10 Minutes of “Pathologia Boven Excrementum” – Sen. Barefoot on Class Size Chaos

Watching a politician try to explain with circular reasoning, strawmen, and other logical fallacies the reason why he should not be faulted for something he intentionally did can be entertaining. Or painful. Or in this case, maddening.

This past weekend, Education Matters aired an episode on the class size mandate. The show is produced by the Public School Forum of North Carolina. It is hosted by Keith Poston.

For a little over ten excruciating minutes, Mr. Poston interviewed Sen. Chad Barefoot. And, it must be said that Poston did a fantastic job of interviewing. He asked pointed questions and redirected when needed. And it exposed the intentional quagmire that the NC General Assembly has placed local school districts in with the class-size mandate.

Barefoot2

People in NC need to watch this interview. It can be viewed here: http://www.wral.com/news/education/video/17277352/. And it need to be shared.

Consider it ten-plus minutes of “Pathologia Boven Excrementum.”

Barefoot comes on screen after about three minutes.

Highlighted below are specific items he addresses, but when taken as a whole, it maps an argument that goes nowhere very quickly and intentionally shifts blame when it really resides in Raleigh.

3:27 – When asked if it was true that there was no funding in place for the next school year (2018-2019) for the class size mandate and for “specials” teachers, Sen. Barefoot said “That’s right.”

That’s an admission that it is not funded. He even went on to refer to a “compromise” in both chambers that passed almost unanimously

3:45 – “There was an acknowledgment by the General Assembly… that to keep going with the classroom size, there would have to be additional funding for program enhancement teachers.”

So, it’s unfunded. Or it is funded, but schools would have to stop doing other services to keep within the law.

Sen Barefoot then goes into a long-winded explanation of the need to get data. That data deals with how “The classroom teacher situation.” That’s a weird way of asking how many teachers does each system have and what do they teach.

4:14 – “So when we ask questions to DPI and say, ‘How many of these people exist?’ we don’t know the answer, the exact answer to that question.”

That’s bullsh**, I mean bovum excrementum. Literally this month a report on teacher attrition came out for the state and told us how many teachers left positions and for what reasons. It’s called the “State of the Teaching Profession in Carolina.” It breaks down the data in the following ways:

Barefoot1

What Barefoot is claiming is that while DPI can tell you who has left for where for whatever reason, DPI can’t tell the NCGA how many teachers there were in the first place.

Either DPI has the worst data collection in the known world (look who runs it now) or the NCGA already knows. It’s the latter.

It seems a little disingenuous for a legislator who commands so much power to be unknowing of how many teachers teach what subjects when PowerSchool houses all of the data centrally in the first place. And who runs PowerSchool? People in Raleigh contracted by the NCGA ad DPI.

Poston went on the ask if the General Assembly was going to go through and create a separate budget to fund “specials” teachers.

4:53 – “Yeah, that is still our intention.”

Does that sound like another admission that there has not been proper funding? Yep.

4:58 – Barefoot then went through another explanation of this “collection of data on what the price tag on that expenditure is going to be” in order to “solve that problem.”

So now it is a problem? An unfunded problem that the General Assembly already knew about?

Barefoot then gave a history of having two allotments for teachers that separated core-subject teachers from others like for music, arts, and P.E. He intimated that that was the system the General Assembly wanted to get back to. Funny how that is trying to emulate what the NCGA did before the GOP took over both chambers.

Poston then rightfully pushed the question about timing and the need to get a solution done quickly as budgets for the next school year are being made for each LEA. He simply asked if funds will be allocated to the local school districts to cover the costs?

5:55 – “I think it’s certainly the Senate’s intent to fund the program… enhancement teachers and to create a separate allotment.”

So the Senate knew it was a problem. The Senate knew it was unfunded. And now Barefoot says there was already an intent to solve it.

What that says is that the class size mandate debacle was actually carefully planned to be a – fiasco. It is a meticulously drawn out disaster. And it has grown in mass so much that Sen. Barefoot cannot actually explain it without contradicting himself.

At about 6:30, Barefoot comes back to the idea that reducing class sizes for reading and math classes is a good thing.

Whoever said that it was not? And Poston nails him on that strawman argument. That’s’ why Poston says, “No one has ever argued that lower class size couldn’t have a positive benefit.” What Poston comes back to is the actual funding and the timing.

Then Barefoot goes back to calendars and “data” collection.

7:46 – “We feel like we have enough time to ultimately solve this problem.”

We did last year too. It was called HB13, the original bill. The Senate did not even bring it to the floor. Ask Sen. Bill Rabon.

Around 7:58, Sen. Barefoot delivers what he ultimately has been saying all along: “…the General Assembly was giving local school districts money every single year to reduce class room sizes and they didn’t do it.”

Poston challenges him again. “Do you think the superintendents have sort of squandered this money and not spent it on things that were important?”

8:24 – “Well, I….”

That’s right. Here’s comes the qualification.

8:26 – “I don’t know if I would call it ‘squandering’ or wasting, but when the state gives you money to lower classroom sizes and you spend it on something else, that’s a problem.”

Damn right it’s a problem.

That’s like chiding a dependent for spending money on food because he/she was starving and having none left to pay the rent when you as the state are responsible for both. That’s like punishing someone for getting the flat tire fixed instead of getting a tank of gas when you were responsible for their transportation.

To think that Sen. Barefoot could make the claim that funds have been given to school systems to “fund” something as per-pupil spending has actually decreased over the past ten years (adjusted for inflation) is purposefully erroneous. Furthermore, this same GOP-controlled legislature removed class-size caps in classes to fit more kids inside of classrooms.

Think about all of the school systems in the past six years that have gone from a 7-period day to a block-schedule that made teachers teach more classes and more students in a given year. And Barefoot says that they were wasting money?

Poston says at 8:50, “They were spending it on teachers. “He then asked if this was a question of underfunding overall.

Barefoot pivots as if that was a different problem. Three minutes earlier, he was literally talking about underfunding. He doesn’t want to talk about underfunding schools because that’s a different topic than what he was talking about which is…wait for it…oh!…underfunding schools.

9:24 – Barefoot even says that superintendents who did not use the money earlier allocated for class size changes should be held “accountable.” He even lauded schools in Wake County that had used those “allocated funds” (remember that it is still one big chunk of many because Barefoot says they no longer have separate funds) to reduce class sizes in K-3.

Wake County is most vocal about the effects if the unfunded class size mandate.

Barefoot represents Wake County.

At 9:49, Poston gets to a factor not even broached by Barefoot – classroom space.

Just start listening to how Barefoot starts to blame the local school systems for not making the class size reduction a priority years ago.

Like during the recovery from the Great Recession.

Remember that textbooks were literally not funded. Remember that new teachers were not allowed to have due-process rights and graduate degree pay bumps. Remember that there is barely any more state-funded professional development. Remember that the state does not pay for national certification fees any longer. Why? The economy.

But Barefoot spends the next few minutes talking about how it was the local school systems fault for not having the space available when they had to foot the bill on textbooks, facilities, professional development, technology, teacher supplements, transportation, etc.

The same local school districts that overall have over 20 percent of students in poverty, deal with funds siphoned off to vouchers and charter schools, have seen Medicaid not expanded that would help students.

And Barefoot blames them for something that he already says was not funded by the General Assembly.

Then Barefoot has the audacity to talk about “mistrust” (10:52).

Then we go back to the “data” (11:00). And blaming superintendents for not “wasting” money, but for not using it correctly.

By the end of the interview, Sen. Chad Barefoot simply reaffirms that it is a problem.

Wow.

We all knew that last year when the NCGA did nothing about it.

If there is one thing that needs to be reiterated, it is that come November, people need to vote for candidates who are committed to funding public education. Because Sen.  Barefoot just spent ten minutes telling you in his stream-of-unconscious manner that he is not.

Fully Fund The Specials, Raleigh – The Bible Tells Us So

 

Kep Calm

We live in a country that is the most evangelical in the world.

We live in a state that is part of the Bible Belt. In fact, it may be part of the buckle.

And it is amazing how many American politicians seek to gain a political endorsement from the Son of God. They know that seeking the endorsement of God is essential to garnering a very faithful voting segment of the population. Many in our state have done it.

Take a visit to the website for the Congressional Prayer Caucus Foundation – http://cpcfoundation.com/. That’s .COM. It’s commercially driven.

Now take a look at the North Carolina Caucus members – http://cpcfoundation.com/north-carolina-prayer-caucus-members/. See some familiar names?

  • Governor Dan Forest
  • Senator David Curtis, Co-Chair
  • Senator Chad Barefoot
  • Senator Jerry Tillman

These lawmakers abide by the CPCF’s Vision and Mission which state,

  • Protect religious freedom, preserve America’s Judeo-Christian heritage and promote prayer.
  • The CPCF will restore and promote America’s founding spirit and core principles related to faith and morality by equipping and mobilizing a national network of citizens, legislators, pastors, business owners and opinion leaders.

All in the name of religious freedom. Talk about your separation of church and state. All of those lawmakers are avid defenders of education “reform” like deregulated charter schools, vouchers, and de-professionalizing the teaching profession.

They also are in favor of the class size mandate that may plague public schools for many years to come – the same class size mandate that will force schools to eliminate arts and physical education classes because the lawmakers in Raleigh (including the aforementioned) will not fully fund the mandate to allow for more class space and teachers to be hired to completely honor what the law asks.

If Jesus came back to earth right now I envision him walking around in a pair of blue jeans and wearing a t-shirt with some sandals. And I do not think he would support these “reforms.” He certainly would not want to jeopardize the arts and physical education in our schools.

 

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, some 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 fixing the class size mandate in NC 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 people like Chad Barefoot and Phil Berger and Tim Moore read 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 many in Raleigh heartily champion 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.

It simply would hurt public education.

Don’t think Jesus would want that.

 

 

 

My Kid Is An Artist – One of the Many Reasons For Me to Go to the Rally to Stop #ClassSizeChaos

When lawmakers in Raleigh like Chad Barefoot and Phil Berger tell you that the class size mandate is a good thing and has already been funded, then please realize that they are lying.

Straight through their teeth.

With a smile.

Interestingly enough, what this unfunded mandate will do to elementary schools will be felt for years if not fixed. There is not enough classroom space in most schools to allow for this. That immediately puts “specials” such as art and physical education on the chopping blocks for school year 2018-2019.

And it will affect all other grades.

Because it is an unfunded mandate, all other grades will be crowded. Class sizes in middle school will grow. Same in high schools.

That whole idea of actual “personalized learning” as Mark Johnson wants you to believe it really is will actually not be able to exist. More students per teacher creates fewer opportunities to target each student adequately. It will create a market for more online instruction (which is what Johnson seems to really want).

But the idea that “specials” might be first to go is disheartening, especially since my oldest child is an artist.

And a good one at that.

She took this picture of me in my classroom.

IMG_5642

Then she created this in a couple of days with pencil and paper.

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Just one of many portraits she has done.

And that love of creativity was fostered in art classes throughout her elementary and middle school years. She says that it helps her conceptualize other curricula. It certainly has helped her find a niche in a big school, one where I teach and see how art, drama, and other artistic endeavors by students have enriched our campus.

Just take a look at the literary magazine.

You will see my daughter’s work in there. One of an incredible amount of selections by a myriad of students from a fantastic art department.

On January 6th at Halifax Mall in Raleigh from 1-3, there will be a rally to stop #ClassSizeChaos.

Hope to see you there.

A Convenient Lie, Or Rather The NCGA’s Deliberate Distortion of the Truth

Remember when Sen. Chad Barefoot said this in February of 2017 concerning House Bill 13?

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/).

I do.

I thought about it a lot today as I read Justin Parmenter’s on-point op-ed in today’s News & Observer entitled “N.C. Senate ignores the class-size crisis” (http://www.newsobserver.com/opinion/op-ed/article191690189.html). Parmenter is a teacher-warrior and a vital voice for public education. He deserves any public education advocate’s attention.

Sen. Barefoot’s empty claim about having already “funded” the class size mandate is not the only one made, and it actually is the same manufactured lie conveniently used by GOP-stalwarts in Raleigh to hopefully silence the #ClassSizeChaos movement.

Parmenter makes mention of two specific versions of the same lie:

During the October session, when the Senate declined to take up class sizes, Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger said “those reductions have already been fully funded.” 

Senate majority leader Harry Brown said, “It’s obvious to us that money has been spent on something other than class size reduction…” 

But there is a purpose behind this lie. It’s purely political. It involves money. And it is being championed by those who want to privatize public education here in North Carolina.

Even the John Locke Foundation has helped to spread this lie. Recently, Dr. Terry Stoops, the less-then-one-year former teacher and mouthpeice for the JLF libertarian think tank, gave an interesting explanation of how the NCGA has already funded the class size mandate.

Take a look at the video on the link below.

https://www.carolinajournal.com/video/jlfs-terry-stoops-rebuts-claim-that-n-c-class-size-reduction-is-unfunded-mandate/

Stoops

Please notice that in the webpage above, Dr. Stoops writes a story that refers to Dr. Stoops in the title and in the actual article with a picture of Dr. Stoops in the video on a website for an entity that Dr. Stoops works for.

The only other living being (or muppet) who refers to himself in the third person that much is none other than – Elmo.

elmo

Perpetuating this deliberate distortion of the truth has become commonplace for this current NCGA, but there are many in North Carolina who are making the truth known.

One of those people is Kris Nordstrom, a well-known education finance and policy analyst. When Nordstrom publishes something, I read it. When he mentions something on Twitter, I look at it and read the links.

He’s just that good, and he doesn’t let statistics stand in the way because he is looking for the facts.

Parmenter’s op-ed makes mention of Nordstrom, who published a rather epic article on the class-size mandate and the lies that people like Barefoot and Moore have used in explaining their lack of action to fully fund the mandate (http://pulse.ncpolicywatch.org/2017/12/15/cant-general-assembly-leadership-stop-lying-unfunded-class-size-mandate/#sthash.UcohVyIb.dpbs). It is very much worth the read.

Within that article, Nordstrom states,

DPI publishes data showing whether a school district has transferred their classroom teacher money for other uses. It’s a bit complicated to find. But in FY 2016-17, just four districts transferred any money out of their classroom teacher allotment. The transfers totaled just $1.1 million. In that same year, districts received $4.1 billion of classroom teacher money. In other words, DPI publishes data showing whether a school district has transferred their classroom teacher money for other uses. It’s a bit complicated to find. But in FY 2016-17, just four districts transferred any money out of their classroom teacher allotment. The transfers totaled just $1.1 million. In that same year, districts received $4.1 billion of classroom teacher money. In other words, districts spent 99.972 percent of their classroom teacher money on teachers last year. Clearly, district mismanagement is not a meaningful barrier to reaching lower class sizes.. Clearly, district mismanagement is not a meaningful barrier to reaching lower class sizes.

That bears repeating:

“Districts spent 99.972 percent of their classroom teacher money on teachers last year.” 

I would like to hear Stoops’s response to that.

I would like to hear Barefoot’s response to that.

I would like to hear Berger’s response to that.

I would like to a lot of people’s responses to that who believe in the convenient lie that this class-size mandate has already been funded.

But remember, those are the same people who believe that the current ratios of school nurses, guidance counselors, assistant principals, social workers, school psychologists, and teacher assistants to students are just fine.

Think about coming to Halifax Mall on January 6th to help hold Raleigh accountable for their deliberate distortion of the truth.

 

 

 

 

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?