HB90 Shows That NC’s Public School Children Are Political Pawns

News today that a “fix” for the class size mandate was “agreed” upon by both chambers of the North Carolina General Assembly should seem like a welcome outcome.

On the surface, it is a victory for parents, advocates, and schools in that the mandate will be pushed back for a while and some extra funding for “specials” teachers is being given.

But during that press-conference in which Sen. Chad Barefoot announced with carefully prepared and partisan comments the “fix,” he negated to tell North Carolinians what else was attached to the bill that NC democrats were never privy to (http://www.newsobserver.com/news/politics-government/state-politics/article199207129.html).

That link not only gives you a video of Barefoot’s press conference; it also links to Lynn Bonner’s report that further explores HB90’s reach.

Long-sought help for schools struggling to lower class sizes is now tied up with a controversial Atlantic Coast Pipeline fund and a power struggle over control of elections boards.

A bill proposed Thursday would take $58 million that energy companies building a pipeline through Eastern North Carolina are expected to give state government as part of a deal Gov. Roy Cooper negotiated, and distribute it to school districts in eight counties the pipeline would run through. Cooper calls it a mitigation fund to offset environmental effects of the pipeline, but Republicans repeatedly called it a “slush fund.”

House Bill 90 also makes changes to the state elections board. The changes are the response to Republicans’ recent loss in the state Supreme Court in a ruling that said their earlier attempt to reconstitute the board was unconstitutional. In the latest iteration, the elections board would have nine members, including one member not affiliated with a political party.

But to Barefoot and other GOP members of the NCGA, the day was really about bragging about a class-size fix.

Throughout most of the last calendar year people like Barefoot, Berger, and Moore have been yelling that the class size mandate has been funded in the past, yet there was absolutely no proof of that. One only has to read the work of Kris Nordstrom and see that those claims were not only baseless, but now are revealed to be the very smokescreen for today’s announcement.

What happened today was that the GOP education reformers took credit for a solution to a problem that they purposefully used to position themselves to pass partisan legislature to help them remain in power despite the gerrymandering and doublespeak.

And yes, it is politics. But public school kids were the pawns. They made it look like they were listening to the public, but it seems more than orchestrated.

Think of Craig Horn’s statements earlier in the year that a “fix” was coming only to be rebuffed by Berger. That is until more came out about the ruling of the state supreme court on the state elections board. They needed that time to figure out how to allow a fix that they have been holding in their back pocket to a problem they originally created could be used to offset their political loss.

And again, the kids were the pawns.

They have been all along.

Gov. Cooper’s office did respond with a press release and it is correct.

cooper

But the statements that came to mind were from Mark Johnson’s “less than stellar” op-ed from yesterday’s News & Observer (http://amp.newsobserver.com/opinion/op-ed/article198795214.html?__twitter_impression=true).

And some of those tasked with making schools better are more focused on preserving tired partisan wedges….

Nothing was more partisan than what the people who empower and enable Johnson  (who never has really said anything about the class size mandate) did today.

And today also shows us why we need to vote so many people out of office come November.

“There Are Lots of Things We Do That We Don’t Even Know That We Did” – The Unsafe Legal Loopholes of NC Charter Schools

safety

Yesterday, the 12th school shooting of 2018 took place in Los Angeles.

A 12-year-old girl was booked on a charge of negligent discharge of a firearm after two students were shot in a Los Angeles middle school classroom on Thursday, police said.

A 15-year-old boy who was shot in the head was in critical condition, and a 15-year-old girl who was shot in the arm was listed as stable, Los Angeles police said Thursday night. Los Angeles County-University of Southern California Medical Center said both were expected to make full recoveries – https://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/los-angeles-middle-school-shooting-two-students-wounded-female-student-n843726.

Yesterday at my school a fire alarm went off about five minutes after school ended its last class. It was not a drill and emergency vehicles did appear quickly. Students knew where to go and faculty went into a emergency mode. We have had an actual electrical fire occur before because of faulty equipment, so we are rather sensitive to safety.

Then this report came today.

From WRAL:

The horrific images of school shootings are branded in the public consciousness. Sandy Hook, Columbine, and just last week, Marshall County, Kentucky, where a 15-year-old student killed two classmates and hit a dozen others with gunfire. And the list goes on.

While North Carolina has taken major steps to improve school safety, a loophole in the law means some public schools might not be prepared if they ever have to go into lockdown.

North Carolina law requires traditional public schools to practice lockdown drills at least once a year to prepare if an intruder ever came on campus. Yet, North Carolina charter schools, which are publicly funded and privately run, are not required to do the same (https://www.wral.com/legal-loophole-allows-nc-charter-schools-to-forgo-safety-lockdown-drills/17304844/?version=amp&__twitter_impression=true).

It does not seem likely that it was a deliberate omission on the part of lawmakers to allow charter schools to not have to do safety drills as a requirement to receiving public money for operations, But it is not an excuse.

Rather, it is a symptom of a bigger problem in North Carolina: the rush to allow charter schools to operate to fulfill a political agenda for promoting “school choice” before thinking all matters through.

Perhaps the most eye-opening part of the WRAL report came with Rep. Craig Horn’s comments about the loophole.

“I’m glad that you brought it up. There are lots of things we do that we don’t even know that we did,” said Rep. Craig Horn, R-Union, who serves as house education committee chair.

Lawmakers intended to give charter schools more flexibility, Horn explained, but “safety is safety is safety.”

“If it’s a good idea and it’s proven to be a good idea, then yes, let’s do it,” he said.

Horn says he’s open to changing the law, but plans to consult with charter school leaders first.

Of course Rep. Horn would be concerned. He and other lawmakers would not in any way want to place students in any school in an unsafe situation. However, when he says, “There are lots of things we do that we don’t even know that we did,” one has to wonder if there are a lot of other “unintended consequences” to a lot of things that Horn and other lawmakers have done that could have been prevented if principles came before personalities and public came before politics.

Removing the charter school cap was rather an abrupt action. So were voucher expansions, the ISD school district, and other “reforms.” And to contradict what Rep. Horn says above, those ideas are not “proven to be good idea(s).”

But it’s what Horn says last that really shows advocates like myself the lack of vetting and precautionary actions used by the North Carolina General Assembly when they allowed for so many “reform” to be released on North Carolina’ s public school system.

Horn says he’s open to changing the law, but plans to consult with charter school leaders first.

Again: PLANS TO CONSULT SCHOOL LEADERS FIRST.

This past week the venerable Justin Parmenter published an op-ed in EdNC.org entitled “Unintended consequences: Legislation deserves the educator’s touch.”  It is more than worth the read. It takes a more disarming tact than posts on this blog tend to, but its power is not negated in any way. It talks very well about the need to consult teachers and educational leaders before enacting broad and sweeping reforms on schools.

If Horn’s assertions that changing the laws and mandates for charter schools means talking to their leaders first, then should it not be reasonable to think that before making changes to the entire educational system that lawmakers consult with educational leaders like teachers, administrators, and superintendents?

And if that did happen, why is there really no proof of that?

Yes, there should be safety drills in all schools.

And there should be more done to make sure that we don’t have to say “there are lots of things we do that we don’t even know that we did.”

Too much at stake.

 

 

 

 

A Pathetic Rebuttal – The John Locke Foundation’s Weak Attempt to Discredit the Quality Counts Education Report

In the days since Education Week released its yearly report, “Quality Counts 2018: Grading the States,” people at the John Locke Foundation have gone out of their way to debunk the report’s findings.

JLF1

This year, NC was ranked 40th down two spots from last year and down 21 spots since it peaked at 19th in 2011. And while people like John Hood, Dr. Terry Stoops, and Mitch Kokai have written and communicated arguments to try and weaken the power of the report, their arguments actually validate the effectiveness of the Education Week report and reveal a baseless attempt at damage control.

Why “damage control?” Because in attempting to debunk the report, what happened is that more light was shed on the gross “reforms” that have been at play in NC and have been championed by the John Locke Foundation – the same “reforms” that have brought North Carolina’s ranking down.

First came John Hood’s op-ed in the Carolina Journal entitled “State education rank isn’t low” (https://www.carolinajournal.com/opinion-article/state-education-rank-isnt-low/). It starts,

“If you recently read or heard about North Carolina ranking 40th in “education” and found that rank plausible, I thank you for keeping up with the news. If you saw that story and found North Carolina’s low ranking implausible, I thank you even more energetically for being both informed and duly skeptical.”

You are welcome, Mr. Hood.

Offered are many arguments which probably could use a little more fleshing out.

He says,

“For starters, the study does not appear to adjust properly, if at all, for state-by-state variations in buying power. When schools vie for the services of teachers, vendors, or construction companies, they are competing against other potential employers or buyers. To evaluate the real expenditure, then, requires either adjusting measures such as per-pupil spending and teacher salaries for living costs or comparing against, say, the average pay of non-education jobs that prospective teachers might take in their respective jurisdictions.”

That whole “per-pupil expenditure” statement is a rather big subject, but if I hear him correctly, Hood is making a claim that NC has greater “buying power” than other states and that we should really pay attention to the salary averages of comparable occupations that would vie for potential teachers.

First, that “buying power.” If NC had such buying power, then it should start using it for things like textbooks, professional development, teacher assistants, and other vital resources.

Secondly, most potential teachers have college degrees. If Hood wants to argue that teaching in NC offers better pay and conditions than other comparable occupations, then he would need to explain why there is such a drop in teacher candidates in state schools. He would need to explain why the state needed SB599.

Hood then states,

“To put the matter more simply: personnel is the main expense for school districts. Living in Sanford is less expensive than living in San Francisco. If you don’t properly account for these kinds of disparities, any nationwide comparison of school spending is utterly useless.”

With that reasoning, then every rural district in NC that has such a hard time staffing its schools should start touting its “LOWER COST OF LIVING” aspect as part of its appeal. Some could argue that lower cost of living means cheaper property and cheaper goods. The taxes on those local commodities help to fund local schools and considering that the state is pushing more expenses to the local schools with more mandates, local school systems are having a harder time with getting the appropriate revenue.

Just ask any LEA about the class size mandate.

Then Hood says,

“With regard to educational outcomes, there are also challenges in constructing valid apples-to-apples comparisons. While policymakers, parents, and taxpayers certainly need to know the overall performance of our students, raw measures of test scores and graduation rates don’t necessarily speak to the educational value added by the schools themselves.”

Hood should say that to all of the lawmakers that he and his boss support.

And concerning the argument of NAEP scores from NC, it would be nice to know how charter schools or schools who use Opportunity Grant money score on that test since the John Locke Foundation is such a proponent of school choice and vouchers.

Hood might also want to explain why his viewpoint is so different from Bob Luebke’s op-ed two years ago posted on Civitas’s website: https://www.nccivitas.org/civitas-review/quality-counts-2016-nc-score-c/. Civitas and the John Locke Foundation are two faces of the same creature.

Luebke says for NC’s rank of 37th in 2016 (same criteria as 2017),

“Nevertheless QC represents one of the more accepted and longstanding attempts to get a handle on an elusive topic…North Carolina’s rank of 37th should raise concerns for obvious reasons….”

Interesting.

Not long after Hood’s missive, Mitch Kokai attempted to help stop the bleeding with “Misused statistic hurts N.C. in national school ranking.” Again, that was posted on Carolina Journal’s website: https://www.carolinajournal.com/opinion-article/misused-statistic-hurts-n-c-in-national-school-ranking/.

It begins,

“A recent national report dinged North Carolina for its lower-than-average “per-pupil expenditure.” At least one state lawmaker is likely to grumble openly about that result.

Per-pupil expenditure is one of the most common data points used to compare public education systems within states, across the nation, and even around the world.”

Kokai uses the per-pupil expenditure measurement as the foundation of his argument (PPE) because the Quality Counts report mentioned specifically that NC has a very low grade on school finance.

“Lloyd told the N&O that “what especially hurt” North Carolina in calculating that No. 45 ranking was its PPE numbers, as compiled from 2015 federal data. North Carolina spent an average of $9,217 per student, compared to a national average of $12,526. The “Quality Counts” report showed 2.5 percent of this state’s 115 school districts exceeded that national average.”

Interestingly, Kokai leans on Rep. Craig Horn’s explanation that PPE is not that important when it comes to the quality of education.

During a November 2017 task force meeting, Horn detailed his concerns about PPE’s usefulness. “Here in North Carolina we are, arguably, the fastest-growing state in the nation — certainly one of the fastest-growing states in the nation,” Horn told colleagues. “Therefore, we have a lot of kids coming in. We need a lot of teachers.”

“Teachers don’t generally start at the top or even in the middle of the pay scale,” he continued. “New teachers, of course, start at the bottom of the pay scale. If you have an increasing number of students and an increasing number of teachers at the lower end of the pay scale, per-pupil expenditure is going to be lower — which does not necessarily at all mean that the quality of their education [is lower] or that you’re not meeting the needs of the student.”

“As the teaching corps matures, the per-pupil expenditure — same number of students, same number of teachers — the PPE will go up,” Horn said. “I have a hard time, personally, using PPE as a benchmark of much of anything, quite frankly.”

I don’t have a hard time using PPE as a benchmark.

Horn then explains as Kokai recounts,

“Involved in PPE are the fixed costs of running your school,” he said. “Well, if a school is built to hold 1,000 students and holds 700, your PPE is X. Just do the math. If your student population happens to go up to 800 or 1,000, your fixed costs are the same. Your PPE has gone down. But nothing’s really changed with regard to quality.”

That’s where Horn is egregiously mistaken and Kokai uses that mistake in backing up his argument which is a mistake because he is trying to debunk a report that shows that all of the reforms Kokai and his cronies have championed have all been…mistakes.

PPE (at least from the state’s contribution) is mostly used for teacher salaries. The rest is used for resources like textbooks, transportation, and services.

  • Don’t more students require more teachers? And if according to Hood we need to look at the average salary of occupations for careers that might take away our potential teachers, should not salaries (for more need teachers) be going up quite steadily?
  • More students require more textbooks, right? They don’t get cheaper.
  • More students mean more services, correct? Like nurses. Maybe Horn could look at this – http://www.wral.com/study-need-for-school-nurses-growing-in-nc-could-cost-79m-a-year/17280561/.
  • Buses don’t get cheaper. Nor does having to buy more gas for more routes because we are growing as a state.
  • And that “fixed costs” part? More students mean more buildings that the local systems have to deal with. That means higher utility costs and upkeep.

Throw in a class-size mandate that Horn already says isn’t funded and you see how Horn’s PPE argument does not hold much weight.

Just like both Hood and Kokai’s arguments do not hold much weight.

Ironically, Dr. Terry Stoops of the John Locke Foundation said on January 18th in T. Keung Hui’s report on the QC report,

“The data used for the report are from 2015, so it does not include recent efforts by the North Carolina General Assembly to raise teacher compensation and support programs designed to raise student achievement. I suspect that these changes will improve our grade in future editions of Quality Counts” (http://amp.newsobserver.com/news/local/education/article195365259.html).

So, to put all of this in perspective:

Hood says the report does not put into consideration NC’s “buying power” (that it chooses not to use) and lower costs of living for places that have a harder time staffing its schools.

And Kokai says that per-pupil expenditures are not a reliable measure because Rep. Horn said they were not.

However, Luebke said that the QC reports are one of the more accepted studies out there.

And yet, Stoops says that we should see better results because we have started raising PPE’s since 2015.

Now, that’s some truly porous damage control for a truly damaging report that shows the damage done to North Carolina’s schools, damage that really stared when McCrory came into office and brought in Art Pope as his first budget director.

The same Art Pope who funds both the John Locke Foundation and Civitas.

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?

About the NC Gerrymandered Joint Legislative Task Force on Education Finance Reform

Beginning this month, a “Joint Legislative Task Force on Education Finance Reform” is meeting in Raleigh to start “investigating” how to “best” fund public schools with state money.

And they are now looking at possibly eliminating the salary schedule for public school teachers and what might be another disastrous, planned “reform.”

As Billy Ball reported in a post yesterday on NC Policy Watch,

“A pivotal legislative task force may be just beginning its dive into North Carolina’s school funding maze, but lawmakers’ hints that they may abolish the state’s teacher salary schedule or other state-set funding allocations is already spurring criticism from local district advocates.

Talk of nixing a state-set pay scale emerged this year when lawmakers took on a revamp of school principal pay, and it’s resurfaced multiple times in the Joint Legislative Task Force on Education Finance Reform’s first meetings in November.

Yet local district leaders and their advocates in Raleigh say the proposal may only exacerbate the state’s looming pay disparities between wealthy and poor counties, spur employment lawsuits and complicate matters for local school boards” (http://www.ncpolicywatch.com/2017/11/17/legislators-consider-abolishing-teacher-salary-schedule-study-nc-school-funding-labyrinth/).

The word “task” is certainly “pivitol” here in this context. Why?

Because if you simply take a look at the members of the “task” force, you can easily see that there already was a “task” at hand and it was started years ago when the GOP powers in Raleigh took control of the General Assembly.

That “task” is tightly linked to an agenda that has been executed and carried out long before this “pivotal task force” ever convened: dismantle the public education system.

Below is a list of the members on the Joint Legislative Task Force on Education Finance Reform.

Task Force

19 people appointed by each branch of the General Assembly. That makes it already under the control of Sen. Phil Berger and Rep. Tim Moore, two of the biggest “reformers” in the state.

Look at that list of 19 people.

  • 16 of the 19 are republican.
  • 15 of the 19 are male.
  • 17 of the 19 are white.
  • 17 of the 19 were never in education as a profession (although Lambeth was on the school board of Forsyth County for a number of years).

And they as a group are to help revamp the way that public education is to be funded for a public that they are grossly unrepresentative of?

That list is a great example of the effects of gerrymandering.

Go further and look at that list more closely. It includes some of the major players and champions of the “reforms” that really have hurt public education in North Carolina.

  • Chad Barefoot
  • David Curtis
  • Jerry Tillman
  • Jon Hardister
  • Craig Horn

Sen. Barefoot has been a champion for the watered down version of the Teacher Fellows, the original sponsor of SB599 which allows people to enter the teaching profession with minimal training, and was an original architect for HB13, the class size bill that is threatening so many districts with layoffs and seismic budget constraints.

Sen. David Curtis is a stalwart supporter of charter schools and has been rather vocal on his views of what public school teachers are “worth.” One only has to revisit that rather caustic letter he wrote a young teacher a few years ago and see that his view of public education is set in stone – http://wunc.org/post/teacher-email-legislators-draws-harsh-reply#stream/0.

Sen. Jerry Tillman has probably been the staunchest supporter of the unregulated charter school industry here in North Carolina. He also was instrumental in helping craft legislation to bring in the Innovative School District. His abrasive nature against debate and constructive criticism has been well-known for years.

Rep. Jon Hardister has been part of the “reform” since he took office. On one instance, he wrote an op-ed pretty much proclaiming the same platitudes and generalities that Rep. Moore recently did on EdNC.org. They were easily refuted – http://pulse.ncpolicywatch.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/09/Letter-to-Hardister.pdf. Hardister also has tried to help further charter school growth by financing it with other state money – https://caffeinatedrage.com/2017/06/01/robbing-peter-to-pave-for-paul-rep-jon-hardisters-misguided-amendment-for-charter-schools/.

Rep. Craig Horn has literally been in the center of every education “reform” in this state, the most recent being the principal pay plan. When backlash for the plan became rather quick and vocal he exclaimed,

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

But science requires thought, reflection, observation, and objectivity. This “task force” being led by Rep. Horn is actually an exercise in rapid narrow-minded policy changes.

With over a quarter of this task force controlled by these people, it should not be too hard to realize that this “Joint Legislative Task Force on Education Finance Reform” is nothing more than a gerrymandered body whose agenda to further privatize a public good is more important than actually representing the public of North Carolina.

If this really was a “task force,” then maybe it should spend its time and energy trying to validate with real research and real data the effectiveness of the very “reforms” that many on this “task force” have championed.

But alas, that would go against their narrative and would require a look at the truth.

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.

 

Every Principal in NC Has The Right to Speak Out Against This New Principal Pay Plan – It’s “Political Crap”

“Legislation is not an exact science. We do things that we think will help solve an issue.”

– Craig Horn in EdNC.org on Sept. 21, 2017.

Rep. Craig Horn’s quote was in response to what he called “overblown fears” concerning the new principal pay plan newly implemented this school year (https://www.ednc.org/2017/09/21/principal-pay-situation/).

However, considering what this current slew of lawmakers, including Horn, has done to “reform” public education here in North Carolina, it is rather ironic that he says that educators should not have “fears.” Anyone who has been an advocate for public schools in North Carolina knows full well that this state has every reason to fear what is brewing in Raleigh concerning educational reforms.

Horn mentions that legislation is not an exact science, but it is odd that he refers to it as a science because if it is then we have some lousy “scientists” in Raleigh. Consider the need for scientists to thoroughly investigate all possible scenarios and constantly experiment before declaring something a “law.” Consider that scientists usually have their work peer-reviewed before publishing.

But that would go against the special sessions of Horn’s constituents and their use of secret midnight meetings. Furthermore, if Horn is claiming to be practicing a science, then why not listen to actual scientists when it concerns matters like coal ash spills, GenX, and fracking?

The problem with Horn’s comments found in response to criticism of the principal pay plan is that those comments are simply weak and do not even pass the basic tenants of the scientific process. In fact, they are insulting to educators and those looking to see past the smoke and mirrors which have come to define the political process in Raleigh.

Horn continues (as Granados explains),

“Did we intend to get it done perfectly? Well, we would have liked to have, but we don’t kid ourselves,” Horn said. “Did we intend to screw somebody? No. Period.” 

Intentions can be debated all day, but actions speak truly. This principal pay plan simply does “screw” people, both literally and figuratively.

But for Horn to say that “screwing” somebody with this principal pay plan was not intentional? The “we” he refers to must mean the GOP establishment in power on West Jones Street. And frankly, those people do not have a good track record with having good actions backing up their intentions.

Maybe the representative should explain how HB2 did not intentionally target transgender citizens of North Carolina. Maybe he should explain how the unconstitutional Voter ID law did not intentionally target lower-income minorities. Maybe Horn should explain how the racially-gerrymandered redistricting plan that his own party enacted was not intentionally constructed to screw people over.

To continue with Horn’s scientifically unsound comments:

Horn also expresses frustration with some of the critics who he said have unfairly used the hold harmless provision to demonize Republicans. He said their fears are theoretical. 

“That may happen. This may happen. The Earth may explode. To use that as a bludgeon is patently ridiculous,” he said. “It’s fear mongering and political crap at its worst.” 

It’s funny that someone like Horn talk about frustration. Ask any veteran public school teacher or administrator about how Raleigh has totally changed the landscape of public education in North Carolina morphing it from a once nation-leading progressive system to a playground for privatizing, then you will hear some scientifically supported frustration.

The irony is not lost on Horn’s use of the word “theoretical” since he and his cronies will pass a hint of a baseless hypothesis into law within the matter of a day – like HB2. Or HB14. Or SB4. Without any experimenting! Yet, the people who actually are practicing the scientific method and have advanced degrees and conducting research are telling us that we are doing everything in our power to make the Earth explode. People in Houston, Puerto Rico, and Mexico have sure seen things explode.

Horn would call that last statement “fear mongering” and “political crap,” but what he is actually selling is “crap mongering” because of “political fear.” Why? Because the principal pay plan is so shallow and thin that it shows the lack of “scientific process” used by lawmakers to pass it. And people immediately recognize it.

If one looks at the actual steps of the scientific process as taught in our high schools based on the curriculum that the state prescribes, then one can see the steps real scientists use to explore. The steps listed below actually come from DPI’s K-12 Standards page for science (http://www.ncpublicschools.org/curriculum/science/).

  1. Asking questions and defining problems
  2. Developing and using models
  3. Planning and carrying out investigations
  4. Analyzing and interpreting data
  5. Using mathematics and computational thinking
  6. Constructing explanations and designing solutions
  7. Engaging in argument from evidence
  8. Obtaining, evaluating and communicating information

Except in this instance the problem defined was how to make principals and schools do more with less. The model came from some political playbook used by ALEC-leaning bodies. The planning occurred behind doors without actual educators. The data that was analyzed involved monetary bottom lines. The math and the computational thinking come from entities that benefit from this pay plan like SAS. Given explanations have been broad and nebulous. There is no evidence. And lastly, a body of lawmakers that uses special sessions and secret meetings which shut out other points of view does not practice communication well.

Horn’s comments still do not explain why the principal pay plan simply assumes that principals were not already focused on helping students achieve. He never explains why their getting advanced degrees to become more qualified to handle tasks and duties of an educational leader who has to navigate the terrain of today’s educational reality is not important. And he sure as hell does not explain how the same lawmakers who champion this plan resolve to help alleviate poverty’s effects on student performance.

Until he does that, then all he is giving us is a lesson in political scatology.

The NC General Assembly Should Cap Class Sizes and Fund For Arts and PE – Jesus and Churchill Would. It’s About Investing In Our Kids, Not Using Them As Pawns.

Arika Herron’s recent Winston-Salem Journal column this past Sunday entitled “Too big to learn? Schools seeking waivers for exceeding class-size limits” brought to mind the ongoing disconnect that legislative leaders in our state have with reality when it comes to curbing class sizes in public schools.

As reported last fall in a variety of media outlets, NC General Assembly leaders were pushing to limit class sizes in early grades (k-3) to a prescribed number. The problem with the original bills associated with such an endeavor was that there would be no additional funding to really alleviate the need for extra classrooms and teachers because fewer students per classroom would mean more required classes and more space.

Well… actually, there was a solution to that in the eyes of many a lawmaker – cut “non-core” classes, specifically physical education, art, music, and other specialties. If certain classes cannot be tested by state tests for “student achievement,” then they may not be as important.

At least to some.

And with Herron’s report came the stark realization that many in Raleigh still choose to ignore the reality in schools for what appears to be purposeful reasons. And when they do finally witness what happens in public schools, these lawmakers feign surprise.

For instance from Herron,

In a recent visit to Jefferson Elementary School, which has six classrooms with more than 24 students, Rep. Debra Conrad, R­-Forsyth, said she was surprised to see such large classes.

“We allot based on a ratio,” she said. “We’re trying to find out what (school districts) have been doing with the money.”

School officials said the district doesn’t fill classrooms with just 18 students — as the state allots — because it uses some of its allotted teaching positions to hire for special classes like art, music and physical education. There is not a specific state allotment to hire those special teachers and because they don’t have a dedicated class assigned to them, they do not affect a school’s teacher­-to-­student ratio.

Jefferson Elementary is one of the highest rated schools in the district and has been for quite a while, and Debra Conrad has been a representative for Forsyth County for at least three terms.

Further on in Herron’s report it states,

The flexibility that currently allows districts to do that and fill classes above their allotted ratio is in jeopardy. A provision of the budget bill would hold schools to strict class sizes starting with the 2017­18 school year.

However, lawmakers are currently considering a bill that would give back the flexibility after school districts across the state said they would have to cut art, music and gym classes in order to comply. Some districts, like Forsyth County, have said they’re also already facing a teacher shortage and struggling to fill the elementary positions they have now — let alone dozens more. Many districts would need additional classroom spaces, too.

What they do not see must not exist. And what does not exist must not need money.

This is not just by accident. And it is not simple ignorance.

It’s intentional. And until they receive lots of feedback from lots of angry parents and citizens, they will not reverse course. That’s why it is incumbent to call lawmakers. That’s why our journalists must be fearless in reporting what is true.

Remember, this is the very same General Assembly that ramrodded vouchers (Opportunity Grants) down the throats of tax payers to allow people to send their children to private schools because of the thought that public schools were not doing their job.

The recent Duke Law School Children’s Law Center’s report called SCHOOL VOUCHERS IN NORTH CAROLINA : THE FIRST THREE YEARS (https://law.duke.edu/childedlaw/School_Vouchers_NC.pdf.) has some rather enlightening summations about the NC voucher program established by the same people who want the very class size restrictions in public schools, yet who also claim ignorance to what happens in overcrowded schools. One of the most damning conclusions states,

“The North Carolina voucher program is well designed to promote parental choice, especially for parents who prefer religious education for their children. It is poorly designed, however, to promote better academic outcomes for children and is unlikely to do so.”

While these lawmakers applaud the structure of the private schools for their small class size, unique approaches to teaching, and their well-rounded curriculum, they seem to admonish traditional public schools in their quest to have the same resources.

Ironic that over 93% of vouchers go to private religious schools that are overwhelmingly Christian in affiliation, and while traditional public schools are having to worry about cutting arts, music, dance, and physical education just to fit students within limited resources, voucher-enabled religious schools get to teach their students in reduced-sized classrooms verses like,

“Let them praise his name in the dance: let them sing praises unto him with the timbrel and harp.” – Psalm 149:3.

 “Do not neglect the gift you have, which was given you by prophecy when the council of elders laid their hands on you.  Practice these things, immerse yourself in them, so that all may see your progress” – First Timothy 4:14-15.

“Thus I do not run aimlessly; I do not fight as if I were shadowboxing. No, I drive my body and train it, for fear that, after having preached to others, I myself should be disqualified” – 1 Corinthians 9:26-27.

Those verses talk about music, dance, creative talents, and physical fitness. And those are being sacrificed by our General Assembly within traditional public schools under a ruse of fiscal responsibility when in actuality it is nothing but ignorance and neglect.

When so many of our lawmakers who tout the very “reforms” that have actually hurt traditional public schools profess such a love of Jesus Christ, then would it not make sense for them to invest in all schools?

And when lawmakers like the aforementioned Rep. Conrad support school choice and vouchers they are actually supporting using tax payer money to help fund schools that service far fewer students than traditional public schools.

Consider another observation from the SCHOOL VOUCHERS IN NORTH CAROLINA: THE FIRST THREE YEARS report.

“The participating schools range in size from very small to large. As the following chart shows, six of the participating schools enroll more than 1,000 students. The most typical size for a participating school is between 100 and 250 students. However, 33 schools (7%) have ten or fewer students, with another 42 (9%) enrolling 20 or fewer students. Together, that means that nearly a fifth of the schools accepting vouchers have total enrollments of 20 or fewer students” (p.8).

The “most typical size for a voucher accepting school is between 100 and 250 students?” That’s fairly eye-opening when you consider that many public high school teachers are teaching six out of eight slots in a block schedule without a cap on students per class. That means that many high school teachers in typical public schools are teaching as many students in their classes (150-200) as there are total in the “typical” school that participates in the voucher program here in North Carolina.

And yet lawmakers have measured the merit of teachers and graded our public schools without regard to class sizes in the past few years, but when they decide to alleviate the “class size” issue they create a “bait-and-switch” scenario that further weakens how public schools can service the majority of school aged-children.

It was a little encouraging to hear Rep. Craig Horn quoted last November in NC Policy Watch 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/).

Ironic that Rep. Horn is a huge admirer of Winston Churchill. He often quotes him and makes reference to him on his website, craighorn.com.

Craig is often called “Representative Churchill” by his legislative colleagues owing to his close association with the Churchill Centre. Craig is president of the Churchill Society of North Carolina and serves on the Board of Governors of the International Churchill Society and the Churchill Centre.

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

winston-churchill-arts

It would be fantastic for this essay 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.

What would work even better is for the North Carolina General Assembly to take measures to cap all class sizes and keep the arts and physical education classes alive and vibrant.

It’s money well spent. Rather, it’s money well invested.

About That Guest Column Today in the Winston-Salem Journal – Concerning “Intellectual Dishonesty”

Nothing is ours but our language, our phrasing. If a man takes that from me (knowingly, purposely) he is a thief. If he takes it unconsciously–snaking it out of some old secluded corner of his memory, and mistaking it for a new birth instead of a mummy — he is no thief, and no man has a case against him.

Mark Twain,  Letter to Robert Burdette, circa April 19, 1890

I read with great interest the guest column in the October 22nd Winston-Salem Journal entitled “What McCrory has done for North Carolina.” You may read it here – http://www.journalnow.com/opinion/columnists/maurice-atwood-what-mccrory-has-done-for-north-carolina/article_78cb1927-7292-5b7d-b24d-af306a621fb5.html.

(NOTE: The article has been taken down from the WSJ site. A Copy can be found here – maurice-atwood_-what-mccrory-has-done-for-north-carolina-winston-salem-journal_-columnists).

And while it begins with a famous quote from Winston Churchill concerning “incontrovertible truth,” there were points argued by the guest columnist that could be flushed out more cleanly and would very much validate Mark Twain’s quote above. That will be left for another time.

Here is Winston Churchill’s full quote that the guest columnist starts his op-ed with and supposedly frames his argument around – truth.

“The truth is incontrovertible. Malice may attack it, ignorance may deride it, but in the end, there it is.”
But the purpose of this particular response is not to combat the article’s arguments in the guest column. It is to examine the meaning of truth and how it is supposedly delivered. If you read the article, I invite you to focus on the last paragraph because how the guest columnist ended the column really struck a nerve with me. It starts with “Let’s choose facts.”

Ironically, Winston Churchill was a journalist at one time. He even won the Nobel Prize for Literature later in his life. He was very keen on his choice and use of words.

It’s interesting how the guest columnist ends this concluding paragraph with “Suggesting anything other than these truths is being intellectually dishonest.” That’s a strong suggestion and supposes that anyone who would counteract the supposed truths in his op-ed would be “intellectually dishonest.” If that is the case, then I am an intellectually dishonest person because I can refute each of these points that are considered truth by the guest columnist.

Actually, I believe that makes me intellectually honest in my opinion. The person who is being “intellectually dishonest” is not me or anyone else who has challenged the governor or the GOP’s educational agenda, but the guest columnist himself.

Why? Because the guest column is largely plagiarized from another source. Actually more than half is lifted word for word from Rep. Craig Horn’s “Stop the Spin” posting from September 4th on his website, www.craighorn.com/?cat=3.

Here is a screen shot.

Craig Horn.png

And below is the text of the posting. You may compare it to the guest column in question and find a high rate of plagiarism, a sin that Winston Churchill would have abhorred and that is probably one of the greatest offenses in “intellectual dishonesty.”
Election season, or the Silly Season as it is known by many, is again upon us. It may be useless to bring some common sense into the picture, but let’s try.


In 2011, this state was nearly $3 billion overspent. Personal Income Taxes, Corporate Income Taxes and gasoline taxes were the highest in the Southeast and among the highest in the nation. North Carolina could not borrow money, our credit card was over the limit and we owed the Feds billions of dollars for money borrowed to sustain an under-performing system.


Over the last four years, Governor McCrory and the General Assembly have paid off those debts to the Feds, reduced personal and corporate income taxes to be among the lowest in the region, reduced and capped the gas tax AND added over a billion dollars to education funding in this state.
Before committing millions of dollars to teacher raises, Governor McCrory met with teachers and superintendents across this state who were clear that we must raise teacher salaries dramatically. And, they told us all that we must start with our newest teachers first or we will never be able to rebuild our base.


Over the last two years, North Carolina has implemented the largest teacher pay increase in the nation. We have also firmed up teachers’ benefit package which is now worth about $16,000 per year for every teacher in this state. Furthermore, contrary to what some teacher’s groups purport, NO benefits have been removed for new teachers, longevity pay was NOT taken away from veteran teachers, textbook funding has tripled during this administration and $97 million has been leveraged in federal and state funding to connect all schools to a robust Wi-Fi system by 2018.


In addition, graduation rates are at an all-time high and drop-out rates are at an all-time low. “Education Next” magazine now ranks North Carolina among the top K-12 schools in the nation for rigor and “Wallethub,” the online personal finance blog, has moved North Carolina into the top twenty in the nation for education quality and security.


There is more. We have stabilized the tuition costs for a 4- or 5-year degree by fixing tuition at all public universities so that students and parents can reliably plan ahead for these costs. And capping fee increases at no more than 3% a year. Our 58 Community Colleges are moving to an outcome-based education model and our Independent Colleges and Universities are helping to fill the void for the many needs-based scholarship students.


So what about the naysayers that just cannot stand for North Carolina to prosper and are desperate for bad news? Those folks keep saying, “It’s Not Enough!” Well, how much is enough? Consider that a teacher entering his 10th year of teaching has realized a 21% salary increase since Governor McCrory entered office; a teacher in his or her 19th year of teaching has seen a 15.5% increase.


Actually, we agree that we need to “Keep Pounding” and ensure that every teacher is prepared, supported and rewarded for their efforts and for improved student outcomes. And we need to complete the transition to the digital education environment. That prepares every student in our state for the demands of the twenty-first century job market. But, to ignore what has been accomplished thus far is dishonest and prevents real conversations about necessary school reform from taking place.


As our state continues to grow, we will need to attract more teachers to the classroom as well as retain and support our experienced teachers and principals. Their guidance and experience is critical to our future success. They too deserve more pay and they need to extend their hand of welcome and support to our newest educators.


Winston Churchill once said, “The truth is incontrovertible. Malice may attack it, ignorance may deride it, but in the end, there it is.” These words of Churchill stand in stark contrast to the words that are preached on the other side of the political divide regarding education in North Carolina. If people simply looked a bit deeper at what the naysayers espouse, it would be ver obvious that much has been accomplished in a short amount of time.


We can choose ignorance and thus succumb to believing lies, but we know where that leads us. The truth is incontrovertible. When we can work together in a spirit of respect and understanding, we can climb to amazing heights and make life better for everyone.
The choice, as well as the responsibility, lies within each one of us.


By:
D. Craig Horn
Representative, District 68
North Carolina General Assembly

Merriam-Webster’s online simple definition of plagiarism is “the act of using another person’s words or ideas without giving credit to that person : the act of plagiarizing something.

Sounds like “intellectual dishonesty” to me.

The Winston-Salem Journal probably has a circulation of print and electronic media nearing maybe 200,000 readers. To present another person’s work (and half-truths in my opinion) is the very definition of intellectual dishonesty. To do it openly and deliberately for that many readers is egregious.

In truth, Rep. Horn’s “Stop the Spin” posting is not intellectually sound. It’s simply just a piece of political propaganda.

And I will post an intellectually honest answer to it soon after this posting.