Hawkins Middle School : How “Stranger Things” Shows Support For Public Schools

The fictional town of Hawkins, Indiana became the epicenter of a lot of “binge-watching” in the last year as the second season of the hit series Stranger Things was released in nine episodes.

Following the trials and tribulations of these school-age kids and their families is rather surreal; the music, the fashion, and the hair styles are as authentically presented now as they were actually in the 1980’s, especially if you are a middle-aged public school teacher who listens to The Clash like he did growing up in a small rural town in Georgia where he rode his bike everywhere without a digital link to everything else in the world.

He just had to be home by dinner.

While the kids and adults in this fictional town battle forces from the “upside down” amidst a government cover-up during the Cold War, it is easy to get lost in the sci-fi aspects of this well-written show. And it is very well-written and produced. But there is one non-human entity that is foundational and serves as the cornerstone to those people in a small section of Indiana: Hawkins Middle School, Home of the Tiger Cubs.

Stockbridge_School

Is there ever an episode where the school was not used as a setting? A place for Mike, Dustin, and Lucas to find answers? Is there ever an episode where the school is not juxtaposed against Hawkins National Laboratory where secretive actions took place?

Think about it. One place is an established public good where taxpayer money helps to educate all of the students who pass through its doors no matter what socioeconomic background they come from. They could be students from single-parent families or presumably stable nuclear families. They could be interested in a variety of curious endeavors like Dungeons & Dragons or audio/visual technology. Some of the kids ride their bicycles to this place.

stranger-things-filming-locations-hawkins-middle-school-2

The other is surrounded by gates and fences and can only be entered by people who are “chosen.” That place does not have to show others what happens there or how it “assesses” matters. If someone who is not a “staff member” or “student” there is caught on the premises, then punishment ensues.

But like the first place, this one is also financed by taxpayer money. Yet here, money is being used to create something private that is supposed to combat a problem that does not exist, but it creates an even bigger problem for all people.

While the parallels between Hawkins Middle School and Hawkins National Laboratory may be an exercise in fandom, they are rather apparent to those who question the actions of the North Carolina General Assembly when it comes to “reforming” public education.

If there ever was a cornerstone for the characters in Hawkins, IN, then it is the public school. It serves as the greatest foundation of that community.

The AV Room. Heathkit. School assemblies. The gymnasium. Science class. Mr. Clarke. Eleven channeling Will. Makeshift isolation tank. Portal to the Upside Down. The Snow Ball. Parents were students there. Ghostbusters suits.

hawkins

Those are tied to Hawkins Middle School.

So is growing up, coming of age, hallway conversations, epiphanies, learning about others, following curiosities, finding answers to questions you learned to ask.

Those are also tied to Hawkins Middle School.

What is attached to Hawkins National Laboratory is unregulated, politicized, and secretive. That is not to say that some charter schools do not serve vital purposes. Their original intent was to be a place where pedagogical approaches not used in traditional public schools would be used to see if what was successful could be implemented into public schools. But that is becoming more the exception and not the norm here in North Carolina.

Yes, the show takes place in Indiana and not North Carolina. My childhood roaming on a bicycle happened in Georgia and not North Carolina. But does that matter?

Ironically, Stranger Things happens to be a show created by two North Carolinians (from Durham, no less – “Mess With the Bull, Get the Horns”) and shot in Georgia, but Hawkins is really any town where a majority of students go to public schools.

And just like in the 1980’s, public schools today are the heart of communities.

 

 

Local Supplements For Teachers Mean More Than You May Think

North Carolina’s General Assembly can now make the claim that the average teacher salary is over $50,000 / year. That is at least until it gets rid of its veteran teachers.

T. Keung Hui’s report for McClatchy Regional News this past March entitled “N.C. teachers are now averaging more than $50,000 a year” clearly shows 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 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 ).

There’s a term in that statement upon which the truth really hinges. Do not mind that the average pay will decrease over time as the highest salary a new teacher could make in the new budget is barely over 50k. That is fodder for another argument like this one, /https://caffeinatedrage.com/2016/07/17/the-ignoramasaurus-rex-how-gov-mccrorys-claim-on-average-teacher-pay-is-not-really-real/ .

The term I am referring to is “local supplement.”

You may be wondering, “What the hell is that?” Well, a local supplement is an additional amount of money that a local district may apply on top the state’s salary to help attract teachers to come and stay in a particular district. While people may be fixated on actual state salary schedule, a local supplement has more of a direct effect on the way a district can attract and retain teachers, especially in this legislative climate.

My own district, the Winston-Salem /Forsyth County Schools, currently ranks in the teens in the state with local supplements. Our neighbor, Guilford County, ranks much higher.

Arika Herron’s, the former education reporter in my town, talked about in the August 7th, 2016 edition of the Winston-Salem Journal the effect of local supplements. The article “Schools looking for ways to cut spending, boost salaries” defines teacher supplements as a way “to improve teacher recruitment and retention.” It also talks about how it is viewed in the eyes of teachers and elected officials. Take a look at some of the quotes ( http://www.journalnow.com/news/local/schools-looking-for-ways-to-cut-spending-boost-salaries/article_f487023a-9aec-52a3-b084-20e0bf323091.html?mode=image&photo=).

Trey Ferguson is a younger teacher from Wake County.

Trey Ferguson said salary supplements were a huge factor when he and his wife were looking for their first teaching jobs three years ago.

An N.C. State graduate, Ferguson said they looked in the areas where both he and his wife grew up, but local salary supplements didn’t compare to what Wake County Public Schools were offering.

Jim Brooks is a veteran teacher in Wilkes County.

For veteran teachers, the supplements can be viewed differently. Because the supplements have to come from local funds — those provided by local governments through taxes — supplements can also be seen as a measure of community support, said Jim Brooks, 31-year teaching veteran with Wilkes County Schools.

Brooks said that while salary supplements weren’t something he considered when looking for his first job and are not enough to draw him away from the home he’s made in Wilkes County, they can be a way that teachers get a sense of their value in a community.”

“It’s kind of saying, ‘We value the work you do; We want to go beyond how the state compensates you,’” he said.

One board member here in WSFCS, Lori Goins Clark, said,

“We need to do better for our teachers. They don’t get paid enough to do one of the hardest jobs there is in the world.

 

And recently, Wake County had to offset a budget shortfall by pulling back its local supplements because of the state’s budget.

What gets twisted here is that in creating local supplements for teachers many mitigating factors come into light and when North Carolina began bragging about the new average salary it was telling you that Raleigh was placing more of a burden on local districts to create a positive spin on GOP policies in an election year.

It also gives you a little more insight into the provision passed recently by the NCGA to allow property taxes in localities to be used to finance local schools more.

The past few budgets that were passed cut monies to the Department of Public Instruction, therefore limiting DPI’s abilities to disperse ample amounts of money to local county and city districts for various initiatives like professional development and support. When local central offices have less money to work with, they then have to prioritize their needs to match their financial resources. That means some school systems cannot offer a local supplement to teachers because they are scrambling to fulfill other needs that a fully funded state public school system would already offer.

And it is not just about whether to have a couple of program managers for the district. It’s about whether to allow class sizes to be bigger so that more reading specialists can be put into third grade classes, or more teacher assistants to help special needs kids like mine succeed in lower grades. Or even physical resources like software and desks.

What the current GOP-led NCGA did was to create a situation where local districts had to pick up more of the tab to fund everyday public school functions.

What adds to this is that this governing body is siphoning more and more tax money to entities like charter schools, Opportunity Grants, an ISD district, and other privatizing efforts. Just look at the amount of money the state has spent on private lawyer fees to defend indefensible measures like HB2, the Voter ID law, and redistricting maps?

But back local supplements. Look at the stats from a couple of years ago concerning local supplements that Herron included in her report. Wake ranked the highest, Guilford County was sixth, and WSFCS was 19th.

But this is telling.

localsupplement

These differences can add up. For a younger teacher, that can swing a decision. And we in WSFCS get a lot of teacher candidates. Look at the teacher preparation programs that surround us – Wake Forest, Winston-Salem State, Salem College, App State, and UNCG just to name a few that actually place student teachers in my school.

For a veteran teacher like myself, a competitive local supplement could mean that I feel valued by the very system that still lacks enough teachers to start the school year fully staffed.

So, what can a district’s community do to help teachers come and stay in a particular district?

  • They can look at local supplements as a way of investing rather than being taxed.
  • They can go and vote for candidates on the state level who support public education.
  • They can go and vote for county commissioners who are committed to helping fully fund public schools.
  • And they can go and investigate how all of the financing of schools works. It is not as black and white as some may believe it is. Rather it is very much interconnected.

The current culture in our state has not been very kind to public school teachers. Competitive local supplements could go a long way in showing value in public schools.

When “Sense” Are Worth More Than a Single “Dollar” – Vote for Julie von Haefen in District 36

Rather than concede that they’re ducking those debates, Republicans are claiming there’s nothing left to discuss. Rep. Nelson Dollar, a Cary Republican and the House’s chief budget writer, said, “Most of the budgeting was done for the second year last year in the budget. It was obviously fully debated, fully discussed, fully amended,”  – https://www.newsobserver.com/opinion/editorials/article211879774.html.

If I lived in District 36, I would vote for Julie von Haefen. I do not; however, von Haefen’s election affects all of North Carolina as she is running against Nelson Dollar, a man who has rubber-stamped ill-gotten policies against public education and ensured that the budget reflected the will of a few and not of the state.

When the North Carolina General Assembly powers decided to ram their state budget through a committee report instead of through a bill, they broke with a precedent that is vital for democracy: debate and chance to amend.

And what Rep. Nelson Dollar of Wake County said in the above quote is indicative of two distinct facets of many in the NCGA. First, they are scared. When the NCGA went “nuclear,” they showed that debate on education budgeting and what May 16th’s march and rally were not favorable to them. It would further expose their hypocrisy.

Secondly, it showed that the NCGA leaders know that the budget is not favorable to public education. If it was, then it could stand on its own in a bill.

Dollar is the chief budget writer for the NC State House. He knows exactly what he is doing when it comes to public education. And as a representative of Wake County, it was especially revealing what he said in reference to the recent WCPSS Board meeting in which his county’s school system had to somehow cover a multi-million dollar shortfall due to state budgeting.

From CBS17.com:

As Wake County school leaders decided what to cut to close a $25.5 million budget gap, one of them blasted state leaders, saying the state isn’t providing enough funding to operate schools.

“It’s not right. It needs to change, and the public needs to know what’s going on,” said school board member Bill Fletcher during Tuesday’s meeting as the board prepared to vote on various budget cuts. “I am reasonably outraged at why we’re having to do it.”

He said over the last several years, the county has increasingly raised taxes to cover expenses previously handled by the state. This year, Wake County commissioners increased school funding by $45 million, which was a record.

“That’s $120 million a year out of Wake County property taxes that’s being used to supplement the state budget,” he said.

In an interview Wednesday, he added, “It’s been happening over time. The Republican legislature has kind of amped it up a little bit, if you will” (https://www.cbs17.com/news/local-news/wake-county-news/wake-school-board-member-says-state-isn-t-providing-enough-funding/1296649096).

Makes one wonder who has been helping put those budgets together that might make Mr. Fletcher say something like that. Nelson Dollar has been a chief budget writer for a while.

In response to Fletcher’s words, Dollar said,

“What the state has been working on for a number of years, of course, is our highest priorities, which are to raise teacher salaries,” said Dollar. “They also have a responsibility at the local level to try to be more efficient in what they’re doing.”

He added, “Here in Wake County, unfortunately, we’ve seen higher taxes. But, they have not been able to manage their school budget within the resources that they have.”

Anyone is allowed to believe that if he /she wants, but it is a conveniently safe and horrible answer. Consider this with teacher salaries which will remain over %15 under the national average:

\teacherpay2019

And that provision in the state budget that allows for property taxes to be used to offset local school costs? Dollar helped enable that. It might just drive property taxes higher in Wake County.

Julie von Haepen simply makes more sense than Nelson Dollar. In fact, her “sense” has much more value than a “Dollar” when it comes to public schools in North Carolina.

So, when Dollar said, “Most of the budgeting was done for the second year last year in the budget. It was obviously fully debated, fully discussed, fully amended,” he needs to remember that the discussion still needs to happen.

Well into November.

julie

 

 

 

 

July 12th, 2018 is a Big Day For North Carolina Public Education

From NC Policy Watch on June 28th:

Jen Mangrum, a college professor and former elementary school teacher, says she has a July 12 appeal date in her bid to challenge Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger this fall.

Mangrum, a Democrat, is seeking to remain a candidate in Senate District 30. The seat’s currently held by Berger, a nine-term lawyer and Republican from Rockingham County who’s one of the most powerful state lawmakers in North Carolina.

Mangrum said her attorney received confirmation Thursday on the July 12 hearing before the State Board of Elections & Ethics Enforcement. (https://pulse.ncpolicywatch.org/2018/06/28/jen-mangrum-challenger-to-sen-phil-berger-gets-july-12-appeal-before-state-elections-board/).

A victory here for Jen Mangrum would be a victory for the democratic process and a victory for public education.

And a civics lesson for Phil Berger.

10AM at the State Board of Elections.

mangrum-logo275 (1)

 

 

Open Letter to Fellow NC Public School Teachers – What We Do Cannot Really Be Measured

Despite what lawmakers and reformers may say, you can’t really be measured.

In fact, those who are measuring you do not have instruments complex enough to really gauge your effectiveness.

If you are a public school teacher in North Carolina, you are always under a bit of a microscope when it comes to accountability. Everybody in the community has a stake in the public education system: students attend schools, parents support efforts, employees hire graduates, and taxpayers help fund buildings and resources.

But there are those who really question the path that public education has taken in North Carolina and lack confidence in our teachers and their ability to mold young people. The countless attacks waged by our General Assembly on public schools is not a secret and part of that is framing teachers as the main culprit in our weakening schools.

Why? Because it is easy to manage data in such a way that what many see is not actually reflective of what happens in schools. For example:

  • We have a Jeb Bush school grading system that “failed” schools where wonderful learning is occurring.
  • We have lawmakers allowing charter schools to be created with tax payer money without much regulation.
  • We have a voucher system that is allowing people to send children to schools that do not even have to teach the same standards as public schools.
  • We have virtual charter schools that have loose regulations.
  • We have an Innovative School District established even though no real evidence exists in its effectiveness.

Since you are a government employee, your salary is established by a governing body that probably does not have a background in an educational career. The standards of the very curriculum that you must teach may not even be written by educators. And the tests that measure how well your students have achieved are usually constructed by for-profit companies under contract from the state government. Those same tests are probably graded by those very same companies – for a nominal fee of course. And now that we have less money spent per-pupil in this state than we had before the start of the Great Recession, we are demanded to teach more kids in bigger classes with less resources.

There simply is a lot working against us.

However, if anything could be said of the current situation concerning public education in North Carolina it is that teachers have not failed our students. That’s because you cannot simply measure students and teachers by numbers and random variables. You measure them by their personal success and growth, and much of that cannot be ascertained by impersonal assessments.

Nor can a teacher’s effectiveness truly be measured by “student achievement.” There is more, so much more, working within the student/teacher dynamic. Take a look at the definitions of three words often used in our lexicon: “art”, “science”, and “craft.” These definitions come from Merriam-Webster.

  1. Art: skill acquired by experience, study, or observation
  2. Science: the state of knowing :  knowledge as distinguished from ignorance or misunderstanding
  3. Craft: skill in planning, making, or executing

Every teacher must display a firm foundation in his or her subject area. However, teaching at its source is an art and a craft. A teacher must marry that knowledge with skill in presenting opportunities for students to not only gain that knowledge but understand how they themselves can apply that knowledge to their own skill set.

There are not many people who are masterfully skillful without having to develop their craft. They do exist, but the term “Master Teacher” is usually given to someone who has a “skill acquired by experience, study, or observation.” That “Master Teacher” has perfected an art form and married it to a science. And most of all, that “Master Teacher” understands the human element.

A good medical doctor just does not deliver medicines and write prescriptions. There must be willingness to listen in order to make a diagnosis and then there is the “bedside manner”. A good lawyer does not just understand and know the law. A good lawyer knows how to apply it for his or her client in unique situations. A master chef doesn’t just follow recipes. A master chef takes what ingredients are available and makes something delectable and nourishing. A great teacher does not just deliver curriculum and apply lesson plans; a great teacher understands different learning styles exist in the same classroom and facilitates learning for each student despite the emotional, psychological, social, mental, and/or physical obstacles that may stand in each student’s path.

How schools and students are measured rarely takes into account that so much more defines the academic and social terrain of a school culture than a standardized test can measure. Why? Because there really is not anything like a standardized student. Experienced teachers understand that because they look at students as individuals who are the sum of their experiences, backgrounds, work ethic, and self-worth. Yet, our General Assembly measures them with the very same criteria across the board with an impersonal test.

Ironically, when a teacher gets a graduate degree in education, it is often defined by the college or university as a Master of Arts like a MAEd or an MAT, not a Master of Science. That’s because teaching deals with people, not numbers. When colleges look at an application of a student, they are more concerned with GPA rather than performance on an EOG or EOCT or NC Final.

And when good teachers look at their own effectiveness in their art and craft, they usually do not let the state dictate their perceptions. They take an honest look at the each student’s growth throughout the year – growth that may never be seen in a school report card or published report.

Like many veteran teachers, I have taught the gambit of academic levels and grades from “low-performing” freshmen to high achieving AP students who have been admitted into the most competitive of colleges and universities. And while I may take pride in their passing state tests or AP exams, I try and measure my performance by what happens to those students later in life.

  • When a student ends a “thank you” card because she felt like she learned something, then I did a good job.
  • When a student stops me in the grocery store years after graduating to introduce me to his child, then I made an impression.
  • When I read an email from a student in college who sends me a copy of her first English paper that received one of the three “A’s” given out of a hundred students, then I feel good about what I did in the classroom.
  • When a student comes to visit me on his break and flat out tells my current students that what I did in class prepared him for college, then I was successful.
  • When a former student emails me from half-way around the world to tell me what life is like for her since graduating, then I am validated.
  • When a parent comes to you to ask how his/her child could be helped in a matter totally unrelated to academics, then you have made an impression.
  • When you speak at a former student’s funeral because that student loved your class, then, well that’s just hard to put into words.

None of those aforementioned items could ever be measured by a test. Students do not remember questions on an EOCT or an EOG or an NC Final or a quarter test. They remember your name and how they felt in your class.

However, the greatest irony when it comes measuring a teacher’s effectiveness in the manner that NC measures us is that is it a truer barometer of how much NC is being hurt by this current General Assembly.

  • Think about Medicaid not being expanded.
  • Think that over %20 of our children live in poverty.
  • Think about the Voter ID law amendment
  • Think about the lax regulations for fracking and coal ash ponds that hurt our water supply.
  • Think about less money per pupil in schools.
  • Think about TABOR.

All of those affect students in our schools. And we still do the job. Rather, we still heed the calling.

That’s the best measure of what we do.

 

Dear Dr. Marzano, Even You Have the Right to be Wrong

If you have been a teacher for any number of years, you have come across the writings and research of Dr. Robert Marzano. Workshops, professional development, and PLT’s frequently reference him and his work quite often.

There is still a copy of Classroom Instruction That Works on one of my bookshelves in the basement. A principal I worked for one time had department chairs read it and lead their departments through exploring its ideas.

On June 30, Dr. Marzano tweeted the following:

marzano

That’s a tall order for teachers today, especially in a standardized test – crazy system that has larger and larger class sizes.  It might be well intentioned, but it is also a naive and mistaken assessment, especially for a person who has such a pedigree in pedagogy and instruction.

The quote itself seems a little odd. “Systemically” makes it seem that the root of any “boredom,” “inattentiveness,” or “disengagement” is not on a personal level, but due to the structure of schooling that here in North Carolina seems to be controlled more by people in Raleigh rather than teachers themselves. If teachers had more say in the “reforms” that have been implemented in the past years, then maybe all of this becomes a moot point.

But when it comes to attention and engagement in classrooms, the teacher is not in direct control of all. The teacher is highly influential, but not in total control. Too many other factors are at play. Students bring in with them into each class so many variables that affect them which reside outside of the four walls of a classroom.

There’s:

  • poverty
  • hunger
  • sickness
  • stress
  • angst
  • depression
  • mental illness
  • hormones
  • abuse
  • ADD
  • ADHD
  • death in family
  • fatigue
  • a genuine dislike for school
  • too many other personalities on class
  • safety issues

Sometimes the trees look really nice outside set against the blue of a crisp sky as the thoughts of a big date come to the mind. Sometimes the devastation of something that happened yesterday keeps a student still in shock. One time, I even had a student start labor pains in class. I think she had ample reason to be disengaged from Shakespeare for that class period. And there are so many more stressors that affect students who are legally bound to be in school settings until a certain age.

But if what Marzano says is true, then teachers should be paid so much more because mind-control ain’t a cheap skill. Neither is the ability to work against so many factors that work to impede student progress and student growth which is what teachers do every day in public schools.

If Dr. Marzano does not believe me, then I will have my sub plans ready for him to cover my classes come September.

 

 

 

When The John Locke Foundation Validates A Collective Voice For Teachers and Red4EdNC

In today’s online edition of The News & Observer, T. Keung Hui published a piece focusing on the Red4EdNC movement and its initiative to create a teacher congress in helping advance the momentum of May 16th’s teacher rally in Raleigh and keep pressure on the NC General Assembly to fully fund public schools (https://www.newsobserver.com/news/local/article214446374.html).

The purpose, the framework, and the goals of Red4EdNC were reported. Even it’s “Declaration of Independence” along with its introductory video were posted for all to view.

declaration

As any reporter would do, Hui asked an opinion of someone who may have an inclination to disagree with the motives of teachers taking collective action. In this case, it was Terry Stoops of the John Locke Foundation.

The teacher writing this post is proudly part of the Red4EdNC movement. And I am very aware of Dr. Stoops’s positions. Many have been discussed on this blog. But rarely does there come a time when I read Dr. Stoops’s comments and / or op-eds and feel completely validated.

Because that’s exactly what he did for me and others who may believe in what Red4EdNC is trying to accomplish.

Hui states,

The declaration calls for creation of the Teachers Congress. It also calls for actions such as increasing per-pupil spending and teacher salaries to pre-recession levels, with an adjustment for inflation, and “cessation of taxation policies which favor individuals over the corporate good.”

Then Stoops is reported as saying,

“Ironically the founders issued the Declaration of Independence to protest that taxation was too high. and Red4Ed issued their declaration to declare that taxes on people and individuals are not high enough,” said Stoops of the Locke Foundation.

Actually, it seems that Stoops missed the point of the original Declaration of Independence. What the Founding Fathers were protesting was taxation without representation. And representation is what is central to Red4EdNC’s mission.

As the “vice president of research for the John Locke Foundation, a group that’s been supportive of the Republican-led General Assembly,” Stoops has shown favoritism to a  group that has done anything but allow for representation in the recently “passed” budget.

Literally after a representative body that included nearly a fifth of the teaching force which caused almost half of the school systems in the state to close, the NCGA that Stoops supports did the very thing that the Founding Fathers would have never agreed to: pass the budget through a committee report and not through dialogue.

No debate. No amendments. No representation.

And that budget was not as helpful to public education as it should have been. Additionally, that budget is supposed to work for and be representative of the people of North Carolina. But this state has a Voter ID amendment coming to the ballot that when previously pushed as a bill was struck down in the courts because it was really voter suppression. Furthermore, the very NCGA that Stoops supports has had to redraw district lines because of gerrymandering along racial lines.

That May 16th march and rally was to make voices heard.

But while Stoops may want to spin the Founding Fathers’ intentions to make it appear that Red4EdNC wants to increase taxes, he may want to take a look at another piece that T. Keung Hui recently published from the North Carolina Influencer Series.

About the Influencer Series:

This election year, the Charlotte Observer, The News & Observer and the Durham Herald-Sun want to elevate policy discussions and make sure candidates focus on the most important issues. We’ve assembled a panel of 60 influential North Carolinians and will survey them throughout the year to get their views (https://www.charlotteobserver.com/news/politics-government/influencers/article212212939.html). 

On July 2nd, one of those “discussions” was published – “NC Influencers say state needs to give schools enough money and close achievement gap.”

It starts,

Public schools need to receive adequate funding to ensure the continued health of North Carolina, according to a new survey of some of the state’s most influential leaders.

A group of 60 North Carolina Influencers — comprised of leaders in the state’s political, business, academic and faith communities — were asked about the importance of 14 different education topics. Nearly all the Influencers listed adequate funding as being very important, saying that taking care of that issue would help solve a variety of other problems affecting the state’s K-12 education system (https://www.newsobserver.com/news/politics-government/influencers/article213909629.html). 

Further along it is reported,

After adequate funding, the 57 Influencers who responded listed closing the racial achievement gap and increasing teacher pay as their next two highest concerns. Making schools safer, creating universal pre-K, boosting vocational education and closing the rural-urban divide were also rated as very important by at least half the respondents.

One of those Influencers is Art Pope who co-founded the John Locke Foundation for which Dr. Stoops works.

I wonder how Stoops would respond to all of the Influencers who seem to want “to declare that taxes on people and individuals are not high enough.”

What the majority of the Influencers call for is exactly what those 19,000 teachers called for on May 16th – fully funding public schools in a state whose NCGA boasts of a surplus, takes federal money earmarked for Pre-K education and funnels it back into the general coffers, and passes legislation that could shift the burden of funding many public school functions to local governments through property taxes.

Red4EdNC is calling for a representative body to help influence the government to fully fund schools, A representative body just like the Founding Fathers asked for as explained in many an overused textbook in overcrowded classrooms in North Carolina.

 

 

 

Our State Superintendent Will Rally, Just Not For Public Schools

Rally (noun) –
1a : a mustering of scattered forces to renew an effort
2: a mass meeting intended to arouse group enthusiasm (merriam-webster.com)

The following tweet came from our state superintendent on June 25th of this year.

Farmers

It is the right of every American to come together and peacefully speak out for an issue. What someone rallies for speaks for their interests and values.

When a lawmaker or an elected official attends a rally, it can show his priorities and/or his loyalties like Mark Johnson.

According to the job description of the state superintendent, Johnson is responsible for the “day-to-day” management of the North Carolina public school system. It seems that if anything was to threaten the public school system, then Mark Johnson would be the first to “rally” for the public school system and the students in the public school system.

This past January a rally was held in Raleigh at the Halifax Mall of public school advocates calling for a fix to the class size mandate that threatens most public school systems. This unfunded dictate would cause LEA’s to make decisions on what classes must be eliminated and how to navigate certain obstacles on classroom space and teacher allotment.

That rally was to petition Raleigh’s lawmakers to do the right thing. FOR PUBLIC SCHOOLS.

Mark Johnson was not there. Didn’t even tweet about it. Yet a former state superintendent was present, Bob Etheridge. He was rallying for public schools.

But that does not mean Mark Johnson did not “rally” for people in January.

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Johnson was there. He was even the keynote speaker. He will rally for charter schools in a state that has gone out of its way to deregulate charter schools, ramp up vouchers, and use taxpayer money to fund those endeavors when no empirical data shows an overall increase in student achievement.

That’s the same taxpayer money that is not now being used for public schools and not being used to actually fund the class size mandate.

Fast forward to another rally. IMG_6484

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

Not there in Raleigh. He didn’t even tweet about it.

But he did tweet about the NC Farmers on June 25th. And they certainly need all of our support, but did Johnson ever approach the NCGA about their decision to protect hog farm corporations in lawsuits when they are clearly encroaching on quality of life for people who live in the rural areas near them?

Ironically, when Johnson tweets support for agricultural studies in rural ares he is supposedly showing support for counties whose school systems may rely on DPI to help with professional development and other resources. If Johnson wanted to help some of those rural areas, then maybe he would have fought harder for DPI to keep both their budgeting and their staff who service all students.

Hard to be a leader of the public schools when you don’t rally with teachers or for public schools, but rather seem more interested in being friendly with those who seek to privatize public schools like in the following instance:

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That was on June 26th, the day after the rally for farmers. By the end of the week, Johnson laid off over 40 DPI veterans. The Human Resources Dept. did the laying-off. Johnson wasn’t there.

There’s a pattern, and it shows that Mark Johnson simply refuses to rally for, with, and among teachers in support of public education.

So, How Is That Betsy DeVos Thing Working Out For Us? Not Well.

It has been a year and a half since Donald Trump made Betsy DeVos his selection as Secretary of Education and thus began a much maligned tenure of one of the most controversial cabinet members in recent history.

DeVos’s resume coming into the office was not impressive and certainly one that displayed an unqualified individual whose intent on privatizing public education was already well-known.

The following is her resume in public education at this point two years ago:

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In fact,

  • Betsy DeVos still has no degree in education meaning she is still not even educated in how to educate.
  • Betsy DeVos still has no teaching experience. NONE, but she is an official for public schools in the nation.
  • Betsy DeVos never attended a public school or state supported university. None of her children have either.
  • Betsy DeVos’s monetary contributions to Christian-based schools and evangelical organizations has been conservatively estimated at $200 million. That is still growing.
  • Betsy DeVos is totally anti-union and believes that teachers are paid too much.
  • Betsy DeVos supports vouchers like no other.

But now that we are approaching two years into this current administration, it might be worth looking at what DeVos has done as a public education official in the country.

  • Betsy DeVos has tirelessly promoted school choice without mentioning the challenges that come with school choice and the effects on traditional public schools.
  • Betsy DeVos proclaimed that schools need guns to protect them from grizzly bears.
  • Betsy DeVos remarked how historically black colleges and universities (HBCU’s) were the “real pioneers when it comes to school choice.” Just look at the speech at Bethune-Cookman during last year’s graduation to see the response to that.
  • Betsy DeVos has shown to be unknowledgeable of the basic tenants of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.
  • Betsy DeVos removed consumer protection rules on student loans and allowed for collection fees for some borrowers to be put back into effect.
  • Betsy DeVos removed protection for transgender students in public schools.
  • Betsy DeVos rolled back protections for victims in college campus sexual assault.
  • Betsy DeVos has allowed many positions in the Department of Education to remain vacant.
  • DeVos has cost taxpayers lots in just having a certain entourage with her on her travels because she is so polarizing that she requires security.
  • She’s still donating money to privatization efforts.

So how is this working out for us?

It’s not.

Unless you are a Dolores Umbrage fan.

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