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.

rally

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.

sue sylvester 1

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.

sue sylvester 2

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.

sue sylvester 3

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.

IMG_6049

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.

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

IMG_6032

Just one of many portraits she has done.

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

Just take a look at the literary magazine.

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

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

Hope to see you there.

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

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

For years, the General Assembly has been sending tens of millions of dollars to districts for new classroom teachers for the purpose of lowering classroom sizes,” he said. “The question we keep asking over and over again is, ‘What did they do with the money? …The data that we have received from the districts varies, and some districts did not fully respond to our information request. What some of the data has shown is that there are districts that did not reduce class sizes with the funding we sent them. Why are they holding art and PE teachers’ jobs hostage for their misallocation of classroom teacher funds?” (http://www.wral.com/law-reducing-class-size-has-music-art-pe-teachers-anxious-about-future-/16628678/).

I do.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Take a look at the video on the link below.

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

Stoops

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

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

elmo

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

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

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

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

Within that article, Nordstrom states,

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

That bears repeating:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

Hamlet Tweets With The Hashtag #ClassSizeChaos

Search “#ClassSizeChaos” on Twitter and you will find the beginnings of a grassroots movement to get the North Carolina General Assembly to take action on the class size mandate that it is currently using to hold public school systems hostage because it is an unfunded directive designed to force LEA’s to make cuts to certain aspects of education.

From Lindsay Wagner’s recent article ” Will North Carolina schools see a fix in January for the class size crisis?”:

If current law stands and the General Assembly does not fund enhancement teachers or make other changes this January, local school districts will have to begin drawing up plans to comply with the mandate that include the following scenarios, they say: increase class sizes in grades 4-12; cut or displace arts, music, PE and special education classes; reassign students to different schools to alleviate crowding; and, in some cases, eliminate or displace Pre-Kindergarten (https://www.ednc.org/2017/12/06/will-north-carolina-schools-see-fix-january-class-size-crisis/).

Wagner is one of our best education journalists and what she also highlights in this article is the Senate’s seemingly purposeful ignorance of doing something about his unfunded mandate that threatens so much in our state’s schools.

Justin Parmenter’s recent op-ed in the Charlotte Observer is another excellent summary of the debacle that this class size mandate has become – http://www.charlotteobserver.com/opinion/op-ed/article186085753.html?. platform=hootsuitev.

Simply put, this is our General Assembly at work. Or rather our General Assembly intentionally not working.

That’s why “#ClassSizeChaos” has become an important movement. Public Schools First NC and NC PTA just hosted a webinar on how to bring more voice to this vital issue — an issue that must be dealt with in the January session.

classsizechaos

Make no mistake, if this mandate goes untouched by the General Assembly, then the effects will not just be felt in K-3 classes. All grades will be affected. ALL GRADES.

That means all students will be AFFECTED by a willful attack on our public schools’ ability to teach the whole child.

One of the more popular electives in my school is the Shakespeare course. It is not a “core” course, but does attract a lot of students who may not have otherwise taken a specific literature course in their high school career outside their English core requirements.

The section I teach this year is currently in the middle of Hamlet considered by many to be Shakespeare’s masterpiece. (Actually, Shakespeare has many masterpieces, but that is my humble opinion).

There is a scene where a traveling troupe of “players” comes to Elsinore and are welcomed eagerly by Hamlet. He sees an opportunity to allow art to imitate life in his quest to avenge his father’s unnatural death. With him at that time is Polonius, the father of Ophelia who represents an older generation who is unwilling to see how the younger generation can further shape the world.

Polonius is a older white man who has made a career of becoming politically powerful so that he can dictate how others should live.

Sound familiar?

Hamlet asks one of the players to give a spur-of-the-moment rendition of a speech about how Pyrrhus’s revenge upon Priam for the death of his father during the latter part of the Trojan War. It is moving.

The uptight and unmoved Polonius does not think much of the speech. Hamlet admonishes him. He says in Act II, scene ii:

HAMLET: ’Tis well. I’ll have thee speak out the rest of
this soon.—Good my lord, will you see the players
well bestowed? Do you hear, let them be well used,
for they are the abstract and brief chronicles of the
time. After your death you were better have a bad
epitaph than their ill report while you live.

That’s a stinging admonishment. Hamlet is telling Polonius that the role of these artists is far more important than people like Polonius realize. What the arts allow society to do is chronicle actual history precisely and genuinely rather than hastily within a revised text.

Odd that a tragic character from a play from over 400 years ago tells us that we need to keep the “arts” and specials alive in our own schools lest we be looked upon in history as close-minded. What’s more ironic is that according to NC’s curriculum standards with the Common Core, we have to somehow expose students in all high school grades to some sort of Shakespeare.

Hamlet also teaches us that when a king’s castle is out of order, then the country it supposedly rules is out of sorts as well.

#ClassSizeChaos is a product of a few on West Jones Street in Raleigh. The likes of Phil Berger and Chad Barefoot and Jerry Tillman should take up this issue lest the chaos become more tragic.

They do not need anymore of an “ill report.”

 

 

 

 

School Districts Don’t Need to Manage Money “Better” – Lawmakers Need to Better Fund Schools

Today Lindsay Wagner posted an incredible piece concerning the class size mandate that Raleigh has placed on K-3 classrooms and the effects on local school systems.

In “Without action, class size mandate threatens Pre-K in some school districts” on the Public School Forum of North Carolina website, Wagner focuses on Warren County’s situation.

Without the necessary time and money to build more elementary school classrooms to satisfy the General Assembly’s requirement to lower class sizes next year in kindergarten through third grades, Warren County Schools’ Superintendent Dr. Ray Spain says he’s looking at eliminating most or all of his Pre-Kindergarten classes district wide.

“It’s going to be disastrous.”

Spain says he’s forced to consider this scenario because there’s simply not enough space in Warren County’s elementary schools to give the older children more teachers and smaller classes while also giving low-income 4-year-olds an early learning environment that, a large body of research says, is critical for their success in kindergarten and beyond (https://www.ncforum.org/without-action-class-size-mandate-threatens-pre-k-in-some-school-districts/). 

Wagner makes sure to note that Warren County is a poor rural district and those districts desperately need strong pre-K programs to help combat the effects of poverty on school aged children.

prek

And now that very vital resource is about to go because of political grandstanding.

When Wake County is scrambling to even meet the mandate for class size, imagine what smaller, rural schools districts are having to do?

Apparently drastic measures such as what Warren County and other systems have to consider.

Remember what Chad Barefoot once said when the HB13 fiasco was starting. He said,

“For years, the General Assembly has been sending tens of millions of dollars to districts for new classroom teachers for the purpose of lowering classroom sizes,” he said. “The question we keep asking over and over again is, ‘What did they do with the money? …The data that we have received from the districts varies, and some districts did not fully respond to our information request. What some of the data has shown is that there are districts that did not reduce class sizes with the funding we sent them. Why are they holding art and PE teachers’ jobs hostage for their misallocation of classroom teacher funds?” (http://www.wral.com/law-reducing-class-size-has-music-art-pe-teachers-anxious-about-future-/16628678/).

That’s all he has said. There was no proof of the data. No explanation of what he had seen. No transparency. If he is to make the claim, then he needs to show us where those “misallocations” really are.

But there are none to be seen. Yet district leaders like Warren County’s Dr. Spain show that the misallocation is actually on the state’s part, not the local districts.

As Wagner relates when talking about Camden County’s forced obstacles,

Camden County in northeastern North Carolina is also looking to displace about four Pre-K classes from their elementary schools, said Camden County Board of Education Chair Christian Overton….

…Overton said there is a larger issue at play when it comes to laws that the General Assembly enacts without accompanying them with the resources necessary for their implementation.

“We’re given these mandates to comply with the law, but not getting any funds to help increase the number of classrooms or teachers. So what’s the next step? If we don’t have more funds to pay teachers, do you RIF [lay off] other personnel to hire them?” said Overton.

Overton took issue with the argument from some lawmakers in the General Assembly who say that districts simply need to do a better job managing the funds they have been allocated by the state.

“Our budgets have steadily decreased over the past several years,” said Overton. “Speaking for our own district, we have been very frugal and forthcoming in the spending of our funds to produce positive outcomes for our children—and the performance of our schools show that.”

“At what point does one more unfunded mandate added on start to have negative impacts on our ability to improve a child’s education?” Overton said.

Ironically, Mark Johnson has made comment that Pre-K services are a vital part of his agenda. He even intends to hire an assistant superintendent for early education. From an April 5th article on WRAL.com,

…the new assistant superintendent would “really focus on best practices for early childhood education,” Johnson said, and allow the state to “study it, find out what works best and present those back and really start to tackle early childhood” (http://www.wral.com/nc-superintendent-announces-revamped-reading-program-new-early-learning-position/16623169/).

So, what does Mark Johnson have to say about what is happening to places like Warren County and Camden County?

Is he willing to go and fight for these school systems to be adequately funded to meet the almost impossible mandates with the current allotment?

Is he even willing to address the issue?

Because whether he wants to believe it or not – it’s his job.

Kids are depending on it.

Dear Sen. Barefoot, How Are You Going to Respond? Concerning Class Sizes in Wake County and All NC Elementary Schools.

Dear Sen. Barefoot,

Earlier this calendar year you were quoted as saying,

“For years, the General Assembly has been sending tens of millions of dollars to districts for new classroom teachers for the purpose of lowering classroom sizes,” he said. “The question we keep asking over and over again is, ‘What did they do with the money? …The data that we have received from the districts varies, and some districts did not fully respond to our information request. What some of the data has shown is that there are districts that did not reduce class sizes with the funding we sent them. Why are they holding art and PE teachers’ jobs hostage for their misallocation of classroom teacher funds?” (http://www.wral.com/law-reducing-class-size-has-music-art-pe-teachers-anxious-about-future-/16628678/).

You never showed proof of the data. There was no explanation of what you had seen. There seemed to be no transparency. You made the claim, but never showed us where those “misallocations” really were.

Senator, you helped craft and pass a budget which ensured that per pupil expenditure would remain well below the national average (and lower than pre-recession days in adjusted monies) and funneled more finite resources into privatization efforts like vouchers.

You helped push a budget that has already cut DPI’s funds by 10 percent this year and another portion next year.

Then you spawned HB13 that launched itself into the everyday conversation of public school districts as your need to “reform” public education took new heights. And the fruits of your efforts are starting to show.

This past week the North Carolina Superintendent of the Year, Dr. James Merrill, sent a letter to the Wake County Delegation in the North Carolina General Assembly. As an elected official from Wake County, I am sure you received this letter.

wake letter

These are the schools and families that you represent, Sen. Barefoot. These are your constituents. These are your students. These are your communities.

Whether you should reply is not the question. You are an elected official. You will respond, either with a public comment, a private letter, or with the response that screams loudest – the non-answer.

The question is whether you have the wherewithal to respond directly to all of the people who are affected by the rather partisan stab to public schools that HB13 has become and continues to be.

Yes, we know that you are not running for reelection on 2018 and that this matter may not be totally settled before you end your tenure as a senator to “spend more time with your family.” But your actions with this class size restriction mandate (among many, many others) affects the “school communities” of “more than 90 of (your) 113” Wake County elementary schools. That’s a lot of families whose parents want to spend time with their school-aged children, hopefully knowing that their children have the needed resources for school.

To say that the rest of the state is not paying attention to what happens to Wake County schools in this matter would be false. In each LEA, there are conversations occurring that are attempting to best handle massive cuts to follow a mandate championed by people like you who have also ironically bragged about our state’s surplus.

So senator, how are you going to respond?

How will you explain to Dr. Merrill that this “class size” restriction without a plan to help resource extra classrooms and displaced teachers is good for Wake County schools? Or any other county’s schools?

How would you condone “moving art and music teachers out of their classrooms, creating upper elementary grades with more than 30 students and placing two teachers in some classrooms?”

And while you do not have to reconvene for the General Assembly until next month, Wake County elementary schools will be open again tomorrow and the next day and the next day.

And the next day.

So, senator. What is your explanation?

Senator? Senator?