Lt. Gov. Dan Forest, the “Education Endowment Fund” and Those License Plates For Teachers

In May of 2014, Lt. Gov. Dan Forest helped to craft legislation to create a North Carolina Education Endowment Fund that would allow for tax deductible contributions to be made for supporting teacher pay.

One of the initiatives of the fund was to sell specialty license plates. As reported in a Feb. 2015 News & Observer post by Colin Campbell,

Lt. Gov. Dan Forest needs at least 500 people to sign up for “I Support Teachers” license plates, part of his effort to fund teacher raises through private donations.

Forest announced last May that he’s creating the North Carolina Education Endowment Fund, which will allow individuals and corporations to receive tax deductions for supporting teacher pay. The fund also plans to raise money by selling specialty license plates, but Forest must first reach the state’s requirement of 500 paid applications seeking a plate.

“This is not only an opportunity to raise money for great teachers, but also an opportunity to let all our teachers know we appreciate their service,” Forest says in a video posted this week. “The ‘I Support Teachers’ license plate initiative is the first step toward creating a sound foundation for the North Carolina Educational Endowment and planning for the future of teaching excellence in North Carolina through an innovative and self-sustaining fund” (http://www.newsobserver.com/news/politics-government/politics-columns-blogs/under-the-dome/article10873850.html).

The plates were to look like this.

plate1

Oddly enough, I have not seen one on the roads of North Carolina.

That’s because the demand never reached 500 to start the production. You can look on the NC DOT site for ordering license plates and see all of the options. “I Support Teachers” is not there (https://edmv.ncdot.gov/VehicleRegistration/SpecialPlate#term=All Plates).

But while you are on that site you can actually make personalized plates in a virtual sense and see if it is available to purchase and use for your own vehicle.

PLATES9

So, if Lt. Gov. Dan Forest is really still serious about this initiative, then maybe he could be one of the first 500 people to register for the plate. In fact, there are several options that Forest could use to not only support teachers, but also personalize his “I Support Teachers” license plate with unique identifiers just for him.

And note, these are AVAILABLE! These personalized plates are legal and can be used.

If only the Lt. Gov. would follow through on his own initiative.

plate2

If you did not know, Forest literally has his own television studio in his office that was supposedly funded by a 501(c). And it appears that it may be a violation of ethics. Consider these reports:

http://www.wral.com/nonprofit-provides-tv-studio-for-lt-gov-forest-s-office/17071692/

http://pulse.ncpolicywatch.org/2017/11/14/watchdog-group-calls-investigation-lt-gov-dan-forest/#sthash.NpwNGJjy.dpbs

But even if it is illegal, the fact that he has his own television studio is pretty neat. Teachers can’t get new textbooks, but this politician has a studio. Maybe that 501 could have donated the money used to give a studio to Forest to the endowment fund?

plate3

Of course this plate makes sense. No one advocates this farce of a law more than Forest. He even went to Texas to brag about it.

plate5

Remember when Forest had DPI reissue a report on charter schools in 2016 because it was not “positive” enough?

plate8

Remember that Forest was instrumental in starting two virtual charter schools in NC that were run by for-profit entities? In fact, they are doing so poorly  that they are asking for more money – money that could have gone into the “endowment fund” – http://www.ncpolicywatch.com/2017/11/08/stay-despite-poor-scores-critics-profit-virtual-charter-school-seeks-blessing-state-officials/.

plate7

Yep. He stumped for Trump here in NC.

plate4

And yes. He will run for governor in 2020. In fact, he is actually campaigning now which leads us to the last plate…

plate6

IR4OWIO = I Run For Office While In Office.

Thanks for the support, Dan.

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

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

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

He just had to be home by dinner.

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

Stockbridge_School

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

hawkins

Those are tied to Hawkins Middle School.

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

Those are also tied to Hawkins Middle School.

What is attached to Hawkins National Laboratory is unregulated, politicized, and secretive. That is not to say that some charter schools do not serve vital purposes. But that is the exception and not the norm here in North Carolina.

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

Ironically, Stranger Things happens to be a show created by two North Carolinians and shot in Georgia, but Hawkins is really any town where a majority of students go to public schools.

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

 

NC Virtual Charters Doing Badly? Got a Solution

As reported by Billy Ball in NC Policy Watch today (Controversial virtual charter school seeks funding boost, permanent status), 

“The head of a controversial virtual charter school wants North Carolina lawmakers to funnel more cash into the program and clear operations beyond the 2019 sunset of its four-year pilot program.

Nathan Currie, superintendent at N.C. Connections Academy, pitched his K-11 program—which is affiliated with international, for-profit education giant Pearson—to state lawmakers and charter school policymakers this week, despite lagging academic performance in the virtual school’s first two years (http://pulse.ncpolicywatch.org/2017/11/07/controversial-virtual-charter-school-seeks-funding-boost-permanent-status/#sthash.I8Prd1UE.dpbs). 

N.C. Connections Academy is associated with the giant company Pearson. At least it is doing a little better than the other virtual charter school in the state, N.C. Virtual Academy.

Both schools are looking to extend funding for the next few years, even when Stanford University (as Ball states) “reported serious deficiencies in student performance nationwide in like programs.”

But there may be a solution.

Recently, the Innovative School District selected one school for its initial pilot program to takeover and turn around. But that one school, Southside Ashpole Elementary School, may not even keep its doors open for the ISD to take it over. It seems that the local school board and the community in the Robeson County area do not want their school to be taken over.

So it looks like a couple of schools need to be “turned around” and there is an “innovative” entity that is supposed to do those types of things possibly without a school to work with.

See the connection?

Let the ISD take over the N.C. Charter Virtual Schools.

Hell, all of the money already invested in the ISD with nothing to show for it might be somehow used for keeping other failing schools from closing.

Even if it is virtual.

And by the way. North Carolina already has a public virtual school. Seems to be doing better than the virtual charters who are asking for more money.

About That John Hood Op-ed on Teacher Pay and “Reasoned Debate”

teacher

As the president of the John William Pope foundation and chairman of the board at the libertarian think tank John Locke Foundation, John Hood serves more as a mouthpiece that represents a political ideology which obeys the policies of the American Legislative Exchange Council more than it considers the average North Carolinian.

On issues such as voter rights, economic stimulus, tax reform, tort reform, legislative district boundaries, and the privatizing of public goods, John Hood’s writings and commentaries reflect the very ideologies of his boss, Art Pope, who helped craft the very political atmosphere that NC has adopted these last five years.

Nowhere does Hood’s words more reflect a narrow-mindedness than when he talks about public education.

John Hood’s recent missive in EdNC.org entitled “Teacher pay deserves reasoned debate” is nothing more than platitudinous rubbish that continues to push unregulated reform under the veil of a moral high road all in the name of free markets (https://www.ednc.org/2017/10/31/teacher-pay-deserves-reasoned-debate/).

It is condescending and haughty whether it was intended or not.

Hood calls for “reasoned debate.” That’s laughable. The practice of “reasoned debate” has not been used in Raleigh in years. When the very GOP-controlled General Assembly who champions the policies that Hood promotes conducts multiple “special sessions” and midnight meetings without transparency, that means the idea of “reasoned debate” has been abandoned.

The constant flow of court cases which continuously get laws and initiatives overturned as unconstitutional is the product of intentional disdain of reasoned debate. To claim that reasoned debate can and will be used when discussing the teaching profession is simply hot air. To claim that “civil, respectful, and productive discussion” is possible with the pedigree shown by leaders in Raleigh is even more preposterous.

Hood’s lesson in rhetoric with explanation on the “three elements to any argument” was especially arrogant. To suggest that what has been used to drive policy on public education was and still is built on facts and “logical reasoning” is a farce. What has happened in Raleigh is a distortion of the facts and the promulgation of logical fallacies.

And the idea that all parties come to the table to discuss matters? It is hard to “put the different definitions on the table” when most of the people who are to be affected by the “discussion” are not even allowed to the table.

Argumentation is not that simple when you consider the credibility of the speaker, the message, the audience, the style of the delivery, and the overall purpose. Argumentation can be meant to dominate, negotiate, inquire, or even assert. And arguments are rarely offered with just appeals to logic but may appeal to ethics and emotions and a mix of the three.

What Hood is doing is simplifying the matter and claiming to take a civilized route. In reality, a debate on public education should include so much more than Hood’s simple explanation of rhetoric.

When offering the biased analysis of the recent debate in Newton over teacher pay, Hood obviously sides with Dr. Terry Stoops and Rep. Craig Horn. They abide by the same narrative.

In fact, Hood made sure to highlight Stoops’s argument over teacher pay overhaul.

Terry Stoops, a former teacher who directs education studies for the John Locke Foundation, argued that traditional teacher salary schedules, centered on years of tenure and forms of credentials, bear little resemblance to the way professionals such as lawyers, doctors, engineers, and accountants are paid.

“If you’re a teacher and performing very well, you might get paid less than the person down the hall just because they’ve been in the profession longer,” Stoops said. “That sends a bad signal to those teachers that are in the profession that just because someone has spent longer in the system they’re making more, when it’s completely disassociated with student performance.”

Ironically, Hood identifies Stoops as a former teacher and not as his colleague at the John Locke Foundation. Why is that important? That’s because Stoops taught for less than one calendar year according to his LinkedIn profile.

One year.

He never experienced the very changes and flux that the very teachers he is supposedly “advocating” for have endured like change in curriculum, evaluations, leadership, testing, etc. In fact, it is hard to find anything that Dr. Stoops has written that informs teachers of his own limited days in the classroom in Virginia, a state that just got rid of its school performance grading system and put a cap on charter school growth, two initiatives so readily embraced in Raleigh.

But it’s that “suggestion” that NC should move to pay teachers like the “way professionals such as lawyers, doctors, engineers, and accountants are paid” that lacks the very logic Hood claims should be using in a “reasoned debate.”

If I as a teacher should be paid as one of those other professionals, then maybe I should be paid by an hourly rate that I establish and be able to consider each student a separate client since I have to differentiate instruction. Actually, I would be a lot richer now than when the current GOP-led NCGA came to power because now I teach more students in a school year with more criteria to be met and spend more hours teaching them.

Now that’s logic.

Maybe I could market myself as a professional and go after the best “clients” no matter where they are slated to attend. Competition is competition, right?. Essentially, that sounds a lot like what unregulated charter schools and private schools already do. And Hood is all for those.

The comment “Structuring pay around years of experience and degrees awarded was a bad idea” is also devoid of the logic that Hood so thinks we should use.

It seems logical to expect a lawyer, doctor, engineer, or accountant to believe that experience should be factored in his/her pay scale. Actually, the more letters that these professionals can place next to their names through further certification and advanced degrees, the more these people can demand in recompense. Of course, performance is key in their success, but for doctors, lawyers, engineers, and accountants, performance is not always under the constant scrutiny of the legislature.

Furthermore, each of those professions requires a certain amount of schooling and certification. The man who supposedly leads our public school system became a teacher in a matter of weeks and was in the classroom twice as long as the former teacher referred to in Hood’s op-ed, Dr. Stoops. Would Hood call Mark Johnson a “professional educator?” Try passing a bill like SB599 for the legal and medical professions.

Teachers are certainly underpaid. That is not the question. But to automatically equate how we pay teachers with how other “professionals” are paid is ridiculous when they are treated so differently than the teaching profession. Try regulating the legal, medical, and business communities in the same way that education is regulated. Interestingly, the same legislation that goes out of its way to “deregulate” how businesses operate in the state in order to promote business usually ensures less interference from government in how those entities should operate.

Quite the opposite has happened with public education. In fact, Hood and his reformist cronies have actually added more layers of nebulous accountability while weakening the ability for the profession to advocate for itself and the students in public schools.

And paying teachers like they are professionals probably would be easier if teachers were part of the conversation “at the table.” The operative word here is “at.”

Not “under” the table.

Not “on” the table”

“At” the table.

Then that conversation can start, because the “logical debate” that Hood alludes to seems to only have lawmakers “at” the table illogically discussing with their alternate facts what should be done about teacher pay.

Lawmakers should be more open to speak “with” teachers.

Not “to” them.

Not “down” at them.

This op-ed from John Hood is talking down to teachers.

Op-eds like this are a re-run of the same blue-blazered and straight collared argument to funnel tax-payer money from a public good to profit a few as well as weakening the teaching profession while presenting a dignified smile at the same time.

 

This Actually Happened – Nov. 1, 2017

From the category of “Differences Between Public Schools and Charter Schools.”

This is from today’s Charlotte Observer article entitled “Want public emails from this NC charter school? Write a check for $7,500 up front.”

A Charlotte-area charter school has responded to a public records request by demanding an up-front payment of $7,500, saying that’s the estimated cost of paying a contractor to produce the emails and a lawyer to oversee the work.

The request comes from Charter School Ethics, which describes itself as a Texas-based charter school watchdog group that remains anonymous for the safety of its volunteers. The group, which communicates by email, filed a request for nine months of emails related to a consultant working with Thunderbird.

 It joins a roster of news media, citizens and businesses that regularly file requests for public records, some of which lead to court battles and public disputes. For instance, a coalition of media and public interest groups sued then-Gov. Pat McCrory in 2015 when his office balked at providing public emails. The Observer has also reported that Mecklenburg County fails to preserve text messages on county phones and officials’ personal devices, even though state law defines texts as public records.

On the other side is Thunderbird Prep, a small, struggling charter school whose complex financial arrangements have led to scrutiny from state officials. It’s part of a rapidly growing segment of North Carolina’s public education scene, with the state spending $513 million on 167 schools in 2016-17.

Public records.

Public schools.

Public money.

 

Mark Johnson and the Word “No” – Following the Money

“I have decided to stop taking offense at the suggestion that we are buying influence. Now I simply concede the point. They are right. We do expect something in return. We expect to foster a conservative governing philosophy consisting of limited government and respect for traditional American virtues. We expect a return on our investment.” – Betsy DeVos, 1997.

“These are things I have learned from my own experience. If I disagree with the policy, I’m not afraid to say ‘no’ to anyone who gave me money.” –Mark Johnson, 2017.

“Bulls*%$t” – Me, 2017 after I read the previous statement by Mark Johnson.

A recent article in the Raleigh News & Record has shed some more light on the power that money plays in buying influence within the now lucrative business that privatizing public education has become.

In “Here’s how much charter school backers have spent on NC campaigns,” Lynn Bonner, Jane Stancill, and David Raynor wonderfully “follow the money” that has been pouring into the coffers of lawmakers and officials who make decisions on charter school funding.

DeVos’s quote above has become rather famous since her contentious confirmation as secretary of education. And it is rather blunt and honest. But apparently Mark Johnson is in a little denial as he takes a “little offense” at the thought that his influence is being bought.

Why? Because if he was not afraid to say “no” to anyone, then we as a state would have heard many more “no’s” coming from him.

  • When DPI’s budget was cut by the very General Assembly that is extending him unchecked power over the public school system, did Mark Johnson say, “No?”

    No, he did not.

  • When he said that “local leaders know what we need” for their local schools, did Mark Johnson tell the people pushing for charter takeover with an ISD, “No?”

    No, he did not.

  • When a lobbying group like BEST NC and lawmakers covertly produced a new principal pay program that is obviously flawed and punishes veteran school administrators, did Mark Johnson say “No!” to them?

    No, he did not.

  • When promoting saying that he would curb the use of testing in the state, did Mark Johnson change the amount of testing in the state’s ESSA report or the rampant rise of the ACT in measuring student achievement by saying “No!” to lawmakers?

    No, he did not.

  • When the state released its school performance grades, did Mark Johnson challenge the use of the grades because they do nothing but report how poverty has stricken schools by saying “No!” to their use?

    No, he did not.

  • When the DACA was undercut by Trump and Sessions, di Mark Johnson defend NC’s “Dreamers” and say, “No!” to its potential effects?

    No, he did not.

  • Has there ever been a time where Mark Johnson has openly said “No!” to any of the very lawmakers whom he says he might have a disagreement with?

    No, there has not been.

  • Has Mark Johnson ever told the General Assembly “No!” to taking more money out of the budget for public schools to place in a voucher program that has not yielded a positive outcome?

    No, he has not.

  • When the state “fired” several public education officials with a wealth of experience like Martez Hill, did Mark Johnson say “No!” or even ask “Why?”

    No, he did not.

  • Has Mark Johnson ever publicly questioned the actions against teachers and the education profession by Phil Berger or Tim Moore?

    No, he has not.

In fact, in looking at all of the “special interests” represented by the very people who have made the contributions to people like Johnson, Dan Forest, and Jason Saine in promoting NC’s investment into for-profit charter schools, there has not been one time where Mark Johnson has said “No” to whatever they were seeking.

But that doesn’t mean that Mark Johnson has not said “No” to people.

When pressed for details about how he would “innovatively” change NC education, Mark Johnson did not give any. That’s like saying, “No.”

When asked by Greg Alcorn to comment on DPI’s budget cuts in a state board meeting, Mark Johnson deliberately skirted the question. He in so many words said, “No.”

When teacher advocacy groups like NCAE have asked Johnson to come and clarify his positions, he has refused. He said, “No.”

With a record of compliance and non-action that Mark Johnson has displayed in his tenure that has already lasted the equivalent of a school year, his claim that he is not afraid to say “no” to anyone who has given him money is rather weak.

In fact, if anyone asked this educator if he believes what the state superintendent says in his statement in the article in the N&O, I would say, “No.”

And I would say it publicly.

A Thank You to North Carolina’s Educational Journalists – But Not on Rob Bryan or Darrell Allison’s Behalf

I am sure that former state legislator Rob Bryan and current PEFNC leader Darrell Allison are not very happy with some of the educational journalists in NC who dedicate themselves to uncovering and exposing things hidden which affect so many openly. That is especially true in the world of public education and the “reforms” that have been surreptitiously crafted to purposefully benefit a chosen few.

I am forever grateful to all of these educational journalists. They are helping save a public good.

635898975639098870-576976519_journalism

The News & Observer out of Raleigh has published three separate, yet related articles this week that have been nothing short of superior. The work of Lynn Bonner, Jane Stancill, David Raynor, and T. Keung Hui has shed much needed light on the actions of a greedy minority. They should be thanked and supported.

The three articles are:

“A rich donor’s money backed NC’s charter takeover law, and his school network expands” (http://amp.newsobserver.com/news/local/education/article177836091.html).

“Why NC charter schools are richer and whiter” (http://amp.newsobserver.com/news/local/education/article178022436.html).

“Group tied to rich donor who backed NC school takeover law now wants to run those schools” (http://amp.newsobserver.com/news/local/education/article178169451.html).

With an impending selection of a school or schools to be taken over by the Innovative School District, these three articles highlight the incestuous nature of what is deliberately happening in the world of education reform here in NC, especially the last one listed which profiles a particular group that is proposing to be the charter group that will take over the ISD school(s).

Per Bonner and Hui:

A company tied to a wealthy Libertarian donor who helped pass a state law allowing takeover of low-performing North Carolina schools is trying to win approval to operate those schools.

Achievement For All Children was among the groups who applied for state approval to run struggling schools that will be chosen for the Innovative School District. Achievement For All Children is heavily connected to Oregon resident John Bryan, who is a generous contributor to political campaigns and school-choice causes in North Carolina.

The company was formed in February and registered by Tony Helton, the chief executive officer of TeamCFA, a charter network that Bryan founded. The board of directors for Achievement for All Children includes former Rep. Rob Bryan, a Republican from Mecklenburg County who introduced the bill creating the new district, and Darrell Allison, who heads the pro-school choice group Parents For Educational Freedom in North Carolina.

That’s beyond disturbing. Rob Bryan is the legislator who literally constructed the ISD (then ASD) initiative behind closed doors while representing Mecklenburg County. He has a rich benefactor from Oregon who ironically shares his last name helping him become the very recipient of a governmental contract he established.

Rob Bryan’s background in education was outlined on his  website, http://www.friendsofrob.com/about. It stated,

“Raised by a teacher and an engineer, Rob spent his first two years after college participating in the Teach for America program. In a low-income school in inner-city Los Angeles, he saw firsthand the problems created by non-innovative, bureaucratic districts unwilling or unable to change. Red tape and politics prevented teachers, principals, and parents from choosing the creative solutions that would work for their students.”

There is a lot of information there. Bryan’s tenure in the classroom, while admirable, was not long at all. Most teachers in NC went through more time training to become a teacher than he spent in the actual classroom. He worked in a poverty-stricken inner-city school, the same kind of schools he helped label as failing with a Jeb Bush style grading system that he helped create. Furthermore, while in office, he actually helped foster an environment that keeps those poverty-stricken schools under the foot of government by lowering per pupil expenditures and vilifying veteran educators.

And then he created a bill and with the help of a loaded committee became willing to siphon money to charter schools run by out-of-state private entities for which he now works and may potentially profit from.

That is a pile of manure of the most putrid stench.

To further add to the incestuous nature of the proposal by Achievement for All Children, it includes on its board of directors Darrell Allison of PEFNC. He is the megaphone for “school choice” advocates in the state and a strong proponent of the Opportunity Grants.

If this becomes a reality, Allison will literally be taking money away from public education through multiple avenues: vouchers for private schools and money to finance an ISD district that will be paying his company to run a school that is probably unwilling to be taken over. And Allison, like Bryan has cloaked himself with ambiguity: Bryan hasn’t spoken to the press yet and when Allison speaks he seems to not be clear. Consider this post on the use of vouchers – https://caffeinatedrage.com/2017/07/31/a-third-person-open-letter-to-darrell-allison-and-the-pefnc-why-hide-behind-the-ambiguity/.

In that post, the work of Lindsay Wagner is referenced and shows how a great journalist can ask the very question that deserves an open answer. It also shows that a “non-answer” screams louder than one that is straightforwardly given.

In a political climate that often screams “FAKE NEWS!” and constantly berates the freedom of the press, it just might be the journalists who save the day. Those who report on the educational terrain here in North Carolina are doing great work and providing an invaluable service.

Even if people like Rob Bryan and Darrell Allison don’t think so.

A Failing Charter School, An ISD, and a Rich Privatizer in Oregon – The Ingredients for “Innovation” in NC

Mark Johnson has been preaching “urgency, ownership, and innovation.”

Well, we have an urgent matter that someone needs to own very quickly and show some innovation and we seem to have all of the ingredients for a solution already in place.

Consider:

  1. The new NC Innovative School District “needs” to take over failing schools in order to turn them over to a privately-run charter company (https://www.ednc.org/2017/10/05/list-schools-eligible-isd-cut-four/).
  2. John Bryan, the Oregonian founder of the TeamCFA, has been donating money left and right to specific politicians and PAC’s here in North Carolina to extend the charter industry (http://amp.newsobserver.com/news/local/education/article177836091.html).
  3. Heritage Collegiate Charter in Bertie County, NC just had its charter revoked for poor performance (https://www.ednc.org/2017/10/09/charter-advisory-board-recommends-revocation-heritage-collegiates-charter/).

While some may see a school about to close its doors, an ISD about to take over an unwilling public school, and someone in Oregon continue to spend a lot of money to own schools in NC, “innovative” people see an opportunity being granted (pun intended).

Let the Innovative School District take over the Heritage Collegiate Charter and let John Bryan finance it all.

HCBC

The ISD district will have its school to start with that is obviously failing; a charter school will not have to go under and disappoint the reformists, especially those who are financed by PACS donated to by John Bryan; and, finally, John Bryn will own more schools that are charters in North Carolina.

But what might be most beneficial in this “innovative” is that it will not cost taxpayers money.

Wonder what the State Superintendent of Public Instruction would say about that.

About That Civitas Institute Post On Charter Schools – Comparing Apples to Rocks

A recent post on the Civitas Institute’s website entitled “Research: charter schools improve public schools” is worth the read because while it may have provided the writer some light ammunition to make the claim “Is there a more powerful argument for competition and choice?”, what it really does is prove that many would rather cherry pick research to fit a narrative than actually analyzing what is reality now (https://www.nccivitas.org/civitas-review/research-charter-schools-improve-public-schools/#comments).

Bob Luebke cites a study conducted by Professor Sarah Cordes of Temple University who writes,

…that the introduction of charter schools within one mile of a TPS [traditional public school] increases the performance of TPS students on the order of 0.02 standard deviations (sds) in both math and English Language Arts (ELA). As predicted by theories of competition or information transfers, these effects increase with proximity to the charter school and are largest among student in co-located schools where performance increases by 0.09 sds in math and 0.06 sds in ELA. In addition retention decreases between 20-40 percent in TPSs located within 1 mile of a charter school. School level responses that might explain these positive spillovers  included higher per PPE  [per pupil expenditure] and changes in school practices such as higher academic expectations, student engagement, and levels of respect and cleanliness at the school, as reported on parent and teacher surveys.”

Luebke also makes sure to specify,

“The research by Cordes is the first peer-reviewed study on the subject and appears in the Journal of Education Finance and Policy.  Cordes analyzed nearly 900,000 students in grades 3-5 who attended traditional public school in an attendance zone that included a charter school serving at least one of those grades between 1996 and 2010.”

To even allow for this research to explain why the charter school expansion in North Carolina is a viable action is careless because what Cordes reports actually goes against what Luebke seems to champion: school choice that is manipulated by legislation to weaken public schools in NC.

Notice that the study concentrates on the years 1996-2010. That’s seven years ago. That’s before a GOP-controlled supermajority in the NC General Assembly began its “reforms.” That’s before the following occurred, a lot of which was orchestrated by the very people (Art Pope) who fuel the Civitas Institute:

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

And that’s just a small list.

For Luebke to even equate the educational topography of 2017 with the 1990’s and early 2000’s with what is being done today is asinine.

Furthermore, it is rather interesting that Cordes says this specifically:

School level responses that might explain these positive spillovers included higher per PPE  [per pupil expenditure] and changes in school practices such as higher academic expectations, student engagement, and levels of respect and cleanliness at the school, as reported on parent and teacher surveys.

Higher per pupil expenditure?

Higher levels of respect?

In NC, those very things that Cordes says occurred in public schools are the very things that the NCGA is stifling. It’s a total contradiction to what is happening in North Carolina, especially since the removal of charter school capping and the expanse of vouchers, neither of which has produced any empirical data that proves that either is helping our students the way that Luebke would want to claim they are.

In essence, he is using research from a different academic terrain to fit his narrative that cannot be validated because there is no research of what is happening in NC because the very people who want that narrative to exist are controlling the vary variables that would allow for research to provide answers.

And as far as “cleanliness” goes? When you have less resources for a growing student population, then it is hard to keep things maintained. Remember this?

EDEN — A bathroom that doesn’t have toilet paper.

A classroom lacking textbooks.

A copy machine without paper.

In some Rockingham County schools, there’s not enough money to buy these — and other things.

When that was revealed last week during a meeting of the Rockingham County Board of Education, it came as a shock to some and a surprise to others (http://www.journalnow.com/news/state_region/rockingham-county-schools-short-on-the-basics/article_61b15a34-bcfd-5407-83a4-86a2830c5ab2.html).

That’s Phil Berger’s district. His son was trying to open up a new charter school in the area at that very time.

That was in 2014 – not 1996-2010.

Leubke referenced an interview on the study by the education web site The 74. You should check out that outfit.

74 1.png

But be sure to understand that it really is not non-partisan. It was founded by Campbell Brown, one of the leading voices of the privatization movement.

And you might want to be sure to see who has funded The 74. That list alone makes the term “non-partisan” a synonym for the “current administration.” At the top of the list is Betsy DeVos.

Mercedes Schneider did some incredible research on The 74 and its funding – https://deutsch29.wordpress.com/2016/12/01/a-challenge-for-campbell-browns-the-74-publicize-your-detailed-history/).

Along with DeVos, there is the Walton and Broad Foundations. And don’t forget to see Brown’s connections with Wall Street and her convenient role on the boards of New York’s Success Charter Schools. In fact, check out this piece on Brown and her “non-partisan” ways – http://www.politico.com/tipsheets/morning-education/2016/11/campbell-brown-steps-back-from-coverage-217630.

Luebke’s celebration of Cordes’s research of a different educational terrain from years and decades ago is like a square peg that Leubke is trying to shove into a round hole that he has helped to mold and shape.

That peg does not fit and he’s trying to convince you that it does. That should automatically make you doubt whatever he might have to say about public education.

Don’t Mistake My “Exaggeration” For Your Active Ignorance – A Somewhat Rational Response to the John Locke Foundation

Reading educational perspectives from John Hood and the John Locke Foundation is like opening a letter with a nice stamp, a handwritten address, and some hearts drawn on the outside.

Yet, once you open it up, what falls out is nothing but glitter. No letter. Nothing really of substance. Just a mess on the floor that requires cleaning.

But I know that I will still open any letters from John Hood and the John Locke Foundation because as a public school activist, those letters will inevitably revalidate that I am on the right side of the school choice argument.

Hood’s latest missive on school choice appears in EdNC.org’s Perspective section. It is entitled “Exaggeration won’t stop school choice” (https://www.ednc.org/2017/07/31/exaggeration-wont-stop-school-choice/).

Its tone is condescending and entitled. Its substance is watery. And its covert claim of taking the moral “high road” in the debate over school choice in NC smells of garbage juice. Consider the final line of his op-ed.

“Let’s calm down and discuss this rationally.”

For a man who fronts organizations founded and led by Art Pope, the idea of having a rational conversation on public issues in this arena is like walking into a dialogue with someone who will only allow you one word for every sentence he says and who will not allow you to present evidence because it may actually refute any nebulous claims he makes.

But he will smile and shake your hand as if you are on the same side.

John Locke as a philosopher embraced empiricism, practicality, and strong observation. And while Mr. Hood loves using the word “empiricism” and “empirical” to define his “proof” he offers in this instance another lofty, general, glittering, and amorphous claim that what North Carolina has done to reform public education is strongly beneficial.

And it is beneficial – for those who are seeking to make a profit like Art Pope.

But Mr. Hood did offer to discuss this rationally, so here are some claims that he makes and that I will “rationally” refute.

  1. During the 2016-17 academic year, nearly one out of five North Carolina children were educated in settings other than district-run public schools. In Wake County and some other urban areas, the percentage was even higher.

He is right on both counts. Also, it needs to be noted that over one out of five North Carolina children live in poverty. And while Wake County has a higher percentage of students in non-public school settings, it might be worth noting that the budget shortfall for funding the public schools in Wake County is one of the more well-known shortfalls in the state as far as supporting public schools. Just do a little research.

  1. To opponents of parental choice in education, the trend signifies an elaborate plot to destroy public schools by denigrating their accomplishments and funding their competition. To other North Carolinians, the rising share of children attending charter, private, or home schools simply reflects the fact that more opportunities are available, more families are exploring them, and the state’s education sector is becoming more diverse, innovative, and parent-friendly.

Actually, a “rational” person could look at what has happened in the past five years in NC and see that there really is a dismantling of public education. Look at the money that is being used to fund charters, vouchers, and other “reforms” that have no “empirical evidence” showing that they are successful.

Just take a look at this : https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/answer-sheet/wp/2016/05/18/the-assault-on-public-education-in-north-carolina-just-keeps-on-coming/. That’s an elaborate plot.

Of course other North Carolinians might see “school choice” as a road to more opportunities but is it really offering a more “diverse, innovative, and parent-friendly” experience?

Not really.

Today the News & Observer had an editorial entitled “The hidden cost of vouchers” (http://amp.newsobserver.com/opinion/editorials/article165488352.html). All North Carolinians should read this.

It states,

When they passed the ill-conceived program to hand taxpayers’ money to lower-income people to pay for private schools for their children, Republican lawmakers didn’t bother to point out the fine print – that the $4,200 maximum might not cover expenses such as food and transportation. And it also doesn’t cover the full tuition of private schools, many of which are church-affiliated…

There’s a cynical side to this entire program as well. Yes, the $4,200 can cover a lot of expense at small church schools, for example, but wealthy Republicans aren’t going to see any of the Opportunity Scholarship recipients in the state’s most exclusive private schools, the ones that cater to wealthy families. Tuition in those schools is often $20,000 and above.

Parents with kids in public schools where arts and physical education programs are threatened, where the best teachers are leaving the profession to earn a better living, might point directly to Republicans in the General Assembly as the culprits. This voucher program was little more than a slap at public schools, which Republicans have targeted since taking control of the General Assembly in 2011. It is a bad idea that is getting worse, and getting more expensive, and the only positive in it is in the eye of the beholder – private school enrollment has gone up since the program started.

Would Mr. Hood like to rationally refute this?

The op-ed in the N&O also references an NC State study led by Anna Egalite which offers some rather “empirical” data that seems to take Mr. Hood’s claims and send them back for reconsideration (https://news.ncsu.edu/2017/07/nc-state-research-explores-how-private-schools-families-make-voucher-decisions/). It too is worth the read.

Kris Nordstrom, education finance and policy consultant for the N.C. Justice Center’s Education and Law Project, is also quoted in the N&O op-ed. I am willing to bet my salary as it would have been if the General Assembly had not messed with the schedule I saw when I came into the profession that Nordstrom is much more educated in current public education issues than Mr. Hood and could offer more “rational” perspectives on the issue of school choice – calmly or otherwise.

  1. I’m in the latter camp, obviously. I’ve advocated school choice programs for three decades. My parents, former public-school educators, were supporters of the idea throughout their careers and influenced me greatly on the subject. If you disagree, I probably won’t be able to convince you in a single column about the merits of charter school expansion or opportunity scholarships. But I will offer this observation: exaggerating the case against school choice isn’t doing you or the public any favors.

No, Mr. Hood will not convince me. But if he thinks that what is being offered by myself or other public school advocates is exaggeration, then I would claim that Mr. Hood is compressing and ignoring the truth because he never refutes the evidence offered by public school advocates. In fact, he never offers any proof that vouchers and charters are showing evidence of high student achievement here in North Carolina.

Mr. Hood says that he has “good reasons, both theoretical and empirical” for his claims. What are they? Where is the data from North Carolina? The only time I have heard a “pro-school choice” official mentioning even talking about empirical evidence as far as North Carolina’s reforms are concerned actually helping low-income students.

Lindsay Wagner’s latest piece for the AJ Fletcher Foundation entitled “Are publicly-funded private school vouchers helping low-income kids? We don’t know” raises a rather glaring inconsistency when it comes to whether vouchers are really helping low-income students.

The leader of Parents for Educational Freedom in North Carolina, Darrell Allison, said recently that school vouchers aren’t likely to hurt children from low-income households who use them. But he couldn’t say definitively that the voucher program actually helps these children, either.

Why? Because despite the fact that North Carolina spends millions of taxpayers’ dollars each year on vouchers, we have no meaningful data that can tell us if this is an effective way to help poor students who deserve a high quality education (http://ajf.org/publicly-funded-private-school-vouchers-helping-low-income-kids-dont-know/).

Doesn’t sound like empirical data to me. Sounds like avoiding the actual debate. I would also like to see Mr. Hood explain his point of view in reference to the NAACP’s recent call for a charter school moratorium.

Hood1

Or, what is found in this report: https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/education/federal-study-of-dc-voucher-program-finds-negative-impact-on-student-achievement/2017/04/27/e545ef28-2536-11e7-bb9d-8cd6118e1409_story.html?utm_term=.e45590a4a1db.

It states:

“Students in the nation’s only federally funded school voucher initiative performed worse on standardized tests within a year after entering D.C. private schools than peers who did not participate, according to a new federal analysis that comes as President Trump is seeking to pour billions of dollars into expanding the private school scholarships nationwide.

The study, released Thursday by the Education Department’s research division, follows several other recent studies of state-funded vouchers in Louisiana, Indiana and Ohio that suggested negative effects on student achievement. Critics are seizing on this data as they try to counter Trump’s push to direct public dollars to private schools.”

Or even this report from the NY Times: “Dismal Voucher Results Surprise Researchers as DeVos Era Begins” (https://www.nytimes.com/2017/02/23/upshot/dismal-results-from-vouchers-surprise-researchers-as-devos-era-begins.html).

  1. Elementary and secondary education is becoming more like the rest of the education sector, and more like a health care sector that features lots of taxpayer funding but a diverse array of public, private, and nonprofit hospitals and other providers.

Actually, Mr. Hood is right in this respect when he compares public education to health care. Just look at the refusal to extend Medicaid for the very families who would qualify for vouchers and you see how the refusal to fully fund public schools only makes matters unhealthier.

  1. There is an impressive body of empirical evidence suggesting that as district-run public schools face more competition, their students tend to experience gains in test scores and attainment as school leaders rise to the challenge.

There’s that word again – “empirical.” Funny how public education works really well when it is collaborative rather than competitive, but it is worth mentioning that in a state that routinely has principal pay ranked around 50th in the nation, actually keeping school leaders is an obstacle created by the very people who brought us reform.

  1. And because the state’s choice programs are targeted at disabled and lower-income kids, the enrollment changes wouldn’t represent some kind of neo-segregationist conspiracy.

Apparently, Mr. Hood didn’t read this:

Hood2

He could just confer with Lt. Dan Forrest on its contents.

Or maybe he hasn’t fully digested this (which was sent to me, but I cannot verify its source, so if you find it, please let me know):

Hood3

The last statement before he offers the “Let’s calm down and discuss this rationally” conclusion, Mr. Hood says, “Competition improves performance.”

When the North Carolina General Assembly stops gerrymandering districts and enabling policies that seem to be ruled unconstitutional like Voter ID laws then the playing field might be leveled somewhat.

Then Mr. Hood might see how the performance of his op-ed and its baseless claims really offer no competition to the truth.