When The John Locke Foundation Validates A Collective Voice For Teachers and Red4EdNC

In today’s online edition of The News & Observer, T. Keung Hui published a piece focusing on the Red4EdNC movement and its initiative to create a teacher congress in helping advance the momentum of May 16th’s teacher rally in Raleigh and keep pressure on the NC General Assembly to fully fund public schools (https://www.newsobserver.com/news/local/article214446374.html).

The purpose, the framework, and the goals of Red4EdNC were reported. Even it’s “Declaration of Independence” along with its introductory video were posted for all to view.

declaration

As any reporter would do, Hui asked an opinion of someone who may have an inclination to disagree with the motives of teachers taking collective action. In this case, it was Terry Stoops of the John Locke Foundation.

The teacher writing this post is proudly part of the Red4EdNC movement. And I am very aware of Dr. Stoops’s positions. Many have been discussed on this blog. But rarely does there come a time when I read Dr. Stoops’s comments and / or op-eds and feel completely validated.

Because that’s exactly what he did for me and others who may believe in what Red4EdNC is trying to accomplish.

Hui states,

The declaration calls for creation of the Teachers Congress. It also calls for actions such as increasing per-pupil spending and teacher salaries to pre-recession levels, with an adjustment for inflation, and “cessation of taxation policies which favor individuals over the corporate good.”

Then Stoops is reported as saying,

“Ironically the founders issued the Declaration of Independence to protest that taxation was too high. and Red4Ed issued their declaration to declare that taxes on people and individuals are not high enough,” said Stoops of the Locke Foundation.

Actually, it seems that Stoops missed the point of the original Declaration of Independence. What the Founding Fathers were protesting was taxation without representation. And representation is what is central to Red4EdNC’s mission.

As the “vice president of research for the John Locke Foundation, a group that’s been supportive of the Republican-led General Assembly,” Stoops has shown favoritism to a  group that has done anything but allow for representation in the recently “passed” budget.

Literally after a representative body that included nearly a fifth of the teaching force which caused almost half of the school systems in the state to close, the NCGA that Stoops supports did the very thing that the Founding Fathers would have never agreed to: pass the budget through a committee report and not through dialogue.

No debate. No amendments. No representation.

And that budget was not as helpful to public education as it should have been. Additionally, that budget is supposed to work for and be representative of the people of North Carolina. But this state has a Voter ID amendment coming to the ballot that when previously pushed as a bill was struck down in the courts because it was really voter suppression. Furthermore, the very NCGA that Stoops supports has had to redraw district lines because of gerrymandering along racial lines.

That May 16th march and rally was to make voices heard.

But while Stoops may want to spin the Founding Fathers’ intentions to make it appear that Red4EdNC wants to increase taxes, he may want to take a look at another piece that T. Keung Hui recently published from the North Carolina Influencer Series.

About the Influencer Series:

This election year, the Charlotte Observer, The News & Observer and the Durham Herald-Sun want to elevate policy discussions and make sure candidates focus on the most important issues. We’ve assembled a panel of 60 influential North Carolinians and will survey them throughout the year to get their views (https://www.charlotteobserver.com/news/politics-government/influencers/article212212939.html). 

On July 2nd, one of those “discussions” was published – “NC Influencers say state needs to give schools enough money and close achievement gap.”

It starts,

Public schools need to receive adequate funding to ensure the continued health of North Carolina, according to a new survey of some of the state’s most influential leaders.

A group of 60 North Carolina Influencers — comprised of leaders in the state’s political, business, academic and faith communities — were asked about the importance of 14 different education topics. Nearly all the Influencers listed adequate funding as being very important, saying that taking care of that issue would help solve a variety of other problems affecting the state’s K-12 education system (https://www.newsobserver.com/news/politics-government/influencers/article213909629.html). 

Further along it is reported,

After adequate funding, the 57 Influencers who responded listed closing the racial achievement gap and increasing teacher pay as their next two highest concerns. Making schools safer, creating universal pre-K, boosting vocational education and closing the rural-urban divide were also rated as very important by at least half the respondents.

One of those Influencers is Art Pope who co-founded the John Locke Foundation for which Dr. Stoops works.

I wonder how Stoops would respond to all of the Influencers who seem to want “to declare that taxes on people and individuals are not high enough.”

What the majority of the Influencers call for is exactly what those 19,000 teachers called for on May 16th – fully funding public schools in a state whose NCGA boasts of a surplus, takes federal money earmarked for Pre-K education and funnels it back into the general coffers, and passes legislation that could shift the burden of funding many public school functions to local governments through property taxes.

Red4EdNC is calling for a representative body to help influence the government to fully fund schools, A representative body just like the Founding Fathers asked for as explained in many an overused textbook in overcrowded classrooms in North Carolina.

 

 

 

North Carolina Teacher Pay is Still 39th And Why The Cost Of Living Adjustment Argument is Erroneous

John Hood of the John Locke Foundation tweeted the following yesterday in response to the NEA’s recent report on teacher pay that had North Carolina still well below the national average.

hood1

Interestingly, he tagged it to #nced and referred all readers to a recent post by his colleague Dr. Terry Stoops, the Vice President for Research and Director of Education Studies for the John Locke Foundation. He must have wanted a lot of people to read this.

The John Locke Foundation is a libertarian-leaning think tank whose findings and studies on North Carolina’s public schools is so bent toward a political ideology that celebrates “school choice” and vouchers that it tends to spin data and research so much that it hopes readers will not take the time to actually look into the data themselves.

Stoops writes in his post,

Earlier today, the National Education Association (NEA) released their annual Rankings and Estimates report.  According to the report, North Carolina’s average teacher salary for 2018 ranked 39th out of the 50 states and Washington, D.C.

But the NEA ranking does not adjust for cost of living.  When C2ER cost-of-living indices for 2017 are applied, North Carolina’s rank jumps to 29th in the nation.  Last year, North Carolina’s cost-of-living adjusted average salary was 33rd in the nation (https://lockerroom.johnlocke.org/2018/04/23/adjusted-teacher-pay-rank-29th-in-the-nation/).

Stoops then presents a table that uses the C2ER index for each state.

table1

And if one took Stoops’s interpretation at face value, then he is exactly right.

The Cost of Living Index used by Stoops is represented in the map below that the C2ER uses (https://www.missourieconomy.org/indicators/cost_of_living/).

map

But Stoops simplifies it too much. Even C2ER says so.

C2ER stands for the Council for Community and Economic Research and it even warns against using the cost of living index in such a broad stroke as Stoops has done. Within its 2017 Cost of Living Index, it states,

“For 23 years, participation in the Cost of Living
Index was open to all places, regardless of size.
In the late 1980s, however, several rural places
with very small populations began
participating, and it became apparent that
adherence to the specifications in many such
places wasn’t possible. There’s no doubt that
small rural places offer an alternative to an
urban professional or managerial standard of
living that many people find attractive, but such
places are qualitatively different from urban
areas, and they simply don’t support the kind of
urban lifestyle embodied in the Cost of Living
Index.

The Committee has concluded that
participation in the Index should be restricted to
areas that can reasonably be considered urban
and patterned its restrictions after the federal
government’s distinction between urban and
rural areas.”

You can read that document here: http://coli.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/06/2016-COLI-Manual.pdf. The above is on page 4. In fact, the the C2ER site actually prefers that the index be used when comparing cities to cities – not state to state.

C2ER

The very warning that C2ER gives in using its COL Index is deliberately ignored by Stoops in order that he keep on his shallow narrative that teacher pay in North Carolina is not all that bad.

Take this a little deeper and one can see that another factor Stoops conveniently ignores is that average teacher pay in North Carolina varies LEA to LEA. Local supplements that are given to teachers in some counties are much better than in other localities because those places can afford to do that. That creates a wider disparity in salaries for teachers within the state.

Metropolitan LEA’s like Wake County can give a bigger salary boost to teachers than many of the rural counties, some of whom cannot give a local supplement at all. And Stoops as well as Hood should know that rural counties suffer more when it comes to staffing schools.

This simplification of the data is not an oversight. It’s part of a plan – a deliberate attempt to sway the narrative to favor those who see simply investing in the public school system at a reasonable rate a burden.

So when Hood says in his tweet, “Even if you disagree, here’s where we really are,” it seems that he doesn’t really know where we are.

 

The Privatization of North Carolina’s Public Schools – A Who’s Who

Remember Michelle Rhee’s visit to North Carolina last year for a “closed-door” meeting (February 7th  ,2017) with lawmakers brokered by an educational lobbying body of business leaders called BEST NC (coupled with the NC GOP’s invitation to Betsy DeVos who had just been confirmed as Trump’s secretary of education)?

It was another ominous omen of what has been and will continue to be attempted in North Carolina – the further privatization of public education in North Carolina.

This meeting with Rhee that was passed off as a session with leaders where candid questions could be asked and ideas exchanged on how to improve public education seemed to be void of the very people who know education the best – public school educators. The media did have a brief chance to meet and greet with Ms. Rhee and George Parker in a manicured and measured way, but what happened behind closed doors with people who make decisions on how to spend taxpayer money and fund public schools along with controversial educational reformers remains a mystery.

In fact, it seemed more like a special session of the NC General Assembly who used such “secret sessions” to spawn actions such as HB2, SB4, and HB17 (the latter two soon after Mark Johnson was elected as NC State Superintendent).

Despite what they claim, the intentions of BEST NC and other “reformers” to improve public education seems to have a different meaning to them than it does to those who are educators in our public schools.

That’s because there exist too many relationships between business leaders, lobbying groups, wealthy benefactors, politicians, and educational reformers to be coincidental. In fact, many in the “reform” movement that have started to dismantle the public school system are strategically linked to each other both outside of the state and inside.

Look at the graphic below:

graph1

That is a diagram of the relationships between entities that many public school advocates deem as detrimental to our public school system. It’s very busy and probably confusing. It’s supposed to be.

Consider the following national entities:

  • Teach For America
  • Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation
  • Walton Family Foundation
  • Eli Broad Foundation
  • KIPP Charter Schools
  • Democrats For Educational Reform
  • Educational Reform Now
  • StudentsFirst
  • America Succeeds
  • 50CAN
  • American Legislative Exchange Council
  • National Heritage Academies
  • Charter School USA
  • Team CFA
  • American Federation for Children

They are all linked. And the only teachers who seem to have any sustained dialogue with any of these is the Hope Street Group – and that dialogue seems mostly to have been with BEST NC (but not of late).

Somehow, someway all of the bulleted entities above have been at play in North Carolina even before that meeting with Michelle Rhee and BEST NC which took place literally days after Betsy DeVos was confirmed as secretary of education thanks to the first ever tie-breaking vote by a vice-president for a cabinet position.

They continue to be at play, more so now than ever before. And other are joining in thus making this document a work in progress.

If you are willing, simply follow the explanation below because what seems to be a simple meeting that took place in February of 2017 was just another step in the GOP-led NC General Assembly to dismantle public education and finance the privatization of schooling.

First, consider the national scene.

graph11

In 2014 a teacher/researcher named Mercedes Schneider published an informative book called A Chronicle of Echoes: Who’s Who in the Implosion of American Public Education. What Schneider did was literally research and report on all of the bodies of influence that were applying forces on the landscape of public education for the benefit of political and capitalistic gain.

The fact that she is a teacher, product of public schools from southern Louisiana, a trained researcher, a survivor of Katrina, and a residential expert of the charter takeover in New Orleans, she has a unique perspective and an educated point of view.

Chapter 17 of the book is dedicated to the Democrats For Educational Reform and the Educational Reform Now groups (DFER and ERN).

DFER supports vouchers, union busting and other reform measures that are common in other reform circles, but they are (to summarize Schneider) not “non-profit.” What makes them powerful is that they have the word “Democrat” in their name and it allows them to literally “train” democrats into accepting and advancing a protocol that actually is more conservative in nature – initiatives that align with school choice and charter movements. Schneider talks about in pages 276-279 how the DFER even promoted “mayoral control and charter favoritism.”

It may seem a little bit like conspiracy theory, but it does make sense. Why? Because DFER is non-profit and has the word “Democrat” in it and therefore does not get the big time donations from conservative donators.

Or do they?

DFER is run mostly by hedge-fund managers. One of them is Whitney Tilson, who happens to be a Teach For America alumnus and a vice-chair of New York’s KIPP charters. He also sits on the board of DFER. That alone links DFER, KIPP, and TFA (p.278).

At least in 2013, DFER had an Executive Director named Joe Williams. He just happened to “also head another reform group, this one actually is classed as a ‘nonprofit,’ and it doesn’t have the D-word in its title.”  Education Reform Now (ERN) is a “democratic” body understood to be a “sister entity” to DFER (p.279).

By 2010, ERN counted the Broad Foundation and the Walton Foundation as donors. “ERN enables hedge-fund managers to quietly donate to Democrats advancing the privatization agenda…. Looks like the big Republican money is available to DFER, after all – through its ERN back door” (p.279).

More from Schneider:

  • Remember that Whitney Tilson is also a founding member of Teach For America along with Wendy Kopp. Kopp was the mentor of Michelle Rhee. Their ventures literally share the same circulatory system.
  • Tilson sits on the KIPP board and sits on the DFER board.
  • Kopp sits on the Broad Foundation Board which feeds money to ERN who in turn feeds DFER. Kopp is also married to Richard Barth, the CEO of KIPP Foundation.
  • DFER through ERN conducts business with StudentsFirst, founded by Michelle Rhee.
  • Tilson, Kopp, and Rhee are TFA alums.

BEST NC, based in Raleigh and architects of the recent controversial principal play program in the state, is affiliated with an outfit named America Succeeds that feeds and supports various “reform” groups within certain states that bring together powerful business leaders to push “educational reform.” Look at the following article: – http://www.prwatch.org/news/2016/03/13065/how-dfer-leaders-channel-out-state-dark-money-colorado-and-beyond. The title alone alludes to the ability for DFER to channel “dark” money to out of state entities that promote anti-union, pro-charter, voucher supporting measures. It shows something interesting.

  • America Succeeds’s address in Colorado is 1390 Lawrence Street in Denver.
  • DFER’s Colorado office is located on 1390 Lawrence Street in Denver.
  • KIPP’s Denver charter schools are headquartered in Denver. At 1390 Lawrence Street.

Seems that TFA, StudentsFirst, DFER, ERN, KIPP are about as incestuously linked as a Greek god family tree and it is feeding support to groups like BEST NC who just happens to be the Carolina affiliate of America Succeeds.

Think about it. North Carolina is an ideal target. Why? Because of the following conditions:

  • Right-to-work state.
  • Elimination of due-process rights.
  • Removal of caps for number of charter schools which are not regulated.
  • GOP controlled state assembly.
  • Opportunity Grants increasing.
  • Push for merit pay.
  • The new state superintendent is a TFA alumnus – Mark Johnson.

Part of that national scene includes three charter school chains.

National Heritage Academies is based in Michigan in the same state where Betsy DeVos began her quest to privatize public education. They’ve enabled each other. National Heritage Academies has 11 schools in North Carolina. One of them is Greensboro Academy. On the board of that school is Alan Harkes who sits on the Charter School Advisory Board of North Carolina. That’s convenient.

Betsy DeVos is also the founder of a school choice advocacy group in Washington D.C. called the American Federation For Children. On February 15th, 2018 Darrell Allison who was for years the head of the Parents For Educational Freedom in North Carolina, was chosen to assume a leadership position with AFC.

Team CFA is based in Oregon. John Bryan, the founder of the Team CFA, has been donating money left and right to specific politicians and PAC’s here in North Carolina to extend the charter industry including Lt. Gov. Dan Forest (through a PAC). He spear-headed an attempt to win the contract of the ISD school in Robeson that was recently given a green light with Dr. Eric Hall as the superintendent. He would report straight to Mark Johnson under provisions of HB4. (http://amp.newsobserver.com/news/local/education/article177836091.html).

Charter Schools USA is based in Ft. Lauderdale. It is run by Jonathan Hage whose political contribution to politicians in North Carolina are rather numerous.

Now consider North Carolina.

graph3

Those numbers correspond to:

  1. North Carolina General Assembly
  2. Charter School Advisory Board and State Board of Education
  3. Civitas Institute
  4. John Locke Foundation
  5. BEST NC
  6. SAS
  7. State Supt. Mark Johnson
  8. Gov. Dan Forest
  9. Parents for Educational Freedom in North Carolina
  10. Carolina CAN
  11. Jason Saine
  12. Jerry Tillman
  13. Innovative School District
  14. Bill Rabon
  15. Trinity Christian School
  16. David Curtis

Go back to Charter Schools USA.

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

graph5

  • There’s Jerry Tillman, the former public school administrator who is a champion for opaque charter school regulation. He’s #12 on the state map.
  • And there’s Jason Saine who loves charters as well. He’s #11 on the state map.
  • There’s David Curtis, who loves charters as well. He’s #16 on the state map.
  • 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. He’s #8 on the state map. It is also worth noting that Forest is also on the state board of education and is ramping up for a run at the governor’s mansion in 2020.
  • There’s Bill Rabon, who stalled the HB13 bill in the Senate. That’s the bill that would have been a clean fix of the class size mandate that was replaced with a poison pill called HB90. He’s #14 on the state map.

Furthermore, Jason Saine has just been named the new National Chairman of ALEC and is helping to open yet another charter school called West Lake Preparatory school that is affiliated with Charter Schools USAhttps://caffeinatedrage.com/2016/12/08/open-letter-to-rep-jason-saine-youre-a-state-representative-fight-for-all-public-schools-not-a-new-charter-school/.

Brenda Berg who is the CEO of BEST NC has increasingly brokered working relationships with many entities that have targeted public schools – John Locke Foundation being one.

BEST NC’s VP is Julie Kowal, who at one time was the Executive Director of CarolinaCan, which is the NC chapter of an outfit called 50CAN, a national “advocacy group” that just a few years ago merged with another entity: StudentsFirst: https://studentsfirst.org/pages/50can-and-studentsfirst-merge-strengthen-support-local-education-leaders-across-country. StudentsFirst was started by Michelle Rhee.

Now, add to that the fact that BEST NC has had some workshops/meetings with people from the The Hope Street Group which is a group of teacher leaders who receive a stipend in exchange for gathering and communicating educational concerns with public school teachers. Hope Street Group receives funding from the Gates Foundation. Hope Street Group and other teachers were not in the meeting that Michelle Rhee attended with lawmakers that was set up by BEST NC. In fact, there has been no evidence that BEST NC had even worked with Hope Street Group in any endeavor of late meaning that BEST NC really does not reach out to any teacher-affiliated groups.

Additionally, Mark Johnson was granted a massive amount of power over public education through House Bill 17 and Senate Bill 4 (HB17 &SB4), power over charter schools, and the control of the Innovative School District and has retained the services of ex-Pat McCrory aids who possibly were enabled by other McCrory cronies, such as Art Pope who is linked to the American Legislative Exchange Council, otherwise known as ALEC. Art Pope is also part of the aforementioned John Locke Foundation.

The North Carolina General Assembly has backed Johnson with money and resources to fight the state board of education in a rather long-timed lawsuit thus showing he NCGA’s loyalty to Johnson and not the state board. Furthermore, it has reduced DPI’s budget significantly and allowed Johnson to hire people loyal to him including a former official with the Mississippi Charter Schools (#14 on national map) as a high ranking person in DPI.

And Mark Johnson is an admirer of Betsy DeVos. When interviewed by the Charlotte Observer for a Jan. 27th, 2017 feature Johnson expressed his support for the neophyte DeVos.

When asked about her, Johnson didn’t hesitate: “I support her.”

It’s not ironic that Betsy DeVos is also associated with ALEC. From sourcewatch.com it is learned that DeVos has “bankrolled the 501 (c) (4) group the American Federation for Children, the 501 (c) (3) group Alliance for School Choice and by having these groups participate in and fund the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC).”

And remember that Darrell Allison who served as president of the Parents For Educational Freedom in North Carolina for the past few years will now be a director in DeVos’s American Federation for Children. Allison still plans on being based in North Carolina.

Oh, Allison is also on the UNC Board of Governors. He will remain in that capacity. So a man who has influence over the state’s university system is employed by national school choice advocacy group founded by the current secretary of education that feeds funds to ALEC, an organization that just named a NC lawmaker (Jason Saine) as its national chairman.

All of these connections seem more than coincidence and this perfect storm of timing, state politics, gerrymandering, and people in power can’t just be by chance. Could it?

So where are the teachers in this dialogue? The schools of education in one of the best college systems in the nation and from some of the highest ranking private schools in the country?

Well many teachers have been represented by groups like NCAE (which is an association and not a union). Multiple times the NC General Assembly has tried to weaken any group like NCAE through stopping automatic dues payments and other things such as what the Civitas Institute tried to do here – luring teachers in NCAE to “buy” their membership back.

Remember this?

graph6

That website was established by the Civitas Institute, which was founded by Art Pope. It showed NCAE members how to withdraw their membership in NCAE and make $450 because that is what they would not be spending in dues.

Now look at that first map again:

graph1

Hopefully, it makes a little more sense.

The NC GOP has been very instrumental in the following actions:

  • Removal of due-process rights
  • Graduate Degree Pay Bumps Removed
  • Standard 6
  • “Average” Raises
  • Less Money Spent per Pupil
  • Remove Caps on Class Sizes
  • Jeb Bush School Grading System
  • Cutting Teacher Assistants
  • Opportunity Grants
  • Virtual Schools
  • Reduction of Teacher Candidates in Colleges
  • Elimination of Teaching Fellows Program and reinvention in a different entity.

Also look at this timeline:

  • Art Pope became McCrory’s budget director – 2013
  • Graduate Degree Pay Bumps Eliminated – 2013
  • 50Can created CarolinaCan – 2013
  • School Performance Grades – 2013
  • Due-process rights taken from new teachers – started in 2013
  • Charter school cap in NC lifted – 2014, but proposed in 2013.
  • Opportunity Grants (vouchers) – 2014

Now consider SAS, a software company whose president, James Goodnight, is married to one of the founders and current Board Member of BEST NC, Anne Goodnight. Mrs. Goodnight was also one of the founders of Cary Academy, a rather prestigious private school in the Triangle area.

In a data-driven, educational-reform era that seems to crunch and use data to position evidence that supports their claims, it would make sense to align with SAS, an “American multinational developer of analytics software based in Cary, North Carolina. SAS develops and markets a suite of analytics software, which helps access, manage, analyze and report on data to aid in decision-making” (Wikipedia).

SAS controls the EVAAS software system. It is used by the state to measure teacher effectiveness. It uses rather surreptitious methods and secret algorithms to calculate its data – https://caffeinatedrage.com/2017/11/26/why-teachers-should-be-wary-of-evaas-and-sas/.

Other lawmakers aligned with the privatizing movement here in North Carolina include Sen. Chad Barefoot who heads the powerful NC Senate Committee for Education. It is rumored that he is being considered as a possible head of the NC community college system in the next few years.

What has happened is that much of what should be “public” in the North Carolina school system is now being guided by non-public entities.

And we in NC get this:

graph4

Simply put, the privatization of the public school system.

A Pathetic Rebuttal – The John Locke Foundation’s Weak Attempt to Discredit the Quality Counts Education Report

In the days since Education Week released its yearly report, “Quality Counts 2018: Grading the States,” people at the John Locke Foundation have gone out of their way to debunk the report’s findings.

JLF1

This year, NC was ranked 40th down two spots from last year and down 21 spots since it peaked at 19th in 2011. And while people like John Hood, Dr. Terry Stoops, and Mitch Kokai have written and communicated arguments to try and weaken the power of the report, their arguments actually validate the effectiveness of the Education Week report and reveal a baseless attempt at damage control.

Why “damage control?” Because in attempting to debunk the report, what happened is that more light was shed on the gross “reforms” that have been at play in NC and have been championed by the John Locke Foundation – the same “reforms” that have brought North Carolina’s ranking down.

First came John Hood’s op-ed in the Carolina Journal entitled “State education rank isn’t low” (https://www.carolinajournal.com/opinion-article/state-education-rank-isnt-low/). It starts,

“If you recently read or heard about North Carolina ranking 40th in “education” and found that rank plausible, I thank you for keeping up with the news. If you saw that story and found North Carolina’s low ranking implausible, I thank you even more energetically for being both informed and duly skeptical.”

You are welcome, Mr. Hood.

Offered are many arguments which probably could use a little more fleshing out.

He says,

“For starters, the study does not appear to adjust properly, if at all, for state-by-state variations in buying power. When schools vie for the services of teachers, vendors, or construction companies, they are competing against other potential employers or buyers. To evaluate the real expenditure, then, requires either adjusting measures such as per-pupil spending and teacher salaries for living costs or comparing against, say, the average pay of non-education jobs that prospective teachers might take in their respective jurisdictions.”

That whole “per-pupil expenditure” statement is a rather big subject, but if I hear him correctly, Hood is making a claim that NC has greater “buying power” than other states and that we should really pay attention to the salary averages of comparable occupations that would vie for potential teachers.

First, that “buying power.” If NC had such buying power, then it should start using it for things like textbooks, professional development, teacher assistants, and other vital resources.

Secondly, most potential teachers have college degrees. If Hood wants to argue that teaching in NC offers better pay and conditions than other comparable occupations, then he would need to explain why there is such a drop in teacher candidates in state schools. He would need to explain why the state needed SB599.

Hood then states,

“To put the matter more simply: personnel is the main expense for school districts. Living in Sanford is less expensive than living in San Francisco. If you don’t properly account for these kinds of disparities, any nationwide comparison of school spending is utterly useless.”

With that reasoning, then every rural district in NC that has such a hard time staffing its schools should start touting its “LOWER COST OF LIVING” aspect as part of its appeal. Some could argue that lower cost of living means cheaper property and cheaper goods. The taxes on those local commodities help to fund local schools and considering that the state is pushing more expenses to the local schools with more mandates, local school systems are having a harder time with getting the appropriate revenue.

Just ask any LEA about the class size mandate.

Then Hood says,

“With regard to educational outcomes, there are also challenges in constructing valid apples-to-apples comparisons. While policymakers, parents, and taxpayers certainly need to know the overall performance of our students, raw measures of test scores and graduation rates don’t necessarily speak to the educational value added by the schools themselves.”

Hood should say that to all of the lawmakers that he and his boss support.

And concerning the argument of NAEP scores from NC, it would be nice to know how charter schools or schools who use Opportunity Grant money score on that test since the John Locke Foundation is such a proponent of school choice and vouchers.

Hood might also want to explain why his viewpoint is so different from Bob Luebke’s op-ed two years ago posted on Civitas’s website: https://www.nccivitas.org/civitas-review/quality-counts-2016-nc-score-c/. Civitas and the John Locke Foundation are two faces of the same creature.

Luebke says for NC’s rank of 37th in 2016 (same criteria as 2017),

“Nevertheless QC represents one of the more accepted and longstanding attempts to get a handle on an elusive topic…North Carolina’s rank of 37th should raise concerns for obvious reasons….”

Interesting.

Not long after Hood’s missive, Mitch Kokai attempted to help stop the bleeding with “Misused statistic hurts N.C. in national school ranking.” Again, that was posted on Carolina Journal’s website: https://www.carolinajournal.com/opinion-article/misused-statistic-hurts-n-c-in-national-school-ranking/.

It begins,

“A recent national report dinged North Carolina for its lower-than-average “per-pupil expenditure.” At least one state lawmaker is likely to grumble openly about that result.

Per-pupil expenditure is one of the most common data points used to compare public education systems within states, across the nation, and even around the world.”

Kokai uses the per-pupil expenditure measurement as the foundation of his argument (PPE) because the Quality Counts report mentioned specifically that NC has a very low grade on school finance.

“Lloyd told the N&O that “what especially hurt” North Carolina in calculating that No. 45 ranking was its PPE numbers, as compiled from 2015 federal data. North Carolina spent an average of $9,217 per student, compared to a national average of $12,526. The “Quality Counts” report showed 2.5 percent of this state’s 115 school districts exceeded that national average.”

Interestingly, Kokai leans on Rep. Craig Horn’s explanation that PPE is not that important when it comes to the quality of education.

During a November 2017 task force meeting, Horn detailed his concerns about PPE’s usefulness. “Here in North Carolina we are, arguably, the fastest-growing state in the nation — certainly one of the fastest-growing states in the nation,” Horn told colleagues. “Therefore, we have a lot of kids coming in. We need a lot of teachers.”

“Teachers don’t generally start at the top or even in the middle of the pay scale,” he continued. “New teachers, of course, start at the bottom of the pay scale. If you have an increasing number of students and an increasing number of teachers at the lower end of the pay scale, per-pupil expenditure is going to be lower — which does not necessarily at all mean that the quality of their education [is lower] or that you’re not meeting the needs of the student.”

“As the teaching corps matures, the per-pupil expenditure — same number of students, same number of teachers — the PPE will go up,” Horn said. “I have a hard time, personally, using PPE as a benchmark of much of anything, quite frankly.”

I don’t have a hard time using PPE as a benchmark.

Horn then explains as Kokai recounts,

“Involved in PPE are the fixed costs of running your school,” he said. “Well, if a school is built to hold 1,000 students and holds 700, your PPE is X. Just do the math. If your student population happens to go up to 800 or 1,000, your fixed costs are the same. Your PPE has gone down. But nothing’s really changed with regard to quality.”

That’s where Horn is egregiously mistaken and Kokai uses that mistake in backing up his argument which is a mistake because he is trying to debunk a report that shows that all of the reforms Kokai and his cronies have championed have all been…mistakes.

PPE (at least from the state’s contribution) is mostly used for teacher salaries. The rest is used for resources like textbooks, transportation, and services.

  • Don’t more students require more teachers? And if according to Hood we need to look at the average salary of occupations for careers that might take away our potential teachers, should not salaries (for more need teachers) be going up quite steadily?
  • More students require more textbooks, right? They don’t get cheaper.
  • More students mean more services, correct? Like nurses. Maybe Horn could look at this – http://www.wral.com/study-need-for-school-nurses-growing-in-nc-could-cost-79m-a-year/17280561/.
  • Buses don’t get cheaper. Nor does having to buy more gas for more routes because we are growing as a state.
  • And that “fixed costs” part? More students mean more buildings that the local systems have to deal with. That means higher utility costs and upkeep.

Throw in a class-size mandate that Horn already says isn’t funded and you see how Horn’s PPE argument does not hold much weight.

Just like both Hood and Kokai’s arguments do not hold much weight.

Ironically, Dr. Terry Stoops of the John Locke Foundation said on January 18th in T. Keung Hui’s report on the QC report,

“The data used for the report are from 2015, so it does not include recent efforts by the North Carolina General Assembly to raise teacher compensation and support programs designed to raise student achievement. I suspect that these changes will improve our grade in future editions of Quality Counts” (http://amp.newsobserver.com/news/local/education/article195365259.html).

So, to put all of this in perspective:

Hood says the report does not put into consideration NC’s “buying power” (that it chooses not to use) and lower costs of living for places that have a harder time staffing its schools.

And Kokai says that per-pupil expenditures are not a reliable measure because Rep. Horn said they were not.

However, Luebke said that the QC reports are one of the more accepted studies out there.

And yet, Stoops says that we should see better results because we have started raising PPE’s since 2015.

Now, that’s some truly porous damage control for a truly damaging report that shows the damage done to North Carolina’s schools, damage that really stared when McCrory came into office and brought in Art Pope as his first budget director.

The same Art Pope who funds both the John Locke Foundation and Civitas.

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).