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

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

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

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

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

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

Barefoot comes on screen after about three minutes.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

8:24 – “Well, I….”

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

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

Damn right it’s a problem.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Barefoot represents Wake County.

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

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

Like during the recovery from the Great Recession.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wow.

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

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

Sen. Bill Rabon’s Commitment to Not Fully Fund NC’s Public Schools

From Rep. Craig Horn on January 4, 2018:

“The gap is closing. There are folks that are working on a reasonable solution with the session coming as quickly as it is next week” ((http://www.ncpolicywatch.com/2018/01/04/chairman-house-education-committee-solution-class-size-crisis-imminent/).

From Sen. John Alexander on January 17, 2018:

“We are still trying to gather information from all 100 counties of the state, to ensure that any fix is amiable to all. Please know that I share in your concerns, as do all the members of the General Assembly, and we have heard you. We are working diligently towards a solution that will benefit all” (https://www.ncpolicywatch.com/2018/01/17/gop-senators-email-promises-relief-class-size-crisis-march/).

From Sen. Bill Rabon January 19, 2018:

“We appreciate and share Sen. Alexander’s strong commitment to find a resolution that will ensure the smaller class sizes we’ve already paid for while funding enhancement teachers beginning in the 2018-2019 school year, but we have not yet determined a specific timeline. Last year, school districts began raising concerns that they would no longer be able to fund enhancement teachers in subject areas like art, music, drama and P.E. We asked them to share their calculations with lawmakers so we could understand how much, if any, additional funding was needed and are in the process of analyzing the data” (http://www.wral.com/rabon-not-so-fast-on-that-march-class-size-session/17274023/).

Days after a glimmer of sunlight started to possibly peek its way through the partisan clouds hovering over the class size mandate, Sen. Bill Rabon made sure to keep the skies overcast. And there are so many self-revealing aspects about his statement today that should not only madden public school advocates but also reinforce the notion that many in Raleigh do not want to see public schools fully funded.

First, Sen. Rabon would do well to actually prove that the mandate has been funded. If he claims that he is awaiting data to ascertain whether additional funding is needed, then his repeated assurances that is has already been funded should actually have data ready to validate that claim.

Additionally, he said that districts had begun to “raise concerns” LAST YEAR. Actually, that was last spring. For Rabon to say that the NCGA does not have the data in hand is ridiculous. One only needs to see how tightly audited each school in the state is each year and one can see that districts could supply that information in a matter of days. Rabon’s claiming that it takes months.

And above all, to actually fund the mandate would go against everything that Rabon has stood for in his tenure as a lawmaker – at least when looking at his actions.

This is the man who did not let HB13 even come to a vote in the North Carolina Senate after the House unanimously passed it in its original form. From April 6, 2017:

One bipartisan-supported reprieve to the looming class size order, House Bill 13, gained unanimous approval in the state House in February, but despite advocates’ calls for urgent action this spring, the legislation has lingered in the Senate Rules Committee with little indication it will be taken up soon.

Sen. Bill Rabon, the influential eastern North Carolina Republican who chairs the committee, did not respond to Policy Watch interview requests, but his legislative assistant said this week that Rabon’s committee will not consider any House bills until the General Assembly’s April 27 crossover deadline (http://www.ncpolicywatch.com/2017/04/06/school-officials-preparing-fire-thousands-specialty-teachers-order-meet-k-3-classroom-mandate/).

This is also a man who has taken money from a well-known charter school mogul named Jonathan Hage who runs Charter Schools USA.

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.

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  • 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 and now is the president of ALEC.
  • There’s Rep. Bryan who helped to bring in the ASD district now known as the Innovative School District and is a major player in one to of the private companies trying to get the contract.
  • 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.
  • And there’s Bill Rabon, who stalled the HB13 bill in the Senate.

But possibly what really shows Sen. Rabon’s reluctance to even consider fully funding public schools is his primary sponsorship of a bill in June of 2016 that mimics what many erroneously call the Taxpayers Bill of Rights or TABOR.

The constitutional amendment wouldn’t affect the current rate – which will drop from 5.75 percent to 5.499 percent next year – but would effectively prevent the legislature from raising income taxes. The constitution now includes a maximum rate of 10 percent (http://www.newsobserver.com/news/politics-government/state-politics/article83773162.html).

That version of TABOR would have capped a vital source of revenue that the state would need in times of crises. That’s scary to think about. The very fabric, the very sinews of society like schools, healthcare, and environmental protections would be instantly jeopardized and it would take years to recover as a result of this bill.

Remember that all three of those areas (schools, healthcare, and environment) have already been hazardously affected in the last few years here in North Carolina. We have just been ranked 40th in the latest Education Week Report Card, Medicaid expansion was not allowed by the lawmakers in Raleigh (like Rabon), and just look at what is still happening with Duke’s coal ash spills and GenX.

A commitment to TABOR is a commitment to limiting how public schools get funded. To sponsor a bill like TABOR is saying out loud that you do not want to fully fund public goods and services in times where people need them most.

Also, do not let it be lost that Rabon also serves on the committee for redistricting. Most of America is very familiar with NC’s drawing of districts.

Therefore, Sen. Rabon’s words about the class size mandate are simply his way of saying that he does not want to fully fund it and he does not want to tell you that he already knows what the data says.

 

Tommy Boy and the Class Size Crisis – Concerning Sen. John Alexander’s Empty Words

I miss Chris Farley.

Tommy Boy Quote Butcher 1000 Images About Tommy Boy On Pinterest Tommy Boy Chris

His stint on Saturday Night Live is still memorable. There’s that opening number with Patrick Swayze where he and Swayze were competing for a spot in the Chippendale dancers. Then there’s Matt Foley, a motivational speaker who lives “in a van down by the river.”

But my favorite Chris Farley performance was not on SNL; it was in the iconic comedic movie Tommy Boy. I know, not classical cinema, but it was funny. And the one-liners!

One particular quote stands out more than others. It’s when Tommy Boy is trying to sell enough brake pads to save his family’s business. A potential contract hinges on his ability to convince the client he himself has faith in the quality of the product. Tommy Boy says,

“I can get a good look at a T-bone by sticking my head up a bull’s ass, but I’d rather take a butcher’s word for it.”

Tommy Boy wins the contract because the client takes his word for it. The client listens to someone who knows more about the situation, albeit in a comical way. Everything turns out well. Tommy Boy saves the family business from the corporate takeover from Dan Ackroyd’s character, Zalinski.

It is also an apropos way to describe the class size mandate debacle that has palgued our school systems and their ability to budget allocations for the coming year. Rather than trust teachers and professional educators concerning how to solve this problem, legislators like Sen. John Alexander chose to push an agenda that hurts public education in North Carolina that includes vouchers, unregulated charters, and an Innovative School district that could be run by a  profit-minded, impersonal company like Zalinski’s.

One of the most frustrating moments of this class size debate came recently when Sen. Alexander ignorantly stated in an email (from Billy Ball in NC Policy Watch today),

“We are still trying to gather information from all 100 counties of the state, to ensure that any fix is amiable to all,” Sen. John Alexander wrote in an email last week. 

Alexander—who co-chairs a key Senate budget committee—was responding to pleas for the state legislature to provide additional funds or flexibility to local school districts in advance of a pending mandate that they slash class sizes in grades K-3.

The Wake County senator wrote that the relief comes after “much discussion, research and hard work over the last several months,” although he offered no specifics on any plan.

“Please know that I share in your concerns, as do all the members of the General Assembly, and we have heard you,” said Alexander. “We are working diligently towards a solution that will benefit all.”

 

Where’s that research? Where is the proof that you have the data? Where is the proof of gathering the input of all 100 counties?

It took several months to get to a place where Sen. Alexander could make a claim that there might be some relief for the class size mandate coming in the next session without giving any specifics.  That’s pretty bad.

It’s an inexcusable excuse.

And that bit about “a solution that will benefit all”? Impossible.

Why? Because what Sen. Alexander feels is beneficial for his party and its partisan education reforms is completely antithetical to the health of the state’s public school system.

People like Barefoot, Berger, and Lee (and Alexander) don’t take a butcher’s, I mean a teacher’s, word for it. They refuse to repeal bad mandates or even try to fully fund public schools.

Now consider the aforementioned Tommy Boy quote again but with a twist.

“You can stick your head up the bad legislation’s ass, but I’ll take the teachers’ word for it.”

For that matter, they can take the students’, the parents’, and the financial analysts’ words for it.

But if they would rather have their heads up an ass, then….

Hallelujah, and Pass the Lard! – Sen Joyce Krawiec’s Uneducated Assertion on the Class Size Mandate

“If brains were lard, you couldn’t grease a small skillet.”

– Sen. Joyce Krawiec, Jan. 20, 2017 in reference to the people participating in the Women’s March.

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Not Sen. Krawiec’s best moment.

One would think that since the senator equated lard with brains and the fact that much lard was actually sent to her directly in response, she would have kept some on hand “to grease a pan” and look at the actual facts of the very budget she helped to craft and pass in North Carolina before making baseless claims.

In this particular instance, it is about public education and the class size mandate, a law that will very much hurt the very county she represents, Forsyth County.

The Winston-Salem / Forsyth County school system has over 50,000 students and over 80 schools. The class size mandate will severely alter the county budget because it is unfunded and ill-conceived.

Kris Nordstrom, policy analyst and budget guru who worked in the NCGA much longer than Krawiec has been a lawmaker has more than proven that it is an unfunded mandate. Yet, Krawiec in a rather “lardless” way trumpets the purposefully false assertion that the state has put forth the money.

She said in an email that was printed by NC Policy Watch,

“So what’s the big deal with the Senate?  Why all this confusion?  The General Assembly believes reducing class size in K-3 will increase positive outcomes for our young people.  We have dedicated approximately $70 million of your tax dollars annually for this goal.  Any good steward of other people’s money should be expected to ask, ‘How it was spent?’
How many K-3 teachers should $70 million buy?   The average state cost of a classroom teacher, including benefits, is about $63,000, (salary x 1.26).  That works out to approximately 1,100 new K-3 teachers for our children.  Simple enough.
What does DPI report in their Highlights of the NC Public School Budget? (Summary attached)  Before additional funding began in 2013 there were 26,158 allotted K-3 teachers.  This year 2017-18 DPI reports funding 26,671.5 positions.  A net change of 513.5 new K-3 teachers and this includes any funded through growth in ADM (Average Dailey Membership).   Our children are missing about 600 K-3 teachers for which you payed.   That is a problem” (http://pulse.ncpolicywatch.org/2018/01/15/rest-assured-senator-know-teachers/#sthash.pDj5KOyd.V4v8LvKl.dpbs).

So Nordstrom does what he does best – show the truth in the numbers. Check out his recent post in response in to Krawiec’s assertion.

Nordstrom ends with his post with this:

It is inexcusable that General Assembly members continue to get the basic facts of this class-size issue so incredibly wrong. General Assembly members have access to the impressive analytical skills of the Fiscal Research Division staff, who are there to help General Assembly members understand the basic facts of often complex policy issues. It displays incredible hubris for members to send out error-filled emails or make inaccurate statements to the press without first checking with staff to make sure they have their facts straight.

Maybe it’s just a lack of lard.

When Your State Superintendent Won’t “Rally”‘ For Public Schools

Rally (noun)
1a : a mustering of scattered forces to renew an effort
2: a mass meeting intended to arouse group enthusiasm (merriam-webster.com)

It is the right of every American to come together and peacefully speak out for an issue. What someone rallies for speaks for their interests and values.

When a lawmaker or an elected official attends a rally, it can show his priorities and his loyalties.

Take North Carolina State Superintendent of Public Schools Mark Johnson for instance.

According to the job description of the state superintendent, Johnson is responsible for the “day-to-day” management of the North Carolina public school system. It seems that if anything was to threaten the public school system, then Mark Johnson would be the first to “rally” for the public school system and the students in the public school system.

This past weekend a rally was held in Raleigh at the Halifax Mall of public school advocates calling for a fix to the class size mandate that threatens most public school systems. This unfunded dictate will cause LEA’s to make decisions on what classes must be eliminated and how to navigate certain obstacles on classroom space and teacher allotment.

That rally was to petition Raleigh’s lawmakers to do the right thing. FOR PUBLIC SCHOOLS.

Mark Johnson was not there. Yet a former state superintendent was present, Bob Etheridge. He was rallying for public schools.

Other rallies have been held in recent years for public education dealing with funding and keeping teacher assistants. Mark Johnson was not there for any of those as there are no indications of his attendance. On his personal webpage as state superintendent, Johnson remarks,

…having served as a teacher, an education leader, and as a father of a young daughter soon to start school, improving education in North Carolina is a personal mission for Johnson (http://www.ncpublicschools.org/statesuperintendent/).

It seems that with this assumed pedigree of public school commitment, Johnson would be the first to rally for public schools – as a teacher, a “leader,” and as a parent.

Yet it has been documented that Mark Johnson has refused to answer inquiries in state board meetings about public school policy which is in essence a chance to “rally” for public schools.

But that does not mean he will not “rally” for people. Take for instance an event on January 23rd.

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Johnson will be there. He’s even the keynote speaker. He will rally for charter schools in a state that has gone out of its way to deregulate charter schools, ramp up vouchers, and use taxpayer money to fund those endeavors when no empirical data shows an overall increase in student achievement.

That’s the same taxpayer money that is not now being used for public schools and not being used to actually fund the class size mandate.

Interesting that a man “elected” by the people would rally for school choice but not for traditional public schools where around 90% of the state’s students “choose” to attend school. But it is not surprising.

Why? Because Mark Johnson does not really seem to stand for public schools as much as he “rallies” for private interests and GOP stalwarts in the NC General Assembly. If he disagrees with that statement, then he can come to a rally for public schools and explain himself. He can be more “public” to the “public.” However, his unavailability and his unwillingness to speak up for public schools are becoming more of the rule rather than the exception.

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 said 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 implying 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).

He indicated that he only goes to “rallies” that he is told to go to. Even the rally he will attend for school choice is in the legislative building where the General Assembly meets.

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.

School choice is part of the ALEC agenda.

Of course Mark Johnson would rally for them.

Now, what North Carolina needs to do is rally to change the people in Raleigh in the next election.

Sue Sylvester Would Repeal The Unfunded Class Size Mandate in NC And Make Public Schools More “Glee”ful

It is not hard to imagine one of the legislative offices at the North Carolina General Assembly to be inhabited by yet another individual who refuses to repeal the class size mandate that threatens to hurt our public schools.

Someone so dead-set against the arts that he/she would sabotage their funding with lies and antagonistic plans.

Someone who has so convinced him /herself that what is really needed in public education is more political agendas rather than public service.

Someone like the Sue Sylvester.

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In fact, the Sue Sylvester of the first four seasons of the hit-show Glee would fit in just fine with the GOP caucus that runs West Jones Street, especially when it comes to public education. In just a few short weeks, that entire caucus could be adorning themselves in matching Adidas brand track suits as they file into secret chambers for a midnight meeting during a special session to grab power in surreptitious ways.

Sue Sylvester would have a megaphone in that meeting.

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Yes, Glee is not that realistic in many ways.  It’s more like an episodic Broadway musical with characters who so dramatically play their roles “over the top” that they become their own caricatures. Shows survive by ratings, and ratings come with unrealistic plot lines.

But there is a lot about Glee and the Sue Sylvester character that does shed a bright stage light upon the fate of public schools. In fact, the creators of the show and its writers make it rather plain that they are very much advocates of the arts in our schools.

Sue Sylvester’s character is always at odds with the glee club because of what might be termed as “inadequate” funding.  Lack of funding in public schools is more than a running theme in North Carolina.

Sue Sylvester’s character is very much of a bully. There might be a few of those on West Jones Street.

Sue Sylvester’s actions got her fired. Considering the number of unconstitutional actions taken by the current NCGA with voter rights, gerrymandering, and removal of teacher due-process rights for veterans, there are many who might think those “fireable” offenses.

Sue Sylvester comes back to work after all she has done.  That coach at Trinity Christian in Fayetteville was allowed to go back to work even after he embezzled LOTS of money from taxpayer funded vouchers.

And then there’s what the creators and writers of Glee actually comment on schools through the entire series.

There’s the fact that the show emphasizes the arts with the glee club.

There’s the fact that issues such as bullying and sexual identity are heavily explored which is rather apropos considering the HB2 debacle and the “legivangelism” so prevalent in Raleigh.

There’s the fact the issues such as inclusion of exceptional students and kids are important. With characters (and actresses) who happen to have Down Syndrome on the show, Glee shows that people are always more alike than they are different – especially students.

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And finally, there is the series end where Sue Sylvester (as VP of the US – yes a woman in that high office) comes back to help dedicate the new auditorium at the school she once tried to bend to her will. William McKinley High now is an exemplary school because it embraces the arts.

Sue Sylvester came to her senses in the last season.

Makes you wonder if those lawmakers in Raleigh could come to their senses and repeal the class size mandate. If not, then we should cancel their “series” in the next elections.

But it would be neat to see Berger, Barefoot, and Lee in matching tracksuits.

This Kid Wants Raleigh to Fix the Class Size Chaos

The public teacher in me is going to Raleigh for the rally to end class size chaos because I know the ramifications of what inaction will do to public schools.

The public school advocate in me is going because the power of fellow advocates coming together and acting collectively is greater than the sum of our individual parts.

But it’s the parent of two public school kids in me that will be in Raleigh in force.

I talked about my artist who is in high school earlier this week – https://caffeinatedrage.com/2018/01/02/my-kid-is-an-artist-one-of-the-many-reasons-for-me-to-go-to-the-rally-to-stop-classsizechaos/.

But I have another child in elementary school whose needs are very much affected by the class size mandate.

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The same Raleigh lawmakers who claim to want to help kids with special needs with vouchers, charter schools, and other “reforms” are the same ones who have put our public schools in jeopardy with this class size mandate.

What my kid wants to remind them of is that the only real option he had for schooling was his local public school who takes him in every day with open arms, and yes, we as parents explored every possible avenue.

My kid also wants to remind them that:

  • His teacher assistant is vital for his success.
  • And he gets to take his “specials” with typical students so that he can learn from them as many children who happen to have Down Syndrome are very visual in their learning style.
  • The physical education classes help with his muscular development as most children with Down Syndrome have hypotonia (low muscle tone).
  • The arts classes help him to express himself as he learns to be better at communicating.

All of those are in jeopardy if nothing is done about the class size mandate.

To say that as a parent of a child who happens to have special needs that I am a little concerned about what Raleigh is allowing to happen is an understatement.

So, I will go to Raleigh as a teacher, advocate, and a parent.

 

An Open Letter to Rep. Craig Horn About The Class Size Mandate Complete With a Churchill Reference

Dear Rep. Horn,

A news article today that some sort of solution will be reached concerning the class size mandate and its consequences was certainly welcome to many public school advocates.

As Billy Ball reported on NC Policy Watch’s website,

A plan to resolve North Carolina’s class size crisis is in the works and should be wrapped up in the coming weeks, an influential state legislator tells Policy Watch (http://www.ncpolicywatch.com/2018/01/04/chairman-house-education-committee-solution-class-size-crisis-imminent/).

That influential lawmaker was you.

“The gap is closing,” says Rep. Craig Horn, a Union County Republican who co-chairs the House K-12 budget committee. “There are folks that are working on a reasonable solution with the session coming as quickly as it is next week.”

And I believe that you are sincere in making this prediction.

But Ball also related something about how you came to say these words. He goes on to state,

Horn’s comments came after a meeting with local school board members in Charlotte this week, who, like many districts across the state, say a looming legislative mandate to slash class sizes in the early grades would have dramatic implications without additional funding or a reprieve from lawmakers.

“That did not fall on deaf ears,” said Horn. “I clearly understand the timeline and getting a decision made as soon as possible. The (local school districts) are under the gun.”

Meeting with the school board for Charlotte / Mecklenburg is certainly not the first time that you have had a chance to hear concerns. Many public school advocates have been screaming about the implications of this class size mandate for over a year.

You have mentioned in the past that this mandate is detrimental to our public schools. You were actually quoted about this in November of 2016 acknowledging that the NCGA’s original ideas to “curb” class sizes were not very clearly thought out.

How things play out is not always how you expect them to play out,” Horn told Policy Watch this week. “I mean, we obviously intended to make class changes. Did we fully understand all of the implications? Quite frankly, hell no” (http://www.ncpolicywatch.com/2016/11/14/new-rules-lower-class-sizes-force-stark-choices-threatening-tas-specialty-education-positions/).

So I have to ask first, why did it take a meeting with CMS officials this week to get you to talk about a plan to help alleviate a problem that you emphatically said existed almost fourteen months ago?

And yes, I know that legislation can be a matter of trial and error. Even you have explained that.

“Legislation is not an exact science” – – Craig Horn in EdNC.org on Sept. 21, 2017.

That was said in response to the principal pay program from earlier this school year that has drawn so much criticism because of its poor planning and abrupt enactment. It was a case where Raleigh seemed to be building the plane while flying it.

I sincerely hope that when you claim that a “fix” is coming to the class-size mandate, that it will have been thoroughly thought through and has every intention of not only funding the mandate fully, but ensuring that specials stay in our schools.

As Ball quoted you as saying,

“My personal view is that arts, P.E. and music are not enhancement courses; they are as key to a good education as is math or physics or English. We are required by the state constitution and the courts to provide a sound, basic education. My opinion is that arts, music and P.E. are part of that sound, basic education.”

And now I am going to ask a second and a third non-rhetorical question: Will you be forceful enough to make other decision makers of your political party understand that a basic sound education must be fully funded and enabled by Raleigh? Will you openly fight for that even if it means you calling out your contemporaries?

That’s not asking for you to use a “magic bullet that answers everybody’s needs.” I am asking you to use your position and power to follow through and fulfill the needs of public schools.

Your affinity for Winston Churchill is well known. You often quote him and make reference to him on your website, www.craighorn.com.

You are even called “Representative Churchill” by your legislative colleagues owing to your close association with the Churchill Centre. You are president of the Churchill Society of North Carolina and serve on the Board of Governors of the International Churchill Society and the Churchill Centre.

You may know of this quote that is falsely attributed to Winston Churchill.

winston-churchill-arts

It would be fantastic for this missive if that quote was actually Churchill’s. Yet, alas.

But Churchill did say this:

“The arts are essential to any complete national life. The State owes it to itself to sustain and encourage them….Ill fares the race which fails to salute the arts with the reverence and delight which are their due.”

That works well enough.

And Churchill would confront people when he needed to be confrontational.

Will you?

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

 

Kep Calm

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

When the Bible that people like Chad Barefoot and Phil Berger and Tim Moore read talks about a temple, it talks about the insides, not just the outsides.

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

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

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

It would make them less prepared.

It simply would hurt public education.

Don’t think Jesus would want that.

 

 

 

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

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

Straight through their teeth.

With a smile.

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

And it will affect all other grades.

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

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

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

And a good one at that.

She took this picture of me in my classroom.

IMG_5642

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

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Just one of many portraits she has done.

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

Just take a look at the literary magazine.

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

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

Hope to see you there.