NC State Board of Education Vs. Mark Johnson and the Fight to Keep Public Schools “Public”

The North Carolina State Supreme Court has agreed to hear the lawsuit that the State Board of Education has against State Superintendent Mark Johnson.

dpi

Rather it is a lawsuit that the state board has against the certain GOP stalwarts within the NC General Assembly who view Johnson as the perfect puppet to help push through their efforts to expand charter schools and vouchers to private schools.

The State Supreme Court’s decision to hear the case means that it is considered so important that the appeals courts are being bypassed. Simply put, it might be the most important battle in the five-year fight against privatization of the public school system here in North Carolina.

It is a fight to keep the “public” in public education.

Make no mistake, Mark Johnson is a puppet – a man whose entire experience in teaching and teacher preparation is less than two calendar years and whose only foray into public education policy is an unfinished term on a local school board.

When Johnson says in the last state school board meeting, “I think what the General Assembly is looking for is accountability, accountability for the money that is sent to this department,” what he is saying is, “I work for people on West Jones Street and not the people of the state. (http://pulse.ncpolicywatch.org/2017/12/07/state-board-education-superintendent-mark-johnson-clash-dpi-funding/#sthash.hajrdpLu.hb54ZsZP.dpbs).

So limited is Johnson’s experience in education and politics and so narrow is his vision for what should be done to actually help public schools that his naivety to be used by the General Assembly to carry out their ALEC-inspired agenda has become something of an open secret.

Johnson has stated many times that the state board is standing in the way of what he was elected to do by the state’s voters. But what the lawsuit fights against is the power he was granted by the General Assembly after the election within a special session supposedly to address HB2. The general public did not vote for that.

As Kelly Hinchcliffe reported last Friday on WRAL.com, that newly seized power included, “ more flexibility in managing the state’s $10 billion education budget, more authority to dismiss senior level employees and control of the Office of Charter Schools (http://www.wral.com/nc-supreme-court-agrees-to-hear-state-board-s-lawsuit-against-superintendent/17171092/).

Add to that extra money for Johnson to hire people only loyal to him (and the General Assembly) even though it duplicates much of what others in DPI already do who have many times the experience. Add to that extra money to fight the lawsuit against the state board who is left to spend its budget to defend its constitutional right to help govern the public school system. Add to that the fact that DPI’s budget has been slashed by nearly %20 over the next two years without a fight from the person who is supposed to lead DPI.

This “lawsuit” has taken up almost an entire year – and the entirety of Johnson’s tenure as state superintendent, a tenure that has seen absolutely nothing.

An editorial from today’s News & Observer Editorial Board perfectly summed up the current job performance of one Mark Johnson. It stated,

“…Johnson, a hard-right Republican with limited experience in education (he served on a county school board) who’s now building a staff of his very own without much control of the State Board, thanks to hundreds of thousands of dollars in public money for his own use from his friends on Jones Street. And Johnson’s been none too eager to lay out his views on the state of public education very often. For someone who’s supposed to be the face of public education, he’s been a behind-the-scenes leader, taking his instructions apparently from legislative leaders (http://amp.newsobserver.com/opinion/editorials/article189061714.html).

Therefore, this court case about to be heard and decided upon by the State Supreme Court is not just the most important legal decision for the public school system in the last twenty years.

It’s the most important for the next “God knows how many” decades to come.

The New North Carolina State Report Cards And What They Really Show

“The transformation of our public education system will open true pathways out of poverty.”

 – Mark Johnson, September 7th, 2016 from an op-ed entitled “Our American Dream” (https://www.ednc.org/2016/09/07/our-american-dream/).

 

This week State Superintendent of Public Schools Mark Johnson presented a new school report card interface and “updated features” so that the public can view school report cards (https://ncreportcards.ondemand.sas.com/src/index). It has a lot of bells and whistles.

The letter attached to its new release by Johnson seems well-meaning. The text can be found here – http://www.ncpublicschools.org/src/welcome/.

Yet, no matter how much glitter and glam can be used to create an interface that appeals to the eyes, it doesn’t cover up the fact that there really is so much more that makes up a school than a school report card in this state chooses to measure.

Yes, Johnson does make note in his letter that there is more to a school than a “grade.” He states,

“As a former teacher, I can tell you this information, while important, cannot tell you the entire story of a school. These facts and figures cannot voice the extra hours put in by your teachers preparing for class and grading assignments, the school spirit felt by families, the involvement in sports, arts, or other extracurriculars that build character, and other crucial aspects of a school community.”

But the school report cards still do not reflect those very considerations that give a school so much of its identity and define its true outreach to the students and the communities they serve. In fact, that is one of the many glaring items deficiencies that come to mind when reviewing the new interface.

  1. It totally ignores the fact that what affects so many schools is POVERTY.

As soon as one accesses the site, a map of the state is shown.

Picture1

One can then drill down from there. But one has to wonder if there is any measurement of certain socio-economic trends besides the number of kids on free and reduced lunches.

What about the effects of the gerrymandering that has occurred in recent years in the drawing of districts? What about how the unconstitutional VOTER ID law affected how people could vote and put representatives in Raleigh who would fight more for their students?

EdNC.org has a useful tool on its site called the Data Dashboard. You can find it here – https://www.ednc.org/data/.  Take the time to peruse this resource if public education is a top issue for you.

Here is a dot map of the 2014-2015 school performance grade map for the state (https://www.ednc.org/2015/08/03/consider-it-mapped-and-school-grades/) .

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Take notice of the pink and burgundy dots. Those are schools in the “D” and “F” category.

Now look at a map from the dashboard for Free and Reduced lunch eligibility for the same year.

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If you could somehow superimpose those two images, you might some frighteningly congruent correlations.

What if that capability was allowed within the new interface of the school report cards?

Now take a look again at the quote from Mark Johnson at the beginning of this posting:

“The transformation of our public education system will open true pathways out of poverty.”

I would argue that addressing poverty outside of class would help students inside of class as much if not more. Besides showing people how many textbooks there are per student (which is probably not correct as school systems are constantly shuffling textbooks around to cover the needs), what about the per capita measurements?

Education can help pull people out of poverty. I will not argue that, but attacking poverty at its root sources will do so much to help education. This revamped site seems to totally ignore that.

And maybe Johnson’s revamped school report site should also include this graph.

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That is from the 2015–16 Performance and Growth of North Carolina Public Schools Executive Summary, NC DPI.

  1. This site is being used as a way to promote more privatization through the veiled crusade of SCHOOL CHOICE.

Mark Johnson is about “school choice.” He has said so.

Those school performance grades that appear so quickly when one drills down on a district are based on a model developed by Jeb Bush when he was in Florida. It’s disastrous and places a lot of emphasis of achievement scores of amorphous, one-time testing rather than student growth throughout the entire year.

It’s part of the “proficiency versus growth” debate that really came to the forefront during the Betsy DeVos confirmation hearings when she could not delineate between whether test scores are used to measure student “achievement” or student “growth.”

Consider this:

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Interestingly enough, in the school year 2019-2020, the school performance grade scale will shift from a fifteen-point scale to a ten-point scale. Do you know what that means?

IT WILL BE HARDER FOR PUBLIC SCHOOLS TO QUALIFY AS PASSING. IN FACT, SCHOOLS COULD HAVE A HIGHER PERCENTAGE OF STUDENT GROWTH AND STILL GET A LOWER SCHOOL PERFORMANCE GRADE! AND THE SCHOOL REPORT CARD SITE WILL HIGHLIGHT THAT!

There will be more failing schools. This comes from a legislative body that endorsed the state board last school year to institute a ten-point scale for all high school grading systems to help ensure higher graduation rates, but now shrinks scales for those schools’ performance grades.

This comes from the same legislative body that literally is propping up the very state superintendent who is championing this very site.

Guess what else is happening in 2019-2010? Voucher expansion! From the recent session that gave us our current budget:

SECTION 6.6.(b) G.S. 115C-562.8(b) reads as rewritten: “(b) The General Assembly finds that, due to the critical need in this State to provide opportunity for school choice for North Carolina students, it is imperative that the State provide an increase of funds of at least ten million dollars ($10,000,000) each fiscal year for 10 years to the Opportunity Scholarship Grant Fund Reserve. Therefore, there is appropriated from the General Fund to the Reserve the following amounts for each fiscal year to be used for the purposes set forth in this section: 


Fiscal Year Appropriation

2017-2018 $44,840,000
2018-2019 $54,840,000
2019-2020 $64,840,000
2020-2021 $74,840,000
2021-2022 $84,840,000
2022-2023 $94,840,000
2023-2024 $104,840,000
2024-2025 $114,840,000
2025-2026 $124,840,000
2026-2027 $134,840,000

Bottom line is that this site is helping to fuel the slanted and loaded argument that what this state needs more of is SCHOOL CHOICE! However, what is happening in this state is that “school choice” really is a euphemism for unregulated charter schools and vouchers – neither of which have produced results that show improvement for student achievement.

  1. The site is maintained by SAS.

Look at the web address – https://ncreportcards.ondemand.sas.com/src/. That “sas” represents SAS, the same SAS that controls EVAAS which measures schools by a secret algorithm. That “.com” means it’s maintained by a commercial entity. It gets paid taxpayer money.

Back to Johnson’s letter accompanying the new website:

“We launched the new website, a completely redesigned online resource that provides the transparency you need into the characteristics and performance of your school in an easy-to-use format, to better inform you. I encourage you to follow the link to a school’s individual website to find out more about the school’s full story.”

There’s a word there called “transparency.” EVAAS is the very epitome of not being transparent.

Actually, it is rather mindboggling to think that a measurement which comes from EVAAS is so shrouded in so much opaqueness. With the power to sway school report cards and school performance grades, it would make sense that there be so much transparency in how it calculates its data so that all parties involved would have the ability to act on whatever needs more attention.

And people are literally invited to take action on the data presented by the school report card website. In fact, SAS’s measurement slaps you in the face as soon as you choose a district or school.

Picture6

In fact, if one chooses to look at a district, then all schools are displayed according by color to whether they met growth and with a large letter grade. It’s like they are already being compared against each other when the very makeup of the schools and the obstacles each faces could differ a lot.

Think about what a school report card might not show.

  1. Does the school report card show how successful graduates are in post-secondary educational endeavors like Virginia which has dropped the performance grading system?
  2. Does the school report card consider the viewpoints of the parents whose students are being taught? school report card
  3. Does the school report card consider the viewpoints of the students and how they feel about the learning experience and their security in the school and the classroom?
  4. Does the school report card consider how many students are taking “rigorous” courses?
  5. Does the school report card consider the amount of community service done by students in the school?
  6. Does the school report card consider the strength of the drama department and the quality of the productions?
  7. Does the school report card consider what is seen in the yearbook?
  8. Does the school report card consider the strength of the student newspaper?
  9. Does the school report card consider the strength of the JROTC program?
  10. Does the school report card consider the number of viable clubs and organizations on campus?
  11. Does the school report card consider the amount of scholarship money won by graduating students?
  12. Does the school report card consider the number of student participating in sports?
  13. Does the school report card consider the number of foreign languages offered?
  14. Does the school report card consider the number of students in the Student Section at a game?
  15. Does the school report card consider the number of students who wear spirit wear?
  16. Does the school report card consider the number of students involved in choral and musical endeavors?
  17. Does the school report card consider the number of students who attend summer academic study opportunities?
  18. Does the school report card consider the quality of the artistic endeavors of students through visual and performance arts programs?
  19. Does the school report card consider the strength of programs that hope to help marginalized students?
  20. Does the school report card consider the transient rate of the student body?
  21. Does the school report card consider the poverty levels of the surrounding area that the school services?
  22. Does the school report card consider the number of students who hold jobs?
  23. Does the school report card consider the effect of natural disasters such as hurricanes?
  24. Does the school report card consider the funding levels of the programs?
  25. Does the school report card consider the number of students on 504 plans or IEP’s?
  26. Does the school report card consider the rations of nurses and counselors to students?
  27. Does the school report card consider the class sizes?

Yes, this new interface for the school report cards of NC’s public schools looks modern and it does show data in a more eye-friendly manner, but what it really displays is how unwilling this current crop of policy makers are in confronting what really affects our schools, especially poverty.

It also is proof that Mark Johnson is more interested in the appearance of doing well.

And appearances are deceiving.

 

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.