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

275px-Portable_classroom_building_at_Rock_Creek_Elementary_School_-_Washington_County,_Oregon

Dear Sen. Barefoot,

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

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

From WRAL:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Back to the WRAL report:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Open Letter to the NCGA Concerning Bonus Pay for Teachers

Dear members of the North Carolina General Assembly,

This may not be a popular opinion, but it is one that is a matter of principle to me.

I will be receiving the maximum in bonuses this year for having a certain number of students pass the AP English Language and Composition Exam for the 2016-2017. Many of you may think that it will continue to somewhat ameliorate tensions with public school teachers like me. I do not think it will at all. I feel that it just exacerbates the real problem: continued lack of respect for all public school teachers.

I am not going to keep my bonus, again. To me it’s just academic “blood money.”

I have read about this provision of bonus money frequently in the summer. It’s in the budget that former Gov. McCrory signed last year before he became the first sitting governor in NC history to not get reelected when he/she sought to, a provision adding bonus pay for teachers of Advanced Placement, International Baccalaureate, CTE, and 3rd grade. As the News and Observer reported last year (http://www.newsobserver.com/news/politics-government/state-politics/article89154042.html),

“Advanced Placement course teachers will receive $50 bonuses for each of their students who score 3 or higher on AP exams. Teachers of International Baccalaureate Diploma Program courses will receive a $50 bonus for each student who scores 4 or better on IB exams.

Those bonuses are capped at $2,000 per teacher per year. Scores from 2015-16 and 2016-17 will be used. Bonuses are to be paid in January 2017 and January 2018.

Teachers whose students earn approved industry certifications or credentials will win bonuses of $25 or $50 per student, depending on the value of the credential as determined by the state Department of Commerce. The bonuses are capped at $2,000 per teacher per year.”

In fact, I would receive more money in bonuses if there was no cap. But unlike class sizes, you have capped the bonuses.

But, as I said, I will not keep the bonus, again. Part of it will be taxed. The state will get some of it back. The feds will get some of it. Some of what the feds will get may be paying for Medicaid in other states, which is ironic because we didn’t expand it here in NC. None of it will go to my retirement plan.

The rest I will give back to my school. And don’t think I do not need the money. I do – still have two kids, car payment, mortgage, therapy for a special needs child, etc.

But I can’t make it this way again, especially when I know why the bonus is given and the fact that it doesn’t really belong to me because so many more people at my school helped my students pass my particular AP test, one that does not even have any influence on their transcript.

I know that there are other teachers I know well who will receive bonuses for their students passing AP tests. If they keep that money, that’s their business. They need the money. They have families and needs. I will not in any way ask them what they will do with it.

There are many reasons for my opinion, and all are rooted in principles and respect, but I will attempt to explain them clearly and concisely.

  1. I do not need a carrot stick. If getting a bonus to get students to perform better really works, then this should have been done a long time ago. But it does not. I do not perform better because of a bonus. I am not selling anything. I would like my students and parents to think that I work just as hard for all of my students in all of my classes because I am a teacher.
  2. This creates an atmosphere of competition. I did not get into teaching so that I could compete with my fellow teachers and see who makes more money, but rather collaborate with them. Giving some teachers a chance to make bonuses and not others is a dangerous precedent.
  3. I did not take those tests. The students took the tests. Sometimes I wish that I could take the tests for them, but if you are paying me more money to have students become more motivated, then that is just misplaced priorities. These students are young adults. Some vote; most drive; many have jobs; many pay taxes. They need to be able to harness their own motivation and hopefully I can couple it with my motivation.
    But many of these students are taking eight classes, participating in extracurricular activities, and helping families. Plus with all of the testing that we put on students that takes away from actual instructional time is staggering. Sometimes, I am amazed at what our students actually accomplish in light of the gravity they are placed under.
  4. I was not the only person who taught them. To say that the success of my students on the AP English Language and Composition Test solely rested on my performance is ludicrous. While the cliché’ “It takes a village” might be overused, I do believe that the entire school’sfaculty and staff has something to do with not only my students’ success, but my own. The content, study skills, time management, discipline that students must exercise to pass the AP test certainly did not all come from me. Everyone on staff, every coach, every PTSA volunteer has helped to remove obstacles for students so they could achieve.
  5. Bonus pay does not work. It’s like merit pay. There is really no evidence that it helps public schools. Remember the ABC’s from the late 1990’s and the early 2000’s? Yep, I do too.
  6. The state does not have a reputation of fully funding their initiatives. Again, remember the ABC’s? I still do. Those bonuses dried up because they were not fully funded. And after the bonuses are taken away in the future (which they probably will), will the expectations of student performance be lessened? History says that it will not.
  7. My class is not more important as others. They all matter. I wrote Rep. Stam once concerning his views on merit pay and what subjects were more important than others,

“If some subjects matter more than others, then why do schools weigh all classes the same on a transcript? If some subjects matter more than others, then why do we teach all of those subjects? I certainly feel that as an English teacher, the need to teach reading and writing skills is imperative to success in any endeavor that a student wishes to pursue after graduation. In fact, what teachers in any subject area are trained to do is to not just impart knowledge, but treat every student as an individual with unique learning styles, abilities, and aptitudes in a manner that lets each student grow as a person, one who can create and make his/her own choices. “

  1. This sets a dangerous precedent in measuring students and teachers. As I stated in my aforementioned letter to Rep. Stam,

“Effective public schools are collaborative communities, not buildings full of contractors who are determined to outperform others for the sake of money. And when teachers are forced to focus on the results of test scores, teaching ceases from being a dynamic relationship between student and teacher, but becomes a transaction driven by a carrot on an extended stick. Furthermore, the GOP-led NCGA still does not seem to acknowledge that student growth is different than student test scores. When some of our colleagues deal with students who experience more poverty, health issues, and other factors, then how can you say that those teachers do not “grow” those students when an arbitrary test score is all that is used to measure students?”

  1. This is a reward, but far from showing respect. Many teachers got a raise in the past four years, but again that is an “average” raise. Bonuses in this case seem more like “hush money” and a means to brag that you seem to care about teacher compensation. But if you really respected teachers, you would do more for them than give “bonuses” to a few of them. You would reward them with salaries comparable with the rest of the nation. You would restore due-process rights for new teachers, you would give back graduate degree pay, you would stop measuring schools with a defeatist model, and you would restore longevity pay.
  2. It’s pure electioneering. There is uncontrolled charter school growth. There are loosened sanctions on for-profit virtual schools. There are massive amount of money going to Opportunity Grants which will no doubt fill the coffers of schools that do not even teach the same curriculum as those teachers you want to “reward” with these bonuses. There is HB2, lawsuits between our puppet state superintendent and the state school board you appointed, and an ASD district still out there. There is the lowered per pupil expenditure. All of this affects the very schools that you think a bonus will help to hide.

These bonuses are not part of the solution. They are a symptom of a bigger problem. And while I will defend each person who receives this bonus his/her right to keep it and spend it any way he/she chooses, I plan to give mine to my school, one of many that you have not fully resourced.

Stuart Egan, NBCT
West Forsyth High School

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.

 

The Total Soulless Educational Eclipse of 2017

On August 21, 2017 parts of western North Carolina will be subject to a total solar eclipse. Other parts of the state will certainly witness the once in a lifetime event. Ironically, most people affected by the eclipse will be in rural areas.

eclispe

On July 25, 2017 all of North Carolina became subject to another darkening of the light – a soulless eclipse of funding for public schools.

And again, the rural areas will see the biggest effects of this shadow cast on communities that send most all of their students to traditional public schools.

But this instance is not a once in a lifetime occurrence. It will be felt for quite a while. What’s even more egregious is that it could totally be prevented.

Yet, the powers that be will hide even more funds from these same areas next year.

As reported in multiple outlets today like WRAL,

The State Board of Education approved $2.5 million in cuts to the state Department of Public Instruction on Tuesday as a result of mandated budget reductions by the General Assembly. Most of the cuts are expected to impact low-performing schools and teacher training in the state. An additional $737,000 in cuts are expected in the coming weeks (http://www.wral.com/state-board-of-education-approves-2-5m-in-budget-cuts-/16840289/).

This comes at a time when our officials in Raleigh are celebrating a state surplus and an expanding “rainy-day” fund.

The cuts made today will especially be felt in the rural areas. Further in the WRAL report referenced earlier,

Board Chairman Bill Cobey declined to say which positions are being cut, citing personnel laws, but said they will be revealed at a later date. He said the majority of the staff cuts will be in the District Transformation and Educator Effectiveness divisions. The board plans to merge the two divisions into a new one, called District Support.

“Hopefully the districts can pick up any slack that is produced by this reduction,” Cobey said. “We’re further reducing the service to the districts. Hopefully you won’t see any huge impact any place, but there’s going to be marginal impact in certain places across the state. And we’re going to try our best to mitigate that.”

Many of these affected districts are in areas that actually are worried about their local hospitals staying open because many of the same GOP members who mandated the cuts to DPI also refused to expand Medicaid which these rural hospitals rely on so that people can pay medical bills.

That particular eclipse started years ago and it appears that things are getting darker. Ask the folks in Sen. Berger’s hometown of Eden.

Perhaps most egregious is that this soulless educational eclipse comes as the NC General Assembly is shining so much sunshine on both the state superintendent and non-traditional schools at the expense of traditional public schools.

As Billy Ball reported in NC Policy Watch today:

Board members were limited in their choices for handing down the legislative funding cuts. General Assembly members forbade cuts from GOP-backed initiatives such as the teacher prep program Teach for America and the Innovative School District, formerly called the Achievement School District, which could allow for-profit charter operators to take over several low-performing schools in the coming years…

Lawmakers ordered the board to stay away from additional funds allocated to create up to 10 new positions in the department reporting directly to Johnson. The move came with Johnson, the board and the legislature mired in a court battle over the powers of the superintendent’s office (http://www.ncpolicywatch.com/2017/07/25/teacher-development-struggling-schools-chopping-block-state-board-ed-implements-g-mandated-cuts/).

Also worth mentioning is that the General Assembly gave Johnson $300,000 for legal fees in his defense against the State Board’s lawsuit over a transfer of power done by the GOP in a special session to prop up Johnson as a puppet official.

The state board was forbidden to use state funds in its legal actions.

As true to his nature, Johnson was not present at the actual board meeting but was linked through on a conference call.

Ball continues,

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Mark Johnson, a Republican elected last November, has been silent on the cuts and he did not speak during the public portion of Tuesday’s conference call session, but Cobey has said his office has been sharing proposals for the cuts with board members.

There is Johnson once again not being available to the public as the leader of the public schools.

However, Johnson did release a statement afterwards, one full of pomp, circumstance, and total ambiguity.

“While these funding cuts will be challenging, I did not run for Superintendent of Public Instruction to shirk away from the challenges of leadership. The General Assembly is clearly frustrated with the lack of accountability of the State Board of Education, and I am too. The culture of a non-accountability created by the State Board is one of the reasons I sought funding for a top-to-bottom, third-party review of DPI. By studying the results from this upcoming operational review and working together with the professional staff at DPI, I believe the department will come out stronger, more efficient, and more effective at supporting public schools in NC. The Board seems to prefer to complain and instead focuses only on more of the same. I embrace the positive changes that can result from addressing this substantive challenge head-on. We can and will be a better DPI at the end of this process.”

Listening to Mark Johnson through an impersonal statement is becoming the norm, not the exception. His availability to the people of North Carolina and the educators who work with most of our students has been more sparse than the funds that DPI can now use to staff vital positions in the School Transformation and Educator Effectiveness divisions.

It is rather funny to hear Johnson talk of not “shirking away from the challenges of leadership.” He hasn’t avoided being a leader per-se. It’s more like run the other way. And his comments about accountability are humorous as well. Why? He has not done anything that would make him accountable for anything.

Studying results? Interestingly, he has never disclosed his findings. That includes his findings from the “listening tour” he is still pursuing. And the words “Mark Johnson” and “addressing challenges head-on” have never collided in the same sentence.

Maybe next year, the General Assembly can set aside some money for Johnson to get a spine to actually help stand in front of people and explain his lack of action.

 

The Elimination of ASW and the Intentions of the NCGA’s Budget Cuts to DPI

What follows in this post is another manifestation of the how the NC General Assembly is trying to weaken the Department of Public Instruction in such a way so that it can control as many aspects of teacher and school evaluation to validate its actions on what it perceives as school reform.

For the past three school years, there has been a nebulous cloud of ambiguous of evaluation for many of us teachers that resides within Standard 6 of the North Carolina Teacher Evaluation System as set forth by DPI within the North Carolina Professional Teaching Standards.

If you are a public school teacher in NC, you know of STANDARD 6.

Within the NC Professional Teaching Standards document ,

ASW

STANDARD 6 Teachers Contribute to the Academic Success of Students

The work of the teacher results in acceptable, measurable progress for students based on established performance expectations using appropriate data to demonstrate growth.

A teacher’s rating on the sixth standard is determined by a student growth value as calculated by the statewide growth model for educator effectiveness. The End-of-Course assessments, End-of-Grade assessments, Career and Technical Education Post-Assessments, and the Measures of Student Learning provide the student data used to calculate the growth value.

The student growth value places a teacher into one of three rating categories:

  • Does not meet expected growth: the student growth value for the teacher is lower than what was expected per the statewide growth model.
  • Meets expected growth: the student growth value for the teacher is what was expected per the statewide growth model.
  • Exceeds expected growth: the student growth value for the teacher exceeds what was expected per the statewide growth model.

The “Measure of Student Learning” was used for my Standard 6 evaluation for the last three years. It was actually called “Assessment of Student Learning” or ASW.

For an AP instructor who teaches a certain number of AP courses, I had to submit a rather large amount of evidence to satisfy this requirement. It required selecting five different objectives from the AP English Language and Composition curriculum (components) and show growth in arbitrarily selected students (by the state) within the context of the school year.

That means that I had to make sure to collect, organize, decipher, explain, offer supporting materials, provide working samples with explanations, digitize all materials, and upload in a certain window of time while as administrator approved all of my steps. It’s like putting together a professional portfolio to prove that I am doing what I am supposed to do but do not have the ability to verbally defend or seek clarification.

Then I get back a notice through a computer program of how it was perceived months after the fact.

The first year I had to perform the ASW component, I uploaded all of my materials in June of the school year. In November of the next school year, I received the feedback. Here is what I wrote about that in an earlier blog posting.

In June of 2015, I uploaded my documents in the state’s system and had to wait until November to get results. The less than specific comments from the unknown assessor(s) were contradictory at best. They included:

Alignment

  • Al 1 The evidence does not align to the chosen objective.
  • Al 4 All of the Timelapse Artifacts in this Evidence Collection align to the chosen objectives.

Growth

  • Gr 1 Student growth is apparent in all Timelapse Artifacts.
  • Gr 2 Student growth is apparent between two points in time.
  • Gr 3 Student growth is not apparent between two points in time.
  • Gr 4 Student growth samples show achievement but not growth.
  • Gr 9 Evidence is clear/easily accessible
  • Gr 10 Evidence is not clear/not easily accessible

Narrative Context

  • NC 1 Narrative Context addresses all of the key questions and supports understanding of the evidence.
  • NC 4 Narrative Context does not address one or more of the key questions.

 And these comments did not correspond to any specific part of my submission. In fact, I am more confused about the process than ever before. It took over five months for someone who may not have one-fifth of my experience in the classroom to communicate this to me. If this is supposed to supply me with the tools to help guide my future teaching, then I would have to say that this would be highly insufficient, maybe even “unbest.”

In June of 2016, I intentionally chose many of the same objectives to measure and used the same assignments as AP English Language and Composition does not really change in what is measured – students need to earn how to read closely and write effectively.

In November of 2016, I received positive feedback, but nothing specific. I actually thought that my 2015 material was just as good. And in that previous year’s experience, I realized that there may not have been much in the way of professional development to help evaluators to accurately measure artifacts. Maybe the program was not field tested enough to work out all of the bugs and errors.

I also realized that my best evaluator were actually the students who took my classes all year long, the people I worked with in the school, and the administrative team that allowed me to ask questions and discuss what was seen.

So, this year (June 16, 2017), I uploaded on the very last day of the school year for me (post-planning week) my ASW portfolio.

Let me reiterate. That was June 16. I intentionally made this the last thing I did officially for the school year. June 16 was the deadline.

On July 11, 2017, I received notification that the ASW has been eliminated for the 2017-2018 school year.

That means that what I turned in for June 16th will probably never be looked at. The contents of the email message I received is below and is being printed because it is under the North Carolina Public Records Law.

“I’m writing to inform you that the Analysis of Student Work Process to assess growth for Advanced Placement, Arts Education, Healthful Living, International Baccalaureate, and World Language courses has been eliminated by legislative action (Session Law 2017-57. Section 7.23E.(a)) beginning with the 2017-18 school year.

This notification will likely come as bittersweet news to many of you. While much of your feedback indicates that the ASW process allowed many teachers to dig more deeply into their standards, engage in more reflective teaching practices, and receive the same “validation” as tested subject areas, I recognize that participating in the ASW process also pushed the boundaries of some individuals’ technological comfort zones and was a time-intensive endeavor.

Due to budget cuts to the Department of Public Instruction, “.  A small cadre of reviewers are reviewing the remaining Evidence Collections for CEU credit.  We will review as many 2016-17 Evidence Collections as possible this summer.  If we are not able to review collections at the same level as previous years, the final decision as to whether we release the 2016-17 results will be made by DPI leadership.  

At this time, there are no plans to replace the ASW process.  Teachers who formerly participated in the ASW process or locally developed plans will not have a growth measure moving forward.  Teachers who participated in the ASW process will not receive school-level growth.

Thank you for your dedication in learning and implementing the ASW process over the past 4 years. The ASW process was one of continuous improvement, driven by your feedback and rigorous expectations for yourselves and your peers.  To support you in continuing professional learning, many of the current ASW resources will remain available to you or be adapted and posted either on the ASW wikispace or specific content area wikispaces.  ASW training materials are, at their core, about excellent instructional practices in our performance-based classrooms and we want to ensure your access to these helpful materials in the future.”

There are a few things that need to special attention in this email and I know that the person who sent it is just a messenger.

  1. “Due to budget cuts to the Department of Public Instruction…” – As soon as I read that, I immediately began to think of what the North Carolina General Assembly just did in its recent budget: cut DPI by %20 within the next two years and do everything that it could to oust anyone associated with the previous state superintendent so that a puppet of an elected official like Mark Johnson could do the bidding of politicians bent on weakening public education.
  2. “…the paid component of the 2016-17 review process ended on June 23.” – That’s literally one week after I uploaded everything and over two weeks before anyone told me or other teachers that this was ending without any review of my material. That’s like my never grading my students’ work to let them know what needs to be worked on in the future. In fact, it’s like my students doing lots of work, but never receiving feedback or a grade.
  3. If we are not able to review collections at the same level as previous years, the final decision as to whether we release the 2016-17 results will be made by DPI leadership.  “ – With the political climate that we have now the words “final decision to be made by DPI” is the equivalent to “final decision to be made by select GOP lawmakers who want to weaken public education so that they can take the budget cuts from DPI and put it into vouchers, ESA’s, and charter school growth.”
  4. At this time, there are no plans to replace the ASW process.” – With the number of special sessions done by this NCGA and the back-door, secretive meetings that constructed the very budget that literally caused DPI to drop this, forgive me if I say that there are plans – just not publically announced ones.
  5. driven by your feedback and rigorous expectations.” – Teacher and school feedback is the kryptonite of those who made the budget cuts in the first place.

Don’t get me wrong. I think that there is a better way of being evaluated than this. I don’t like the impersonal manner of this evaluation. But the instant removal of this is yet another symptom of a bigger problem. So I repeat,

This is another manifestation of the how the NC General Assembly is trying to weaken the Department of Public Instruction in such a way so that it can control as many aspects of teacher and school evaluation to validate its actions on what it perceives as school reform.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The NCGA’s Plan to Make School Performance Grades Fuel Voucher Expansion

 

Public Schools First NC (PSFNC.org), an organization that supports advocacy of public education in North Carolina, regularly sends out very informative factoids through social media that give texture to the landscape of the politics associated with public education.

With the current recess of the General Assembly after its disastrous budget proposal for public education, it takes a lot of eyes to sift through the muck and make sure that all deficiencies are identified and brought to light because those who made this budget did so behind closed doors without political discourse and with partisan agendas. PSFNC.org is invaluable in that respect.

One of those agendas is to help ensure that vouchers will continue to be funded and expanded at astronomical rates.

This morning Public Schools First NC tweeted this graphic:

Budget fact

Those school performance grades are based on a model developed by Jeb Bush when he was in Florida. It’s disastrous and places a lot of emphasis of achievement scores of amorphous, one-time testing rather than student growth throughout the entire year.

It’s part of the “proficiency versus growth” debate that really came to the forefront during the Betsy DeVos confirmation hearings when she could not delineate between whether test scores are used to measure student “achievement” or student “growth.”

The people who made the decision to keep both the school performance grading system formula where it is and still expand vouchers ABSOLUTELY UNDERSTAND THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN PROFICIENCY AND GROWTH. IT HELPS TO VALIDATE THEIR WANT OF MORE VOUCHERS.

If one thing is for certain, North Carolina’s school performance grades are a confirmation that student poverty levels have so much to do with how schools perform.

With the tweet sent out this morning, PSFNC.org, also had a link to a quick fact “sheet” about school performance grades in North Carolina. It is very much worth a look on any person’s part, especially public school advocates – http://www.publicschoolsfirstnc.org/resources/fact-sheets/quick-facts-a-f-school-performance-grades-2/?platform=hootsuite.

PSFNC1

There’s a table in the report that talks about the link between these grades and poverty levels from 2015–16 Performance and Growth of North Carolina Public Schools Executive Summary, NC DPI.

PSFNC2

You can also refer to another posting from this blog from last year that talks about the correlation between the grades and state poverty levels – https://caffeinatedrage.com/2016/09/05/map-it-and-it-becomes-very-apparent-that-poverty-affects-schools/.

Interestingly enough, in the school year 2019 2020, the school performance grade scale will shift from a fifteen-point scale to a ten-point scale. Do you know what that means?

IT WILL BE HARDER FOR PUBLIC SCHOOLS TO QUALIFY AS PASSING. IN FACT, SCHOOLS COULD HAVE A HIGHER PERCENTAGE OF STUDENT GROWTH AND STILL GET A LOWER SCHOOL PERFORMANCE GRADE!

There will be more failing schools. This comes from a legislative body that endorsed the state board last school year to institute a ten-point scale for all high school grading systems to help ensure higher graduation rates, but now shrinks scales for those schools’ performance grades.

With policies that still hurt the working poor and those in poverty (which in NC affects over 20% of students) and the refusal to expand Medicaid and the other policies that hurt poorer regions, it is almost certain that poverty will have as much if not a bigger role in school performance grades in the near future.

Guess what else is happening in 2019-2010? Voucher expansion!

PSFNC.org made mention of the Opportunity Grants being expanded in a Facebook posting a day ago. It references the following from the recently passed budget by the NC General Assembly:

SECTION 6.6.(b) G.S. 115C-562.8(b) reads as rewritten: “(b) The General Assembly finds that, due to the critical need in this State to provide opportunity for school choice for North Carolina students, it is imperative that the State provide an increase of funds of at least ten million dollars ($10,000,000) each fiscal year for 10 years to the Opportunity Scholarship Grant Fund Reserve. Therefore, there is appropriated from the General Fund to the Reserve the following amounts for each fiscal year to be used for the purposes set forth in this section:
Fiscal Year Appropriation

2017-2018: $44,840,000
2018-2019: $54,840,000
2019-2020: $64,840,000
2020-2021: $74,840,000
2021-2022: $84,840,000
2022-2023: $94,840,000
2023-2024: $104,840,000
2024-2025: $114,840,000
2025-2026: $124,840,000
2026-2027: $134,840,000

For the 2027-2028 fiscal year and each fiscal year thereafter, there is appropriated from the General Fund to the Reserve the sum of one hundred forty-four million eight hundred forty Page 14 Senate Bill 257-Ratified thousand dollars ($144,840,000) to be used for the purposes set forth in this section. When developing the base budget, as defined by G.S. 143C-1-1, for each fiscal year specified in this subsection, the Director of the Budget shall include the appropriated amount specified in this subsection for that fiscal year.”

Read that first line again: “due to the critical need in this State to provide opportunity for school choice for North Carolina students.”

That “critical need” has been created in part by making sure that many schools look bad – i.e., school performance grades. With a shrinking scale, more schools will “fail” and most of those schools will have higher levels of poverty in their student populations.

Those are exactly the students who will be targeted for expanding vouchers, because the Opportunity Grants are supposed to help “low-income” students.

And look when that expansion will start to take place – the school year of 2018-2019 with another 10 million dollars. However, our state budgets go in cycles of two years. That means that the next budget if the powers that be stay in power can come back and expand vouchers even more.

Starting right when those school performance grades change scales.

They know damn well the difference between proficiency and growth – the less proficient public schools look in the eyes of the public through a lens that the NC General Assembly prescribes, the more growth for vouchers in this state.

North Carolina Should Get Back to the ROOTS of the Teaching Fellows Program, Not Just the STEM

It is rather odd that in the same session that produced the nebulous and de-professionalizing SB599 bill a sanitized and highly truncated version of the North Carolina Teaching Fellows program was reintroduced.

teaching fellows

As reported by Matthew Adams in the “Under The Dome” section of the News & Observer on July 1st,

North Carolina will pay college tuition costs for students who commit to teaching science, technology, engineering, math or special education within the state.

The N.C. General Assembly eliminated a similar program in 2011. The Teaching Fellows program dated to 1986 and awarded loans each year to pay four years of tuition for 500 students who agreed to pay back the loan by teaching in the state for four years.

Under the revived Teaching Fellows program, forgivable loans of $8,250 each year will go to 160 students as long as they commit to teaching in special education or STEM fields. The new program was included in the state budget that the legislature enacted over a veto from Gov. Roy Cooper, who wanted more education spending (http://www.newsobserver.com/news/politics-government/politics-columns-blogs/under-the-dome/article159267114.html).

Given that most professions which hire use graduates with degrees in those selected fields pay much more than a public school teacher, this current General Assembly has shown that it will not budge on raising the monetary rewards of teaching those chosen fields.

What also needs not be mentioned is that having 160 potential teachers at “only one of five public or private universities to be selected by an appointed committee by Nov. 15” will not come anywhere to replacing 500 potential teachers at multiple campuses who were for 25 years also walking advertisements for teaching in the state that was at one time committed to public schools.

And it doesn’t take a person with a science, technology, engineering, or math degree to figure out that the committee appointed to select the campuses for the new Teaching Fellows Program will be part of a group that has not listened to science, not used technology appropriately, has engineered a gerrymandered state, and used fuzzy math to explain horrible policies.

But there is a large amount of sadistic irony in “reviving” a minor version of the Teaching Fellows for STEM subjects because the very people who are crafting this piece of “makeup” legislation really do not appreciate the very subject areas that they are focusing on preparing teachers for.

When one thinks of science and the state of North Carolina it is hard not to think of the Duke coal ash spills and the ensuing environmental concerns for clean drinking water in areas of the state.

If science involves studying the environment and if legislators are so concerned with making sure that our students have good science teachers with degrees from good institutions, then should not those same legislators be more willing to accept what science has taught us?

Like effects of fracking?

Like effects of “garbage juice”?

Like effects of hog waste on property?

If technology is important, should legislators not use it more effectively or promote it more effectively? With an age of digital commerce and distance bridging capability, it is rather necessary for a state to be inviting to technological corporations as a way of helping grow the economy.

But if you’re North Carolina, you pass a law like HB2 that makes it easy for any company to not set up business or even do business in the state. The effects of that law will always be under debate, but it surely kept Pat McCrory from being the only sitting governor who was seeking reelection to not win.

In NC history.

In a state that went for Donald Trump.

And most of the engineering that has occurred on West Jones Street seems to have been rather destructive than constructive. This is the same legislative body that has secretly colluded to pass partisan bills in multiple special sessions which have forced so much legal entanglements that hardly a person in power is not involved in a court case that keeps him or her from fulfilling duties.

Ask Elaine Marshall, who now has an impeachment proceeding thrown her way for doing her job and for being a democrat. That’s engineering.

Ask Gov. Cooper, who is having to go to court just to protect his constitutional given powers. That’s engineering.

Ask Mark Johnson who, well, who has been engineered to be a puppet in the Department of Public Instruction for the GOP powers in Raleigh to help further privatize public education.

And math? Just getting lawmakers to admit that there is a major difference between “actual” and “average” when it comes to discussing money actually spent on public education would be a start.

Just ask a veteran teacher.

Or Senator Jerry Tillman who thinks that two math curriculums can be taught in one class by one teacher who might be teaching over thirty students at one time because class caps have been removed in high schools by the same people who will be naming a committee to select campuses for the new Teaching Fellows.

Oh, and for those wonderful people who may devote themselves to teaching Special Education classes? This is the same lawmaking body that has threatened teacher assistant positions across the state while applauding the appointment of secretary of education who has no idea of what IDEA is.

So while focusing on STEM with this watered-down version of a once fantastic program, maybe these lawmakers should go to the ROOTS of the problems in our state.

They may find themselves there.

The Interrogatophobia of Betsy DeVos – Or, The Secretary’s Kryptonite

Interrogatophobia – (noun)

  1. The fear of being asked a straightforward question

This post is not to dissect the various times that Betsy DeVos has appeared before a congressional committee to comment on her impending confirmation or her policies for protecting all students under the umbrella of civil rights. As the leader of the nation’s public school system, she has clearly shown an ineptitude worthy of remediation when it comes to answering questions about policy and law.

But she has to go to those meetings.

It’s where she chooses to go and not go that really answers a lot of questions, figuratively speaking. Why? Because Betsy DeVos chooses to go places where she does not have to answer questions.

Straightforward questions are her kryptonite. She’s deathly afraid of them.

large-feature-kryptonite-wallpaper

She avoids them like the plague which is why she declined an invitation to the recent Education Writers Association convention in the very town where she works, Washington D.C.

Mind you that every other secretary of education has addressed the convention (albeit not every year). It would have been an opportune time for DeVos to clarify some of her policies and positions.

But alas.

As reported on The Answer Sheet by Valerie Strauss,

Every U.S. education secretary has found time to address the Education Writers Association convention, and the organization was hoping that Betsy DeVos would agree to do the same thing at its 2017 convention in Washington. It’s not happening.

Caroline Hendrie, EWA executive editor, said the association invited DeVos to speak at the convention right after she was confirmed by the Senate as education secretary on Feb. 7 (which, you may remember, happened only after Mike Pence broke a tie in the Senate, becoming the first vice president in history to do so for a Cabinet nominee).

When no response was forthcoming, Hendrie said the invitation was renewed several times, but it was not until late April that a staff member at the Education Department called to decline. Why? According to Hendrie, “They couldn’t make it work for her schedule.”

The Education Department did not respond to a query about why they couldn’t make it work (https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/answer-sheet/wp/2017/05/12/betsy-devos-was-asked-to-address-education-reporters-at-their-annual-convention-she-said-no/?utm_term=.78cb4cf55585).

It does not take a mental stretch to know why she did not show; it is filled with reporters. Reporters ask questions.

Damn questions.

And those questions demand answers.

Strauss continues,

DeVos has not made herself easily available — or available at all — to reporters who are covering her, and the Education Department does not always respond to questions posed by education journalists. Now she is declining an opportunity to address the journalists who cover her.  Some would call that a missed opportunity.

Think of DeVos as a teacher and reporters as students. We like to think that students should be inquisitive. If DeVos is the leader of the public school system of the nation, should she not be the first to be willing to answer a question or two?

If not, then she opens herself to scrutiny. JUST LIKE A TEACHER. Imagine if the teacher refuses to answer the questions posed by a parent or guardian? An administrator? A school board member? A legislator?

But DeVos is totally ready to present herself as a speaker at the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) Denver summer conference this July.

According to a press release,

ALEC is pleased to announce that Education Secretary Betsy DeVos will be joining us for our 44th Annual Meeting in Denver, Colorado.

“Secretary DeVos has been a stalwart champion of educational choice in the states, elevating the outcry over the status quo to the highest levels of government,” said Inez Stepman, Education and Workforce Development Task Force Director.

DeVos is serving as the 11th United States Secretary of Education. She was confirmed by the Senate on February 7, 2017. Secretary DeVos has been involved in education policy for nearly three decades as an advocate for children and a voice for parents.

DeVos served as an in-school mentor for at-risk children in the Grand Rapids, Michigan Public Schools for 15 years.

Don’t miss your chance to hear Secretary DeVos speak and all of our great speakers at our annual meeting July 19-21 in Denver, Colorado.

If you don’t know what ALEC is then do some research, especially if you are in North Carolina because here in North Carolina, your General Assembly is literally enacting every policy in public education that ALEC has conceived. Think:

  • Vouchers
  • Charters
  • School choice
  • Education Savings Accounts
  • etc.
  • etc.
  • etc.
  • etc.

Mercedes Schneider, a leading voice in public school activism and a wicked researcher, published a book in 2014 called A Chronicle of Echoes in which she explains the various forces that are working in the education “reform”ing movement. One chapter deals with ALEC.

It opens,

If the education reform movement were reduced to a single organization, that organization would be the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). ALEC has existed for decades and is omnipresent in reformer circles, yet this colossal engine for privatization has managed to elude exposure until 2012. Though it might seem incredulous, through its membership, ALEC is present in every chapter in this book. Make no mistake: Privatization belongs to ALEC.

ALEC was formally organized in September 1973 in Chicago, Illinois, and received its 501(c)3, “nonprofit” designation in 1977. ALEC describes itself as, “a nonpartisan membership association for conservative state lawmakers who shared a common belief in limited government, free markets, federalism, and individual liberty” Chapter 24).

ALEC won’t ask DeVos questions. ALEC gives DeVos direction on how to privatize a public institution.

ALEC fills DeVos’s coffers with money and resources. ALEC validates DeVos and in return she validates them.

This is akin to the teacher who refuses to answer questions pertaining to the curriculum for inquiring, intellectually thirsty students during class, but incoherently rushes straight to the bell so she does not have to interact with students beyond a cursory level.

That’s not just fear.

That’s abominable.

School is Never Really Over – Thinking of Sen. David Curtis and “Summer Vacations”

It is the first day of “summer vacation” and at this time of year I am reminded of the iconic response to a teacher’s letter back in 2014 by one Sen. David Curtis.

It’s worth rereading for me at least because Sen. Davis Curtis’s response to Sarah Wiles literally started my foray into public school activism. It literally spawned the desire to start this blog.

You may review the texts of both Sarah Wiles’s letter and Curtis’s response here: http://wunc.org/post/teacher-email-legislators-draws-harsh-reply#stream/0.

My response to Sen. David Curtis was my first open letter to a legislator. He still has not written me back even though I have tried to engage him many times since. A copy of that initial one-sided conversation can be found here: https://dianeravitch.net/2014/05/20/a-teacher-in-north-carolina/.

I have even tried to visit Sen. Curtis. He was conveniently in a “meeting.”

curtis

There is one part of Sen. Curtis’s original missive that really comes to mind on this first day of “summer vacation.” He talked about our “eight weeks of paid vacation.”

Specifically, he said,

“Since you naturally do not want to remain in a profession of which you are ashamed, here are my suggestions for what you should tell your potential new private sector employer: …

  1. You expect at least eight weeks paid vacation per year because that is what the taxpayers of North Carolina gave you back when you were a poorly compensated teacher…

After taking my teenage daughter to her first of many driver education classes that in several cases are conducted on high school campuses and planning on what to do with a somewhat sick boy who would have gone to a summer enrichment that is run in conjunction with the school system and employs many elementary school teachers, I decided to just run by my high school to see if it had turned into a vast wasteland to be cocooned until preplanning of next year since teachers are on a paid vacation.

I envisioned what Sen. Curtis might have had in mind a traditional high school would look like in this intellectually barren time. Maybe that vision looks like the setting of The Shining – you know the hotel that is abandoned in the winter time because of seasonal trends and looked after by Jack Nicholson and his family, except this time there is no snow and ice.

shining

Yet nothing could be further from the truth. Just today,

  • Offices were open to conduct business.
  • Student Services was open for registration and transcript analysis.
  • Teachers were on campus conducting various activities.
  • The yearbook staff is already at camp in Chapel Hill working on next year’s edition.
  • Rooms were being cleared and cleaned.
  • The baseball coach was conducting a baseball camp for community youth. He also coached over the weekend at the state games helping local talent get more attention from college programs as that might be a key way for some of them to go to college.
  • The soccer coaches also had their camps going teaching community youth skills. Some of the current and past players for a state championship team were on hand to help out.
  • State sanctioned workouts were happening on other fields.
  • Summer school classes were about to begin to help students regain credits.
  • Some teachers were already back from grading AP tests.
  • Some teachers were in professional development classes in various places.
  • Some teachers are prepping for new courses they are to teach because populations change and numbers of sections change.
  • Some teachers are preparing for National Boards.
  • Some teachers are tutoring.
  • Some teachers are moving materials on campus to facilitate summer cleaning and maintenance.
  • Some teachers are helping interview potential new teachers and then helping those hired get more acclimated with the campus.
  • Some teachers are taking inventory.
  • Some teachers just come to campus to get work done to prepare for next year like send items to print shop or get websites and databases ready.

And this is just the first week of “vacation.”

Lawmakers like Sen. David Curtis are literally talking about the budget for public schools right now. If his current views of public schools, teachers, administrations, and support staff still holds with his views expressed in that response to Sarah Wiles, then I would suggest that Curtis take a tour of local high schools in the summer time. Just as long as he does not use an axe at the door and scream, “Here’s Johnny!”

the-shining-1024x576

He might be surprised. More importantly, he may not look at the funding of traditional public schools in such a sterile, antiseptic fashion,

Our kids deserve better.

Sen. Ralph Hise’s Huge, Humongous, Heaping Hummock of Hypocrisy and Hubris

Gov. Cooper has no constitutional role in redistricting, and we have no order from the courts to redraw maps by his preferred timeline. This is a clear political stunt meant to deter lawmakers from our work on raising teacher pay, providing relief to the communities affected by Hurricane Matthew and putting money back into the pockets of middle-class families.” – Joint Statement, June 7, 2017 concerning Gov. Roy Cooper asking for a special session to redraw districts in North Carolina declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court of the United States.

That joint statement was made by two lawmakers who helped lead the redistricting in 2011 that led to the ruling just recently passed by SCOTUS – one of whom is Sen. Ralph Hise.

Hisemug-214x300

Furthermore, the above quote might be the richest, most potentially fertilizing statement made in the current legislative session when one considers the speakers, the subject, the audience, and the context.

Sen. Ralph Hise should be no stranger to special sessions. He has gleefully been a part of at least three in 2016 that were so politically motivated that the rest of the country looked at North Carolina in disbelief. The March 2016 special session brought us the economically disastrous HB2 bathroom bill that targeted the LGBTQ community unfairly under the guise of nonexistent transgender assaults in public restrooms.

Then there were those two end-of-2016 special sessions that proved that the GOP controlled NC General Assembly was hell-bent on making sure that the democratically elected governor did not have as much power as his predecessors did.

And Hise said they were there to make sure we were taking care of those hurt by Hurricane Matthew.

But wait. Sen. Hise is also the chair of the Senate Select Committee on Elections who currently faces charges of “pocketing” money from his own campaign (http://pulse.ncpolicywatch.org/2017/05/09/breaking-senate-elections-committee-chair-violates-disclosure-law-suspected-excess-payments/#sthash.WPouXpgI.3b7ZgFWz.dpbs). And he was also key in putting a provision in the Senate budget to stop SNA food assistance benefits that are funded federally for over 130,000 people in the state.

So as far as political stunting is concerned, Sen. Ralph Hise would certainly know it if he saw it, but it would be a huge, humongous, heaping hummock of hypocrisy and hubris for him to even suggest that of Cooper as the governor asks for a special session to address the findings of the highest court of the land which in the last month has issued three rulings that have cast North Carolina as the most racially gerrymandered state in the union.

However, if Hise wanted to exchange the hypocrisy for honesty and the hubris for some humility then he might have hummed these words:

We have been attempting to limit Gov. Cooper’s constitutional role in redistricting with our own gerrymandered majority’s special sessions because we so stupidly passed a discrimination bill that ruined Pat McCrory’s chances of being reelected, and we have no explicit order from the courts to redraw maps by his preferred timeline even though some of the people who are trying to limit his constitutional role may actually be unconstitutionally elected. This is a clear political stunt by us meant to deter lawmakers who actually serve the citizens of North Carolina from our work under the red herrings of raising teacher pay, providing relief to the communities affected by Hurricane Matthew and putting money back into the pockets of middle-class families when we actually are crafting more policies to alienate people and putting money back in the pockets of those who have put money in our pockets.