Dear Sen. Jerry Tillman, You Are Making Treebeard Very Angry and You Can’t Gerrymander Ents

Even before he dropped the gavel on the Senate Finance Committee meeting, Sen. Jerry Tillman, a notoriously cantankerous Republican from Randolph County, seemed to be in a particularly bad mood.

He mumbled about being angry. He barked at audience to take their seats, lest he start selling tickets. And with eight bills to plow through — he promised it would take no longer than 30 minutes — Tillman sped through the meeting as if he were herding cattle through a sale barn.

At that auctioneer’s pace, then, there was little discussion of the House Bill 374, legislation with far-reaching implications.

Thus began Lisa Sorg’s report today on NC Policy Watch concerning House Bill 374 entitled “House Bill 374 and its restrictions on the citizens’ right to contest environmental permits, advances in Senate” (http://www.ncpolicywatch.com/2017/06/22/house-bill-374-restrictions-citizens-right-contest-environmental-permits-advances-senate/).

And her specific use of diction and tone are very apropos for Tillman.

  • “cantankerous”
  • “bad mood”
  • “mumbled”
  • “angry”
  • “barked”
  • “plow”
  • “little discussion”

That’s the Jerry we know!

His amorphous defense of unregulated charter schools, his unwillingness to listen to open debate on issues concerning students, and his ramrodding bills for the Achievement School District and the weakening of DPI have all been wrapped in his special gruff manner.

Today was no different.

Remember that Tillman is a former teacher, coach, and administrator in public schools who retired long ago. Last year he tried to enact legislation that would require all high schools to offer two tracks of math.

I am not a math teacher. In fact, according to my wife, I am rather poor in explaining mathematical concepts to our children when they are faced with math homework. But I do know that all of a sudden changing the course tracks in high schools would present an incredible challenge for schools to adequately teach those differing courses in high schools in such a quick amount of time – especially when the likes of Tillman keep funding from going to public schools.

Sen. Tillman thought it could be done in the blink of an eye. He was quoted in an EdNC.org report ((https://www.ednc.org/2016/06/09/senate-moves-state-one-step-closer-split-high-school-math-tracks),

“If you can teach math, your same certifications are required, same students, same allotment of teachers. Not gonna change,” he said.

Tillman said the practical aspect of teaching could be accomplished by having a teacher teach Algebra I alongside Math 1 in the same class.

“With a good teacher, you can do it,” he said.

So, teaching two subjects in the same classroom? In the same amount of time? With two different pedagogical approaches? Of course, Sen. Tillman would think that.

He also thinks that one can go through eight bills in thirty minutes.

With an emphasis on STEM education, it would make sense that if someone like Tillman was to be so in tune with math, then he might also think of the importance of Science and Technology, both of which have overwhelmingly told us the ramifications of hurting the environment.

House Bill 374 would hurt the environment.

Sorg explains,

“The 17-page bill has morphed from a benign list of technical changes into a malignant mass of pernicious environmental provisions. These include language that would weaken coal ash recycling requirements and strip many citizens of their right to contest environmental permits.”

That last sentence really strikes me as shocking. But maybe it’s not too shocking when you investigate that Tillman’s allegiance to the American Legislative Exchange Council’s ultra-conservative view of teaching civics in American High Schools.

Refer back to 2015 and Senate Bill 524. From the venerable Lindsay Wagner when she reported for NC Policy Watch,

Senate Bill 524 adds principles to the high school curriculum that are, according to the conservative American Legislative Exchange Council, related to the founding documents of the United States government. They include:

“We the People.” 8 bills in thirty minutes.

“Limitations on government power.” Stripping as much power away from a democratically elected governor and the Department of Justice budget slashed by over one-third.

“Honest friendship.” Yet we the people get “cantankerous,” “bad mood,” “mumbled,” “angry,” “bark,” “plow,” and “little discussion.”

Makes one wonder who could go into those chambers in Raleigh and force some civil discussion about such bills that would have an impact on the environment.

Our water.

Our land.

Our resources.

Our trees.

And then I think of this guy who just might be as old as Jerry Tillman.

Treebeard

But he’s more friendly. More thoughtful. Would take his time and consider. And would certainly allow others to speak.

He would defend our water, land, and resources.

He understands STEM fairly well and I imagine only took one track of math in school.

North Carolina’s Plagiarized Privatization of Public Schools – Or, How to be Unoriginal

North Carolina is literally practicing privatization plagiarism.

That’s great for alliteration fans, but for public school advocates it’s harmful, hurtful, hateful, disabling, devitalizing, devaluing, and debilitating.

And they’re not even being original because all of these supposed “re-forms” are nothing more than rehashed failed policies that profit a few and hurt the many.

Last month, a superintendent was chosen for North Carolina’s version of the Achievement School District that was put into place by “re-forming” legivangelists like Sen. Chad Barefoot and Sen. Jerry Tillman. If you do not know what a legivangelist is then here is a definition:

Legivangelist  – (n.) one who preaches to constituents about how holy his cause is in hopes of obtaining votes in elections  to maintain power over those he claims to help (further explanation can be found here: https://caffeinatedrage.com/2016/04/18/legivangelists-and-others-who-praise-the-lard/).

Remember the discussion that surrounded the implementation of a model that had not shown success in other states like Tennessee? Well, here’s a reminder from an earlier posting (https://caffeinatedrage.com/2016/06/29/outsourcing-our-kids-for-profit-rep-rob-bryan-and-sen-chad-barefoot-will-have-much-to-answer-for-in-the-future/).

“Neither Barefoot or Bryan could never really explain the “how the ASD will work” or the “why it will work”. They are simply appealing to their authority. They just tout that it will work in spite of all the results of past experiments and implementations ASD districts in multiple states, especially Tennessee whose model Bryan originally looked at to create the NC ASD proposal.

Lack of specificity is a tactic in making arguments. It hopes that people will get lost in the ambiguity of an explanation and simply rely on the speaker as being more equipped to make a decision because of a title or office held.

But lack of specificity is also a sign of not really knowing the answers. It’s like when you ask a question of someone and what he doesn’t say speaks as loudly as what he does say.

Take for instance the explanations given by Sen. Barefoot when pressed for specificity in a meeting for HB1080 (the ASD bill) chaired by Sen. Tillman as reported by Billy Ball (http://pulse.ncpolicywatch.org/2016/06/24/senate-committee-approves-controversial-charter-takeover-of-low-performing-schools/).

Barefoot calls the ASD model for NC an “innovative solution.” But when others in the meeting bring up that there really have not been positive outcomes from other ASD implementations, Barefoot just says that we will make it work because we are NC (the geographical cure).”

Since then more has happened to the Memphis branch of the ASD program in Tennessee concerning audits, which Sen. Barefoot should be aware of since he is so intent on making sure that all public schools show what they do with every cent given to them while allowing charter schools to operate in the state without as much transparency or vouchers to be tracked for effectiveness in religious school like Trinity Christian in Fayetteville.

But that is just regressing.

Or is it?

Either way, there has been no revelation of the new Carolina approach to the ASD except that it will include a small amount of schools that will be taken over by for-profit entities from outside the state.

If one was a betting individual and wanted to gamble public money on failed schemes like education reform efforts enacted here in NC, then maybe one of those companies is Charter Schools USA out of Florida run by Jonathan Hage, who is an avid campaign contributor to politicians like Sen. Jerry Tillman.

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.

Hage1

  • 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.
  • There’s Rep. Bryan who helped to bring in the ASD district.
  • 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.
  • There’s Buck Newton, who was going to make NC “straight” again as attorney general for the NC, but lost.
  • There’s Bill Rabon, who stalled the HB13 bill in the Senate.

These names are not unfamiliar in the “re-form” movement here in NC.

And their actions are not original. They are plagiarized.

Take for instance House Bill 800. That’s the so-called “Jobs’ Bill” introduced by Sen. John Bradford this past week that would allow for businesses who help finance a part of a charter school to claim up to half of the allotted enrollment of the charter school for children of their employees.

Sound original? Not really.

Recently Greg Flynn out of Raleigh tweeted the following on April 26th.

flynn1

Those statutes? (http://www.legis.la.gov/Legis/Law.aspx?d=762875).

LA1

Interestingly enough, Sen. Bradford’s name, while not on Hage’s preferred list of campaign contributions, is familiar.

He was one of the primary sponsors of the ASD bill that helped to spur the creation of our NC district (http://www.ncpolicywatch.com/2016/06/03/tempers-flare-as-controversial-achievement-school-district-bill-clears-house/).

So with a model of a failed experiment from Tennessee (ASD) which was actually being lobbied by a conservative Oregonian backer being that was co-sponsored by a man who received funds from a Florida charter school executive was also co-sponsored by another state lawmaker who looked to a privatizing scheme from Louisiana to introduce another charter school bill.

Wow! If you want to read more about that Oregonian connection, refer to this – http://www.ncpolicywatch.com/2015/08/13/out-of-state-money-behind-secret-plan-to-fund-charter-takeover-of-ncs-worst-performing-schools/.

Then there was this gem of a bill that was introduced – HB514: The Permit Municipal Charter School / Certain Towns Bill.

Or otherwise known as segregation.

Sen. William Brawley, a commercial real-estate broker from Matthews (and also represents Mint Hill) introduced HB514 so that his district which is predominantly white (Mint Hill is 73% and Matthews is 78% white) to set up its own charter schools within its city limits to serve its students in an effort to keep them away from a predominantly black school district it already resides in – Charlotte / Mecklenburg. Read Kris Nordstrom’s report for better explanation: http://pulse.ncpolicywatch.org/2017/04/26/flurry-house-charter-school-bills-facilitate-segregation-north-carolinas-schools/#sthash.Wa3GCLPC.whzD62t5.dpbs.

That idea isn’t really plagiarized from a certain state or geographical location.

It’s taken straight out of the 1950’s.

Nordstrom also mentions a bill that would allow for the state to examine ways to break up larger school districts and make them into smaller ones. That bill, HB704, is sponsored by both Brawley and Bradford, two senators who make a living on real estate and the value of the land they sell and develop.

And nothing drives the value of land like the schools that service that area.

If lawmakers in North Carolina wanted to “copy” good reforms, they don’t really need to look that hard.

  • Virginia just put a stop to charter growth.
  • Tennessee voted down the use of vouchers.
  • And New York is about to fund more pre-k programs for preschoolers to get them more prepared for success.

That’s what should be plagiarized.

But alas, too many in Raleigh have confused mixing business, money, greed, politics, and public education with “doing the right thing” as public servants.

Every North Carolina Lawmaker Should Read The Recent Research From Stanford University About Public Investment in Schools. I Hear Stanford’s a Decent School.

Public education is a sacred trust of the citizenry, not an open market for capitalistic ventures. If one wants to make the argument that states like North Carolina are free to allow for competition within its public school system, then that person would need to explain how that complies with the state constitution which explicitly says that all students are entitled to a good quality education funded by the state.

An adequately, fully funded public school system actually is a foundational cornerstone for a democracy in which participants are represented by those elected to defend the very state constitution they are sworn to uphold. In many cases, those representatives were products of the very public schools that are part of the North Carolina public school system.

But many of our lawmakers have mistaken defending public schools with playing partisan politics.

  • The outgoing governor, Pat McCrory, is a graduate of Ragsdale High School but has never challenged any privatization effort on behalf of traditional public schools.
  • The Speaker of the House, Rep. Tim Moore, graduated from Kings Mountain High School and he helped expand the Opportunity Grant voucher system in North Carolina.
  • Gov. Dan Forest attended East Mecklenburg High School and as a sitting member of the state school board has demanded that DPI redo a report because it did not make charter schools sound positive enough.
  • Rob Bryan graduated from Sanderson High School in Raleigh and he literally strong armed a version system called the Achievement School District that has never succeeded anywhere else and Sen. Chad Barefoot, who graduated from East Davidson High School, let him do it as the head of a powerful committee.
  • Jerry Tillman was a principal for Southwestern Randolph County High School and he might be the champion of charter school deregulation.
  • Jason Saine graduated from Lincolnton High School and now literally champions charter schools in his home county and is helping not only the application process of one but gets campaign contributions from a national chain of charter schools.

It is to these lawmakers and other “re-form” minded individuals that the recent set of studies out of Stanford University should be directed.

The Stanford Center for Opportunity Policy in Education (SCOPE) just released “Privatization or Public Investment in Education?” If you are nerdy enough, then you can go here – https://edpolicy.stanford.edu/publications/pubs/1456.

But here is part of the brief report from Dr. Frank Adamson, the Senior Policy and Research Analyst:

“The data suggest that the education sector is better served by a public investment approach that supports each and every child than by a market-based, competition approach that creates winners…and losers. While competition might work in sports leagues, countries should not create education systems in which children lose in the classroom. This report explains how and why some children can lose in a privatized system and makes recommendations to ensure that all children receive equitable, high-quality educational opportunities” (https://edpolicy.stanford.edu/sites/default/files/publications/scope-germ-brief-final.pdf)

And while many in the NC General Assembly have claimed that charter schools are “public schools” make sure to see how the funds are dispersed and make sure to see who is actually in control and make sure how admissions processes are administered. Then take a look at the academics and the impact the schools have on the traditional public schools, especially in rural areas like Lincoln County where Rep. Saine operates.

Further in Dr. Adamson’s brief, he makes sure to define what the “Key Features of Education Privatization” are.

“Privatization in education occurs when countries shift towards a “subsidiary state” model that primarily outsources social sector management to private firms. The government only provides services when no suitable private alternative exists. Because public education serves all children, complete privatization of education is difficult to achieve. Nevertheless, mechanisms such as vouchers, charters, and markets allow for private firms to compete in the education market, under the argument that increased competition will provide consumers (students and families) with a greater choice, thus increasing quality. However, in practice, public education contains different constraints than business markets, most notably the obligation of providing every child with a high-quality education. Therefore, as the results in this brief show, privatizing education has accompanied lower and/or more disparate student performance, likely because markets operate with different principles than the requirements of public sectors.”

It’s almost as if it was written in response to North Carolina.

How John Oliver’s Segment On Charter Schools Speaks to North Carolina

If you have any interest in why the charter school industry has been under the spotlight in this election year in North Carolina, you might want to check out a segment from the August 22, 2016 episode of Last Week Tonight With John Oliver. If you have HBO GO then you can watch all the episodes of a great show, but if you are a hard-line Trump supporter, you will not agree with a lot of things that Oliver says. Well, not anything he says.

But I do agree with what Oliver says about charter schools. Actually, I agree with a lot of what he says.

He devoted over 18 minutes to the charter school industry in this episode and you can tell that there was so much more to talk about. And yes, it is HBO, so there is a lot of vulgarity, but it’s not gratuitous to me and if your ears are too sensitive to listen to any “f-bomb” being dropped, then don’t view it.

In fact, if Oliver’s language is offending to you, don’t walk down the hall of a large public school. I’ve walked down the halls of small, private Christian schools and heard language that would put hair on your chest. Teenagers cuss. And some do it well. As an educator who teaches rhetoric and argumentation, I have heard some beautifully phrased lude comments come from our nation’s youth. Would I want my daughter saying that? No.

But man, there was no further explanation needed.

I will write about the use of vulgarity later.

But back to Oliver. Here’s the segment. And watch the whole thing –  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l_htSPGAY7I .

watch-john-oliver-online.jpg

Interestingly, the segment begins with a lot of presidential hopefuls (mostly GOP) praising charter schools. Obama sings their praises. Even Trump is quoted as saying, “Charter schools work and they work very well.”

In 42 states as well as the District of Columbia over 6700 charter schools are educating over 3 million students. They get to use taxpayer money, but can operate under less transparency like a private school.

And I liked that Oliver did not argue whether the concept of charter schools is bad or not. He agreed that they are good in principle. There are fantastic charter schools here in North Carolina. Many times I have referred to the Arts Based Schools here in Winston-Salem as an example. But they do something that public schools do not. That is using innovative practices to educate students. Their students typically go into traditional public schools for high school.

What Oliver was exploring was the way that many charter schools operate and handle money. And in eighteen minutes he could not begin to dissect all states. He focused mostly on Florida, Pennsylvania, and Ohio.

Does that lessen what has happened in charter schools here in North Carolina? No. In fact, it really highlights what is happening here in the Old North State.

Remember the DPI report that Lt. Dan Forest wanted redone to shed a more positive light on charter schools here in North Carolina when there were glaring negatives? The report talked about lack of diversity. But it also showed how eager some in Raleigh were in giving charter schools so much freedom to use tax money to proffer a narrative that public schools were failures. I wrote Lt. Forest an open letter about his “championing of charter schools” last January – http://pulse.ncpolicywatch.org/2016/01/12/open-letter-from-teacher-takes-dan-forest-to-task-on-charter-schools/. I received no response.

I have also written other prominent lawmakers on their actions to allow charter schools to privatize a constitutionally protected social service with tax money. None have garnered a response to this public school teacher, parent of public school children, and voter.

Here is one to Sen. Jerry Tillman, the godfather of charter schools. Sen. Tillman was instrumental in removing obstacles for charter schools to get up and running without much oversight https://caffeinatedrage.com/2016/06/10/my-one-sided-pen-pal-relationship-with-sen-jerry-tillman-or-why-i-am-are-sending-an-old-letter-with-more-love/ .

Here is one to both Rep. Rob Bryan and Sen. Chad Barefoot on their rush to fund an ASD district here in NC while ignoring the horrible effects that ASD’s have had in other states. My own school system, Winston-Salem / Forsyth County Schools may be involved in this without any local community members having input. Financial improprieties are now hovering over the ASD in Tennessee. North Carolina’s version is not any different   https://caffeinatedrage.com/2016/06/29/outsourcing-our-kids-for-profit-rep-rob-bryan-and-sen-chad-barefoot-will-have-much-to-answer-for-in-the-future/ .

And here is one to Sen. David Curtis. He has been very buddy-buddy with a charter school chain that is a for-profit entity   https://caffeinatedrage.com/2016/04/28/hes-back-open-letter-to-sen-david-curtis-why-do-you-not-support-public-schools/.

Here in NC, the charter school industry seems to be championed by people who live in more rural areas. Opening a charter school in a rural area can have incredible effects on the traditional public schools there. If enough students are pulled from the public schools, then those public schools have a harder time petitioning for money to actually have resources for their students.

Oliver’s segment also touched on virtual academies, which is under scrutiny here in NC for its attendance problems. In fact, Oliver’s segment could have easily been done on North Carolina’s situation alone, but our charter school industry sometimes gets overshadowed with all of the talk of HB2, Voter ID bills, coal ash spills, and Opportunity Grants.

But there is one common theme or thread that runs through all of those issues related to North Carolina, especially ill-conceived charter schools – everybody pays a price so a few can profit.

Having John Oliver explore this topic on the eve of school starting when so much else is happening in the country and the world should be an indication that something has gone very awry. And it’s costing us.

However, with the State Board of Education having denied the Charter School Advisory Board’s recommendation for almost twenty applications, there might be a little of a change in the air as to how we spend money for schools.

Maybe that is the beginning of restoring sanity in the stewardship of the public’s money for education.

The Ignoramasaurus Rex – How Gov. McCrory’s Claim on Average Teacher Pay is Not Really Real

Governor McCrory recently signed off on the budget for the next year and as expected he did it in electioneering style. He went to an elementary school in Monroe and used the opportunity to highlight his “commitment” to teachers.

According to Katherine Peralta’s report in the Charlotte Observer (http://www.charlotteobserver.com/news/politics-government/article89575217.html),

“Gov. Pat McCrory signed the state budget Thursday at a Union County elementary school, which provided a backdrop for his discussion about teacher pay and other education initiatives the budget will fund.

The Republican governor says the $22.34 billion budget includes an average 4.7 percent pay increase for teachers across the state, meaning that for the first time in state history, average pay will be more than $50,000 a year, including local supplements by counties.”

Whether every teacher receives this sizable raise is for another post. It is what is on the sign attached on the lectern says as well as what the sign behind the governor says that really catches my eye. It brags, “TEACHER PAY TO 50K.”

It’s got rhyme and meter to it, do you not think? There’s even a website for it, complete with a teacher endorsement. Go ahead- take a look at it. It’s called https://www.patmccrory.com/2016/07/14/budget-gosey/.

mccrorywebsite

There are nice tables talking about how average teacher pay has risen more than any other state under McCrory.

But there’s that word again – “average”. What the website neglects to tell you is that most of the raises have occurred at the very low rungs of the salary schedule. Of course, you can raise the salary of first year teachers by a few thousand dollars and it would give them an average raise of maybe 10-15%. You would only have to give veteran teachers a very small raise funded by longevity pay (which we no longer get) and the OVERALL average raise still looks good, and not much money has to be invested.

“Average” does not mean “actual”. Actually it’s like an average of the average. But it sounds great to those who don’t understand the math.

Oh, that extra billion spent on salaries touted on the website. That can be explained as well.

Of course there is more money spent on education now than in the past. North Carolina is one of the fastest growing states in the country. More people mean more students to educate. But it is interesting that the per-pupil expenditure under McCrory is lower than it was before the great recession, which is when everybody had their pay frozen like Mr. Gosey. That happened across the entire nation.

Furthermore, McCrory’s announcement is a whopping double standard and a total contradiction to what is really happening to average teacher pay. Just follow my logic and see if it makes sense.

The last four years have seen tremendous changes to teacher pay. For new teachers entering in the profession here in NC there is no longer any graduate degree pay bump, no more longevity pay (for anyone), and a changed salary schedule that makes it possible for a teacher to top out on the salary schedule within 15 years without really any raise for the last fifteen years until retirement.

And that top salary for new teachers is barely over 50K. So how can that be the average pay in NC be over 50K when no one can really make much over 50K as a new teacher in his/her entire career unless they all become nationally certified (which takes a monetary investment by the teacher to start)?

Easy. He is counting all of the veteran teachers’ current salaries in that figure. The very people whose salaries simply disgust the governor and the General Assembly to the point that they had to take measures to “lower” them are actually being used to tout the governor’s bold statement.

Furthermore, the governor is counting on local supplements. This comes in the face of a budget that is allocating less money to each central office of each school system for administrative costs. Now each county has to raise more money to actually offset those costs and also allow for local supplements. And not all localities provide the same supplements.

Any veteran teacher who is making above 50K based on seniority, graduate pay, and national boards are gladly counted in this figure. It simply drives up the CURRENT average pay. But when these veteran teachers who have seniority, graduate pay, and possibly national certification retire (and many are doing that early at 25 years), then the very people who seem to be a “burden” on the educational budget leave the system.

In actuality, that would drive the average salary down as time goes on. If the top salary that any teacher could make is barely over 50K (some will have higher as National Board Certified Teachers, but not a high percentage), then how can you really tout that average salaries will be higher?

You can if you are only talking about the right here and right now.

The “average bear” can turn into a bigger creature if allowed to be mutated by election year propaganda. That creature is actually a monster called the “Ignoramasaurus Rex” known for its loud roar but really short arms that keep it from having far reaching consequences.

Remember the word “average” is a very easy word to manipulate. Politicians use it well. In this case, the very teachers who are driving the “average” salary up are the very people that the state wants to not have in a few years. There will then be a new average. It can’t possibly be over 50K then if current trends keep going.

Unless, Sen. Tillman introduces a new math track in schools that allows those numbers to add up to what he wants them to be.

Outsourcing Our Kids For Profit – Rep. Rob Bryan and Sen. Chad Barefoot Will Have Much to Answer For in The Future

Doing the same things over and over again and expecting different results is a classic definition of insanity. Thinking it will be different because you changed localities is nothing more than hoping for a geographical cure. Neither is very healthy. But if the true motive behind it is profit, then people might just say anything to make it work.

Rep. Rob Bryan and Sen. Chad Barefoot just outsourced a bunch of our kids. They literally are giving our students and our taxpayer money to out-of-state, for-profit charter school operators within an Achievement School District (ASD) – all in the name of helping kids.

That would be true if helping kids means lining the pockets of people out-of-state.

They are taking kids out of their communities’ care and putting them in the hands of entities who simply want to make a profit from them. And the money these charter school operators receive will be purely profit, because their academic success is already guaranteed. Why? Because they don’t really have to show academic success; they are measured differently, just look at HB 242, championed by Sen. Jerry Tillman.

Neither Barefoot or Bryan could never really explain the “how the ASD will work” or the “why it will work”. They are simply appealing to their authority. They just tout that it will work in spite of all the results of past experiments and implementations ASD districts in multiple states, especially Tennessee whose model Bryan originally looked at to create the NC ASD proposal.

Lack of specificity is a tactic in making arguments. It hopes that people will get lost in the ambiguity of an explanation and simply rely on the speaker as being more equipped to make a decision because of a title or office held.

But lack of specificity is also a sign of not really knowing the answers. It’s like when you ask a question of someone and what he doesn’t say speaks as loudly as what he does say.

Take for instance the explanations given by Sen. Barefoot when pressed for specificity in a meeting for HB1080 (the ASD bill) chaired by Sen. Tillman as reported by Billy Ball (http://pulse.ncpolicywatch.org/2016/06/24/senate-committee-approves-controversial-charter-takeover-of-low-performing-schools/).

Barefoot calls the ASD model for NC an “innovative solution.” But when others in the meeting bring up that there really have not been positive outcomes from other ASD implementations, Barefoot just says that we will make it work because we are NC (the geographical cure).

But several Democrats and public education advocates who spoke Friday decried the bill as advancing an unproven reform.

“We would ask that you not send North Carolina down this road with an experiment which has been shown to not be effective in other states,” said Leanne Winner, director of governmental relations for the N.C. School Boards Association, a statewide group that represents local boards of education.

Barefoot, however, countered multiple times that North Carolina’s version of achievement school districts will differ from other states such as Tennessee. When pressed on the claim, Barefoot said other states “flood” schools in the achievement school district with money to middling results.

That’s a non-answer. No specifics. No details. He just said that we wouldn’t invest the same amount of money in them. That’s also odd because many teachers in our state wouldn’t mind having a bit of a “flood” in money coming their way to help in resources and maintenance. But “flood” is a subjective word. What might be a flood in the eyes of people like Barefoot and Bryan may actually be nothing more than a trickle.

Barefoot also made mention that “The bar is so low in these schools, anything that makes an impact that’s considered by this state has to be considered a good thing.”

Really? Then why not allow our own state to make that impact through funding turn-around teams that our own edcuators have put into place, but that the General Assembly will not fund adequately? Ball reports,

Opponents of the bill have also pointed out that state-run turnaround efforts in the school, through the Department of Public Instruction’s Office of District and School Transformation, yielded improving dropout rates. Additionally, the office says, more than 80 percent of the schools where it intervened with professional development and additional resources were lifted from the bottom 5 percent of schools in the state.

Yet, due to limited funding, the office claimed this year to have only been able to step in to 79 of the nearly 600 low-performing schools in the state.

Also, when it seemed that Barefoot was caught in a web of inexplicable pseudo-facts, Sen. Jerry Tillman came to the rescue with a gauntlet of non-truths rooted in confirmation bias.

Advocates like Tillman said charter operators will run the schools more successfully.

“They will make great growth,” declared Tillman. “That’s a fact.”

This is from the man who said that one math teacher could teach two different math courses in one classroom at the same time to a group of students that may reach over 35 because the state will not help fund schools so that classes can actually be capped (https://www.ednc.org/2016/06/09/senate-moves-state-one-step-closer-split-high-school-math-tracks).

The truth of the matter is that there is not much to really tout about ASD’s and the handing over of money to for-profit charter operators. Just follow the money and one can see that it really is about profits. Ball’s report makes reference to that.

As Policy Watch has reported, support for the bill was financed by a wealthy Oregon businessman who runs a network of charters, and has been promoted as a salve for long-time struggling schools by ALEC-affiliated groups like the Education Freedom Alliance out of Oklahoma.

Looking at Ball’s original posting on NC Policy Watch referenced earlier will give you the links to those news bits.

The cruel irony here is that this is all in the name of helping kids and offering them choices and opportunities, except here choices have been removed from the very communities who raise these kids. And the money they pay in taxes is actually helping to outsource their own kids’ education, one that will not be measured in the same ways as others who attend traditional schools.

And that’s wrong on so many levels.

Some JT for JT – A Justin Timberlake Mix Tape for Sen. Jerry Tillman

I am a child of the 80’s. Mix tapes are in my genetic makeup.

This is my third mix tape for this blog. The first was a compilation of Bruce Springsteen for Gov. Pat McCrory.

https://dianeravitch.net/2016/06/27/stuart-egan-tea-party-legislature-in-north-carolina-seeks-to-lock-steep-tax-cuts-into-the-state-constitution/

The second was for all of the North Carolina General Assembly and our rocky relationship compiling the best of Taylor Swift who, as we know, is the master of relationships.

https://caffeinatedrage.com/2016/05/14/the-master-of-breakup-songs-and-ended-relationships-a-taylor-swift-mix-tape-for-elected-officials/

Now it is time for one specifically for Sen. Jerry Tillman made up of Justin Timberlake songs.

That’s right – JT for JT.

Now, you will have to use your imagination in some places for the titles and songs to make sense. In other cases, please don’t use your imagination at all. “Rock Your Body” can become a disturbing song with too much imagination.

So here goes:

  1. “Mirrors” from The 20/20 Experience

There’s the chorus – “”I don’t want to lose you now. I’m looking right at the other half of me. ”

However, when relating this song to the senator, I am wishing he would look in the mirror because then he might see what actually a main part of what is making North Carolina lose itself. Sen. Tillman’s constant blaming of the public schools for the rise of unregulated charter schools shows someone who is unwilling to look at himself and his own role in hurting public schools.

Simply put, he needs to look in a mirror.

  1. “Drink You Away” from The 20/20 Experience – 2 0f 2

The chorus starts with “I can’t drink you away / I’ve tried Jack, I’ve tried Jim….”

But I may have found something that will help me drink Tillman away. It’s called the November Election Elixir.

  1. “Summer Love” from FutureSex/LoveSounds

This song is appropriate for not only the current summer season, but it is the senator’s favorite time to legislate bad policies like the voter ID law and charter school deregulation because it is the most active time for the NC General Assembly. How could he not love it?

“I can’t wait to fall in love with the summer session of the NCGA
The summer session of the NCGA  can’t wait to fall in love with me
This just can’t be summer love, you’ll see
This just can’t be summer love.”

I know, more words than notes. JT can make it work.

  1. “SexyBack” from FutureSex/LoveSounds

Sorry, that scared the hell out of me too.

  1. “Not a Bad Thing” from The 20/20 Experience – 2 0f 2

“I know people make promises all the time
Then they turn right around and break them, like you have done for years
And someone like you cuts their heart open with a knife, now NC’s bleeding
But the guy running against you in November could be that guy to heal it over time
And I won’t stop until you leave
Cause baby North Carolina is worth it.”

So don’t act like it’s a bad thing to actually legislate helpful bills for all public school kids.

Yep, not a bad thing to think about.

  1. “Tunnel Vision” from The 20/20 Experience

The title says everything. A limited view of the state of the State of North Carolina gives way to allowing for tunnel vision. At least he’s consistent.

  1. “Cry Me A River” from Justified

“Your bridges were burned, and now it’s your turn
To cry, cry me a river
Cry me a river-er
Cry me a river
Cry me a river-er, yea yea”

This will be the song that I sing when Sen. Jerry Tillman realizes that his obsessive love for unregulated charter schools and the diversion of tax payer money to vouchers and private schools will in the end backfire. They have not worked in the past and they wil not work now. And when he tries to place blame on someone else because he didn’t look in the “Mirror” or get rid of his “Tunnel Vision”, I will just tell him to “Cry Me a River.”

  1. “Take Back the Night” from The 20/20 Experience – 2 0f 2

I hope that we can take back our state in November.

  1. “Can’t Stop the Feeling” released 2016 as a single

I really hope I can sing this in November after we “Take Back the Night” but when I think of how we can “unelect” this group in November and help to transform our state back to a better time for all of its citizens I sing,

“I got this feeling inside my bones
It goes electric, wavey when I turn it on
All through my city, all through my home
We’re flying up, no ceiling, when we in our zone

I got that sunshine in my pocket
Got that good soul in my feet
I feel that hot blood in my body when it drops, ooh
I can’t take my eyes up off it, moving so phenomenally.”

  1. “What Goes Around / Comes Back Around” from FutureSex/LoveSounds

Damn right, it does.

Gollum and his “Precious” – The Achievement School District and What is in Its Pocketses

Yep – I went there.

 

In the latest besmirching of public schools, leaders of the Senate Education Committee gave their approval to an Achievement School District in North Carolina, a GOP backed endeavor that places low performing schools from poverty stricken areas in the hands of out-of-state, for-profit charter organizations.

Past ASD “experiments” have proven disastrous. And at the middle of the meeting, the man who collected the votes and announced the decision was none other than the champion of unregulated charter schools, Sen. Jerry Tillman.

Sen. Tillman is no stranger to the assault on public education in North Carolina. His bills and lawmaking have enabled many charter schools to take public funds and run unregulated creating results that are not measured like traditional schools are so they can be trumpeted as successful.

Billy Ball reported in his article on NC Policy Watch on June 24 (“Senate committee approves controversial charter takeover of low-performing schools”),

“Committee Chair Jerry Tillman, a Republican who supports the measure, declared the “ayes” to have won the vote Friday, although to some listeners, the voice vote appeared to be evenly split or favoring the opposition.“

Tillman was going to make sure it would pass. That’s why there was a voice vote. And the oldest ears in the room declared a winner.

That’s being consumed with power.

At one time Tillman was a public school educator and administrator. He still probably receives a pension from the very entity that he now works against – the public schools. It is almost unbelievable that such a transformation could occur. But power can corrupt.

It is not an uncommon theme, the corruption of power. It is told in many stories. It drives plot. It created transformations in the very characters that cannot get enough power.

I remember reading Lord of the Rings as a teenager. Gripping. Then I went to college here in North Carolina and had this roommate who would in the middle of the night come next to me and lightly say, “What’s the Bagginses gots in his pocketses?”

It would make me release my bladder sometimes. Not gonna lie.

My roommate was taking this course called “Faith and Imagination” from the religion department. They read LOTR because of its allegorical nature. And he loved Gollum. And he quoted him in the most uncomfortable situations.

Too much, I think.

Fast-forward 20+ years and we get Peter Jackson’s epic Lord of the Rings Trilogy on the big screen and then we got a wonderful view of how Gollum could be envisioned.

gollum

That is an interesting fellow. You won’t forget him.

So when I caught a glimpse of a picture of Sen. Jerry Tillman…

tillman

I saw this again –

gollum

Then I thought of this,

tillman

And it all made sense. A once public school official who championed public schools changed into someone who is willing to sell them away using tax payer money.

Smeagol (Gollum before he was Gollum) was once a Halfling like Frodo and Samwise, but something changed him when he discovered the power of the ring – the one ring to rule them all.

ringofpower

If you look very closely it says, “Ash nazg thrakatulûk agh burzum-ishi krimpatul.” Translated, it says, “One ring to rule them all, one ring to find them, one ring to bring them all and in the darkness bind them.”

Rumor is that it was created by the for-profit charter school industry in Mordor, which is out of state. It is the “precious” that people like Tillman look to have and it calls the same people to send our public schools into disarray.

Actually that’s not true, but metaphorically-speaking it is spot on.

So precious is the link to the for-profit charter school industry that Tillman is not hesitant to shout the wonderful effects of charter schools when he has no proof otherwise. He was reported as saying in that Senate committee meeting that kids in charter schools do better than kids on regular public schools and that is the reason that the kids in the ASD “district” should be given over to the charter industry. Ball even quoted Tillman as saying, “They will make great growth. That’s a fact.”

Wow! Someone is corrupted by the dark side.

Those who know the story of LOTR remember that the ring is destroyed in the very place where it seemed impossible to go – Mordor. It was a happy ending. Worth rewatching over and over again.

Hopefully here in NC it will be a happy ending when those in power realize that placing our kids in the hands of an impersonal entity through an ASD is not the answer.

Louisiana, Michigan, and Tennessee have already found that out.

TABOR – A Tourniquet Around the Bloodlines of Our Republic

TABOR. To many in the NCGA it is called the TAxpayer Bill of Rights. Makes it sound like it truly benefits those in our state. It doesn’t. It’s just another catchy acronym that acts like a Trojan horse for something more destructive.

Acronyms are easy to shape and easier to sound beneficial. However, the “benefits” of this piece of legislation would be far reaching and would take years to heal from.

In reality TABOR is a Terribly Awful Breach Of Representation, a Totally Asinine Bit Of Reform, and a Truly Abusive Bit Of Rubbish in which people are being forced to Turn All Backs On Reality. It’s a Tremendously Atrocious Bunch Of Refuse Taken Amidst the Bowels Of Rapacity and passed off with a Total Assortment of Baloney Or Rigmarole.

It’s a metaphorical tourniquet, a Tourniquet Around the Bloodlines of Our Republic.

Just think of a tourniquet, a device that constricts blood flow to a limb or extremity. Only in times of medical emergency should a tourniquet be used. Maybe for a poisonous snakebite or a bloody wound. Sometimes one is used to allow for blood to be taken for testing and health purposes.

But one does not place a tourniquet on an arm or leg for kicks and giggles. There are consequences because blood is the very life force that carries oxygen and nutrients to the very parts of the body that need them. Cutting off blood flow has deleterious effects. Bones weaken and muscles atrophy.

That’s not good for a growing body.

Now think of a metaphorical tourniquet, one in which a constricting element is placed on a part of society that cuts off resources and funding for those who are most invested.

GOP leaders in the North Carolina General Assembly are pushing for a proposal to place a constitutional amendment on the November ballot that would cap the income tax rate a 5.5% (currently it is 10%).

That proposal is a political tourniquet, pure and simple. And just as limited blood flow would cause harm to the skeletal system in a body, this measure would cause our state’s infrastructure to slowly disintegrate.

Chris Fitzsimon puts it very bluntly in his latest “The Follies” from June 17, 2016 (http://www.ncpolicywatch.com/2016/06/17/the-follies-253/).  He states,

“As the N.C Budget & Tax Center points out, that cap would cut off a vital source of revenue that the state needs and make it virtually impossible for future lawmakers to use the income tax to increase state investments, even in times of emergencies.

It also locks in place the massive tax cuts for the wealthy passed in 2013 that will cost more than $2 billion a year when fully in effect, more than the entire budget of the community college system and early childhood programs combined.

The new lower tax cap could threaten the state’s coveted AAA bond rating and force increases in the state sales tax and could lead local governments to raise property taxes and fees.  It’s a terrible idea that threatens funding for public schools, health care, and environmental protections and makes decisions for future members of the General Assembly that will be elected by the voters just like the current members were.”

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 part of the GOP’s plan is to change the constitution of the state.

Remember that all three of those areas (schools, healthcare, and environment) have already been hazardously affected in the last three years here in North Carolina.

Per pupil expenditures are lower, charter school growth is uncontrolled, and teacher pay is still low despite what the current administration wants to boast.

Medicaid expansion was denied and we as a state are still paying into a system that benefits other states but not ours because of political ideology and a dislike for the current president.

The fracking industry is being given an open door and permission to do whatever it wants. Duke Energy’s coal ash spills have still gone relatively unpunished.

Those three areas alone form a large part of our state’s infrastructure, or rather the skeleton of the state’s body. When these areas are harmed, then the need to help them heal is paramount. When bones and muscles have been damaged in a body, then one does not place a tourniquet on the wounded limb. You make sure that blood is flowing amply into the affected area.

It promotes healing. It promotes health.

That is unless those who want to place the tourniquet on those parts of society want to create a situation where amputation is the only option in the end. And while we could not literally amputate the public school system or the environment, we can do the political equivalent – privatize them. It would allow a few select people to profit over the very institutions that our state is supposed to provide.

Think about the effects on K-12 public education, community colleges, the public university system, public assistance programs, health care, correctional facilities, transportation, economic development, parks and recreation, environmental projects, state police forces, and aid to local governments.

You place a tourniquet on those items and you stagnate the growth of a state whose population is growing. And when the bone structure cannot handle the weight of a growing body, then… well you can imagine.

Proponents of the amendment to cap income taxes will tout that it means more money for people to spend on their own. It would allow for people to have more choices within their power. But unless you can send your students to private schools, have your own libraries and media outlets, pay for all out of pocket medical expenditures, hire your own security team, have your own environmental control, or set up your own recreational facilities, then you may be out of luck.

Even John Hood of the John Locke Foundation, a self-professed “conservatarian,” expounds on the role of the state in keeping a strong infrastructure. He says in his op-ed “How to read this column” printed in the June 19th edition of the Winston-Salem Journal (http://www.journalnow.com/opinion/columnists/john-hood-how-to-read-this-column/article_1b7789ac-1fcf-5389-a6be-eca653d233bc.html) ,

“So I believe government should (and always will) exist to protect individual rights and to finance certain core services that, because of collective-action problems, will not be adequately provided through purely voluntary means. At the state and local level, those services include public safety and health, education and some infrastructure.”

And to place a cap on state income tax as being proposed would hurt the ability for the state to finance those “core services”.

Ironic that people who are pushing for this cap like Sen. Tom Apodaca, Sen. Jerry Tillman, Sen. Bob Rucho, and Sen. Bill Rabon are public officials elected by the public who seem more interested in placing a tourniquet on the very services that they are sworn to protect and provide the public.

Actually, it isn’t ironic, but rather consistent and predictable.

Just look at what has happened in the last three years here in North Carolina.

So tell Tom Apodaca, Buck, Or Rucho that this is nothing more than surreptitious politics. Let Tillman, Andrew Brock Or Rabon know this is not good.
And vote it down if it comes up in November.