Open Letter to the Registered Voter Who Believes in Public Schools

Note: I have combed through all of my op-eds, posts, rants, and lists and compiled from them what follows as a last posting to help get people to vote next Tuesday for pro-public education candidates.

The current General Assembly and governor are very scared of public school teachers and those who support them. Without their support in this next election cycle, many candidates for office simply cannot win. That’s why the governor and NCGA have touted so many “band-aid” style electioneering schemes to make them appear pro-public education.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

When the GOP won control of both houses in the North Carolina General Assembly in the elections of 2010, it was the first time that the Republicans had that sort of power since 1896. Add to that the election of Pat McCrory as governor in 2012, and the GOP has been able to run through multiple pieces of legislation that have literally changed a once progressive state into one of regression. From the Voter ID law to HB2 to fast tracking fracking to neglecting coal ash pools, the powers that-now-be have furthered an agenda that has simply been exclusionary, discriminatory, and narrow-minded.

And nowhere is that more evident than the treatment of public education.

Make no mistake. The GOP-led General Assembly has been using a deliberate playbook that other states have seen implemented in various ways. Look at Ohio and New Orleans and their for-profit charter school implementation. Look at New York State and the Opt-Out Movement against standardized testing.  Look at Florida and its Jeb Bush school grading system. In fact, look anywhere in the country and you will see a variety of “reform” movements that are not really meant to “reform” public schools, but rather re-form public schools in an image of a profit making enterprise that excludes the very students, teachers, and communities that rely on the public schools to help as the Rev. William Barber would say “create the public.”

North Carolina’s situation may be no different than what other states are experiencing, but how our politicians have proceeded in their attempt to dismantle public education is worth noting. The list below is not by any means complete, but it paints a clear picture.

  • Removal of due-process rights – This keeps teachers from being able to advocate for schools.
  • Graduate Degree Pay Bumps Removed – Removed a means for teachers to invest in their profession.
  • Standard 6 – Teacher evaluation protocols are arbitrary at best
  • Push for Merit Pay – Never has worked in education. Besides, all teachers assume duties outside of teaching.
  • “Average” Raises – Average and Actual do not mean the same thing.
  • Attacks on Teacher Advocacy Groups – specifically NCAE.
  • Revolving Door of Standardized Tests – And many of the tests are made and graded by for-profit entities.
  • Less Money Spent per Pupil – NC still has not approached pre-recession levels.
  • Remove Caps on Class Sizes – Teachers are teaching more students and sometimes more class sections.
  • Jeb Bush School Grading System – This actually only shows how poverty affects public education.
  • Cutting Teacher Assistants – Hurts elementary kids the most.
  • Opportunity Grants – A Voucher scheme that profits private and religious schools.
  • Unregulated growth of charter schools – No empirical data shows any improvement in student achievement with charter schools.
  • Virtual Schools – These are hemorrhaging in enrollment.
  • Achievement School Districts – Again, an idea that “profits” only those who take taxpayer money and has no successful track record no matter what state they have been established (lookout Georgia!).
  • Reduction of Teacher Candidates in Colleges – We are lacking in numbers to help supply the next generation of teachers for a growing state.
  • Elimination of Teaching Fellows Program – Another way to discourage bright students from becoming teachers.

So what can be done? Actually lots. And it all starts in the ballot boxes.

Remember, North Carolina has 100 counties, each with a county public school system. According to the Labor and Economic Analysis Division of the NC Dept. of Commerce, the public schools are at least the second-largest employers in nearly 90 of them—and the largest employer, period, in over 65. That means teachers represent a base for most communities, the public school system.  And they are strong in numbers. Add to that their supporters. The numbers get bigger.

If public education matters to you at all, then please understand the damage this General Assembly and governor have done to our public schools and communities. The number of teachers leaving the state or the profession is staggering. It is has given rise to a new state slogan: “North Carolina – First in Teacher Flight.” If our communities are to recover and thrive, then this trend must stop.

Do your homework and see which candidates truly support our public schools.

Educate yourself, then please vote.

vote

Buy The Damn Cookies! And Other Thoughts About School Fundraising

If you live in a neighborhood with children, you may have experienced receiving a knock on the door or the ringing of a doorbell by a school aged child inquiring if you may want to buy some sort of product or consumable as part of a fundraiser.

I want to encourage you to buy it. Actually, buy two of them. Even if you do not plan on using them or eating them.

It is no mystery that all public schools are in need of money to help finance worthwhile activities and resources. Our public schools are not fully funded to ensure prime educational opportunities for all inside and outside of the classroom.

Consequently, our students, their families, and their advocates must seek ways to help alleviate the deficit. And along the way meaningful lessons are learned by all that are not covered by the Common Core.

Students gain funds to help pay for trips, supplies, uniforms for sports, instruments for band, art supplies, science materials, computers, books, props for theatre, etc. They also learn how to be part of the community.

You as a patron invest in something much more than a disposable good or memento. You invest in an ongoing, dynamic process in helping build a thoughtful, hard-working citizenry who will provide a return on investment that far exceeds your original payment.

So,

  • Buy the cookies, even if you do not eat sweets.
  • Buy the candles. The electricity will go out one day and you may need them.
  • Buy the cups with the school mascot on it. Rooting for a local sports team is good for the soul.
  • Buy the cookie dough. You eat it raw anyways.
  • Buy the opportunity to get your car washed. It’s been dirty for weeks.
  • But a magazine subscription. Trust me. I am an English teacher. Reading is good for you.
  • Buy an awareness bracelet. Kids will think you’re cool.
  • Buy a raffle ticket. You may win.
  • Buy the discount cards. You frequent those places anyway.
  • Buy tickets for the pancake breakfast. It’s the most important meal of the day.
  • Buy a ticket for the winter carnival. You may have fun.
  • Buy an opportunity to run in the Fun Run. You can work off the calories from the cookies and the pancakes.
  • Buy a ticket to the talent show. Live vicariously through others.
  • Buy a ticket to a concert or a performance. You will probably enjoy it.
  • Buy a chance to sponsor a student in an activity. You just told someone you value what he/she does.
  • Buy a school related clothing item. The school gets money and you promote the school.
  • Buy a craft or piece of art from a student. You may be amazed at the quality.
  • Buy the popcorn. It’s already popped and ready to eat.
  • Buy the chicken pot pie or the ham. There will be a day when you need something already prepared for supper.

Think of it this way – nothing validates a school’s mission more than supporting its endeavors in creating opportunities for our kids.

fundraising

Plus, you get something tangible and intangible in return.