About That John Hood Op-ed on Teacher Pay and “Reasoned Debate”

teacher

As the president of the John William Pope foundation and chairman of the board at the libertarian think tank John Locke Foundation, John Hood serves more as a mouthpiece that represents a political ideology which obeys the policies of the American Legislative Exchange Council more than it considers the average North Carolinian.

On issues such as voter rights, economic stimulus, tax reform, tort reform, legislative district boundaries, and the privatizing of public goods, John Hood’s writings and commentaries reflect the very ideologies of his boss, Art Pope, who helped craft the very political atmosphere that NC has adopted these last five years.

Nowhere does Hood’s words more reflect a narrow-mindedness than when he talks about public education.

John Hood’s recent missive in EdNC.org entitled “Teacher pay deserves reasoned debate” is nothing more than platitudinous rubbish that continues to push unregulated reform under the veil of a moral high road all in the name of free markets (https://www.ednc.org/2017/10/31/teacher-pay-deserves-reasoned-debate/).

It is condescending and haughty whether it was intended or not.

Hood calls for “reasoned debate.” That’s laughable. The practice of “reasoned debate” has not been used in Raleigh in years. When the very GOP-controlled General Assembly who champions the policies that Hood promotes conducts multiple “special sessions” and midnight meetings without transparency, that means the idea of “reasoned debate” has been abandoned.

The constant flow of court cases which continuously get laws and initiatives overturned as unconstitutional is the product of intentional disdain of reasoned debate. To claim that reasoned debate can and will be used when discussing the teaching profession is simply hot air. To claim that “civil, respectful, and productive discussion” is possible with the pedigree shown by leaders in Raleigh is even more preposterous.

Hood’s lesson in rhetoric with explanation on the “three elements to any argument” was especially arrogant. To suggest that what has been used to drive policy on public education was and still is built on facts and “logical reasoning” is a farce. What has happened in Raleigh is a distortion of the facts and the promulgation of logical fallacies.

And the idea that all parties come to the table to discuss matters? It is hard to “put the different definitions on the table” when most of the people who are to be affected by the “discussion” are not even allowed to the table.

Argumentation is not that simple when you consider the credibility of the speaker, the message, the audience, the style of the delivery, and the overall purpose. Argumentation can be meant to dominate, negotiate, inquire, or even assert. And arguments are rarely offered with just appeals to logic but may appeal to ethics and emotions and a mix of the three.

What Hood is doing is simplifying the matter and claiming to take a civilized route. In reality, a debate on public education should include so much more than Hood’s simple explanation of rhetoric.

When offering the biased analysis of the recent debate in Newton over teacher pay, Hood obviously sides with Dr. Terry Stoops and Rep. Craig Horn. They abide by the same narrative.

In fact, Hood made sure to highlight Stoops’s argument over teacher pay overhaul.

Terry Stoops, a former teacher who directs education studies for the John Locke Foundation, argued that traditional teacher salary schedules, centered on years of tenure and forms of credentials, bear little resemblance to the way professionals such as lawyers, doctors, engineers, and accountants are paid.

“If you’re a teacher and performing very well, you might get paid less than the person down the hall just because they’ve been in the profession longer,” Stoops said. “That sends a bad signal to those teachers that are in the profession that just because someone has spent longer in the system they’re making more, when it’s completely disassociated with student performance.”

Ironically, Hood identifies Stoops as a former teacher and not as his colleague at the John Locke Foundation. Why is that important? That’s because Stoops taught for less than one calendar year according to his LinkedIn profile.

One year.

He never experienced the very changes and flux that the very teachers he is supposedly “advocating” for have endured like change in curriculum, evaluations, leadership, testing, etc. In fact, it is hard to find anything that Dr. Stoops has written that informs teachers of his own limited days in the classroom in Virginia, a state that just got rid of its school performance grading system and put a cap on charter school growth, two initiatives so readily embraced in Raleigh.

But it’s that “suggestion” that NC should move to pay teachers like the “way professionals such as lawyers, doctors, engineers, and accountants are paid” that lacks the very logic Hood claims should be using in a “reasoned debate.”

If I as a teacher should be paid as one of those other professionals, then maybe I should be paid by an hourly rate that I establish and be able to consider each student a separate client since I have to differentiate instruction. Actually, I would be a lot richer now than when the current GOP-led NCGA came to power because now I teach more students in a school year with more criteria to be met and spend more hours teaching them.

Now that’s logic.

Maybe I could market myself as a professional and go after the best “clients” no matter where they are slated to attend. Competition is competition, right?. Essentially, that sounds a lot like what unregulated charter schools and private schools already do. And Hood is all for those.

The comment “Structuring pay around years of experience and degrees awarded was a bad idea” is also devoid of the logic that Hood so thinks we should use.

It seems logical to expect a lawyer, doctor, engineer, or accountant to believe that experience should be factored in his/her pay scale. Actually, the more letters that these professionals can place next to their names through further certification and advanced degrees, the more these people can demand in recompense. Of course, performance is key in their success, but for doctors, lawyers, engineers, and accountants, performance is not always under the constant scrutiny of the legislature.

Furthermore, each of those professions requires a certain amount of schooling and certification. The man who supposedly leads our public school system became a teacher in a matter of weeks and was in the classroom twice as long as the former teacher referred to in Hood’s op-ed, Dr. Stoops. Would Hood call Mark Johnson a “professional educator?” Try passing a bill like SB599 for the legal and medical professions.

Teachers are certainly underpaid. That is not the question. But to automatically equate how we pay teachers with how other “professionals” are paid is ridiculous when they are treated so differently than the teaching profession. Try regulating the legal, medical, and business communities in the same way that education is regulated. Interestingly, the same legislation that goes out of its way to “deregulate” how businesses operate in the state in order to promote business usually ensures less interference from government in how those entities should operate.

Quite the opposite has happened with public education. In fact, Hood and his reformist cronies have actually added more layers of nebulous accountability while weakening the ability for the profession to advocate for itself and the students in public schools.

And paying teachers like they are professionals probably would be easier if teachers were part of the conversation “at the table.” The operative word here is “at.”

Not “under” the table.

Not “on” the table”

“At” the table.

Then that conversation can start, because the “logical debate” that Hood alludes to seems to only have lawmakers “at” the table illogically discussing with their alternate facts what should be done about teacher pay.

Lawmakers should be more open to speak “with” teachers.

Not “to” them.

Not “down” at them.

This op-ed from John Hood is talking down to teachers.

Op-eds like this are a re-run of the same blue-blazered and straight collared argument to funnel tax-payer money from a public good to profit a few as well as weakening the teaching profession while presenting a dignified smile at the same time.

 

The Misguided Narrative Over Differentiated Teacher Pay In North Carolina

“This idea that the school is a harmonious community and that teachers aren’t competing with one another is patently false. Teachers are constantly competing with one another. They want to outdo each other. They want to be a better teacher than the teacher down the hall. That doesn’t mean they’re not going to collaborate.” – Dr. Terry Stoops of the John Locke Foundation.

differentiated pay

The above quote is part of EdNC.org’s coverage of the debate concerning differentiated pay in Newton, NC on October 24th by Liz Bell.

The comment made by Dr. Stoops is more than interesting. It’s more than contradictory. It’s the very epitome of the mindset that is seeking to “reform” public education in North Carolina by undermining the teaching profession.

In fact, it’s (to quote Stoops) “patently false.”

If one looks at Dr. Stoop’s mini bio on the John Locke Foundation website, it mentions that he taught English in a Virginia public school (for 11 months according to LinkedIn) before embarking on a doctoral program and then becoming the Director of Research and Education Policy Studies for the libertarian think tank.

Dr. Stoops is literally paid to be a mouthpiece for JLF. It’s his job to tell people that teachers would rather compete against each other than collaborate. Devoid of the ability to look at education from the classroom perspective, he makes the above comment because it fits the narrative of his employer and aligns with the Art Pope mantra of free market competition even within the realm of a public good protected by the state constitution.

And that year in a classroom does not qualify Dr. Stoops to speak from a teacher’s perspective. Eleven months does not a veteran make; however, in the political terrain that was created by the likes of current GOP stalwarts, it would almost qualify him to be the state school superintendent.

As a veteran teacher, it would be great to say that every school is a harmonious community. But schools are literally fighting forces that are aimed at disrupting them. If anything is causing disharmony in schools, it is not the “competitive” streaks that exist in the teaching force; it is the constant placement of obstacles in the way of schools that teachers have to combat to help students achieve: vouchers, school performance grades, due-process right removal, graduate degree pay removal, constant flux in assessments, too much standardized tests, per-pupil expenditures lowered, charter school growth without regulation, and the list goes on.

And each one of those “initiatives” that are actually obstacles is championed by the very “think-tank” that Dr. Stoops shills for.

Furthermore, all of those obstacles are compounded by the growing income gap experienced by many of the students who attend public schools that the current NC General Assembly is enabling.

As a teacher, I do not compete with other teachers to “outdo” them. My success as a teacher is so dependent on other teachers that to work against them would be to sabotage my own effectiveness. It’s insane to think that I am competing against other teachers when there is not another person in the school with my exact schedule or teaching load who teaches the same students.

I did not fill out a self-assessment at the beginning of the year with a state approved rubric that will be used by my administrator to evaluate me on the basis of pitting myself against others. In fact, that evaluation form (the NC Educator Effectiveness System) uses the word “collaborate” and its other forms over 20 times. The word “competitive” comes up only once – as a descriptor for students after they graduate.

Teachers demonstrate leadership by taking responsibility for the progress of all students to ensure that they graduate from high school, are globally competitive for work and postsecondary education, and are prepared for life in the 21st century.

I did not renew my National Boards this past year to show how I am competing with others. In fact, part of the process is to show how I collaborate with my fellow educators for students and the community. In fact, there is a section devoted to “collaboration and Ethics.” Did I mention that NC has more NBCT’s than any other state?

I do not meet with my fellow teachers in Professional Learning Teams to figure out ways to “outdo” them. In fact, they are the best resources I have in education.

I do not have students work collaboratively in class just for show. I do it because it works.

Interestingly, Dr. Stoops referred to schools as communities. “Community” is an interesting word. I think of schools as being a “community” in the way that it is a group of people trying to build “community” with common goals and fostering a positive school culture.

I also believe that teachers who want to become better do not measure themselves in a competitive way with other teachers. They use the wealth of knowledge and perspective from other teachers to help them become better than they once were.

Ironically, Dr. Stoops works for an entity that supports and is supported by people who have much control over the dealing on West Jones Street. When it comes to public education, the efforts to work against teacher advocacy groups such as NCAE has been rather intensified. In this “right-to-work” state that allows no unions, organizations such as NCAE and local chapters, pose the biggest obstacle to the agenda that is proffered by the American Legislative Exchange Council, an agenda that wants to privatize a public good like public education.

It’s that collaboration within groups like NCAE that is keeping public education as a public good rather than allowing it to be thrown into the private market where the rules of operation have already been rigged.

If anything, it’s the very collaboration that public schools naturally have and nurture that poses the greatest opposition to “reformers.”

And Dr. Stoops is having a hard time competing against that.

keep-calm-and-collaborate

So, “How does North Carolina rank on a list of best and worst states for teachers?” – Take a Guess.

Today we learned that North Carolina is 45th on WalletHub’s ranking of 2017 Best and Worst States for Teachers. According to T. Keung Hui’s report today in the News & Record.

North Carolina was 45th on WalletHub’s ranking of 2017 Best and Worst States for Teachers, finishing as the seventh-worst state on a list that included all 50 states and the District of Columbia. The personal finance website developed its rankings based on 21 metrics, ranging from teachers’ income growth potential to pupil-teacher ratio to teacher safety (http://www.newsobserver.com/news/local/education/article175276116.html).

What is most surprising about this ranking is that it is not surprising. You can view the study and its findings here: https://wallethub.com/edu/best-and-worst-states-for-teachers/7159/#kimberly-kappler-hewitt.

Wallethub1

Last year, North Carolina was 44th (http://www.citizen-times.com/story/news/local/2016/09/26/nc-ranks-44th-among-best-and-worst-states-teachers/91107988/). That means that this year is a setback of sorts, and with all of that “reform” going on.

In 2015, NC was 50th (http://www.citizen-times.com/story/news/local/2015/09/28/nc-ranks-50th-list-worst-states-teachers/72971156/).

In 2014, NC was 51st. Remember that the District of Columbia is included.

The validity of a study will always come under fire by those whose narrative does not fit with the results and conclusions. Hui’s report includes comments from Dr. Terry Stoops of the John Locke Foundation.

But Terry Stoops, vice president for research for the John Locke Foundation, said the study is just an attempt by WalletHub to get more clicks on its website. He questioned the methodology used by WalletHub for the many different rankings it produces.

“This isn’t truly about finding out best and worst places for teachers,” Stoops said. “This is about driving people to WalletHub’s website.”

Of course Stoops would say that. He works for the John Locke Foundation. If he agreed with the study, then it would go against JLF’s narrative that teachers do not deserve the “rights and privileges” they supposedly currently have. But it is interesting that he claims it is an attempt to get people to WalletHub’s website.

Maybe if North Carolina was ranked a little higher, say maybe in the 30’s, it would not have caused as many people to go to WalletHub’s site. Maybe WalletHub should have ranked NC in the top ten for how it treats teachers. That would really drive down the traffic from NC to their website.

Probably not. Either way, he certainly clicked on WalletHub’s site.

Yet, the parameters and variables they used to conduct the study do seem rather solid. Think about it. It is easy to quantify the results of qualitative data points and surveys and plot them.

The study ranked each state on (as Hui reports):

  • Average starting salary for teachers (adjusted for cost of living) – 36th
  • Average annual salary for teachers (adjusted for cost of living) – 34th
  • Quality of school system – 13th
  • Pupil-teacher ratio – 34th
  • Public-school spending per student – 43rd
  • Teachers’ income growth potential – 38th
  • Ten-year change in teacher salaries – 46th
  • Teacher safety – 43rd

Those are not flattering numbers for our state. And they are consistent with what has occurred in the last few years.

Stoops had one other comment in Hui’s article.

Stoops said that if the rankings were consistent then North Carolina would have finished much higher based on the mark it got for the quality of schools.

Actually, that is the most interesting part of the entire piece. What Stoops is referring to is that North Carolina ranked 13th in WalletHub’s 2017 States with the Best & Worst School Systems.

You may find that study here – https://wallethub.com/edu/states-with-the-best-schools/5335/#.

Wallethub2

The variables used for that study include:

  • Graduations Rates
  • Dropout Rate: Double Weight
  • Test Scores
  • AP Scores
  • Median SAT Score
  • Median ACT Score

The actual list has many more items that are more thoroughly explained.But Stoops cannot seem to marry the idea that NC ranks 45th in one study and 13th in another. He cannot seem to fathom the idea that our schools are maybe doing a good job, but the state does not treat public school teachers well, especially veteran teachers.

I can.

That “discrepancy” of 32 places on the WalletHub rankings just might be due to the most non-quantitative and most qualitative factor in our schools besides hard-working students – the role of teachers.

So what if the WalletHub studies do hold water? If you look at them, you will see that there is included some “Ask the Experts” sections. The scholars in these sections seem rather “bonifide.” It would be hard to imagine they would lend their names to the studies if they did not approve of the methodologies. Sure they can have political bent or an area of focus that may sway their opinions, but they are scholars.

Stoops works for a libertarian think tank associated with a man named Art Pope who was instrumental in former Gov. McCrory’s first budget and policy shift toward alienating teachers. In other words, Stoops has a very political bent.

And the writer of this post is certainly of a political bent and has an extreme bias when it comes to public school teachers.

However, we both have something in common: we apparently went to WalletHub’s website.

 

 

Don’t Mistake My “Exaggeration” For Your Active Ignorance – A Somewhat Rational Response to the John Locke Foundation

Reading educational perspectives from John Hood and the John Locke Foundation is like opening a letter with a nice stamp, a handwritten address, and some hearts drawn on the outside.

Yet, once you open it up, what falls out is nothing but glitter. No letter. Nothing really of substance. Just a mess on the floor that requires cleaning.

But I know that I will still open any letters from John Hood and the John Locke Foundation because as a public school activist, those letters will inevitably revalidate that I am on the right side of the school choice argument.

Hood’s latest missive on school choice appears in EdNC.org’s Perspective section. It is entitled “Exaggeration won’t stop school choice” (https://www.ednc.org/2017/07/31/exaggeration-wont-stop-school-choice/).

Its tone is condescending and entitled. Its substance is watery. And its covert claim of taking the moral “high road” in the debate over school choice in NC smells of garbage juice. Consider the final line of his op-ed.

“Let’s calm down and discuss this rationally.”

For a man who fronts organizations founded and led by Art Pope, the idea of having a rational conversation on public issues in this arena is like walking into a dialogue with someone who will only allow you one word for every sentence he says and who will not allow you to present evidence because it may actually refute any nebulous claims he makes.

But he will smile and shake your hand as if you are on the same side.

John Locke as a philosopher embraced empiricism, practicality, and strong observation. And while Mr. Hood loves using the word “empiricism” and “empirical” to define his “proof” he offers in this instance another lofty, general, glittering, and amorphous claim that what North Carolina has done to reform public education is strongly beneficial.

And it is beneficial – for those who are seeking to make a profit like Art Pope.

But Mr. Hood did offer to discuss this rationally, so here are some claims that he makes and that I will “rationally” refute.

  1. During the 2016-17 academic year, nearly one out of five North Carolina children were educated in settings other than district-run public schools. In Wake County and some other urban areas, the percentage was even higher.

He is right on both counts. Also, it needs to be noted that over one out of five North Carolina children live in poverty. And while Wake County has a higher percentage of students in non-public school settings, it might be worth noting that the budget shortfall for funding the public schools in Wake County is one of the more well-known shortfalls in the state as far as supporting public schools. Just do a little research.

  1. To opponents of parental choice in education, the trend signifies an elaborate plot to destroy public schools by denigrating their accomplishments and funding their competition. To other North Carolinians, the rising share of children attending charter, private, or home schools simply reflects the fact that more opportunities are available, more families are exploring them, and the state’s education sector is becoming more diverse, innovative, and parent-friendly.

Actually, a “rational” person could look at what has happened in the past five years in NC and see that there really is a dismantling of public education. Look at the money that is being used to fund charters, vouchers, and other “reforms” that have no “empirical evidence” showing that they are successful.

Just take a look at this : https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/answer-sheet/wp/2016/05/18/the-assault-on-public-education-in-north-carolina-just-keeps-on-coming/. That’s an elaborate plot.

Of course other North Carolinians might see “school choice” as a road to more opportunities but is it really offering a more “diverse, innovative, and parent-friendly” experience?

Not really.

Today the News & Observer had an editorial entitled “The hidden cost of vouchers” (http://amp.newsobserver.com/opinion/editorials/article165488352.html). All North Carolinians should read this.

It states,

When they passed the ill-conceived program to hand taxpayers’ money to lower-income people to pay for private schools for their children, Republican lawmakers didn’t bother to point out the fine print – that the $4,200 maximum might not cover expenses such as food and transportation. And it also doesn’t cover the full tuition of private schools, many of which are church-affiliated…

There’s a cynical side to this entire program as well. Yes, the $4,200 can cover a lot of expense at small church schools, for example, but wealthy Republicans aren’t going to see any of the Opportunity Scholarship recipients in the state’s most exclusive private schools, the ones that cater to wealthy families. Tuition in those schools is often $20,000 and above.

Parents with kids in public schools where arts and physical education programs are threatened, where the best teachers are leaving the profession to earn a better living, might point directly to Republicans in the General Assembly as the culprits. This voucher program was little more than a slap at public schools, which Republicans have targeted since taking control of the General Assembly in 2011. It is a bad idea that is getting worse, and getting more expensive, and the only positive in it is in the eye of the beholder – private school enrollment has gone up since the program started.

Would Mr. Hood like to rationally refute this?

The op-ed in the N&O also references an NC State study led by Anna Egalite which offers some rather “empirical” data that seems to take Mr. Hood’s claims and send them back for reconsideration (https://news.ncsu.edu/2017/07/nc-state-research-explores-how-private-schools-families-make-voucher-decisions/). It too is worth the read.

Kris Nordstrom, education finance and policy consultant for the N.C. Justice Center’s Education and Law Project, is also quoted in the N&O op-ed. I am willing to bet my salary as it would have been if the General Assembly had not messed with the schedule I saw when I came into the profession that Nordstrom is much more educated in current public education issues than Mr. Hood and could offer more “rational” perspectives on the issue of school choice – calmly or otherwise.

  1. I’m in the latter camp, obviously. I’ve advocated school choice programs for three decades. My parents, former public-school educators, were supporters of the idea throughout their careers and influenced me greatly on the subject. If you disagree, I probably won’t be able to convince you in a single column about the merits of charter school expansion or opportunity scholarships. But I will offer this observation: exaggerating the case against school choice isn’t doing you or the public any favors.

No, Mr. Hood will not convince me. But if he thinks that what is being offered by myself or other public school advocates is exaggeration, then I would claim that Mr. Hood is compressing and ignoring the truth because he never refutes the evidence offered by public school advocates. In fact, he never offers any proof that vouchers and charters are showing evidence of high student achievement here in North Carolina.

Mr. Hood says that he has “good reasons, both theoretical and empirical” for his claims. What are they? Where is the data from North Carolina? The only time I have heard a “pro-school choice” official mentioning even talking about empirical evidence as far as North Carolina’s reforms are concerned actually helping low-income students.

Lindsay Wagner’s latest piece for the AJ Fletcher Foundation entitled “Are publicly-funded private school vouchers helping low-income kids? We don’t know” raises a rather glaring inconsistency when it comes to whether vouchers are really helping low-income students.

The leader of Parents for Educational Freedom in North Carolina, Darrell Allison, said recently that school vouchers aren’t likely to hurt children from low-income households who use them. But he couldn’t say definitively that the voucher program actually helps these children, either.

Why? Because despite the fact that North Carolina spends millions of taxpayers’ dollars each year on vouchers, we have no meaningful data that can tell us if this is an effective way to help poor students who deserve a high quality education (http://ajf.org/publicly-funded-private-school-vouchers-helping-low-income-kids-dont-know/).

Doesn’t sound like empirical data to me. Sounds like avoiding the actual debate. I would also like to see Mr. Hood explain his point of view in reference to the NAACP’s recent call for a charter school moratorium.

Hood1

Or, what is found in this report: https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/education/federal-study-of-dc-voucher-program-finds-negative-impact-on-student-achievement/2017/04/27/e545ef28-2536-11e7-bb9d-8cd6118e1409_story.html?utm_term=.e45590a4a1db.

It states:

“Students in the nation’s only federally funded school voucher initiative performed worse on standardized tests within a year after entering D.C. private schools than peers who did not participate, according to a new federal analysis that comes as President Trump is seeking to pour billions of dollars into expanding the private school scholarships nationwide.

The study, released Thursday by the Education Department’s research division, follows several other recent studies of state-funded vouchers in Louisiana, Indiana and Ohio that suggested negative effects on student achievement. Critics are seizing on this data as they try to counter Trump’s push to direct public dollars to private schools.”

Or even this report from the NY Times: “Dismal Voucher Results Surprise Researchers as DeVos Era Begins” (https://www.nytimes.com/2017/02/23/upshot/dismal-results-from-vouchers-surprise-researchers-as-devos-era-begins.html).

  1. Elementary and secondary education is becoming more like the rest of the education sector, and more like a health care sector that features lots of taxpayer funding but a diverse array of public, private, and nonprofit hospitals and other providers.

Actually, Mr. Hood is right in this respect when he compares public education to health care. Just look at the refusal to extend Medicaid for the very families who would qualify for vouchers and you see how the refusal to fully fund public schools only makes matters unhealthier.

  1. There is an impressive body of empirical evidence suggesting that as district-run public schools face more competition, their students tend to experience gains in test scores and attainment as school leaders rise to the challenge.

There’s that word again – “empirical.” Funny how public education works really well when it is collaborative rather than competitive, but it is worth mentioning that in a state that routinely has principal pay ranked around 50th in the nation, actually keeping school leaders is an obstacle created by the very people who brought us reform.

  1. And because the state’s choice programs are targeted at disabled and lower-income kids, the enrollment changes wouldn’t represent some kind of neo-segregationist conspiracy.

Apparently, Mr. Hood didn’t read this:

Hood2

He could just confer with Lt. Dan Forrest on its contents.

Or maybe he hasn’t fully digested this (which was sent to me, but I cannot verify its source, so if you find it, please let me know):

Hood3

The last statement before he offers the “Let’s calm down and discuss this rationally” conclusion, Mr. Hood says, “Competition improves performance.”

When the North Carolina General Assembly stops gerrymandering districts and enabling policies that seem to be ruled unconstitutional like Voter ID laws then the playing field might be leveled somewhat.

Then Mr. Hood might see how the performance of his op-ed and its baseless claims really offer no competition to the truth.

 

Every Public School Advocate in North Carolina Should Read This Perspective …

…because it perfectly frames the platitudinous, over-cliched, trite, and banal argument offered by those who favor the privatization of public education in North Carolina.

It is John Hood’s latest missive featured on EdNC.org entitled “Exaggeration won’t stop school choice” (https://www.ednc.org/2017/07/31/exaggeration-wont-stop-school-choice/).

And while you may catch the use of words like “choice” and “competition,” maybe look for words like:

  • “accountability”
  • “oversight”
  • “collaboration”
  • “equal accessibility”

Be sure to think of special sessions, lack of debate, lack of regulation, falling per pupil expenditures, removal of due-process, low pay for veteran teachers, and budget cuts when you read that last paragraph:

“Let’s calm down and discuss this rationally.”

And just remember that the General Assembly who enabled the very “choice” options Hood is praising was just told to redraw its gerrymandered districts within a month because they were ruled racially biased on the very day this perspective was probably given to EdNC.org to post.

Also, this is the very same General Assembly that had its voter ID law ruled unconstitutional as well.

Now that’s giving people choices.

And that’s about as calm and rational as I can put it.

 

 

Passing Off Politicized Propaganda as Pseudo-Academic Research – UnLOCKEing the John Locke Foundation

There are those who cherry-pick data points.

Then there are those who cherry-pick the pits of cherry-picked data points and present that one small factoid as representative of the whole situation, and to do so willingly is nothing more than passing off politicized propaganda as pseudo-academic research.

Consider Dr. Terry Stoops’s latest attempt to marry Art Pope – libertarian, John Locke Foundation ideology with North Carolina public school reality concerning numbers of teachers who cross state lines to teach in other states.

In an article for The John Locke Foundation for which he serves as the VP for Research and the Director of Educational Studies, Stoops states,

“Public school advocacy organizations and their allies contend that North Carolina is no longer a desirable destination for teachers. They claim that Republican policies, both those related to public education and otherwise, have sullied our state’s reputation in the eyes of the nation’s educators. Nevertheless, data show that North Carolina continues to welcome many more out-of-state teachers than it loses to other states. Even so, lawmakers should consider additional policies that make it easier to ensure that North Carolina public schools can recruit and retain the best teachers in the nation” (https://www.johnlocke.org/research/north-carolina-a-destination-for-teachers/).

And dammit, he’s right. We do see more certified teachers from out of state come to NC to get state certification than the converse. The way he makes it sound, public school advocates like myself and my allies should just shut up because we obviously are a great place for teachers because so many more are coming to teach here than we are sending to other states.

Dr. Stoops even gave a nice data table from the Department of Public Instruction.

stoops1

But Dr. Stoops purposefully neglects to tell readers the rest of the story when it comes to “teacher recruitment” and “teacher retention.”

Simply put, when a teacher “leaves” the state of North Carolina as a teacher, it may not be because that teacher is going to teach in another state. In fact, when a teacher “resigns” from a teaching profession in North Carolina, he/she is asked by DPI a reason for leaving. And even then, that teacher is not bound to give a reason.

“To pursue a teaching job in another state” is only one explanation attached to 28 official “Self-Reported Reasons For Leaving” a teaching position in North Carolina.

I repeat. There is a list of 28 possible answers, or rather reasons with multiple explanations (+50) attached to them, that a teacher can SELF-REPORT to DPI. Teaching in another state is but one of many reasons for teachers resigning positions.

To say that North Carolina is a desirable destination for teachers in light of one data point in a myriad of variables is simply irresponsible, especially from a researcher whose background includes a doctoral degree from one of the top public institutions in the nation in a state which just stopped the growth of charter schools as a means of reaffirming its pledge to public schools.

One simply needs to go to DPI’s website and access the report entitled “Teachers Leaving the Profession Data.” In fact, it is released every year. You may access that page here: http://www.dpi.state.nc.us/educatoreffectiveness/surveys/leaving/.

The report for 2015-2016, a 36-page .PDF file, contains massive amounts of information concerning the “desirability” of North Carolina as a state to teach. But Consider Appendix A: Self-Reported Reasons For Leaving.

stoops2stoops3

That’s 5 categories, 28 reasons, and 60 possible explanations.

Dr. Stoops use of “Table 1: Outgoing and Incoming Teachers By School Year” lists “1556 NC licenses granted to out-of-state teachers” while “only “828” resigned to teach in another state for a difference of 728 teachers.

But according to DPI where Dr. Stoops received the above information, we as a state saw an overall state attrition rate of 8,636. Refer to the below data table from the DPI report mentioned beforehand.

stoops4

When one looks at these numbers along with the population growth that NC has experienced, the number of retiring teachers (534 of whom retired with reduced benefits which suggests early retirement), and the shrinking numbers of teacher candidates in our public and private university programs, Dr. Stoops’s assertion in his article comes across less as academic research and more like propaganda – which is what he is paid for.

Take a closer look at that table.

stoops5

Those 828 teachers in the highlighted line are the same 828 teachers in the first line of the table Dr. Stoops uses as a premise in his leaky argument.

Those 828 teachers represent less than 10% of those who resigned from a teaching profession in North Carolina.

And Dr. Stoops uses that as a foundation to argue that NC is an enviable place to come and teach? Where rural counties cannot keep teachers because local supplements and limited resources cannot compete with other more affluent areas? Where many school systems still have teacher shortages? Where a General Assembly stubbornly keeps helpful bills like HB13 from being passed? Where a Duke University report literally exposed a shoddy voucher system? Where a charter school expansion plan has gone unregulated?

Then it’s a foundation of sand and not stone. And with climate change, there’s no telling how fast those sandy foundations will erode.

But of course, the John Locke Foundation ignores most of the variables in that issue as well. Just read their “Desmog Blog” (https://www.desmogblog.com/john-locke-foundation).

Open Letter to Sen. Jim Davis Concerning Misleading Claims

Dear Sen. Davis,

It was with great anticipation that I viewed and watched your comments at a recent Macon County Board of Commissioners meeting in which you were “invited” to rebut the legitimate claims of a highly respected, veteran educator named John de Ville.

A video of that presentation is available here – http://livestream.com/accounts/16465545/events/6107359/videos/132381404.

However, that anticipation quickly turned into an exercise of patience as I listened to a three-term state senator do nothing but rehash the same talking points of the GOP establishment in Raleigh that claims to have strengthened public education when in reality has created the very circumstances that Mr. de Ville is fighting to remedy for the sake of our students.

When you were introduced by one of the commissioners, it was obvious that your presence was there to simply squash Mr. de Ville’s well prepared argument. In actuality, you strengthened Mr. de Ville’s argument.

You approached the podium with the “purest of motives” and considering the circumstances under which you were present, it seems more like you there with the purest of political motives.

As I mentioned earlier, you simply restate the same talking points that others in Raleigh have used to validate your legislative actions, and again it bears responses that clearly show that you either misrepresent the truth or simply ignore it.

  • “Stimulus money and non-recurring revenue”

You made mention of the 2008 budget and that it was bolstered by Obama’s stimulus money when he took office and when democrats controlled Congress. Not counting that fact that Obama did not actually take office until 2009 and stimulus money was not released right away, you are simply revising history about the Great Recession. Mr. de Ville actually explains this better than I could in a recent exchange. He said,

“Yes, 2008 was the high water mark for recent public education funding … Democrats were running the state. That’s why all of us who are public education advocates use that as a baseline, because that’s how well we were doing ON OUR OWN and without the current hostility to public education we are currently experiencing.  But it is IMPOSSIBLE that any federal stimulus money was spent on public education that year (2007 – 2008) because (a) the Great Recession did not hit until the fall of 2008… When George W. Bush was in office. (b) the stimulus wasn’t passed until February of 2009 and the stimulus/EduJobs monies didn’t flow to states and counties for educational use until later in 2009 for use in the 2009 – 2010 year.”

  • “We have increased educational funding every year.”

Sen. Davis, you are correct, but there is so much more involved. You are making the same talking point that Gov. McCrory makes on his website for reelection.

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 this present leadership is lower than it was before the Great Recession.

Here’s an analogy. Say in 2008, a school system in your district had 1000 students in its school system and spent 10 million dollars in its budget to educate them. That’s approximately 10,000 per pupil expenditure. Now in 2016, that same district has 1500 students and the school system is spending 11.5 million to educate them. According to your claims, that district is spending more total dollars now than in 2008 on education, but the per-pupil expenditure has gone down significantly by about 2300 dollars per student or 23 percent.

Your argument doesn’t hold much credibility when you claim to be spending more overall, yet the average per-pupil expenditure has gone down precipitously.

  • “The state budget spends 56% on education.”

That’s true. And it seems like a large amount. And it is higher than the national average. But it’s supposed to be. The very state constitution that you are sworn to uphold calls for it. I have made this argument before to Rep. John Hardister. I will repeat that argument here.

The Public School Forum of North Carolina’s publication the 2014 Local School Finance Study provides a great history of the state’s practice in funding public schooling which is rooted in the proclamation that all children in the state ages 6-21 are guaranteed a good public education. The rest of my explanation to him can be found at this link, http://pulse.ncpolicywatch.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/09/Letter-to-Hardister.pdf.

However, I do want to point out that before we had a “Republican governor and a Republican-controlled legislature,” the state spent an even higher percentage on public education because THAT IS WHAT THE STATE CONSTITUTION DECLARED. As I stated to Rep. Hardister,

“…those percentages of spending are not a badge of honor that this General Assembly gets to wear; it was earned many decades ago. The fact that the percentage is getting lower actually is not a positive sign for this administration. It is a reflection that the NCGA’s level of commitment to public education is wavering. Since most of the state funding goes to salaries of certified and classified employees, the fact the percentage of funds from the state is not higher than it was in years past is indicative of the stagnated salaries NC gives to teachers and assistants. With the elimination of funds for professional development and talk of cutting numbers of teaching assistants, how can you brag about the level of money spent on public schooling?”

Also lost in this is the uneven fashion in which money from the state is actually dispersed to LEA’s on the county and city levels. One of the more cohesive explanations of North Carolina’s state funding practices is a publication by the Center for American Progress entitled “The Stealth Inequities of School Funding” produced in 2012. It summarizes our state’s practices in a fairly concise manner, especially on page 46.

And that uneven distribution to LEA’s (central offices) has been cut by the most recent budget, the one you claim creates a surplus for our state.

  • The NEA statistics and the fact they “will tell you they have problems”

It’s odd that the NEA’s report on educational spending is usually considered the standard in the nation. The John Locke Foundation’s John Hood and Dr. Terry Stoops have used it to bolster their baseless claims. Even the GOP has used it to claim that teacher salaries are rising on average more in North Carolina than any other state. But you seem to dismiss it with an uneducated perspective.

Below is another source of information, the U.S. Census Bureau. It pretty much confirms the same findings as the NEA report.

census

Not flattering at all. And the benefits package that you refer to? Yes, it is better than some and worse than a lot.

Also, you made mention of NC in comparison to other school systems like Detroit and Chicago. It is interesting that you compare an entire state against two cities; it really is like comparing apples to oranges, or maybe vegetables. They give different tests and more glaringly, they have teacher unions which have collective bargaining powers. North Carolina is a right to work state and with the removal of due process rights and graduate degree pay bumps for new teachers, you have created an entirely new dynamic here in NC that does not exist in Chicago or Detroit.

Furthermore, Chicago and Detroit have been more known for their corruption from elected officials, not school employees. That fact that they have teacher unions might be one of the very thing that is keeping their students in school.

  • “Tax Burden”

You make many references to the easing of tax burdens. Again, that is selective. And you make references to surpluses. That too is misleading.

That “stronger, healthier economy” you refer to was built on many things that were actually deleterious to working North Carolinians. Think of the tax deductions and exemptions that were eliminated for many middle-class families. While the state could now claim to have “lowered” taxes, many families were actually giving more money to the state because they could not claim item deductions as they could in the past. Also, with the move to a consumer-driven economy newer taxes on goods and services (auto repairs, eleimiatioj of tax-free school supply weekends, etc.) has “burdened” the citizens.

And the last two years are the first in my teaching career that I had to pay the state taxes in April instead of receiving a refund.

And of course you can always create a surplus – simply by not spending the money or in this case reinvesting it in our students.

  • “Teacher Salaries”

This is still one of the most egregious claims that this current administration makes – that average teacher pay has risen to over 50K a year.

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.

And we have not even mentioned your role in allowing unregulated charter school growth and Opportunity Grants to take even more monies and resources away from the schools in your very district.

Sen. Davis, you represent a district that borders three different states – Tennessee, Georgia, and South Carolina. They all rank better than NC on the aforementioned chart. Considering that Mr. de Ville is a veteran teacher and a member of the Hope Street Fellows, you should be thanking him for informing his district and elected officials what will help make your district thrive.

To be someone who claims he is very proud to be among the current leadership in Raleigh, then you must be very proud of the fact that six different times you have been a part of unconstitutional laws and legal actions – gerrymandering of districts, the redrawing of Wake County districts, NCAE automatic deductions, judicial retention elections, and the Voter ID law. Furthermore, your stances on same-sex marriage and HB2 are well documented and both have been (or will be) overruled by the Constitution of the United States in the court system.

It seems to me that the Jim Davis who created the iconic Garfield comic strip has a much firmer grasp of reality here in North Carolina than you do.

UnLOCKEing the John Locke Foundation, Part 5 -It Isn’t About Just Funding Schools Dr. Stoops. It’s About FULLY Funding Schools.

The latest op-ed by Dr. Terry Stoops for EdNC.org’s website (“Debates about funding miss the point”) is another glowing example of glittering generalities that seem to define the talking points of the John Locke Foundation concerning public education in North Carolina.

At least they are consistent.

It is interesting to see the number of shares that his op-eds (and John Hood’s for that matter) do not garner from readers of EdNC.org. And Dr. Stoops and Mr. Hood have written as many as anyone on the site.

Why is that a big deal? Because while the op-ed may be viewed, it is not shared and brought to the attention of others who have some stake other than paying taxes when it comes to public education.

The success of an op-ed doesn’t necessarily rest on the number of shares that it has on social media and other electronic media, but it does serve as an indication of how much of the conversation that op-ed is helping to drive. And when an op-ed uses a lot of words to say really nothing at all, then people will not use it to help fuel more thought and conversation.

Just like this one.

The very first line throws out a strawman so invisible that it barely gets noticed.

“The mainstream media and pundits on both sides of the aisle focus an extraordinary amount of time and energy examining public school funding.”

Of course they do. It matters. It is the number one social service expenditure in the state.

Dr. Stoops then spends the next three paragraphs explaining why the media pays attention to such “trivial” matters. Throw out a bunch of stats, make it sound informative, and then you establish some sort of credibility. Then this happens.

Unfortunately, the media, as well as those in the punditry or advocacy business, often decide how much is “enough” based on who is in charge. Regardless of the actual change in the state budget, education budget increases by Democrats are called “sound investments,” while Republican efforts to boost the education budget are tagged “insufficient” or, more recently, an “election-year ploy.”

Dr. Stoops then makes it more politically charged. To come across a neutral party in such a discussion considering who is writing this op-ed is ludicrous.

Simply put, Dr. Stoops is one of many mouthpieces for the libertarian-leaning John Locke Foundation. In fact, he is their educational expert. His boss, while not on paper, but in funding and ideology, is Art Pope. In essence, Dr. Stoops is paid to say what he says. His boss also is the very person who wrote the first budget under the McCrory administration that helped to frame the funding dynamic that exists today for public education. And Art Pope is still crafting policy.

Ironically, Dr. Stoops pretty much told his readers (however many there were besides me) that the current Republican efforts have boosted the education budget, a budget that is still lagging in per-pupil expenditure compared to those before the Great Recession.

Please remember that funding public education also involves salaries of teachers. And with graduate pay, longevity, and due-process rights taken away to say that things have been boosted is rather false.

Much has been written about the insufficient “boost” to education. One is the op-ed that literally is next in the “Perspectives” tab of the EdNC.org site. It is Billy Ball’s article entitled “Budget cuts take a bite out of DPI’s ability to support local school districts.” Go into the history of the “Perspectives” tab and you will see Rep. Graig Meyer’s op-ed “Does the budget do enough for teachers?” Both of those op-eds seem to totally contradict the claims you make concerning the “boost” to educational budgets.

But I really was amazed by the brief paragraph in the middle of Dr. Stoops’s op-ed which read,

The truth is that the endless debate over “appropriate” funding increases is bootless. (I am trying to revive the word “bootless,” which means “ineffectual” or “useless.” Try it out on a friend today!)

That’s rich. While Dr. Stoops may be splitting hairs over the word “appropriate” he seems to intentionally avoid the difference between fully funding public education and looking at a bunch of stats that appear to barely measure what is happening.

Ironically, Dr. Stoops starts using terms that a corporate reformer would use when looking at public education. “Educational productivity”, “return on investment”, “bang for the buck” are business terms and while it may be effective to talk about inputs versus outputs, it cannot always be measured in quantitative methods because public education is not a marketable business and the very variables that affect student performance cannot be simply quantified and given a dollar amount.

Public education is a constitutionally protected public service. You certainly know when it is not fully funded. It is not fully funded now.

The same people who control the funding of public schools are also the people who can affect change in the elements outside of the classroom that help educational outcomes inside of the classroom – Medicaid expansion and poverty to name a couple.

In only one paragraph does Dr. Stoops even attempt to offer any data to his claims.

According to a 2014 study published by the liberal Center for American Progress, Union County, Davie County, Mooresville City, and Surry County school districts had the highest return on investment in the state. In general, these districts had below-average per-pupil expenditures but above-average test scores.  Schools in Hertford, Anson, Washington, and Halifax counties had the lowest return on investment. Per-pupil expenditures in these districts were relatively high, but their test scores were disappointingly low.

He made sure to tell readers that it was a left-leaning study, but he never explains how his rudimentary use of data backs up his claims. He never tells you what test scores were used and how valid they are. He doesn’t tell you how local districts use their monies when Raleigh is giving them less. He doesn’t tell you the why’s. He tells you the bottom lines that are void of any of the socio-economic variables that affect students.

And then Dr. Stoops turns around and contradicts himself.

Productivity research cannot identify specific causes of unproductive schooling, which obviously complicates the turnaround process. School districts are complex organizations embedded in messy social, cultural, and political institutions. What works well in Union County may not work at all in Hertford County. On the other hand, productive school districts may have policies or practices that could benefit their struggling counterparts.

And here is where he actually gets it right. Each school district IS a “complex organization embedded in messy social, cultural, and political institutions.” In the preceding paragraph, Dr. Stoops relied on bottom lines. In this paragraph he actually shed light on the very truth – each school district is different. But he doesn’t admit that unproductive schooling could be a manifestation of other problems like unproductive governing and unproductive funding.

So, who is to decide what each school district needs? Maybe that should be determined by the people in that school district. To say “what works well in Union County may not work at all in Hertford County” is really saying that there are really no standardized school systems, yet Dr. Stoops spent an entire op-ed talking about how standardized measurements should be used to avoid superfluous debate on issues like public school funding.

And not once did he mention the for-profit charter school boom in North Carolina.
Not once did he mention the funding of Opportunity Grants.
Not once did he mention the virtual high schools.
Not once did he mention the Achievement School District.
Not once did he talk about his boss’s work to dismantle NCAE.
Not once did he mention removal of graduate degree pay, or due-process rights for newer teachers.
Not once did he mention removal of longevity pay.
Not once did he try and talk about student growth versus test scores.
Why? It would create too much “debate” probably. And it would force people like Dr. Stoops to explain how these measures are actually boosting public education.
Doesn’t sound so “bootless” now does it?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

UnLOCKEing the John Locke Foundation – Part 4, The Empire Strikes Back With a Menacing Phantom Study Report

I look forward to reading John Hood’s perspectives on education in North Carolina. They reaffirm my stances on what is happening in the Old North State and its public schools.

I do not have his bandwidth. As the president of the John William Pope Foundation and the past chairman (still on Board of Directors) for the John Locke Foundation, Hood serves as the mouthpiece of Art Pope, the leader of the Civitas Group and considered by many to be the biggest financier in North Carolina of ultra-conservative politics.

John Hood will be heard. Too many microphones have been bought to be placed near his mouth.

But I have my blog and a teacher voice.

I find most everything that Hood writes about public education to be extremely slanted (not surprising), yet smugly conciliatory, as if he is appeasing the more liberal people into thinking he wants what they want from our state government. In his recent op-ed posted on EdNC.org entitled “School reform is good economics”, Hood begins,

“Although the debate about education policy is robust, complicated, and sometimes vitriolic, there is actually broad agreement about the bottom line:

If our students were better prepared for college, careers, and the responsibilities of citizenship, North Carolina would reap tremendous benefits.

Liberals and conservatives disagree about means, not about the ultimate ends — and often, even our disagreements on the means of school improvement are more about priorities and details, not about basic concepts. I know these policy debates will continue for years to come. I welcome them.

In the meantime, however, it’s worth devoting more attention to those ultimate ends.”

It’s as if he is saying, “Hey, I want what you want!” but then is thinking, “But I just want to help my cronies make money from it all.”

It is also not uncommon for Hood to start throwing out cherry-picked numbers to show that current reform movements in North Carolina are helping our state regain prominence in the country. I have written about his assertions before and those of his contemporary, Dr. Terry Stoops of the John Locke Foundation, on this blog before. These following are links to those posts, and please note that they were written in response to something written by Hood and Stoops.

https://caffeinatedrage.com/2016/04/13/unlockeing-the-john-locke-foundation-dr-terry-stoops-and-charter-schools/

https://caffeinatedrage.com/2016/04/16/unlockeing-the-john-locke-foundation-teachers-and-advanced-degrees/

https://caffeinatedrage.com/2016/05/17/open-letter-to-john-hood-unlockeing-the-john-locke-foundation-part-3/

If you read these posts and the pieces written by Hood and Stoops that inspired these posts, you will see that both Hood and Stoops reside in the gray nebula of lack of explanation and platitudes. Their love of broad statements and sweeping assertions really are a smokescreen for a political agenda that wants to further priviatize public education here in North Carolina.

In this latest op-ed on school reform, Hood cites work from three scholars who “reported the findings of a study they recently conducted of student performance and economic growth across all 50 states. Eric Hanushek of Stanford University, Jens Ruhose of Leibnitz University, and Ludger Woessmann of the University of Munich” did the study.

Hood claims,

“They assert that because the level of education and skill in the labor force is associated with economic growth, more government spending on education and training will lead to more economic growth. That doesn’t logically follow, and isn’t confirmed by empirical research. Over the past 25 years, there have been some 119 academic studies probing potential relationships between state education spending and subsequent economic growth. Only 32 percent found a positive correlation.”

But what Hood doesn’t acknowledge is that North Carolina has actually proven that the converse is true. If Hood claims that spending more on state public education does not translate to subsequent economic growth, then does he claim that lowering spending would not hurt economic growth? I believe it does.

Because that is what has happened in North Carolina.

We are spending less per pupil now than we did years ago, and years ago we in North Carolina had what was considered the strongest public school system in the Southeast. Our teacher pay (no it is not better as the GOP claims for veteran teachers) is still in the lowest tier of the nation. Politicians have created grading systems that repeatedly cast public schools in a bad light to create the excuse for the very reforms that Hood champions.

Do not forget that John Hood works for Art Pope, who was the architect of the first Pat McCrory budget and campaigned to remove due-process rights from veteran teachers. He succeeded in removing them from newer teachers as well as removing graduate pay bumps – things that Hood has made hollow arguments for in the past (see referenced posts above).

But I digress. Hood then states toward the end,

“And what if we focused on low-performing students rather than average scores? If North Carolina raised all of our students to at least a “basic” level of competence in reading and math, the study found, our economy would be nearly $800 billion larger by 2095 than the baseline, an increase of 12 percent.”

Well colored me surprised or paint me green with envy because I didn’t say it first. Actually neither, because I am not as concerned about 2095.

I am concerned about 2016, 2017, 2018, and all the other years in between.

I’ll be dead in 2095. And if people like Art Pope have their way, there won’t be a public education system in North Carolina in 2095.

But our state constitution says we must have a quality one and that we must fully fund it, so we may as well fund it properly.

Oddly enough, John Hood uses Eric Hanushek of Stanford University as a buttress for his argument.

Hanushek was one of the people who wrote essays in a companion book for the documentary Waiting For Superman. I myself do not agree with the findings of that Gates-financed piece of propaganda, and in his essay “The Difference is Great Teachers” Hanushek does say that the biggest influence on a student’s performance is the teacher.

Anyone in education should read that essay, especially if you are a teacher. Hanushek claims that lowering class-size doesn’t affect student performance. That having graduate degrees doesn’t help teachers teach. He claims that if “we could simply eliminate the bottom 5 to 10 percent of teachers (two or three teachers in a school with thirty) and replace them with average teachers, we could dramatically change student outcomes” (p. 98).

I think that is pure bullshit.

If you know anything about what has happened in North Carolina in the last four years with teacher evaluation protocols, teacher salaries, removal of due-process, unregulated charter school growth, vouchers, and ideas for merit pay, then look at this essay by Hanushek and see a blue print for what people like Art Pope have financed and John Hood has vocally championed.

And then ask, are these “re-forms” really working? In a state where over 20% of children live in poverty?

By the way, people like Eric Hanushek are constantly spoken of in the same breath as Bill and Melinda Gates. It would be interesting to see how much financing the Gates Foundation has given to create studies that would show favorable results to their agenda.

Furthermore, Hanushek has been debunked quite frequently. Diane Ravitch wrote an essay in the The New York Review of Books on November 11, 2010 entitled “The Myth of charter Schools”.  In two paragraphs Dr. Ravitch pretty much squelches Hanushek’s claims about teacher effectiveness, even with some of Hanushek’s own research.

 “But this proposition is false. Hanushek has released studies showing that teacher quality accounts for about 7.5–10 percent of student test score gains. Several other high-quality analyses echo this finding, and while estimates vary a bit, there is a relative consensus: teachers statistically account for around 10–20 percent of achievement outcomes. Teachers are the most important factor within schools.

But the same body of research shows that nonschool factors matter even more than teachers. According to University of Washington economist Dan Goldhaber, about 60 percent of achievement is explained by nonschool factors, such as family income. So while teachers are the most important factor within schools, their effects pale in comparison with those of students’ backgrounds, families, and other factors beyond the control of schools and teachers. Teachers can have a profound effect on students, but it would be foolish to believe that teachers alone can undo the damage caused by poverty and its associated burdens.”

So if Mr. Hood wants to tout people like Hanushek as reasons to continue traveling down the road of reform that North Carolina is on now, then so be it. It fits Mr. Hood’s agenda.

But for a state that is gutting public schools, denying Medicaid expansion, and allowing environmental concerns to not be heard, 2095 is simply a stupid date to see if these reforms are working because they are not.

What reforms Mr. Hood is praising actually seem to creating more obstacles for many in NC, and we don’t need to wait another 80 years to prove that.

I see it in 2016.

When a Tourniquet Is Put On The State’s Core Services, It Leads To Amputation and Privatization

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.