual state and federal public school funds totaling approximately $9.2 billion and licenses the approximately 117,000 teachers and administrators who serve public schools. The NCDPI’s primary offices are in Raleigh, with four regional alternative licensing centers in Concord, Fayetteville, Elm City and Catawba. Approximately 30,000 new teacher and administrator licenses are issued annually from these centers. The NCDPI’s work extends to the NC Center for the Advancement of Teaching with locations in Cullowhee and Ocracoke, and the NC Virtual Public School – the second largest virtual public school in the nation. The state agency also works closely with nine Regional Education Service Alliances/ Consortia and six regional accountability offices.

There’s a lot of duties in that job description. But is it not ironic that many of those duties seemed to have been ignored? Look at the above job description again (first three paragraphs) with what is known to have happened and what is still happening.

 

There is no other office in the state of North Carolina that has the word “public” associated with it more. The job description alone has the word “public” in it TWELVE times. And the web address has the word “public” in it – http://www.ncPUBLICschools.org.

That’s unacceptable. As the head of DPI and as the overseer of the “assessments and accountability model used to evaluate student, school and district success,” Johnson would be familiar with the distinct standards that teachers and educators like himself would have to show at least proficiency in.

One of them is communication with stakeholders – students, parents, administration, others.

If you were to look at the North Carolina Teacher Evaluation Rubric (easily found in .pdf form on the web), you could do a “find” for the word “communicate.”

rubric

It occurs over 20 times.

Add the word “communication” to the search.

You get over 40 hits.

Communication means being “public” with those who are stakeholders. For Johnson that’s everybody in the state of North Carolina, but if he were being measured by the rubric that he actually is responsible for and should model as the instructional leader of the PUBLIC school system, then he may not be proficient.

When a teacher is evaluated, there are certain pieces of evidence that can be introduced to verify and validate rubric scores.

Imagine how Johnson should be scored. Consider the following pieces of evidence.

  1. Mark Johnson, the state superintendent of public instruction, may be violating state law by failing to respond to a public records request, according to an articleby N.C. Policy Watch’s Billy Ball, a former INDY staff writer (https://www.indyweek.com/news/archives/2017/06/06/nc-policy-watch-state-superintendent-of-public-instruction-may-be-violating-the-law-by-ignoring-records-requests).
  2. WRAL News requested an interview with state Superintendent of Public Instruction Mark Johnson to discuss the Senate’s budget. Instead, he emailed a statement, saying he looks forward to “continuing our work with the NC House and Senate as they transform education in North Carolina” (http://www.wral.com/senate-proposes-cutting-8-state-education-staffers-including-42-year-employee/16707728/).
  3. Johnson has declined multiple interviews with Policy Watch since January, although he has spoken to a handful of other media organizations in the first six months of his term. He also did not respond to Policy Watch communications regarding this report (http://www.ncpolicywatch.com/2017/06/06/state-superintendent-may-violating-law-ignoring-public-records-request/).
  4. The tour will begin at a Winston-Salem high school, although press will reportedly not be allowed to join. Prior to his election as state superintendent, Johnson was a corporate attorney in Winston-Salem and a local school board member (http://pulse.ncpolicywatch.org/2017/02/02/state-superintendent-mark-johnson-begin-listening-tour-winston-salem/#sthash.YoYxJcaT.dpbs).
  5. In an interview with WRAL News last week, Johnson declined to say what other positions he would like to hire if the bill passes (http://www.wral.com/nc-superintendent-hopes-to-hire-chief-innovation-officer-other-positions-with-help-from-lawmakers/16684497/).
  6. Johnson isn’t sharing what those ideas are just yet (http://www.wral.com/ousted-nc-superintendent-on-successor-how-do-i-help-an-infant-in-public-education-/16236296/).
  7. Johnson did not agree to an interview this week, but the superintendent—a Republican who defeated  Atkinson in November’s election—said in a statement Tuesday other exceptions have been allowed in the days since. Johnson did not provide specifics, but those exceptions apparently include updates from the department’s finance office, which has continued to post reports (http://www.ncpolicywatch.com/2017/07/12/state-school-superintendent-muzzles-communication-dpi/).

That’s not being very public.

The “Ignoramasaurus Rex” – How The Average Teacher Pay Increase in NC is Not Really Real

T. Keung Hui’s report for McClatchy Regional News this past spring entitled “N.C. teachers are now averaging more than $50,000 a year” is really not what it appears to be simply because that average salary is being bolstered by the very people that the NC General Assembly wants to rid the state of: veteran teachers with due-process rights.

Hui, the venerable education reporter for the Raleigh News & Observer, begins:

The average salary for a North Carolina teacher has increased to more than $50,000 a year for the first time.

Recently released figures from the state Department of Public Instruction put the average salary for a North Carolina public school teacher at $51,214 this school year. That’s $1,245 more than the previous school year.

The $50,000 benchmark has been a major symbolic milestone, with Republican candidates having campaigned in 2016 about how that figure had already been reached. Democrats argued that the $50,000 mark hadn’t been reached yet and that Republicans hadn’t done enough, especially for highly experienced teachers.

The average teacher salary has risen 12 percent over the past five years, from $45,737 a year. Since taking control of the state legislature in 2011, Republicans raised the starting base salary for new teachers to $35,000 and gave raises to other teachers (http://www.journalnow.com/news/state_region/n-c-teachers-are-now-averaging-more-than-a-year/article_e3fe232c-1332-5f6e-89e5-de7c428436fb.html ).

One particular part to make note of there is “raised the base salary for new teachers.” Those raises to other teachers pale in comparison.

Ironic that this will be the first year that this has happened considering that then Gov. Pat McCrory in an effort to get teachers to vote for him touted a claim of 50K as an average a couple of years ago.

Remember this from the last election year in 2016?

mccrory

You cannot find that website now. But it was there making the claim of 50K a year.

The operative word here is “average”. What GOP stalwarts purposefully fail to tell you is that most of the raises have occurred at the very low rungs of the salary schedule. Of course, you can raise the salary of first year teachers by a few thousand dollars and it would give them an average raise of maybe 10-15%. You would only have to give veteran teachers a very small raise funded by longevity pay (which we no longer get) and the OVERALL average raise still looks good, and not much money has to be invested.

“Average” does not mean “actual”. But it sounds great to those who don’t understand the math.

This report reflects a whopping double standard of the NC General Assembly and a total contradiction to what is really happening to average teacher pay. Just follow my logic and see if it makes sense.

The last six years have seen tremendous changes to teacher pay. For new teachers entering in the profession here in NC there is no longer any graduate degree pay bump, no more longevity pay (for anyone), and a changed salary schedule that only makes it possible for a teacher to top out on the salary schedule with a little over 51K per year.

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So how can that be the average pay in NC be over 50K when no one can really make much over 50K as a new teacher in his/her entire career unless they all become nationally certified (which takes a monetary investment by the teacher to start)?

Easy. North Carolina is counting all of the veteran teachers’ current salaries in that figure. The very people whose salaries simply disgusted the former governor and the General Assembly to the point that they had to take measures to “lower” them are actually being used to tout this new wonderful “average.”

Furthermore, this average is counting on local supplements. This comes in the face of budgets that are allocating less money to each central office of each school system for administrative costs. Now each county has to raise more money to actually offset those costs and also allow for local supplements. And not all localities provide the same supplements.

Plus, those LEA’s will have to do something in the next few years to raise even more money to meet the requirements fo the delayed class size mandate.

Any veteran teacher who is making above 50K based on seniority, graduate pay, and national boards are gladly counted in this figure. It simply drives up the CURRENT average pay. But when these veteran teachers who have seniority, graduate pay, and possibly national certification retire (and many are doing that early at 25 years), then the very people who seem to be a “burden” on the educational budget leave the system.

In actuality, that would drive the average salary down as time goes on. If the top salary that any teacher could make is barely over 50K (some will have higher as National Board Certified Teachers, but not a high percentage), then how can you really tout that average salaries will be higher?

You can if you are only talking about the right here and right now.

The “average bear” can turn into a bigger creature if allowed to be mutated by election year propaganda. That creature is actually a monster called the “Ignoramasaurus Rex” known for its loud roar but really short arms that keep it from having far reaching consequences.

Remember the word “average” is a very easy word to manipulate. Politicians use it well. In this case, the very teachers who are driving the “average” salary up are the very people that the state wants to not have in a few years. There will then be a new average. It can’t possibly be over 50K then if current trends keep going.

 

North Carolina’s Man-Made Educational Climate Change

NASA’s Global Climate Change website is dedicated to educating people about human influence on the environment. Under the “Scientific Consensus” tab it states,

“Multiple studies published in peer-reviewed scientific journals1 show that 97 percent or more of actively publishing climate scientists agree: Climate-warming trends over the past century are extremely likely due to human activities” (http://climate.nasa.gov/scientific-consensus/).

When 97% of publishing climate scientists make the same observation, it should not only cause people to take notice, but spur them into action.  Global warming is theorized to be behind the rise in catastrophic weather like hurricanes, extreme heat, excessive cold spells, floods, and erratic patterns of rain and drought.

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An astounding number of educators in our traditional schools here in North Carolina would assert that there has been a significant change in the climate of the public school system whose terrain has also been victimized by floods of standardized tests, droughts of legitimate support from governing bodies, catastrophic storms of baseless criticism, the heat of reform efforts, and the freeze of privatization attempts.

In short, public education has been metaphorically altered by man-made climate change. And just like actual climate change, we as a state and as a nation are approaching a tipping point where the effects of climate change will be irreversible and our citizens will suffer.

Just like the many deniers of climate change and others who do not believe that humans have interfered with the health of the Earth, many people in North Carolina cannot conceive that what has happened to our public school system in the last six years has been detrimental to our schools and/or directly caused by uninformed politicians.

Simply look at the many claims coming from Phil Berger concerning the #NCSuccessStory that includes assertions about teacher pay and funding and one can see a singular manufactured picture of what many in Raleigh want you to believe North Carolina is at all times . However, saying that we just experienced a day of mild temperatures and blue skies does not erase the fact that certain patterns have been put into place that erode both our physical environment and the public educational situation.

Man-made climate change in our public schools has included giving huge raises to a select few and claiming an erroneous average salary increase for all while ignoring veteran teachers.

It has included removal of due-process rights and graduate degree pay bumps.

It has included arbitrary evaluations systems and a push for merit pay where merit is based on standardized tests that do not measure growth.

It has included attacks on advocacy groups and the removal of class size caps.

It has included a revolving door of standardized tests constructed by for-profit entities and graded by outside institutions.

It has included a money-siphoning voucher system, unregulated charter school growth, and the creation of an Innovative School District, all of which have no history of success in other implementations.

It has included the use of a school grading system that literally displays the effects of poverty on public school children and the schools that service them.

The climate has severely suffered. Fewer students are entering the education field. Too many school systems have vacancies that still need to be filled. Veteran teachers are moving to other states, moving to other school systems, or beginning new careers.

And students are the victims. Not only do we leave them with a physical world that is rapidly losing its health, but we leave them unprepared because their public schools are not being properly funded.

We in North Carolina have just been witness to Hurricanes Florence and Michael. They wreaked havoc on our state and dumped tremendous amounts of rain on our towns and cities causing damage and flooding.  Local and state officials have galvanized efforts to help those most affected try and get back to some level of normalcy.

Have those in power on West Jones Street in Raleigh done the same for our public schools? Have they released the funds necessary for our teachers and staffs to make sure that we have a strong foundation of public education? They say they have, but they have not. The climate of public education is proof of that.

And we are reaching a point of no return. Therefore, it is incumbent that we combat the sources of educational climate change and it begins on November 6th. We have the power to place people in office who can stop this man-made climate change in our public schools.

So get out and vote.

Summer Miles, Fall Smiles – Titans Win Boys and Girls Cross Country Regionals

Today a first occurred for West Forsyth Titan Athletics – both the boys and the girls’ teams won the Regional Meet. While both have qualified to run as teams in the state meet, the fact that both teams won today’s regional meet against rather stiff competition was impressive.

This was the first meet I have attended and while I am familiar with a little of how a meet is scored and judged, it can never be stressed enough how much this really is a team sport. Every runner counts, and the one who may finish seventh for the team may be the one who literally “seals” a team win.

Also, nearly two inches of rain fell on the running course yesterday. Didn’t stop any of the competitors.

Congrats to the runners and Coach Newsome, Coach Thompson, and Coach Chapman.

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National Board Certification Renewal Score Release Day – An Argument to Invest More in Teachers

Did you know that North Carolina has more Nationally Board Certified Teachers than any state in the country?

Simply go to this site and compare – http://www.nbpts.org/in-your-state/.

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This morning score reports for those who were seeking renewal are being released. If you succeeded, I congratulate you. It’s not easy to become and remain certified.

When I initially sought to become nationally certified, the day of the fall score reporting was as nerve-racking a day as I could imagine. Today, when I looked at my renewal scores, I had that same feeling because it is important.

But the way that the state of North Carolina looks at NBCT’s and the process they undergo to become certified has almost completely turned around.

When I initially began my certification process a decade ago, the state paid my fees. The state saw it as an investment in teachers to get better at what they do. That might be the reason that so many teachers in NC underwent the process. That no longer happens. Teachers must finance their own chance to get better at their avocation. My renewal fees for my renewal cycle alone were higher than a mortgage payment.

The state also gave an increase in pay to those who became nationally certified, but they stopped that policy for those who seek graduate degrees. Unlike graduate degrees, the state apparently still views national certification as a viable display of expertise and professionalism.

And that is a bit contradictory to what many policy-makers are saying about the need to “reform.” The need for competition among schools and teachers seems to be the central mantra of reformers; however, national boards is really a testament to collaboration and community and being a part of – not being above others.

If anyone wants to see the process of what it is like to receive national certification, then simply go to http://www.nbpts.org/. It’s all there. Even if you don’t, it is safe to assume that it includes actual footage of teaching, letters of recommendation and authenticity, student samples, evidence of outreach, evidence of leadership among others.

But at one time national certification was an investment that this state made in teachers. It was an investment in teachers becoming better. NBCT’s tend to stay in the profession longer. Research shows that they affect student achievement positively. If it didn’t, then the regard in which this state still holds NBCT’s in would come under lots more scrutiny.

The argument here is many-fold.

Our state still has the most NBCT’s which correlates to a lot of people who are dedicated to teaching at a high standard and achieving greater goals DESPITE what lawmakers have said about the profession and done to disenfranchise public schools.

We should as a state reinstate the payment of entry and renewal fees for those seeking to become certified or maintaining certification.  It is an investment whose ROI is very high.

And we as a state should bring back graduate degree pay bumps because most education graduate programs have a similar portfolio dynamic and process that national certification also embraces as well as more focused attention on latest research.

If Raleigh truly wants to help public education, then it would invest in the people – like it used to before we had the situation we have today that requires weak and anemic policies like SB599 or what Rowan-Salisbury School District is considering to “open up” the teacher candidate pool: lower requirements to becoming a teacher.

And don’t forget that Wake County has the highest number of NBCT’s for a district in THE NATION.

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Raleigh is in Wake County.

That’s some irony.

Vote.

Stop the Privatization of NC’s Public Schools – It Starts At the Polls

Remember Michelle Rhee’s visit to North Carolina last year for a “closed-door” meeting (February 7th  ,2017) with lawmakers brokered by an educational lobbying body of business leaders called BEST NC (coupled with the NC GOP’s invitation to Betsy DeVos who had just been confirmed as Trump’s secretary of education)?

It was another ominous omen of what has been and will continue to be attempted in North Carolina – the further privatization of public education in North Carolina.

That meeting with Rhee that was passed off as a session with leaders where candid questions could be asked and ideas exchanged on how to improve public education seemed to be void of the very people who know education the best – public school educators. The media did have a brief chance to meet and greet with Ms. Rhee and George Parker in a manicured and measured way, but what happened behind closed doors with people who make decisions on how to spend taxpayer money and fund public schools along with controversial educational reformers remains a mystery.

In fact, it seemed more like a special session of the NC General Assembly who used such “secret sessions” to spawn actions such as HB2SB4, and HB17 (the latter two soon after Mark Johnson was elected as NC State Superintendent).

Despite what they claim, the intentions of BEST NC and other “reformers” to improve public education seems to have a different meaning to them than it does to those who are educators in our public schools.

That’s because there exist too many relationships between business leaders, lobbying groups, wealthy benefactors, politicians, and educational reformers to be coincidental. In fact, many in the “reform” movement that have started to dismantle the public school system are strategically linked to each other both outside of the state and inside.

Look at the graphic below:

graph1

That is a diagram of the relationships between entities that many public school advocates deem as detrimental to our public school system. It’s very busy and probably confusing. It’s supposed to be.

Consider the following national entities:

  • Teach For America
  • Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation
  • Walton Family Foundation
  • Eli Broad Foundation
  • KIPP Charter Schools
  • Democrats For Educational Reform
  • Educational Reform Now
  • StudentsFirst
  • America Succeeds
  • 50CAN
  • American Legislative Exchange Council
  • National Heritage Academies
  • Charter School USA
  • Team CFA
  • American Federation for Children

Somehow, someway all of the bulleted entities above have been at play in North Carolina even before that meeting with Michelle Rhee and BEST NC which took place literally days after Betsy DeVos was confirmed as secretary of education thanks to the first ever tie-breaking vote by a vice-president for a cabinet position.

They continue to be at play, more so now than ever before. And other are joining in thus making this document a work in progress.

If you are willing, simply follow the explanation below because what seems to be a simple meeting that took place in February of 2017 was just another step in the GOP-led NC General Assembly to dismantle public education and finance the privatization of schooling.

First, consider the national scene.

graph11

In 2014 a teacher/researcher named Mercedes Schneider published an informative book called A Chronicle of Echoes: Who’s Who in the Implosion of American Public Education. What Schneider did was literally research and report on all of the bodies of influence that were applying forces on the landscape of public education for the benefit of political and capitalistic gain.

The fact that she is a teacher, product of public schools from southern Louisiana, a trained researcher, a survivor of Katrina, and a residential expert of the charter takeover in New Orleans, she has a unique perspective and an educated point of view.

Chapter 17 of the book is dedicated to the Democrats For Educational Reform and the Educational Reform Now groups (DFER and ERN).

DFER supports vouchers, union busting and other reform measures that are common in other reform circles, but they are (to summarize Schneider) not “non-profit.” What makes them powerful is that they have the word “Democrat” in their name and it allows them to literally “train” democrats into accepting and advancing a protocol that actually is more conservative in nature – initiatives that align with school choice and charter movements. Schneider talks about in pages 276-279 how the DFER even promoted “mayoral control and charter favoritism.”

It may seem a little bit like conspiracy theory, but it does make sense. Why? Because DFER is non-profit and has the word “Democrat” in it and therefore does not get the big time donations from conservative donators.

Or do they?

DFER is run mostly by hedge-fund managers. One of them is Whitney Tilson, who happens to be a Teach For America alumnus and a vice-chair of New York’s KIPP charters. He also sits on the board of DFER. That alone links DFERKIPP, and TFA (p.278).

At least in 2013, DFER had an Executive Director named Joe Williams. He just happened to “also head another reform group, this one actually is classed as a ‘nonprofit,’ and it doesn’t have the D-word in its title.”  Education Reform Now (ERN) is a “democratic” body understood to be a “sister entity” to DFER (p.279).

By 2010, ERN counted the Broad Foundation and the Walton Foundation as donors. “ERNenables hedge-fund managers to quietly donate to Democrats advancing the privatization agenda…. Looks like the big Republican money is available to DFER, after all – through its ERN back door” (p.279).

More from Schneider:

  • Remember that Whitney Tilson is also a founding member of Teach For America along with Wendy Kopp. Kopp was the mentor of Michelle Rhee. Their ventures literally share the same circulatory system.
  • Tilson sits on the KIPP board and sits on the DFER board.
  • Kopp sits on the Broad Foundation Board which feeds money to ERN who in turn feeds DFER. Kopp is also married to Richard Barth, the CEO of KIPP Foundation.
  • DFER through ERN conducts business with StudentsFirst, founded by Michelle Rhee.
  • Tilson, Kopp, and Rhee are TFA alums.

BEST NC, based in Raleigh and architects of the recent controversial principal play program in the state, is affiliated with an outfit named America Succeeds that feeds and supports various “reform” groups within certain states that bring together powerful business leaders to push “educational reform.” Look at the following article: – http://www.prwatch.org/news/2016/03/13065/how-dfer-leaders-channel-out-state-dark-money-colorado-and-beyond. The title alone alludes to the ability for DFER to channel “dark” money to out of state entities that promote anti-union, pro-charter, voucher supporting measures. It shows something interesting.

  • America Succeeds’s address in Colorado is 1390 Lawrence Street in Denver.
  • DFER’s Colorado office is located on 1390 Lawrence Street in Denver.
  • KIPP’s Denver charter schools are headquartered in Denver. At 1390 Lawrence Street.

Seems that TFAStudentsFirstDFERERNKIPP are about as incestuously linked as a Greek god family tree and it is feeding support to groups like BEST NC who just happens to be the Carolina affiliate of America Succeeds.

Think about it. North Carolina is an ideal target. Why? Because of the following conditions:

  • Right-to-work state.
  • Elimination of due-process rights.
  • Removal of caps for number of charter schools which are not regulated.
  • GOP controlled state assembly.
  • Opportunity Grants increasing.
  • Push for merit pay.
  • The new state superintendent is a TFA alumnus – Mark Johnson.

Part of that national scene includes three charter school chains.

National Heritage Academies is based in Michigan in the same state where Betsy DeVosbegan her quest to privatize public education. They’ve enabled each other. National Heritage Academies has 11 schools in North Carolina. One of them is Greensboro Academy. On the board of that school is Alan Harkes who sits on the Charter School Advisory Board of North Carolina. That’s convenient.

Betsy DeVos is also the founder of a school choice advocacy group in Washington D.C. called the American Federation For Children. On February 15th, 2018 Darrell Allison who was for years the head of the Parents For Educational Freedom in North Carolina, was chosen to assume a leadership position with AFC.

Team CFA is based in Oregon. John Bryan, the founder of the Team CFA, 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 an attempt to win the contract of the ISD school in Robeson that was recently given a green light with Dr. Eric Hall as the superintendent. He would report straight to Mark Johnson under provisions of HB4. (http://amp.newsobserver.com/news/local/education/article177836091.html).

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

Now consider North Carolina.

graph3

Those numbers correspond to:

  1. North Carolina General Assembly
  2. Charter School Advisory Board and State Board of Education
  3. Civitas Institute
  4. John Locke Foundation
  5. BEST NC
  6. SAS
  7. State Supt. Mark Johnson
  8. Lt. Gov. Dan Forest
  9. Parents for Educational Freedom in North Carolina
  10. Carolina CAN
  11. Jason Saine
  12. Jerry Tillman
  13. Innovative School District
  14. Bill Rabon
  15. Trinity Christian School
  16. David Curtis

Go back to Charter Schools USA.

Below is a screen shot from followthemoney.org which tracks campaign contributions to political candidates (https://www.followthemoney.org/entity-details?eid=14298646). Here is a list of candidates who have received money from Hage in NC.

graph5

  • There’s Jerry Tillman, the former public school administrator who is a champion for opaque charter school regulation. He’s #12 on the state map.
  • And there’s Jason Saine who loves charters as well. He’s #11 on the state map.
  • There’s David Curtis, who loves charters as well. He’s #16 on the state map.
  • There’s Lt. Gov. Dan Forest, who sits on the state school board and lambasted DPI under Dr. June Atkinson for its report on charter schools that said they were disproportionally representing populations. He’s #8 on the state map. It is also worth noting that Forest is also on the state board of education and is ramping up for a run at the governor’s mansion in 2020.
  • There’s Bill Rabon, who stalled the HB13 bill in the Senate. That’s the bill that would have been a clean fix of the class size mandate that was replaced with a poison pill called HB90. He’s #14 on the state map.

Furthermore, Jason Saine is the new National Chairman of ALEC and is helping to open yet another charter school called West Lake Preparatory school that is affiliated with Charter Schools USA – https://caffeinatedrage.com/2016/12/08/open-letter-to-rep-jason-saine-youre-a-state-representative-fight-for-all-public-schools-not-a-new-charter-school/.

Brenda Berg who is the CEO of BEST NC has increasingly brokered working relationships with many entities that have targeted public schools – John Locke Foundation being one.

BEST NC’s former VP was Julie Kowal, who at one time was the Executive Director of CarolinaCan, which is the NC chapter of an outfit called 50CAN, a national “advocacy group” that just a few years ago merged with another entity: StudentsFirsthttps://studentsfirst.org/pages/50can-and-studentsfirst-merge-strengthen-support-local-education-leaders-across-countryStudentsFirst was started by Michelle Rhee.

Additionally, Mark Johnson was granted a massive amount of power over public education through House Bill 17 and Senate Bill 4 (HB17 &SB4), power over charter schools, and the control of the Innovative School District and has retained the services of ex-Pat McCrory aids who possibly were enabled by other McCrory cronies, such as Art Pope who is linked to the American Legislative Exchange Council, otherwise known as ALEC. Art Pope is also part of the aforementioned John Locke Foundation.

The North Carolina General Assembly backed Johnson with money and resources to fight the state board of education in a rather long-timed lawsuit thus showing the NCGA’s loyalty to Johnson and not the state board. Furthermore, it has reduced DPI’s budget significantly and allowed Johnson to hire people loyal to him including a former official with the Mississippi Charter Schools (#14 on national map) as a high ranking person in DPI.

And Mark Johnson is an admirer of Betsy DeVos. When interviewed by the Charlotte Observer for a Jan. 27th, 2017 feature Johnson expressed his support for the neophyte DeVos.

When asked about her, Johnson didn’t hesitate: “I support her.”

It’s not ironic that Betsy DeVos is also associated with ALEC. From sourcewatch.com it is learned that DeVos has “bankrolled the 501 (c) (4) group the American Federation for Childrenthe 501 (c) (3) group Alliance for School Choice and by having these groups participate in and fund the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC).”

And remember that Darrell Allison who served as president of the Parents For Educational Freedom in North Carolina for the past few years will now be a director in DeVos’s American Federation for Children. Allison still plans on being based in North Carolina.

Oh, Allison is also on the UNC Board of Governors. He will remain in that capacity. So a man who has influence over the state’s university system is employed by national school choice advocacy group founded by the current secretary of education that feeds funds to ALEC, an organization that just named a NC lawmaker (Jason Saine) as its national chairman.

All of these connections seem more than coincidence and this perfect storm of timing, state politics, gerrymandering, and people in power can’t just be by chance. Could it?

So where are the teachers in this dialogue? The schools of education in one of the best college systems in the nation and from some of the highest ranking private schools in the country?

Well many teachers have been represented by groups like NCAE (which is an association and not a union). Multiple times the NC General Assembly has tried to weaken any group like NCAE through stopping automatic dues payments and other things such as what the Civitas Institute tried to do here – luring teachers in NCAE to “buy” their membership back.

Remember this?

graph6

That website was established by the Civitas Institute, which was founded by Art Pope. It showed NCAE members how to withdraw their membership in NCAE and make $450 because that is what they would not be spending in dues.

Now look at that first map again:

graph1

Hopefully, it makes a little more sense.

The NC GOP has been very instrumental in the following actions:

  • Removal of due-process rights
  • Graduate Degree Pay Bumps Removed
  • Standard 6
  • “Average” Raises
  • Less Money Spent per Pupil
  • Remove Caps on Class Sizes
  • Jeb Bush School Grading System
  • Cutting Teacher Assistants
  • Opportunity Grants
  • Virtual Schools
  • Reduction of Teacher Candidates in Colleges
  • Elimination of Teaching Fellows Program and reinvention in a different entity.

Also look at this timeline:

  • Art Pope became McCrory’s budget director – 2013
  • Graduate Degree Pay Bumps Eliminated – 2013
  • 50Can created CarolinaCan – 2013
  • School Performance Grades – 2013
  • Due-process rights taken from new teachers – started in 2013
  • Charter school cap in NC lifted – 2014, but proposed in 2013.
  • Opportunity Grants (vouchers) – 2014

Now consider SAS, a software company whose president, James Goodnight, is married to one of the founders and current Board Member of BEST NC, Anne Goodnight. Mrs. Goodnight was also one of the founders of Cary Academy, a rather prestigious private school in the Triangle area.

In a data-driven, educational-reform era that seems to crunch and use data to position evidence that supports their claims, it would make sense to align with SAS, an “American multinational developer of analytics software based in Cary, North Carolina. SAS develops and markets a suite of analytics software, which helps access, manage, analyze and report on data to aid in decision-making” (Wikipedia).

SAS controls the EVAAS software system. It is used by the state to measure teacher effectiveness. It uses rather surreptitious methods and secret algorithms to calculate its data – https://caffeinatedrage.com/2017/11/26/why-teachers-should-be-wary-of-evaas-and-sas/.

What has happened is that much of what should be “public” in the North Carolina school system is now being guided by non-public entities.

And we in NC get this:

graph4

Simply put, the privatization of the public school system.

Vote. And help change this.