Sen. Chad Barefoot’s Walking Contradiction on HB13

hb13-nc_orig

The term “walking contradiction” describes someone who says one thing and then acts in a contradictory fashion.  Nowhere do we get a better example of the “walking contradiction” than with politicians who knowingly and blatantly make statements that contradict their own actions or professed value systems.

In North Carolina, we have many of our own walking contradictions. One of them is Sen. Chad Barefoot, the co-chairman of the NC Senate Education Committee which has refused to move on HB13 after the House passed it unanimously.

His reasoning?

“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. No proof of the data. No explanation of what he has seen. No transparency. If he is to make the claim, then he needs to show us where those “misallocations” really are.

But until then, he is just a “walking contradiction” especially for two specific reasons.

First, the arts, music, and physical education are not “specialties” but “necessities.” In a nation that is spending more on health problems caused by obesity, the need to get kids moving and away from the television might be just as important as core subject material.

Even Louisburg College, “America’s Premier Private Two-Year College”, here in North Carolina understands the value of these “necessities.

https://www.louisburg.edu/

Just look at its introductory screen on the website. There is even a link to the “Humanities” department.

And the description is rather telling.

“The humanities cover a broad range of academic disciplines that have been, and continue to be, a crucial component of the educational goals of Louisburg College. The Humanities Division’s learning objectives of competent written and oral communication, critical thinking, creative thinking, and aesthetic engagement support Louisburg College’s mission statement of building a strong foundation to prepare students for an academic journey that leads to a four year college.”

The Humanities Division includes Art, Communications, Drama, English, Film, Music, Religion/Philosophy, and Spanish.

So “creative thinking” and “aesthetic engagement” are needed t support a “strong foundation to prepare students?” I could not agree more. With classes in art, drama, film, music, and foreign languages it seems that Louisburg values the continuation of a curriculum that teaches the whole body and mind.

And yes, there is a strong athletics department.

And guess who the is the Vice-President of Institutional Advancement as of this past July 1st.

Chad Barefoot
Vice President for Institutional Advancement
919.497.3325
cbarefoot@louisburg.edu

His responsibilities? According to Louisburg’s press release on his hiring (https://www.louisburg.edu/news/barefoot.html),

“Barefoot will serve as chief development officer for the college, which includes directing and overseeing annual fundraising programs and alumni and community relations. He will also serve as a member of the President’s cabinet and as a strategic partner to the Board of Trustees.”

Is it not ironic that Sen. Barefoot raises funds for an institution that is a private industry so that it can fully fund its “necessities” when he is also actually elected to do the same for the public schools and he is stalling a bill called HB13 that if not passed would force public school systems to spend much more money to come into accordance with an ill-conceived mandate while eliminating the very same type of “necessities?”

Secondly, Barefoot’s actions and words concerning HB13 and fully funding public schools show a glaring contradiction to the religious platforms that he and many in state government have been professing while maintaining office.

The predominant spiritual path in the United States, Judeo-Christianity, talks much of the need for music, dance, movement, song, and expression. I think of all of the hymns and musicals my own Southern Baptist church produced, most complete with choreography, which is odd considering that many joke about Baptists’ aversion to dancing.

Even the Bible commands “Sing to the LORD a new song; Sing to the LORD, all the earth” (Psalms 96:1), and “Praise Him with timbrel and dancing; Praise Him with stringed instruments and pipe” (Psalm 150:4).

Furthermore, the Bible often talks of the body as being a “temple of the Holy Spirit” and even commands Christians to stay physically fit. “Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body” (1 Corinthians 6:19-20).

Not passing HB13 is egregious. It’s backwards. It’s forcing school districts to make decisions about whether to educate the whole child or part of the child in order to make student/teacher ratios look favorable. It’s either drop those courses or cutting teacher assistants and that would be yet another detrimental blow against public education.

That’s like going out of your way to get plastic surgery, liposuction, and body sculpting to create a new look while ignoring the actual health of your body. Without proper nutrition, sleep, exercise, mental health, and emotional support, we open doors to maladies.

When the Bible that Barefoot reads talks about a temple, it talks about the insides, not just the outsides.

Interestingly enough, many of the private schools and charter schools that receive public money through Opportunity Grants that Barefoot heartily champions have plentiful art programs and physical education opportunities.

So why put these programs for public schools in jeopardy if they reach so many more children?

What our history has shown us time and time again is that we needed music, dance, arts, and physical education to cope and grow as people and we needed them to become better students. To force the removal of these vital areas of learning would be making our students more one-dimensional. It would make them less prepared.

Rather contradictory to what is supposed to happen.

Open Letter to Sen. Chad Barefoot Concerning His Words on HB13

Dear Sen. Barefoot,

Your recent comments concerning the stalled House Bill 13 that would help local school districts navigate a stubborn legislative obstacle is yet another example of why so many people who advocate for the constitutionally protected public school system view you as hypocritical and piously partisan.

While Guilford County has already served notice to many teacher assistants about their possible non-renewal, systems such as the one I work for (Winston-Salem / Forsyth County) are waiting to see if waivers will be given by DPI.

As reported by WRAL on April 6th,

Sen. Chad Barefoot, R-Wake, co-chair of the Senate Education/Higher Education committee, says lowering class size is a priority.

“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?'”

Lawmakers requested financial data from school districts in the state and are analyzing it to try to get that answer.

“The data that we have received from the districts varies, and some districts did not fully respond to our information request,” Barefoot said. “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/).

First, did you remember that teachers of classes for vital subjects such as art, music, and physical education are not dictated by a particular state allotment and ,therefore, do not count into student-teacher ratios for core subjects in the early grades?

Also, how will help these schools build more physical facilities to house the vast numbers of new classrooms that will be needed?

But more importantly, can you explain how your comments are not duplicitous when taken as a part of a bigger conversation?

You mentioned “tens of millions of dollars” over a period of “years.” Or at least, that is your assumption. The truth is that over the last several years we have seen a lower per-pupil expenditure for our students and an average teacher salary that still ranks in the last tier within the nation all while this state has experienced a boom in population.

But you talk about “tens of millions of dollars” that need to be accounted for so thoroughly that you are willing to hold LEA’s hostage.

If you want to look at how money is being spent (or not spent) with a fine-tooth comb, then maybe look at the Opportunity Grants program.

Just this past summer, you introduced a bill to further increase vouchers in NC under a system that many in the nation have found to be one of the most opaque in the country. Adam Lawson from the Lincoln Times News reported in May of 2016,

Senate Bill 862, filed by Republican state Sens. David Curtis (Lincoln, Iredell, Gaston), Chad Barefoot (Franklin, Wake) and Trudy Wade (Guilford) calls for 2,000 additional Opportunity Scholarship Grants to be available each school year beginning in 2017-18.

That comes with a $10 million annual rise in cost, from $34,840,000 in 2017-18 until 2027-28, when taxpayers would begin paying nearly $135 million for vouchers on a yearly basis. According to the Charlotte Observer, the state has spent just $12 million on the program this school year, 93 percent of which has gone to faith-based schools.

Actually, legislation that you championed will funnel nearly one BILLION dollars into North Carolina’s voucher program within the next ten years. And what results has the state seen from that venture so far?

I would invite you to look at the Duke Law School of Law’s Children’s Law Center’s recent March 2017 report called SCHOOL VOUCHERS IN NORTH CAROLINA: THE FIRST THREE YEARS.

Duke study

The entire report can be found here:  https://law.duke.edu/childedlaw/School_Vouchers_NC.pdf.

But just to give you a flavor of what the Opportunity Grants have done according to one of the more respected research universities in the nation, consider the following excerpted observations:

  • Approximately 93% of the vouchers have been used to pay tuition at religious schools (p.3).
  • Based on limited and early data, more than half the students using vouchers are performing below average on nationally-standardized reading, language, and math tests. (p.3).
  • It is poorly designed, however, to promote better academic outcomes for children and is unlikely to do so (p.3).
  • The most typical size for a participating school is between 100 and 250 students. However, 33 schools (7%) have ten or fewer students, with another 42 (9%) enrolling 20 or fewer students (p.8).
  • Although it is not an “apples-to-apples” comparison, the most recent data shows that comparable students who remained in public schools are scoring better than the voucher students on national tests (p.12).
  • In comparison to most other states, North Carolina’s general system of oversight of private schools is weak. No accreditation is required of private schools (p.13).
  • Unlike some laws, the law creating the Opportunity Scholarship Grant Program does not set out its purpose (p.15).
  • In fact, there is no requirement that the participating private schools meet any threshold of academic quality. (p.15-16).
  • THE LEGISLATIVE DECISION TO EXEMPT VOUCHER STUDENTS FROM PARTICIPATING IN THE STANDARD STATE END-OF-GRADE TESTS MEANS THAT NO RESEARCHER WILL EVER BE ABLE TO MAKE AN “APPLES-TO-APPLES” COMPARISON BETWEEN PUBLIC SCHOOL AND VOUCHER STUDENTS (p.18).
  • The North Carolina program allows for participation in the program by children who are not in failing schools and by private schools that do not offer a more academically promising education (p.19).

If you are analyzing the data from districts that have spent these “tens of millions” of dollars you mentioned earlier, are you analyzing the data from this report that spends this much taxpayer money?

Are you also analyzing recent improprieties of the use of monies in schools that use vouchers like Trinity Christian in Fayetteville? (http://ajf.org/employee-states-largest-recipient-school-voucher-funds-accused-embezzling-nearly-400000-public-tax-dollars/). The financial reports that were sent by Trinity were also incomplete (https://www.ednc.org/2017/04/07/serious-questions-arise-states-largest-voucher-school/) . It would be interesting to see if the financial reports from the suspected systems that you have focused on in your recent investigation, but you will not identify them.

And if analysis is so important to you to ascertain how money is being spent, then would you also not question analysis that talks about how your own actions have cost our state much more than “tens of millions of dollars?”

Your zealous defense of HB2 has according to many outlets cost the state of North Carolina hundreds of millions of dollars. A recent AP report even put that figure at over 3.5 BILLION (http://abc11.com/news/ap-hb2-estimated-to-cost-north-carolina-$376b/1819978/).

While lawmakers such as Lt. Gov. Dan Forest and possibly yourself may question the validity of the AP’s report, they were very transparent in their findings. And that does not even account for what may have been invested in North Carolina but never made it into public record.

Even if half of that number is correct, the loss to our state is tremendous.

Yet you remain steadfast in helping stall a bill that would greatly aid public school systems and greatly help students.

But in light of the actions you have taken and the comments that you have made that are simply rooted in biased politics, I am more prone to believe in the transparent analysis of Duke University or the Associate Press or even the unanimous passing of a bill in the highly divided North Carolina General Assembly House of Representatives (HB13) than your words.

How John Oliver’s Segment On Charter Schools Speaks to North Carolina

If you have any interest in why the charter school industry has been under the spotlight in this election year in North Carolina, you might want to check out a segment from the August 22, 2016 episode of Last Week Tonight With John Oliver. If you have HBO GO then you can watch all the episodes of a great show, but if you are a hard-line Trump supporter, you will not agree with a lot of things that Oliver says. Well, not anything he says.

But I do agree with what Oliver says about charter schools. Actually, I agree with a lot of what he says.

He devoted over 18 minutes to the charter school industry in this episode and you can tell that there was so much more to talk about. And yes, it is HBO, so there is a lot of vulgarity, but it’s not gratuitous to me and if your ears are too sensitive to listen to any “f-bomb” being dropped, then don’t view it.

In fact, if Oliver’s language is offending to you, don’t walk down the hall of a large public school. I’ve walked down the halls of small, private Christian schools and heard language that would put hair on your chest. Teenagers cuss. And some do it well. As an educator who teaches rhetoric and argumentation, I have heard some beautifully phrased lude comments come from our nation’s youth. Would I want my daughter saying that? No.

But man, there was no further explanation needed.

I will write about the use of vulgarity later.

But back to Oliver. Here’s the segment. And watch the whole thing –  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l_htSPGAY7I .

watch-john-oliver-online.jpg

Interestingly, the segment begins with a lot of presidential hopefuls (mostly GOP) praising charter schools. Obama sings their praises. Even Trump is quoted as saying, “Charter schools work and they work very well.”

In 42 states as well as the District of Columbia over 6700 charter schools are educating over 3 million students. They get to use taxpayer money, but can operate under less transparency like a private school.

And I liked that Oliver did not argue whether the concept of charter schools is bad or not. He agreed that they are good in principle. There are fantastic charter schools here in North Carolina. Many times I have referred to the Arts Based Schools here in Winston-Salem as an example. But they do something that public schools do not. That is using innovative practices to educate students. Their students typically go into traditional public schools for high school.

What Oliver was exploring was the way that many charter schools operate and handle money. And in eighteen minutes he could not begin to dissect all states. He focused mostly on Florida, Pennsylvania, and Ohio.

Does that lessen what has happened in charter schools here in North Carolina? No. In fact, it really highlights what is happening here in the Old North State.

Remember the DPI report that Lt. Dan Forest wanted redone to shed a more positive light on charter schools here in North Carolina when there were glaring negatives? The report talked about lack of diversity. But it also showed how eager some in Raleigh were in giving charter schools so much freedom to use tax money to proffer a narrative that public schools were failures. I wrote Lt. Forest an open letter about his “championing of charter schools” last January – http://pulse.ncpolicywatch.org/2016/01/12/open-letter-from-teacher-takes-dan-forest-to-task-on-charter-schools/. I received no response.

I have also written other prominent lawmakers on their actions to allow charter schools to privatize a constitutionally protected social service with tax money. None have garnered a response to this public school teacher, parent of public school children, and voter.

Here is one to Sen. Jerry Tillman, the godfather of charter schools. Sen. Tillman was instrumental in removing obstacles for charter schools to get up and running without much oversight https://caffeinatedrage.com/2016/06/10/my-one-sided-pen-pal-relationship-with-sen-jerry-tillman-or-why-i-am-are-sending-an-old-letter-with-more-love/ .

Here is one to both Rep. Rob Bryan and Sen. Chad Barefoot on their rush to fund an ASD district here in NC while ignoring the horrible effects that ASD’s have had in other states. My own school system, Winston-Salem / Forsyth County Schools may be involved in this without any local community members having input. Financial improprieties are now hovering over the ASD in Tennessee. North Carolina’s version is not any different   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/ .

And here is one to Sen. David Curtis. He has been very buddy-buddy with a charter school chain that is a for-profit entity   https://caffeinatedrage.com/2016/04/28/hes-back-open-letter-to-sen-david-curtis-why-do-you-not-support-public-schools/.

Here in NC, the charter school industry seems to be championed by people who live in more rural areas. Opening a charter school in a rural area can have incredible effects on the traditional public schools there. If enough students are pulled from the public schools, then those public schools have a harder time petitioning for money to actually have resources for their students.

Oliver’s segment also touched on virtual academies, which is under scrutiny here in NC for its attendance problems. In fact, Oliver’s segment could have easily been done on North Carolina’s situation alone, but our charter school industry sometimes gets overshadowed with all of the talk of HB2, Voter ID bills, coal ash spills, and Opportunity Grants.

But there is one common theme or thread that runs through all of those issues related to North Carolina, especially ill-conceived charter schools – everybody pays a price so a few can profit.

Having John Oliver explore this topic on the eve of school starting when so much else is happening in the country and the world should be an indication that something has gone very awry. And it’s costing us.

However, with the State Board of Education having denied the Charter School Advisory Board’s recommendation for almost twenty applications, there might be a little of a change in the air as to how we spend money for schools.

Maybe that is the beginning of restoring sanity in the stewardship of the public’s money for education.

Fifty Shades of No Way – New SBOE Member Todd Chasteen’s First Book To Challenge

Now that Todd Chasteen has now been appointed to the NC State Board of Education, I would like to go ahead and ask that he and others on the board read the latest installment of the Fifty Shades of … book for possible inclusion in schools, or at least in the dialogue of what is happening in North Carolina.

I will offer only this table of contents to the SBOE and Mr. Chasteen in deference to any delicate sensibilities toward works of literature that actually display and describe the human condition through creative use of language, strong diction, vivid imagery, incredible detail, and varying syntax.

I must admit that the other books in this series really are not that well written and have one driving motif, but I would ask that this book, Fifty Shades of No Way, be investigated as it does accurately portray the climate and terrain of the Old North State.

Here is the list of chapter titles. There are 50 –Get it? Fifty Shades of No Way. In each chapter there is deception, manipulation, vivid imagery, hurt feelings, but most of all in each one of them someone is getting screwed pretty hard and often, mainly the citizens of North Carolina.

Enjoy

  1. HB2 – Bathroom Bill
  2. HB3 – 5.5% income tax cap – TABOR
  3. Medicaid Expansion Denied
  4. Voter ID Law
  5. Gerrymandering of Districts
  6. Duke Coal Ash Ponds
  7. Fracking Industry Without Oversight
  8. Teacher Pay still at the bottom tier in the nation
  9. Removal of due-process rights for new teachers
  10. Tom Ross Replaced With Margaret Spellings
  11. Graduate Degree Pay Bumps Removed for new teachers
  12. Bad Teacher Evaluation Systems
  13. Push for Merit Pay
  14. “Average” Raises and neglecting veteran teachers
  15. Central Office Allotment Cuts
  16. Rainy Day Fund That Can’t be Accessed Unless The Apocolypse Comes
  17. Religious Freedom Bill
  18. Attacks on Teacher Advocacy Groups (NCAE)
  19. Revolving Door of Standardized Tests
  20. Less Money Spent per Pupil in Traditional Public Schools
  21. Remove Caps on Class Sizes
  22. Jeb Bush School Grading System
  23. Opportunity Grants Expansion
  24. Allowing Private and Religious Schools To Profit From Tax Payer Money
  25. Charter School Growth Without Regulation
  26. Virtual Schools Deregulation
  27. Achievement School Districts
  28. Reduction of Teacher Candidates in Colleges
  29. Elimination of Teaching Fellows Program
  30. Governor’s Inability to Defend Policies to the Press
  31. Governor’s Unwillingness to Defend Policies to the Press
  32. Attacks on Teacher Assistants
  33. Elimination of State Employees Rights to File Discrimination Suits in State Courts
  34. Pissing Off Bruce Springsteen
  35. Using God and Jesus as Political Crutches
  36. Gov. Dan Forest’s request to have Charter School Report to be Rewritten
  37. Buck Newton Keeping Our State Straight
  38. House Bill 539 – Giving Charters Money For Services They Do Not Provide
  39. Rowan-Salisbury Pepper Spray Proposal
  40. Chad Barefoot’s Appt. to Senate Education Committee Chair
  41. Teach For America Expansion Plans
  42. SB 873 – Access To Affordable College Education Act
  43. Clyde Edgerton and New Hanover County’s Superintendent
  44. What the Teacher Working Conditions Survey Really Said
  45. Arresting of Teachers Who Protested and Saying They Were At Fault
  46. McCrory’s Didaskalithedemosiophobia – Yep, That’s What I said – Look it up on my Blog
  47. SB867 – Background Checking Bill
  48. Appointing People Who Are Not Qualified to the SBOE
  49. Special Sessions of the General Assembly
  50. Surreptitious Midnight Meetings to Craft Bills That Only Benefit a Few

Outsourcing Our Kids For Profit – Rep. Rob Bryan and Sen. Chad Barefoot Will Have Much to Answer For in The Future

Doing the same things over and over again and expecting different results is a classic definition of insanity. Thinking it will be different because you changed localities is nothing more than hoping for a geographical cure. Neither is very healthy. But if the true motive behind it is profit, then people might just say anything to make it work.

Rep. Rob Bryan and Sen. Chad Barefoot just outsourced a bunch of our kids. They literally are giving our students and our taxpayer money to out-of-state, for-profit charter school operators within an Achievement School District (ASD) – all in the name of helping kids.

That would be true if helping kids means lining the pockets of people out-of-state.

They are taking kids out of their communities’ care and putting them in the hands of entities who simply want to make a profit from them. And the money these charter school operators receive will be purely profit, because their academic success is already guaranteed. Why? Because they don’t really have to show academic success; they are measured differently, just look at HB 242, championed by Sen. Jerry Tillman.

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).

But several Democrats and public education advocates who spoke Friday decried the bill as advancing an unproven reform.

“We would ask that you not send North Carolina down this road with an experiment which has been shown to not be effective in other states,” said Leanne Winner, director of governmental relations for the N.C. School Boards Association, a statewide group that represents local boards of education.

Barefoot, however, countered multiple times that North Carolina’s version of achievement school districts will differ from other states such as Tennessee. When pressed on the claim, Barefoot said other states “flood” schools in the achievement school district with money to middling results.

That’s a non-answer. No specifics. No details. He just said that we wouldn’t invest the same amount of money in them. That’s also odd because many teachers in our state wouldn’t mind having a bit of a “flood” in money coming their way to help in resources and maintenance. But “flood” is a subjective word. What might be a flood in the eyes of people like Barefoot and Bryan may actually be nothing more than a trickle.

Barefoot also made mention that “The bar is so low in these schools, anything that makes an impact that’s considered by this state has to be considered a good thing.”

Really? Then why not allow our own state to make that impact through funding turn-around teams that our own edcuators have put into place, but that the General Assembly will not fund adequately? Ball reports,

Opponents of the bill have also pointed out that state-run turnaround efforts in the school, through the Department of Public Instruction’s Office of District and School Transformation, yielded improving dropout rates. Additionally, the office says, more than 80 percent of the schools where it intervened with professional development and additional resources were lifted from the bottom 5 percent of schools in the state.

Yet, due to limited funding, the office claimed this year to have only been able to step in to 79 of the nearly 600 low-performing schools in the state.

Also, when it seemed that Barefoot was caught in a web of inexplicable pseudo-facts, Sen. Jerry Tillman came to the rescue with a gauntlet of non-truths rooted in confirmation bias.

Advocates like Tillman said charter operators will run the schools more successfully.

“They will make great growth,” declared Tillman. “That’s a fact.”

This is from the man who said that one math teacher could teach two different math courses in one classroom at the same time to a group of students that may reach over 35 because the state will not help fund schools so that classes can actually be capped (https://www.ednc.org/2016/06/09/senate-moves-state-one-step-closer-split-high-school-math-tracks).

The truth of the matter is that there is not much to really tout about ASD’s and the handing over of money to for-profit charter operators. Just follow the money and one can see that it really is about profits. Ball’s report makes reference to that.

As Policy Watch has reported, support for the bill was financed by a wealthy Oregon businessman who runs a network of charters, and has been promoted as a salve for long-time struggling schools by ALEC-affiliated groups like the Education Freedom Alliance out of Oklahoma.

Looking at Ball’s original posting on NC Policy Watch referenced earlier will give you the links to those news bits.

The cruel irony here is that this is all in the name of helping kids and offering them choices and opportunities, except here choices have been removed from the very communities who raise these kids. And the money they pay in taxes is actually helping to outsource their own kids’ education, one that will not be measured in the same ways as others who attend traditional schools.

And that’s wrong on so many levels.

SB867 – Background Checking The Right to Bare Arms

Again, irony makes this world go round.

In an effort to wrap up the long session of the North Carolina General Assembly in record fashion, the reactionary creators of HB2, vouchers, unregulated charter school growth, and limited health care options are proffering one more reactionary measure to pass, probably with a midnight session.

Senate Bill 867, a bill concerning background checks on teacher candidates, is currently making its way through Raleigh. Co-sponsored by the newly appointed chairman of the Senate Education Committee, Chad Barefoot, the bill leaves enough vagueness for it to be interpreted in the most draconian of ways.

The ironically named “Protect Students in Schools” bill would require teacher candidates to be fingerprint checked and create a state-wide system for all candidates to be screened for a variety of charges: murder, robbery, manslaughter, and refusal to disperse, which some would call “protesting”.

Now for the irony. The cruel irony.

  1. The timing of this bill. When Billy “Ball of NC Policy Watch reported on the momentum this bill is getting on June 22nd (http://www.ncpolicywatch.com/2016/06/22/could-proposed-teacher-background-check-bill-silence-protesting-educators/), 14 teachers were just arrested for protesting in Raleigh against measures that the governor and General Assembly put in place. They were arrested for “refusal to disperse”. That offense will be on their record. However, many would not really see that as an offense, but as an act of civil disobedience that was calling into question the NCGA and governor’s actual obedience to the state constitution. Seems if those in power want to stop people from protesting actively against what is done in session, then they will threaten the people’s jobs.
  2. The name, “Protect Students in Schools” bill. It seems if lawmakers really want to protect students from schools, they would make sure that schools were safe places first, fortified with all they needed. Cutting out funds and resources in public schools does not strengthen schools, but rather makes them more vulnerable.
  3. The co-sponsor, Chad Barefoot. Please remember that the man co-sponsoring his bill also has been a primary sponsor of the following:

    – Senate Bill 444 – Teacher Compensation Modifications. This bill raised pay for new teachers, while deliberately ignoring veteran teacher pay in an attempt to raise “average” pay.
    – Senate Bill 536 – Students Know Before You Go. This was a way to discourage students from pursuing certain majors because of how they were monetarily presented. Some of those were education preparation programs in UNC system schools which might help explain why he co-sponsored Senate Bill 836.
    – Senate Bill 836 – Alternate Teacher Preparation. This is an act that would authorize local school systems to have more lateral entry. What this really means is that you spend less to obtain in many cases less qualified teachers to teach in hard to staff areas. Rather than elevate the teaching profession, you are making the teaching profession less desirable to those in NC.
     – Senate Bill 862 – Opportunity Scholarships Forward Funding. This will give more money to vouchers thereby diverting tax-payer money to more religious-based and private schools that do not have to maintain standards that public school must. More importantly, nothing has shown that these vouchers have actually increased student achievement for those who use them.

    Also, noteworthy is that Sen. Barefoot was also a co-sponsor of SB2 (2014) that prohibited the expansion of Medicaid for many in North Carolina. That alone HURTS, NOT PROTECTS, many children who attend public schools. His vote for the controversial HB2 bill threatens federal funding for the very schools for which he claims to be wanting to protect.

  4. The idea of background checks. The House of Representatives in Washington D.C. just blocked legislation that would require more background checks for those seeking to buy firearms. A very large majority of Americans supported the measures of stricter gun control, but a powerful lobbying group called the NRA made sure such measures were not passed. It would hurt their constituency’s business.

    There are two very ironic angles here. First, the perceived idea that stricter background checks would infringe on people’s Second Amendment rights is more egregious than creating a background check system to see if anyone used their First Amendment right to free speech. Second, Sen. Chad Barefoot, would probably have rejected the idea of someone having a harder time getting a military grade weapon that could be used at a school like Sandy Hook Elementary because he is “Honored to have the endorsement of the NRA” according to his Facebook page.

  5. Who checks the background checks. Ball reports, “Decisions about whether previous convictions make a teacher unfit for licensure, which must be renewed every five years, would be left to the State Board of Education, a panel of McCrory appointees.” That means that teachers cited with a conviction of a “crime” like refusal to disperse could be harshly judged by the very people who don’t want them congregating in the first place. Couple that with the removal of due-process rights for new teachers and one can see that this bill is a measure to help silence teachers.
  6. Private schools? So far, no private schools will have to undergo this type of background checks for their teachers. That’s odd considering that in the next 10 years, the state senate budget asks for almost 1 billion dollars of taxpayer money be used to fund Opportunity Grants that will allow private schools to profit from money that should go into the public school system to protect schools and their students.

Yes, we should keep those who commit murder, rape, abuse, etc. from teaching our children, but allowing for Senate Bill 867 to pass through into law without proper checks and balances will be yet another way for Raleigh to hurt public schools.

Besides, what those 14 teachers did last week was practice their right to bare arms.

The just interlocked them together and made West Jones Street and the rest of the state take notice.

Going Barefoot When You Need Wading Boots or Legivangelism 101 – An Open Letter to Sen. Chad Barefoot

Dear Sen. Barefoot,

No doubt many in your party have congratulated you on your recent appointment to the Chairmanship of the very important Senate Education Committee which oversees the state’s K-12, Community College, and UNC systems. Additionally, you were reaffirmed as the Chairman of the Senate Education Appropriations Committee.

In your brief tenure as a legislator (3 years), you now not only have a direct hand in the funding of public schools and universities in North Carolina, you now have a direct say in how those monies are used.

As a veteran public school teacher and parent of two children in traditional NC public schools, I cannot congratulate you on this “achievement”.  To me, your new role on West Jones Street is nothing more than a political ploy to have someone in the mold of a Sen. “Skip” Stam and Sen. Phil Berger to continue the General Assembly’s assault on our public schools.

Your voting record that aligns strictly along party lines, your sponsorship of key acts of legislature that alienate many of the very children you represent, and your very own words firmly support my assertion that you not the person needed to decide the fate of public schools.

Sen. Barefoot, your voting record on “Key” votes as revealed in on votesmart.com shows that out of 48 votes shown, you voted “yea” for all but 6. However of those other six, you were the sponsor of co-sponsor which means that your vote already was a “yea”. You voted only “Nay” on two of them. Ironically those two had to deal with sales tax, which many counties use to fund their schools (https://votesmart.org/candidate/key-votes/136399/chad-barefoot#.Vzh75ZErJ1s).

This voting record of yours is just indicative of the rubber stamp that you would be in the Senate Education Appropriations Committee. That does not bode well for public school children when opaque charter schools and virtual schools are given more funds and less oversight, when vouchers are set to get more tax-payer money, and when federal government had slapped a law-suit on our state.

On the NCLEG.net website you are listed as the actual primary sponsor on a variety of bills that have been detrimental to public schools and their employees. The most apparently egregious are:

  • Senate Bill 444 – Teacher Compensation Modifications. This bill raised pay for new teachers, while deliberately ignoring veteran teacher pay in an attempt to raise “average” pay.
  • Senate Bill 536 – Students Know Before You Go. This bill was “AN ACT TO PROVIDE ACCURATE AND COMPLETE DATA TO STUDENTS ON 3 POSTSECONDARY STUDENT COMPLETION, GRADUATION, AND EARNINGS FOR OUTCOMES AT NORTH CAROLINA POSTSECONDARY INSTITUTIONS.” In reality, it was a way to discourage students from pursuing certain majors because of how they were monetarily presented. Some of those were education preparation programs in UNC system schools which might help explain why you co-sponsored Senate Bill 836.
  • Senate Bill 836 – Alternate Teacher Preparation. This is an act that would authorize local school systems to have more lateral entry. What this really means is that you spend less to obtain in many cases less qualified teachers to teach in hard to staff areas. Rather than elevate the teaching profession, you are making the teaching profession less desirable to those in NC.
  • Senate Bill 862 – Opportunity Scholarships Forward Funding. This will give more money to vouchers thereby diverting tax-payer money to more religious-based and private schools that do not have to maintain standards that public school must. More importantly, nothing has shown that these vouchers have actually increased student achievement for those who use them.

You were also a co-sponsor of SB2 (2014) that prohibited the expansion of Medicaid for many in North Carolina. That alone hurts MANY children who attend public schools. Your vote for the controversial HB2 bill threatens federal funding for the very schools for which you now are dictating policy.

Sen. Barefoot, your strong faith is emphasized on your Facebook page, website, and also highlighted by Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary where you obtained a Master’s Degree in Christian Ethics. SEBTS even did a special profile of you on their website entitled “Southeastern Graduate Chad Barefoot: The Youngest Senator in North Carolina” (https://www.sebts.edu/headlines/articles/SoutheasternGraduateChadBarefootNCSenator.aspx).

In this profile you state,

“How amazing is it that Baptists in this state, collectively, have taken care of the needs of young children for over 125 years. What started out as an orphanage now looks to rebuild broken families. Baptists provide physical and emotional shelters for children but also tell them about Jesus. The focus is to find them an eternal home… After prayerful consideration I realized that what the state [of North Carolina] needed was leaders who were well-grounded in understanding the difference between right and wrong.”

As a man of faith, I will not argue with the assertion that children are our most precious gifts. Taking care of their needs is paramount. But does your concept of the difference between right and wrong derive from your interpretation of the Bible or from the Constitution, the same constitution that allows for same-sex marriage to be legal and protects basic civil rights regardless whether people believe in the same religion or spiritual path?

Christ was the greatest of teachers, one who stared down people in power and admonished them on behalf of those in need. And when we in North Carolina have almost one in four children living in poverty, then there are a LOT of children in need.

So with a political record that denied Medicaid expansion to many families of these children, kept monies from going to their public schools, and discriminated against those who are transgendered, how can you honestly say that you are willing to ensure “that every child in North Carolina has access to a high-quality education”?

When people take office they are usually asked to put a hand on the Bible to uphold the Constitution, not the other way around. And our state constitution requires that all our students have the right to a quality public education, whether those students are poor or rich, Christian or non-Christian, straight or gay or even transgender.

Your actions, allegiances, and words do not suggest you are willing.