“Pro-Life” Also Means Taking Care Of Those Who Are Already Born

Since we are nearing the holiday season, I tend to think of this part of Dickens’s classic holiday novella.

“At this festive season of the year, Mr. Scrooge,” said the gentleman, taking up a pen, “it is more than usually desirable that we should make some slight provision for the Poor and destitute, who suffer greatly at the present time. Many thousands are in want of common necessaries; hundreds of thousands are in want of common comforts, sir.”
“Are there no prisons?” asked Scrooge.
“Plenty of prisons,” said the gentleman, laying down the pen again.
“And the Union workhouses?” demanded Scrooge. “Are they still in operation?”
“They are. Still,” returned the gentleman, “I wish I could say they were not.”
“The Treadmill and the Poor Law are in full vigour, then?” said Scrooge.
“Both very busy, sir.”
“Oh! I was afraid, from what you said at first, that something had occurred to stop them in their useful course,” said Scrooge. “I’m very glad to hear it.”
“Under the impression that they scarcely furnish Christian cheer of mind or body to the multitude,” returned the gentleman, “a few of us are endeavouring to raise a fund to buy the Poor some meat and drink, and means of warmth. We choose this time, because it is a time, of all others, when Want is keenly felt, and Abundance rejoices. What shall I put you down for?”
“Nothing!” Scrooge replied.
“You wish to be anonymous?”
“I wish to be left alone,” said Scrooge. “Since you ask me what I wish, gentlemen, that is my answer. I don’t make merry myself at Christmas and I can’t afford to make idle people merry. I help to support the establishments I have mentioned—they cost enough; and those who are badly off must go there.”
“Many can’t go there; and many would rather die.”
“If they would rather die,” said Scrooge, “they had better do it, and decrease the surplus population. Besides—excuse me—I don’t know that.”
“But you might know it,” observed the gentleman.
“It’s not my business,” Scrooge returned. “It’s enough for a man to understand his own business, and not to interfere with other people’s. Mine occupies me constantly. Good afternoon, gentlemen!”

christmas-carol


The above passage from A Christmas Carol also comes to mind any time I hear elected officials talk about the role of government and the role of individuals in a nation that professes to be Christian in its founding and in its morals.

Below are three statements made directly by elected officials or posted on their official websites concerning morals and values. I am most interested in their use of the term “pro-life.”

“I believe strongly in the sanctity of life, and I have had the privilege of seeing many pro-life bills passed during my time in office. I am committed to standing up for the most vulnerable among us.” – Dan Forest, Lt. Gov. of NC

“A pro-life and pro-traditional marriage Senator who believes in religious freedom, Senator Berger has fought to protect the unborn and the rights of magistrates and government officials who choose to opt out of gay marriages or other ceremonies because of religious objections.” – philberger.org

“After 30 years of work on pro-life legislation, we were able to produce significant advances for the protection of the unborn and their mothers.  We ended tax funded abortions and sex selection abortion.  We authorized regulations to protect the health and safety of women at clinics. The Woman’s Right to Know Act with its 72 hour waiting period is reducing abortion rates by about 25%.” – Paul “Skip” Stam from paulstam.info

It is easy to confine the labels “pro-life” and “pro-choice” to the arena of unborn children. But the issue of abortion is not really the subject of this post.

Why? Abortion is too big of an issue to tackle in a personal essay and I am certainly not convinced that declaring yourself “pro-choice” automatically means that you condone abortion in any situation. Life throws too many qualifications into its equations to make all choices an either/or choice.

When my wife and I received a pre-natal diagnosis that our son had Down Syndrome, we were fortunate enough to be able to talk to a genetic counselor at Wake Forest Baptist Hospital. The state of North Carolina had at the time in its laws stated that an abortion could not be performed after a certain date in a woman’s pregnancy. If we had chosen to have an abortion, we would have had to make that decision in a rather small amount of time.

We did not seek an abortion; it was not an option for us, but it was rather surreal to receive phone calls from health providers talking about that option because they had to legally inform us of our rights/options/legal restrictions. You might be shocked to know the percentage of people/couples who choose to abort with the information we had. I was.

It’s 93%. That’s right. 93%. And I am not about to judge those who did choose what is legally their right in the eyes of the law. There are too many variables in lives that I do not live to run around and make judgement calls.

I also will never carry a child in a womb. Neither will Dan Forest. Neither will Phil Berger. Neither will Paul Stam. Neitehr will Trump or whoever wins the governor’s race.

We had Malcolm and I would not trade anything for the experience of being his parent. Anyone who knows me and my family can testify to that. But he is no longer “unborn.” He is now in our world among others who need help to lead fulfilling lives.

However, I do get rather irritated when the terms “pro-life” and “pro-choice” are used in a polarizing fashion, especially for political gain. And when I see the above three statements by prominent politicians, I do not necessarily sense a “pro-life” message as much as I sense an “anti-abortion” message.

Because “pro-life” means so much more than that.

Why are we not protecting the lives of those who are already born? I feel that being “pro-life” is not a matter reserved for the issue of abortion and the unborn, but should include those who are living and need help.

Hubert Humphrey once said in 1977, “the moral test of government is how that government treats those who are in the dawn of life, the children; those who are in the twilight of life, the elderly; those who are in the shadows of life; the sick, the needy and the handicapped.

If you are “pro-life” then it would make sense that you would look to the welfare of those who cannot necessarily defend themselves without help like the “children, the elderly, and the sick.”

Is it not ironic that many who ran on a strict “pro-life” platform seem to be in favor of privatizing or redefining the very services that help sustain the lives of those whom they claim to champion.

Think of Medicaid that my own son has been on the waiting list for because he will need its services earlier than most people. If it becomes privatized, it may jeopardize his chances of getting the help he needs when he gets older. Within the state of North Carolina, not expanding Medicaid affects many “children, the elderly, and the sick.”

Nationally speaking, think of Obamacare that insures many who would not be eligible if such a plan was not in place. While it is anything from perfect, it has insured many people who were never insured before. And have the parties in charge of the government offered anything else except “free-market?”

Think of the use of tax payer money to fund vouchers and charter schools that are actually privatizing public schools all in the name of “choice” when there should be a push to fully fund all public schools and provide for their resources because public education is a public service and not a private entity.

Dan Forest once said in reference to the HB2 debacle, “We value our women too much to put a price tag on their heads.

But hasn’t some of the “choices” that have been made by those in power been made because there was some sort of price tag on it?

It seems that many of the politicians who claim to be hardline “pro-lifers” are helping to privatize the very institutions that are giving “life” to many individuals. And they are doing it in the name of free-markets, where people are supposed to be able to choose what they want hoping that the “market” controls prices and quality.

How ironic that many politicians who proclaim to be “pro-life” become “pro-choice” when it pertains to those who are already born.

I would have a hard time thinking that Jesus would call himself “pro-life” and allow for big banks (look at what Wells Fargo did) and pharmaceutical companies (think of EpiPens) to literally control prices and the market without a fight.

I would have a hard time thinking that Jesus would have been willing to allow public money to fund private entities without input from the public itself.

I would have a hard time thinking that Jesus would not confront politicians and call them out for their hypocrisy in not defending or helping take care of those who needed aid.

The Jesus I know called out the Sadducees and the Pharisees for their self-righteous ways.

The Jesus I know did not canvas for votes. He came to help all of us no matter race, gender, or physical ailment.

The Jesus I know preached and practiced the Golden Rule.

Growing up Southern Baptist in a region of the country known as the Bible Belt, I was constantly (still am) confronted with the question, “When you meet your Maker after you die, how will you answer for your actions?”

Yet the more I think of it, there might be another more important question that will require an answer from me and from all of us, especially those who have the power to positively affect the lives of people. That question is “What will you say when you meet your Maker and you are asked to answer for your lack of action?”

Back to Dickens. When Scrooge asked Marley’s ghost, who practiced an incredible amount of selfishness in life, about his afterlife, he was treated to a very terse lesson in what it meant to be “pro-life.”

“Oh! captive, bound, and double-ironed,” cried the phantom, “not to know, that ages of incessant labour by immortal creatures, for this earth must pass into eternity before the good of which it is susceptible is all developed. Not to know that any Christian spirit working kindly in its little sphere, whatever it may be, will find its mortal life too short for its vast means of usefulness. Not to know that no space of regret can make amends for one life’s opportunity misused! Yet such was I! Oh! such was I!”
“But you were always a good man of business, Jacob,” faltered Scrooge, who now began to apply this to himself.
“Business!” cried the Ghost, wringing its hands again. “Mankind was my business. The common welfare was my business; charity, mercy, forbearance, and benevolence, were, all, my business. The dealings of my trade were but a drop of water in the comprehensive ocean of my business!”

When you become an elected official, then your business is humankind. That’s being “pro-life.”

Rep. Paul “Skip” Stam’s Ridiculously Below “Average” Op-Ed on Teacher Pay – I Mean, It’s Not Even Average

Rep. Paul Stam’s recent op-ed in EdNC.org entitled “Teacher Pay: Rhetoric vs. Reality” is yet another example of the strong confirmation bias that the senior Wake County representative suffers from in his explanation of teacher pay.

And there are many different aspects of his meandering argument that could be rebutted with ease.

Such as the claim that there was a “cumulative average pay raise of about 13.8 percent” for teachers in the last three years that is wildly misleading.  Any person following the teacher pay debate can see that most every teacher did not see a 13.8 percent raise in salary, but a fraction of that, especially veteran teachers. Those raises were reserved mainly for beginning teachers at the lower rungs of the pay scale.

Or that he used selective figures for rise in cost of living to substantiate arguing that “from 2013 to 2016, the cumulative increase in cost of living was about 3.02 percent.” Most people would just look at the consumer price index conversion calculator to see what the effect of inflation has been.

Or that he used a Koch Brothers funded think tank like the 1889 Institute to argue that teacher pay really ranks at 29th in the nation. So many other trusted outlets show North Carolina still lags behind most all states like the NEA report that focuses solely only education and teacher pay.

Or that he ignores that North Carolina’s state constitution stipulates that the state has the responsibility for the financing of basic functions for public education like salaries for personnel, services for special-needs students, technology, professional development, and even textbooks. Rep. Stam simply says it is the biggest expense and does not explain that in the past we have even spent a bigger percentage of the budget on public education.

Or that he relies on older U.S. Census numbers to substantiate his argument. Most people in education look at more recent information like the National Education Association to get a more current view.

Or that he says all teachers get $16,000 in benefits when most of the teachers are now paying more to have the “benefits” they receive. Many teachers do not even get their health insurance from the state as it is not very competitive with spousal plans. Also with salaries topping out at $51K for new teachers, the state’s commitment to retirement funds is now lowered.

However, it is Stam’s raging addiction to the word “average” which he uses throughout his unfocused and meagerly developed op-ed that really needs rebutting.

Rep. Stam states,

“Now WRAL, the News & Observer, and others are trying to deny the obvious – that there was a significant pay raise this year for teachers. They apparently don’t know what the word “average” means. They find someone who received less money than the “average” and claim that the “average” pay raise is irrelevant. Someone at these media giants should read the dictionary and learn what the term “average” means.

The 2014-15 pay raise was oriented towards beginning teachers, some of whom received pay raises as high as 18 percent. This year’s raise targeted middle and more experienced teachers, some of whom received raises as high as 13 percent. It would not be proper to use these high outliers in ads. Neither is it proper to use outliers on the other side of “average.”

That’s a whopping five times that the word “average” was used in those two paragraphs. That is an average of 2.5 times per paragraph just quoted above. In fact, Stam uses the word “average” a dozen times in his entire op-ed for an average of 1.3 times per paragraph.

He used the word “average” so many times that he made “average” just an average word.

But it is his insistence that media giants should read the dictionary to learn what the word “average” means that was so out of place, because the Average Jane or Average Joe knows that “average” does not necessarily mean “actual” and while dictionaries offer denotations, there are many connotations associated to words like “average.”

Teachers know a little bit more about the spun rhetoric surrounding teacher pay than the average bear would. Teachers know that while Stam claims that teacher salaries are above average, the really are below average.

On the average, a GOP politician like Stam would tout “average” teacher raises in an election year to hopefully persuade voters to still vote republican in November in order to average out negative publicity surrounding HB2 and Voter ID laws.

However, while Stam may believe that his op-ed is a cut above the average in terms of hailing his party’s accomplishments, it cannot defy the law of averages because his argument does not hold even an average amount of water.

In this case, Stam’s rhetoric and the reality of the situation do not average out.

And in a complex issue like teach compensation it is very hard to try and average something up and expect the average teacher to just accept it as gospel.

Local Supplements For Teachers Mean More Than You May Think

When Gov. McCrory signed the latest budget into effect this past July he made sure to mention the election year raises given to teachers first.

According to Katherine Peralta’s report in the July 14th Charlotte Observer,

The Republican governor says the $22.34 billion budget includes an average 4.7 percent pay increase for teachers across the state, meaning that for the first time in state history, average pay will be more than $50,000 a year, including local supplements by counties (http://www.newsobserver.com/news/politics-government/state-politics/article89575312.html#storylink=cpy).

There’s a term in that statement upon which the truth really hinges. Do not mind that the average pay will decrease over time as the highest salary a new teacher could make in the new budget is barely over 50k. That is fodder for another argument like this one, https://caffeinatedrage.com/2016/07/17/the-ignoramasaurus-rex-how-gov-mccrorys-claim-on-average-teacher-pay-is-not-really-real/ .

The term I am referring to is “local supplement.”

You may be wondering, “What the hell is that?” Well, a local supplement is an additional amount of money that a local district may apply on top the state’s salary to help attract teachers to come and stay in a particular district. While people may be fixated on actual state salary schedule, a local supplement has more of a direct effect on the way a district can attract and retain teachers, especially in this legislative climate.

My own district, the Winston-Salem /Forsyth County Schools, currently ranks 19th in the state with local supplements. Our neighbor, Guilford County, ranks much higher.

Arika Herron’s report in the August 7th edition of the Winston-Salem Journal does an exceptional job of highlighting the effect of local supplements. The article “Schools looking for ways to cut spending, boost salaries” defines teacher supplements as a way “to improve teacher recruitment and retention.” It also talks about how it is viewed in the eyes of teachers and elected officials. Take a look at some of the quotes ( http://www.journalnow.com/news/local/schools-looking-for-ways-to-cut-spending-boost-salaries/article_f487023a-9aec-52a3-b084-20e0bf323091.html?mode=image&photo=).

Trey Ferguson is a younger teacher from Wake County.

Trey Ferguson said salary supplements were a huge factor when he and his wife were looking for their first teaching jobs three years ago.

An N.C. State graduate, Ferguson said they looked in the areas where both he and his wife grew up, but local salary supplements didn’t compare to what Wake County Public Schools were offering.

Jim Brooks is a veteran teacher in Wilkes County.

For veteran teachers, the supplements can be viewed differently. Because the supplements have to come from local funds — those provided by local governments through taxes — supplements can also be seen as a measure of community support, said Jim Brooks, 31-year teaching veteran with Wilkes County Schools.

Brooks said that while salary supplements weren’t something he considered when looking for his first job and are not enough to draw him away from the home he’s made in Wilkes County, they can be a way that teachers get a sense of their value in a community.”

“It’s kind of saying, ‘We value the work you do; We want to go beyond how the state compensates you,’” he said.

One board member here in WSFCS, Lori Goins Clark, says,

“We need to do better for our teachers. They don’t get paid enough to do one of the hardest jobs there is in the world.

Another board member, Elisabeth Motsinger, expressed a different angle.

Board member Elisabeth Motsinger questioned whether the district’s other efforts to recruit and retain teachers, like more professional development opportunities and new teacher-leader initiatives, might be more meaningful than a modest supplement increase that equates to less than $10 each month.

But it is the next quote from Motsinger that really helps to shed light on the discussion concerning local supplements.

“The reason Wake has such huge supplements is they ask taxpayers to pay higher taxes,” she said. “That money has to come from somewhere and somewhere means taxes.”

She said the dreaded word – “taxes.” All of a sudden the local supplement becomes a burden.

In reality, professional development opportunities are always available. They have to be in order for teachers to remain certified. Also, in the past, professional development opportunities were given with stipends because they were conducted outside of school hours and contract times. That required money.

I would be interested in what Motsinger means by “teacher-leader” initiatives, but if it means what Rep. Skip Stam talks about with merit pay, it will require much more explanation and buy-in. And money. Besides local and state leaders would need to be willing get out of the way of teachers when these initiatives are brought to light, and there is not a record of allowing educational professionals to have a vital role in initiatives within this state these past ten years.

What gets twisted here is that in creating local supplements for teachers many mitigating factors come into light and when McCrory made his statement about average teacher salaries reaching 50k with local supplements he was telling you that he was placing more of a burden on local districts to create a positive spin on his policies in an election year.

The budget that was passed and signed by McCrory cut monies to the Department of Public Instruction, therefore limiting DPI’s abilities to disperse ample amounts of money to local county and city districts. When local central offices have less money to work with, they then have to prioritize their needs to match their financial resources.

It is not just about whether to have a couple of program managers for the district. It’s about whether to allow class sizes to be bigger so that more reading specialists can be put into third grade classes, or more teacher assistants to help special needs kids like mine succeed in lower grades. Or even physical resources like software and desks.

What McCrory’s administration did was to create a situation where local districts had to pick up more of the tab to fund everyday public school functions.

What adds to this is that McCrory’s administration is siphoning more and more tax money to entities like charter schools, Opportunity Grants, an ASD district, and other privatizing efforts. Just look at the amount of money the state has spent on private lawyer fees to defend indefensible measures like HB2, the Voter ID law, and redistricting maps? If what is reported by Rob Schofield is correct, and there is no reason to not think it is not, that’s enough money to fund 180 teaching positions alone (http://pulse.ncpolicywatch.org/2016/08/08/report-state-spends-more-than-9-million-on-private-lawyers-to-defend-indefensible-laws/).

But back to this word “tax” used by Motsinger. What she should have said is “investment in our teachers.” Look at the stats concerning local supplements that Herron includes in her report. Wake ranks the highest, Guilford County is sixth, and WSFCS is 19th.

But this is telling.

localsupplement

These differences can add up. For a younger teacher, that can swing a decision. And we in WSFCS get a lot of teacher candidates. Look at the teacher preparation programs that surround us – Wake Forest, Winston-Salem State, Salem College, App State, and UNCG just to name a few that actually place student teachers in my school, West Forsyth.

For a veteran teacher like myself, a competitive local supplement could mean that I feel valued by the very system that still lacks enough teachers to start the school year fully staffed.

So, what can a district’s community do to help teachers come and stay in a particular district?

  • They can look at local supplements as a way of investing rather than being taxed.
  • They can go and vote for candidates on the state level who support public education.
  • They can go and vote for county commissioners who are committed to helping fully fund public schools.
  • And they can go and investigate how all of the financing of schools works. It is not as black and white as some may believe it is. Rather it is very much interconnected.

The current culture in our state has not been very kind to public school teachers. Competitive local supplements could go a long way in showing value in public schools.

The Compare and Contrast Paper – EdWeek.org’s Interesting Article

 

This past week Education Week released an online compare and contrast the candidates on all things education. It is entitled “Compare the Candidates: Where Do Clinton and Trump Stand on Education?” You may find it here – http://www.edweek.org/ew/section/multimedia/president-candidates-trump-clinton-education.html.

When my wife shared this particular link with me, I imagined that I had already known where each candidate stood on issues such as school choice and common core, but this investigation went further including issues such as bullying, college access school construction, spending, and teacher quality.

When you click on any of the “topics” you will see a bullet list of points made by each candidate at the bottom of the screen.

edweek1

The compare / contrast bullet points are very helpful, but the quotes that serve as a prelude for each candidate’s position offer a very clear perspective in the major difference between Clinton and Trump when it pertains to public schools.

edweek2

And that difference is fostering an environment of collaboration versus one of competition.

The following table is a list of the quotes that were drawn from the EdWeek.org article for particularly hot-button items concerning pubic education in North Carolina. I have highlighted (rather bolded) key buzzwords and phrases that appear in those quotes. When those buzzwords are put together in groups according to the candidates, something very stark appears – the difference between collaboration and competition.

Issue Clinton’s Words Trump’s Words
Academic Standards “When I think about the really unfortunate argument that’s been going on around common core, it’s very painful, because the common core started off as a bipartisan effort—it was actually nonpartisan. It wasn’t politicized, it was to try to come up with a core of learning that we might expect students to achieve across our country.”

—Community college speech as reported by The Washington Post, April 2015

 

“So, common core is a total disaster. We can’t let it continue.”

—Facebook video

 

Bullying “Bullying has always been around, but it seems to have gotten somehow easier and more widespread because of social media and the Internet. … I think we all need to be aware of the pain and the anguish that bullying can cause.” —Iowa town hall even No specific quote from

Trump. However, The Southern Poverty Law Center, an advocacy group, recently cited an unscientific survey of teachers it said shows that Trump’s campaign rhetoric is linked to more students feeling unsafe or singled out by their peers.

 

Early-Childood Education “It’s hard enough to pay for any preschool or child care at all, let alone the quality programs that help kids develop and flourish. Funding for these opportunities has not kept up with changing times and rising demand.”

—Campaign appearance in New Hampshire

 

No specific quote from Trump. Hasn’t laid out any thoughts about early education as a Republican presidential candidate
School Choice “I have for many years now, about 30 years, supported the idea of charter schools, but not as a substitute for the public schools, but as a supplement for the public schools.”

—Town hall meeting, South Carolina

 

“Education reformers call this school choice, charter schools, vouchers, even opportunity scholarships. I call it competition—the American way.”

—The America We Deserve

 

School Spending No specific quote from Clinton. However, Has said sufficient education funding is necessary to implement the Every Student Succeeds Act. Has called for new investments in computer science education, early-childhood education, college access, and more.

Wants to double funding for the Education Innovation and Research grants, the successor to the $120 million Investing in Innovation program.

 

“We’re number one in terms of cost per pupil by a factor of, worldwide, by a factor of many. Number two is so far behind, forget it.”

—CNN town hall

 

Teacher Quality “I want all educators, at every stage of your careers, to know that they’ll be able to keep learning, improving, innovating. And that goes for administrators, too.”

—Speech to National Education Association

 

“Our public schools have grown up in a competition-free zone surrounded by a very high union wall.”

—The America We Deserve

 

Testing Tests should go back to their original purpose, giving useful information to teachers and parents. … But when you’re forced to teach to a test, our children miss out on some of the most valuable lessons.”

—Speech to National Education Association

 

No quote.

 

With Clinton’s quotes you see words and phrases like “”bipartisanship”, “aware of the pain and anguish” of bullying, “opportunities”, “all”, charter schools that should not “as a substitute for the public schools”, and that “tests should go back to their original purpose.”

With Trump, words and phrases include “disaster”, “competition”, “wall”, and “forget it.”

I have been very consistent in my views concerning collaboration and competition in the public service arena. And I will state it again as I have before with Rep. Skip Stam here in NC,

 “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?”

If you read the quotes for all of the topics explored in the EdWeek.org article, you might see one candidate actually trying to listen to teachers.

The other one is not.

Open Letter to Gov. McCrory and the NCGA Concerning Bonus Pay for Teachers

Dear Gov. McCrory and members of the North Carolina General Assembly,

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

I will be receiving $2,000 in bonuses this year for having a certain number of students pass the AP English Language and Composition Exam for the 2015-2016. Many of you may think that it will somewhat ameliorate tensions with public school teachers like me. I do not think it will at all. I feel that it just exacerbates the real problem: lack of respect for all public school teachers.

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

I have read about this provision of bonus money frequently in the summer. It’s in the budget that the governor is expected to sign this week, a provision adding bonus pay for teachers of Advanced Placement, International Baccalaureate, CTE, and 3rd grade. As the News and Observer reported this week (http://www.newsobserver.com/news/politics-government/state-politics/article89154042.html),

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1. I do not need a carrot stick. If getting a bonus to get students to perform better really works, then this should have been done a long time ago. But it does not. I do not perform better because of a bonus. I am not selling anything. I would like my students and parents to think that I work just as hard for all of my students in all of my classes because I am a teacher.

2. This creates an atmosphere of competition. I did not get into teaching so that I could compete with my fellow teachers and see who makes more money, but rather collaborate with them. Giving some teachers a chance to make bonuses and not others is a dangerous precedent.

3. I did not take those tests. The students took the tests. Sometimes I wish that I could take the tests for them, but if you are paying me more money to have students become more motivated, then that is just misplaced priorities. These students are young adults. Some vote; most drive; many have jobs; many pay taxes. They need to be able to harness their own motivation and hopefully I can couple it with my motivation.

But many of these students are taking eight classes, participating in extracurricular activities, and helping families. Plus 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. The content, study skills, time management, discipline that students must exercise to pass the AP test certainly did not all come from me. Everyone on staff, every coach, every PTSA volunteer has helped to remove obstacles for students so they could achieve.

5. Bonus pay does not work. It’s like merit pay. There is really no evidence that it helps public schools. Remember the ABC’s from the late 1990’s and the early 2000’s? Yep, I do too.

6. The state does not have a reputation of fully funding their initiatives. Again, remember the ABC’s? I still do. Those bonuses dried up because they were not fully funded. And after the bonuses are taken away in the future (which they probably will), will the expectations of student performance be lessened? History says that it will not.

7. My class is not more important as others. They all matter. I wrote Rep. Stam last fall concerning his views on merit pay and what subjects were more important than others,

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

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

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

9. This is a reward, but far from showing respect. It’s an election year. Many teachers got a raise, but again that is an “average” raise. Bonuses in this case seem more like “hush money” and a means to brag that you seem to care about teacher compensation. But if you really respected teachers, you would do more for them than give “bonuses” to a few of them. You would reward them with salaries comparable with the rest of the nation. You would restore due-process rights for new teachers, you would give back graduate degree pay, you would stop measuring schools with a defeatist model, and you would restore longevity pay.

10. It’s pure electioneering. There is uncontrolled charter school growth. There are loosened sanctions on for-profit virtual schools. There are massive amounts of money going to Opportunity Grants which will no doubt fill the coffers of schools that do not even teach the same curriculum as those teachers you want to “reward” with these bonuses. There is HB2, HB3/TABOR, and an ASD district still out there. There is the lowered per pupil expenditure. All of this affects the very schools that you think a bonus will help to hide.

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

Stuart Egan, NBCT
West Forsyth High School

You Need to Know This Term – “Sine Die”, Or How the NCGA Will Not Let Bad Bills Die

Can you identify these Latin terms and phrases?

  • “Carpe Diem” – Dead Poets Society
  • “E Pluribus Unum” – look at a dollar bill
  • “Et Cetera” – also known as “etc.”
  • “Et tu, Brute?” – read some Shakespeare
  • “Fac simile” – just the fax
  • “In memoriam” – can be saddening
  • “Magna Cum Laude” – not on my diploma
  • “Pater familias” – watch Oh Brother! Where Art Thou?
  • “Pro bono” – sounds legal
  • “Semper fidelis” – Marines
  • “Terra Firma” – you are hopefully standing on it
  • “Wingardium Leviosa” – ask any Potter fan

And…

  • “Sine Die” – What the hell is that? Just wait

What do these people have in common?

  • Paul “Skip” Stam
  • Bob Rucho
  • Tom Apodaca
  • Buck Newton
  • Fletcher Hartsell
  • Daniel Soucek

All of these incumbents are not seeking reelection to the North Carolina General Assembly after this term – a term that actually ends at the end of 2016, not at the end of the summer session of the NCGA.

When the General Assembly adjourned this weekend, it did not mean that these lawmakers’ tenure of havoc ended. Why?

Because the House adjourned “SINE DIE” which if you know your Latin means “without day”. According to a post from the great public school advocate Yevonne Brannon, “To adjourn an assembly sine die is to adjourn it for an indefinite period. A legislative body adjourns sine die when it adjourns without appointing a day on which to appear or assemble again.”

It means they did not set a return date. They can reconvene at any time before public schools go back to classes. They can reconvene at any time before the November General Elections.

This General Assembly has already shown us that it will meet in a special session; that’s where we got HB2.

This General Assembly and its leadership has already shown us that it will meet behind closed doors without public debate.

This General Assembly has shown us that it will hold press conferences but not give the press the material to review in order to ask important questions.

This General Assembly has shown us that it will hold midnight votes to discourage floor debates.

And do not think that the same people who have done the above will not come back to take care of business that they have tabled because of the bad publicity it has garnered specifically the following:

  • Background Checks for Teachers
  • The Math Bill
  • Charter School Funding
  • TABOR, also known as HB3
  • HB2 fund to fight the Feds

This is not a group that will easily just let those items stay on the table for the 2017 session.

Brush up on your Latin!

Merit Pay for Teachers and Other Bad Ideas

Much of what written below was also in a letter to Rep. Paul “Skip” Stam in response to an interview he gave concerning teacher pay. With the idea being floated to give bonuses to teachers whose students pass AP, IB, and CTE tests, the myth of merit pay needs to be revisited.

I do not know of a single instance in public education where merit pay actually has increased student achievement. Yet, many lawmakers (mostly Sen. Skip Stam) not only advocate merit pay, but differential pay based on the willingness “to take on additional tasks” like clubs, coaching, mentor, and chairing of departments. And now there is an item in the latest budget that sets aside $4.9 million for a 2-year pilot to give teachers a $25 or $50 bonus for each student who receives good test scores on AP or IB course tests or CTE tests.

First, look at merit pay as a whole. 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? Add that to the fact that teachers are teaching more classes and more students than in the past. That alone raises the stakes.

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. Just look at the formula for the grading of schools still in place. The overreliance on test scores alone shows that a bottom line figure that can be interpreted in many ways stigmatizes schools where real student growth is occurring. When some of our colleagues deal with students who experience more poverty, health issues, and other factors, then how can one say that those teachers do not “grow” those students when an arbitrary test score is all that is used to measure students?

Besides, if the NCGA thinks merit pay is effective, then I would question their 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 was that it pitted teachers against each other. Another problem is that Raleigh decided not to fund it any longer.

That reason alone makes the idea of giving bonuses for the passing of AP, IB, and CTE course tests to individual teachers a terrible idea. It is saying that some test are more important than others. It is saying that some teachers have a harder job than others simply because of the title of the course. There’s more to it than that.

I teach multiple sections of AP English Language and Composition. Some years I have over 150 AP students in my classes. That’s a lot. To say that all of them will have a passing grade on the AP test in May of the school year is ludicrous. The national pass rate is well below 60%. BUT THEY ALL LEARN AND GROW AS WRITERS.

While I may teach a “tough” course, to say that I alone deserve the credit for their passing the test is also ludicrous. So many other teachers in the lives of those students helped to hone the skill set needed to allow them to even be in the class to begin with. History teachers gave them context for a lot of their arguments. Science teachers and math teachers gave them a basis in logical thinking. Other English teachers gave them a foundation for writing well. And that’s just the tip of the metaphorical iceberg.

How would any lawmaker like to be subject to a system of merit pay as a legislator? Since each person in the NCGA does work that effects all of our state, maybe an evaluation should be conducted by people outside of each legislator’s district arbitrarily chosen without input and that legislator’s pay would be dependent on that report. What if those people were registered with another political party who supported LGBT rights?

The argument for differential pay does not hold much water either. It is very hard to quantify what teachers do for the betterment of the school community. On top of teaching more classes and more students now than when I first taught in NC, I serve on committees, perform duties, attend workshops while having to provide sub plans, work on recertification, coach academic teams, sponsor two clubs, chair a fantastic English department, and provide tutoring. Can you honestly put a market value (words you used) on that? Oh, that does not include the hours spent at home grading and planning.

If North Carolina paid teachers on an hourly wage at “market” value, then Raleigh would literally see almost every teacher’s income double, but that would tarnish our reputation for being in the lowest rung of states in compensating teachers. And if market value is something that some want to use as a guideline for teacher pay, then simply look at our teacher salaries in comparison to other states. In that context, we are literally driving the market down.

 

Politics and the God Complex – Putting Jesus on the Ticket

“And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites. For they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.” Matthew 6:5-6 ESV

This post will piss off some people, but here it goes.

I believe Donald Trump is a very smart man. No. Really. Very, very smart.

I also believe that he understands very well how to provoke people. He sees invisible buttons on people that can be pressed and cause visceral reactions in them that will help his presidential aspirations.

  • Wall built by Mexico to keep Mexicans out? Check
  • Ban all Muslims from entering the country? Check
  • Own the Twittersphere? Check
  • Get endorsed by God? Working on it.

Yesterday, Donald Trump addressed a group of “high-profile evangelicals ahead of speaking before a larger group of religious leaders at a gathering hosted by the Christian group, United in Purpose” according to a CNN report (http://www.cnn.com/2016/06/21/politics/donald-trump-hillary-clinton-religion/).

In that meeting, he questioned Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama’s religious affiliations. He said,

“We don’t know anything about Hillary in terms of religion. Now, she’s been in the public eye for years and years, and yet there’s no — there’s nothing out there. There’s like nothing out there. It’s going to be an extension of Obama but it’s going to be worse, because with Obama you had your guard up. With Hillary you don’t, and it’s going to be worse.”

I actually find that humorously hypocritical coming from Trump, a man who has disparaged women, Muslims, Mexicans, and those less fortunate than himself.

Furthermore, if Jesus came back to earth right now I envision him walking around in a pair of blue jeans and wearing a t-shirt with some sandals. And I do not think he would be at Trump rally. Far from it. At least that isn’t the Jesus I have come to understand. To me Jesus wasn’t even religious. He was spiritual.

At the end of his initial meeting in this venue, Trump said something that really struck me as arrogant. He said,

“What you really have to do is pray to get everybody out to vote, for one specific person. And we can’t be — again — politically correct and say we pray for all of our leaders because all of your leaders are selling Christianity down the tube, selling Evangelicals down the tubes.”

You may question who that one specific person might be, but to me there is no doubt that Trump told people to pray that God puts him in the White House.

Of course he did, he’s a salesman. And hypocritical to me.

He is simply trying to buy the evangelical vote. Literally buying it. That’s what he does, because Trump seems to worship money and power.

And nothing could be more unChrist-like in my mind.

But it is amazing how many American politicians seek to gain a political endorsement from the Son of God.

Trump is a smart man. He knows that seeking the endorsement of God is essential to garnering a very faithful voting segment of the population. Many in our state have done it.

Take a visit to the website for the Congressional Prayer Caucus Foundation – http://cpcfoundation.com/. That’s .COM. It’s commercially driven.

Now take a look at the North Carolina Caucus members – http://cpcfoundation.com/north-carolina-prayer-caucus-members/. See some familiar names?

  • Governor Dan Forest
  • Senator David Curtis, Co-Chair
  • Senator Chad Barefoot
  • Senator Joyce Krawiec
  • Senator Buck Newton
  • Senator Jerry Tillman
  • Representative Rob Bryan
  • Representative Paul Stam

These eight lawmakers abide by the CPCF’s Vision and Mission which state,

  • Protect religious freedom, preserve America’s Judeo-Christian heritage and promote prayer.
  • The CPCF will restore and promote America’s founding spirit and core principles related to faith and morality by equipping and mobilizing a national network of citizens, legislators, pastors, business owners and opinion leaders.

All in the name of religious freedom. Talk about your separation of church and state.

Look at that list again. I have written all of them before on issues in which I feel they were taking exclusionary and biased approaches that ultimately hurt people.

Not a single one of them has ever written me back or even commented on what I had to say. Maybe they prayed for me. Maybe not. Certainly not out loud. Perhaps in a closet?

To me Jesus never hid behind a religious agenda. In fact, I see his confrontations with the Pharisees and the Sadducees as evidence that those who always claim to know the will of God might be the very people who need “go into their rooms and shut the door and pray to the Father who is in secret.”

Maybe they should not brag about it. Or use it as a political crutch. Or use it as a way to raise money.

Trump cannot really be a part of the CPCF – he is not a politician, but if he could he would because I think he wants that pipeline of “support” to become president.  And he would get donations from that affiliation.

And from what I have seen from the latest news reports, Trump needs a lot of donations.

Open Letter to John Hood – UnLOCKEing the John Locke Foundation, Part 3

Dear Mr. Hood,

Your op-ed in The Carolina Journal (later reposted on EdNC.org.) entitled “How to Pay Teachers More” is another example of the deliberate disconnect from the reality of the teaching profession that many in Raleigh seem to not only revel in, but share as gospel.

And this column is just another attempt to broadly describe the condition of state education reform in North Carolina with glossy rhetoric as a way to present the current administration as champions of public education.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

You are printed widely and read by many in the Old North State. As the former president (and current chariman)of the John Locke Foundation and the current president of the John William Pope Foundation, you have enjoyed the financial backing of one of the most powerful people in the state, Art Pope. No doubt that financial backing comes with its share of ideological mentoring, meaning that whatever is printed by the John Locke Foundation or the Carolina Journal (part of the Pope Foundation) by you has a certain slant to it pleasing to the people who fund its creation.

This op-ed makes many claims, provides little details to lend evidence and never really explains how your claims are verifiable.

Consider the following:

  1. You state, “Well, North Carolina is projected to run a substantial budget surplus this year. That, in turn, reflects the benefits of a growing economy, overall spending restraint during the past five years, and lower-than-expected growth in enrollments in other programs and institutions.”

Interestingly enough, that budget surplus was created by a tax revenue overhaul crafted by none other than Art Pope, who not only serves your mentor and boss, but also served as Gov. McCrory’s first budget director. You may claim that we have had lower tax rates than we did before McCrory took office, but there’s more to it.

While tax cuts did come for many, standard deductions were greatly affected. Many of the standard deductions and exemptions that were once available to citizens like teachers no longer exist. In fact, most people who make the salaries commensurate of teachers ended up paying out more of their money to the state, even when “taxes” went down. Why? Because we could not declare tax breaks any longer. Who designed that? The budget director.

Furthermore, there is now a rise in sales tax revenue because many services like auto repairs are now taxed. So to say that the surplus just appeared because of spending limitations is a little bit of a spun claim. In fact, most of those spending limitations in public schools came when we saw increased enrollment and costs of resources rise.

  1. You make another faulty claim when you say, “They’ve (Raleigh) junked forms of compensation that didn’t produce better instruction, such as the foolish practice of paying teachers to get largely irrelevant graduate degrees, while focusing legislative attention on starting salaries and pay raises for teachers in their early careers, which is when most improvement in teacher effectiveness occurs.”

You have made this claim before in an op-ed called “Not a matter of degrees” that was posted on EdNC.org last fall. I also made a rebuttal to this op-ed entitled “Why teachers believe advanced degrees matter”. Anyone can read the two and make his/her own decision.

But the assertion that teacher effectiveness mostly occurs in the early part of the career is misleading. With as many curriculum changes, standardized test changes, and teacher evaluation models that have evolved, and the growth of duties, class sizes and more classes to teach, it would be foolish to say that rising teacher effectiveness is only relegated to the first few years.

One, it is a way of foolishly validating why raises were given only to new teachers during this administration. Two, most new teachers look to veteran teachers for mentoring and growth. Three, most people cannot decide how to really measure teacher effectiveness because of so many changing parameters.

Furthermore, if veteran teachers have stopped improving, then how would you explain graduation rates increasing? (Actually, that is a whole other subject worth discussing).

  1. You further claim, “Still, policymakers seem inclined to continue reforming the way teachers are compensated, including differentiation by demonstrable need and pilot programs for performance pay. Given the petty politics and irresponsible rhetoric employed by their left-wing critics, this qualifies as courageous leadership deserving of conservative support.”

This is called “merit pay”. There is not one example of a merit pay model that has been successful in my memory. If you could offer any examples, your op-ed would have been a great place to list them.

Rep. Skip Stam has championed this idea. I wrote him an open letter this year explaining that his idea of merit pay and differentiated pay was faulty (http://www.ncpolicywatch.com/2016/02/03/a-public-school-teachers-open-letter-to-state-rep-paul-stam/). Some of the points I made included:

  • “The bottom line is that merit pay destroys collaboration and promotes competition. Effective public schools are collaborative communities, not buildings full of contractors who are determined to outperform others for the sake of money.”
  • “The GOP-led NCGA still does not seem to acknowledge that student growth is different than student test scores.”
  • “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. It was never financed.”

If there is no explanation of what this merit plan would look like, then it is nothing but a baseless claim.

  1. You then bring in the latest NEA report and claim, “As the latest NEA report makes clear, North Carolina has raised teacher pay more than any other state in the nation since McCrory took office in 2013. The state still ranks relatively low in average salaries expressed in nominal dollars, but the NEA itself cautions readers of its teacher-salary report not to treat such a ranking as meaningful… For example, variations in the cost of living may go a long way toward explaining (and, in practice, offsetting) differences in salary levels from one area of the country to another.”

You are correct. Cost of living does vary greatly among the states. In fact, it varies greatly among counties in North Carolina. The Triangle versus the Triad versus Asheville, or Wilmington, or even the Outer Banks could show dramatic differences in terms of cost of living just within our boundaries.

However, when quoting Dr. Terry Stoops of the John Locke Foundation and his “preliminary analysis” is asking a biased individual to affirm a claim. You and Dr. Stoops practically work for the same organization. It’s like a pharmaceutical company funding its own study to show that the latest drug it is marketing works better than the competition’s. It’s simply loaded. A “preliminary analysis” from a non-biased third party would be more believable.

Also the NEA report that you refer to is a 130 page .pdf. It also includes many nuggets of info that do not show such “growth” in NC’s educational condition. One really sticks out when talking about teacher salaries. We are 48th in Percentage Change in Average Salaries of Public School Teachers 2004-2005 to 2014-2015 (-10.2) – Table C-14.

Furthermore, those “raises in teacher pay” included the elimination of longevity pay which all public sector employees receive, EXCEPT TEACHERS. What really happened was that the NCGA took money from the pockets of educators and then presented back to them in the form of a raise all the while promoting it as a commitment to teachers. It’s like robbing someone and then buying them a gift with the stolen money and keeping the change.

  1. You claim, “In fast-growing states such as North Carolina where schools must hire new teachers every year just to keep up with enrollment, the teacher population tends to be disproportionately young. Ranking salaries by years of experience would bring North Carolina even closer to the national median.”

If that is not a rousing endorsement of keeping veteran teachers who have been through population shifts and constant flux to help new teachers, then I do not know what is.

Furthermore, if we have a rising population, then we as a state better be doing more to cater to the very teacher preparation programs that have served our schools in the past. Mr. Hood’s assertion that veteran teachers are somewhat stagnant in effectiveness and that graduate degrees do not matter is possibly alluding to a tendency to contract alternate teacher training programs like Teach For America. Just ask other metropolitan areas how that has worked for them. San Francisco just terminated their contract with TFA this past week.

  1. Finally you state, “Instead of chasing headlines or poorly measured statistical goals, McCrory and legislative leaders are boosting and reforming teacher compensation in order to attract and retain high-performing educators to some of the most essential and challenging jobs in the public sector.”

Concentrate on the phrase “some of the most essential and challenging jobs in the public sector.” That describes teaching in public schools fairly well. But has it always been that essential and challenging? Yes, it has.

Mr. Hood, why are you so clearly endorsing policies that will not adequately pay for teachers to do this essential and challenging service? Maybe because when you see the word investment, you look for a monetary return that profits you. When you see the word investment, it is always a cash transaction?

McCrory’s claim to want to raise teacher pay looks more like pure electioneering. It is synonymous to a deadbeat dad who shows up at Christmas with extravagant gifts so that he can buy the love (or votes) of his children.

Public education is an investment in people in all years, not just every four years.

 

Stuart Egan, NBCT

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Going Barefoot When You Need Wading Boots or Legivangelism 101 – An Open Letter to Sen. Chad Barefoot

Dear Sen. Barefoot,

No doubt many in your party have congratulated you on your recent appointment to the Chairmanship of the very important Senate Education Committee which oversees the state’s K-12, Community College, and UNC systems. Additionally, you were reaffirmed as the Chairman of the Senate Education Appropriations Committee.

In your brief tenure as a legislator (3 years), you now not only have a direct hand in the funding of public schools and universities in North Carolina, you now have a direct say in how those monies are used.

As a veteran public school teacher and parent of two children in traditional NC public schools, I cannot congratulate you on this “achievement”.  To me, your new role on West Jones Street is nothing more than a political ploy to have someone in the mold of a Sen. “Skip” Stam and Sen. Phil Berger to continue the General Assembly’s assault on our public schools.

Your voting record that aligns strictly along party lines, your sponsorship of key acts of legislature that alienate many of the very children you represent, and your very own words firmly support my assertion that you not the person needed to decide the fate of public schools.

Sen. Barefoot, your voting record on “Key” votes as revealed in on votesmart.com shows that out of 48 votes shown, you voted “yea” for all but 6. However of those other six, you were the sponsor of co-sponsor which means that your vote already was a “yea”. You voted only “Nay” on two of them. Ironically those two had to deal with sales tax, which many counties use to fund their schools (https://votesmart.org/candidate/key-votes/136399/chad-barefoot#.Vzh75ZErJ1s).

This voting record of yours is just indicative of the rubber stamp that you would be in the Senate Education Appropriations Committee. That does not bode well for public school children when opaque charter schools and virtual schools are given more funds and less oversight, when vouchers are set to get more tax-payer money, and when federal government had slapped a law-suit on our state.

On the NCLEG.net website you are listed as the actual primary sponsor on a variety of bills that have been detrimental to public schools and their employees. The most apparently egregious are:

  • Senate Bill 444 – Teacher Compensation Modifications. This bill raised pay for new teachers, while deliberately ignoring veteran teacher pay in an attempt to raise “average” pay.
  • Senate Bill 536 – Students Know Before You Go. This bill was “AN ACT TO PROVIDE ACCURATE AND COMPLETE DATA TO STUDENTS ON 3 POSTSECONDARY STUDENT COMPLETION, GRADUATION, AND EARNINGS FOR OUTCOMES AT NORTH CAROLINA POSTSECONDARY INSTITUTIONS.” In reality, it was a way to discourage students from pursuing certain majors because of how they were monetarily presented. Some of those were education preparation programs in UNC system schools which might help explain why you co-sponsored Senate Bill 836.
  • Senate Bill 836 – Alternate Teacher Preparation. This is an act that would authorize local school systems to have more lateral entry. What this really means is that you spend less to obtain in many cases less qualified teachers to teach in hard to staff areas. Rather than elevate the teaching profession, you are making the teaching profession less desirable to those in NC.
  • Senate Bill 862 – Opportunity Scholarships Forward Funding. This will give more money to vouchers thereby diverting tax-payer money to more religious-based and private schools that do not have to maintain standards that public school must. More importantly, nothing has shown that these vouchers have actually increased student achievement for those who use them.

You were also a co-sponsor of SB2 (2014) that prohibited the expansion of Medicaid for many in North Carolina. That alone hurts MANY children who attend public schools. Your vote for the controversial HB2 bill threatens federal funding for the very schools for which you now are dictating policy.

Sen. Barefoot, your strong faith is emphasized on your Facebook page, website, and also highlighted by Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary where you obtained a Master’s Degree in Christian Ethics. SEBTS even did a special profile of you on their website entitled “Southeastern Graduate Chad Barefoot: The Youngest Senator in North Carolina” (https://www.sebts.edu/headlines/articles/SoutheasternGraduateChadBarefootNCSenator.aspx).

In this profile you state,

“How amazing is it that Baptists in this state, collectively, have taken care of the needs of young children for over 125 years. What started out as an orphanage now looks to rebuild broken families. Baptists provide physical and emotional shelters for children but also tell them about Jesus. The focus is to find them an eternal home… After prayerful consideration I realized that what the state [of North Carolina] needed was leaders who were well-grounded in understanding the difference between right and wrong.”

As a man of faith, I will not argue with the assertion that children are our most precious gifts. Taking care of their needs is paramount. But does your concept of the difference between right and wrong derive from your interpretation of the Bible or from the Constitution, the same constitution that allows for same-sex marriage to be legal and protects basic civil rights regardless whether people believe in the same religion or spiritual path?

Christ was the greatest of teachers, one who stared down people in power and admonished them on behalf of those in need. And when we in North Carolina have almost one in four children living in poverty, then there are a LOT of children in need.

So with a political record that denied Medicaid expansion to many families of these children, kept monies from going to their public schools, and discriminated against those who are transgendered, how can you honestly say that you are willing to ensure “that every child in North Carolina has access to a high-quality education”?

When people take office they are usually asked to put a hand on the Bible to uphold the Constitution, not the other way around. And our state constitution requires that all our students have the right to a quality public education, whether those students are poor or rich, Christian or non-Christian, straight or gay or even transgender.

Your actions, allegiances, and words do not suggest you are willing.