Vouchers, Charters, and Choice! Oh, My! – Dorothy, You’re Not in Public School Anymore

“Lions, and tigers, and bears! Oh, my!” – Dorothy, Tin Man, Scarecrow from The Wizard of Oz.

lions-tigers-bears

“Vouchers, Charters, and Choice! Oh, my!” – Me

As the North Carolina General Assembly is about to convene for the long session here in the new year, it bears repeating that public education will again be at the center of many of the very items of the agenda.

public-school-sign-brick-building-5310531

With a challenged bill in the court system now concerning the power of a neophyte state superintendent, a blind commitment to an ASD school district, more charter school disruptions, and a voucher system that is slated to  take almost a billion dollars of tax payer money in the next decade it is important to bring light to a couple of reports that have surfaced this week.

First is the Annual Charter Schools Report to the NCGA, of which a draft has been released (https://simbli.eboardsolutions.com/Meetings/Attachment.aspx?S=10399&AID=79615&MID=2933) .  According to Billy Ball of NC Policy Watch, the report says,

“According to the report, charters’ percentage of students classified as “economically disadvantaged” remains significantly lower than their traditional public school peers (see page 9).

In 2015-2016, for instance, less than 30 percent of charter students were counted as low-income, far below the 50.2 percent counted in traditional schools.

Additionally, charters’ share of low-income children has been consistently on the decline since  it reached 39.6 percent in 2012-2013, at at time when traditional schools’ have reported fluctuations up and down.

The numbers were prepared by the state’s Office of Charter Schools, which oversees the state’s growing charter school sector” (http://pulse.ncpolicywatch.org/2017/01/03/state-report-n-c-charter-schools-work-fewer-low-income-children/#sthash.JC3kSKYF.dpuf).

In fact, the table on that very page 9 looks like:

charter

In fact, it seems that the number of “economically disadvantaged’ children serviced by the charter schools has gone down over the years.

Remember last year when Lt. Gov. Dan Forest asked DPI to redo a report on charter school because it did not reflect so well on their servicing of students of low income? I do.

Ball concludes his report with,

“Also of note in this year’s state report, student performance in North Carolina charters varies more than it does in traditional schools. While a greater percentage of all public charters earned an A+, the highest school performance grade, a higher percentage of charters also pulled in the lowest school performance grade possible (see page 13 of the report).”

Interesting. So much for consistency.

Lindsay Wagner of the AJ Fletcher Foundation published a very interesting and insightful article on the voucher system here in North Carolina today. An experienced researcher and educational journalist, Wagner has witnessed the evolution of the “reform” movement first-hand here in North Carolina and this article deserves your reading.

It is called “North Carolina’s school voucher program: an accountability and transparency wish list for 2017” and you may find it here: http://ajf.org/north-carolinas-school-voucher-program-accountability-transparency-wish-list-2017/.

One very poignant statement observes,

“Our voucher program is one of the least accountable and transparent when comparing program participation standards to that of other states…”

Wagner then gives a realistic “wish list” and explains why lawmakers who enable the voucher programs to work so surreptitiously should be more transparent with taxpayer money. That’s especially important when much of that voucher money goes to religious schools that can alter both curricular standards and admission policies.

And then we have school choice, one of the most nebulous terms of the current school reform movement. Books are being written about school choice and we have a president elect who is in favor of school choice who has nominated a woman who herself is a champion of school choice, charters, and vouchers by the name of Betsy DeVos.

Dr. Diane Ravitch on her iconic blog which to date has almost 30 million hits responded to a recent Washington Post editorial concerning school choice, vouchers, and charters by kindy referring to places where school systems have literally been destroyed by “reform” (https://dianeravitch.net/2017/01/02/a-wake-up-call-for-fred-hiatt-editorial-page-editor-of-the-washington-post/).

Places like New Orleans.

Places like Milwaukee.

Places like Detroit (in DeVos’s home state).

And now there is news out of Tennessee that their Achievement School District is having some “problems.”

wizard-of-oz-flying-monkey-tattoo-2

Are those flying monkeys I see on the horizon?

“So, What’s the Market Rate for an Unaccountable Degree-Holding Babysitter?” – I Assume He Meant Teachers

tim-peck-tweet

“So, what’s the market rate for an unaccountable degree-holding babysitter?”

The above is a quote from a man named Tim Peck, a self-described “Unaffiliated Objectivist” and writer of the blog Et in Arcadia ego.

He also is a prolific Twitter tweeter, who according to Rob Schofield of NC Policy Watch is “one of the most prolific conservative voices on Twitter when it comes to North Carolina policy and politics (he’s authored more than 33,000 “tweets” in recent years that often echo and promote takes of various Art Pope Empire employees)” (http://www.ncpolicywatch.com/2016/09/13/an-election-year-switcheroo-on-public-education/).

In that same article, Schofield outlines the electioneering, pro-teacher stance that the GOP powers in NC have adopted this year in order to portray themselves as the friends of public education. And that’s when I came across Tim Peck’s Twitter tweet (I still like the alliterative sound there – almost tongue-twisting).

Here it is again.

“So, what’s the market rate for an unaccountable degree-holding babysitter?”

Put aside that Mr. Peck’s unaffiliated objectivism seems to hearken to Ayn Rand’s philosophical system. I am not really interested in debating the merits of ideas expounded upon in Atlas Shrugged or The Fountainhead.

Put aside that Mr. Peck’s blog (Et in Arcadia ego ) is named after a phrase that praises the idyllic pastoral life of ancient Arcadia where inhabitants lived simply away from corrupted city life. There are not many people who can actually claim to be securely sequestered by the issues that affect North Carolinians.

Put aside that the phrase “et in Arcadia ego” is also used by Virgil in the “Eclogues”. This posting is not questioning the use of a phrase by a poet who wrote Rome’s greatest epic poem that asserted the almost “divine” nature of Augustus Caesar and spotlighted Rome as the beacon of civilization when it was anything but pastoral in nature.

Put aside that the featured image of Mr. Peck’s blog, “Wanderer Above the Fog” by Caspar David Friedrich, is often associated with Lord (George Gordon) Byron, the famous British Romantic poet and writer of Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage, whose personal life philosophy seems to run totally counter to the views of Ayn Rand.

byron

What I am fixated on is the tweet,

“So, what’s the market rate for an unaccountable degree-holding babysitter?”

And I have to admit that it is a good question offered by Mr. Twitter Tweet Tim Peck. Good question.

I assume he is referring to teachers. But I am willing to give the benefit of the doubt here. I will say that we really need to find the market rate of the degree-holding babysitter and flush this argument out.

I’m a public school teacher; therefore, by Mr. Peck’s Twitter tweet, I am also an unaccountable degree-holding babysitter. And I will save the accountability portion of his tweet for a later date. As far as baby-sitting goes, I just need to keep the kids occupied, fed, clothed, and let them play without destroying personal property.

So, welcome to http://www.care.com/babysitting-rates. It was the first babysitter calculator website that came in a simple Google search. It seems to be a reliable source.

Now, let’s enter in some numbers.

  • For zip code, I used an Asheville code. That’s where Mr. Peck resides.
  • For number of children, I put in 4+.
  • For experience, I entered 10+ because I have around 18 years of teaching experience.
  • And hours? I put in 60 a week. Why? That’s how much time I usually put into all the facets of my job.babysit1

The result is $18.00 dollars an hour.

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But there is more math involved!

At $18.00 an hour for four kids, it would need to be higher because I usually deal with 22-30 kids at a time. Actually, in the past few years my class sizes have averaged over 28 students per class. That’s seven times the amount of kids I have would receive $18.00 an hour for babysitting. Maybe if I just multiplied $18 by 7, then I get an adjusted per hour rate of $126.00 an hour.

You know, I will give a markdown. Call it the “unaccountability discount” as Mr. Peck seems to think teachers are unaccountable. Half off! That makes the hourly rate $63.00.

Now, I work on average about 10 hours a school day. Multiplying the new rate ($63.00) by 10 hours and I get a rate of $630 a day. Holy cow! Mr. Peck, I am starting to like your new implied idea of recompense for us babysitters.

My contract stipulates that I teach kids 180 days a year. So my new daily rate ($630) multiplied by the number of contracted days (and if I read your blog correctly, you like for public work to be contracted out), my “yearly” haul to babysit would be $113,400 for the school year.

Praise the Lord!

Now you may say, “Hey, you don’t spend all of your ten hours a day directly with students.” And that may be true, but with coaching, sponsoring, duties, and preparing to have things for your students to do while I babysit them, I can pretty much say that I am still actively engaging with the kids.

And this new rate that you seem to propose doesn’t even include weekends and other days that I spend at “daycare” to prepare to take care of kids.

So, let’s go back to the original question that you posed in your level-headed tweet.

“So, what’s the market rate for an unaccountable degree-holding babysitter?”

The answer is $113,400.

Well done, Tim Peck. Well done.

I’ll take it.

Raleigh’s Real Commitment to “Recruit and Retain Effective Teachers”

The North Carolina Budget and Tax Center released a new report that pretty much verifies what many have said about the true intent on “recruiting and retaining” great teachers under the McCrory administration.

As stated by BTC Director Alexandra Sirota and highlighted in NC Policy Watch on August 17, 2016,

“As children, families, teachers and communities prepare to head back to school, the issue of teacher pay continues to linger in North Carolina. Despite incremental changes in the past two years by state lawmakers to change the structure of pay for teachers and invest more in teacher pay, North Carolina teachers remain near the bottom among their peers in other states for average pay.  Even with the changes to the state’s teacher plan made in the 2016-17 budget, analysis shows that average teacher pay will likely just reach $49,620. That means that many teachers across the state will still earn far below what it takes to make ends meet in their counties” – See more at: http://pulse.ncpolicywatch.org/2016/08/16/new-analysis-nc-teacher-pay-still-mired-near-the-botiom/#sthash.382FYmAq.dpuf .

That’s eye-opening, not just because it reiterates what critics have been rightfully saying about those historic “raises”, but it calls into question that the whole “recruit and retain effective teachers” production is really nothing more than hot air. Look at the following table:

BTC table

It’s not measuring NC teacher salaries against other teachers’ salaries from other states. It’s measuring salaries against comparable workers with similar educational backgrounds. Granted, this table does not show the effects of the recent electioneering raises given for this school year, but will it make much of a difference? Well, if other occupations do the same and raise their pay structures only a little, there will be no difference.

But that is not new information either. Consider the sharp decline in enrollment in teacher education programs in colleges and universities. That’s the first indication that what is being proffered by the current administration as a commitment to recruit and retain teachers is not really much of an effort at all. It’s really political propaganda.

This table reinforces that reality. And private business can continue to find highly qualified individuals who used to be teachers coming into the market so they can make a salary that will allow them to be part of this “Carolina Comeback.”

Gov. McCrory’s recent campaign commercials entitled “Truth” claims that his administration has done more for teacher pay raises than any other state in the country and has reduced unemployment. Information in this report sheds a brighter light on that because it calls into question the quality of pay of the very jobs that McCrory claims have reduced the unemployment rate.

Check this out from the North Carolina Justice Center (http://www.ncjustice.org/?q=budget-and-tax/living-income-standard-2014-boom-low-wage-work-means-many-north-carolinians-dont-make).

“One in five North Carolina families earn too little to afford life’s essentials and move up the economic ladder. A North Carolina family of two adults and two children must earn $52,275 annually to afford housing, food, child care, health care, transportation, taxes and other necessities, based on the Budget & Tax Center’s Living Income Standard (LIS) for 2014.

More than a third of two-adult, two-children families in North Carolina earn less than that, and more than three-fourths of families with one adult and two children fall below the standard, which varies by family size.

People in families with incomes below the LIS are more likely to be women (59 percent), working age (56 percent), and have a high school degree or less (63 percent). Moreover, white North Carolinians are less likely to live under the LIS than North Carolinians of color. Nine percent of the total white population lives below the LIS while 23 percent of the total Latino population does and 14 percent of the African-American population does.”

Over 20% of the students in North Carolina live in poverty. That measure of income is MUCH LOWER than the LIS explained in the previous excerpt.

Teachers in public schools still unflinchingly work with students who face poverty and families who live below the LIS – Living Income Standard. And people in Raleigh measure those teachers based on results that are influenced by the very culture and reality they help shape for the families of these students.

Private businesses do not have to provide services for those who cannot pay for those services. Public schools do, even when they are underfunded and overworked. So in order for McCrory and others in the GOP establishment to really “effectively recruit and retain teachers” here in North Carolina, the information contained in that table will have to be dealt with. Quickly.

That’s the “truth” of the matter.

But you will never see that in one of McCrory’s campaign commercials.

The Book of Leviticus and the Opportunity Grants

A recent NC Policy Watch article by Chris Fitzsimon entitled “More taxpayer funding for voucher schools that openly discriminate against LGBT students and parents” offers yet another example of how taxpayer money is being used to fund schools that are allowed to teach any curriculum they choose. Furthermore, many of these schools are religious schools and can discriminate against certain prospective students based on a variety of criteria, especially sexual orientation or identity.

In this particular article, Fitzsimon focuses on Bible Baptist Christian School in Matthews. He describes the situation:

The school collected more than $100,000 in public support for the 2015-2016 school year to pay for the education of 26 students who signed up for a voucher.

But not all taxpayers have access to the school.  Gay students and students with gay parents are banned from attending Bible Baptist Christian School even though their tax dollars support it.

That’s not an unwritten policy quietly enforced by the admissions office.  It is quite explicit that gay students and students with gay parents are not welcome.

Page 76 of the student handbook of the school includes a “Homosexual Conduct Policy” that makes it clear.

“The school reserves the right, in its sole discretion, to refuse admission to an applicant or to discontinue enrollment of a current student. This includes, but is not limited to, living in, condoning, or supporting any form of sexual immorality; practicing or promoting a homosexual lifestyle or alternative gender identity;”

The handbook lists Bible verses as references for its policies. One of the verses cited to support the anti-LGBT provision is Leviticus 20:13, that reads:

“If there is a man who lies with a male as those who lie with a woman, both of them have committed a detestable act; they shall surely be put to death. Their bloodguiltiness is upon them (http://www.ncpolicywatch.com/2016/07/27/more-taxpayer-funding-for-voucher-schools-that-openly-discriminate-against-lgbt-students-and-parents/). ”

Bible Baptist is not the only fundamentalist religious school that receives tax payer money that is allowed to do this, but the direct use of a Bible verse to validate discrimination seems to be a violation of the separation of church and state. Ironically, churches already are tax exempt, but now those churches with schools can stay tax exempt and use tax payer money to further their doctrines.

The legality and the merits of that are for another post. What I am focused on is the use of a single Bible verse to allow for some students to be denied admission when there are so many other “laws” within the same book of the Bible.

If Bible Baptist Christian School chooses to use the Old Testament Book of Leviticus, one of the books of the Torah, as a basis for admission criteria and student conduct, then it cannot just adhere to just one of the verses and its commands, but all of them. And breaking any of these should be grounds for having to refund the public school system with the very money taken with a voucher to pay for tuition at the private, religious school.

No Red Lobster!

Lev. 11: 9-12 says,

  1. “These shall ye eat of all that are in the waters: whatsoever hath fins and scales in the waters, in the seas, and in the rivers, them shall ye eat.
  2. And all that have not fins and scales in the seas, and in the rivers, of all that move in the waters, and of any living thing which is in the waters, they shall be an abomination unto you:
  3. They shall be even an abomination unto you; ye shall not eat of their flesh, but ye shall have their carcases in abomination.
  4. Whatsoever hath no fins nor scales in the waters, that shall be an abomination unto you.”

One cannot be caught eating at the Red Lobster or other seafood restaurant that serves certain prepared aquatic delicacies. Even if a student is not eating one of the forbidden menu items, watching others do so and not acting to stop it is just as much a sin.

No polyester / cotton blended t-shirts!

Lev. 19:19 says,

  1. Ye shall keep my statutes. Thou shalt not let thy cattle gender with a diverse kind: thou shalt not sow thy field with mingled seed: neither shall a garment mingled of linen and woollen come upon thee.

It doesn’t matter if the t-shirt has the school’s name and a picture of a cross; it breaks the law!

Hair better be done right! And no tattoos.

Lev. 19:27-28 says,

  1. Ye shall not round the corners of your heads, neither shalt thou mar the corners of thy beard.
  2. Ye shall not make any cuttings in your flesh for the dead, nor print any marks upon you: I am the LORD.

That’s right. No cutting of beards or tattoos of crosses on arms or legs, or anywhere.

Make sure to discriminate against those who are different.

Lev. 21: 17-21 says,

  1. Speak unto Aaron, saying, Whosoever he be of thy seed in their generations that hath any blemish, let him not approach to offer the bread of his God.
  2. For whatsoever man he be that hath a blemish, he shall not approach: a blind man, or a lame, or he that hath a flat nose, or any thing superfluous,
  3. Or a man that is brokenfooted, or brokenhanded,
  4. Or crookbackt, or a dwarf, or that hath a blemish in his eye, or be scurvy, or scabbed, or hath his stones broken;
  5. No man that hath a blemish of the seed of Aaron the priest shall come nigh to offer the offerings of the LORD made by fire: he hath a blemish; he shall not come nigh to offer the bread of his God.

That’s right. If one is short, has a flat nose, is blind, crippled, has a curved spine, or wears glasses, he is not good enough to become a priest. Would that also mean that one who possesses one of those traits is not qualified to be a student at Bible Baptist? The web site says, “We are dedicated to equipping the saints of God for the 21st century.” Can saints have the aforementioned “deformities”?

No more sports. Or change the balls.

Lev. 11: 6-8 says,

  1. And the hare, because he cheweth the cud, but divideth not the hoof; he is unclean unto you.
  2. And the swine, though he divide the hoof, and be clovenfooted, yet he cheweth not the cud; he is unclean to you.
  3. Of their flesh shall ye not eat, and their carcase shall ye not touch; they are unclean to you.

Athletes can’t use pigskins. Bible Baptist has an athletic program. Basketballs, volleyballs, and soccer balls used cannot have any leather. That would also include shoes. Athletic shoes in these sports tend to be made of leather.

Associating with mothers who went to church right after the birth of their children.

Lev. 12: 4-5 says,

  1. And she shall then continue in the blood of her purifying three and thirty days; she shall touch no hallowed thing, nor come into the sanctuary, until the days of her purifying be fulfilled.
  2. But if she bear a maid child, then she shall be unclean two weeks, as in her separation: and she shall continue in the blood of her purifying threescore and six days.

That’s no church for the mother for 33 days after the birth of a boy. For girls it is 66 days.

No eating of fruit from a tree that is less than four years old.

Lev. 19: 23-24 says,

  1. And when ye shall come into the land, and shall have planted all manner of trees for food, then ye shall count the fruit thereof as uncircumcised: three years shall it be as uncircumcised unto you: it shall not be eaten of.
  2. But in the fourth year all the fruit thereof shall be holy to praise the LORD withal.

That might be a lot of wasted fruit, but that is what the verses stipulate.

Your family can not own any land.

Lev. 25: 23 says,

  1. The land shall not be sold for ever: for the land is mine; for ye are strangers and sojourners with me.

There should be no land deeds or evidence of property tax found in any home of any student.

There are many more laws in the other books of the Torah to explain, but if a religious school is to abide by one of them, then should they not abide by all of them? And if someone breaks the rules of the school is the school not allowed to expel the student? Sure. What if the school does not enforce the very statutes that is espouses? Then the penalty may have to be to give back the voucher money to the public schools.

However, there is one fundamental law that comes from the Bible that I think all schools should keep in mind whether public or one of the 336 religious schools or private academies that receive voucher money. That is what Jesus said in Matthew 18 : 2-6.

  1. And Jesus called a little child unto him, and set him in the midst of them,
  2. And said, Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven.
  3. Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child, the same is greatest in the kingdom of heaven.
  4. And whoso shall receive one such little child in my name receiveth me.
  5. But whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea.