About the NC Gerrymandered Joint Legislative Task Force on Education Finance Reform

Beginning this month, a “Joint Legislative Task Force on Education Finance Reform” is meeting in Raleigh to start “investigating” how to “best” fund public schools with state money.

And they are now looking at possibly eliminating the salary schedule for public school teachers and what might be another disastrous, planned “reform.”

As Billy Ball reported in a post yesterday on NC Policy Watch,

“A pivotal legislative task force may be just beginning its dive into North Carolina’s school funding maze, but lawmakers’ hints that they may abolish the state’s teacher salary schedule or other state-set funding allocations is already spurring criticism from local district advocates.

Talk of nixing a state-set pay scale emerged this year when lawmakers took on a revamp of school principal pay, and it’s resurfaced multiple times in the Joint Legislative Task Force on Education Finance Reform’s first meetings in November.

Yet local district leaders and their advocates in Raleigh say the proposal may only exacerbate the state’s looming pay disparities between wealthy and poor counties, spur employment lawsuits and complicate matters for local school boards” (http://www.ncpolicywatch.com/2017/11/17/legislators-consider-abolishing-teacher-salary-schedule-study-nc-school-funding-labyrinth/).

The word “task” is certainly “pivitol” here in this context. Why?

Because if you simply take a look at the members of the “task” force, you can easily see that there already was a “task” at hand and it was started years ago when the GOP powers in Raleigh took control of the General Assembly.

That “task” is tightly linked to an agenda that has been executed and carried out long before this “pivotal task force” ever convened: dismantle the public education system.

Below is a list of the members on the Joint Legislative Task Force on Education Finance Reform.

Task Force

19 people appointed by each branch of the General Assembly. That makes it already under the control of Sen. Phil Berger and Rep. Tim Moore, two of the biggest “reformers” in the state.

Look at that list of 19 people.

  • 16 of the 19 are republican.
  • 15 of the 19 are male.
  • 17 of the 19 are white.
  • 17 of the 19 were never in education as a profession (although Lambeth was on the school board of Forsyth County for a number of years).

And they as a group are to help revamp the way that public education is to be funded for a public that they are grossly unrepresentative of?

That list is a great example of the effects of gerrymandering.

Go further and look at that list more closely. It includes some of the major players and champions of the “reforms” that really have hurt public education in North Carolina.

  • Chad Barefoot
  • David Curtis
  • Jerry Tillman
  • Jon Hardister
  • Craig Horn

Sen. Barefoot has been a champion for the watered down version of the Teacher Fellows, the original sponsor of SB599 which allows people to enter the teaching profession with minimal training, and was an original architect for HB13, the class size bill that is threatening so many districts with layoffs and seismic budget constraints.

Sen. David Curtis is a stalwart supporter of charter schools and has been rather vocal on his views of what public school teachers are “worth.” One only has to revisit that rather caustic letter he wrote a young teacher a few years ago and see that his view of public education is set in stone – http://wunc.org/post/teacher-email-legislators-draws-harsh-reply#stream/0.

Sen. Jerry Tillman has probably been the staunchest supporter of the unregulated charter school industry here in North Carolina. He also was instrumental in helping craft legislation to bring in the Innovative School District. His abrasive nature against debate and constructive criticism has been well-known for years.

Rep. Jon Hardister has been part of the “reform” since he took office. On one instance, he wrote an op-ed pretty much proclaiming the same platitudes and generalities that Rep. Moore recently did on EdNC.org. They were easily refuted – http://pulse.ncpolicywatch.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/09/Letter-to-Hardister.pdf. Hardister also has tried to help further charter school growth by financing it with other state money – https://caffeinatedrage.com/2017/06/01/robbing-peter-to-pave-for-paul-rep-jon-hardisters-misguided-amendment-for-charter-schools/.

Rep. Craig Horn has literally been in the center of every education “reform” in this state, the most recent being the principal pay plan. When backlash for the plan became rather quick and vocal he exclaimed,

“Legislation is not an exact science” – – Craig Horn in EdNC.org on Sept. 21, 2017.

But science requires thought, reflection, observation, and objectivity. This “task force” being led by Rep. Horn is actually an exercise in rapid narrow-minded policy changes.

With over a quarter of this task force controlled by these people, it should not be too hard to realize that this “Joint Legislative Task Force on Education Finance Reform” is nothing more than a gerrymandered body whose agenda to further privatize a public good is more important than actually representing the public of North Carolina.

If this really was a “task force,” then maybe it should spend its time and energy trying to validate with real research and real data the effectiveness of the very “reforms” that many on this “task force” have championed.

But alas, that would go against their narrative and would require a look at the truth.

School Districts Don’t Need to Manage Money “Better” – Lawmakers Need to Better Fund Schools

Today Lindsay Wagner posted an incredible piece concerning the class size mandate that Raleigh has placed on K-3 classrooms and the effects on local school systems.

In “Without action, class size mandate threatens Pre-K in some school districts” on the Public School Forum of North Carolina website, Wagner focuses on Warren County’s situation.

Without the necessary time and money to build more elementary school classrooms to satisfy the General Assembly’s requirement to lower class sizes next year in kindergarten through third grades, Warren County Schools’ Superintendent Dr. Ray Spain says he’s looking at eliminating most or all of his Pre-Kindergarten classes district wide.

“It’s going to be disastrous.”

Spain says he’s forced to consider this scenario because there’s simply not enough space in Warren County’s elementary schools to give the older children more teachers and smaller classes while also giving low-income 4-year-olds an early learning environment that, a large body of research says, is critical for their success in kindergarten and beyond (https://www.ncforum.org/without-action-class-size-mandate-threatens-pre-k-in-some-school-districts/). 

Wagner makes sure to note that Warren County is a poor rural district and those districts desperately need strong pre-K programs to help combat the effects of poverty on school aged children.

prek

And now that very vital resource is about to go because of political grandstanding.

When Wake County is scrambling to even meet the mandate for class size, imagine what smaller, rural schools districts are having to do?

Apparently drastic measures such as what Warren County and other systems have to consider.

Remember what Chad Barefoot once said when the HB13 fiasco was starting. He said,

“For years, the General Assembly has been sending tens of millions of dollars to districts for new classroom teachers for the purpose of lowering classroom sizes,” he said. “The question we keep asking over and over again is, ‘What did they do with the money? …The data that we have received from the districts varies, and some districts did not fully respond to our information request. What some of the data has shown is that there are districts that did not reduce class sizes with the funding we sent them. Why are they holding art and PE teachers’ jobs hostage for their misallocation of classroom teacher funds?” (http://www.wral.com/law-reducing-class-size-has-music-art-pe-teachers-anxious-about-future-/16628678/).

That’s all he has said. There was no proof of the data. No explanation of what he had seen. No transparency. If he is to make the claim, then he needs to show us where those “misallocations” really are.

But there are none to be seen. Yet district leaders like Warren County’s Dr. Spain show that the misallocation is actually on the state’s part, not the local districts.

As Wagner relates when talking about Camden County’s forced obstacles,

Camden County in northeastern North Carolina is also looking to displace about four Pre-K classes from their elementary schools, said Camden County Board of Education Chair Christian Overton….

…Overton said there is a larger issue at play when it comes to laws that the General Assembly enacts without accompanying them with the resources necessary for their implementation.

“We’re given these mandates to comply with the law, but not getting any funds to help increase the number of classrooms or teachers. So what’s the next step? If we don’t have more funds to pay teachers, do you RIF [lay off] other personnel to hire them?” said Overton.

Overton took issue with the argument from some lawmakers in the General Assembly who say that districts simply need to do a better job managing the funds they have been allocated by the state.

“Our budgets have steadily decreased over the past several years,” said Overton. “Speaking for our own district, we have been very frugal and forthcoming in the spending of our funds to produce positive outcomes for our children—and the performance of our schools show that.”

“At what point does one more unfunded mandate added on start to have negative impacts on our ability to improve a child’s education?” Overton said.

Ironically, Mark Johnson has made comment that Pre-K services are a vital part of his agenda. He even intends to hire an assistant superintendent for early education. From an April 5th article on WRAL.com,

…the new assistant superintendent would “really focus on best practices for early childhood education,” Johnson said, and allow the state to “study it, find out what works best and present those back and really start to tackle early childhood” (http://www.wral.com/nc-superintendent-announces-revamped-reading-program-new-early-learning-position/16623169/).

So, what does Mark Johnson have to say about what is happening to places like Warren County and Camden County?

Is he willing to go and fight for these school systems to be adequately funded to meet the almost impossible mandates with the current allotment?

Is he even willing to address the issue?

Because whether he wants to believe it or not – it’s his job.

Kids are depending on it.

“At” The Table or “On” the Table – The Need for Teacher Input in Educational “Reform”

You can be either “at” the table or “on” the table.

For teachers in North Carolina, there are many other prepositions that could identify the relationship between the legislation process and teacher input such as “under” the table, “without” a place at the table, or “behind” the table.

But we are really never “at” the table.

Julie Kowal’s recent perspective on EdNC.org entitled “North Carolina’s new approach to teacher recruitment,” praised the new version of the North Carolina Teaching Fellows Program to be launched this year.

As a veteran public school teacher, when I see BEST NC defending or lauding a piece of reform, I take it with a grain of salt.

Actually, it’s an entire salt block.

Aside from the glowing generalities that sprinkle rhetorical glitter throughout this piece, I could not help but think that like so many other “reforms” and “innovations” that have been created and enacted in North Carolina, this one lacks a crucial and vital component: teacher input.

Kowal is the Vice-President of Policy and Research at BEST NC, a “non-partisan” business consortium for education advocacy. In the few years that it has been in existence, BEST NC has helped to craft policy and “reform” to supposedly strengthen public education in North Carolina which has waned in the past few years according to her and many others.

Kowal explains,

North Carolina has previously led the nation in education innovations, and will do it again, with new and pioneering solutions designed specifically to solve the talent challenges our schools face today (https://www.ednc.org/2017/11/08/north-carolinas-new-approach-teacher-recruitment/).

Those “new and pioneering solutions” she is talking about include the new principal pay plan, the rise of charter schools, the expansion of vouchers, the gutting and rebirth of a distant relative in the Teaching Fellows Program, and much more.

They all have one thing in common: no teacher input.

When the NC General Assembly went into GOP hands and McCrory came to the governor’s mansion, the process of “reforming” education began in earnest. There was the removal of due-process rights, the removal of graduate degree pay, Standard 6, push for merit pay, bonus pay, removal of longevity pay, removal of class size caps and then the placing of class size caps without funds to hire extra teachers or build extra classrooms, etc.

The list goes on.

Were there any teachers involved in these reforms? Any teacher advocacy groups consulted? Any way a teacher could chime in?

Those are not rhetorical questions. And considering that the current General Assembly seems bent upon diluting the voice of groups like NCAE, it should not be a stretch to realize that teachers are not consulted when it comes to schools.

The Report on Education Legislation from the 2017 Session of the General Assembly released by DPI and the State Board has a list of all of the bills that were passed that in one way or another affect public education.

From pages 4 and 5.

Bills 2Bills 1

Excluding the “local bills,” how many of those bills and “reforms” had teacher input? How many of those initiatives had any consideration from teachers and asked for contributions from public school educators?

Look at SB599. Sen. Chad Barefoot’s idea of streamlining the teacher recruitment process literally allows for teachers to enter the profession with very little preparation. Was there teacher input?

Again, not a rhetorical question. And do not let it be lost in the world of sadistic irony that Barefoot was the chief champion of the newest version of the Teacher Fellows Program.

When Kowal praises the new version of the Teaching Fellows Program, it is hard not to ask if BEST NC had a hand in its current rendition. Their ties to the business community are apparent, but can they actually really claim that they have extended relationships with actual teachers and teacher groups?

I do not think so. And that resembles the modus operandi of the NC General Assembly who even this past year crafted in a special session the very “laws” (like HB17) currently debated in courts that would enable a man with hardly any educational experience to run without checks and balances the entire public school system.

And the very criteria that measure teacher effectiveness and school performance are established and constantly changed by that same body of lawmakers without teacher input will always translate into a narrative that reform is always needed.

Kowal stated in her perspective that we as a state did lead the nation in educational innovation.

We sure did.

But that was before teachers were not allowed to be “at” the table any longer.

What Chad Barefoot and the NC General Assembly Can Learn From Betsy DeVos About SB599

If you don’t remember this past summer, a new bill was introduced to “reinvigorate” the teacher pipeline here in North Carolina. It was called SB599 and was originally championed by Chad Barefoot.

It is not too hard to see that the need for a “teacher pipeline” has been on the minds of the NC General Assembly. It is because of a manufactured teacher shortage – https://caffeinatedrage.com/2017/06/29/the-stench-of-sb599-raleigh-knows-why-we-have-a-teacher-shortage-they-created-it/.

Just a quick reminder:

“The overall premise of this bill is to ensure that we have a proper teacher pipeline going into the schools.”  – Rep. Jeffrey Elmore, R- Wilkes, in response to questions about SB599 on House floor in Raleigh on June 26.

Senate Bill 599 is the bill (as Alex Granados from EdNC.org reports), that,

“allows organizations other than universities to operate educator preparation programs in North Carolina. The measure includes private, for-profit organizations. And while the bill passed the full House, it did not survive without debate” (https://www.ednc.org/2017/06/26/educator-preparation-bill-passes-house-returns-senate/).

What that means is that for-profit outfits can make money fast-tracking teacher candidates in a rather precarious preparation programs.

In actuality, we have already experienced a manifestation of SB599 here in North Carolina, but on a larger basis.

This fast-tracking is how we got our state superintendent. It’s how we got our secretary of education, Betsy DeVos. But that fast tracking does not adequately prepare people for what the classroom will be like.

Or the terrain of public education.

Because to be in education, you have to have some education and time to be inside of the classroom to cultivate the craft of teaching and marry it to the social science of pedagogy.

It also helps to learn how to love all kids no matter where they come from and what they bring to the classroom.

There is already talk of how much longer Betsy DeVos will stay in office. A recent Politico expose called “The Education of Betsy DeVos” in its most recent edition.

DEvos politico

It’s long, but there is one paragraph that really stands out:

In retrospect, DeVos tells me, she blames the transition team for its handling of her confirmation. “I think I was undercoached,” she says. “The transition group was very circumspect about how much information they gave me about then-current policy and … it was in their view a balance between being prepared for a confirmation hearing and not having well-formed opinions on what should or shouldn’t change, so as not to get caught in a confirmation hearing making commitments that then I wouldn’t want to or be able to keep. And in hindsight, I wish I had a whole lot more information” (https://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2017/11/01/betsy-devos-secretary-education-profile-2017-215768).

Simply put, she was not prepared.

And then this came from Salon.

Thomas Toch, director of independent education think tank FutureEd, told Politico that DeVos was ignorant of the job’s constraints when she accepted it and insiders are already preparing for her to vacate the position.

“She can’t fill her senior staff slots,” he said. “Morale is terrible at the department.”

DeVos was roundly criticized for her lack of basic knowledge about education policy during the confirmation hearing process. She blames President Donald Trump’s transition team, claiming she was “undercoached.”

One doubts most nominees for education secretary need to be coached not to cite grizzly bears as a reason for guns in schools.

“I’ll tell you, in Washington education circles, the conversation is already about the post-DeVos landscape, because the assumption is she won’t stay long,” Toch told Politico. “I think she’s been probably one of the most ineffective people to ever hold the job” (https://www.salon.com/2017/11/06/officials-expect-devos-to-resign-from-trump-administration_partner/).

Again. She was unprepared.

It’s like she was allowed to become the head of the nation’s public school system through a fast-track “teacher pipeline” like SB599.

Do we really need to know why this has not gone well?

The Incestuous Synergy and Stench of Western Governors University NC

The billboards are already up on I-40. Two are visible in the ride from Winston-Salem to Raleigh.

“Western Governors University: North Carolina”

It’s a national online university that now has a base here in North Carolina. Have not heard of it? Well, it was proposed rather secretly within the 2015 budget – page 86 to be specific.

WGU1

On May 21, 2015, Sarah Ovaska-Few reported on the controversial online college known as Western Governors University and its shady introduction to North Carolina in “Controversial online college on its way to North Carolina?” (http://www.ncpolicywatch.com/2015/05/21/controversial-online-college-on-its-way-to-north-carolina/).

Some of the more eye-opening, yet not surprising elements of the story included:

  • A controversial online university that credits students for their existing skills and knowledge could soon have a larger role in North Carolina, with a funding stream carved out in the state House’s version of the budget.”
  • “Though WGU is not named directly in the budget, a reference deep in the 317-page proposed budget (pages 86 and 87) written by House Republicans would allow a private online school that uses the competency model of education to receive some of the nearly $90 million slated for need-based scholarships the state provides to low-income students attending private colleges and universities in the state.”
  • “In North Carolina, the John William Pope Center for Higher Education Policy, a conservative think-tank funded by former state budget director Art Pope’s family foundation, has pushed to bring WGU to the state. N.C. House Speaker Tim Moore, a Republican from Cleveland County, serves on the Pope Center board.”
  • “Critics say WGU’s model, which uses classes developed by third-party vendors and has less faculty involvement than that of traditional community college or university classes, delivers a subpar education at costs not all that different from what some public university and community colleges can offer.”
  • “The online school is also quick to accept students’ previous college credits, but once students began taking classes at WGU, it can be difficult to get those classes recognized outside the online university, Pressnell said.”
  • “WGU’s six-year completion or graduation rate is only about 38 percent, a number that WGU hopes to raise to over 60 percent in coming years, said Mitchell, the spokeswoman for the Utah-based online university.”

With entities such as University of Phoenix, Strayer, and the now defunct Trump University already in the spotlight, this supposed “non-profit” university whose model has come into question now has become reality in North Carolina.

WGU3

With names such as Art Pope and Tim Moore already associated with it in 2015, there has to be more incestuous synergy to make it happen in 2017.

Enter Lt. Gov. Dan Forest, Sen. Chad Barefoot, and former education advisor to Gov. McCrory, Catherine Truitt.

As reported in the Oct. 10th edition of the Raleigh News & Observer, Western Governors University now has its firm footing in the state. Colin Campbell’s work in “Former McCrory aide to lead online university launched with $2 million from state” sheds light on the recent evolution of another way that West Jones Street is undermining post-secondary education in North Carolina.

Campbell states,

“The 2015 state budget included a $2 million allocation to Western Governors University, or WGU, even though it already had enrolled students in North Carolina. Sen. Chad Barefoot, a Wake Forest Republican, told WRAL at the time that the money would help forge relationships with other schools and hospitals to allow students to do practical learning and internships.

The grant required WGU to raise $5 million in private funds in order to receive the $2 million. Donors included the Golden LEAF Foundation – which administers the state’s share of tobacco settlement funds – as well as Strada Education Network and Utah developer Dell Loy Hansen. WGU North Carolina’s leader will be Catherine Truitt, who served as Gov. Pat McCrory’s education adviser before joining the UNC system’s general administration as an associate vice president. McCrory was involved in the 2015 grant” (http://www.newsobserver.com/news/local/education/article178069926.html).

McCrory’s involvement? That was an executive order as explained on page 86 of the 2015 budget.

“Satisfies the competencies for online educational institutions established by executive order of the Governor.”

North Carolina still boasts one of the nation’s premiere public university systems even after the assault on it by the General Assembly. The pretense of it being some place where people can work at their own pace with “previous” experience used as credits makes it sound more predatory than needed. Models such as WGU’s have not worked in the past and prey upon low-income individuals who cannot afford the time and money to physically go to a campus and meet with actual classes and professors.

In fact,

“Because WGU is an online university, its only physical presence in North Carolina will be an office staffed by Truitt and others. It uses what’s called a “competency-based” approach to education, where students progress through course material at their own pace and can advance as soon as they show they’ve mastered the subject through writing papers, making presentations and taking tests.”

How convenient. Also, don’t let the “non-profit” label fool you. Someone’s making money.

Ironic that Catherine Truitt is the leader when she so stridently (but weakly) defended public education reform while in McCrory’s administration – https://caffeinatedrage.com/2016/03/28/open-letter-to-catherine-truitt-senior-advisor-on-education-to-gov-pat-mccrory-concerning-her-op-ed-on-march-25th-on-ednc-org/.

Now she is in the private sector taking money from the state and possibly allowing state scholarship money to be used to help finance a rather impersonal educational experience.

But Sen. Chad Barefoot’s fingerprints are on this as well. There is that blurb from Campbell’s report that stated, “Sen. Chad Barefoot, a Wake Forest Republican, told WRAL at the time that the money would help forge relationships with other schools and hospitals to allow students to do practical learning and internships.”

That’s interesting. Because right before WGU gained its status as a viable monetary trap, Barefoot championed SB599, the alternate pathway to teacher preparation here in NC. You can read more about that here: https://caffeinatedrage.com/2017/06/29/the-stench-of-sb599-raleigh-knows-why-we-have-a-teacher-shortage-they-created-it/.

Think about it. Simply go the WGU’s website to see its programs and course offerings. You will see this.

WGU2

“Education” is the single biggest program offered.

That’s right. It’s an online college to become a teacher. On the surface it looks legit, but in reality WGU has a completion rate of less than half within six years and the reputation of a degree from WGU pales in comparison to one obtained from any of the public institutions in the state. Furthermore, there are dozens of teacher preparation programs in the state university system with greater ties to schools and communities.

So, it seems as if WGU might be used as a teacher mill that will make some people rather wealthy using state money when many who start the program will never finish but keep paying and at the same time work against the very institutions that are supposedly state-supported and more viable who also have their own online programs with real faculty members.

It doesn’t take an online degree program to figure out what that really is.

Dear Sen. Barefoot, How Are You Going to Respond? Concerning Class Sizes in Wake County and All NC Elementary Schools.

Dear Sen. Barefoot,

Earlier this calendar year you were quoted as saying,

“For years, the General Assembly has been sending tens of millions of dollars to districts for new classroom teachers for the purpose of lowering classroom sizes,” he said. “The question we keep asking over and over again is, ‘What did they do with the money? …The data that we have received from the districts varies, and some districts did not fully respond to our information request. What some of the data has shown is that there are districts that did not reduce class sizes with the funding we sent them. Why are they holding art and PE teachers’ jobs hostage for their misallocation of classroom teacher funds?” (http://www.wral.com/law-reducing-class-size-has-music-art-pe-teachers-anxious-about-future-/16628678/).

You never showed proof of the data. There was no explanation of what you had seen. There seemed to be no transparency. You made the claim, but never showed us where those “misallocations” really were.

Senator, you helped craft and pass a budget which ensured that per pupil expenditure would remain well below the national average (and lower than pre-recession days in adjusted monies) and funneled more finite resources into privatization efforts like vouchers.

You helped push a budget that has already cut DPI’s funds by 10 percent this year and another portion next year.

Then you spawned HB13 that launched itself into the everyday conversation of public school districts as your need to “reform” public education took new heights. And the fruits of your efforts are starting to show.

This past week the North Carolina Superintendent of the Year, Dr. James Merrill, sent a letter to the Wake County Delegation in the North Carolina General Assembly. As an elected official from Wake County, I am sure you received this letter.

wake letter

These are the schools and families that you represent, Sen. Barefoot. These are your constituents. These are your students. These are your communities.

Whether you should reply is not the question. You are an elected official. You will respond, either with a public comment, a private letter, or with the response that screams loudest – the non-answer.

The question is whether you have the wherewithal to respond directly to all of the people who are affected by the rather partisan stab to public schools that HB13 has become and continues to be.

Yes, we know that you are not running for reelection on 2018 and that this matter may not be totally settled before you end your tenure as a senator to “spend more time with your family.” But your actions with this class size restriction mandate (among many, many others) affects the “school communities” of “more than 90 of (your) 113” Wake County elementary schools. That’s a lot of families whose parents want to spend time with their school-aged children, hopefully knowing that their children have the needed resources for school.

To say that the rest of the state is not paying attention to what happens to Wake County schools in this matter would be false. In each LEA, there are conversations occurring that are attempting to best handle massive cuts to follow a mandate championed by people like you who have also ironically bragged about our state’s surplus.

So senator, how are you going to respond?

How will you explain to Dr. Merrill that this “class size” restriction without a plan to help resource extra classrooms and displaced teachers is good for Wake County schools? Or any other county’s schools?

How would you condone “moving art and music teachers out of their classrooms, creating upper elementary grades with more than 30 students and placing two teachers in some classrooms?”

And while you do not have to reconvene for the General Assembly until next month, Wake County elementary schools will be open again tomorrow and the next day and the next day.

And the next day.

So, senator. What is your explanation?

Senator? Senator?

Dear Sen. Barefoot, Say It Isn’t So!

sayitisntso

Dear Sen. Barefoot,

News tonight that you will not seek reelection to the NC General Assembly in 2018 was rather surprising.

Your meteoric rise in the leadership ranks of the state’s GOP hierarchy seemed to be a sign of more to come. At a young age, you became the the co-chairman of the Senate Education and Higher Education Committee and the Appropriations Subcommittee on Education and Higher Education that were instrumental in deciding the allotment for classroom size and for public school resources.

With the release of the new legislative maps, there will be a lot of conjecture as to why you saved your news for tonight. Maybe the new maps that were released (because the original ones that you were able to get elected within were gerrymandered) would hurt your chances to get reelected.

Maybe a”doubling” of your district would hurt your chances to gain another term. However, since the person whose district might merge into yours is also a GOP member, it would not really change the ability for your political cronies to keep a hold of the majority.

In a news report by WRAL, you were quoted (from your released statement that is linked to the report),

“As my legislative responsibilities grew over the past five years, so did my responsibilities at home. I feel now is the right time for me to focus more on being a dad than a State Senator, and so I won’t be running for re-election in 2018” (http://www.wral.com/sen-chad-barefoot-won-t-seek-reelection-in-2018-/16893984/).

I am a dad and a husband – best endeavors I have ever undertaken. And I commend your wanting to focus on that part of your life.

You also said in your statement,

“…we knew when I ran for the State Senate six years ago that serving in elected office might not be something we could do for the long haul “(http://myemail.constantcontact.com/Barefoot-Announces-That-He-Won-t-Seek-Re-election.html?soid=1108923576284&aid=wvpuuGTP42M).

But I am going to honest with you. I don’t believe that you are simply going away into the private sector. You will be back in some capacity.

Someone who was part of probably the most expensive state legislation races, who has become a co-chair of two of the most powerful committees in the NCGA, and who single-handedly has crafted some of the most altering legislation to “reform” public education is simply going to leave that behind?

I don’t believe it.

When Sen. Phil Berger said in the WRAL report, ““We’ll miss Chad’s thoughtful leadership in the Senate, but I commend him for choosing to spend more time with his young family and wish him every success,” I heard something else.

I heard, “We are grooming Chad to become better acquainted with other aspects of state-run agencies so that he can be of service to the NC GOP.”

Whether that means state-wide political office (consider that Lt. Gov. Dan Forrest is already ramping up a campaign for governor) or an appointment to a state job in some sort of educational venue (community college?), I am sure that you will be back in a position of lucrative service.

The man who brought us SB599 (alternative teacher pathways), proposed to end Governor’s School and launch a special “Legislative School”, helped slash budgets for DPI, and held “specials” hostage through HB13 is not simply going away that quickly.

Even if you did simply cut ties with political endeavors and state-wide office seeking, you could never really leave. That’s because in your short tenure, you have left an incredibly big scar on public education that will take years to heal because so many actions that have affected us in public schools have your fingerprints all over them. Things like:

  • Teacher Pay still low on national scale
  • Removal of due-process rights
  • Graduate Degree Pay Bumps Removed
  • Misplaced Bonuses
  • Last in nation in Principal Pay
  • Standard 6 and Nebulous Evaluation Tools
  • Push for Merit Pay
  • “Average” Raises
  • Health Insurance and Benefits Attacked
  • Attacks on Teacher Advocacy Groups (NCAE)
  • Revolving Door of Standardized Tests
  • Less Money Spent per Pupil
  • Remove Caps on Class Sizes
  • Jeb Bush School Grading System
  • Cutting Teacher Assistants
  • Opportunity Grants
  • Achievement School Districts
  • Reduction of Teacher Candidates in Colleges
  • Elimination of Teaching Fellows Program

And for that, I will keep writing to you.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dear Sen. Barefoot, The Next NCGA Special Session Should be in an Elementary School Trailer

275px-Portable_classroom_building_at_Rock_Creek_Elementary_School_-_Washington_County,_Oregon

Dear Sen. Barefoot,

A recent report from WRAL brought again to mind the efforts that you specifically have made to handcuff school districts in meeting class size requirements without fully funding public schools.

The foreseen problems of the folly that was the HB13 bill you shepherded are now manifesting themselves, specifically in Wake County.

From WRAL:

Traditional-calendar students in Wake County head back to school in less than three weeks, but before welcoming kids back, school leaders are trying to figure out how they’ll handle a new state mandate for smaller class sizes.

State-mandated reductions in class size for kindergarten through third grade take full effect in the 2018-2019 school year, and district officials estimate they will need 5,900 new elementary school seats in a county already facing constant student population growth.

“That’s a bunch of seats we are going to have to find,” said Wake County school board member Bill Fletcher (http://www.wral.com/calendar-changes-trailers-may-help-wake-schools-meet-new-class-size-requirements-/16869575/).

When that bill was being discussed, you made an interesting comment that I would like to revisit. You said,

“For years, the General Assembly has been sending tens of millions of dollars to districts for new classroom teachers for the purpose of lowering classroom sizes,” he said. “The question we keep asking over and over again is, ‘What did they do with the money? …The data that we have received from the districts varies, and some districts did not fully respond to our information request. What some of the data has shown is that there are districts that did not reduce class sizes with the funding we sent them. Why are they holding art and PE teachers’ jobs hostage for their misallocation of classroom teacher funds?” (http://www.wral.com/law-reducing-class-size-has-music-art-pe-teachers-anxious-about-future-/16628678/).

Well, apparently what is about to happen is that districts such as your home district of Wake County will have to use the money to buy trailers and carts.

Back to the WRAL report:

Of the 113 elementary schools in Wake County, most would be able to make changes to create enough additional space, but about 20 schools said they have no room to spare.

Possible solutions for those 20 schools include restructuring the schools or school assignments, adding trailers, moving fifth grade students to middle schools or moving schools to a multi-trackcalendar.

District officials have also considered moving art or music from classrooms to portable carts.

“It is not a preferred way to provide that kind of instruction. It can be done,” Fletcher said. “There are lots of possibilities. Nothing has been decided yet.”

In essence, Wake County will have to change the time/space continuum to make things compatible all while having to deal with a massive budget gap that government officials are not helping with, especially the ones on West Jones Street.

You asked back in the spring, “What did they do with the money?” Well, you can now see what they will have to do with the lack of money and space and resources.

Instead of schools having to report to you, why don’t you be a representative and go to them? Go to those 20 schools that Mr. Fletcher mentioned and see what is having to be done because of your insistence on standing on platitudes rather than dealing with your constitutionally sworn duty to fully fund public schools and protect all classes including the specials.

And before you go, you could maybe try and understand what some of these schools have to deal with.

So the next time that you and your cronies decide to call for another special session, instead of meeting on West Jones Street, meet with your caucus in a trailer “off campus” that has shaky reception for internet, no bathroom, or stable temperature control.

Have some of the members of your caucus sit on the floor because there will not be enough desks. In fact, do it when it is raining.

But before you have that special session, make sure that whoever is leading the meeting turns in a lesson plan that fully implements all provisions of the state constitution and how they are being met. And expect a test on what is covered because it will be over half of the immeasurable data that will go into your approval rating.

And the money that is needed to fund your special session? It will be determined by a body of people who have no idea of what you are doing and actually think that what you do is not important.

Then you might have an idea of what happens when personalities are honored more than principles.

What Should Really Be “Special” in North Carolina

special-1

From Merriam-Webster’s online dictionary:

Definition of special

  1. :  distinguished by some unusual quality; especially :  being in some way superior
  2. :  held in particular esteem
  3. a :  readily distinguishable from others of the same category :  uniquethey set it apart as
    b :  of, relating to, or constituting a species :  specific
  4. :  being other than the usual :  additionalextra
  5. :  designed for a particular purpose or occasion

Over the last year, the North Carolina General Assembly has used five “special sessions” to craft policy and law that has done some rather “nonspecial” things.

They have been called by people who think themselves “special” to create “especially” bad legislation for “special” reasons to make others feel not-so-“special” and unequal.

Those “special sessions” are certainly “designed for a particular purpose or occasion” and are “readily distinguishable from others of the same category” called by people who hold themselves in “held in particular esteem” in order to make others feel like they are “other than the usual.”

In holding themselves as “being in some way superior,” they have distorted what should really be “special” in North Carolina such as:

Protecting “Specials” in Public Schools – Sen. Chad Barefoot’s championing of measures that would allow much needed flexibility to overcome rigid class size requirements is yet another example of why public school advocates view many lawmakers as hypocritical, piously partisan, and “especially” unrepresentative of their office. Without such flexibility, school systems will have to consider eliminating valuable physical education and arts classes (known as “specials”) or with fewer resources, “especially” in rural areas.

Fully Funding Teacher Assistants for All Public Schools, Especially for Special Education Classrooms– It is no “special” secret that cutting teacher assistant positions has been on the table in many of the NC General Assembly education discussions. But doing so would have incredibly “unspecial” Fewer teacher assistants for early grades “especially” limit what can be accomplished when teachers are facing more cuts in resources and more students in each classroom. For students who need extra modifications, teacher assistants can mean more than something “special.”

Special Elections – The first “special session” of 2016 was to deal with the gerrymandered districts that were intentionally drawn by the very NC General Assembly that considers itself so “special.” They were declared unconstitutional, meaning that those very people who are calling future “special” sessions to make “especially” heinous policies like HB2 to make others feel not-so-“special” are actually not very valid in many people’s eyes. We need to have those “Special Elections” to democratically regain a hold of this state.

Make All People Special – Every NC citizen who has been marginalized by lack of Medicaid expansion, tainted water, Voter ID intimidation, gender identity and sexual orientation discrimination, and other dehumanizing measures to allow for others to profit should not be continue to be disregarded.

Those in power in Raleigh need to stop thinking of themselves as so “special” and begin to think of all North Carolinians as “special.”

SB599 on Steroids – The Fast Tracking of DeVos and Johnson

Teacher resume

This past month, I wrote about SB599 in a post called The Stench of SB599.

In it I stated,

“The overall premise of this bill is to ensure that we have a proper teacher pipeline going into the schools.”  – Rep. Jeffrey Elmore, R- Wilkes, in response to questions about SB599 on House floor in Raleigh on June 26.

Senate Bill 599 is the bill (as Alex Granados from EdNC.org reports), that,

“allows organizations other than universities to operate educator preparation programs in North Carolina. The measure includes private, for-profit organizations. And while the bill passed the full House, it did not survive without debate” (https://www.ednc.org/2017/06/26/educator-preparation-bill-passes-house-returns-senate/).

What that means is that for-profit outfits can make money fast-tracking teacher candidates in a rather precarious preparation programs.

In actuality, we have already experienced a manifestation of SB599 here in North Carolina, but on a larger basis.

Imagine putting together a list of possible qualifications for becoming an instructional leader of a large public school system such as a state superintendent of secretary of education in a democratically controlled country.

How much experience do you think is necessary to be that instructional leader?

Does there need to be a working knowledge of the system, the curriculum, the pedagogy, the theory?

Does there need to be a perspective that is shaped by being in the classroom and serving as an administrator?

Or can you have someone lead who has never been a part of the system before?

Take a look.

Because it seems like some leaders were fast-tracked by those who will profit by them. In DeVos’s case, she already made sure to fill the coffers of the very committee (HELP) that nominated her.

Think of it as SB599 on steroids.

Criteria Betsy DeVos Mark Johnson Veteran Public School Teachers in NC Who Have Taught For Five + Years
Has a degree in education or went through a teacher preparation program at a college or university NO NO Most all of them. Lateral Entry in most states still requires that teachers take certain preparation courses.
Has teaching experience NO YES – two school years YES –
Attended public schools NO YES – graduated from Louisiana’s equivalent of a Magnet school for math and science IF 90% of go to traditional public schools, then safe to say MOST OF THEM
Sends children to public school NO NO MOST OF THEM, if they have kids
Believes vouchers hurts traditional public schools NO NO DON’T MEET MANY WHO LIKE THEM
Supports teacher unions and teacher advocacy groups NO NO MOST DO – IF NOT WITH MEMBERSHIP, THEN DO RELY ON GROUPS TO LOBBY FOR THEM
Administrated in a school NO NO Most administrators were teachers
Been through a principal change as an educator NO NO MOST OF THEM
Been through a curriculum change NO NO YES
Seen a group of students matriculate throughout an entire school experience from beginning of high school to graduation to another level of schooling NO NO YES
Managed budgets for public funds NO Served a partial term as a local school board member but was campaigning partially during that time PROBABLY NOT
Talked to teacher advocacy groups NO AVOIDS LIKE THE PLAGUE A GREAT MANY OF THEM
Talked with special education advocacy groups NO AVOIDS LIKE THE PLAGUE A GREAT MANY OF THEM
Finished an entire term in elected office NO NO NOT APPLICABLE
Oversaw a budget that expanded resources for students in traditional public schools NO NO A GREAT MANY OF THEM ON A SMALL SCALE
Displayed understanding of IDEA and IEP law. NO NO YES
Led a school in a reaccreditation process NO NO MANY OF THEM – IT’s A SCHOLLWIDE INITIATIVE
Participated in a PTSA NO NO MANY OF THEM
Coached a public school sport NO UNKNOWN MANY OF THEM
Oversaw a budget for a school NO NO ADMINSTRATION DOES THIS
Had continuing certification NO NO YES
Mentored a younger teacher NO NO YES
Had a student teacher NO NO MANY OF THEM
Sponsored an extracurricular NO NO MOST OF THEM
Written curriculum standards NO NO MANY OF THEM
Led a professional development workshop NO NO MANY OF THEM
Published scholarly work on educational issues. NO NO SOME OF THEM
Knows difference between proficiency and growth for students NO DON’T KNOW MOST OF THEM
Meet With ALL Parents Who Request Conference NO NO YES
Keeps Open Channels of Communication with students, parents, administration, and community NO NO YES
Does Not Require an Entourage to Explain Concepts of Job NO NO YES

 

Results United States Secretary of Education North Carolina State Superintendent Becoming an Endangered Species