The Most Enabled Man in Raleigh – North Carolina’s State Superintendent

gavel

The July 14th ruling by a three-judge panel in favor of State Supt. Mark Johnson may have been a huge victory on the surface for Johnson’s supporters and those who seek to exert their influence through him and his inexperience.

But it is not a real victory for Johnson himself.

While the office of the state superintendent now has more executive power than at any time, Johnson himself lost more power as an individual in elected office. Why?

Because Mark Johnson just became the most enabled man in all of North Carolina.

Not empowered. Enabled. And that’s not good for public schools.

Consider this – a corporate attorney who taught for two school years through a program that historically does not place many long term teachers into the public schools, who did not complete a full term as a school board member and has never had a child in the public schools was elected in the most contentious election year in recent memory to become state superintendent. After he was elected and before he took office, he was granted more power as a state superintendent by a gerrymandered legislature in a special session that was thought to be called to repeal HB2. He then spent the first six months of his term “embroiled” in a legal battle with the state board of education that is controlled by the same political party and literally has been a non-public figure while a budget that expands vouchers, keeps charter schools from being regulated, lowers per pupil expenditures for traditional public schools, and cuts the budget for the very department he is supposed to run.

All on the taxpayers’ dime.

Lawmakers included about $700,000 in the state budget for Johnson to hire several staffers without the approval of the state board. The budget also provided him with money for his legal expenses while barring the state board from using taxpayer money to fund its lawsuit (http://www.wral.com/judges-rule-for-nc-superintendent-in-battle-with-state-education-board/16820368/).

The man who “won” the lawsuit was financed by the same General Assembly with taxpayer money while the very people who were appointed by the lawmakers in Raleigh had to use other means to finance their legal fees.

Talk about enabling. And “enabling” is not a good word here.

Johnson’s statement on the ruling was certainly sprinkled with pyrite.

“For too long, the lack of clarity about DPI leadership has fostered a system of non-accountability,” Johnson said in a statement. “While this system is great for shifting blame and avoiding responsibility, non-accountability at DPI hurts North Carolina students. Last December, the General Assembly addressed this problem by clarifying the parameters set forth in the NC Constitution. Their efforts offered greater transparency to educators and parents across the state seeking to engage with DPI and greater accountability at DPI.

“Today, the Superior Court has affirmed the constitutionality of the General Assembly’s actions and I look forward to, belatedly, working for more and better change at DPI” (http://www.newsobserver.com/news/local/education/article161450393.html).

It’s rather odd to hear of Johnson talking about “lack of clarity.” Considering that this might be one of the longest quotes attributed to him in his tenure and his press-unfriendly “listening tour” along with no sign of the promised item list of proposals he prophesized this past January, he certainly correct about there being some sort of lack of clarity.

As far as “shifting blame?” No one has been slinging blame as much as the very people who are enabling Johnson.

That “transparency” comment? Halting communication at DPI through the most commonly used listserv to all of the LEA’s in the state is not an act of transparency. That’s an act of muddying the waters.

And that “belatedly” remark? Funny how that word is almost the precise antonym of the word Johnson used in January as he took office – “urgency.”

The man who now controls the Department of Public Instruction which has been further downsized by the very people who financed his lawsuit and who champion the very reforms that hurt the schools he is supposed to protect did not really win.

The people who enable him really won.

Listen to what Phil Berger had to say.

“Voters elected Superintendent Mark Johnson based on his platform of strengthening our state’s public schools, and I’m pleased the court recognized the constitutionality of the law and that our superintendent should be able to execute the platform voters elected him to do” (http://www.wral.com/judges-rule-for-nc-superintendent-in-battle-with-state-education-board/16820368/).

There’s a tremendous amount of smug irony in that statement. Why? Because what voters elected Johnson to do was based on the job description that at the time was associated with the state superintendent’s job. What power Johnson now has was augmented by Berger and his cronies after Johnson was elected in a wave of conservative electoral victory.

If it was so important for the state superintendent to have new power over the public school system that was originally in the hands of the state board of education, then should not have each preceding state superintendent been given the same power?

Apparently not. Because each preceding state superintendent was much more qualified to be such than Johnson is. Each preceding state superintendent would have fought against the measures that have been enabled, enacted, and empowered by the current NCGA because that would have been in the best interests of the traditional public school system.

Especially June Atkinson.

When Berger stated that Johnson was elected on “his platform of strengthening our state’s public schools,” what he really inferred was that Johnson was going to allow “reformers” like Berger to strengthen charter schools and voucher programs – initiatives that actually hurt traditional public schools.

And it is a little sadistically humorous that a man (Berger) who has championed a variety of policies that have been ruled unconstitutional (gerrymandered districts, Voter ID law, etc.) would brag about upholding the constitutionality of the law. That same man also pushed to not extend Medicaid in this state when so many people needed it and now the very hospital in his hometown of Eden has filed for bankruptcy (http://myfox8.com/2017/07/11/morehead-memorial-hospital-files-for-bankruptcy/).

And that is not to mention what all is being done by this General Assembly to alter the court system in the state to become more politically aligned with its agenda.

What really happened on July 14th was that Mark Johnson showed how controlled he is as the state superintendent. He showed that he is now more than ever beholden to the very General Assembly that will opaquely exert its will on public education by controlling the very person whose only transparency comes in the form of his credentials for being state superintendent because they are so paper thin.

That is no victory for public schools.

There still is hope. There is still an injunction and a sure appeal to a higher court.

I would be remiss if I did not flat out state that if the General Assembly empowered public school teachers one-tenth the amount that they enable Mark Johnson, then I would have no need for this blog.

However, whatever power Johnson has been given, he still does not have enough to keep me from wanting to be a public school teacher in North Carolina.

The Stench of SB599 – Raleigh Knows Why We Have a Teacher Shortage. They Created It.

“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.

The original bill was introduced by Sen. Chad Barefoot who has shown himself to be the most recent poster child of the privatization movement in North Carolina’s public education system.

Granados further states,

Elmore explained that the bill was intended to increase the number of teachers coming into North Carolina schools. Schools of education in the state experienced a 30 percent drop in enrollment between 2010 and 2015.

So Rep. Elmore is explaining that we have a teacher shortage as seen by the drop in teacher candidates in our teacher preparation programs in the last 5-7 years?

Whatever or whoever could have put North Carolina in a situation that would create a teacher shortage in our public schools?

The answer is easy: the GOP majority in the North Carolina General Assembly.

The shortage of teacher candidates that schools of education have experienced is a symptom of a deeper problem. A bill like SB599 is a thinly veiled attempt to further allow for-profit companies like Texas Teachers of Tomorrow to take North Carolina tax money and place pseudo-qualified candidates into our classrooms.

Another jab at de-professionalizing a profession that the GOP majority in the NCGA has already de-professionalized to a large extent.

There are so many actions to deter teacher candidates taken by the current powers-that-be in a gerrymandered legislation that it would take Sen. Jerry Tillman’s two tracks of math curriculum to begin to count them, but here’s a flavor:

  1. Teacher Pay – We are still nowhere near the national average and when adjusted for inflation, salaries really have not risen for veteran teachers who are the glue of public education.
  2. Removal of due-process rights for new teachers – Teachers need to know that they can speak up against harsh conditions or bad policies without repercussions. Teachers who are not protected by due-process will not be as willing to speak out because of fear.
  3. Graduate Degree Pay Bumps Removed – Because advanced degree pay is abolished, many potential teachers will never enter the field because that is the only way to receive a sizable salary increase to help raise a family or afford to stay in the profession
  4. Standard 6 – In North Carolina, we have a teacher evaluation system that has an unproven record of accurately measuring a teacher’s effectiveness.
  5. Push for Merit Pay – The bottom line is that merit pay destroys collaboration and promotes competition. That is antithetical to the premise of public education. Not only does it force teachers to work against each other, it fosters an atmosphere of exclusivity and disrespect. What could be more detrimental to our students?
  6. “Average” Raises –If you divided the amount of money used in these “historic” raises by the number of teachers who “received” them, it would probably surprise people. Those raises were funded in part by eliminating teachers’ longevity pay.
  7. Health Insurance and Benefits – Simply put, health benefits are requiring more out-of-pocket expenditures, higher deductibles, and fewer benefits. Legislation just took away retirement health benefits for those who enter the profession after 2020.
  8. Attacks on Teacher Advocacy Groups (NCAE) – Seen as a union and therefore must be destroyed, the North Carolina Association of Educators has been incredibly instrumental in bringing unconstitutional legislation to light and carrying out legal battles to help public schools.
  9. Revolving Door of Standardized Tests – Like other states, we have too many.
  10. Less Money Spent per Pupil – The argument that the GOP-led General Assembly have made repeatedly is that they are spending more on public education now than ever before. And they are correct. We do spend more total money now than before the recession hit. But that is a simplified and spun claim because North Carolina has had a tremendous population increase and the need to educate more students.
  11. Removal of Caps on Class Sizes – There is a suggested formula in allotting teachers to schools based on the number of students per class, but that cap was removed. House Bill 112 allowed the state to remove class size requirements while still allowing monies from the state to be allocated based on the suggested formula.
  12. Sacrificing of Specialties in Elementary Schools – To fulfill “class size” requirements that are now being talked about, many schools are having to decide if they will be able to offer arts and physical education classes.
  13. Jeb Bush School Grading System – This letter grading system used by the state literally shows how poverty in our state affects student achievement. What the state proved with this grading system is that it is ignoring the very students who need the most help — not just in the classroom, but with basic needs such as early childhood programs and health-care accessibility.
  14. Cutting Teacher Assistants – Fewer teacher assistants for early grades especially limit what can be accomplished when teachers are facing more cuts in resources and more students in each classroom.

 

  1. Opportunity Grants – These are vouchers. Opportunity Grant legislation is like the trophy in the case for the GOP establishment in Raleigh. It is a symbol of “their” commitment to school choice for low-income families. But that claim is nothing but a red-herring because there is no oversight. Read the report from the Children’s Law Center at Duke University and then take a look at the recent plea from an administrator at Trinity Christian in Fayetteville.
  2. Charter Schools – Charter school growth in North Carolina has been aided by the fact that many of the legislators who have created a favorable environment for charter benefit somehow, someway from them. Just ask Jason Saine. Many charters abuse the lack of oversight and financial cloudiness and simply do not benefit students.
  3. Virtual Schools – There are two virtual academies in NC. Both are run by for-profit entities based out of state. While this approach may work for some students who need such avenues, the withdrawal rates of students in privately-run virtual schools in NC are staggering according to the Department of Public Instruction.
  4. Achievement School Districts – Teach For America Alumnus and former Rep. Rob Bryan crafted a piece of legislation that has been rammed through the General Assembly which will create ASD’s in NC. Most egregious is that it was crafted secretly. Rather than having a public debate about how to best help our “failing” schools with our own proven resources, Rep. Bryan chose to surreptitiously strategize and plan a takeover of needy schools. ASD’s have not worked in Tennessee. They will not work in North Carolina except for those who make money from them.
  5. Elimination of Teaching Fellows Program – Once regarded as a model to recruit the best and brightest to become teachers and stay in North Carolina was abolished because of “cost”.

If Rep. Elmore wants to really help alleviate the teacher shortage, he might want to consider reversing course on the many policies and bills enacted in his three-term tenure before explaining how SB599 might be used to get more teacher candidates into our schools of education.

But he already knows that. Why?

Because Rep. Elmore is a public school teacher who was trained at a state supported school that at one time was the state’s “Teacher College” – Appalachian State University. He should know better.

Rep. Elmore was also a North Carolina Teaching Fellow. He should know better.

He was a past president of the Professional Educators of North Carolina. He should know better.

Just look at his website – http://www.jeffreyelmore.com/aboutjeffrey/.

But he’s also part of a political establishment. That’s Rep. Elmore standing next to Sen. Chad Barefoot.

Elmore.png

Our state does not have the Teaching Fellows Program any longer.

It costs more for students to go to state supported universities because the state has not funded them to the same extent that they used to and the same lawmakers claim that spending less money on per pupil expenditures in traditional k-12 schools will not hurt students?

And they claim that they are wondering why North Carolina has a teacher shortage? And they want someone to profit from “fixing” it at the expense of tax payers and the over 90% of students in North Carolina who still attend traditional public schools and their magnets.

They know exactly why we have a teacher shortage. They created the teacher shortage.

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

Robbing Peter to pave for Paul.

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

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

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

hardister

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

North Carolina is literally practicing privatization plagiarism.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But that is just regressing.

Or is it?

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

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

Below is a screen shot from followthemoney.org which tracks campaign contributions to political candidates (https://www.followthemoney.org/entity-details?eid=14298646). Here is a list of candidates who have received money from Hage in NC.

Hage1

  • There’s Jerry Tillman, the former public school administrator who is a champion for opaque charter school regulation.
  • And there’s Jason Saine who loves charters as well.
  • There’s Rep. Bryan who helped to bring in the ASD district.
  • There’s David Curtis, who loves charters as well.
  • There’s Lt. Gov. Dan Forest, who sits on the state school board and lambasted DPI under Dr. June Atkinson for its report on charter schools that said they were disproportionally representing populations.
  • There’s Buck Newton, who was going to make NC “straight” again as attorney general for the NC, but lost.
  • There’s Bill Rabon, who stalled the HB13 bill in the Senate.

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

And their actions are not original. They are plagiarized.

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

Sound original? Not really.

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

flynn1

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

LA1

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

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

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

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

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

Or otherwise known as segregation.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

That’s what should be plagiarized.

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

House Bill 800 – The Further Privatization of “Public” Charter Schools

HB800

Question: When does a supposedly “public” charter-school become a private entity?

Answer: When it opens in North Carolina.

For anyone who believes that public charter schools are actual public schools, there are a plethora of realities that contradict that idealistic view, at least here in the Old North State.

Here, public tax payer money is used to fund the creation of an “alternative” school that caters to a specific population that is not supposedly well serviced in traditional public schools which uses different approaches to instruct students in order to achieve better academic outcomes.

However, they are allowed to run as private businesses without the same oversight. Furthermore, they do not have to use certified teachers. But most importantly, there is no empirical information that shows that charter school in North Carolina perform better than traditional schools even with preferential treatment.

But try telling that to some lawmakers in Raleigh.

Today a bill was advanced that sheds even more light onto the incestuous relationship that private entities have with tax payer money in the name of public welfare.

As reported by Billy Ball on April 24th on NC Policy Watch in an article entitled, “House panel OKs charter school growth bill, corporate “perks” for charter partners (http://pulse.ncpolicywatch.org/2017/04/24/house-panel-oks-charter-school-growth-bill-corporate-perks-charter-partners/#sthash.CiIsfYLY.qgOZXEvz.dpuf),

A divided House Education Committee gave their approval Monday to a pair of controversial charter school bills, one of which will allow charters to expand student enrollment by up to 30 percent with no additional state review of their performance and finances.

The second proposal, House Bill 800, led by Rep. John Bradford, R-Mecklenburg, would speed “perks” for private charter school partners by providing their children enrollment priority for up to half of the school’s population, a provision that critics likened to making public charters into “de facto, segregated private schools.”

That second bill, HB800, was actually called a “jobs’ bill” by Bradford, who according to his website electbradford.com/meet-john/, is

“the President & Founder of Park Avenue Properties, a Cornelius based residential property management and real estate investment firm with operations in five states and eight cities.”

What many people may not know is that a charter school may already reserve up to fifteen percent of its enrollment for children of teachers, employees, and board members.

That’s right. Charter schools have private board members. Public schools do not.

Now Sen. Bradford wants to help create jobs in a right-to-work state by allowing companies to invest in a publicly funded charter school to “buy” enrollment that can take up another 50 percent of the charter schools enrollment.

Rep. Graig Meyer out of Orange County was quoted as saying this bill “really pushes us down the road to privatization that we resisted on charter schools. This allows you to set up the equivalent of a company store, but it’s a company school” (http://pulse.ncpolicywatch.org/#sthash.MoRg9TFe.dpuf).

Meyer is right. Very right.

House Bill 800 is nothing more than a tax payer funded form of segregation that allows for a public charter school to provide only 35% of its space for the general public.

Does it not seem odd that the very political party that Sen. Bradford aligns himself with actually at one time called funding traditional public schools fully and treating certified teachers as professionals was the equivalent of a “jobs’ bill?”

Those older conservatives looked at that as an investment that attracted business and industry to the state and allowed North Carolina to at one time brag of having the strongest public education system in the southeastern United States.

Now, Sen. Bradford’s idea of a “jobs’bill” is another way of segregating our population with tax payer money because if we live in a right-to –work state, any company can control who goes to its newly “bought school.”

In looking at HB800, it is hard not to think of Betsy DeVos’s comments about money and influence when it comes to crafting public policy. She wrote in the Capitol Hill newspaper Roll Call in 1997.

“I have decided to stop taking offense,” she wrote, “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. People like us must surely be stopped.”

When a public school advocate like myself argues that businesses should invest in schools, I do not mean that they “buy” spaces in schools financed by the public to house a select few students that benefits a chosen few. I would like to think that businesses would invest in schools as a public institution that benefits society as a whole.

But what Sen. Braford is offering is divisive and conflicting and should be thought out much more carefully. He was in favor of and voted for HB2 in the spring of 2016 that costs NC a number of jobs, and to his credit he was one of the few on the GOP side to seek a compromise in repealing it this year even when his own party was against it.

He said in the Charlotte Observer on March 8 of this year (“If there’s a way to get rid of HB2, this Mecklenburg lawmaker could help find it”),

“You can’t underestimate the economic impact it’s had on our state,” (http://www.charlotteobserver.com/news/politics-government/article137213863.html#storylink=cpy).

But HB800 is not “jobs’ bill.” It’s a “privatization of public schools’ bill.” If Bradford wants to create jobs by ensuring good schools then he should be more willing to fully fund all traditional public schools.

Then he can talk to Chad Barefoot about it.

For Once I May Have Liked What Lt. Gov. Dan Forest Said – But Not For the Reasons He Would Like

Rural Center county classifications

Lt. Gov. Dan Forest’s recent comments concerning “bridging the digital divide” at the “Advocacy Day for Making Rural School Districts a Priority” event were actually very heartening to hear – for more than one reason.

If you have followed the North Carolina public school funding discussion, disparities between affluent metropolitan areas and economically depressed rural areas are hard to ignore, especially when it comes to getting local funds to help subsidize teacher salary supplements and resources. It might be one of the reasons that charter schools and voucher advocates have has so much traction in the rural parts of the Tarheel state.

But Lt. Gov. Forest said something that was very encouraging. Refer to Alex Granados’s article in EdNC.org entitled “State leaders speak out on education at rural advocacy day” (https://www.ednc.org/2017/03/30/state-leaders-speak-education-rural-advocacy-day/).

He said that five years ago, before he was in his current position, he thought the state could lead the nation in high speed broadband access to classrooms. Now, North Carolina is on the verge of achieving that goal. That will help “students in poor rural North Carolina have the same hope and opportunity for an excellent education as students in wealthier parts of our state that have had for years,” he said.  

He also decried the fact that even with all the technological advances, the education field still is not level. 

“Shame on us in this day and age that we still have schools that are not at par with one another across our state,” he said. 

There are two operative words here: “poor” and “shame.” However, the reasons for the propagation of poverty in North Carolina and our need to feel shame for that is more than a single post could ever handle. But it is something that the Lt. Gov. could do a much better job of addressing on West Jones Street. Instead of using poverty and shame as fuel for privatizing education, he should listen to what he said very closely and then read this op-ed that appeared in The New York Times this past Sunday entitled “Who Needs Charters When You Have Public Schools Like These?” by David Kirp (https://www.nytimes.com/2017/04/01/opinion/sunday/who-needs-charters-when-you-have-public-schools-like-these.html).

Kirp is a professor at UC-Berkley which is considered by many to be the finest public university in the nation. California’s public university system is also a leading world-class system. Ironically, so is North Carolina’s, despite what the current administration in the General Assembly and the past administration in the governor’s mansion have done to weaken it.

Lt. Gov. Dan Forest has been a part of both of both of those.

In this op-ed, Kirp talks about the use of technology in poor rural areas for public schools that are helping students bridge achievement gaps that people have been touting charter schools and vouchers as being the solutions for –people like Lt. Dan Forest and another recent visitor to North Carolina, Betsy DeVos.

The same technology that Kirp talks about in his op-ed is easily facilitated in the scenario that Forest claims North Carolina has put into place, so much that we as a state are “on the verge” of “lead(ing) the nation in high speed broadband access to classrooms.”

Here are some of Professor Kirp’s observations:

“Ms. DeVos, the new secretary of education, dismisses public schools as too slow-moving and difficult to reform. She’s calling for the expansion of supposedly nimbler charters and vouchers that enable parents to send their children to private or parochial schools. But Union shows what can be achieved when a public school system takes the time to invest in a culture of high expectations, recruit top-flight professionals and develop ties between schools and the community.”

Investment? Recruitment of high-quality teachers? Retaining those teachers? Allow for ties between schools and communities? Wow! Novel ideas.

But lawmakers like Lt. Dan Forest seem to be too busy protecting us from nonexistent transgender sexual assaults in school locker rooms, clouding up any transparency for charter school growth, and funneling untold amounts of money into a voucher system that is inappropriately named “Opportunity Grants.”

Kirp further discusses,

“The school district also realized, as Ms. Burden put it, that “focusing entirely on academics wasn’t enough, especially for poor kids.” Beginning in 2004, Union started revamping its schools into what are generally known as community schools. These schools open early, so parents can drop off their kids on their way to work, and stay open late and during summers. They offer students the cornucopia of activities — art, music, science, sports, tutoring — that middle-class families routinely provide. They operate as neighborhood hubs, providing families with access to a health care clinic in the school or nearby; connecting parents to job-training opportunities; delivering clothing, food, furniture and bikes; and enabling teenage mothers to graduate by offering day care for their infants.”

Again, wow!

Supporting the arts and a holistic approach to curriculum? Health care clinics? Job training?

But lawmakers like Lt. Dan Forest have been too busy in the last few years suffocating public school systems to the point where they have to meet demands for class sizes that force them to sacrifice these very same programs. And health care? Just look at the hardened reluctance to expand Medicaid for these “poor” rural people.

That’s real “shame.”

Kirp concludes his op-ed,

“Under the radar, from Union City, N.J., and Montgomery County, Md., to Long Beach and Gardena, Calif., school systems with sizable numbers of students from poor families are doing great work. These ordinary districts took the time they needed to lay the groundwork for extraordinary results.

Will Ms. DeVos and her education department appreciate the value of investing in high-quality public education and spread the word about school systems like Union? Or will the choice-and-vouchers ideology upstage the evidence?”

Ironically, you would only have to substitute LT. Dan Forest’s name in that op-ed for Betsy DeVos as Forest is an avid supporter of DeVos’s policies. He was one of 70 leaders and organizations to sign an open letter of support for DeVos during her contentious confirmation process (http://www.excelined.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/01/2017.01.27-OpenLetterEndorsementforBetsyDeVos-FINAL.pdf?utm_source=ExcelinEd&utm_campaign=50bf72e4fa-EMAIL_CAMPAIGN_2017_01_27&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_0473a80b81-50bf72e4fa-).

“Betsy DeVos is an undisputed champion of families and students. For nearly 30 years she has devoted time and resources to improving education options for our nation’s children. Yet millions still languish in failing schools in an education system more than a century old. It’s time for a new vision.

Betsy DeVos provides that vision. She embraces innovation, endorses accountability and—most especially—trusts parents to choose what is in their unique child’s best interests. She also believes in providing every parent with the resources and choices to pursue those decisions.

On this week, National School Choice Week, we the undersigned endorse this champion of choice and the education reforms needed to improve the future of every child in America. And we strongly advocate for her confirmation as our next U.S. Secretary of Education. “

Remember that last year, Forest admonished DPI for its report on charter schools because it was not “positive” enough. He also is one of the most ardent supporters of HB2 because of his strident cause of protecting women and children from a nonexistent threat. And in a recent visit to Texas during their push for a bathroom law, he was keen to point out that there has been no economic fallout from HB2 in North Carolina contrary to multiple reports including a recent one from the Associated Press.

He called it “another attempt to mislead and confuse the public through a bogus headline.” The he added, “Our economy is doing well. Don’t be fooled by the media.”

But that internet thing and getting the rural areas connected? He’s totally right about that.

About Betsy DeVos’s Op-Ed in USA Today

Not only does she speak incoherently in confirmation hearings.

Not only does she tweet her own platitudes.

She now writes op-eds full of glittering claims without any data with a hint of some outlier data with simply no analysis bookended with enough bullshit to leave a stench in your nose to make you blame it on the dog.

In fact, here it is straight from the March 2, 2017 edition of USA Today’s online edition. Note: It did have to be corrected because she misidentified the very grant she was praising in the op-ed (http://www.usatoday.com/story/opinion/2017/03/02/betsy-devos-trump-delivers-education-promises-column/98594982/) .

I have taken the liberty to add a few thoughts as they presented themselves in my mind while reading as I am an educator in public schools, a parent of public school students, a voter, and a tax-payer. I am also one of about 200 million Americans who are more qualified to be secretary of education than Betsy DeVos.

devos usa today

Corrections & clarifications: An earlier version of this column misidentified a Department of Education program called “School Improvement Grants.” 

President Trump’s first address to the joint session of Congress was clear: promises made, promises kept. The president promised to shake up the status quo in Washington, and he has. He also promised to release his tax returns and to present evidence of wiretapping. From keeping Carrier in the United States (you might want to see how many jobs are still going to Mexico and how much tax breaks Carrier was able to leverage from Trump and Pence since iot was Pence’s home state) to nominating the highly qualified Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court (who is getting a little flack from conservatives for his religious background) , our president continues to follow through on his word (like getting Mexico to pay for the wall).

He’s also delivering on his promises for education (by presenting a budget that slashes federal money to public education).

The president made a point during the campaign to highlight the problems low-income families face in accessing a quality education (so he is backing an insurance plan that will make poorer people pay more to be insured and cut more programs that benefit poorer families while granting rich people and corporations tax breaks). We cannot hope to get America back on track if we do nothing to improve education for the poorest among us (just like you did in Michigan? Wait, like you didn’t do in Michigan?).

The achievement gaps in education result in hundreds of billions of dollars of lost economic potential every year and looking at the amount of segregation that occurs in the privatization efforts you have led in Michigan through your efforts, that is not surprising. And these gaps disproportionately harm minority students. Currently, more than 40% of African-American male students do not graduate high school. And achievement gaps are symptomatic of opportunity gaps and income gaps. You know anything about that? Of course you do!

These are more than just stats. They are the product of long-term trends.

For too long, Washington has focused on issuing edicts from its bubble, rather than empowering and amplifying solutions found at the grassroots level. Mrs. DeVos, I would not consider you someone who is starting a grassroots effort. You are ditating your will from a pedestal above others that you bought. We need to retire Washington’s top-down approach and instead empower answers from the bottom up. That’s rich coming from someone who literally paid her way into office and has given tens of millions of dollars to influence the very policies that benefit herself and her family.

But we also know the answer is not simply an increase in funding But an increase in contributions to those who can confirm you and then divert monies to charters and vouchers that benefit you and those who associate with you. As we saw under the Obama administration, one of its main initiatives was the “School Improvement Grants,” which pumped $7 billion into some of our most underserved schools. The only problem was that as the administration was walking out the door, it released a report showing that the grants had zero impact in improving test scores, graduation rates or college preparedness. Is that proficiency or growth?

We cannot rely on throwing money at this problem like administrations past (Ma’am, you throw more money than anyone). Instead, we need to enact serious, substantive reforms that go to the source of the problem. Are those the reforms you were talking about during your conformation hearings?

This work has already begun. On Tuesday, the president signed an executive order that elevates the initiative on historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs), giving them greater access to policymaking in the White House.

Their history was born not out of mere choice Actually, what you said about HBCU’s was that they were about choice. Maybe you need to reread your words)but out of necessity, in the face of racism, and in the aftermath of the Civil War. HBCUs remain at the forefront of opening doors that had been unjustly closed to so many you might want to look at the segregating trends of religious and charter schools. They made higher education accessible to students who otherwise would have been denied the opportunity.

We must follow their lead and apply that same thinking to our K-12 system because the same reality exists: Too many students live without access to quality schools. These children and teenagers are assigned to failing schools based solely on the ZIP code in which they live. If they don’t have the means to move to a better school district, then they’re trapped. They’re trapped also when they do not have access to food, medical care, mental health, safety, jobs, a lot of things that Trump’s budget seems to ignore.

This is not only unfair, it is also unjust. That’s the first things you have said that’s right.

The left Why is public education political? continues to say they have a monopoly on compassion for our country’s poor, yet they consistently oppose the very reforms that can do the most good to close the education gap. The numbers continue to show that increasing school options has a positive effect on students generally, and an even greater impact on poor and minority students. SHOW ME!!! If we truly want to provide better education to underserved communities, then it must start with giving parents and students school choice. Actually if want to provide a better education to people in poorer communities you create conditions where they are not poorer.

Trump has delivered on his promise to support school choice and offer students access to quality options. No child, regardless of her ZIP code or family income, should be denied access to quality education. Then support  public schools – all of them.

Together, we can help our nation’s students: those trapped in underperforming schools and those slipping through the cracks. One of those students was Denisha Merriweather, a guest of the first lady at Tuesday’s address. Denisha is living proof that school choice can break the cycle of poverty and provide transformative change. As a result of Florida’s Tax Credit Scholarship Program, Denisha became the first in her family to graduate high school, college and, later this May, with a master’s degree in social work. Denisha’s story is but one example of the opportunity we should afford to millions of students across our country. You have not been in many public school have you Mrs. DeVos?

Kids are 100% of our future. It is imperative that we do everything we can to ensure they each have an equal opportunity to a school where they can learn and thrive. The next generation deserves no less. Then let someone who knows something about education sit at your desk.

Betsy DeVos is the secretary of Education. In title only.

 

 

Betsy DeVos’s Historically Bad Civic Understanding – Or, What The Hell Did She Just Say?

devos-statement

If you ever needed reminding that the person who was confirmed by our U.S. Senate as secretary of education possesses no working knowledge of public education and the history of segregation in our society, look no further than the following:

Statement from Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos Following Listening Session with Historically Black College and University Leaders

FEBRUARY 28, 2017

Contact:   Press Office, (202) 401-1576, press@ed.gov

Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos released the following statement after meeting with presidents and chancellors of Historically Black Colleges and Universities at the White House:

A key priority for this administration is to help develop opportunities for communities that are often the most underserved. Rather than focus solely on funding, we must be willing to make the tangible, structural reforms that will allow students to reach their full potential.

Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) have done this since their founding. They started from the fact that there were too many students in America who did not have equal access to education. They saw that the system wasn’t working, that there was an absence of opportunity, so they took it upon themselves to provide the solution.

HBCUs are real pioneers when it comes to school choice. They are living proof that when more options are provided to students, they are afforded greater access and greater quality. Their success has shown that more options help students flourish.

Their counsel and guidance will be crucial in addressing the current inequities we face in education. I look forward to working with the White House to elevate the role of HBCUs in this administration and to solve the problems we face in education today.

Betsy DeVos just today talked about how segregation and Jim Crow laws had nothing to do with the establishment of Historically Black Colleges and Universities.

Betsy DeVos was born in 1958.

By that time around 100 HBCU’s had been founded that are still in existence today – schools like:

  • Clark Atlanta University
  • Florida A & M
  • Grambling State University
  • Hampton University
  • Howard University
  • Morehouse College
  • North Carolina A&T
  • Spelman College
  • Tuskegee Institute
  • Winston-Salem State University

And the reason those schools existed in the first place was because African-American students had no choice when it came to higher education. They were formed in a culture that was not inclusive but exclusive, yet HBCU’s are not exclusive in their admissions process. To my knowledge, they are open to members of all races.

These institutes that were created because of exclusivity may be the most inclusive of all schools, and yet more reports including DPI’s last two on charter schools show that charters actually help to promote more segregated student populations. Betsy DeVos is a devoted advocate of charter schools.

“CheeBerger, CheeBerger!” -Sen. Phil Berger and the Art of Walking Contradictorily

cheeberger

Sen. Phil Berger’s words that introduced BEST NC’s fourth annual legislative meeting which featured Michelle Rhee is yet another indication that the powers that be in North Carolina are still addicted to reform ideas that not only further harm public schools but erroneously claim that schools should run more like businesses.

But at least he is consistent.

These words are featured on his website and have been widely shared, and they serve to show the deliberate ignorance that perpetuates the “reform” movement (http://www.philberger.org/berger_highlights_major_teacher_bonuses_commitment_to_raise_average_teacher_pay_to_55k).

First of all, this legislative meeting was not open to the media. BEST NC, which claims to be neutral and non-partisan, did not seem to want media coverage or even teacher attendance. Having someone like Sen. Berger open the meeting with an introduction already casts a partisan shadow over the rest of the meeting. If the purpose of the meeting was simply to be informational and an exchange of ideas, then conducting it behind closed doors would not have been needed.

Besides, aren’t we talking about a public institution that uses public money?

Ultimately, Berger’s comments are filled with claims that need to be debunked, especially when it comes to merit pay, incentives, and teacher salaries.

Berger states toward the beginning of his remarks,

“It is good to join so many business leaders, educators and policymakers all with a shared interest in the future of public education in North Carolina.”

The fact that business leaders and policy makers were in the meeting is not in question. But what educators were in the meeting, specifically teachers? Is it not ironic that the public has not heard from one teacher about what was discussed in the meeting? I would have LOVED to be in that meeting as a teacher, and if good ideas were shared, I would be the first to trumpet them.

But alas.

Berger continues,

“But we’ve also focused on ways to incentivize outstanding performance and provide financial rewards for teachers who go above and beyond to help students succeed.”

Oh, merit pay and bonuses. As a teacher, I can tell you that merit pay does not work. Allow me to refer to a letter I wrote to Rep. Skip Stam last year.

“The bottom line is that merit pay destroys collaboration and promotes competition. That is antithetical to the premise of public education. Not only does it force teachers to work against each other, it fosters an atmosphere of exclusivity and disrespect. What could be more detrimental to our students?

Effective public schools are collaborative communities, not buildings full of contractors who are determined to outperform others for the sake of money. And when teachers are forced to focus on the results of test scores, teaching ceases from being a dynamic relationship between student and teacher, but becomes a transaction driven by a carrot on an extended stick.

Furthermore, the GOP-led NCGA still does not seem to acknowledge that student growth is different than student test scores. When some of our colleagues deal with students who experience more poverty, health issues, and other factors, then how can you say that those teachers do not “grow” those students when an arbitrary test score is all that is used to measure students?

Besides, if you think merit pay is effective, then I would question your willingness to fund that merit pay. Anyone who has taught in North Carolina for an extended period of time remembers that we had the ABC’s in effect for years which gave teachers/schools bonuses based on scores. One problem with that model (and you stated it in the interview) was that it pitted teachers against each other. Another problem that you did not mention is that Raleigh decided not to fund it any longer.”

And then Berger backed his point with a singular example.

“Please take a look at what happened in one Cumberland County elementary school when the faculty learned two of their peers would be rewarded for their outstanding work with students.”

Here’s that video: https://www.dropbox.com/s/brt9glwz4razc5y/Elizabeth%20Cashwell%20Elementary.mp4?dl=0.

Only one example? That’s hardly proof. That’s almost staged. What teachers show their principal in a meeting may not be what they actually feel. And if Berger really wanted to know if teachers in North Carolina thought this bonus pay was effective, then he should have allowed each teacher to answer an anonymous questionnaire.

And I am sure that what was shown by Berger is the exception rather than the rule.

Berger’s comments also included a jab at NCAE and other teacher advocacy groups.

“Instead, what we hear from many entrenched education bureaucrats – and from the North Carolina affiliate of the national teachers’ union – is that this kind of policy creates jealousy and dissension in our schools. In fact, some even deride it as “treating teachers like assembly line workers.”

Of course he used the word “union” because he is among business leaders in a right-to-work state. But it is ironic that he does specifically point out NCAE which has successfully appealed policies made by a Berger-led constituency like the removal of due-process rights because they were deemed unconstitutional.

Besides, if BEST NC wanted to bring all stakeholders together to discuss what is best (pardon the pun), then NCAE would have been present there as well.

Berger continues:

“Instead, that policy initiative treats teachers like the professionals they are, and creates a compensation model in line with how most other professionals are paid.

“This is the kind of innovative solution – one based on business principles – that my colleagues in the General Assembly and I have worked hard to implement over the past six years in order to improve education outcomes.”

This claim that we should run public schools more as a business rather than a service is old, worn-out, and erroneous.

And I have made this argument before.

“Every one of the assertions about adopting a business model in public schools that I have encountered always places the schools in the scope of a business. Maybe that paradigm needs to be shifted. If you want to truly envision a business model in schools, you might want to view all angles of the argument.

Try and see if you could run a business like a public school. Maybe the differences between a public service and private enterprise might become more apparent because you’re not even comparing apples to oranges. You’re comparing apples to rocks.”

What if businesses had to:

  • Be prepared to open up every book and have everything audited. We don’t even do that with private schools that receive Opportunity Grants.
  • Be prepared to publicize all of the salaries of the people who work for you. ALL OF THEM. And those salries are stipulated by the government, not the market.
  • Know that you must allow every stockholder to have equal power on how your run your business even if they own just one share.
  • Be prepared to abide by protocols and procedures established by people outside of the business.
  • Be prepared to not get to choose your raw materials.
  • Be prepared to have everything open to the press.
  • You will not get to advertise or market yourself.
  • Even though you are supposedly “fully” funded, you will have to raise funds because you are not really fully funded.
  • Be prepared to work hours, schedule, and calendar will be dictated by those who do not even work for your business.
  • Be prepared to have to communicate with all of your clients’ parents and guardians.
  • And finally Be prepared to understand that YOU WILL NOT MAKE A MONETARY PROFIT. Why? Because you are not a business. You are a public service.

Berger ended his manufactured resume of “improving” public education by offering a string of “accomplishments” which are more contradictory than literally true.

  1. “Improve(d) graduation rates” – Graduation rates are one of the easiest statistics to manipulate. Create a statewide 10-point grading system and have school systems dictate that a “50” is the lowest grade possible for a student, then it would be hard for a student who chooses not apply himself to actually NOT graduate.
  2. “Better inform(ed) parents of what our public schools are doing and how well they are doing it (transparent school grades)” – And that Jeb Bush style of school performance grading shows exactly how poverty affects school systems which is ironic for Berger to say considering that he boasts of a state surplus while nearly 25% of children in our state suffer from poverty and are still serviced by the underfunded public schools.
  3. “Empower(ed) parents with greater choice and greater innovation in their kids’ education (charter schools, opportunity scholarships)” – The word “choice” is very interesting. Charter schools have not shown to improve outcomes, but have been shown to be most selective in whom they allow to attend. And when over 75% of the vouchers go to religious schools that can discriminate based on religious beliefs, the word “choice” doesn’t carry the same meaning. It also does not take much research to find charter schools that fail in their purpose and see monies pouring into schools that do not even teach viable curriculums.

    Sometimes there can be embezzling (http://www.fayobserver.com/news/local/fayetteville-man-accused-of-embezzling-more-than-from-church-withholding/article_c75b83cc-3cd1-59fb-a002-bd240e46858c.html). Ironically, the school where this occurred, Trinity Christian, is located in Fayetteville. That’s in Cumberland County – the same county where the two teachers highlighted earlier in Berger’s remarks hail from. Apparently, having these fantastic teachers in the public school system in Cumberland County did not deter the allowance of Trinity Christian to receive more money ($990k+) in Opportunity Grant scholarships (vouchers) than any other school in THE STATE!

  4. “And attract, retain and reward the highest quality teachers in our classrooms” – Actually that’s laughable. The same General Assembly eliminated due-process rights, graduate degree pay bumps, and the Teaching Fellows program as well as put a vice on the NC university system. That’s driving potential teachers away and forcing other teachers to leave NC or the profession altogether. One simply needs to see the seismic drop in teacher candidates in our schools of education and see how well we are “attracting” people.

    Oh, and that HB2 debacle that has cost our state millions in lost revenue and even more in reputation still looms while Berger blames others for its effect even though he helped to craft it and pass it with a supermajority during a “special” session of the NCGA. That’s quality!

But the most egregious misrepresentation offered was saved for last and it deals with teacher salaries.

“Most of you have probably heard me talk about the average 15.5 percent pay raise that we’ve provided teachers since 2013.
“And you’ve heard me explain that, prior to 2011, public schools were struggling with declining state support; that thousands of state-funded teaching positions had been eliminated, teachers had been furloughed, and teacher pay had been frozen.
“And all too often, the people most critical of what this Republican-led General Assembly has done are the same people who were directly responsible for those cuts and furloughs.
“But under Republican leadership, state funding for our public schools has reached record levels.
“Beginning teacher pay is at an all-time high, and average teacher pay has climbed to $50,000 for the first time in state history.
“And this General Assembly has already publicly committed in our last budget to raising average teacher pay to $55,000 over the next two years. It is encouraging that our new governor has committed to partnering with us to continue increasing average teacher pay.
“But there is one data point – one significant fact – that hasn’t received a lot of attention, and that is how much more teachers will earn over the course of a career thanks to our pay reforms.
“The old pay scale was a ball and chain – it took teachers 30 years to reach the top. I can’t think of any other professionals who have to wait three decades to get to the top.
“I cannot believe that the policymakers who designed such a system could honestly contend it was done in an effort to treat teachers as professionals – on the contrary, a 30-year trek to maximum pay is what assembly line compensation looks like.
“Under the new scale for the 2018-19 school year, teachers will reach a base salary of $50,000 in half the time – or 15 years in the classroom.”

This is the same BS offered by former governor Pat McCrory who became the first incumbent governor to not get reelected in a year that saw 20k more North Carolinians vote for Trump than Clinton. In response to McCrory, I countered last summer with:

“The last four years have seen tremendous changes to teacher pay. For new teachers entering in the profession here in NC there is no longer any graduate degree pay bump, no more longevity pay (for anyone), and a changed salary schedule that makes it possible for a teacher to top out on the salary schedule within 15 years without really any raise for the last fifteen years until retirement.

And that top salary for new teachers is barely over 50K. So how can that be the average pay in NC be over 50K when no one can really make much over 50K as a new teacher in his/her entire career unless they all become nationally certified (which takes a monetary investment by the teacher to start)?

Easy. He is counting all of the veteran teachers’ current salaries in that figure. The very people whose salaries simply disgust the governor and the General Assembly to the point that they had to take measures to “lower” them are actually being used to tout the governor’s bold statement.

Furthermore, the governor is counting on local supplements. This comes in the face of a budget that is allocating less money to each central office of each school system for administrative costs. Now each county has to raise more money to actually offset those costs and also allow for local supplements. And not all localities provide the same supplements.

Any veteran teacher who is making above 50K based on seniority, graduate pay, and national boards are gladly counted in this figure. It simply drives up the CURRENT average pay. But when these veteran teachers who have seniority, graduate pay, and possibly national certification retire (and many are doing that early at 25 years), then the very people who seem to be a “burden” on the educational budget leave the system.

In actuality, that would drive the average salary down as time goes on. If the top salary that any teacher could make is barely over 50K (some will have higher as National Board Certified Teachers, but not a high percentage), then how can you really tout that average salaries will be higher?”

But remember that this meeting was closed and the audience was not there to question. They were there to reaffirm the very myths that guide the actions of the current powers in Raleigh to further dismantle public education.

So much for transparency.

 

 

Open Letter to Dave Machado, Charter School Chief for the State of North Carolina Concerning His Words About the Annual Charter Schools Report

Dear Mr. Machado,

As the Director for the State Office of Charter Schools in North Carolina, your words concerning the annual charter schools report just recently made to the State Board of Education prove not just interesting, but rather selective and uninformed and display an attitude to make sure that charter schools in North Carolina thrive at the expense of traditional public schools here in the Old North State.

charter-school-report

A WRAL.com report from January 4, 2017 entitled “NC charter schools chief: Need to increase diversity, open more rural schools” included some rather illuminating insights on your part that not only display a shortsightedness synonymous with an attempt to stretch and spin the truth, but an intention to create more of a market for an unregulated charter school industry that is enabled by the current political structure here in North Carolina.

Kelly Hinchcliffe reported,

“The report found that charters and traditional schools have about the same proportion of students who are American Indian, Asian, black and Pacific Islander. However, charters tend to have more white students and fewer Hispanic students than traditional schools.

The report also found that charter schools tend to serve fewer poor students than traditional schools. But Machado cautioned board members that some of that data may not be accurate. Schools may have under-reported how many low-income students they serve, he explained, because they must rely on parents to report income information.

Not all parents want to share that information.

“Parents would get mad when we sent those surveys out,” Machado said, referencing his time as chief administrator of Lincoln Charter School in Lincoln County (http://www.wral.com/nc-charter-schools-chief-need-to-increase-diversity-open-more-rural-schools/16400623/) .

There is a tad bit of faulty logic there. Are you suggesting that only charter school parents are unwilling to share information about income because of an assumed social stigma concerning socio-economics?

The truth is that all schools must rely on parents to report information for students – medical, past transcripts, addresses, etc. To suggest that traditional public schools do not have to struggle with having accurate measures of low-income versus high income students is ludicrous, because if that was not the case, then you just said that charter schools do a much poorer job of keeping up with records on their students.

Work in any public school and you will start to understand that many students will not report as low-income because they (or their families) do not wish to be identified as poor. And whether people in any office on the county level or on West Jones Street want to admit it, all public schools have students who face poverty, and poverty affects education.

And it is interesting that you mention Lincoln County, home of Rep. Jason Saine and Sen. David Curtis, current members of the North Carolina General Assembly who are sworn to uphold a state constitution to make sure that all children in North Carolina receive a quality public education. Yet, both champion charter school growth in Lincoln County using taxpayer money.

You may refer to the following letters that I penned to them for more information concerning their ventures.

https://caffeinatedrage.com/2016/12/08/open-letter-to-rep-jason-saine-youre-a-state-representative-fight-for-all-public-schools-not-a-new-charter-school/

https://caffeinatedrage.com/2016/04/28/hes-back-open-letter-to-sen-david-curtis-why-do-you-not-support-public-schools/

Ironically, the very charter schools they are associated with do not show up on the Lincoln County Public Schools website.

lincoln-county

There was another assertion that you offered in the WRAL report which actually opened the story that also piqued my interest.

Hinchcliffe opens the WRAL report with,

“North Carolina charter schools need to have more diversity among their students and open more schools in rural parts of the state,” the state’s charter school chief said Wednesday.

Dave Machado made the comments while presenting the annual charter schools report to the State Board of Education. 

You directly say that you want to open more charter schools in rural areas. I assume that means in counties that may have few traditional public schools to begin with where a charter school may come in and siphon away enough students into another entity that could adversely affect those traditional schools.

Considering how schools are funded by state, local, and federal monies, even a small change in student population in a small rural school could have drastic effects in the ability for that small rural school to apply for funds to have ample resources for those who are not fortunate enough to attend the charter school.

Also, why would you want more charter schools in rural areas when you could invest those monies in the very schools that exist for the students who already attend them? Why benefit a few at the expense of many?

You may claim that you want to offer more choice for students, but how is it really choice for those who would never be able to attend the charter school?

You may claim that you want to offer citizens a chance to attend a successful school in an area where schools have been “failing.” Well, when you can show empirical evidence that charter schools do better than traditional schools overall, then you might have an argument, and even then why wouldn’t those successful ventures then be invested in the traditional public schools anyway for the benefit of all students?

And you talked of the need for diversity.

I do know of a few measures that you could take that would make charter school more diverse, or at least less homogenous, but it would require being measured against traditional public schools again, which seems to something that touches a nerve with you.

  • You could make sure that all charter schools accept students that they may not have wanted in the first place like traditional public schools must – urban, suburban, and rural.
  • You could make sure that all charter schools accept students who have special needs whether they be developmental delays or physical disabilities like traditional public schools (even rural ones) already do.
  • You could make sure that all charter schools keep teaching students with low test scores like traditional schools do.
  • You could make sure that all charter schools accept students who do not speak English as their first language as traditional schools must.

It’s very interesting to see how an idea that was very altruistic in nature as the charter school once was become a championed cause for privatization of public education. Many credit Albert Shanker, the former president of the American Federation of Teachers, with the idea of charter schools, but his idea seems so foreign to the concept that is being advocated so much here in North Carolina and the words that you say.

Shanker wanted (and I paraphrase Dr. Diane Ravitch’s The Death and Life of the Great American School System pp. 122-124) charter schools should be a decision made with school districts to focus on those students who are the hardest to teach – those who were on the verge of dropping out. He would never have imagined charter schools using the type of admissions processes being used now. And most importantly, because the charter schools would be sort of an offshoot of the public schools, they would naturally be collaborative.

And yes, there are some charter schools that are doing the work of teaching students in newer, more experimental ways in hopes to help other students in traditional schools. And those schools are working with their respective public school systems, but they seem more the exception now than the norm.

Yet, Mr. Machado, what I see your mission being is to create a situation not based on collaboration, but of competition. And if public education was meant to be competitive, then should not both charter schools and traditional schools have to play by the same rules?

Because they certainly are not here in North Carolina.