The Dramatis Personae in the Privatization of Public Schools in North Carolina – or Who is Trying to “Reform” Education Through Deformation

Michelle Rhee’s visit to North Carolina for a “closed-door” meeting (February 7th)) with lawmakers in the current climate of public education in this country and in the state should not sit well with public school advocates.

In fact, this meeting that was brokered by an educational lobbying body of business leaders called BEST NC (coupled with the NC GOP’s invitation to Betsy DeVos) should serve as an ominous omen of what will be attempted in North Carolina.

This meeting with Rhee was passed off as a session with leaders where candid questions could be asked and ideas exchanged on how to improve public education seemed to be void of the very people who know education the best – educators.

And while the media did have a chance to meet and greet with Ms. Rhee and George Parker in a manicured and measured way, what happened behind closed doors with people who make decisions on how to spend taxpayer money and fund public schools along with controversial educational reformers remains a mystery.

So much for transparency and including all stakeholders. In fact, it seemed more like a special session of the NC General Assembly who used such “secret sessions” to spawn actions such as HB2, SB4, and HB17.

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

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

Look at the graphic below:

privatizers

That is a diagram of the relationships between entities that many public school advocates deem as detrimental to our public school system. The box at the bottom represents the state of North Carolina. All of the other listed players are national.

Consider the following groups:

  • Teach For America
  • Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation
  • Walton Family Foundation
  • Eli Broad Foundation
  • KIPP Charter Schools
  • Democrats For Educational Reform
  • Educational Reform Now
  • StudentsFirst
  • America Succeeds
  • 50CAN
  • American Legislative Exchange Council
  • Civitas Institute
  • SAS Software
  • CarolinaCan
  • North Carolina General Assembly
  • BEST NC

They are all linked. And the only teachers who seem to have any sustained dialogue with any of these is the Hope Street Group – and that dialogue seems mostly to have been with BEST NC.

Somehow, someway all of the bulleted entities above were in that closed door meeting which started literally four hours after Betsy DeVos was confirmed as secretary of education thanks to the first ever tie-breaking vote by a vice-president for a cabinet position.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Or do they?

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

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

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

More from Schneider:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Now, add to that the fact that BEST NC has had some workshops/meetings with people from the The Hope Street Group which is a group of teacher leaders who receive a stipend in exchange for gathering and communicating educational concerns with public school teachers.

Also consider:

  • Hope Street Group receives funding from the Gates Foundation.
  • Hope Street Group and other teachers were not in the meeting that Michelle Rhee attended with lawmakers that was set up by BEST NC. That means that the dialogue between what happens at the meeting and other teachers will be brokered by BEST NC because if HOPE Street can’t go, then other teachers can’t go.

It could also mean that there might be an altered script that is read to these teachers.

And one other thing – the vice-president of BEST NC (Julie Kowal), the Director of the North Carolina Teachers Network for Hope Street Group (Katharine Correll), and the NC state superintendent (Mark Johnson) all have law degrees. Johnson practiced corporate law. Kowal and Correll worked with non-profits.

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

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

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

Mark Johnson has only three to four more years (as a teacher and local school board member) of experience with public schools than DeVos, and DeVos has no experience with public schools.

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

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

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

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

Remember this?

civitas

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

Furthermore, on February  8th, the NC GOP which holds a supermajority in both chambers of the NC General Assembly issued a formal invitation to Betsy DeVos to come and “share ideas” according the 2/9/17 edition of the News & Observer (http://www.newsobserver.com/news/politics-government/state-politics/article131486504.html).

Now look at the graphic again:

privatizers

The NC GOP (where many of the very same lawmakers and policymakers in this Feb. 7th meeting with Rhee caucus together) were very instrumental in the following actions:

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

Also look at the timeline in which BEST NC came into existence – 2013

  • Art Pope became McCrory’s budget director – 2013
  • Graduate Degree Pay Bumps Eliminated – 2013
  • 50Can created CarolinaCan – 2013
  • School Performance Grades – 2013
  • Due-process rights taken from new teachers – started in 2013
  • Charter school cap in NC lifted – 2014, but proposed in 2013.
  • Opportunity Grants – 2014
  • Hope Street Group in NC – 2015

And one last thing – the Feb. 7th meeting with Rhee and Harris does have a connection with SAS, a software company whose president, James Goodnight, is married to one of the founders and current Board Member of BEST NC, Anne Goodnight. Mrs. Goodnight was also one of the founders of Cary Academy, a rather prestigious private school in the Triangle area.

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

“Decision-making” is an interesting term in this discussion, because isn’t this meeting with Rhee just about asking questions?

Because it seems to have raised more questions.

But what this all really means is that public school advocates should and must hold our officials accountable and do everything they can within legal limits to counter the trends that are privatizing our public schools.

Part of that started today with the Moral March in Raleigh. The tens of thousands of people who came to show solidarity in overturning suffocating government policies is just a sampling of the strength that resides within the citizens of our state – 90% percent of whom are affiliated with the public schools either as a student, graduate, parent, or a combination.

The Shriveled-Up Sour Grapes of Pat McCrory

Gov. Pat McCrory’s legacy was just sealed with his signing of the bill called House Bill 17 into law.

pat-mccrory-x750

It literally strips a lot of power from his successor, Democrat Roy Cooper.

  • This from a man who only vetoed his own General Assembly five times in his only term.
  • This from a man who defended HB2 as common sense after signing it into law minutes after it was passed in a special session of the NCGA.
  • This from a man who when he did challenge his own party it was over it trying to take power away from the governor’s office on a smaller scale than he is allowing now.
  • This from a man who challenged the voters in over 50 counties because he could not believe that he actually lost an election in a year that Trump carried North Carolina.

And earlier today he called another special session for December 21st for the “repeal” of HB2.

McCrory’s office, always in its emasculated political voice, issued this statement just hours before signing HB17.

“Governor McCrory has always publicly advocated a repeal of the overreaching Charlotte ordinance. But those efforts were always blocked by Jennifer Roberts, Roy Cooper and other Democratic activists,” said McCrory spokesman Graham Wilson. “This sudden reversal with little notice after the gubernatorial election sadly proves this entire issue originated by the political left was all about politics and winning the governor’s race at the expense of Charlotte and our entire state. As promised, Governor McCrory will call a special session.”

Such a statement marks a remarkable turnaround from the explanation for HB2 given during the Chuck Todd interview on Meet the Press last March.

And remember the “Common Sense” ad from the campaign? Here it is – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hniBMPPN3hM. So he will call a special session to repeal a law that was to protect our children statewide from an ordinance that was passed in one city against the discrimination of the LGBT community?

I guess?

Amber Phillips’s Dec. 19th column “North Carolina’s outgoing GOP governor just stuck it to his Democratic successor” for The Washington Post’s political blog The Fix does a great job of showing how both the calling of a special session to repeal HB2 and the signing of the HB17 bill may have one common denominator – to throw mud at Roy Cooper (https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-fix/wp/2016/12/19/north-carolinas-outgoing-gop-governor-just-stuck-it-to-his-democratic-successor/?utm_term=.209cba33427a) .

“So, are the two related — Cooper’s loud proclamation the bathroom bill would be repealed, and McCrory’s decision to sign legislation to limit Cooper’s power? It’s unclear.

But until Monday evening, it wasn’t even clear whether McCrory would sign this last-minute bill that limits his successor’s power.

He kept his head down last week while his party in the state legislature rushed through two bills aimed at reducing the governor’s influence in state government, the judicial branch, the education system and elections oversight, all while strengthening the GOP-dominated legislature’s influence in all those areas. In McCrory’s statement, he pushed back against some proposals to limit the governor’s power even further, like by moving major departments out of the governor’s authority and court-packing the state Supreme Court.

But he wasn’t opposed to it all. On Friday, McCrory signed legislation that would effectively give Republicans control of the state Board of Elections during election years. (The bill also contained a provision approving his chief of staff’s wife to the Industrial Commission.)

McCrory said nothing on the other, more controversial proposal until he announced Monday he decided to sign it, releasing one statement publicly — and sending another, unspoken message to his successor.”

They are related. To those outside of North Carolina, the idea that Charlotte and/or Roy Cooper is responsible for all of this is ludicrous, but to the McCrory camp it is a comforting slippery slope that rivals any Direct TV commercial from their ad campaign from a couple of years ago.

  1. Charlotte passes a local ordinance that extends protections to the LGBT community in the city limits of Charlotte.
  2. The North Carolina General Assembly calls a special session and passes HB2 which also takes away rights for people to sue in state court for wrongful termination and also prohibits local municipalities from establishing their own minimum wages. Of course those last two provisions are directly related to bathrooms.
  3. North Carolina loses face in the country and the world for the HB2 law and companies, entertainment, and sporting venues boycott, hurting us economically.
  4. Roy Cooper as Attorney General says HB2 should not be defended because as legal counsel it cannot be in court. That’s what good lawyers do.
  5. Pat McCrory runs on a platform that embraces HB2.
  6. Pat McCrory becomes the first sitting governor to not win reelection. Over 60,000 voters who chose Donald Trump did not vote for Pat McCrory, presumably over HB2.
  7. Under the auspices of helping victims of Hurricane Matthew and the wildfires in the mountains, the General Assembly calls another special session to remove power from incoming governor Roy Cooper through HB17.
  8. Pat McCrory signs bill and blames Cooper for HB2.

It defies logic. It defies reason, but it sounds like a sore loser who blames others for his misfortune. And now Roy Cooper has something that McCrory does not have anymore because McCrory did not do a good job.

Actually, those are sour grapes.

Shrivelled up sour grapes.

A pair of them.

Dried up.

Into raisins.

You know where.

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Cotton-Headed Ninny-Mugginses of West Jones Street.

I’M on a blog and I’m blogging. I’M ON A BLOG, AND I’M BLOGGING!

Leave it to Buddy the Elf to best explain last week’s special session of the North Carolina General Assembly when the angry elves of the GOP decided for a power grab in the last minute to quash the Christmas cheer of the voters’ wishes.

buddy-the-elf-jpg-653x0_q80_crop-smart

  • “The best way to spread Christmas Cheer, is singing loud for all to hear.”

Translated: “The best way to spread GOP cheer is passing bills in a special session for no one to hear. But doing it during the Christmas season really does add to the festive nature of the special session.”

That whole “loud for all to hear” part? Never happens. That’s called transparency. Not part of their style.

  • “You sit on a throne of lies!”

Actually, there is no translation needed here. They do sit on a throne of lies.

  • “We elves try to stick to the four main food groups: candy, candy canes, candy corns and syrup.”

Translated: “We NCGA GOP members try to stick to the four main food groups: coal ash, gerrymandering, voter suppression, and privatization.”

  • “I am a cotton-headed ninny-muggins!”

Actually, “they” are all much more than that.

  • “Buddy the Elf, what’s your favorite color?”

The color is green in most cases – green with envy that they didn’t win the governor’s race or the Attorney General’s race. Or the state Supreme Court majority.

elf7

The color is yellow because of the nature of how they went about this recent power grab.

  • “I planned out our whole day: First, we’ll make snow angels for two hours, and then we’ll go ice skating, and then we’ll eat a whole roll of Toll-House cookie dough as fast as we can, and then to finish, we’ll snuggle.”

Translated: “We planned out our whole special session. First we’ll make it look like we are helping people from Hurricane Matthew and the wildfires, and then we’ll seize a whole roll of power as fast as we can, and then to finish, we’ll blame it on the liberals.”

  • “I just like to smile; smiling’s my favorite.”

Translated: “I just like to smile; smiling’s helping to cover my

  • “Son of a nutcracker!”

“Nutcracker” really doesn’t capture the mood does it, but it is about as strong as word as Buddy can muster.

  • “You have such a pretty face. You should be on a Christmas card.”

No they don’t.

buddy

  • “You did it! Congratulations! World’s best cup of coffee! Great job, everybody! It’s great to be here.”

Translated: “You did it! Congratulations! Country’s worst job of showing democracy in action.”

  • “Does somebody need a hug?”

“Hug” is too gentle a word here.

  • “Have you seen these toilets? They’re ginormous!”

Translated: “We still never repealed the bathroom bill.”

  • “You stink. You smell like beef and cheese! You don’t smell like Santa.”

Well said Buddy, well said.

635861550523312858719199899_buddy-elf-escalator-scared-face

 

HBS#2 – The Little Known Bill From the North Carolina Special Session to Change State Symbols

In a surprise move (and rather secretly passed and therefore, unnoticed), the North Carolina General Assembly passed yet another little-known special session proclamation known as a BM (bill maintenance) provision, that is tagged with another bill as a supplemental bill.

House Bill Supplement #2 (BS#2) will leave an indelible mark on the state of North Carolina to remind the Old North State of the GOP supermajority’s work this past week in the special session.

H-BS #2 officially changes many of the state symbols to reflect a more accurate portrayal of the true character of the current state of North Carolina.

  • State motto: From 1893 to 2016 it was “Esse quam videri” (“To be, rather than to seem”). However, beginning in 2017, the motto will be slightly switched to “To seem, rather than to be” as it will better reflect the value of talking about values rather than actually following up those words with actions.
  • State flower: From 1941 to 2016 it was the dogwood. However due to the ravenous nature for power that was displayed by the current NCGA GOP power grab in the special session, it was changed to the Venus Fly Trap, which was just the state’s carnivorous flower and now will take over the top floral position.
  • State bird: In 1943, the beautiful cardinal became the state bird of North Carolina. However, in 2017 it will become the vulture for its ability to feed off the carcasses of bills that actually would benefit most citizens of North Carolina.
  • State song: 1927 brought the state “The Old North State” as the state song which is appropriate; however, Carly Simon’s “You’re So Vain” will become the state song in January as it better fits the isolationist position that the GOP has placed the state in with bills like HB2.
  • State license plate motto: “First in Flight” will now become “First in Teacher Flight.”
  • State fish: The channel bass will now be replaced by the red herring as the red herring is by far the most used logical fallacy utilized by the NCGA GOP when attempting to explain the validity of its bills and laws.
  • State gemstone: The green emerald will now be replaced by pyrite, otherwise known as “Fool’s Gold.”
  • State beverage: Milk became the state beverage in 1987, but a slight modification will change that into “spilled Milk” because after losing the gubernatorial and the attorney general election in a year where Trump won the presidency, it was the crying over the spilled milk that allowed for the special session to commence.
  • State fruit: The scuppernong grape will now be replaced by “sour grapes.” Sour grapes seem to go best with spilled milk.
  • State Christmas Tree: The Fraser Fir was named the state Christmas tree in 2005, but the new H-BS #2 has stipulated that thee official Christmas trees now be not watered and dried out, much like the budgets for textbooks in public schools.
  • State document: For the first time on state history, North Carolina will have a state document. It will be the birth certificate as it not only proves that you were actually born, but validates which bathroom you can go into.
  • State dance – Currently, there are two such dances – the Carolina shag and clogging. However, these will be both replaced by the Texas two-step with an emphasis on not looking at your partner in the eye as to avoid directly having to address the person you are dancing with.

There is talk of introducing the rattlesnake as the state reptile, but many members were looking for an animal with more venom. However, in the long session a bill will be introduced that might eliminate a state vegetable as most vegetables are healthy and that would be antithetical to GOP policy.

Other categories that will be introduced to have state endorsed symbols for include:

  • State mode of privatizing public schooling
  • State form of ruining environment
  • State form of voter suppression
  • State form of gerrymandering

Much remains to be seen.

A Thank You to Rep. Graig Meyer

Rep. Graig Meyer from Orange County has over the past three years gained a tremendous amount of respect from me, not only as an educator, but as a voter.

I had the pleasure of meeting him one time at a press conference at NCAE headquarters. Rodney Ellis and Mark Jewell had organized a day of peaceful protest and speeches and Rep. Meyer and Rep. Larry Hall were the only two members of the General Assembly to accept their invitation to join us at that time. I met the Rev. William Barber that day as well.

Rep. Meyer was gracious, willing, attentive, and engaging. You could tell he had the “teacher gene” in him.

And what he did today on West Jones Street was what makes him a leader and true representative of North Carolinians.

Standing on a planter in the lobby amongst a crowd of protesters, Meyer gave a “pep talk” to those practicing their constitutional rights to gather and protest a special session that was not in the best interest of the state.

He literally was giving power back to the very people he represents directly in his district and works for in this state. He was doing the exact opposite of what other GOP NCGA members were doing in the chambers all day.

Rep. Meyer talked about engaging others in the community, organizing voter drives, making sure others understand that what was happening in the General Assembly does not have to be tolerated and should not be tolerated. And could be changed with time and effort.

He talked about tomorrows, not just today. And while he may have sounded like he conceded that the republicans may have “won” the day, he made sure to communicate that they will have to answer in both the court system and at the ballot box, ironically in 2017.

If you are looking for a bright spot today, there were many that I could see from my perch here in Winston-Salem.

  • People showed up to protest.
  • There was lots of press coverage – both locally and nationally.
  • This battle is more than just about what happened today.
  • People are galvanizing.

And we have representatives like Graig Meyer stepping up and helping lead.

Merry Christmas And Happy Coup Year From The North Carolina General Assembly GOP

Merry Christmas!” from the GOP constituency of the North Carolina General Assembly.

In the spirit of giving, they have reminded all of us that the most precious gifts are the ones you give to yourself at the expense of others especially during the holiday season.

christmas-card

Besides nothing is more American than Christmas, except maybe backhanded politics.

And the actions of the General Assembly in convening a fourth special session to introduce 20+ new bills without any transparency in time for the new year is the perfect marriage of such American traditions and the celebration of the birth of our Lord.

Of course reducing the number of jobs the governor can appoint by 80% is far more important than giving aid to victims of Hurricane Matthew and the deliberately set wildfires in the western part of the state. That’s why it was saved for the last special session. It’s the one closest to Christmas!

Of course they need to limit the powers of the new governor before he actually takes control of the governor’s mansion because the next governor is not like the outgoing governor who chose to just be a rubber stamp for the GOP establishment in the General Assembly. For a governor to have his own spine and use backbone would go against recent tradition, and Christmas is all about tradition!

Of course they need to change how the state and local boards of elections are appointed because they don’t want to have another situation where an election cannot be altered when the will of the people goes against the plans of the party in power. That would be like blackmailing Santa to bring you everything you asked for despite whether you were good or bad this past year.

Of course they need to give more control of the state’s public schools to the new state superintendent. Allowing him to be able to name members to the Charter School Advisory Board which takes money from traditional public schools, allowing him to oversee more of the state’s charter school growth, giving him control over the ASD district, and giving him staffing powers in the department of Public Instruction is the perfect way to celebrate the season of giving. What better way of celebrating the coming of the infant Christ than giving presents to an infant in education?

  • Think of it as rewarding themselves for helping others help them.
  • Think of it as being letting them be their own Santa Claus.
  • Think of it as using your money to buy gifts for themselves without your consent.
  • Think of it as learning that the best gifts are not the ones that are given selflessly to others in need but are the ones you selfishly take just because you don’t want others to have them.

There is no better time than the holiday season to give the very best to the ones that you love most, us!.

North Carolina – FULLY FUND YOUR SCHOOLS!

This article should be talked about more than it has been especially in North Carolina whose state government has been entertaining ideas of revamping how it allocates its k-12 funding per LEA. It appeared in the New York Times’ “The Upshot” on Dec. 12th and is entitled “It Turns Out Spending More Probably Does Improve Education” (http://www.nytimes.com/2016/12/12/nyregion/it-turns-out-spending-more-probably-does-improve-education.html).

The article centers on a study by the National Bureau of Economic Research conducted by two economists from the University of California at Berkley and one from Northwestern University.

The names of those two institutions carries enough ethos to lend more than enough credibility to the findings. Cal-Berkley is considered the top public university in the country if not the world. Northwestern is a top fifteen institution in most rankings.

Here is the abstract of the study (http://www.nber.org/papers/w22011):

“We study the impact of post-1990 school finance reforms, during the so-called “adequacy” era, on absolute and relative spending and achievement in low-income school districts. Using an event study research design that exploits the apparent randomness of reform timing, we show that reforms lead to sharp, immediate, and sustained increases in spending in low-income school districts. Using representative samples from the National Assessment of Educational Progress, we find that reforms cause increases in the achievement of students in these districts, phasing in gradually over the years following the reform. The implied effect of school resources on educational achievement is large.”

Notice that it says “reforms.” But please do not let the word encompass all reforms with which you may be familiar. The study is talking about specific reforms that focus on funding public schools adequately. These are not reforms that include vouchers, charter schools, or other silver bullet “solutions” that actually re-form rather than improve.

What adequately funding schools really means is that schools are fully funded.

The New York Times article also stated the following:

“They found a consistent pattern: In the long run, over comparable time frames, states that send additional money to their lowest-income school districts see more academic improvement in those districts than states that don’t. The size of the effect was significant. The changes bought at least twice as much achievement per dollar as a well-known experiment that decreased class sizes in the early grades.”

That well-known experiment is the one performed by Dr. Frederick Mosteller from Harvard in 1995 which concluded that “Compelling evidence that smaller classes help, at least in early grades, and that the benefits derived from these smaller classes persist leaves open the possibility that additional or different educational devices could lead to still further gains” (http://www.princeton.edu/futureofchildren/publications/docs/05_02_08.pdf).

And the NEBR study says the positive effect of adequately funding low income school districts was “twice as much” as decreased class size.

How the money is spent is just as important as having the money to spend and one of the researchers makes that point clearly. And he should.

In a “reform-addicted” state that North Carolina has become in these last few years, the argument has been made by many that “throwing” money at public education has not yielded positive results. But who has been making the decisions on how those monies should be spent? Lawmakers or actual educators? When state lawmakers make monies available to local districts but attach certain strings to those funds as to how they must be spent, then something might be amiss.

Many who ran for reelection this year, particularly Pat McCrory and other GOP stalwarts, padded their resumes and campaign jargon with talk of how they actually increased spending for public schools. Most of them point to the fact that North Carolina spends nearly one billion dollars more now than it did before the Great Recession. One only has to read op-eds like the one by Phil Kirk, the chairman emeritus of the State Board of Education in the News & Observer this past September (http://www.newsobserver.com/opinion/op-ed/article100215677.html). In my rebuttal to him I simply offered,

“Of course there is more money spent on education now than in the past. North Carolina is one of the fastest growing states in the country. More people mean more students to educate. But it is interesting that the per-pupil expenditure under this present leadership is lower than it was before the Great Recession. Your argument doesn’t hold much credibility when you claim to be spending more overall, yet the average per-pupil expenditure has gone down precipitously.”

Add to that the amazingly spastic targets that schools must hit to even be considered successful in the eyes of the state government when the very tests that are used to measure school effectiveness change frequently. Just take a look at the school performance grades for the state of North Carolina from the past year and what you find is an almost pinpoint representation of where poverty hits our state the hardest. In fact, if you superimpose a map that plots the state’s school performance grades over a map that shows county levels of free and reduced lunches you will see a rather strong correlation. In fact, take a look at another post from this blog – https://caffeinatedrage.com/2016/09/05/map-it-and-it-becomes-very-apparent-that-poverty-affects-schools/.

Counties with lower incomes have schools that suffer more.

If it comes to a decision on how any additional funding is to be spent, then maybe it would make sense to look at who has made those decisions in the first place. In most cases, I would argue that they were made by non-educators – people who do not know what specific essentials are in the greatest need to help their students.

What may work for a school in Hoke County may not be the solution for a school in Alleghany County. It takes people who are in the situation to identify what needs to be done, not a bureaucrat in Raleigh who may never have set foot in a public school as a teacher, administrator, volunteer, or even as a parent.

It is time for North Carolina to fully fund its schools because the other “reforms” that follow have not worked to help our public school system:

  • Elimination of due process rights for new teachers
  • Graduate Degree Pay Bumps Removed for new teachers
  • Revolving Door of Standardized Tests
  • Less Money Spent per Pupil now than before 2008
  • Remove Caps on Class Sizes
  • Incorporated the Jeb Bush School Grading System that really just shows the effects of poverty
  • Cutting Teacher Assistants
  • Expanding Opportunity Grants
  • Uncontrolled Charter School Growth
  • Virtual Schools Run By For-Profit Companies
  • Achievement School Districts
  • Reduction of Teacher Candidates in Colleges
  • Elimination of Teaching Fellows Program

Most all of those “reforms” are cost-cutting measures that actually remove money from public education. Ironically the very reform that the study which opens this posting talks about as having the greatest effect on lower income counties is completely antithetical to the reforms championed by the state.

Imagine what could be done if our schools were fully funded because it is apparent what happens when they are not fully funded.

Open Letter to Our Governor and General Assembly – Keep the Special Session About Those Affected By Matthew

Dear Gov. McCrory, House Speaker Tim Moore, Senate Pro-Tem Phil Berger, and other members of the North Carolina General Assembly,

Last March, many of you called for and orchestrated a “special session” of the North Carolina General Assembly in order to respond to so-called “government overreach” by the city of Charlotte and their decision to place protections for its LGBT citizens into local statutes. Yet what may have started as a “special session” quickly morphed into a covert operation to seize even more partisan control over a supposedly democratically-run commonwealth.

What convened on that eventful day has not only defined how the rest of the country (and some of the world) views us as a state, but it has damaged us economically, socially, and created a divide between us and the rest of the country. It was the one issue that distinctly had the largest impact on state-wide elections for governor, Attorney General, and state Supreme Court.

Not only was HB2 an egregious bill that negatively impacts our state, but the surreptitious provisional statutes that were added to the bill which now frame how we as citizens of North Carolina have come to see your “special sessions.”

Over sixty thousand North Carolinians who voted for Donald Trump as POTUS did not cast a vote for either Pat McCrory or Buck Newton, who was a primary sponsor of the “special sessions” landmark bill, HB2. To deny that the shadow of your actions on that fateful March day would be laughable. To deny that many North Carolinians are looking at this next “special session” with a tad bit of skepticism would be senseless. To think that many of us are not looking for the same shady political dealings to occur on December 13th is simply foolish.

Hurricane Matthew was a catastrophe for many of our fellow North Carolinians. I truly hope that you as a governing body put into place measures that will help them rebuild. In fact, if it meant that I had to pay more in a special tax for disaster funds, then so be it.

Their children go to schools like mine do; their citizens work to support the local and state economy; their tax dollars help to build roads that I drive on each day.

However, there is talk, rumor, and conjecture that there might be measures taken by the GOP supermajority and the governor to appoint more justices to the state supreme court in an effort to “pack the court” and make it lean conservatively again although the voters have spoken. There is even talk that you might even introduce measures to limit gubernatorial powers in response to Roy Cooper’s election.

When asked about these possibilities, people like Sen. Berger and Rep. Moore have been rather silent. There has been no denial from their lips that this will happen. Considering that there is so much still at stake, it seems that a silent non-answer on such matters would create even more cause for concern.

Elected lawmakers should be forthcoming on such matters, and they should be willing to abide by the will of the people who have voted in a democracy, even one that has been tainted by measures of voter suppression by this current administration.

Consider that you as lawmakers have taught us how to perceive you and treat you. Consider how history will treat you if you overstep your obligations and place personalities before principles.

I urge you to keep the events of the special session focused on relief from Hurricane Matthew for our fellow citizens. To couple that with brazen acts of political partisanship would be antithetical to your mission and would constitute an act contrary to your duty as elected servants.

You are supposed to help people, not further agendas.

Sincerely,

Stuart Egan

About That Letter to the Editor in the 9/1 Winston-Salem Journal Concerning “Johnny-Come-Lately Teachers” Who “Bicker”, “Complain”, “Cry”, “Whine” and Have “Little to Zero Standing”. It Deserves a Response.

I read with great interest (actually, many people did) your “Letter to the Editor” from September 1st entitled “Grateful for the raise” (http://www.journalnow.com/opinion/letters_to_the_editor/the-readers-forum-friday-letters/article_9eef5d77-bcad-5c1b-9274-b1c01d9e45fc.html) that praised the actions of the current administration and the legislature concerning public education.

wsj

The full text follows as a reference.

“Count me in as a teacher who refuses to bicker and complain about the teacher salaries in North Carolina.

The teacher-pay issue has been paramount going back to when I was in high school over at R.J. Reynolds (class of 1987). These Johnny-come-lately teachers that cry and whine about the lack of teacher pay raises were completely silent when our pay was cut and frozen for a few years prior to the Republicans taking power in our state.

Anybody who chose teaching as a profession knowing the pay shortages that have historically afflicted the profession nationwide have little to zero standing to make these kinds of complaints. Sure, it would be nice to make more money, but it’s not as simple as snapping fingers to make it happen.

If the Democrats take power after this election I will be eager to see just how much this impacts teacher pay. My bet is it will impact teacher pay about as much as the N.C. Education Lottery has.

Thank you for the recent pay raise, Gov. Pat McCrory and the legislature. Hope you can work another one in next year!”

It begs a response because there are many who are looking to teachers to inform them on what is really occurring in our public schools to help them determine whom to vote for in November.

Your missive called and labeled teachers advocating for better salaries and conditions in the current political climate as:

  • Those who “bicker” and “complain”
  • “Johnny-come-lately teachers that [sic] cry and whine”
  • Those who were “completely silent” during the Great Recession, and…
  • Have “little to zero standing”

And while the intent of such name-calling may have been to silence such individuals with an authoritarian tone, it actually confirmed that what many in the field of public education fight against most is the complete ignorance and lack of understanding of what has really happened, what is happening now, and what is allowed to take place.

You make the initial assertion that the very teachers who are confronting the current state government about teacher salaries were “completely silent” when pay was cut and frozen for a few years before the Republicans took power in NC.

First, it needs to be determined if the pay was cut or it was frozen. Those are two different actions.  My understanding (and I am not a history teacher) is that in 2009, then Gov. Perdue, a former teacher, FROZE salaries in response to the Great Recession that hit hard in that year. Revenues simply dried up. The economy was in shambles.

Couple that with more and more conservative Republicans coming into the state legislature who looked to cut taxes and what you have is an incredibly injured revenue pipeline to fund public education in a state that literally had doubled in population in the previous 30 years. In fact, in Gov. Perdue’s last two years, she literally was facing a General Assembly that was veto-proof in the Senate, and nearly veto-proof (four shy) in the House (http://www.wral.com/news/state/nccapitol/blogpost/11273413/ ).

Frankly, I don’t think many teachers were screaming for salary raises during Perdue’s tenure. I believe that many of us were fighting to keep teachers in the classroom period and at sustainable rates because there was no money really to even pay what we had. We gladly took furlough days and kept teaching when the salary schedules were also frozen because many of us understood what was at stake as teachers and in many cases parents.

We also had faith that when the economy recovered, we would experience the raises in the salary schedule identified when we signed contracts. Just look at the salary schedule from 2008 then add in longevity and the calculated inflation with the Consumer Price Index and you may be surprised. We are not even close to what was originally planned.

When recovery actually began to occur nationally, both the governor’s mansion and West Jones Street were under Republican control. And that’s when Phil Berger took the reins for policy. He said the following in a press conference right before the 2012 session,

“Higher taxes and more spending is [sic] not a solution to the problems that we have in our public schools. Until we get the policy right, I don’t think the taxpayers of this state are prepared or should be asked to put more money into the public schools.”

What that meant was that he would not allow the same rate of taxpayer money to go to public education in 2012 and beyond as it did before the Great Recession. And he kept that promise. In fact, Gov. McCrory seems to have carried the torch himself with never vetoing a budget proposal set forth by the NCGA. On the other hand, Gov. Perdue actually vetoed the budget in 2011 that you may have inadvertently made reference to. It was overridden making it hard to really pin a cut in pay or education resources on her.

No matter what recovery would happen, Berger was not going to allow funds for education to return to previous levels – levels which were originally championed by republican Governors like Jim Holshouser and Jim Martin, both of whom raised teacher salaries to ensure a strong public school system. Of course, democratic governors like Terry Sanford,  Jim Hunt, Mike Easley, and Bev Perdue also championed higher education budgets, but a couple of them did have to freeze pay during recessions. That’s just what recessions do to state budgets.

Consider that Gov. Pat McCrory and the GOP-led legislature that you flatteringly thank did the following in the past three years as part of a “Carolina Comeback”:

  • Elimination of due process rights for new teachers
  • Graduate Degree Pay Bumps Removed for new teachers
  • Revolving Door of Standardized Tests
  • Less Money Spent per Pupil now than before 2008
  • Remove Caps on Class Sizes
  • Incorporated the Jeb Bush School Grading System that really just shows the effects of poverty
  • Cutting Teacher Assistants
  • Expanding Opportunity Grants
  • Uncontrolled Charter School Growth
  • Virtual Schools Run By For-Profit Companies
  • Achievement School Districts
  • Reduction of Teacher Candidates in Colleges
  • Elimination of Teaching Fellows Program

And that’s not even a complete list. During that time, North Carolina has been lagging behind other states in teacher compensation. Either those states have recovered economically at a quicker rate than NC or NC has nit prioritized public education in the same manner.

You complain about “Johnnies-Come-Lately?” The way things are regressing now, we won’t have “Johnnies-Become-Teachers”. And the raise you seem to be praising McCrory and the others on West Jones Street for? For about 7 out of 10 “Johnnies-Who-Have-Been-Here-Longer-Than-You “, they saw no raise at all. Some even experienced a reduction because that bonus we got last year was a one-time deal and we no longer get that longevity bonus.

And even now, we have a shortage of teachers in our own district. Imagine what that shortage is statewide.  Sounds like we have a lot of “Johnnies-Never-Came”.

The statement about teachers “knowing the pay shortages that have historically afflicted the profession nationwide have little to zero standing to make these kinds of complaints” is weak at best. Why? Because those “pay shortages” usually come during economic recession. People can’t spend as much money and therefore the tax revenues that fund public schools go through a drought.

But as Gov. McCrory claims with his latest commercials, we are in a “Carolina Comeback”. We are no longer under the oppression of a recession. Unemployment is low. Lots of jobs have come to North Carolina. We have revenue coming in. We EVEN HAD A SURPLUS last year. So what happened to it? It wasn’t reinvested in the state.

While NC still lags in teacher pay and almost a quarter of the students who come to public schools in our state live in poverty, the governor and the General Assembly are spending ludicrous amounts of money financing Opportunity Grants (over $900 million slated for the next ten years), charter schools, and other initiatives that seem to benefit speculators rather than the state as a whole. So maybe the “bickering” and “complaining” is really just some citizens actually telling their elected officials who are sworn to serve them that they have misplaced priorities.

If the democrats do take power, I will also be eager to see if they positively impact teacher pay. But be careful in comparing that impact to the effects of the NC Education Lottery. Last year alone Forsyth County received nearly $20 million dollars from the lottery, much of it to fund teacher assistant jobs in early grades. For parents of special needs children like myself, I am grateful for the lottery’s impact. In fact, since the lottery started in 2006, Forsyth County has received $131,924,952 according to figures from the official education lottery site. Go further into that report and you will see the following:

  • “Forsyth County has received more than $54,744,626 to help pay the salaries of 1022 teachers in grades K-3.
  • More than $42,863,643 raised by the lottery for school construction in Forsyth County meets needs that otherwise would have to be paid for with local property taxes. Local officials decide how to spend the money.
  • The N.C. Pre-K Program serves children at risk of falling behind their peers as they start kindergarten. More than $14,828,625 in lottery funds have paid for 3308 four-year-olds in Forsyth County to prepare for success.
  • College students who qualify for federal Pell Grants in Forsyth County have received9170 lottery scholarships. More than$10,339,776 in lottery funds have been used for tuition, fees, room and board, books and supplies.
  • Lottery funds have also supplied 12780grants to college students attending state universities within the UNC system who qualify for UNC need-based financial aid. Those students have used more than$4,353,396 to help pay for the cost of their education” (http://www.nc-educationlottery.org/county.aspx?county=Forsyth).

That sounds like positive impact. And if those figures are incorrect, they would have been debunked by now.

Overall, your “letter of gratitude” reads more like a list of blanket statements laced with logical fallacies and glittering generalities offered to fit a narrative that aligns itself with partisan politics. Its timing and placement almost make it look like a rebuttal to comments made by one (or many) you claim “bickers”, “complains”, “whines”, and “cries”.

But in reality your rebuttal is weak, frail, and feeble.  It alienates those who are fighting so that the “Johnnies-Come-Lately” will become the “Johnnies-Become-Veterans” who will then provide the glue of the most important public service our state provides when the teachers of today are retired and gone.

And we will need those teachers then more than we could possibly fathom now.