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

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

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

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

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

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

Barefoot comes on screen after about three minutes.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

8:24 – “Well, I….”

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

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

Damn right it’s a problem.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Barefoot represents Wake County.

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

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

Like during the recovery from the Great Recession.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wow.

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

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

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

From Rep. Craig Horn on January 4, 2018:

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

From Sen. John Alexander on January 17, 2018:

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

From Sen. Bill Rabon January 19, 2018:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Below is a screen shot from followthemoney.org which tracks campaign contributions to political candidates (https://www.followthemoney.org/entity-details?eid=14298646). Here is a list of candidates who have received money from Hage in NC.

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  • There’s Jerry Tillman, the former public school administrator who is a champion for opaque charter school regulation.
  • And there’s Jason Saine who loves charters as well and now is the president of ALEC.
  • There’s Rep. Bryan who helped to bring in the ASD district now known as the Innovative School District and is a major player in one to of the private companies trying to get the contract.
  • There’s David Curtis, who loves charters as well.
  • There’s Lt. Gov. Dan Forest, who sits on the state school board and lambasted DPI under Dr. June Atkinson for its report on charter schools that said they were disproportionally representing populations.
  • And there’s Bill Rabon, who stalled the HB13 bill in the Senate.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

Someone like the Sue Sylvester.

sue sylvester 1

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

Sue Sylvester would have a megaphone in that meeting.

sue sylvester 2

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

sue sylvester 3

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

Sue Sylvester came to her senses in the last season.

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

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

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

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

Straight through their teeth.

With a smile.

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

And it will affect all other grades.

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

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

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

And a good one at that.

She took this picture of me in my classroom.

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

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Just one of many portraits she has done.

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

Just take a look at the literary magazine.

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

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

Hope to see you there.

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

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

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

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

“It’s going to be disastrous.”

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

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

prek

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Is he even willing to address the issue?

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

Kids are depending on it.

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

Dear Sen. Barefoot,

Earlier this calendar year you were quoted as saying,

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

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

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

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

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

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

wake letter

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

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

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

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

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

So senator, how are you going to respond?

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

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

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

And the next day.

So, senator. What is your explanation?

Senator? Senator?

Dear Sen. Barefoot, The Next NCGA Special Session Should be in an Elementary School Trailer

275px-Portable_classroom_building_at_Rock_Creek_Elementary_School_-_Washington_County,_Oregon

Dear Sen. Barefoot,

A recent report from WRAL brought again to mind the efforts that you specifically have made to handcuff school districts in meeting class size requirements without fully funding public schools.

The foreseen problems of the folly that was the HB13 bill you shepherded are now manifesting themselves, specifically in Wake County.

From WRAL:

Traditional-calendar students in Wake County head back to school in less than three weeks, but before welcoming kids back, school leaders are trying to figure out how they’ll handle a new state mandate for smaller class sizes.

State-mandated reductions in class size for kindergarten through third grade take full effect in the 2018-2019 school year, and district officials estimate they will need 5,900 new elementary school seats in a county already facing constant student population growth.

“That’s a bunch of seats we are going to have to find,” said Wake County school board member Bill Fletcher (http://www.wral.com/calendar-changes-trailers-may-help-wake-schools-meet-new-class-size-requirements-/16869575/).

When that bill was being discussed, you made an interesting comment that I would like to revisit. You said,

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

Well, apparently what is about to happen is that districts such as your home district of Wake County will have to use the money to buy trailers and carts.

Back to the WRAL report:

Of the 113 elementary schools in Wake County, most would be able to make changes to create enough additional space, but about 20 schools said they have no room to spare.

Possible solutions for those 20 schools include restructuring the schools or school assignments, adding trailers, moving fifth grade students to middle schools or moving schools to a multi-trackcalendar.

District officials have also considered moving art or music from classrooms to portable carts.

“It is not a preferred way to provide that kind of instruction. It can be done,” Fletcher said. “There are lots of possibilities. Nothing has been decided yet.”

In essence, Wake County will have to change the time/space continuum to make things compatible all while having to deal with a massive budget gap that government officials are not helping with, especially the ones on West Jones Street.

You asked back in the spring, “What did they do with the money?” Well, you can now see what they will have to do with the lack of money and space and resources.

Instead of schools having to report to you, why don’t you be a representative and go to them? Go to those 20 schools that Mr. Fletcher mentioned and see what is having to be done because of your insistence on standing on platitudes rather than dealing with your constitutionally sworn duty to fully fund public schools and protect all classes including the specials.

And before you go, you could maybe try and understand what some of these schools have to deal with.

So the next time that you and your cronies decide to call for another special session, instead of meeting on West Jones Street, meet with your caucus in a trailer “off campus” that has shaky reception for internet, no bathroom, or stable temperature control.

Have some of the members of your caucus sit on the floor because there will not be enough desks. In fact, do it when it is raining.

But before you have that special session, make sure that whoever is leading the meeting turns in a lesson plan that fully implements all provisions of the state constitution and how they are being met. And expect a test on what is covered because it will be over half of the immeasurable data that will go into your approval rating.

And the money that is needed to fund your special session? It will be determined by a body of people who have no idea of what you are doing and actually think that what you do is not important.

Then you might have an idea of what happens when personalities are honored more than principles.

Sen. Chad Barefoot’s Bid to End Governor’s School and Establish A Legislative School for Gerrymandered Leadership and Public Policy to Suit Private Interest

An amendment offered by none other than Sen. Chad Barefoot on May 10, 2017 is yet another assault by the North Carolina General Assembly against the arts in our schools.

Amendment #2 to Senate Bill 257 proposes to establish a “Legislative School For Leadership and Public Service” using the very funds that would have financed Governor’s School starting in 2018-2019.

Here is a copy of that amendment found at https://ncleg.net/Applications/BillLookUp/LoadBillDocument.aspx?SessionCode=2017&DocNum=4282&SeqNum=0.

In short, Chad Barefoot and others of his ilk want to do away with Governor’s School and replace it with a “Legislative School of Leadership and Public Policy.”

Governor’s School has been an institution in this state for over fifty years. Its description on its webpage (www.ncgovschool.org) says,

“IMAGINE … A Summer Program

… where students who are among the best and brightest gather for the love of learning and the joy of creativity

… where teachers and students form a community while searching together for answers to challenging questions

… where there are no grades or tests

… where a synergy of intellectual curiosity fuels the exploration of the latest ideas in various disciplines


This is the Governor’s School of North Carolina . . .
Two campuses. One vision. Over fifty years of experience.

 And the subjects that academically-gifted students can go and study include:

  • English
  • French
  • Spanish
  • Math
  • Natural Science
  • Social Science
  • Art
  • Choral Music
  • Instrumental Music
  • Theater
  • Dance

It truly is an institution that has faced termination before but sustained itself because so many found value in what it provides. Yet with the recent events surrounding HB13 and the funding of specialties in elementary schools like art and physical education, it is not totally surprising that Sen. Barefoot launch another attack on opportunities for students to enhance their academic and creative endeavors in the liberal arts.

But he literally wants to replace it with a summer school for leadership and public service that has an “intensive course of study in leadership and public policy.”

Actually, what he seems to want to do is set up a state-funded camp of political indoctrination for another generation of students who will carry on the policies that he has championed on behalf of the powers that be in Raleigh.

Truly this is another slap in the face for those who see value in what Governor’s School has done for our state enriching the lives of talented students who then keep investing themselves in our communities. It is a slap in the face for those who see the value in the liberal arts.

But what really makes this stink of partisan politics is the changing of the name from “Governor’s” to “Legislative.” Whether that’s a snub toward Roy Cooper is up for debate. Well….

Actually it seems pretty clear.

Forget the passive-aggressive nature of not debating the budget and ramming it through committee.

Forget the fact that there are already in existence a multitude of internships, public and private, as well as other funded opportunities for students to become more familiar with public service. In fact, it seems that motivated students already have put themselves in situations to learn leadership and pursue public service.

However, Barefoot and others in Raleigh have an agenda, one which they hope to turn into a curriculum that can be offered at the Legislative School For Leadership and Public Policy.

There could be a class that will teach future leaders to allocate public money that will allow a government official to sue other government officials so that the public school system can be put into limbo for an extended period of time such as this example:

unnamed1

That’s right. Three-hundred thousand dollars to Mark Johnson so he can sue the State Board of Education to get powers that he should have never had in the first place.

The Legislative School for Leadership and Public Policy could also teach academically gifted students to become so partisan that they will begin to budget government positions to create even more bureaucracy. Take for example:

unnamed2

This allows Mark Johnson to have five more people to work for him than the previous state superintendent who seemed to do a lot more in her first months of service than he has – with fewer people working for her.

The cost of just those two provisions? Almost three/quarters of a million dollars, which is more than enough to help fund Governor’s School for another summer session on two campuses.

Sen. Barefoot needs to call it for what it is – A Legislative School for Gerrymandered Leadership and Public Policy to Suit Private Interest.

And if rumor serves true, he already has a person in mind to run the first session:

umbrage

The Hypocritical Time Machine – Reflecting on Sen. Chad Barefoot and Rep. Rob Bryan’s 2014 Op-Ed About Teacher Pay

On February 8th, 2014, the Charlotte Observer posted a special op-ed on its website and published it the next day in the actual paper. It was a viewpoint penned by two political figures whose actions have helped shape the policies that confine public education in North Carolina today.

Those two people were Sen. Chad Barefoot and Rep. Rob Bryan.

Three years later, Sen. Barefoot sits on a powerful education committee. Bryan was defeated in his last election, but his brainchild of reform, North Carolina’s Achievement School District, is still slated to take over five schools in 2018-2019.

In their piece entitled “How to Upgrade Teacher Pay,” both men begin an outline of “reform” that they have spent coloring these last three years.

Maybe it is worth revisiting their words and determining through reflection whether they have made progress on their goals to upgrade teacher pay and other needs for public education.

Or if they have not.

The text of the op-ed can be found here: http://www.charlotteobserver.com/opinion/op-ed/article9095660.html. However, it will be referenced throughout this posting.

Barefoot and Bryan begin,

“In the book “That Used To Be Us,” Thomas L. Friedman, a liberal columnist for the New York Times, and Michael Mandelbaum, a professor of American foreign policy at John Hopkins University, argue that America has fallen behind in the world it invented. And although many of the book’s proposals have turned out to be stumbling blocks rather than solutions, the authors are right about one thing – we are falling behind in the world we invented – especially in education.”

It must be noted that it was very hard to not simply summarize Barefoot and Bryan’s op-ed by almost using the same exact wording they did. Consider this possibility.

“In the op-ed “How to Upgrade Teacher Pay,” Sen. Chad Barefoot, a conservative state senator, and Rep. Rob Bryan, another state lawmaker, argue that North Carolina has fallen behind in the country. And although many of the op-ed’s claims have turned out to be stumbling blocks rather than solutions, the authors are right about one thing – we are falling behind in the country – especially in teacher pay.”

First, it is interesting that Barefoot and Bryan reference Friedman who actually argued in his book The World is Flat that America still has a lot of vitality in the world economy because it still leads the world in patents and patent applications. That is a sign of innovation and creativity and curiosity, the very skills that students can learn in a variety of classes, especially the arts which seem to be something that Barefoot holds in contempt considering his recent HB13 maneuvers.

Secondly, it is odd that they refer to Friedman and Mandelbaum’s book to begin their own argument. They seem to only agree with one thing about the claims of the book and dismiss the rest. But that is not totally surprising considering that identifying Friedman as a liberal already puts anything that Friedman says in a “false” light.

Carrying on,

“Today, the status quo has become a dangerous position. Technology and industry are changing more quickly than ever, and large government bureaucracy has prevented our public policy from being able to keep up.”

Large government bureaucracy preventing public policy? Really? And who were the two authors of this op-ed? Those would be two people in government who helped to push so much reform down the throats of North Carolina including a law called HB2 which took away local powers of the very city that published the op-ed like passing LGBTQ protections and setting its own minimum wage for work done for the city government.

“We are aware of North Carolina’s national teacher pay ranking and agree that it is a problem. But we would like to argue that behind the low ranking are structural concerns with our statewide base salary schedule that are more significant to individual teachers than our ranking against the national average. Making it our goal to reach the national average in teacher pay is just that – an average goal. What we need is a new salary schedule aligned with a comprehensive vision for the future.”

Now three years later with the abolishment of graduate degree pay bumps for newer teachers, no due-process laws for newer teachers, school grading systems that are more arbitrary, low average per pupil expenditures, uncontrolled charter school growth, unproven vouchers, and a myriad of other “reforms,” it might be worth relooking over those words again because what has happened over the three years since this op-ed has been anything but a “comprehensive vision for the future.”

It’s really been more of an attack on the public school system to justify some of the privatization efforts that the NC General Assembly is allowing to happen.

“Studies show that teachers improve most dramatically during their first five years. But under the current salary schedule, teachers do not see their first step increase until year seven. That means for six years they improve without any reward. This is a problem.”

Which studies? And nothing says that they still do not improve after six years. That argument almost dismisses the worth of veteran teachers. However, it is easy to see that beginning teachers did need to see increases in salaries earlier to remain in the profession. But that’s all the new salary schedule did. Barefoot and Bryan never talk about retaining veteran teachers. The new salary schedule surely does not encourage veteran teachers to stay.

They go on to state,

“The current salary schedule also fails to enable schools to compete in our region. Surrounding states have surpassed North Carolina’s starting salaries, enabling them to recruit our graduates with higher starting pay. Most also increase teachers’ salaries earlier in their career, while under the current salary schedule it can take a North Carolina teacher 16 years to reach $40,000. That’s crazy. This encourages high turnover. It is not attractive.”

What is even crazier is that the new salary schedule that Barefoot and Bryan helped to fashion in these last three years not only does get beginning teachers to the maximum salary more quickly, it creates a lower ceiling for maximum salary.

Once those teachers get to that level in year 16, they may never see another pay bump on the salary schedule.

Ever.

This past election, Pat McCrory ran on the platform of having raised teacher pay to an average of $50,000. He was using very distorted logic. You can read this posting and see if what McCrory claims was real or if it was fake because Barefoot and Bryan are using the same argument (https://caffeinatedrage.com/2016/07/17/the-ignoramasaurus-rex-how-gov-mccrorys-claim-on-average-teacher-pay-is-not-really-real/).

And like Bryan, McCrory lost his reelection bid.

“We also know that the top indicator of a child’s academic success is having an excellent teacher. But under the current salary schedule our teachers receive no reward for their excellence and taking on more responsibility.”

And under the current system we as a state are seeing a seismic drop in teacher candidates in our university system. In fact, NC’s ability to recruit and retain teachers has gotten so bad even with this new salary schedule that Barefoot and Bryan helped to establish that this past month five bills were introduced in the NCGA which are aimed at getting more teachers to come to North Carolina.

All five of them are sponsored by Sen. Chad Barefoot (http://www.wral.com/barefoot-backs-bills-to-boost-teacher-recruitment/16638866/).

Apparently the new salary structure that was to discourage high turnover and make things more attractive simply did not work.

Then here comes the ethos,

“You see, we were both raised by N.C. educators. Chad’s mom is a former public school teacher who has dedicated her life to early childhood development and currently teaches in our state’s Pre-K program. His younger sister is a second grade teacher in her third year (who has never seen a step increase). Rob’s mom was a public school 4th grade teacher for 12 years and is now the Educational Director for DARE America. His sister also taught in North Carolina’s public school system. Rob even taught in the classroom for two years with Teach for America.”

If Barefoot and Bryan had such roots in public education, then why have their actions for the last three years since the printing of this op-ed done more harm to public education than help? Barefoot’s mother and sister teach/taught young students as did Bryan’s mother. If they were so in tune with helping teachers of these students, then why are things like the following happening?

“RALEIGH – Durham elementary school students took over Sen. Chad Barefoot’s office on Wednesday for an art lesson and protest designed to urge state lawmakers to increase education funding (http://www.newsobserver.com/news/local/education/article148484449.html#storylink=cpy).

barefoots office

The pool of irony is getting deeper. And murkier.

But how Barefoot and Bryan end their op-ed from 2014 really frames their hypocrisy because it talks about rewarding teachers without really paying them respect.

“Recruiting great teachers means paying teachers better at the beginning of their career. Retaining great teachers means getting them to a professional and competitive wage as quickly as possible while allowing them to grow in their careers. Rewarding great teachers means recognizing their excellence and value to the classroom and compensating them for it.

We acknowledge that being able to say that we pay our teachers at the national average will make politicians everywhere feel good. But what we risk is leaving in place the status quo – structural problems that prevent us from treating our teachers with respect. We should want a salary schedule that attracts the best and brightest and reenergizes our educators who have been neglected by the existing salary schedule.”

It would be a lesson worthwhile for Barefoot and Bryan to realize that there is a very sharp difference between rewarding teachers and respecting teachers. Why? Because…

  • A reward sounds like something that can be used as a political ploy. Respect needs no political prompt.
  • A reward could be a one-time gift. Respect is continuous and grows.
  • A reward is a reaction to something. Respect guides your actions.
  • A reward is giving teachers a small bonus that gets taxed by the state and has no effect on retirement. Respect would be to bring salaries for teachers at least to the national average.
  • A reward would be to give a school some sort of distinction because it met a measurement achievement. Respect would be honoring teachers because of actual student growth in the face of factors out of the schools’ control.
  • A reward would be providing more textbooks. Respect would be to keep growing per-pupil expenditures to ensure that all students got the resources they need.
  • A reward would be giving a one-time pay hike to teachers. Respect would be to make sure they kept getting raises throughout their careers on a fair salary schedule and restoring longevity pay.
  • A reward may be speaking highly of principals. Respect would be not ever allowing our average principal salary to rank next to last in the nation.
  • A reward may be to alter the teacher evaluation system. Respect would be to restore due-process rights for all teachers.
  • A reward may be to give more professional development for teachers. Respect would be restoring pay bumps for graduate degrees.

Ironically, Barefoot and Bryan use the term “status quo” twice as a premise on which to build their sanctimonious claims and give themselves permission to pursue the policies they have since the publication of this op-ed.

If anything, they are the status quo.

Open Letter to NC Lawmakers Concerning HB13 and Funding the Arts & PE

Dear Senator Chad Barefoot, Senator Bill Rabon, and other lawmakers concerning the amended HB13 law,

This week marks the beginning of Advanced Placement testing in schools around the country (and world), and while the validity of AP classes and testing results has become the subject of much debate, I have a multitude of students working hard to do well on those exams.

The state of North Carolina seems to put a lot of emphasis on AP tests. In fact, the General Assembly actually pays for each administration of an AP test (over $90 per) in public schools. It’s a measure of success apparently to see how many students are actually taking the tests in the state. And if it is increasing success overall for students, then that is good.

Maybe that’s the same reasoning that goes into the forced administration of the ACT in North Carolina public schools. Making every student in public schools, whether they are invested in the test or whether they have no inclination of entering college, take a test that gives really no more feedback than a score point has become another source of measurement that lawmakers use to judge the public school system.

Either way, some company is making of a lot of money from the tax payers to create a measure to arbitrarily see how well our North Carolinian students are performing. And decision makers like yourselves seem to take a lot of stock in arbitrary test results, especially in comparison with the results of other countries.

But there are many variables that a test cannot measure which are vital to student success and our state’s health – variables like creativity, inventiveness, collaboration, teamwork, and innovation whose ingredients are found in classes like visual arts, music, physical education. Ironically, those are the very classes in jeopardy next year with the porous version of HB13 passed this past week.

Valerie Strauss writes and publishes an educational blog called “The Answer Sheet”. It is published primarily through the Washington Post and is widely read. The following is from a February 13, 2017 posting entitled “Three global indexes show that U.S. public schools must be doing something right.”

It starts,

Nancy Truitt Pierce is a member of the Monroe School Board in Washington state who was appointed by Gov. Jay Inslee to his STEM Alliance Advisory Board. In her day job, she is a consultant who convenes monthly peer group meetings of top executives in Seattle and hears what they are looking for when recruiting new employees. What do they want?

 Here’s what she wrote in an email:

 What I hear from the key corporate leaders I meet monthly with is that they want candidates coming out of our public schools who are creative, innovative, collaborative problem solvers. Yes, the candidates must also have strong foundational skills of math, science and language arts but I suggest we are putting too much emphasis on the PISA math score as a key indicator of public school quality. I suggest there are other indicators that would serve us in much better ways (https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/answer-sheet/wp/2017/02/13/three-global-indexes-show-that-u-s-public-schools-must-be-doing-something-right/?tid=a_inl&utm_term=.40a032ddd1c3).

I chose this particular part of the posting because of Ms. Pierce’s job as a consultant with business executives and as a STEM proponent. Interestingly, her words about creativity reminded me of the recent debate that you and others simply avoided when it concerned the arts and its funding in our elementary schools when HB13 was front and center.

Later in the posting there is a reference to three specific indicators that measure the very elements of creativity, innovation, and collaboration.

 We win where it matters. If you look at other indicators more related to innovation, creativity and entrepreneurship, the USA does very well.

To be clear, the Global Creativity Index “ is a broad-based measure for advanced economic growth and sustainable prosperity based on the 3Ts of economic development — talent, technology, and tolerance” (http://martinprosperity.org/content/the-global-creativity-index-2015/).

The Global Innovation Index? Look at some of the indicators (https://www.globalinnovationindex.org/gii-2016-report).

AP2

The Global Entrepreneurship Index utilizes the “Global Entrepreneurship and Development Index’s (GEDI) 14 Pillars of Entrepreneurship as its primary measurement.

  • Pillar 1: OPPORTUNITY PERCEPTION
  • Pillar 3: NONFEAR OF FAILURE
  • Pillar 4: NETWORKING
  • Pillar 5: CULTURAL SUPPORT
  • Pillar 8: HUMAN RESOURCES
  • Pillar 13: INTERNATIONALIZATION

All of those variables are directly attributable to skills learned in classes like visual art, music, and physical education. The items listed under the Global Innovation Index concerning investment in education brings to mind the very heart of the discussion of bills like HB13 and HB800 and other initiatives that take monies away from public schools and put them into unproven methods of education that actually segregate rather than allow for us to collaborate.

And Nancy Pruitt Pierce says we need more people who collaborate. More people who are creative. More people who are innovative.

Does the ACT measure those elements? Do the EOCT’s? Maybe to a very small, small degree.

One could make an argument that the AP tests could measure for those items, because students are often asked to elaborate or be required to show their thought processes or support their arguments. In fact, here is a prompt from the 2014 administration of the AP English Language and Composition Test.

AP1

The part of the prompt that states, “the scores of younger children in America – from kindergarten through sixth grade” has the decline that is the “most serious” really seems to fit into the dialogue here in North Carolina.

I would very much like to see how many of you would respond to this prompt. Actually, I would like to see you make a coherent argument for your actions to jeopardize funding for the very classes that essentially foster those very skills that others testify are crucial to building stable economic futures in our state and country.

If you do offer that argument, make sure to back up your claims with hard evidence and verifiable data as well as explain how that evidence and data support your claims – out loud and clearly.

Not behind closed doors or in secret sessions.