SB 873 – Shame on Apodaca and Kraweic – The Farce of the Access to Affordable College Education Act

Note: Be sure to view a note by John de Ville, public school advocate and Hope Street Fellow from Macon County, following this op-ed. He highlights that Western Carolina University has strong reservations and provides a link to their statement on SB 873 – The Affordable College Education Act. Thanks to John.

Sen. Joyce Kraweic is now offering red herrings from the North Carolina General Assembly’s political menu, and it serves as a reminder that there are many in our General Assembly who are simply intent on hurting public education.

John Hinton’s feature story in the May 29th edition of the Winston-Salem Journal, “Bill to lower WSSU tuition draws fire”, outlines the Access to Affordable College Education Act which was introduced by Sen. Tom Apodaca and co-sponsored by our local state senator.

The bill “would require Winston-Salem State University, Fayetteville State University, Elizabeth City State University, UNC Pembroke and Western Carolina University, to lower tuition beginning in the 2018 fall semester to $500 for state residents and $2,500 for out-of-state residents.” That would cut current tuition by %69 for in-state students, almost %61 for out-of-state students.

In what is being hailed by Apodaca and Kraweic as a means to make education more affordable for students, this bill would spell certain bankruptcy for these schools which include flagship HBCU’s and the largest public college campus west of Asheville. It is a pure and simple attack on the public university system in our state.

While Apodaca could not be reached for explanation, Sen. Krawiec gave enough political spin to reveal the absence of foresight evident in this bill and a lack of being educated on how this legislation would devalue what these schools offer students.

When asked about the impetus for this bill, Krawiec stated, “The cost of education in North Carolina has skyrocketed over the past 10 years, rising by 72 percent.”

It would make more sense for the senator to find out why tuition has “skyrocketed” and attack those causes, one of which is the state’s unwillingness to extend more funds to the entire UNC system to help defray costs for our state’s students by slowing tuition hikes.

Or better yet, stop putting more of the state’s tax burden on the very people who send their students to these public universities. Extending Medicaid might ease financial burdens for many; fully funding k-12 public schools would give all public school students a better chance to succeed in post-secondary studies; slowing down the siphoning of money to unregulated charter schools and unproven vouchers would save money that could be reinvested in public systems.

However, more of the actual intention of this bill appears in Kraweic’s last quote in the report. She says, ““We must find a way to increase student population and provide a quality education,” she said. “The buildings still have to be maintained and professors compensated even when classrooms are nearly empty. The legislature has committed to compensate any shortfall in funding due to reduced tuition.”

When Sen. Kraweic states that the legislature is “committed” to repay any budget shortfalls to the universities because of tuition revenue loss, she does not mention that Apodaca has already admitted that the bill “wouldn’t commit future legislators to continue that funding to the UNC system” after the first year. So, how would that really benefit these affected colleges and universities?

It wouldn’t. It would simply drive down their appeal to students because if the university cannot recoup revenue losses, then the ability to attract a viable faculty, keep the best resources on hand for students, offer financial packages through scholarships, and ultimately get alumni donations will all diminish.

More egregious is that this bill targets schools with a history of educating minorities, one of which is literally next to Kraweic’s district, Winston-Salem State University. Her own bill would hurt the very community that she serves, the very people she is supposed to represent.

Most ironic is that Sen. Kraweic is a real-estate broker by trade. She should know better than anyone that the price of a piece of property is intrinsically tied to its value. That is not to say that if one simply raises the price on something that the value automatically goes up. The market will even that out.

However, if one all of a sudden lowers the price on a piece of property by over %60, then there is a perception that what is offered is not as valuable. What would happen to the senator’s property value if the house next to hers sold for one-third of its value? Would the state come in and repay that financial setback? It wouldn’t.

Comparably, if schools like Winston-Salem State offer an education for a fraction of the cost to supply it, like any business, it would go bankrupt.

And the senator should know that.

 

From John de Ville:

The faculty of Western Carolina University says, in a blinding flash of strenuous diplomacy, that they understand perfectly well the NC Senate’s goal to crash them into the mountain and convert the venerable institution into a community college:

“Part III. Reduced tuition at certain institutions.

This is certainly the most attention-getting provision of the bill; it is both the most immediately attractive feature, and simultaneously the most problematic. A tuition rate of $500 per semester, if offered equally to students across the state, and, if matched with an identical investment back into the affected campuses, would be a great benefit for the people of the state. It would reflect the ideals represented in our state Constitution, and would clearly support a commitment to accessible, affordable, extraordinary higher education for North Carolina citizens.

Unfortunately, the current version of the bill only mandates the $500 tuition fee for five universities, does not offer a rationale behind selecting those universities, and provides no promise or even hint of current or future funding to make up for the catastrophic cut in these five universities’ budgets. We appreciate the verbal commitment by the bill’s sponsor to include an appropriate offset in the upcoming Senate budget (as reported in the News and Observer). However, having the $500 tuition cap in one bill, and the offset funding in a single biennium budget, creates a very precarious funding scenario for future years—when the overall cost of the plan is likely to increase many-fold. In order to make sure these universities are able to continue to provide a quality educational product to their students, the method of funding this plan should be included in the same bill as the plan itself.”

https://docs.google.com/document/d/19zlO7AqnFkUKGVqVxNAFbEERWZbMksgT8PHc-LVeFYU/edit

Mommy! There’s a Strawman in the Girls’ Bathroom!

We can debate HB2 all we want, but this bill will soon be struck down. There are lawsuits waiting. There’s a precedent set in the case in Virginia. The Department of Justice has already told the NC General Assembly it is a violation of civil rights.

Some people may say that the feds have no business telling the state of North Carolina what to do. That was said years ago when Jim Crow laws were in effect. But the truth is that the Dept. of Justice has the authority to say that NC is violating people’s civil rights and that they will withhold federal monies from North Carolina. And we are dependent on the feds.

But I digress. We are here to talk about keeping kids safe in NC.

Take a look at this site –  http://www.keepnckidssafe.com.

Go ahead.

Scroll down to the bottom part of the screen and watch the video entitled “North Carolina’s Common Sense Bathroom Law Protects Our Kids”.

It lasts about one minute.

It has a sexual predator dressed as a biker with an AC/DC-type shirt in animated form exhibited like a business presentation or a commercial for a moral cleanser.

But it’s really a logical fallacy smorgasbord.  If I mixed some “common sense fallacy” with a little “reductio ad absurdum”, then added a dash of dried “red herring” and a smidge of “appeal to fear” and finally dropped  three strands of hair from a “strawman”, then I would get this paid advertisement from the NC Republican Party.

But I digress even more. Because I am still stuck on the high and pompous name of the website – Keep NC Kids Safe.

In a classic “name it and claim it” maneuver, the GOP party in this state claims to be the ones who are keeping kids safe. And that makes me furious because if now is the time to keep kids safe, then the GOP has a distorted view of what can keep kids safe and what has been threatening them in the past.

  • Did they ever present a plan to keep kids safe from poverty when over 20% of our state’s children live in poverty?
  • Did they ever think of keeping kids safe from unhealthy sicknesses when they decided to not expand Medicaid? Do they support the State Children’s Health Insurance Program? Do they support The Child Care Association of NC? Do they support the NC Early Childhood Foundation? Shouldn’t that be on this website?
  • Did they keep kids safe from guns by taking a stand against lax gun control laws?
  • Did they keep kids safe academically and intellectually when they slowed money allocation to the public education system, especially pre-k programs? Smart Start?
  • Did they keep kids safe from unemployment when they reduced benefits for unemployed parents or guardians?
  • Did they keep kids safe by speaking up about child abuse or addressing lack of support in social services?

 

Those each need a page on the www.Keepnckidssafe.com website.

It sounds like if the GOP wanted to keep kids safe, then the website www.keepnckidssafe.com would have been put up years ago for the very issues that plague the health and safety of our kids.

There is a lot to be learned here from double-speak and political spin, but one has to wonder why something that has been called “unconstitutional” by many is still “common sense” to some who constantly blame the media for misrepresentation.

When there are so many issues that really affect the safety of our kids, why is there so much focus on a bathroom?

Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Aren’t Dead! They Live in Eden – An Open Letter to People Who Will Vote in Sen. Berger’s District

Dear Rockinghamcrantz and Guilfordstern (A Shakespearean way of saying “Citizens of Rockingham and Guilford Counties),

If Shakespeare has taught us anything about human nature and our lives (actually he has taught us much), then we would certainly know that the state of the king’s palace usually dictates the state of the kingdom. Just review perhaps his most famous play, Hamlet, where the greed of one man for power (Claudius) causes a chain of events that literally bring down a kingdom, takes innocent lives, and even makes the dead come back.

Consequently, the state of the General Assembly and the actions of its players has direct effects on the state of North Carolina as a whole. But one of these players has had the leading role for a while in Raleigh, Sen. Phil Berger.

In this drama of an election year, it is worth beseeching our fellow North Carolinians who live in Rockingham and Guilford counties who also have Sen. Phil Berger as their state senator to seriously contemplate his actions as a legislator and the effects they have had on the rest of the state. Why? Because…

“Something is rotten in the state of Denmark” (Marcellus, I,iv).

 

Something is rotten in the state of North Carolina. The list of offending actions causing this state of decay is long and well-documented. And Sen. Berger has been the chief architect in most all of them.

There was the religious freedom bill. There was the Voter ID law. There was HB2. There were the countless attacks on public education. There was the tax “reform” that has placed more burden on the middle class of the state. There was the marriage amendment. There was a reduction of benefits for the unemployed. There was the refusal of Medicaid expansion.

All of it has been poison poured into the ears of North Carolinians. It adds to the madness of North Carolina.

“Though this be madness, yet there is method in’t” (Polonius, II,ii). 

 

While many of our constituents may debate the merits of who should go into what bathroom or who should be able to marry whom, there have been deliberate, calculated attempts at consolidating power on a state level by this man at the expense of others. Sen. Berger has thrown out so many red herrings to take attention away from what has really happened in legislative sessions that many are convinced it is madness to go against his policies.

But there is a method to it. The thought that some would want grown men to go into girls’ locker rooms at a public school is madness. But that is the deception – a method to extend power over local municipalities about how people can sue in state courts or how local municipalities can contract work.

“One may smile, and smile, and be a villain” (Hamlet, I, v). 

 

Shakespeare was often very wary of how villains presented themselves. Iago was “two-faced” showing a public side to hide private motives. Edmund people-pleased in order to destroy them. Richard III smiled constantly in the very faces of people he eliminated.

The public facade can often be a mask for other motives. Rather than focus on the smiling visage of a politician, listen to his words, read his explanations, and then compare them to his actions. And why? Because…

“The Devil hath power
To assume a pleasing shape” (Hamlet, II,ii).

 

No, Sen. Berger is not the Devil. But I do think he will have a lot to answer for when he greets his maker as he is asked what he did for those who needed the most help. So, I beseech you to…

“Listen to many, speak to a few” (Polonius, I,iii). 

 

Yes, he is an incumbent for your district. He supposedly represents your ideals. But consider that his actions have had deleterious effects on all North Carolinians. In his efforts at gerrymandering districts, he has shown us all his conscious efforts at squashing voices who disagree with him.

Ask any public school teacher outside of your district and nine times out of ten, that teacher will be able to directly name Sen. Berger as an adversarial presence in public education.

Ask any person in the LBGT community who has faced discrimination.

Ask any parent who needs Medicaid to help with healthcare coverage for his/her child.

Ask any of the almost one in four kids in our state who live in poverty.

Ask any small municipality (even Hamlet, NC) about having Raleigh overrule their own local ordinances.

 “This above all: to thine own self be true” (Polonius, I,iii).  

 

The operative words here are “true” and “truth”. Don’t allow political double-speak and platitudes to cover up what is the truth. And the truth is what affects lives. Sen. Berger has affected a lot of lives – negatively.

“To be, or not to be: that is the question” (Hamlet, III,i).

 

Maybe the question should be, “To vote, or not to vote.” The answer is yes, you should. But please consider who you vote for, because if life is a stage, then the rest of the state and even the country is watching the play.

Don’t let this end tragically. Don’t let us be haunted by ghosts of actions past. We can have a new script.

 

Sincerely,

The Groundlings of North Carolina.

Hyperbole, North Carolina – On the Corner of Exaggeration Avenue and Understatement Boulevard

The North Carolina General Assembly began the 2016 short session today and there were many North Carolinians who were in our capitol to meet them.

No doubt much of the rhetoric coming from those in power will be full of double-speak, subtle or severe spin, and void of straight-forward talk about real issues at hand like HB2, Religious Freedom, Opportunity Grants, etc.

Attempting to defend their actions, people like Sen. Berger and other GOP stalwarts have employed the wonderful power of figurative language to paint their exploits in hyperbole, understatements, and absolutes – all in an attempt to convince the rest of NC that they are right because their moral compass points straight to true north.

The following is a list of the top ten quotes from our state leaders in the last three years that display not great rhetorical skill but an oratorical mastery that only the great debaters of ancient Greece could match. (Hyperbole – get it?)

So welcome to Hyperbole, North Carolina – specifically the corner of Exaggeration Avenue and Understatement Boulevard.

  1. Sen. Bob Rucho – “Justice Robert’s pen & Obamacare has done more damage to the USA then the swords of the Nazis,Soviets, & terrorists combined.” – via Twitter in December of 2013.

Wow! That’s hyperbolic twittering if ever, never mind the major errors of subject/verb disagreement, wrongly used apostrophe, and the use of swords.  Even more egregious is that Rucho was a main proponent of denying expansion of Medicaid in North Carolina, a state that has as many as 25% of children in poverty. Talk about damage.

  1. Gov. Pat McCrory on Meet the Press – “Not with — but I’ve met with transgender people in the past, and I’ve met with them since, and have had very positive conversations. Now the conversation with a very powerful group called the Human Relations, uh, Human Rights Council, my gosh, they’re more powerful than the N.R.A., and they have millions of dollars, which makes me want to overturn United, ’cause I don’t know who their donors are either.”

Holy hyperbolics Batman! The “Human Relations, uh” group is more powerful than the NRA – so powerful are they that the governor did not remember their name. And if they have so much money, will they be able to reimburse North Carolina all the money it has lost due to business boycotts in the wake of HB2?

  1. Gov Pat McCrory at a recent Sheriffs Association Meeting when he referred to the HB2 issue as “the elephant in the room.”

Understatement of the year! It is one thing to talk about the real issue at hand when you have been evading it for weeks because you can’t actually defend HB2. But it’ s another to actually go up to that elephant in the room and do a visual gender check on it to see what bathroom it needs to go to.

No sir, that’s its trunk. They all have one.

  1. Sen. Tom Apodaca on the special session called to repeal Charlotte’s ordinance that gave way to HB2. “Charlotte brought this all upon themselves.”

Did someone play “blame game”? When elections for governor and others to replace legislators go in favor of democrats, others may just look back on this past session and say of the very GOP members who championed HB2, “they brought it all upon themselves.”

  1. Sen. Jerry Tillman in a conversation with Sen. Josh Stein about not having to talk about charter school legislation because “he said so”.

“I’m not going to give you the details. A good lawyer would never do that (in a meeting). No, we don’t air dirty laundry here.”

Well, just the fact that a non-lawyer explained what good lawyers do to a lawyer who may be the next state’s attorney general is enough to qualify this as bullshit. And if that bullshit is as thick as it is in this conversation, Sen. Tillman needs to go ahead and clean his pants and air his laundry or it will leave a mark.

  1. Sen. Phil Berger on the teacher pay raises given in 2014. He labeled them as “the largest in state history.”

This is exaggeration using the “Average Bear” technique. If you need an explanation for that, just ask any veteran public school teacher in the state. Note, that it was a ‘’average” raise.

Bill Gates moving to my neighborhood raises the average income per household significantly, but I may have never seen a raise.

  1. Lt. Gov. Dan Forest on PayPal’s announcement to not expand in Charlotte due to HB2 – “If our action in keeping men out of women’s bathrooms and showers protected the life of just one child or one woman from being molested or assaulted, then it was worth it. North Carolina will never put a price tag on the value of our children. They are precious and priceless.”

This is the red herring of the year.

Oddly, the law already states that men cannot do this. And if the life of a child is so precious, then expand Medicaid, fund public schools properly, and do something about the poverty rate. If the life of a woman is so valuable, fight for equal pay for equal work. But if the Lt. Gov. thinks that taking away citizens’ rights to file discrimination suits in state court is protecting people, then this above statement make sense.

  1. Sen. Skip Stam – “LGBT discrimination is OK because pedophilia and bestiality are ‘sexual orientations’ too.”

Stone Age here we come! And that happened before we evolved into a society that burned witches.

  1. Sen. Tommy Tucker – “I am the senator. You are the citizen. You need to be quiet.”

This misinterpretation of his role is analogous to an employee telling his employer, “Shutup! I am the boss here. You just sign my checks and have the ability to fire me in this right to work state.”

In a country where elected officials are supposed to carry the will of the people they represent and be their mouthpiece in government, isn’t it refreshing to know that one of them can think this highly of himself to tell is constituents that they are too stupid to talk?

  1. Sen. Phil Berger on the Religious Freedom Bill that would allow magistrates to not perform same-sex marriages in NC – “Complying with the new marriage law imposed by the courts should not require our state employees to compromise their core religious beliefs and First Amendment rights in order to protect their livelihoods.”

No matter what the constitution says or what the Supreme Court rules, I should have the First Amendment right to protect my livelihood against other people’s constitutionally given right to happiness because I can use God as a political crutch to make a futile argument.

I have no idea what I said, but I do know that I have the right to say it.

So, when someone like Rep. Tim Moore exclaims, “We’re not up here just sitting around doing whatever” (about the long session of 2015) remember that he is right. It takes a lot of time to craft statements in the General Assembly that smell like the ones just mentioned.

 

 

 

Kicking or Kissing Butt, Taking Names, and Saving Face

Yes. This teacher wants a raise.

I think that we deserve more compensation for the job that we as public school teachers do, especially in light that we rank very low in teacher pay compared to the surrounding states (or even the nation).

Ever since the great recession hit and our pay scale was frozen by Raleigh, many teachers have had to reconsider staying in the profession or had to add another job to the fray to keep a standard of living that allowed us to raise families the way we wanted to. Some teachers have even moved to other states.

But more than a raise, I would say that what I really want as a veteran teacher is respect from the very state government that controls the very salary that I make. That’s because if a profession is respected, then those who seek its services are willing to pay a competitive market value to keep those services.

And North Carolina is not paying a competitive salary for its teachers. In fact, with the removal of graduate degree pay, frozen salary schedules, the implementation of a grading system that will always cast a negative light on public schools, and a reduction of money spent per pupil, the idea of gaining respect for the teaching profession from Raleigh is a wish I can only make to Santa Claus.

So when I hear the governor speak of raising salaries and offering bonuses, my ears become acutely sensitive. But then I realize the context of the remarks he made about his budget proposal and I see a clear motive for the governor’s pay plan.

HB2 has definitely take a toll on both North Carolina and the governor’s reputation. It is his face the rest of the nation sees in a press conference not defending his signing of the law. No one else in the General Assembly has really even publicly defended the law, except Sen. Phil Berger, and that really wasn’t a defense but rather a digging of his heels into the ground about his stance. No defense has even been heard from the primary sponsors of the bill: Representatives Bishop, Howard, Stam, and Bishop.

When the governor finally talked about HB2 on Meet the Press, he made mention that he has stood up against his GOP legislature when needed. He gave that air of someone who could “kick butt and take names” when it mattered most for the state of North Carolina.

Yet, his handful of vetoes in the last three years, an ability to kowtow to the state legislature and its GOP leadership, a refusal to answer questions publicly to our own state’s press, and his dropping poll numbers really show that he is not a “kick butt and take names” person, but more of a “kiss butt and save face” person.

Gov. McCrory needs teachers to vote for him because teachers are very hypervigilant when it comes to educational issues. And I believe teachers will show up to the polls in November. Everybody will. Look what’s happening in the presidential race. Who wouldn’t want to go to the conventions with all that is transpiring now?

When over 90 percent of the counties in North Carolina have the local school system as the largest or second largest employer, the need to reach teachers and convey sincerity is crucial in a reelection campaign. And the governor saying that he will propose raises and bonuses may seem more like a red herring to draw attention away from the HB2 fallout and his shabby handling of it.

The Winston-Salem Journal reported the governor’s brief outline for amending teacher pay. In the April 23, 2016 edition it ran an AP report that stated:

All current teachers with up to 24 years of experience — or 84 percent of the workforce — would get permanent raises next school year from $500 to $5,000. Teachers also would reach the top-scale salary of $50,000 sooner — in their 20th year, compared to 25 years today.

 

McCrory also wants to return to the previous expectation that most teachers will get a slight salary increase with each additional year on the job. Legislators changed the salary schedule in 2014 so experienced-based increases come every five years or so. School superintendents and administrators asked McCrory to seek annual step raises again for teachers, according to McCrory spokesman Josh Ellis.

 

Teachers currently at the top scale wouldn’t get a permanent raise but $5,000 bonuses, with $1,100 bonuses for the less experienced teachers. Previously, McCrory’s office said the permanent pay raises would cost $247 million annually and the bonuses would have a one-time cost of $165 million. The state’s projected $237 million surplus should help pay for these increases.

 

This veteran teacher’s wallet likes hearing that, but my gut says something different will actually happen. Why?

First, this is a governor whose administration has allowed the following to happen without a fight:

  • The removal of the Teacher Fellows Program.
  • The financing of failing charter schools.
  • The implementation of Opportunity Grants.
  • The implementation of a Jeb Bush public school grading system.
  • The removal of longevity pay.
  • The removal of a respected leader in Tom Ross and the hiring of Margaret Spellings, the architect of No Child Left Behind (No Child Left Untested).
  • The refusal to expand Medicaid.
  • The removal of tax deductions that many people used in order to make tax cuts affordable.

In other words, Gov. McCrory didn’t go against his own party and take a “kick butt and take names” attitude.

Secondly, that tax surplus that he intends to help pay for these raises should evaporate quickly considering the amount of money being lost from the state and local economies from national HB2 backlash.

If there was respect for the teaching profession in Raleigh throughout the governor’s administration, this conversation would never take place. But it has become a sort of shield for McCrory amidst the HB2 debacle. And now he seems to be mollifying teachers like a dead-beat dad who neglects his kids and tries buy their love with wonderful Christmas presents.

That’s just “kissing butt to save face” for a reelection bid.

And my ass doesn’t need to be kicked or kissed. It needs to be valued.

Now, back to Santa. I did ask him about getting some respect from our state legislature. And true to his nature, he did say that we can get this present earlier than December 25th.

It comes on November 8th when we are allowed to vote.