Robbing Peter to Pave For Paul – Rep. Jon Hardister’s Misguided Amendment for Charter Schools

Robbing Peter to pave for Paul.

That’s what a recent amendment from Rep. Jon Hardister would do. According to the News & Observer,

A budget amendment from Rep. Jon Hardister, a Greensboro Republican, cuts $2.5 million in road maintenance money to provide grants for charter schools that serve low-income students and want to provide student transportation – a service that many charter schools don’t offer.

“If a student’s on free and reduced lunch, it can be harder for them to get to school,” Hardister said (http://www.newsobserver.com/news/politics-government/politics-columns-blogs/under-the-dome/article153682054.html).

hardister

Hardister, a former board member of the Greensboro Academy Charter School (which now has Charter School Advisory Board member Alan Hawkes on its board of directors), has not been shy about his championing of “school choice.” Along with the Opportunity Grants, the Achievement School District, and charter school cap removal, Hardister has been a leading voice in offering “reforms” that have not shown any empirical evidence of working on a broad scale.

So, it is not surprising that he offers this amendment. But his quote above gives another glimpse into the disconnect that many in Raleigh suffer from when it comes to low-income students and academic achievement.

Hardister said, “If a student’s on free and reduced lunch, it can be harder for them to get to school.” That’s true.

But if a student is on free or reduced lunch, it can be harder for that student to learn. Period.

Beginning his fourth year in the state House, Hardister has watched his own political party craft social policies and voted along party lines on the very issues that affect why so many students are on free and reduced lunch to begin with.

Ironically, Hardister serves an area in Guilford County that literally borders the infamous 12th congressional district that was recently struck down by the Supreme Court for racial profiling. In fact, it was considered one of the top ten most gerrymandered districts in the nation by many watchdogs. That charter school he was a board member of? Yep, it’s in that 12th district.

It seems that if Rep. Hardister really wanted to make sure that kids who were on free and reduced lunches had a better chance for a quality education, he would have spoken loudly about how the very students who fit that description in his hometown and their families had their voices muffled because of the GOP’s redistricting efforts to place minority voters in the same voting areas.

And since Hardister is an ardent supporter of vouchers, he probably subscribes to the standard party mantra that “parents know best where to send their kids for school.” Give those parents a voice in voting and they may choose that what’s best is that the state fully fund public schools where their kids already have transportation and are already part of the community.

Did Rep. Hardister stand against recent budget proposals that literally wiped out a quarter of the operating budget for the Department of Public Instruction? No. But he surely knows that while DPI is far from perfect, many rural counties with high populations of free or reduced lunch students depend very much on DPI’s services.

Did Rep. Hardister question the further investment in the Opportunity Grants when there still is a lack of oversight of the schools that take vouchers? Did he read the report by the Children’s Law Clinic at Duke University that showed how flawed the voucher system really is all the while voting on budgets that brought down the per-pupil expenditure for traditional public schools?

Did Rep. Hardister consider that the budgets he greenlighted made the state’s public university system more expensive for the graduates of our high schools? NPR did a report just yesterday that talked about how the dwindling investment by states like NC in their university systems is actually preventing more low-income kids from going to college. And after the catastrophe of Betsy DeVos’s first 100 days in office, the promise pf getting a student loan that could actually be paid off in a reasonable amount of time disappeared.

Did Rep. Hardister even fight to expand Medicaid for those in the state who have students in their families that receive free or reduced lunches? Hungry students have a hard time learning. Sickened ones do as well.

So this amendment to take money from the transportation budget to make sure that some of these charter schools can transport students to and from school seems more like lip service from a politician. Because if Rep. Hardister really wanted students who received free or reduced lunches to succeed in school, he would do everything in his power to make sure that those students did not have to get on a bus already hungry or sick.

But if those students did come to school hungry and sick, why not fully fund the public schools and give them the resources to combat the very needs that plague these students. More teaching assistants, guidance counselors, nurses, counseling, before and after school programs would help, but that would require investment. Is he willing to do that?

If Hardister is keen on helping kids, then he would invest in the very things that helped them.

And if education is the road to a better life in both the literal and metaphorical manner, then Hardister better not take money from the “road” budget; he should be adding money to it.

Shakespeare and the Achievement School District Staged in North Carolina

“What’s in a name? that which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet;”

-Juliet, Romeo & Juliet, II, ii

“A turd by any other name will still smell the same.”

-some t-shirt I saw on the internet

Although the North Carolina House presented a more palatable budget proposal for education, it bears repeating that almost anything presented in proximity to the senate’s disastrous pitch would sound better. But there are some particular peculiarities obvious in the House’s budget.

One such convenient action involves the Achievement School District (ASD), a reform initiative that was passed last year.

mediaroom_2nd-year-results-198x153

A recent WRAL report stated,

“The Achievement School District bill was passed during the 2016 General Assembly short session. At the heart of the legislation is the creation of a district which will include five low-performing schools from around the state. The schools, which are yet to be named, could be turned over to for-profit charter operators” (http://www.wral.com/nc-house-unveils-portions-of-two-year-education-budget/16725640/).

The model for the ASD is based on what the state of Tennessee implemented about six years ago with Race to the Top initiative monies, and the results of that experiment have not yielded great dividends.

In fact, last August the Tennessee ASD was reported to have failed an audit and be forced to go under control of the Department of Education out of Nashville. From an August 17, 2016 Times Free Press report:

“Even as Division of State Audit accountants’ examination was still underway this spring, the state Department of Education, which had allowed the ASD to operate independently, informed the Comptroller’s office in April that it had staged an intervention and seized control over the ASD’s “fiscal and federal processes.”

As a result, the functions were transferred from Memphis to Nashville with a turnover of the ASD’s financial staff. Education Commissioner Candice McQueen’s staff told auditors they were hiring a fiscal director, fiscal manager, accountant, account tech, federal programs director and federal programs manager” (http://www.timesfreepress.com/news/local/story/2016/aug/17/state-audit-documents-chaotic-financial-operation-tennessees-achievement-school-district/381759/).

And now there is news that there are enrollment problems as well – http://www.chalkbeat.org/posts/tn/2017/02/28/the-enrollment-problems-that-plagued-asd-schools-in-turmoil-theyre-not-unique/.

And don’t forget that there has been a major slashing of staff for the ASD in Tennessee – http://www.chalkbeat.org/posts/tn/2017/05/04/tennessees-achievement-school-district-cuts-team-overseeing-direct-run-schools/.

Cutting staff should not be a surprise with many school initiatives if they were initially funded by Race to the Top monies; however, if there was success with the ASD, then would Tennessee not continue to budget it fully?

But here in North Carolina, we have lawmakers so bent on re-forming schools that learning from the mistakes of the past with others is not part of the West Jones Street curriculum. In fact, without even having really seen any results of the North Carolina version, we have near-sighted legislators willing to invest more into it because it will work in their minds.

Reality is far different.

But as Sen. Chad Barefoot said in January of last year (2016), “Our state is totally different than other states. Not every state is organized like we are” (http://wunc.org/post/nc-senate-passes-charter-school-takeover-bill#stream/0).

And North Carolina is very organized. It takes a lot of planning, structure, and preparation to create gerrymandered districts with “surgical precision” according to the courts and an unconstitutional voter ID law that still affected outcomes in 2016.

One of the ways that North Carolina is making sure that it does not repeat the mistakes of Tennessee is to simply rename it.

Consider the aforementioned WRAL report from this past Friday. It states that the recent house budget proposal:

“The legislation also gave districts that participate in the ASD the opportunity to pick up to three other low-performing schools in their districts to join an Innovation Zone. Schools in this zone would have charter-like flexibility but would continue to be managed by the school district.

The House budget changes the name of the Achievement School District to the North Carolina Innovative School District (ISD). It also adds a provision that says, if a district participating in the ISD has more than 35 percent of its schools identified as low-performing, then all of those schools could become part of an Innovation Zone should the district elect that option.1

However, another provision initially said that, if a low-performing school in an Innovation Zone does not exceed growth for two continuous years, it will be forced to join the ISD. That means those schools would no longer be under the control of the district and could be turned over to for-profit charter operators. Those provisions together could end up increasing the number of schools that become part of the ISD” (http://www.wral.com/nc-house-unveils-portions-of-two-year-education-budget/16725640/).

Not Achievement, but Innovative.

Not ASD, but ISD.

Not Datsun, but Nissan.

Not Time Warner, but Spectrum.

Oddly, a change in name does not mean a change in the product. In fact, the use of the word “Innovative” in the new name is neither innovative or accurate.

It is still a borrowed failed idea that will take public money and put it into the hands of for-profit charter companies by people who have found many ways to force public schools to survive on less.

New name. Same stench.

 

 

The North Carolina Senate’s Education Budget and The Rise of “Pathologia Boven Excrementum”

NC_General_Assembly

“Frankly, we believe a better use of tax dollars is to move those from an unaccountable bureaucracy and into the classroom where those dollars will actually benefit students.” – Sen. Chad Barefoot, May 17th, 2017 (http://www.wral.com/senate-proposes-cutting-8-state-education-staffers-including-42-year-employee/16707728/).

The above was stated by Barefoot in response to questions as to why the recent NC Senate budget proposal calls for a 25 percent cut to the operating budget for the Department of Public Instruction and the elimination of eight positions in state education offices.

This is also the same budget that actually according to an NEA report is reducing the amount of money our state will spend per student.

“NEA’s report also found that North Carolina is projected to be ranked 43rd in the nation in per-pupil spending. It ranked 42nd last year. North Carolina is projected to spend $8,940 per student, down from $8,955 the prior year” (http://www.wral.com/nc-ranks-35th-in-nation-for-teacher-pay-ranked-41st-last-year/16693105/).

That certainly puts Barefoot’s mantra of “The money should follow the child” into perspective (http://www.ncpolicywatch.com/2015/09/23/bill-sets-up-charter-schools-to-receive-funds-for-services-they-dont-provide/).

But of course Barefoot’s explanation is nothing more than a political form of “Pathologia Boven Excrementum” which is a euphemistic way of saying that lawmakers like Barefoot may have reached a point where they truly believe the very lies they continuously spout about prioritizing public education.

Ironic that much of that tax money Barefoot claims to be saving from “unaccountable bureaucracy” to make sure that money “reaches classrooms to benefit students” actually has been tagged by Barefoot and his ilk for other forms of “unaccountable bureaucracy” and will never “reach classrooms to benefit students.”

Consider the Opportunity Grants that have not been shown to increase student achievement in comparable measures for students who use them. Barefoot was a sponsor of Senate Bill 862 that called for more money for those vouchers.

And these voucher are anything but transparent and free from proper oversight. Just read Duke University’s report:  https://law.duke.edu/childedlaw/School_Vouchers_NC.pdf. Furthermore, they almost all go exclusively to religious-based schools.

Consider then the new “super-voucher” bill, SB603. Dr. Diane Ravitch, probably the foremost voice in educational history and reform research, even shared reasons why such a bill would be disastrous to public schools – https://dianeravitch.net/2017/05/13/an-urgent-message-to-the-citizens-of-north-carolina/.

She mentions potential for fraud and lack of accountability. It also seems odd that it would alienate children who were not able to get the “super voucher” who remained in traditional public schools that were receiving less money because of the senate’s budget.

Now that’s making sure the money is following the child. Not. It’s just replacing “unaccountable bureaucracy” with “unaccountable reform.”

But Barefoot is no stranger to “unaccountable reform” movements. His championing of the Achievement School District has still not spurred any traction in saving targeted schools.

Maybe another fact to consider when listening to Barefoot’s recent fit of “Pathologia Boven Excrementum” comes when he tries to explain that the eight positions being eliminated were in and of themselves part of the “unaccountable bureaucracy.”

Why? Because the same budget also calls for this:

unnamed2

Actually, this sounds like Barefoot is simply replace “unaccountable bureaucracy” with “bureaucracy loyal to him and his cronies.”

Some of the eight positions that were eliminated in this act of “Pathologia Boven Excrementum” are from the office of the state board of education, the very same people who are fighting against some strange proposals to shift power to the office of the new state superintendent, Mark Johnson in a bill called SB4 that was constructed in a special seesion at the end of the 2016 calendar year to safeguard against a new democrat governor.

Ironic then, that Barefoot talks about ““unaccountable bureaucracy” when another part of the senate budget calls for this:

unnamed1

That’s for Johnson to fight the state board over that power in SB4 on which Barefoot was quoted as saying something about the role of bureaucrats.

Sen. Chad Barefoot, R-Wake, said lawmakers created the bill to clarify the constitutional role of the superintendent. “I can tell you from personal experience that the superintendent needs more administrative control over his department” (http://www.wral.com/state-board-of-education-chair-house-bill-17-raises-significant-legal-concerns-/16357128/).

Clarifying a constitutional role? Giving money to a neophyte in education to get more power over public school monies? Slashing the Department of Public Instruction’s budget by a quarter and still lowering per pupil expenditures? Giving more money to unaccountable vouchers? Championing reforms with horrible track records?

And he wants to call it “a better use of tax dollars” because it is supposedly moving money “into the classroom where those dollars will actually benefit students.”

That’s willful display of hogwash, nonsense, crap, rubbish, poppycock, bunk, piffle, drivel, baloney, codswallop, blather, gobbledygook, and prattle.

It’s “Pathologia Boven Excrementum”.

The Hypocritical Time Machine – Reflecting on Sen. Chad Barefoot and Rep. Rob Bryan’s 2014 Op-Ed About Teacher Pay

On February 8th, 2014, the Charlotte Observer posted a special op-ed on its website and published it the next day in the actual paper. It was a viewpoint penned by two political figures whose actions have helped shape the policies that confine public education in North Carolina today.

Those two people were Sen. Chad Barefoot and Rep. Rob Bryan.

Three years later, Sen. Barefoot sits on a powerful education committee. Bryan was defeated in his last election, but his brainchild of reform, North Carolina’s Achievement School District, is still slated to take over five schools in 2018-2019.

In their piece entitled “How to Upgrade Teacher Pay,” both men begin an outline of “reform” that they have spent coloring these last three years.

Maybe it is worth revisiting their words and determining through reflection whether they have made progress on their goals to upgrade teacher pay and other needs for public education.

Or if they have not.

The text of the op-ed can be found here: http://www.charlotteobserver.com/opinion/op-ed/article9095660.html. However, it will be referenced throughout this posting.

Barefoot and Bryan begin,

“In the book “That Used To Be Us,” Thomas L. Friedman, a liberal columnist for the New York Times, and Michael Mandelbaum, a professor of American foreign policy at John Hopkins University, argue that America has fallen behind in the world it invented. And although many of the book’s proposals have turned out to be stumbling blocks rather than solutions, the authors are right about one thing – we are falling behind in the world we invented – especially in education.”

It must be noted that it was very hard to not simply summarize Barefoot and Bryan’s op-ed by almost using the same exact wording they did. Consider this possibility.

“In the op-ed “How to Upgrade Teacher Pay,” Sen. Chad Barefoot, a conservative state senator, and Rep. Rob Bryan, another state lawmaker, argue that North Carolina has fallen behind in the country. And although many of the op-ed’s claims have turned out to be stumbling blocks rather than solutions, the authors are right about one thing – we are falling behind in the country – especially in teacher pay.”

First, it is interesting that Barefoot and Bryan reference Friedman who actually argued in his book The World is Flat that America still has a lot of vitality in the world economy because it still leads the world in patents and patent applications. That is a sign of innovation and creativity and curiosity, the very skills that students can learn in a variety of classes, especially the arts which seem to be something that Barefoot holds in contempt considering his recent HB13 maneuvers.

Secondly, it is odd that they refer to Friedman and Mandelbaum’s book to begin their own argument. They seem to only agree with one thing about the claims of the book and dismiss the rest. But that is not totally surprising considering that identifying Friedman as a liberal already puts anything that Friedman says in a “false” light.

Carrying on,

“Today, the status quo has become a dangerous position. Technology and industry are changing more quickly than ever, and large government bureaucracy has prevented our public policy from being able to keep up.”

Large government bureaucracy preventing public policy? Really? And who were the two authors of this op-ed? Those would be two people in government who helped to push so much reform down the throats of North Carolina including a law called HB2 which took away local powers of the very city that published the op-ed like passing LGBTQ protections and setting its own minimum wage for work done for the city government.

“We are aware of North Carolina’s national teacher pay ranking and agree that it is a problem. But we would like to argue that behind the low ranking are structural concerns with our statewide base salary schedule that are more significant to individual teachers than our ranking against the national average. Making it our goal to reach the national average in teacher pay is just that – an average goal. What we need is a new salary schedule aligned with a comprehensive vision for the future.”

Now three years later with the abolishment of graduate degree pay bumps for newer teachers, no due-process laws for newer teachers, school grading systems that are more arbitrary, low average per pupil expenditures, uncontrolled charter school growth, unproven vouchers, and a myriad of other “reforms,” it might be worth relooking over those words again because what has happened over the three years since this op-ed has been anything but a “comprehensive vision for the future.”

It’s really been more of an attack on the public school system to justify some of the privatization efforts that the NC General Assembly is allowing to happen.

“Studies show that teachers improve most dramatically during their first five years. But under the current salary schedule, teachers do not see their first step increase until year seven. That means for six years they improve without any reward. This is a problem.”

Which studies? And nothing says that they still do not improve after six years. That argument almost dismisses the worth of veteran teachers. However, it is easy to see that beginning teachers did need to see increases in salaries earlier to remain in the profession. But that’s all the new salary schedule did. Barefoot and Bryan never talk about retaining veteran teachers. The new salary schedule surely does not encourage veteran teachers to stay.

They go on to state,

“The current salary schedule also fails to enable schools to compete in our region. Surrounding states have surpassed North Carolina’s starting salaries, enabling them to recruit our graduates with higher starting pay. Most also increase teachers’ salaries earlier in their career, while under the current salary schedule it can take a North Carolina teacher 16 years to reach $40,000. That’s crazy. This encourages high turnover. It is not attractive.”

What is even crazier is that the new salary schedule that Barefoot and Bryan helped to fashion in these last three years not only does get beginning teachers to the maximum salary more quickly, it creates a lower ceiling for maximum salary.

Once those teachers get to that level in year 16, they may never see another pay bump on the salary schedule.

Ever.

This past election, Pat McCrory ran on the platform of having raised teacher pay to an average of $50,000. He was using very distorted logic. You can read this posting and see if what McCrory claims was real or if it was fake because Barefoot and Bryan are using the same argument (https://caffeinatedrage.com/2016/07/17/the-ignoramasaurus-rex-how-gov-mccrorys-claim-on-average-teacher-pay-is-not-really-real/).

And like Bryan, McCrory lost his reelection bid.

“We also know that the top indicator of a child’s academic success is having an excellent teacher. But under the current salary schedule our teachers receive no reward for their excellence and taking on more responsibility.”

And under the current system we as a state are seeing a seismic drop in teacher candidates in our university system. In fact, NC’s ability to recruit and retain teachers has gotten so bad even with this new salary schedule that Barefoot and Bryan helped to establish that this past month five bills were introduced in the NCGA which are aimed at getting more teachers to come to North Carolina.

All five of them are sponsored by Sen. Chad Barefoot (http://www.wral.com/barefoot-backs-bills-to-boost-teacher-recruitment/16638866/).

Apparently the new salary structure that was to discourage high turnover and make things more attractive simply did not work.

Then here comes the ethos,

“You see, we were both raised by N.C. educators. Chad’s mom is a former public school teacher who has dedicated her life to early childhood development and currently teaches in our state’s Pre-K program. His younger sister is a second grade teacher in her third year (who has never seen a step increase). Rob’s mom was a public school 4th grade teacher for 12 years and is now the Educational Director for DARE America. His sister also taught in North Carolina’s public school system. Rob even taught in the classroom for two years with Teach for America.”

If Barefoot and Bryan had such roots in public education, then why have their actions for the last three years since the printing of this op-ed done more harm to public education than help? Barefoot’s mother and sister teach/taught young students as did Bryan’s mother. If they were so in tune with helping teachers of these students, then why are things like the following happening?

“RALEIGH – Durham elementary school students took over Sen. Chad Barefoot’s office on Wednesday for an art lesson and protest designed to urge state lawmakers to increase education funding (http://www.newsobserver.com/news/local/education/article148484449.html#storylink=cpy).

barefoots office

The pool of irony is getting deeper. And murkier.

But how Barefoot and Bryan end their op-ed from 2014 really frames their hypocrisy because it talks about rewarding teachers without really paying them respect.

“Recruiting great teachers means paying teachers better at the beginning of their career. Retaining great teachers means getting them to a professional and competitive wage as quickly as possible while allowing them to grow in their careers. Rewarding great teachers means recognizing their excellence and value to the classroom and compensating them for it.

We acknowledge that being able to say that we pay our teachers at the national average will make politicians everywhere feel good. But what we risk is leaving in place the status quo – structural problems that prevent us from treating our teachers with respect. We should want a salary schedule that attracts the best and brightest and reenergizes our educators who have been neglected by the existing salary schedule.”

It would be a lesson worthwhile for Barefoot and Bryan to realize that there is a very sharp difference between rewarding teachers and respecting teachers. Why? Because…

  • A reward sounds like something that can be used as a political ploy. Respect needs no political prompt.
  • A reward could be a one-time gift. Respect is continuous and grows.
  • A reward is a reaction to something. Respect guides your actions.
  • A reward is giving teachers a small bonus that gets taxed by the state and has no effect on retirement. Respect would be to bring salaries for teachers at least to the national average.
  • A reward would be to give a school some sort of distinction because it met a measurement achievement. Respect would be honoring teachers because of actual student growth in the face of factors out of the schools’ control.
  • A reward would be providing more textbooks. Respect would be to keep growing per-pupil expenditures to ensure that all students got the resources they need.
  • A reward would be giving a one-time pay hike to teachers. Respect would be to make sure they kept getting raises throughout their careers on a fair salary schedule and restoring longevity pay.
  • A reward may be speaking highly of principals. Respect would be not ever allowing our average principal salary to rank next to last in the nation.
  • A reward may be to alter the teacher evaluation system. Respect would be to restore due-process rights for all teachers.
  • A reward may be to give more professional development for teachers. Respect would be restoring pay bumps for graduate degrees.

Ironically, Barefoot and Bryan use the term “status quo” twice as a premise on which to build their sanctimonious claims and give themselves permission to pursue the policies they have since the publication of this op-ed.

If anything, they are the status quo.

North Carolina’s Plagiarized Privatization of Public Schools – Or, How to be Unoriginal

North Carolina is literally practicing privatization plagiarism.

That’s great for alliteration fans, but for public school advocates it’s harmful, hurtful, hateful, disabling, devitalizing, devaluing, and debilitating.

And they’re not even being original because all of these supposed “re-forms” are nothing more than rehashed failed policies that profit a few and hurt the many.

Last month, a superintendent was chosen for North Carolina’s version of the Achievement School District that was put into place by “re-forming” legivangelists like Sen. Chad Barefoot and Sen. Jerry Tillman. If you do not know what a legivangelist is then here is a definition:

Legivangelist  – (n.) one who preaches to constituents about how holy his cause is in hopes of obtaining votes in elections  to maintain power over those he claims to help (further explanation can be found here: https://caffeinatedrage.com/2016/04/18/legivangelists-and-others-who-praise-the-lard/).

Remember the discussion that surrounded the implementation of a model that had not shown success in other states like Tennessee? Well, here’s a reminder from an earlier posting (https://caffeinatedrage.com/2016/06/29/outsourcing-our-kids-for-profit-rep-rob-bryan-and-sen-chad-barefoot-will-have-much-to-answer-for-in-the-future/).

“Neither Barefoot or Bryan could never really explain the “how the ASD will work” or the “why it will work”. They are simply appealing to their authority. They just tout that it will work in spite of all the results of past experiments and implementations ASD districts in multiple states, especially Tennessee whose model Bryan originally looked at to create the NC ASD proposal.

Lack of specificity is a tactic in making arguments. It hopes that people will get lost in the ambiguity of an explanation and simply rely on the speaker as being more equipped to make a decision because of a title or office held.

But lack of specificity is also a sign of not really knowing the answers. It’s like when you ask a question of someone and what he doesn’t say speaks as loudly as what he does say.

Take for instance the explanations given by Sen. Barefoot when pressed for specificity in a meeting for HB1080 (the ASD bill) chaired by Sen. Tillman as reported by Billy Ball (http://pulse.ncpolicywatch.org/2016/06/24/senate-committee-approves-controversial-charter-takeover-of-low-performing-schools/).

Barefoot calls the ASD model for NC an “innovative solution.” But when others in the meeting bring up that there really have not been positive outcomes from other ASD implementations, Barefoot just says that we will make it work because we are NC (the geographical cure).”

Since then more has happened to the Memphis branch of the ASD program in Tennessee concerning audits, which Sen. Barefoot should be aware of since he is so intent on making sure that all public schools show what they do with every cent given to them while allowing charter schools to operate in the state without as much transparency or vouchers to be tracked for effectiveness in religious school like Trinity Christian in Fayetteville.

But that is just regressing.

Or is it?

Either way, there has been no revelation of the new Carolina approach to the ASD except that it will include a small amount of schools that will be taken over by for-profit entities from outside the state.

If one was a betting individual and wanted to gamble public money on failed schemes like education reform efforts enacted here in NC, then maybe one of those companies is Charter Schools USA out of Florida run by Jonathan Hage, who is an avid campaign contributor to politicians like Sen. Jerry Tillman.

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.

Hage1

  • There’s Jerry Tillman, the former public school administrator who is a champion for opaque charter school regulation.
  • And there’s Jason Saine who loves charters as well.
  • There’s Rep. Bryan who helped to bring in the ASD district.
  • There’s David Curtis, who loves charters as well.
  • 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.
  • There’s Buck Newton, who was going to make NC “straight” again as attorney general for the NC, but lost.
  • There’s Bill Rabon, who stalled the HB13 bill in the Senate.

These names are not unfamiliar in the “re-form” movement here in NC.

And their actions are not original. They are plagiarized.

Take for instance House Bill 800. That’s the so-called “Jobs’ Bill” introduced by Sen. John Bradford this past week that would allow for businesses who help finance a part of a charter school to claim up to half of the allotted enrollment of the charter school for children of their employees.

Sound original? Not really.

Recently Greg Flynn out of Raleigh tweeted the following on April 26th.

flynn1

Those statutes? (http://www.legis.la.gov/Legis/Law.aspx?d=762875).

LA1

Interestingly enough, Sen. Bradford’s name, while not on Hage’s preferred list of campaign contributions, is familiar.

He was one of the primary sponsors of the ASD bill that helped to spur the creation of our NC district (http://www.ncpolicywatch.com/2016/06/03/tempers-flare-as-controversial-achievement-school-district-bill-clears-house/).

So with a model of a failed experiment from Tennessee (ASD) which was actually being lobbied by a conservative Oregonian backer being that was co-sponsored by a man who received funds from a Florida charter school executive was also co-sponsored by another state lawmaker who looked to a privatizing scheme from Louisiana to introduce another charter school bill.

Wow! If you want to read more about that Oregonian connection, refer to this – http://www.ncpolicywatch.com/2015/08/13/out-of-state-money-behind-secret-plan-to-fund-charter-takeover-of-ncs-worst-performing-schools/.

Then there was this gem of a bill that was introduced – HB514: The Permit Municipal Charter School / Certain Towns Bill.

Or otherwise known as segregation.

Sen. William Brawley, a commercial real-estate broker from Matthews (and also represents Mint Hill) introduced HB514 so that his district which is predominantly white (Mint Hill is 73% and Matthews is 78% white) to set up its own charter schools within its city limits to serve its students in an effort to keep them away from a predominantly black school district it already resides in – Charlotte / Mecklenburg. Read Kris Nordstrom’s report for better explanation: http://pulse.ncpolicywatch.org/2017/04/26/flurry-house-charter-school-bills-facilitate-segregation-north-carolinas-schools/#sthash.Wa3GCLPC.whzD62t5.dpbs.

That idea isn’t really plagiarized from a certain state or geographical location.

It’s taken straight out of the 1950’s.

Nordstrom also mentions a bill that would allow for the state to examine ways to break up larger school districts and make them into smaller ones. That bill, HB704, is sponsored by both Brawley and Bradford, two senators who make a living on real estate and the value of the land they sell and develop.

And nothing drives the value of land like the schools that service that area.

If lawmakers in North Carolina wanted to “copy” good reforms, they don’t really need to look that hard.

  • Virginia just put a stop to charter growth.
  • Tennessee voted down the use of vouchers.
  • And New York is about to fund more pre-k programs for preschoolers to get them more prepared for success.

That’s what should be plagiarized.

But alas, too many in Raleigh have confused mixing business, money, greed, politics, and public education with “doing the right thing” as public servants.

North Carolina – FULLY FUND YOUR SCHOOLS!

This article should be talked about more than it has been especially in North Carolina whose state government has been entertaining ideas of revamping how it allocates its k-12 funding per LEA. It appeared in the New York Times’ “The Upshot” on Dec. 12th and is entitled “It Turns Out Spending More Probably Does Improve Education” (http://www.nytimes.com/2016/12/12/nyregion/it-turns-out-spending-more-probably-does-improve-education.html).

The article centers on a study by the National Bureau of Economic Research conducted by two economists from the University of California at Berkley and one from Northwestern University.

The names of those two institutions carries enough ethos to lend more than enough credibility to the findings. Cal-Berkley is considered the top public university in the country if not the world. Northwestern is a top fifteen institution in most rankings.

Here is the abstract of the study (http://www.nber.org/papers/w22011):

“We study the impact of post-1990 school finance reforms, during the so-called “adequacy” era, on absolute and relative spending and achievement in low-income school districts. Using an event study research design that exploits the apparent randomness of reform timing, we show that reforms lead to sharp, immediate, and sustained increases in spending in low-income school districts. Using representative samples from the National Assessment of Educational Progress, we find that reforms cause increases in the achievement of students in these districts, phasing in gradually over the years following the reform. The implied effect of school resources on educational achievement is large.”

Notice that it says “reforms.” But please do not let the word encompass all reforms with which you may be familiar. The study is talking about specific reforms that focus on funding public schools adequately. These are not reforms that include vouchers, charter schools, or other silver bullet “solutions” that actually re-form rather than improve.

What adequately funding schools really means is that schools are fully funded.

The New York Times article also stated the following:

“They found a consistent pattern: In the long run, over comparable time frames, states that send additional money to their lowest-income school districts see more academic improvement in those districts than states that don’t. The size of the effect was significant. The changes bought at least twice as much achievement per dollar as a well-known experiment that decreased class sizes in the early grades.”

That well-known experiment is the one performed by Dr. Frederick Mosteller from Harvard in 1995 which concluded that “Compelling evidence that smaller classes help, at least in early grades, and that the benefits derived from these smaller classes persist leaves open the possibility that additional or different educational devices could lead to still further gains” (http://www.princeton.edu/futureofchildren/publications/docs/05_02_08.pdf).

And the NEBR study says the positive effect of adequately funding low income school districts was “twice as much” as decreased class size.

How the money is spent is just as important as having the money to spend and one of the researchers makes that point clearly. And he should.

In a “reform-addicted” state that North Carolina has become in these last few years, the argument has been made by many that “throwing” money at public education has not yielded positive results. But who has been making the decisions on how those monies should be spent? Lawmakers or actual educators? When state lawmakers make monies available to local districts but attach certain strings to those funds as to how they must be spent, then something might be amiss.

Many who ran for reelection this year, particularly Pat McCrory and other GOP stalwarts, padded their resumes and campaign jargon with talk of how they actually increased spending for public schools. Most of them point to the fact that North Carolina spends nearly one billion dollars more now than it did before the Great Recession. One only has to read op-eds like the one by Phil Kirk, the chairman emeritus of the State Board of Education in the News & Observer this past September (http://www.newsobserver.com/opinion/op-ed/article100215677.html). In my rebuttal to him I simply offered,

“Of course there is more money spent on education now than in the past. North Carolina is one of the fastest growing states in the country. More people mean more students to educate. But it is interesting that the per-pupil expenditure under this present leadership is lower than it was before the Great Recession. Your argument doesn’t hold much credibility when you claim to be spending more overall, yet the average per-pupil expenditure has gone down precipitously.”

Add to that the amazingly spastic targets that schools must hit to even be considered successful in the eyes of the state government when the very tests that are used to measure school effectiveness change frequently. Just take a look at the school performance grades for the state of North Carolina from the past year and what you find is an almost pinpoint representation of where poverty hits our state the hardest. In fact, if you superimpose a map that plots the state’s school performance grades over a map that shows county levels of free and reduced lunches you will see a rather strong correlation. In fact, take a look at another post from this blog – https://caffeinatedrage.com/2016/09/05/map-it-and-it-becomes-very-apparent-that-poverty-affects-schools/.

Counties with lower incomes have schools that suffer more.

If it comes to a decision on how any additional funding is to be spent, then maybe it would make sense to look at who has made those decisions in the first place. In most cases, I would argue that they were made by non-educators – people who do not know what specific essentials are in the greatest need to help their students.

What may work for a school in Hoke County may not be the solution for a school in Alleghany County. It takes people who are in the situation to identify what needs to be done, not a bureaucrat in Raleigh who may never have set foot in a public school as a teacher, administrator, volunteer, or even as a parent.

It is time for North Carolina to fully fund its schools because the other “reforms” that follow have not worked to help our public school system:

  • Elimination of due process rights for new teachers
  • Graduate Degree Pay Bumps Removed for new teachers
  • Revolving Door of Standardized Tests
  • Less Money Spent per Pupil now than before 2008
  • Remove Caps on Class Sizes
  • Incorporated the Jeb Bush School Grading System that really just shows the effects of poverty
  • Cutting Teacher Assistants
  • Expanding Opportunity Grants
  • Uncontrolled Charter School Growth
  • Virtual Schools Run By For-Profit Companies
  • Achievement School Districts
  • Reduction of Teacher Candidates in Colleges
  • Elimination of Teaching Fellows Program

Most all of those “reforms” are cost-cutting measures that actually remove money from public education. Ironically the very reform that the study which opens this posting talks about as having the greatest effect on lower income counties is completely antithetical to the reforms championed by the state.

Imagine what could be done if our schools were fully funded because it is apparent what happens when they are not fully funded.

Excuse Me, Elected Officials? It’s Okay to Listen to Others

It’s OK to listen to others.

On November 8th North Carolina elected/reelected to serve in the NCGA, and while I may bemoan the fact that there still exists a supermajority in the General Assembly for the GOP, I hope that the actions seen in other states’ races and ballot items might allow for some perspective as to how our representatives might handle our public education system.

The first comes out of Massachusetts. On election night, over sixty percent of voters cast their votes to not allow for the removal of the charter school cap that would have permitted for more charter schools to be created. Many of the parents interviewed (according to various reports) about “Question #2” simply said that they did not want public money to help fund charter schools.

And Massachusetts has a good public school system – like North Carolina once did before all of this “reformation.”

Our neighbors to the south in Georgia voted against Amendment 1, which would have allowed the state to take over low-performing schools and in essence allow them to become privately managed charter schools. In essence, they defeated a bill that would have allowed the state to create its own version of the Achievement School District.

And Georgia is a “redder” state than North Carolina. Much redder. Even the clay there is red. I know. I grew up there.

However, North Carolina removed the cap on the number of charter schools and even created its own version of the Achievement School District without either being on a ballot to allow for the very people who finance such measures with tax dollars to have any say in those matters.

Why?

That is not a rhetorical question. It deserves an explanation.

When my home county (Forsyth) overwhelmingly voted for bond measures to finance projects for the public school system and the local community college, they made a big statement on the importance of traditional public schools. These citizens were willing to spend money and resources on improving their schools, and every precinct in the county voted in favor of the bonds. The support for the public schools spanned all socio-economic boundaries.

And when the NCGA decided to remove the cap on charter school creation that takes siphon money and resources traditional schools did they not think to put it to a public vote?

When the NCGA decided to create an ASD district, did they not take into account that the citizens might want to have a say in how their money should be spent?

Again, these are not rhetorical questions. They deserve answers.

Considering that the same people who passed HB2 and the Voter ID bill through fairly surreptitious and opaque methods championed these very educational “initiatives,” it is not surprising to see that none of these was put to a public vote.

HB2 is being reviewed in the higher courts because it is being challenged, as it should be. The Voter ID law was overturned by the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals. The fact that the constitutionality of measures like these were already in question shows the shortsightedness of those who pushed these laws through. Now, tax payer money has had to finance the feeble defense for these laws.

And when you ask for the input of the citizens and ultimately receive it, heed it. THAT’S DEMOCRACY.

If rumor serves true, the governor and members of the General Assembly are considering a rather rare and highly partisan action of appointing two additional state Supreme Court justices to help flip the partisan affiliation of the state’s highest judicial body back to the GOP. This would be after the citizens of North Carolina elected Michael Morgan, a registered democrat over incumbent Robert Edmunds, a registered republican.

When representatives were elected, they took an oath to represent people and respect their opinions. They were not elected to alter policy to fit a political script that benefits a few.

When representatives were elected, they took an oath to communicate with your constituents, especially those who needed the most help from government. They were not elected to skirt questions and not ask for feedback.

And when representatives were elected, they were to not just hear the concerns of the people you serve, they are to listen to them and take them into account.

 

Open Letter to the Registered Voter Who Believes in Public Schools

Note: I have combed through all of my op-eds, posts, rants, and lists and compiled from them what follows as a last posting to help get people to vote next Tuesday for pro-public education candidates.

The current General Assembly and governor are 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 governor and NCGA have touted so many “band-aid” style electioneering schemes to make them appear pro-public education.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

When the GOP won control of both houses in the North Carolina General Assembly in the elections of 2010, it was the first time that the Republicans had that sort of power since 1896. Add to that the election of Pat McCrory as governor in 2012, and the GOP has been able to run through multiple pieces of legislation that have literally changed a once progressive state into one of regression. 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. The 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 New York State and the Opt-Out Movement against standardized testing.  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.
  • Standard 6 – Teacher evaluation protocols are arbitrary at best
  • 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.
  • 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 Schools – These are hemorrhaging in enrollment.
  • Achievement School Districts – 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 (lookout Georgia!).
  • 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.

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. 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 65. 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 and governor have 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.

vote

Willful Ignorance Is Not Bliss, But Rather Mean – McCrory’s Orwellian Contradiction

News that Gov. McCrory’s office asked public school leaders this past summer to find ways to cut their budget by as much as 2 percent should come as a surprise in an election year where he has touted his commitment to public education and a creation of a surplus in our current budget.

But it is not really a surprise. It’s actually consistent with the McCrory doctrine.

Billy Ball from NC Policy Watch released a report on Oct. 11th entitled “McCrory administration asks schools to submit plans for $173 million budget cut” that outlines the governor’s request. It is a very illuminating piece of journalism – http://www.ncpolicywatch.com/2016/10/11/mccrory-administration-asks-schools-submit-plans-173-million-budget-cut/.

Ball also includes a copy of the memo that makes the original request. It is complete with annotating highlights that show the rather “benign” fashion McCrory’s office makes the entreaty. Here is a link – http://ncdp.org/wp-content/uploads/mccrory-budget-cuts.pdf.

budget.png

In a year where Opportunity Grants have been further financed to the tune of almost $900 million dollars over the next ten years, an educational endowment fund set up by the lieutenant governor for an amorphous plan, an expansion of unregulated charter schools, and the creation of an ASD district that pays an out-of-state company to run schools, news of this “budget request” is like a kick in the groin of a person already compromised.

This request for cuts is tantamount to asking a starving person to share his food with someone who just ate at an all-you-can-eat buffet.

Some of the more disturbing parts of Ball’s report comes here:

“Among the choices, school board members could confine the cuts to a single spending category or spread it across the department’s spending plan. Either would have major ramifications for the state’s educators, forcing the state to possibly shed thousands of teaching positions, career and technical educators or teacher assistants.

Both proposals would also drain millions from funds designated to benefit at-risk students, special needs children and low-wealth counties in the state, according to Price.”

When the terms “at-risk students”, “special needs children”, and “low-wealth counties” are used in a proposal that involves budget cuts, then serious ramifications are certainly about to take place.

Does the governor not choose to understand if he is to be a champion for public education he does not continue to siphon money away from the very students who need the funds for resources? Ironically the very charter schools that he allows to grow and the very private schools that receive vouchers do not have to take these “at-risk” of “special needs” students.

Does the governor not choose to look at the school performance grades that his administration has rubber-stamped and see how schools in low-wealth counties suffer from poverty? If McCrory is touting a “Carolina Comeback” this election year, does that allow him to selectively forget that nearly 1 in 4 children in NC live in poverty?

Apparently the answer to these questions is a “Yes!”

I am reminded of a poem by Thomas Gray entitled “Ode on a Distant Prospect of Eton College” written in 1642. The last stanza reads,

To each his sufferings: all are men,
Condemned alike to groan;
The tender for another’s pain,
The unfeeling for his own.
Yet ah! why should they know their fate?
Since sorrow never comes too late,
And happiness too swiftly flies.
Thought would destroy their paradise.
No more; where ignorance is bliss,
‘Tis folly to be wise.

The next to last line contains that very famous saying “Ignorance is bliss.” While people may quibble over the true meaning of the poem, I have taken it to mean that there is a time in our lives (youth) where we are not cognizant of many deleterious forces in the world. We are ignorant to them; therefore, they do not bother us or cast a cloud in our reality.

But what McCrory is practicing here seems to be feigned and willful ignorance. That is a completely different matter. That denotes a willful disassociation with the consequences of his actions.

In a year where he is touting a budget surplus, Gov. McCrory is being willfully ignorant of how he seems to be financing that surplus – by taking away from the very people he should be serving.

In a year where he suggests that we take money from the disaster fund to finance fighting for an unconstitutional law like HB2, he is practicing willful ignorance – http://fusion.net/story/332612/mccrory-transfers-disaster-funds-to-defend-hb2/.

McCrory has stated that one of his favorite books is George Orwell’s 1984, the dystopian novel that eerily depicts the power of an authoritarian government. One of the most iconic quotes from the book says,

“War is peace.
Freedom is slavery.
Ignorance is strength.”

Antithetical? Contradictory? Paradoxical? Propaganda? You can have great discussions in an English, civics, or social studies class about the meaning of this quote.

But those types of discussions will be harder to have when $173 million dollars is cut from the public school system that already has been stripped bare.

Maybe ignorance really is not bliss, but a reason to teach more awareness. But willful ignorance is pure neglect.

And Orwell surely was not saying that ignorance really is strength. What he was saying is that feigned ignorance is a sign of weakness.

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.

global-warming1

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 four years has been detrimental to our schools and/or directly caused by uninformed politicians.

Simply look at the many claims coming from the governor’s office concerning his “Carolina Comeback” that includes assertions about teacher pay, graduation rate, funding, and college tuition and one can see a singular manufactured picture of what the governor wants you to believe North Carolina is at all times (https://www.patmccrory.com/results/). 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 Achievement 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 Hurricane Matthew. It wreaked havoc on our state and dumped tremendous amounts of rain on our towns and cities causing damage and flooding in places like Kinston and Lumberton.  Even the Triad area experienced flooding. The governor to his credit declared a state of emergency for these areas opening monies and resources to be used so that all affected citizens can receive the help needed to rebuild and reclaim.

Has he and 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 8th. 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.