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.