If Mark Johnson Wants to be “Data-Driven,” Then He Might Want to Look at the Data

“While it is unfortunate that it took more than a year and hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars to resolve this matter, the positive news is that we will be able to utilize the data-driven analysis to reorganize DPI to help the agency focus on its core mission of supporting educators, students and parents across North Carolina.” – Mark Johnson (6/8) on the Supreme Court decision in case with SBOE.

The idea of using data to drive policy is not a new occurrence. But it is sometimes hard to quantify the qualitative aspects of public education.  Some officials like to look at proficiency levels and scores. Teachers tend to look at growth. One is a snapshot. The other is a look at the terrain traveled.

But if Mark Johnson is now going to use some data-driven analysis, there is some irrefutable data that provides a very clear picture of what can be done to help public education here in North Carolina.

1. Poverty Influences How Well Students Perform in a State Where Over 1 in 5 Public School Students Lives in Poverty

Picture4

That is from the 2015–16 Performance and Growth of North Carolina Public Schools Executive Summary, NC DPI.

In Sept. of 2016, Mark Johnson said, “The transformation of our public education system will open true pathways out of poverty” (https://www.ednc.org/2016/09/07/our-american-dream/).

Maybe attacking poverty at its root sources could do so much to help education. The data tends to show that.

2. Average is Not Actual When It Comes To Teacher Pay

Johnson and the people he allies himself to in the GOP super majority take a lot of time talking about how “average” teacher pay has risen.

Here’s a data point.

  • In 2017 the average teacher pay in North Carolina was %16 behind the national average. In 2018 the average teacher pay in NC was STILL %16 behind the national average.

Consider the following table compiled by John deVille, NC public school activist and teacher veteran who has chronicled the various changes in educational policy for years. He tracked the recent teacher pay “increase” and used DATA-DRIVEN logic to show something rather interesting.

teacherpay2019

What deVille did was to compare salaries as proposed from the recent budget to the 2008-2009 budget that was in place right before the Great Recession hit, the same financial catastrophe that most every GOP stalwart seems to forget happened ten years ago. Adjusting the 2008-2009 salary schedule with an inflation index from the Bureau of Labor, the third column shows what those 2008-2009 salaries would be like now. Most steps see a shortfall. Add to that the loss of longevity pay that was used to help finance these “historic raises” and the amount of money lost by teachers over these past ten years becomes rather eye-opening.

Also notice that the biggest shortfalls happen to veteran teachers. That not only affects take home pay, but also retirement because the average of the last four years helps to project pension.

Look at the charts below from the recent Teacher Working Conditions Survey released by Johnson’s office this past week.

years employed

Take notice of the number of veteran teachers in the state. Compare that to the number of teachers in the state who have less than ten years experience. There’s a trend going on in teaching here in NC. More teachers are leaving the classroom at earlier times in their career. The number of veteran teachers in the state will drop as years go by.

Even Mark Johnson left the classroom after two years. That’s a data point.

3. Public Education is the Top Employer in Most Counties

North Carolina has 100 counties (with 115 LEA’s), each with a public school system. According to the Labor and Economic Analysis Division of the NC Dept. of Commerce, the public schools systems are at least the second-largest employers in nearly 90 of them—and the largest employer, period, in almost 70. That means teachers represent a base for most communities, the public school system.  And teachers are strong in numbers.

Picture1

If people went to the polls in November and had public education as a top priority and had unspun information helping to inform decisions on whom to elect, then there could be significant change occurring quickly.

4. When Lawmakers Say They Are Spending More on Education, It Doesn’t Mean That Per-Pupil Expenditures Have Risen

Here’s a recent Facebook post from Senator Joyce Kraweic.

kraweic facebook post

Say in 2008, a school district had 1000 students in its school system and spent 10 million dollars in its budget to educate them. That’s a 10,000 per pupil expenditure. Now in 2018, that same district has 1500 students and the school system is spending 11.5 million to educate them. That district is spending more total dollars now than in 2008 on education, but the per-pupil expenditure has gone down –  significantly to over 2300 dollars per student or 23 percent.

What many in Raleigh like Kraweic want to pat themselves on the backs about is that we as a state are spending more on education than ever before. And that’s true. Just listen for the many examples to come from legislators looking to get reelected this year to the NC General Assembly yet passing a budget through a nuclear option to avoid having to answer questions about the facts.

But when the average spent per pupil does not increase with the rise in the cost of resources and upkeep and neglects to put into consideration that the population of North Carolina has exploded in the last couple of decades, then that political “victory” becomes empty.

5. Lots of Teachers Already Know These Data Points

IMG_6484

North Carolina Teacher Pay is Still 39th And Why The Cost Of Living Adjustment Argument is Erroneous

John Hood of the John Locke Foundation tweeted the following yesterday in response to the NEA’s recent report on teacher pay that had North Carolina still well below the national average.

hood1

Interestingly, he tagged it to #nced and referred all readers to a recent post by his colleague Dr. Terry Stoops, the Vice President for Research and Director of Education Studies for the John Locke Foundation. He must have wanted a lot of people to read this.

The John Locke Foundation is a libertarian-leaning think tank whose findings and studies on North Carolina’s public schools is so bent toward a political ideology that celebrates “school choice” and vouchers that it tends to spin data and research so much that it hopes readers will not take the time to actually look into the data themselves.

Stoops writes in his post,

Earlier today, the National Education Association (NEA) released their annual Rankings and Estimates report.  According to the report, North Carolina’s average teacher salary for 2018 ranked 39th out of the 50 states and Washington, D.C.

But the NEA ranking does not adjust for cost of living.  When C2ER cost-of-living indices for 2017 are applied, North Carolina’s rank jumps to 29th in the nation.  Last year, North Carolina’s cost-of-living adjusted average salary was 33rd in the nation (https://lockerroom.johnlocke.org/2018/04/23/adjusted-teacher-pay-rank-29th-in-the-nation/).

Stoops then presents a table that uses the C2ER index for each state.

table1

And if one took Stoops’s interpretation at face value, then he is exactly right.

The Cost of Living Index used by Stoops is represented in the map below that the C2ER uses (https://www.missourieconomy.org/indicators/cost_of_living/).

map

But Stoops simplifies it too much. Even C2ER says so.

C2ER stands for the Council for Community and Economic Research and it even warns against using the cost of living index in such a broad stroke as Stoops has done. Within its 2017 Cost of Living Index, it states,

“For 23 years, participation in the Cost of Living
Index was open to all places, regardless of size.
In the late 1980s, however, several rural places
with very small populations began
participating, and it became apparent that
adherence to the specifications in many such
places wasn’t possible. There’s no doubt that
small rural places offer an alternative to an
urban professional or managerial standard of
living that many people find attractive, but such
places are qualitatively different from urban
areas, and they simply don’t support the kind of
urban lifestyle embodied in the Cost of Living
Index.

The Committee has concluded that
participation in the Index should be restricted to
areas that can reasonably be considered urban
and patterned its restrictions after the federal
government’s distinction between urban and
rural areas.”

You can read that document here: http://coli.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/06/2016-COLI-Manual.pdf. The above is on page 4. In fact, the the C2ER site actually prefers that the index be used when comparing cities to cities – not state to state.

C2ER

The very warning that C2ER gives in using its COL Index is deliberately ignored by Stoops in order that he keep on his shallow narrative that teacher pay in North Carolina is not all that bad.

Take this a little deeper and one can see that another factor Stoops conveniently ignores is that average teacher pay in North Carolina varies LEA to LEA. Local supplements that are given to teachers in some counties are much better than in other localities because those places can afford to do that. That creates a wider disparity in salaries for teachers within the state.

Metropolitan LEA’s like Wake County can give a bigger salary boost to teachers than many of the rural counties, some of whom cannot give a local supplement at all. And Stoops as well as Hood should know that rural counties suffer more when it comes to staffing schools.

This simplification of the data is not an oversight. It’s part of a plan – a deliberate attempt to sway the narrative to favor those who see simply investing in the public school system at a reasonable rate a burden.

So when Hood says in his tweet, “Even if you disagree, here’s where we really are,” it seems that he doesn’t really know where we are.

 

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

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

Berger1

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

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

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

And now four years later:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

All of Those “Reforms” and “Historic Pay Raises” And NC is Still What?… About That CBS Report

On April 3rd, CBS News released a report entitled “The 9 states where teachers have it worst.”

When it comes to teacher pay, many politicians point at the “benefits” that teachers receive and tend to quantify that in an argument that teachers are fairly compensated. However, while those benefits are generous to those who have been grandfathered into them such as the retirement pension plan and retiree health insurance, those very pension plans are the targets of many states who are trying to manipulate the actual compensation of teachers who are newer.

Even the CBS report makes note of those benefits:

To be sure, teachers may not earn as much as other professionals, but they receive pensions, a retirement benefit that’s increasingly rare for Americans. A study of California public school teachers by the left-leaning think tank Economic Policy Institute found that the majority “earn a healthy return on contributions and a level of retirement security few participants in account-style plans can count on” (https://www.cbsnews.com/amp/news/the-9-states-where-teachers-have-it-worst/?__twitter_impression=true).

However, public school teachers usually do not receive severance pay, cannot negotiate salaries, do not get promotions unless they go into “administration,” get stock options, or can participate in a matching 401K plan.

The report then states,

There are 29 states where teachers are earning less than they did in the 1999-2000 school year, according to Education Department data. The cost of living has increased almost 50 percent since then. 

Afterwards, the report highlights the five states “where teachers saw the biggest decline in pay on an inflation adjusted basis.”

There was Arizona. Things are pretty bad in Arizona.

Then there was Michigan. That’s Betsy DeVos’s home state.

Then there is North Carolina.

The state’s educators earn just shy of $50,000 per year on average, slightly below the national figure. But their annual pay has declined almost 12 percent since 1999-2000, after adjusting for inflation. 

State tax cuts have been problematic for the state, according to the CBPP, which found that North Carolina is among the 7 states that have both reduced general school funding and cut income taxes. 

But has not the GOP-controlled North Carolina General Assembly enacted all of these reforms to “strengthen” public education? Well if one considers the following as “reforms”:

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

Then it may not be hard to see how North Carolina has made that list.

teacher-pay-changes

 

 

An Open Letter From a Veteran North Carolina Teacher to Young Teachers – You Are Vital

letter writing

Dear Fellow Educator,

I first want to tell you that I admire what you have chosen to do as a career. Teaching in today’s public schools is not easy. I know as I am in my 20th year of teaching. I still love my job. I still love being with the students. Outside of my family, this profession has fulfilled me like no other. I firmly believe my students would concur if asked.

And it has kept me young at heart and sharp in mind.

One of the main reasons I have adored public school teaching is I had great veteran teachers who mentored me and engaged with me, and who cared about how I progressed as an individual and professional.

But I worry about the future of our profession in North Carolina sometimes. I am afraid that we will not have as many veteran teachers in the future as we do now. That’s why I want to try and convince you to stay in the profession.

You are needed. You are vital. You can be agents of change and staunch advocates for schools and students. You can improve the profession and secure the very items that will strengthen our profession. You are beginning your career at one of the most crucial times where educational reform is at a fever pitch and schools are under constant scrutiny.

Teaching is that one “occupation” that everybody has some sort of stake in. If you are not a student, former student, parent of a student, employer of former students, then you are at least paying taxes to help support public schools. People who invest in any way, shape, or form are stakeholders and many will go out of their way to tell you what is right or wrong about our schools.

Teaching might be the most openly exposed, yet most misunderstood profession. With changes in curriculum, standards, evaluations, graduation requirements, salaries, policies, resources, laws, and personnel, it is arduous for even us veteran teachers to keep pace. Public education takes the largest part of our state budget; it probably takes up the most debate time and committee meetings in the General Assembly.

Class sizes are larger. High-stakes testing quantifies everything. Data gets crunched by outside entities. There are meetings with parents and administrators. There is the planning and grading and the revising of differentiated lesson plans.

And then there are our students, the very reasons why we do what we do. Their needs are upmost in our priorities.

Those needs are many: academic, mental, psychological, emotional, and physical. Those needs force us to “wear many hats.” Those needs force us to always learn how to best serve our students in conditions that could never be measured by standardized assessments.

When I became a teacher, my venerable uncle gave me some of his usual sage advice. A retired English teacher, he still is revered by former students. It was he who became the model for what I still strive to do in classroom. He told me when I began teaching to give it three years.

The first year would be a whirlwind simply trying to learn how to plan, execute, and instruct students. The second year would be a paper maelstrom because I was still trying to learn how to be a part of a school community and understand the inner workings of the school. The third year my immune system would get to the point where I wouldn’t catch every malady that students had and I would have familiarity with the job as a whole. My third year would be where I could see the profession holistically.

But the one thing he always stressed: enjoy the students. When the door closes for class, you can help some amazing things happen.

Students are what have kept me in this profession. With all of the flux that occurs in education, the criticism that schools receive, and the constant need for resources and support, students have been the constant and consistent foundation in my career.

Yes, the faces change from year to year, but they never disappear. Many will always want to stay in contact. All will have made an impression on you and you will impact them. If students always remain the center of what you do as an educator, those other stressors can be dealt with in proactive ways.

Having younger teachers energizes a school building. You bring in new ideas, contagious energy, and constant reminders of why we do what we do. You come in with new uses for technology and new pedagogical approaches. And it is up to us veterans to be useful mentors, good sounding boards, and constructive critics.

It is also a veteran teacher’s job to show you how to advocate for students and schools. It is that advocacy that helps keep students the focus of what we do and when we keep the focus on students we tend to stay in the profession longer, and when teachers stay in the profession longer it ensures that when new teachers come into the profession there will always be veterans there to help them and learn from them.

When I started teaching in North Carolina we had due-process rights, a salary schedule, and graduate degree pay increases. We had state-funded professional development and fewer standardized tests. We had a General Assembly that did a better job at fully-funding public schools. We had more time for each student to help “personalize” instruction.

Unfortunately, many of those conditions no longer exist. But they can again if you fight for them.

Advocating for students and schools means that you advocate for the teaching profession because schools do not work well without empowered teachers. Students need strong teachers who are supported for what they do; therefore, the more you advocate for the teaching profession, the more you are advocating for students and schools. It could mean that you make sure to vote in elections. It could mean that you join a professional organization like NCAE. It could mean that you write op-eds, visit legislators, or become involved with teacher groups. It could mean doing all of these.

Many in Raleigh will tell you that your average pay has increased as a beginning teacher an incredible amount. But if you really look at the overall picture, the removal of due-process, the removal of graduate degree pay increases, the recent mandate to keep new teachers from having state supported insurance when they retire, the stunted salary schedule, and all of the other measures enacted by the current NCGA, you will see why there are fewer teacher candidates in our colleges and universities.

But you are here, and I want you to stay. Your students, schools, communities, and fellow educators want you to stay, grow, and advocate. I want you to become a better veteran teacher than I am today who is willing and ready to help any new teacher get better at what he / she does which is help students. I want you to feel empowered to take action. I want you to be able to speak up for your profession, even if it means confiding only in trusted colleagues.

I will promise you this: if students see you advocating for them and their school, they will move mountains for you because when you keep students at the center of what you do, they will notice and act in kind.

And students are the reason we are here.

Our Public Schools Are Better Than the NCGA Would Want You to Believe

Our public schools are better than you may think.

Probably a lot better.

With the constant dialogue that “we must improve schools” and the “need to implement reforms,” it is imperative that we as a taxpaying public seek to understand all of the variables in which schools are and can be measured, and not all of them are quantifiable.

And not all of them are reported or allowed to be seen.

Betsy DeVos’s recent assertion on 60 Minutes that America’s schools have seen no improvement despite the billions and billions of dollars thrown at them was nearsighted, closeminded, and rather uneducated because she is displaying two particular characteristics of lawmakers and politicians who are bent on delivering a message that public schools are not actually working.

The first is the insistence that “they” know education better than those who actually work in education. DeVos has no background in statistical analysis, administration, or teaching. The second is the calculated spin of evidence and/or the squashing of actual truth.

Last week DeVos tweeted the following:

What she did not say was that:

  • “The U.S. average performance appears to be relatively low partly because we have so many more test takers from the bottom of the social class distribution.”
  • “A sampling error in the U.S. administration of the most recent international (PISA) test resulted in students from the most disadvantaged schools being over-represented in the overall U.S. test-taker sample.”
  • “Conventional ranking reports based on PISA make no adjustments for social class composition or for sampling errors.”
  • “If U.S. adolescents had a social class distribution that was similar to the distribution in countries to which the United States is frequently compared, average reading scores in the United States would be higher than average reading scores in the similar post-industrial countries we examined (France, Germany, and the United Kingdom), and average math scores in the United States would be about the same as average math scores in similar post-industrial countries.”
  • “On average, and for almost every social class group, U.S. students do relatively better in reading than in math, compared to students in both the top-scoring and the similar post-industrial countries.”

Those bulleted points come from a study by Richard Rothstein and Martin Carnroy entitled “What do international tests really show about U. S. student performance?” Published by the Economic Policy Institute, the researchers made a detailed report of the backgrounds of the test takers from the database compiled by the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA).

Either DeVos does not want you to know that information because it would defeat her reformist narrative or she just does not know. But when the public is not made aware, the public tends to believe those who control the dialogue.

Those who control the dialogue in North Carolina and in many other states only tell their side of the spin and neglect to talk of all of the variables that schools are and should be measured by.

Consider the following picture/graph:

schools 1

All of the external forces that affect the health of traditional public schools generally are controlled and governed by our North Carolina General Assembly, rather by the supermajority currently in power.

The salaries and benefits that teachers receive are mandated and controlled by the NCGA. When graduate degree pay bumps and due-process rights were removed from newer teachers, that affected recruitment of teachers. When the salary schedule became more “bottom-heavy” for newer teachers, it affected the retaining of veteran teachers.

With the changes from NCLB to RttT, from standard Course of Study to Common Core, from one standardized test to another, and from one curriculum revision to another, the door of public school “requirements” has become an ever-revolving door. Add to that the fact that teachers within the public schools rarely get to either help create or grade those very standardized tests.

North Carolina still spends less on per-pupil expenditures than it did since before the Great Recession when adjusted for inflation. Who has control of that? The North Carolina General Assembly.

Within the next ten years, NC will spend almost a billion dollars financing the Opportunity Grants, a voucher program, when there exists no empirical data showing that they actually improve student outcomes. Removing the charter school cap also has allowed more taxpayer money to go to entities that do not show any more improvement over traditional schools on average. When taxpayer money goes to vouchers and charter schools, it becomes money that is not used for the almost %90 of students who still go to traditional public schools.

And just look at the ways that schools are measured. School Performance Grades really have done nothing but show the effects of poverty. School report cards carry data that is compiled and aggregated by secret algorithms, and teacher evaluation procedures have morphed more times than a strain of the flu.

When the very forces that can so drastically affect traditional public schools are coupled with reporting protocols controlled by the same lawmaking body, how the public ends up viewing the effectiveness of traditional public schools can equally be spun.

schools 2

If test scores truly dictated the effectiveness of schools, then everyone in Raleigh in a position to affect policy should take the tests and see how they fare. If continuing to siphon taxpayer money into reforms that have not shown any empirical data of student improvement is still done, then those who push those reforms should be evaluated.

So much goes into what makes a public school effective, and yes, there are some glaring shortcomings in our schools, but when the very people who control the environment in which schools can operate make much noise about how our schools are failing us, then they might need to look in the mirror to identify the problem.

Because in so many ways our schools are really succeeding despite those who want to reform them.

The “Ignoramasaurus Rex” – How The Average Teacher Pay Increase in NC is Not Really Real

T. Keung Hui’s report for McClatchy Regional News entitled “N.C. teachers are now averaging more than $50,000 a year” is really not what it appears to be simply because that average salary is being bolstered by the very people that the NC General Assembly wants to rid the state of: veteran teachers with due-process rights.

Hui, the venerable education reporter for the Raleigh News & Observer, begins:

The average salary for a North Carolina teacher has increased to more than $50,000 a year for the first time.

Recently released figures from the state Department of Public Instruction put the average salary for a North Carolina public school teacher at $51,214 this school year. That’s $1,245 more than the previous school year.

The $50,000 benchmark has been a major symbolic milestone, with Republican candidates having campaigned in 2016 about how that figure had already been reached. Democrats argued that the $50,000 mark hadn’t been reached yet and that Republicans hadn’t done enough, especially for highly experienced teachers.

The average teacher salary has risen 12 percent over the past five years, from $45,737 a year. Since taking control of the state legislature in 2011, Republicans raised the starting base salary for new teachers to $35,000 and gave raises to other teachers (http://www.journalnow.com/news/state_region/n-c-teachers-are-now-averaging-more-than-a-year/article_e3fe232c-1332-5f6e-89e5-de7c428436fb.html ).

One particular part to make note of there is “raised the base salary for new teachers.” Those raises to other teachers pale in comparison.

Ironic that this will be the first year that this has happened considering that then Gov. Pat McCrory in an effort to get teachers to vote for him touted a claim of 50K as an average a couple of years ago.

Remember this from the last election year in 2016?

mccrory

You cannot find that website now. But it was there making the claim of 50K a year.

The operative word here is “average”. What GOP stalwarts purposefully fail to tell you is that most of the raises have occurred at the very low rungs of the salary schedule. Of course, you can raise the salary of first year teachers by a few thousand dollars and it would give them an average raise of maybe 10-15%. You would only have to give veteran teachers a very small raise funded by longevity pay (which we no longer get) and the OVERALL average raise still looks good, and not much money has to be invested.

“Average” does not mean “actual”. Actually it’s like an average of the average. But it sounds great to those who don’t understand the math.

This report reflects a whopping double standard of the NC General Assembly and a total contradiction to what is really happening to average teacher pay. Just follow my logic and see if it makes sense.

The last six years have seen tremendous changes to teacher pay. For new teachers entering in the profession here in NC there is no longer any graduate degree pay bump, no more longevity pay (for anyone), and a changed salary schedule that only makes it possible for a teacher to top out on the salary schedule with a little over 51K per year.

pay

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

Easy. North Carolina is counting all of the veteran teachers’ current salaries in that figure. The very people whose salaries simply disgusted the former governor and the General Assembly to the point that they had to take measures to “lower” them are actually being used to tout this new wonderful “average.”

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

Plus, those LEA’s will have to do something in the next few years to raise even more money to meet the requirements fo the delayed class size mandate.

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

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

You can if you are only talking about the right here and right now.

The “average bear” can turn into a bigger creature if allowed to be mutated by election year propaganda. That creature is actually a monster called the “Ignoramasaurus Rex” known for its loud roar but really short arms that keep it from having far reaching consequences.

Remember the word “average” is a very easy word to manipulate. Politicians use it well. In this case, the very teachers who are driving the “average” salary up are the very people that the state wants to not have in a few years. There will then be a new average. It can’t possibly be over 50K then if current trends keep going.

 

 

The Silence of the NC State Superintendent on Public Schools And a Fear of Tough Questions

silent

I don’t get to choose my students. Whoever walks into my classroom and is on the roll I receive from the school system will get the best instruction that I can offer.

And in those classes, I do not write a script. Students are always allowed to ask questions, especially tough ones. If I know answers, then good. If I can lead them to answers, then great. If I do not know the answer, then I tell them and we search for answers together.

The tougher the question, the better. It means higher order thinking is going on. It also makes me as a teacher keep striving to learn and be more prepared. It makes me accountable and “accountable” is a word that some in Raleigh use in talking about others rather than reflecting on themselves.

In fact, I should never shy away from an inquisitive student. Nor should any public official shy away from an opportunity to offer answers, clarification, and/or insight from anyone who is affected by his/her actions or lack of actions.

When State Superintendent Mark Johnson first took office over a year ago, he embarked on what he termed as a “listening tour” as he vowed to listen directly from teachers, parents, community leaders, and other stake holders in North Carolina.

But has Mark Johnson done any speaking about what he has heard? Has he come back to teachers, parents, community leaders, and other stake holders in North Carolina and shared those observations in an open forum where he could be asked pointed and direct questions?

He certainly had a chance this week.

Today, it was learned that Johnson declined an offer by Capital Tonight to debate NCAE President Mark Jewell on educator pay. Johnson turned down a chance to talk with an important public school advocate and offer explanation on his nebulous views on education.

He was not going to have any part of that. Maybe it was because of a scheduling conflict, but he could have offered an alternate date.

I believe it’s because it is a debate. He could not script all of his words and he would be forced to answer tough questions.

In the times that I have been able to glean any information from Mark Johnson about his stance on the many issues we public educators are facing now, it is from a prepared text carefully placed in chosen media.

And there has been nothing from Johnson about the class size mandate, the principal pay plan, or reductions in funding.

Interviews have been given to specific outlets. Video addresses are sent out after careful production. Op-eds are placed throughout the state without a chance for people to actively rebut. And when challenged in meetings like the state board meetings this past year, he remains vague or silent.

For a man who spends a lot of time talking about his teaching experience, Johnson should remember that teachers answer tough questions from really smart students about intricate subjects on a daily basis. Even the teachers who make 35K a year.

But the elected state superintendent who makes over 120K a year will not come on television and actively debate an educator concerning his own words about teacher pay.

Maybe it is a good thing he is not in the classroom any longer. There may be too many hard questions to answer.

silent

The Redundant Redundancy of Mark Johnson’s Comments on Teacher Pay

Yesterday, it was reported by Kelly Hinchcliffe on WRAL.com that the NC State Superintendent had hired another in-house loyalist with the extra money given to him by the General Assembly.

As stated in “NC superintendent hires new senior policy adviser:”

North Carolina Superintendent of Public Instruction Mark Johnson has hired a new senior policy adviser for his office. This marks the third position he has created and hired from a $700,000 fund of taxpayer money, which lawmakers granted him to add staff to his office (http://www.wral.com/nc-superintendent-hires-new-senior-policy-adviser/17300865/?platform=hootsuite).

It should not be lost that this new person is someone who is linked to charter schools which seem to be favored by Johnson.

Erika Berry will begin the job on Feb. 5 and make $80,000 a year, according to the superintendent’s office. She previously worked as director of external affairs for RePublic Schools in Jackson, Miss., education policy adviser for the lieutenant governor of Mississippi, executive director of the Mississippi Charter Schools Association, advocacy coordinator with the Mississippi Coalition for Public Charter Schools and as a middle school math teacher in Charlotte.

You can find out more about RePublic Schools here: https://republiccharterschools.org/.

Ironically, RePublic Schools do not get very high ratings from former employees according to an anonymous review site called Glassdoor.com which offers insights to potential places of work from former employees. Whether one is to believe those types sites is up to the individual, but there is a running theme for RePublic Schools in their profile for Glassdoor – https://www.glassdoor.com/Reviews/RePublic-Schools-Reviews-E921512.htm.

But it is what Hinchcliffe reports later in her story that makes one who has been following the “Mark Johnson – 35K salary for teacher” episode even more interesting.

The superintendent previously hired a community outreach coordinator at $72,346 a year and an administrative assistant at $38,867 a year with the $700,000 appropriation.

Remember last week when Johnson said that the base state starting salary of $35,000 for North Carolina teachers was “good money” and “a lot of money” for people in their mid-20s? (http://amp.newsobserver.com/news/local/education/article196911774.html?__twitter_impression=true).

johnson salary

The salary that the new administrative assistant for Mark Johnson will be receiving is almost four thousand dollars higher than what he considers to be a good starting salary for teachers.

And do not think that administrative assistants are not vital. They are. There many at my school who literally serve as the glue that keeps the school together. Any school could use more to help with the daily running of schools, especially those that are overcrowded.

However, it could be argued that most every teacher is his/her own administrative assistant. If you don’t believe that, then go park yourself inside of a large public school. And most every teacher serves as a community outreach coordinator as well, especially coaches and service club advisers.

When public schools are constantly having to show the positives in a state where both the state superintendent and General Assembly accentuate the negatives and do not fully fund public schools to be able to fully function, it’s fairly easy to see how public school teachers not only have to become very good at administrating all facets of school functionality but also have to interact with the public on a rather frequent basis.

Oh, and there’s still that teaching thing still to be done.

Funny how if you add the salaries of a beginning teacher, Johnson’s outreach coordinator and administrative assistant together you get roughly $145,000 a year.

Just a little more than what Johnson makes at 127, 561. But he gets all of that extra help, including that $700,000 trust fund.

Yet Johnson says that teaching is the most important profession.

“Teaching is the most important job. It’s one of the most difficult. Without teachers, no one else has a profession.” – Mark Johnson (http://www.wral.com/nc-superintendent-defends-teacher-pay-comments-amid-criticism/17292076/).

AND THEN JUST TODAY,  Johnson releases this video to all educators which touts his advocacy for higher teacher pay days after he said $35,000 was good enough (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6aKdTAwRYmE).

Johnson

That’s redundancy at its best.

There are those who may say that teaching really isn’t that complicated or nuanced and therefore is not even worthy of the pay it receives now. In fact, some may say that teachers are nothing more than paper-pushing babysitters.

Here is a tweet from 2016 that got some pre-election attention in NC.

tweet

So, what if we didn’t look at teachers as educators or community outreach people or administrative assistants, but just as babysitters? Would 35K be too much?

Well…

As far as baby-sitting goes, one would just need to keep the kids occupied, fed, clothed, and let them play without destroying personal property.

So, welcome to http://www.care.com/babysitting-rates. It was the first babysitter calculator website that came in a simple Google search. It seems to be a reliable source.

  • For zip code, an Asheville code was used as the person who authored the tweet lived there.
  • For number of children – 4+.
  • For experience, I entered 10+ because I have around 18 years of teaching experience.
  • And hours? I put in 60 a week. Why? That’s how much time I usually put into all the facets of my job.babysit1

The result is $18.00 dollars an hour.

babysit2

But there is more math involved!

At $18.00 an hour for four kids, it would need to be higher because I usually deal with 22-30 kids at a time. Actually, in the past few years my class sizes have averaged over 28 students per class. That’s seven times the amount of kids I have would receive $18.00 an hour for babysitting. Maybe if I just multiplied $18 by 7, then I get an adjusted per hour rate of $126.00 an hour.

You know, I will give a markdown. Call it the “unaccountability discount” as many seem to think teachers are unaccountable. Half off! That makes the hourly rate $63.00.

Now, I work on average about 10 hours a school day. Multiplying the new rate ($63.00) by 10 hours and I get a rate of $630 a day.

My contract stipulates that I teach kids 180 days a year. So my new daily rate ($630) multiplied by the number of contracted days, my “yearly” haul to babysit would be $113,400 for the school year.

Now you may say, “Hey, you don’t spend all of your ten hours a day directly with students.” And that may be true, but with coaching, sponsoring, duties, and preparing to have things for your students to do while I babysit them, I can pretty much say that I am still actively engaging with the kids.

And this new rate that you seem to propose doesn’t even include weekends and other days that I spend at “daycare” to prepare to take care of kids.

“So, what’s the market rate for an unaccountable degree-holding babysitter?”

The answer is $113,400.

Almost 80,000 more than what Mark Johnson says is a good salary.

And I do not get $700,000 to hire people to do my job for me. In fact, I have to administrate my own community outreach to help get enough just to use in the classroom for teaching.

 

 

 

 

Can Berger, Moore, or Barefoot Explain This? Concerning School Funding Levels Pre and Post Recession

Today the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities released a report on school funding in states that compared current funding with pre-recession levels.

Entitled “A Punishing Decade for School Funding”, the authors begin with this:

“Public investment in K-12 schools — crucial for communities to thrive and the U.S. economy to offer broad opportunity — has declined dramatically in a number of states over the last decade.  Worse, some of the deepest-cutting states have also cut income tax rates, weakening their main revenue source for supporting schools. 

Most states cut school funding after the recession hit, and it took years for states to restore their funding to pre-recession levels.  In 2015, the latest year for which comprehensive spending data are available from the U.S. Census Bureau, 29 states were still providing less total school funding per student than they were in 2008” (https://www.cbpp.org/research/state-budget-and-tax/a-punishing-decade-for-school-funding).

Yes, North Carolina was one of those states.

In fact, North Carolina was mentioned in several instances.

“As of the current 2017-18 school year, at least 12 states have cut “general” or “formula” funding — the primary form of state support for elementary and secondary schools — by 7 percent or more per student over the last decade, according to a survey we conducted using state budget documents.”

North Carolina was one of those states.

“Seven of those 12 — Arizona, Idaho, Kansas, Michigan, Mississippi, North Carolina, and Oklahoma — enacted income tax rate cuts costing tens or hundreds of millions of dollars each year rather than restore education funding.” 

There we are again.

“Not only did many states avoid raising new revenue after the recession hit, but some enacted large tax cuts, further reducing revenues. Seven of the 12 states with the biggest cuts in general school funding since 2008 ― Arizona, Idaho, Kansas, Michigan, Mississippi, North Carolina, and Oklahoma ― have also cut income tax rates in recent years.”

And, again.

“In order to accurately compare past and current education spending, North Carolina’s numbers do not include funding for one-time bonuses and increases for salaries and benefits for education personnel.”

For those who may argue that there were bonuses and “salary increases,” there is a lot more to that.  Consider the following:

https://caffeinatedrage.com/2016/07/14/open-letter-to-gov-mccrory-and-the-ncga-concerning-bonus-pay-for-teachers/

https://caffeinatedrage.com/2016/07/17/the-ignoramasaurus-rex-how-gov-mccrorys-claim-on-average-teacher-pay-is-not-really-real/

And from the footnotes:

“This analysis examines the 12 states with the deepest cuts in “formula” or general K-12 education funding as identified in CBPP’s 2016 paper “After a Nearly a Decade, School Investments Still Way Down in Some States.” These states are Alabama, Arizona, Idaho, Kansas, Kentucky, Michigan, Mississippi, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Texas, Utah, and West Virginia.  While Wisconsin appeared among the 12 deepest-cutting states in our 2016 paper, that state has been providing school districts with an increasingly large amount of general funding outside of the state formula.  Including this non-formula general aid, Wisconsin’s cuts since 2007-08 are not in the top 12.”

And for good measure, there’s a nice chart.

11-29-17sfp-f8

Won’t take long to see North Carolina in that list.

In the red.

Almost 20%.

Wow.