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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fifty Shades of No Way – New SBOE Member Todd Chasteen’s First Book To Challenge

Now that Todd Chasteen has now been appointed to the NC State Board of Education, I would like to go ahead and ask that he and others on the board read the latest installment of the Fifty Shades of … book for possible inclusion in schools, or at least in the dialogue of what is happening in North Carolina.

I will offer only this table of contents to the SBOE and Mr. Chasteen in deference to any delicate sensibilities toward works of literature that actually display and describe the human condition through creative use of language, strong diction, vivid imagery, incredible detail, and varying syntax.

I must admit that the other books in this series really are not that well written and have one driving motif, but I would ask that this book, Fifty Shades of No Way, be investigated as it does accurately portray the climate and terrain of the Old North State.

Here is the list of chapter titles. There are 50 –Get it? Fifty Shades of No Way. In each chapter there is deception, manipulation, vivid imagery, hurt feelings, but most of all in each one of them someone is getting screwed pretty hard and often, mainly the citizens of North Carolina.

Enjoy

  1. HB2 – Bathroom Bill
  2. HB3 – 5.5% income tax cap – TABOR
  3. Medicaid Expansion Denied
  4. Voter ID Law
  5. Gerrymandering of Districts
  6. Duke Coal Ash Ponds
  7. Fracking Industry Without Oversight
  8. Teacher Pay still at the bottom tier in the nation
  9. Removal of due-process rights for new teachers
  10. Tom Ross Replaced With Margaret Spellings
  11. Graduate Degree Pay Bumps Removed for new teachers
  12. Bad Teacher Evaluation Systems
  13. Push for Merit Pay
  14. “Average” Raises and neglecting veteran teachers
  15. Central Office Allotment Cuts
  16. Rainy Day Fund That Can’t be Accessed Unless The Apocolypse Comes
  17. Religious Freedom Bill
  18. Attacks on Teacher Advocacy Groups (NCAE)
  19. Revolving Door of Standardized Tests
  20. Less Money Spent per Pupil in Traditional Public Schools
  21. Remove Caps on Class Sizes
  22. Jeb Bush School Grading System
  23. Opportunity Grants Expansion
  24. Allowing Private and Religious Schools To Profit From Tax Payer Money
  25. Charter School Growth Without Regulation
  26. Virtual Schools Deregulation
  27. Achievement School Districts
  28. Reduction of Teacher Candidates in Colleges
  29. Elimination of Teaching Fellows Program
  30. Governor’s Inability to Defend Policies to the Press
  31. Governor’s Unwillingness to Defend Policies to the Press
  32. Attacks on Teacher Assistants
  33. Elimination of State Employees Rights to File Discrimination Suits in State Courts
  34. Pissing Off Bruce Springsteen
  35. Using God and Jesus as Political Crutches
  36. Gov. Dan Forest’s request to have Charter School Report to be Rewritten
  37. Buck Newton Keeping Our State Straight
  38. House Bill 539 – Giving Charters Money For Services They Do Not Provide
  39. Rowan-Salisbury Pepper Spray Proposal
  40. Chad Barefoot’s Appt. to Senate Education Committee Chair
  41. Teach For America Expansion Plans
  42. SB 873 – Access To Affordable College Education Act
  43. Clyde Edgerton and New Hanover County’s Superintendent
  44. What the Teacher Working Conditions Survey Really Said
  45. Arresting of Teachers Who Protested and Saying They Were At Fault
  46. McCrory’s Didaskalithedemosiophobia – Yep, That’s What I said – Look it up on my Blog
  47. SB867 – Background Checking Bill
  48. Appointing People Who Are Not Qualified to the SBOE
  49. Special Sessions of the General Assembly
  50. Surreptitious Midnight Meetings to Craft Bills That Only Benefit a Few

Outsourcing Our Kids For Profit – Rep. Rob Bryan and Sen. Chad Barefoot Will Have Much to Answer For in The Future

Doing the same things over and over again and expecting different results is a classic definition of insanity. Thinking it will be different because you changed localities is nothing more than hoping for a geographical cure. Neither is very healthy. But if the true motive behind it is profit, then people might just say anything to make it work.

Rep. Rob Bryan and Sen. Chad Barefoot just outsourced a bunch of our kids. They literally are giving our students and our taxpayer money to out-of-state, for-profit charter school operators within an Achievement School District (ASD) – all in the name of helping kids.

That would be true if helping kids means lining the pockets of people out-of-state.

They are taking kids out of their communities’ care and putting them in the hands of entities who simply want to make a profit from them. And the money these charter school operators receive will be purely profit, because their academic success is already guaranteed. Why? Because they don’t really have to show academic success; they are measured differently, just look at HB 242, championed by Sen. Jerry Tillman.

Neither Barefoot or Bryan could never really explain the “how the ASD will work” or the “why it will work”. They are simply appealing to their authority. They just tout that it will work in spite of all the results of past experiments and implementations ASD districts in multiple states, especially Tennessee whose model Bryan originally looked at to create the NC ASD proposal.

Lack of specificity is a tactic in making arguments. It hopes that people will get lost in the ambiguity of an explanation and simply rely on the speaker as being more equipped to make a decision because of a title or office held.

But lack of specificity is also a sign of not really knowing the answers. It’s like when you ask a question of someone and what he doesn’t say speaks as loudly as what he does say.

Take for instance the explanations given by Sen. Barefoot when pressed for specificity in a meeting for HB1080 (the ASD bill) chaired by Sen. Tillman as reported by Billy Ball (http://pulse.ncpolicywatch.org/2016/06/24/senate-committee-approves-controversial-charter-takeover-of-low-performing-schools/).

Barefoot calls the ASD model for NC an “innovative solution.” But when others in the meeting bring up that there really have not been positive outcomes from other ASD implementations, Barefoot just says that we will make it work because we are NC (the geographical cure).

But several Democrats and public education advocates who spoke Friday decried the bill as advancing an unproven reform.

“We would ask that you not send North Carolina down this road with an experiment which has been shown to not be effective in other states,” said Leanne Winner, director of governmental relations for the N.C. School Boards Association, a statewide group that represents local boards of education.

Barefoot, however, countered multiple times that North Carolina’s version of achievement school districts will differ from other states such as Tennessee. When pressed on the claim, Barefoot said other states “flood” schools in the achievement school district with money to middling results.

That’s a non-answer. No specifics. No details. He just said that we wouldn’t invest the same amount of money in them. That’s also odd because many teachers in our state wouldn’t mind having a bit of a “flood” in money coming their way to help in resources and maintenance. But “flood” is a subjective word. What might be a flood in the eyes of people like Barefoot and Bryan may actually be nothing more than a trickle.

Barefoot also made mention that “The bar is so low in these schools, anything that makes an impact that’s considered by this state has to be considered a good thing.”

Really? Then why not allow our own state to make that impact through funding turn-around teams that our own edcuators have put into place, but that the General Assembly will not fund adequately? Ball reports,

Opponents of the bill have also pointed out that state-run turnaround efforts in the school, through the Department of Public Instruction’s Office of District and School Transformation, yielded improving dropout rates. Additionally, the office says, more than 80 percent of the schools where it intervened with professional development and additional resources were lifted from the bottom 5 percent of schools in the state.

Yet, due to limited funding, the office claimed this year to have only been able to step in to 79 of the nearly 600 low-performing schools in the state.

Also, when it seemed that Barefoot was caught in a web of inexplicable pseudo-facts, Sen. Jerry Tillman came to the rescue with a gauntlet of non-truths rooted in confirmation bias.

Advocates like Tillman said charter operators will run the schools more successfully.

“They will make great growth,” declared Tillman. “That’s a fact.”

This is from the man who said that one math teacher could teach two different math courses in one classroom at the same time to a group of students that may reach over 35 because the state will not help fund schools so that classes can actually be capped (https://www.ednc.org/2016/06/09/senate-moves-state-one-step-closer-split-high-school-math-tracks).

The truth of the matter is that there is not much to really tout about ASD’s and the handing over of money to for-profit charter operators. Just follow the money and one can see that it really is about profits. Ball’s report makes reference to that.

As Policy Watch has reported, support for the bill was financed by a wealthy Oregon businessman who runs a network of charters, and has been promoted as a salve for long-time struggling schools by ALEC-affiliated groups like the Education Freedom Alliance out of Oklahoma.

Looking at Ball’s original posting on NC Policy Watch referenced earlier will give you the links to those news bits.

The cruel irony here is that this is all in the name of helping kids and offering them choices and opportunities, except here choices have been removed from the very communities who raise these kids. And the money they pay in taxes is actually helping to outsource their own kids’ education, one that will not be measured in the same ways as others who attend traditional schools.

And that’s wrong on so many levels.

Another Stupid Decision – An Open Letter to Rep. Rob Bryan Concerning ASD

In a vote of 18 to 11, you and the House Committee on Education, pushed through a bill that would establish an ASD (Achievement School District) in North Carolina allowing the control of some of our low-performing schools to be outsourced to out-of-state entities.

Why?

It is egregious that a leading legislator who claims to have an educational background as an alumnus of Teach for America had to craft the original version of this bill last year behind closed doors. Oftentimes when one secretly meets with others of his choosing, then those “others” tend to have like-minded views. Even Rep. Tim Moore appointed one of the bill’s co-sponsors, Rep. John Bradford III, another republican from your home county to the committee to help it pass.

Interestingly enough you endorsed some enlightening statements concerning your views on public education on the website, http://www.friendsofrob.com/about. It states,

“Raised by a teacher and an engineer, Rob spent his first two years after college participating in the Teach for America program. In a low-income school in inner-city Los Angeles, he saw firsthand the problems created by non-innovative, bureaucratic districts unwilling or unable to change. Red tape and politics prevented teachers, principals, and parents from choosing the creative solutions that would work for their students.”

There is a lot of information there. Your tenure in the classroom, while admirable, was not long at all. Most teachers in NC went through more time training to become a teacher than you were in the actual classroom. You worked in a poverty-stricken inner-city school, the same kind of schools you labeled as failing with a Jeb Bush style grading system that you helped create. Furthermore, you have actually helped foster an environment that keeps those poverty-stricken schools under the foot of government by lowering per pupil expenditures and vilifying veteran educators. And now you meet with a loaded committee who is willing to siphon money to charter schools run by out-of-state private entities?

You also said in your statement, “Red tape and politics prevented teachers, principals, and parents from choosing the creative solutions that would work for their students.” You are exactly right. But if one sees the actions that you as a legislator have participated in while crafting the current educational landscape here in NC, I think one could label you as part of that “red tape and politics.”

Consider your actions on the following:

  • Allowed teacher pay to continue to drop when adjusted for inflation.
  • Removed due process rights for new teachers to keep them from advocating loudly for students and schools.
  • Removed graduate degree pay bumps for teachers entering the profession.
  • Lowered the amount of money spent per pupil in the state.
  • Removed class size caps.
  • Instituted a Jeb Bush style school grading system that is unfair and does nothing more than show how poverty affects public schools.
  • Created an uncontrolled and unregulated system of vouchers called Opportunity Grants.
  • Fostered charter school growth that has not improved the educational landscape and siphons money from the public school system.
  • Eliminated the Teaching Fellows Program.
  • Created an atmosphere of disrespect for teachers that teaching candidate numbers in colleges and universities have dropped 30%.

That sounds like creating obstacles, not removing them.

It seems that if you wanted to really remove “red tape and politics” then you would attack the root of the problems like the lack of medical care and lack of economic stability for those people who send students to the very schools you want to outsource.

Furthermore, you seem to be placing a lot of “faith” in an unproven solution. I wrote to you last summer about how unproven the ASD districts were in Tennessee. I stated,

“You claim to have talked with the Tennessee governor and those responsible for the Achievement School District. Simply do a “Google” search on ASD in Memphis and you see the polarizing results of Tennessee’s experiment with the charter school takeover. Whether the criticisms are all valid or not, the fact that so much animosity exists begs for there to be more open discussion about the use of charter schools to “takeover” failing schools. And Rep. Bryan, the words “open discussion” never really apply to you when it concerns your phantom bill.

In reading the Oct. 29, 2013 article from The Atlantic entitled “When Outsiders Take Over Schools: Lessons From Memphis”, I noticed that those who praise the ASD’s efforts talked about the smaller classes, more one-on-one teaching, and tighter structure. If those are ingredients for success in turning around schools, then why are you advocating policies that remove class size caps, lower per pupil expenditures, and abolish teaching assistants in the very schools you hope will be taken over?”

When confronted with the questionable nature of ASD’s results in TN, you seemed to acknowledge its limitations. An NC Policy Watch report (http://pulse.ncpolicywatch.org/2016/05/25/breaking-house-committee-approves-controversial-achievement-school-district-bill/) reported,

“On Wednesday, Bryan acknowledged “mixed results” for the program in Tennessee, but argued that the district did report some gains in the third year of operations.

“We can compare it to other states, but we’re looking to create something unique for North Carolina with its own guard-rails and parameters where we’re learning from other states,” said Bryan.

You never engaged in a public debate about how to best help our “failing” schools with our own proven resources. There are state-driven teams that are doing good work using taxpayer money to reinvest in our schools. But it seems that you want someone to profit from this monetarily. Dr. June Atkinson, whose opinion about public schools I trust because she has extensive educational experience, even has cautioned you about ASD’s.

Atkinson told Policy Watch in January that she believes the state “would get a better return on their investments by going with a model that has proven positive results.”

Atkinson said the state’s efforts would be better spent offering additional support and funding to low-performing schools, in addition to greater flexibility in their calendar and curriculum.

But that would not profit anyone monetarily, would it now?

In fact, when looking at the whole picture, it seems that you are trying to solve a problem that you have helped to create with even a worse solution.