About That ReOrg at DPI And What The Hell Is a Deputy Superintendent of Innovation?

As reported yesterday by many outlets, Mark Johnson announced a reorganization at the Department of Public Instruction, one of the many results of a recent court case that took over a year to settle and an audit that cost over a million dollars which said that DPI was underfunded.

Alex Granados of EdNC.org published the actual email sent out by Johnson to staff at DPI.

Dear Colleagues:
As most of you know, since becoming state superintendent, I have advocated a strategy of bold innovation and true urgency at the N.C. Department of Public Instruction to support our state’s educators and students.
Today, we are taking major steps toward those goals by changing the way DPI is organized. To provide better support to the field, we need more efficiency and fewer silos in our organizational structure. (You can see the new structure here.)
To that end, I am creating a new deputy superintendent structure to drive innovation, collaboration, and operational efficiency. All deputy superintendents will now have a more effective number of directors reporting to them, which allows us to flatten the org chart and break down silos in the department. More division directors will be closer to leadership in this flatter structure.
Dr. Maria Pitre-Martin, who has been invaluable to me and to the department, will remain in her position as Deputy Superintendent for District Support. Dr. Eric Hall will become the Deputy Superintendent of Innovation. The new Deputy Superintendent of Operations position will relieve the other deputies from dealing with the department’s procurement, contracts, IT, HR, and other operational matters. This will allow Maria and Eric to focus on better supporting educators, students, and parents while the department can now make long-overdue improvements to our internal processes.
Eric’s group will house divisions including Charter Schools, the ISD, Career and Technical Education, Curriculum and Instruction, Accountability, and Federal Programs – all areas that will focus on generating, implementing, evaluating, and scaling successful strategies across the state to improve student outcomes.
Maria’s district support group will include the new Regional District Support, the new Educator Recruitment and Support, and other divisions that assist school districts and educators. The vision for this group will be to begin the shift to a data-driven support model through regional support teams. Teams will utilize a central data repository to improve local decision-making in partnership with schools and districts.
Maria will play the key role in driving collaboration as the Regional District Support team will need to work across the entire department. In fact, you may notice that there doesn’t seem to be a perfect break between the Innovation and District Support groups; that is by design. Overall, the changes are intended to foster more cooperation and collaboration among directors for the ultimate benefit of our educators and students.
Today, Maria, Eric, and I met with division directors to begin the work to develop plans for the transition to the new structure. I will begin to meet weekly with my DPI leadership team and regularly with division directors to drive our vision for transforming K-12 education in North Carolina. Also, all DPI staff will have an opportunity soon to discuss this new structure with us.
Thank you for your patience as we move to implement these changes. I know there has been a significant amount of change at DPI over the past 18 months. I appreciate all the work staff and local districts have done while these shifts, sometimes painful and sometimes merely distracting, have played out around us. I sincerely hope that we are at a point where we can begin to focus on urgently driving the innovation our system needs to truly fulfill the educational aspirations of educators, parents, and students.
In the coming weeks, we will be communicating more with you and the field about how these changes will be implemented and what changes districts and charter schools can expect.
Thank you for all you do for North Carolina’s public schools. North Carolina is fortunate to have you.
Mark
Important contact information:
  • Dr. Maria Pitre-Martin will be the Deputy Superintendent for District Support.
    • When local district officials or superintendents have questions or concerns for DPI, Maria is your best point of contact as she will reach across the department to drive collaboration and customer service for schools.
  • Dr. Eric Hall will be the Deputy Superintendent of Innovation.
  • Dr. Pamela Shue will remain the lead for early childhood education as the Deputy Superintendent for Early Education.
  • The Deputy Superintendent for Operations has not been announced yet.
  • Alexis Schauss will fill a new position as the Chief School Business Officer for NC public schools.
  • Stacy Wilson-Norman will be the division director for Curriculum and Instruction. Thank you to Christie Lynch-Ebert for serving as the interim director.
  • There are no other changes in division directors.
  • Regularly scheduled webinars will continue for now as Eric, Maria, Alexis, Stacy, and other division directors formulate best practices going forward (https://www.ednc.org/2018/07/24/superintendent-mark-johnson-announces-new-organizational-changes-at-dpi/).

Forget that Stacy Wilson-Norman actually spells her name “Stacey” and that “true urgency” took over 18 months to happen, there are some things worth noting about the new organizational chart.

Below is what it was prior to the new reorganization.

chart1

This is what it looks like now.

orgchart

The first thing to notice is that on the older chart some positions were titled with ALL CAPS and had a thicker border surrounding them. That meant that these people were Dual-Report Positions. In short, they answered to both the state board and to Johnson. However, that went away on July 1 with this:

With the 8 June 2018 North Carolina Supreme Court ruling upholding the constitutionality of Session Law 2016-126, I am now exercising my authority under that Act to manage administrative and supervisory personnel of the Department. Accordingly, I am changing your position appointment from “dual report” to reporting [only to the Superintendent directly] or [to the Superintendent through the Deputy State Superintendent]. The change in your appointment is effective immediately,” Johnson wrote (https://www.ednc.org/2018/07/17/state-board-of-education-loses-power-over-dpi-leadership/).

What that means is that those people who held those positions not only answer to Johnson now alone, but he has total control over what they do. A man with less than two calendar years of teacher training and classroom experience combined along with an unfinished term on a local school board now “calls” the shots for all of those veterans in a DPI whose budget is being slashed by the very people who prop up Johnson.

Also in the older chart, Johnson reports to the state board. In the new one, the state board of education does not even really have any ties to DPI except through an internal auditor. It’s like they do not exist, which is just what the powers that run the NCGA wanted.

Another change is that there are now FOUR Deputy State Superintendents: Operations, District Support, Early Education, and Innovation.

Innovation? One can see the concreteness of operations, support, and focus on early education, but “Innovation” sounds rather nebulous.

Or maybe not if you have followed Johnson’s track record these past eighteen months in office.

If you look under the Dept. Supt. of Innovation’s duties you will see the following:

  • Innovative School District
  • Charter Schools
  • Federal Programs
  • Career and Technical Education
  • Accountability
  • Curriculum and Instruction

That job is being filled by Dr. Eric Hall who until recently was only the superintendent of the Innovative School District. So now the super of an ISD that has only one school in its district which is many miles away from DPI and has yet to be opened as an ISD school much less proven its effectiveness but also has almost unlimited funds to ensure success – now breathe – will take over five other branches of DPI functionality?

If giving that many hats to one person who has yet to show results in the state as far as his previous post begs is innovative, then it is appropriately named.

If someone is going to be able to spin SB514, diversity problems, and a lack of accountability for the charter school industry here in NC with a positive light, then yes, that would be innovation. And it could happen because Dr. Hall oversees accountability.

Yet will he have the objectivity to be able to show how accountable or unaccountable charters and the ISD prove to be?

And believe it or not, innovation within curriculum and instruction is more teacher driven, but Johnson seems to not like teachers in any of his posts. Their experience and insight would prove him wrong.

Of course, any new state superintendent will want to put his mark on DPI, but this organizational change is just another way of placing people loyal to Johnson and ultimately loyal to Berger and Moore in positions to carry out other people’s wishes. Right now they are bent on privatizing as much of the public education system as they can. They need “YES” people in DPI. And no one is a bigger “YES” person than Johnson.

Maybe they forgot one crucial part to the new organization flowchart that would lend more clarity.

orgchart2

That’s more like it.

Phil Berger’s “Historic” Spin on Teacher Pay – Empty and Deliberate

From Phil Berger’s Twitter account in May of 2014:

Berger1

From the July 31st edition of the New York Times:

The Republican-controlled Senate’s 32-to-13 vote came after weeks of tense negotiations that divided the Republican Party and provoked intraparty accusations of political grandstanding. The Senate was expected to hold its final vote on the budget early Friday, clearing the way for the House of Representatives, which the Republicans also control, to consider it.

Senate Republicans framed the measure as historic, largely because it includes $282 million to increase teacher salaries (https://www.nytimes.com/2014/08/01/us/north-carolina-teachers-may-see-raise-in-budget.html) .

And now four years later:

North Carolina ranks 37th in the nation for average teacher pay, according to estimates released Monday by the National Education Association.

The estimate may be revised later based on updated data. Last year, NEA first estimated that North Carolina was 35th in the nation for teacher pay, but it revised the numbers to show that N.C. was 39th last year.

NEA’s report, which details everything from teacher pay to school enrollment and funding by state, shows North Carolina’s average teacher salary is $50,861 for the current school year. That’s about $9,600 less than the national average teacher pay of $60,483, according to the report.

Last month, the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction estimated that the state’s average teacher pay has reached $51,214 this year. It’s unclear why the state education department’s salary estimate differs from NEA’s.

Among the 12 states in the Southeast, North Carolina currently ranks sixth, according to NEA’s latest estimates. The State Board of Education has set a goal to become No. 1 in the Southeast.

The salary figures represent the average gross salary before deductions for things such as Social Security, retirement and insurance and do not take into account cost-of-living differences among the states.

NEA’s report also estimates that North Carolina is ranked 39th in the nation in per-pupil spending this year. The state is spending $9,528 per student compared with the U.S. average of $11,934.

Last year, NEA first estimated that North Carolina ranked 43rd in per-pupil spending but revised the numbers to show that N.C. was 39th last year as well.

NEA has produced the report for more than 70 years (https://www.wral.com/nc-ranks-37th-in-nation-for-teacher-pay-39th-in-per-pupil-spending/17504331/?version=amp&__twitter_impression=true).

HB90 Shows That NC’s Public School Children Are Political Pawns

News today that a “fix” for the class size mandate was “agreed” upon by both chambers of the North Carolina General Assembly should seem like a welcome outcome.

On the surface, it is a victory for parents, advocates, and schools in that the mandate will be pushed back for a while and some extra funding for “specials” teachers is being given.

But during that press-conference in which Sen. Chad Barefoot announced with carefully prepared and partisan comments the “fix,” he negated to tell North Carolinians what else was attached to the bill that NC democrats were never privy to (http://www.newsobserver.com/news/politics-government/state-politics/article199207129.html).

That link not only gives you a video of Barefoot’s press conference; it also links to Lynn Bonner’s report that further explores HB90’s reach.

Long-sought help for schools struggling to lower class sizes is now tied up with a controversial Atlantic Coast Pipeline fund and a power struggle over control of elections boards.

A bill proposed Thursday would take $58 million that energy companies building a pipeline through Eastern North Carolina are expected to give state government as part of a deal Gov. Roy Cooper negotiated, and distribute it to school districts in eight counties the pipeline would run through. Cooper calls it a mitigation fund to offset environmental effects of the pipeline, but Republicans repeatedly called it a “slush fund.”

House Bill 90 also makes changes to the state elections board. The changes are the response to Republicans’ recent loss in the state Supreme Court in a ruling that said their earlier attempt to reconstitute the board was unconstitutional. In the latest iteration, the elections board would have nine members, including one member not affiliated with a political party.

But to Barefoot and other GOP members of the NCGA, the day was really about bragging about a class-size fix.

Throughout most of the last calendar year people like Barefoot, Berger, and Moore have been yelling that the class size mandate has been funded in the past, yet there was absolutely no proof of that. One only has to read the work of Kris Nordstrom and see that those claims were not only baseless, but now are revealed to be the very smokescreen for today’s announcement.

What happened today was that the GOP education reformers took credit for a solution to a problem that they purposefully used to position themselves to pass partisan legislature to help them remain in power despite the gerrymandering and doublespeak.

And yes, it is politics. But public school kids were the pawns. They made it look like they were listening to the public, but it seems more than orchestrated.

Think of Craig Horn’s statements earlier in the year that a “fix” was coming only to be rebuffed by Berger. That is until more came out about the ruling of the state supreme court on the state elections board. They needed that time to figure out how to allow a fix that they have been holding in their back pocket to a problem they originally created could be used to offset their political loss.

And again, the kids were the pawns.

They have been all along.

Gov. Cooper’s office did respond with a press release and it is correct.

cooper

But the statements that came to mind were from Mark Johnson’s “less than stellar” op-ed from yesterday’s News & Observer (http://amp.newsobserver.com/opinion/op-ed/article198795214.html?__twitter_impression=true).

And some of those tasked with making schools better are more focused on preserving tired partisan wedges….

Nothing was more partisan than what the people who empower and enable Johnson  (who never has really said anything about the class size mandate) did today.

And today also shows us why we need to vote so many people out of office come November.

About Sen. Berger’s Words Concerning Teacher Bonuses and North Korea

berger

Sen. Phil Berger’s words in reference to the teacher merit bonuses based on 2017 scores reflect the growing willful ignorance that is being bred in secret chambers in Raleigh amongst GOP stalwarts.

In fact, his statement is so preposterous and outlandish that the only thing keeping this teacher from laughing out loud is the fact that Berger’s reasoning is more the norm than the exception for the state’s most powerful lawmaker.

There are a couple of places in the statement that immediately seem incongruous. North Korea strikes me as more of a communistic totalitarian state. The government controls everything. Actually, the government owns everything. When I think of a socialist country, I tend to think of countries whose economies provide large “welfare” and social services to all citizens like Norway, Finland, Denmark, Belgium, or even Ireland. Many talk about the “socialized” medicine in Canada and England. Putting North Korea in that context seems a little extreme. Besides, many socialized countries have education systems in which the teaching profession is much more highly revered than here.

Oh, and Sen. Berger also seemed to forget that North Carolina is a “right-to-work” state. That means there are no unions. NCAE is not a union. It’s an association of education professionals. If Berger really wants to see how teacher unions work, then he should go to Chicago and New York City. Now those are unions.

But it’s the word “bonus” that seems to be most spun by Sen. Berger.

I got a bonus. Got one last year. This year’s bonus was larger as the cap was higher. When any of my students from my multiple sections of Advanced Placement English Language and Composition scores a passing grade of “3” or higher, I receive a bonus of $50 per student. If lots of my students pass, that bonus gets bigger.

And the bigger the bonuses get, the more I feel that it just exacerbates the real problem: continued lack of respect for all public school teachers. In fact, I do not even consider the “bonus” a bonus. To me it’s just academic “blood money.”

One thing about bonuses is that they are highly taxed. Ironically, almost 40% of my bonus was taken out by three different taxes.

25% of it went to the federal government. 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. Sen. Berger was a champion in not expanding Medicaid in NC.

Almost 8% went to Social Security, which at my age may not be around when I am old enough to receive it.

Almost 6% went to the state. That’s actually kind of funny to think about because the state gave me money to give back to them. And the same day I received the bonus, I got in the mail a tax statement about how much money I “made” from a tax refund last year will be taxed.

Last year, I did not keep the bonus. I wrote a check to my school because the school needed it more.

I did the same thing this year along with helping some kids with special needs. 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.

It is hard for me to consider taking this money, 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.

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 if I had a chance to tell Sen. Berger why I feel that his statement is rooted in political “newspeak,” I would talk about the following:

  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. It’s funny to think of rewarding me for my students working harder and not other teachers who do absolute wonders in the classroom that do not get measured.
  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.
  3. I did not take those tests. The students took the tests. Students need to be able to harness their own motivation and hopefully I can couple it with my motivation. Yet 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’s faculty and staff has something to do with not only my students’ success, but my own.
  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. So should Sen. Berger.
  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.
  8. This sets a dangerous precedent in measuring students and teachers. 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.
  9. 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 lawmakers seem to care about teacher compensation. But if Berger really respected teachers, he would do more for them than give “bonuses” to a few of them. He would reward them with salaries comparable with the rest of the nation. He would restore due-process rights for new teachers, he would give back graduate degree pay, he would stop measuring schools with a defeatist model, and he would restore longevity pay.
  10. It’s pure grandstanding. 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 a lawsuit between our puppet state superintendent and the state school board Berger helped appoint, and an ISD district still out there. There is the lowered per pupil expenditure. All of this affects the very schools that Berger thinks a bonus will help to hide.

Sen. Berger thinks that bonuses are part of the solution. Rather, it’s a symptom of a bigger problem.

But if he wants to make comparisons with North Korea, then he might want to look at his own actions in promoting unconstitutional mandates that gerrymander districts to ensure certain people remain in power, that suppress minority voters so they do not have a voice, and that attempt to rig a judicial election cycle so that two of the three branches of the state government are under one thumb.

And there are so many excellent teachers who will never receive a bonus because the work they do in advancing kids can never be measured by the eyes of the narrow-minded who have no idea of what happens inside of a classroom.

Like Phil Berger.

My Kid Is An Artist – One of the Many Reasons For Me to Go to the Rally to Stop #ClassSizeChaos

When lawmakers in Raleigh like Chad Barefoot and Phil Berger tell you that the class size mandate is a good thing and has already been funded, then please realize that they are lying.

Straight through their teeth.

With a smile.

Interestingly enough, what this unfunded mandate will do to elementary schools will be felt for years if not fixed. There is not enough classroom space in most schools to allow for this. That immediately puts “specials” such as art and physical education on the chopping blocks for school year 2018-2019.

And it will affect all other grades.

Because it is an unfunded mandate, all other grades will be crowded. Class sizes in middle school will grow. Same in high schools.

That whole idea of actual “personalized learning” as Mark Johnson wants you to believe it really is will actually not be able to exist. More students per teacher creates fewer opportunities to target each student adequately. It will create a market for more online instruction (which is what Johnson seems to really want).

But the idea that “specials” might be first to go is disheartening, especially since my oldest child is an artist.

And a good one at that.

She took this picture of me in my classroom.

IMG_5642

Then she created this in a couple of days with pencil and paper.

IMG_6032

Just one of many portraits she has done.

And that love of creativity was fostered in art classes throughout her elementary and middle school years. She says that it helps her conceptualize other curricula. It certainly has helped her find a niche in a big school, one where I teach and see how art, drama, and other artistic endeavors by students have enriched our campus.

Just take a look at the literary magazine.

You will see my daughter’s work in there. One of an incredible amount of selections by a myriad of students from a fantastic art department.

On January 6th at Halifax Mall in Raleigh from 1-3, there will be a rally to stop #ClassSizeChaos.

Hope to see you there.

A Convenient Lie, Or Rather The NCGA’s Deliberate Distortion of the Truth

Remember when Sen. Chad Barefoot said this in February of 2017 concerning House Bill 13?

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/).

I do.

I thought about it a lot today as I read Justin Parmenter’s on-point op-ed in today’s News & Observer entitled “N.C. Senate ignores the class-size crisis” (http://www.newsobserver.com/opinion/op-ed/article191690189.html). Parmenter is a teacher-warrior and a vital voice for public education. He deserves any public education advocate’s attention.

Sen. Barefoot’s empty claim about having already “funded” the class size mandate is not the only one made, and it actually is the same manufactured lie conveniently used by GOP-stalwarts in Raleigh to hopefully silence the #ClassSizeChaos movement.

Parmenter makes mention of two specific versions of the same lie:

During the October session, when the Senate declined to take up class sizes, Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger said “those reductions have already been fully funded.” 

Senate majority leader Harry Brown said, “It’s obvious to us that money has been spent on something other than class size reduction…” 

But there is a purpose behind this lie. It’s purely political. It involves money. And it is being championed by those who want to privatize public education here in North Carolina.

Even the John Locke Foundation has helped to spread this lie. Recently, Dr. Terry Stoops, the less-then-one-year former teacher and mouthpeice for the JLF libertarian think tank, gave an interesting explanation of how the NCGA has already funded the class size mandate.

Take a look at the video on the link below.

https://www.carolinajournal.com/video/jlfs-terry-stoops-rebuts-claim-that-n-c-class-size-reduction-is-unfunded-mandate/

Stoops

Please notice that in the webpage above, Dr. Stoops writes a story that refers to Dr. Stoops in the title and in the actual article with a picture of Dr. Stoops in the video on a website for an entity that Dr. Stoops works for.

The only other living being (or muppet) who refers to himself in the third person that much is none other than – Elmo.

elmo

Perpetuating this deliberate distortion of the truth has become commonplace for this current NCGA, but there are many in North Carolina who are making the truth known.

One of those people is Kris Nordstrom, a well-known education finance and policy analyst. When Nordstrom publishes something, I read it. When he mentions something on Twitter, I look at it and read the links.

He’s just that good, and he doesn’t let statistics stand in the way because he is looking for the facts.

Parmenter’s op-ed makes mention of Nordstrom, who published a rather epic article on the class-size mandate and the lies that people like Barefoot and Moore have used in explaining their lack of action to fully fund the mandate (http://pulse.ncpolicywatch.org/2017/12/15/cant-general-assembly-leadership-stop-lying-unfunded-class-size-mandate/#sthash.UcohVyIb.dpbs). It is very much worth the read.

Within that article, Nordstrom states,

DPI publishes data showing whether a school district has transferred their classroom teacher money for other uses. It’s a bit complicated to find. But in FY 2016-17, just four districts transferred any money out of their classroom teacher allotment. The transfers totaled just $1.1 million. In that same year, districts received $4.1 billion of classroom teacher money. In other words, DPI publishes data showing whether a school district has transferred their classroom teacher money for other uses. It’s a bit complicated to find. But in FY 2016-17, just four districts transferred any money out of their classroom teacher allotment. The transfers totaled just $1.1 million. In that same year, districts received $4.1 billion of classroom teacher money. In other words, districts spent 99.972 percent of their classroom teacher money on teachers last year. Clearly, district mismanagement is not a meaningful barrier to reaching lower class sizes.. Clearly, district mismanagement is not a meaningful barrier to reaching lower class sizes.

That bears repeating:

“Districts spent 99.972 percent of their classroom teacher money on teachers last year.” 

I would like to hear Stoops’s response to that.

I would like to hear Barefoot’s response to that.

I would like to hear Berger’s response to that.

I would like to a lot of people’s responses to that who believe in the convenient lie that this class-size mandate has already been funded.

But remember, those are the same people who believe that the current ratios of school nurses, guidance counselors, assistant principals, social workers, school psychologists, and teacher assistants to students are just fine.

Think about coming to Halifax Mall on January 6th to help hold Raleigh accountable for their deliberate distortion of the truth.

 

 

 

 

About the NC Gerrymandered Joint Legislative Task Force on Education Finance Reform

Beginning this month, a “Joint Legislative Task Force on Education Finance Reform” is meeting in Raleigh to start “investigating” how to “best” fund public schools with state money.

And they are now looking at possibly eliminating the salary schedule for public school teachers and what might be another disastrous, planned “reform.”

As Billy Ball reported in a post yesterday on NC Policy Watch,

“A pivotal legislative task force may be just beginning its dive into North Carolina’s school funding maze, but lawmakers’ hints that they may abolish the state’s teacher salary schedule or other state-set funding allocations is already spurring criticism from local district advocates.

Talk of nixing a state-set pay scale emerged this year when lawmakers took on a revamp of school principal pay, and it’s resurfaced multiple times in the Joint Legislative Task Force on Education Finance Reform’s first meetings in November.

Yet local district leaders and their advocates in Raleigh say the proposal may only exacerbate the state’s looming pay disparities between wealthy and poor counties, spur employment lawsuits and complicate matters for local school boards” (http://www.ncpolicywatch.com/2017/11/17/legislators-consider-abolishing-teacher-salary-schedule-study-nc-school-funding-labyrinth/).

The word “task” is certainly “pivitol” here in this context. Why?

Because if you simply take a look at the members of the “task” force, you can easily see that there already was a “task” at hand and it was started years ago when the GOP powers in Raleigh took control of the General Assembly.

That “task” is tightly linked to an agenda that has been executed and carried out long before this “pivotal task force” ever convened: dismantle the public education system.

Below is a list of the members on the Joint Legislative Task Force on Education Finance Reform.

Task Force

19 people appointed by each branch of the General Assembly. That makes it already under the control of Sen. Phil Berger and Rep. Tim Moore, two of the biggest “reformers” in the state.

Look at that list of 19 people.

  • 16 of the 19 are republican.
  • 15 of the 19 are male.
  • 17 of the 19 are white.
  • 17 of the 19 were never in education as a profession (although Lambeth was on the school board of Forsyth County for a number of years).

And they as a group are to help revamp the way that public education is to be funded for a public that they are grossly unrepresentative of?

That list is a great example of the effects of gerrymandering.

Go further and look at that list more closely. It includes some of the major players and champions of the “reforms” that really have hurt public education in North Carolina.

  • Chad Barefoot
  • David Curtis
  • Jerry Tillman
  • Jon Hardister
  • Craig Horn

Sen. Barefoot has been a champion for the watered down version of the Teacher Fellows, the original sponsor of SB599 which allows people to enter the teaching profession with minimal training, and was an original architect for HB13, the class size bill that is threatening so many districts with layoffs and seismic budget constraints.

Sen. David Curtis is a stalwart supporter of charter schools and has been rather vocal on his views of what public school teachers are “worth.” One only has to revisit that rather caustic letter he wrote a young teacher a few years ago and see that his view of public education is set in stone – http://wunc.org/post/teacher-email-legislators-draws-harsh-reply#stream/0.

Sen. Jerry Tillman has probably been the staunchest supporter of the unregulated charter school industry here in North Carolina. He also was instrumental in helping craft legislation to bring in the Innovative School District. His abrasive nature against debate and constructive criticism has been well-known for years.

Rep. Jon Hardister has been part of the “reform” since he took office. On one instance, he wrote an op-ed pretty much proclaiming the same platitudes and generalities that Rep. Moore recently did on EdNC.org. They were easily refuted – http://pulse.ncpolicywatch.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/09/Letter-to-Hardister.pdf. Hardister also has tried to help further charter school growth by financing it with other state money – https://caffeinatedrage.com/2017/06/01/robbing-peter-to-pave-for-paul-rep-jon-hardisters-misguided-amendment-for-charter-schools/.

Rep. Craig Horn has literally been in the center of every education “reform” in this state, the most recent being the principal pay plan. When backlash for the plan became rather quick and vocal he exclaimed,

“Legislation is not an exact science” – – Craig Horn in EdNC.org on Sept. 21, 2017.

But science requires thought, reflection, observation, and objectivity. This “task force” being led by Rep. Horn is actually an exercise in rapid narrow-minded policy changes.

With over a quarter of this task force controlled by these people, it should not be too hard to realize that this “Joint Legislative Task Force on Education Finance Reform” is nothing more than a gerrymandered body whose agenda to further privatize a public good is more important than actually representing the public of North Carolina.

If this really was a “task force,” then maybe it should spend its time and energy trying to validate with real research and real data the effectiveness of the very “reforms” that many on this “task force” have championed.

But alas, that would go against their narrative and would require a look at the truth.

The Most Enabled Man in Raleigh – North Carolina’s State Superintendent

gavel

The July 14th ruling by a three-judge panel in favor of State Supt. Mark Johnson may have been a huge victory on the surface for Johnson’s supporters and those who seek to exert their influence through him and his inexperience.

But it is not a real victory for Johnson himself.

While the office of the state superintendent now has more executive power than at any time, Johnson himself lost more power as an individual in elected office. Why?

Because Mark Johnson just became the most enabled man in all of North Carolina.

Not empowered. Enabled. And that’s not good for public schools.

Consider this – a corporate attorney who taught for two school years through a program that historically does not place many long term teachers into the public schools, who did not complete a full term as a school board member and has never had a child in the public schools was elected in the most contentious election year in recent memory to become state superintendent. After he was elected and before he took office, he was granted more power as a state superintendent by a gerrymandered legislature in a special session that was thought to be called to repeal HB2. He then spent the first six months of his term “embroiled” in a legal battle with the state board of education that is controlled by the same political party and literally has been a non-public figure while a budget that expands vouchers, keeps charter schools from being regulated, lowers per pupil expenditures for traditional public schools, and cuts the budget for the very department he is supposed to run.

All on the taxpayers’ dime.

Lawmakers included about $700,000 in the state budget for Johnson to hire several staffers without the approval of the state board. The budget also provided him with money for his legal expenses while barring the state board from using taxpayer money to fund its lawsuit (http://www.wral.com/judges-rule-for-nc-superintendent-in-battle-with-state-education-board/16820368/).

The man who “won” the lawsuit was financed by the same General Assembly with taxpayer money while the very people who were appointed by the lawmakers in Raleigh had to use other means to finance their legal fees.

Talk about enabling. And “enabling” is not a good word here.

Johnson’s statement on the ruling was certainly sprinkled with pyrite.

“For too long, the lack of clarity about DPI leadership has fostered a system of non-accountability,” Johnson said in a statement. “While this system is great for shifting blame and avoiding responsibility, non-accountability at DPI hurts North Carolina students. Last December, the General Assembly addressed this problem by clarifying the parameters set forth in the NC Constitution. Their efforts offered greater transparency to educators and parents across the state seeking to engage with DPI and greater accountability at DPI.

“Today, the Superior Court has affirmed the constitutionality of the General Assembly’s actions and I look forward to, belatedly, working for more and better change at DPI” (http://www.newsobserver.com/news/local/education/article161450393.html).

It’s rather odd to hear of Johnson talking about “lack of clarity.” Considering that this might be one of the longest quotes attributed to him in his tenure and his press-unfriendly “listening tour” along with no sign of the promised item list of proposals he prophesized this past January, he certainly correct about there being some sort of lack of clarity.

As far as “shifting blame?” No one has been slinging blame as much as the very people who are enabling Johnson.

That “transparency” comment? Halting communication at DPI through the most commonly used listserv to all of the LEA’s in the state is not an act of transparency. That’s an act of muddying the waters.

And that “belatedly” remark? Funny how that word is almost the precise antonym of the word Johnson used in January as he took office – “urgency.”

The man who now controls the Department of Public Instruction which has been further downsized by the very people who financed his lawsuit and who champion the very reforms that hurt the schools he is supposed to protect did not really win.

The people who enable him really won.

Listen to what Phil Berger had to say.

“Voters elected Superintendent Mark Johnson based on his platform of strengthening our state’s public schools, and I’m pleased the court recognized the constitutionality of the law and that our superintendent should be able to execute the platform voters elected him to do” (http://www.wral.com/judges-rule-for-nc-superintendent-in-battle-with-state-education-board/16820368/).

There’s a tremendous amount of smug irony in that statement. Why? Because what voters elected Johnson to do was based on the job description that at the time was associated with the state superintendent’s job. What power Johnson now has was augmented by Berger and his cronies after Johnson was elected in a wave of conservative electoral victory.

If it was so important for the state superintendent to have new power over the public school system that was originally in the hands of the state board of education, then should not have each preceding state superintendent been given the same power?

Apparently not. Because each preceding state superintendent was much more qualified to be such than Johnson is. Each preceding state superintendent would have fought against the measures that have been enabled, enacted, and empowered by the current NCGA because that would have been in the best interests of the traditional public school system.

Especially June Atkinson.

When Berger stated that Johnson was elected on “his platform of strengthening our state’s public schools,” what he really inferred was that Johnson was going to allow “reformers” like Berger to strengthen charter schools and voucher programs – initiatives that actually hurt traditional public schools.

And it is a little sadistically humorous that a man (Berger) who has championed a variety of policies that have been ruled unconstitutional (gerrymandered districts, Voter ID law, etc.) would brag about upholding the constitutionality of the law. That same man also pushed to not extend Medicaid in this state when so many people needed it and now the very hospital in his hometown of Eden has filed for bankruptcy (http://myfox8.com/2017/07/11/morehead-memorial-hospital-files-for-bankruptcy/).

And that is not to mention what all is being done by this General Assembly to alter the court system in the state to become more politically aligned with its agenda.

What really happened on July 14th was that Mark Johnson showed how controlled he is as the state superintendent. He showed that he is now more than ever beholden to the very General Assembly that will opaquely exert its will on public education by controlling the very person whose only transparency comes in the form of his credentials for being state superintendent because they are so paper thin.

That is no victory for public schools.

There still is hope. There is still an injunction and a sure appeal to a higher court.

I would be remiss if I did not flat out state that if the General Assembly empowered public school teachers one-tenth the amount that they enable Mark Johnson, then I would have no need for this blog.

However, whatever power Johnson has been given, he still does not have enough to keep me from wanting to be a public school teacher in North Carolina.

“CheeBerger, CheeBerger!” -Sen. Phil Berger and the Art of Walking Contradictorily

cheeberger

Sen. Phil Berger’s words that introduced BEST NC’s fourth annual legislative meeting which featured Michelle Rhee is yet another indication that the powers that be in North Carolina are still addicted to reform ideas that not only further harm public schools but erroneously claim that schools should run more like businesses.

But at least he is consistent.

These words are featured on his website and have been widely shared, and they serve to show the deliberate ignorance that perpetuates the “reform” movement (http://www.philberger.org/berger_highlights_major_teacher_bonuses_commitment_to_raise_average_teacher_pay_to_55k).

First of all, this legislative meeting was not open to the media. BEST NC, which claims to be neutral and non-partisan, did not seem to want media coverage or even teacher attendance. Having someone like Sen. Berger open the meeting with an introduction already casts a partisan shadow over the rest of the meeting. If the purpose of the meeting was simply to be informational and an exchange of ideas, then conducting it behind closed doors would not have been needed.

Besides, aren’t we talking about a public institution that uses public money?

Ultimately, Berger’s comments are filled with claims that need to be debunked, especially when it comes to merit pay, incentives, and teacher salaries.

Berger states toward the beginning of his remarks,

“It is good to join so many business leaders, educators and policymakers all with a shared interest in the future of public education in North Carolina.”

The fact that business leaders and policy makers were in the meeting is not in question. But what educators were in the meeting, specifically teachers? Is it not ironic that the public has not heard from one teacher about what was discussed in the meeting? I would have LOVED to be in that meeting as a teacher, and if good ideas were shared, I would be the first to trumpet them.

But alas.

Berger continues,

“But we’ve also focused on ways to incentivize outstanding performance and provide financial rewards for teachers who go above and beyond to help students succeed.”

Oh, merit pay and bonuses. As a teacher, I can tell you that merit pay does not work. Allow me to refer to a letter I wrote to Rep. Skip Stam last year.

“The bottom line is that merit pay destroys collaboration and promotes competition. That is antithetical to the premise of public education. Not only does it force teachers to work against each other, it fosters an atmosphere of exclusivity and disrespect. What could be more detrimental to our students?

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?

Besides, if you think merit pay is effective, then I would question your willingness to fund that merit pay. Anyone who has taught in North Carolina for an extended period of time remembers that we had the ABC’s in effect for years which gave teachers/schools bonuses based on scores. One problem with that model (and you stated it in the interview) was that it pitted teachers against each other. Another problem that you did not mention is that Raleigh decided not to fund it any longer.”

And then Berger backed his point with a singular example.

“Please take a look at what happened in one Cumberland County elementary school when the faculty learned two of their peers would be rewarded for their outstanding work with students.”

Here’s that video: https://www.dropbox.com/s/brt9glwz4razc5y/Elizabeth%20Cashwell%20Elementary.mp4?dl=0.

Only one example? That’s hardly proof. That’s almost staged. What teachers show their principal in a meeting may not be what they actually feel. And if Berger really wanted to know if teachers in North Carolina thought this bonus pay was effective, then he should have allowed each teacher to answer an anonymous questionnaire.

And I am sure that what was shown by Berger is the exception rather than the rule.

Berger’s comments also included a jab at NCAE and other teacher advocacy groups.

“Instead, what we hear from many entrenched education bureaucrats – and from the North Carolina affiliate of the national teachers’ union – is that this kind of policy creates jealousy and dissension in our schools. In fact, some even deride it as “treating teachers like assembly line workers.”

Of course he used the word “union” because he is among business leaders in a right-to-work state. But it is ironic that he does specifically point out NCAE which has successfully appealed policies made by a Berger-led constituency like the removal of due-process rights because they were deemed unconstitutional.

Besides, if BEST NC wanted to bring all stakeholders together to discuss what is best (pardon the pun), then NCAE would have been present there as well.

Berger continues:

“Instead, that policy initiative treats teachers like the professionals they are, and creates a compensation model in line with how most other professionals are paid.

“This is the kind of innovative solution – one based on business principles – that my colleagues in the General Assembly and I have worked hard to implement over the past six years in order to improve education outcomes.”

This claim that we should run public schools more as a business rather than a service is old, worn-out, and erroneous.

And I have made this argument before.

“Every one of the assertions about adopting a business model in public schools that I have encountered always places the schools in the scope of a business. Maybe that paradigm needs to be shifted. If you want to truly envision a business model in schools, you might want to view all angles of the argument.

Try and see if you could run a business like a public school. Maybe the differences between a public service and private enterprise might become more apparent because you’re not even comparing apples to oranges. You’re comparing apples to rocks.”

What if businesses had to:

  • Be prepared to open up every book and have everything audited. We don’t even do that with private schools that receive Opportunity Grants.
  • Be prepared to publicize all of the salaries of the people who work for you. ALL OF THEM. And those salries are stipulated by the government, not the market.
  • Know that you must allow every stockholder to have equal power on how your run your business even if they own just one share.
  • Be prepared to abide by protocols and procedures established by people outside of the business.
  • Be prepared to not get to choose your raw materials.
  • Be prepared to have everything open to the press.
  • You will not get to advertise or market yourself.
  • Even though you are supposedly “fully” funded, you will have to raise funds because you are not really fully funded.
  • Be prepared to work hours, schedule, and calendar will be dictated by those who do not even work for your business.
  • Be prepared to have to communicate with all of your clients’ parents and guardians.
  • And finally Be prepared to understand that YOU WILL NOT MAKE A MONETARY PROFIT. Why? Because you are not a business. You are a public service.

Berger ended his manufactured resume of “improving” public education by offering a string of “accomplishments” which are more contradictory than literally true.

  1. “Improve(d) graduation rates” – Graduation rates are one of the easiest statistics to manipulate. Create a statewide 10-point grading system and have school systems dictate that a “50” is the lowest grade possible for a student, then it would be hard for a student who chooses not apply himself to actually NOT graduate.
  2. “Better inform(ed) parents of what our public schools are doing and how well they are doing it (transparent school grades)” – And that Jeb Bush style of school performance grading shows exactly how poverty affects school systems which is ironic for Berger to say considering that he boasts of a state surplus while nearly 25% of children in our state suffer from poverty and are still serviced by the underfunded public schools.
  3. “Empower(ed) parents with greater choice and greater innovation in their kids’ education (charter schools, opportunity scholarships)” – The word “choice” is very interesting. Charter schools have not shown to improve outcomes, but have been shown to be most selective in whom they allow to attend. And when over 75% of the vouchers go to religious schools that can discriminate based on religious beliefs, the word “choice” doesn’t carry the same meaning. It also does not take much research to find charter schools that fail in their purpose and see monies pouring into schools that do not even teach viable curriculums.

    Sometimes there can be embezzling (http://www.fayobserver.com/news/local/fayetteville-man-accused-of-embezzling-more-than-from-church-withholding/article_c75b83cc-3cd1-59fb-a002-bd240e46858c.html). Ironically, the school where this occurred, Trinity Christian, is located in Fayetteville. That’s in Cumberland County – the same county where the two teachers highlighted earlier in Berger’s remarks hail from. Apparently, having these fantastic teachers in the public school system in Cumberland County did not deter the allowance of Trinity Christian to receive more money ($990k+) in Opportunity Grant scholarships (vouchers) than any other school in THE STATE!

  4. “And attract, retain and reward the highest quality teachers in our classrooms” – Actually that’s laughable. The same General Assembly eliminated due-process rights, graduate degree pay bumps, and the Teaching Fellows program as well as put a vice on the NC university system. That’s driving potential teachers away and forcing other teachers to leave NC or the profession altogether. One simply needs to see the seismic drop in teacher candidates in our schools of education and see how well we are “attracting” people.

    Oh, and that HB2 debacle that has cost our state millions in lost revenue and even more in reputation still looms while Berger blames others for its effect even though he helped to craft it and pass it with a supermajority during a “special” session of the NCGA. That’s quality!

But the most egregious misrepresentation offered was saved for last and it deals with teacher salaries.

“Most of you have probably heard me talk about the average 15.5 percent pay raise that we’ve provided teachers since 2013.
“And you’ve heard me explain that, prior to 2011, public schools were struggling with declining state support; that thousands of state-funded teaching positions had been eliminated, teachers had been furloughed, and teacher pay had been frozen.
“And all too often, the people most critical of what this Republican-led General Assembly has done are the same people who were directly responsible for those cuts and furloughs.
“But under Republican leadership, state funding for our public schools has reached record levels.
“Beginning teacher pay is at an all-time high, and average teacher pay has climbed to $50,000 for the first time in state history.
“And this General Assembly has already publicly committed in our last budget to raising average teacher pay to $55,000 over the next two years. It is encouraging that our new governor has committed to partnering with us to continue increasing average teacher pay.
“But there is one data point – one significant fact – that hasn’t received a lot of attention, and that is how much more teachers will earn over the course of a career thanks to our pay reforms.
“The old pay scale was a ball and chain – it took teachers 30 years to reach the top. I can’t think of any other professionals who have to wait three decades to get to the top.
“I cannot believe that the policymakers who designed such a system could honestly contend it was done in an effort to treat teachers as professionals – on the contrary, a 30-year trek to maximum pay is what assembly line compensation looks like.
“Under the new scale for the 2018-19 school year, teachers will reach a base salary of $50,000 in half the time – or 15 years in the classroom.”

This is the same BS offered by former governor Pat McCrory who became the first incumbent governor to not get reelected in a year that saw 20k more North Carolinians vote for Trump than Clinton. In response to McCrory, I countered last summer with:

“The last four years have seen tremendous changes to teacher pay. For new teachers entering in the profession here in NC there is no longer any graduate degree pay bump, no more longevity pay (for anyone), and a changed salary schedule that makes it possible for a teacher to top out on the salary schedule within 15 years without really any raise for the last fifteen years until retirement.

And that top salary for new teachers is barely over 50K. So how can that be the average pay in NC be over 50K when no one can really make much over 50K as a new teacher in his/her entire career unless they all become nationally certified (which takes a monetary investment by the teacher to start)?

Easy. He is counting all of the veteran teachers’ current salaries in that figure. The very people whose salaries simply disgust the governor and the General Assembly to the point that they had to take measures to “lower” them are actually being used to tout the governor’s bold statement.

Furthermore, the governor is counting on local supplements. This comes in the face of a budget that is allocating less money to each central office of each school system for administrative costs. Now each county has to raise more money to actually offset those costs and also allow for local supplements. And not all localities provide the same supplements.

Any veteran teacher who is making above 50K based on seniority, graduate pay, and national boards are gladly counted in this figure. It simply drives up the CURRENT average pay. But when these veteran teachers who have seniority, graduate pay, and possibly national certification retire (and many are doing that early at 25 years), then the very people who seem to be a “burden” on the educational budget leave the system.

In actuality, that would drive the average salary down as time goes on. If the top salary that any teacher could make is barely over 50K (some will have higher as National Board Certified Teachers, but not a high percentage), then how can you really tout that average salaries will be higher?”

But remember that this meeting was closed and the audience was not there to question. They were there to reaffirm the very myths that guide the actions of the current powers in Raleigh to further dismantle public education.

So much for transparency.

 

 

FrankenMoore and BergerStein – Uncle Victor Was Telling You Something

“Nothing is so painful to the human mind as a great and sudden change.”

And nothing is so detrimental to the health of a great commonwealth as a great and sudden misuse of law.

The preceding quote comes from Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, the first great dark romantic / Gothic novel. It was written at the ripe age of twenty from an idea born of a scary story-telling contest with her soon-to-be husband, Percy Bysshe, and his friend, the very famous George Gordon, Lord Byron. Also present was whomever Byron was dating that hour.

frankenstein

Rumor has it that on this same fateful weekend Byron concocted one of the first vampire stories, which is appropriate considering his own voracious appetites. But Mary won the contest with a story of a man so bent on obtaining knowledge and pursuing the idea of recalling life that he created something so unnatural that he defied the laws of nature.

Now to even call what Sen. Phil Berger and Rep. Tim Moore have done to be even subpar to what Mary Shelley had Victor do in her novel would be a disgrace to Mrs. Shelley’s brilliance, and even Victor’s, who is not even a real person. For that matter, it would be an insult to the fictitious monster who never gets a name but shows so much more logic (and at times regard for human life) than what many in our North Carolina General Assembly have displayed within the last few years.

That does not mean that FrankenMoore and BergerStein have not spent a few nights in special sessions behind closed doors concocting experiments with the law and the state constitution to create what has become a monster of a political landscape here in North Carolina. But unlike Victor who recognizes the effects of his actions and hubris, the leaders of the NCGA GOP have not yet understood that they have created a monster themselves that is hurting our citizens.

If you have never read the classic novel, it actually is one of the most well-framed books of all time. There are three narrators – Captain Walton, Victor Frankenstein, and the Monster.

Captain Walton is leading a foolhardy quest to the North Pole. He has been writing letters to his sister and then by chance encounters Victor.

Victor relates to him his own story of hubris-filled questing in rather painful detail and even narrates what the monster relates to him within his own story.

You got it – a man tells the story of a man who tells his story and includes what his creation told him in his story that the first man is telling to his sister in a series of letters.

And since we have already established that Berger and Moore could not be Frankenstein or the monster, they must be more aligned with Capt. Walton.

And they are. Because they are on the cusp of a tipping point with their own monster.

Early in the novel Capt. Walton makes this statement to his sister,

“One man’s life or death were but a small price to pay for the acquirement of the knowledge which I sought, for the dominion I should acquire and transmit over the elemental foes of our race” (Letter 4).

Substitute the words “political Power” for “knowledge” and “government” for “race” and you pretty much have the exact image of what has happened in North Carolina these last few years.

  • Consider the special sessions that gave North Carolina the blemish of HB2.
  • Consider the Voter ID Law.
  • Consider the Gerrymandering.
  • Consider the attack on the Public Schools.
  • Consider the special session that brought SB4.

Recently Jonathan Katz in Politico Magazine wrote an expose on North Carolina entitled, “In North Carolina, Some Democrats See Their Grim Future.” While it is not the type of reading one wants to have for the holidays, it did prove eye-opening considering that it specifically points out the “monster” that people like Phil Berger have created and now are having a hard time containing.

The first two paragraphs read,

“In the end, even Phil Berger, the powerful Republican leader of North Carolina’s Senate, couldn’t stop the debacle. A state law that effectively banned legal protections for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people—a law he’d pushed through the statehouse less than a year before—had become such a national embarrassment that even he wanted to see it repealed. But the far-right members of his caucus, happily ensconced in ultra-safe Republican districts he’d help draw, saw no reason to back a full repeal, and what was supposed to be a last-minute deal with the incoming Democratic governor fell apart.

“I cannot believe this,” Berger said, throwing down his microphone and slumping back into his leather chair at the front of the senate chamber, as the last session of the year came to a close, the stain still indelibly affixed to his state’s reputation, and his own (http://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2016/12/in-north-carolina-some-democrats-see-the-future-214553).

That is no stain. That is a full-fledged monster.

Fortunately for Capt. Walton, Victor’s story does help convince him that his quest for fame and power is ill-fated and will do more harm than good. Victor lived the experience that Walton would learn from to spare him and his crew a life doomed to death and despair.

And while there has been no Victor Frankenstein that has appeared out of the tundra of North Carolina to teach Moore and Berger their lessons, there have been instances where some sort of Ancient Mariner has come to halt them in their baseless quests: the courts.

  • They did it with the Voter ID Law.
  • They did it with the gerrymandered districts.
  • They have intervened with due-process rights for veteran teachers.
  • They will have a say on HB2.
  • And now they have placed a temporary hold in Wake County on the effects of SB2.

What 2017 holds for this state may actually be a blueprint for how other states may begin to proceed with their own political voyages.

However, it may also be the beginning of an end because if the citizens of North Carolina are tired of being passengers on an ill-fated expedition, then those voices may begin to get louder and ironically, we have election day again in 2017 because of the courts, at least for a few districts.

Probably one of the most haunting quotes in Shelley’s novel occurs in Chapter 20 when the monster, mad at Victor for destroying a would-be companion, warns Victor,

“It is well. I go; but remember, I shall be with you on your wedding-night.”

Maybe in this instance, it will come back on election night.