Archives for category: North Carolina

The North Carolina legislature recently voted to expand the number of deregulate, privately managed charter schools in the state. One that opened last fall, StudentFirst Academy in Charlotte, announced that it would close its doors on April 11, leaving nearly 300 students unprepared for state exams and scrambling to find a school.

The school struggled financially almost from its first dy, when enrollment was less than projected. And there were other problems.

“Many employees were laid off in December, after the board fired Head of School Phyllis Handford and Deputy Head Sandra Moss. The board was reacting to a consultant’s report that said the two founders had boosted their own salaries, put Handford’s family members on the payroll, overstaffed on administration, fallen behind on bills and failed to document expenses. Handford and Moss are now suing the StudentFirst board for breach of contract.

“The remaining StudentFirst employees will lose their jobs effective April 15…..”

“When the state approved a budget of $3 million in public money for StudentFirst’s first year, it was based on projections for 432 students. The school opened with 338, and Medley said the latest count he heard was 266. The dwindling enrollment reduced the amount of local and state money available to StudentFirst, though the final tally was not available.”

Parents said they chose the school because it promised strong academics and a cultural arts program.

Privatization and deregulation are perilous.

Read more here: http://www.charlotteobserver.com/2014/04/03/4814539/studentfirst-charter-school-to.html#.U0HnyOi9KSO#storylink=cpy

The News-Oberver in North Carolina reported that a court put a freeze on the voucher program passed by the legislature:

“The state school voucher plan remains frozen after the N.C. Appeals Court this week rejected requests to lift a lower court’s injunction.

“A Superior Court judge in February halted the new program that would have given parents up $4,200 in taxpayer money to help pay their children’s private school tuition.

“Two parents who want to use vouchers asked the Appeals Court to lift the legal freeze.

“The N.C. School Boards Association and state residents, backed the the N.C. Justice Center and the N.C. Association of Educators, are suing to stop vouchers. Among their claims is the program violates the state constitution.”

Now that North Carolina is controlled by an extremist governor and legislature intent on destroying public education, the Walton Family Foundation has increased its support for groups advocating for vouchers in that state.

Lindsay Wagner writes in NC Policy Watch:

“The Walton Family Foundation, known for supporting vouchers, charters, and other school privatization initiatives across the country, paid $710,000 to NC-based school voucher advocacy group Parents for Educational Freedom NC (PEFNC) in 2013, an increase of more than $100,000 over its 2012 contribution to the group.

“Parents for Educational Freedom NC has received large contributions from Walton since at least 2009. The Walton Family has paid PEFNC $275,000 in 2009, $525,000 in 2010, $625,000 in 2011 and $600,000 in 2012, according to the foundation’s website.

“Darrell Allison, president of Parents for Educational Freedom NC, has seen his own compensation increase considerably as the influx of Walton money has ramped up. In 2010, Allison received $107,889 for his work running the non-profit; in 2012, Allison reported an income of $156,582—a 45 percent pay increase in just two years.

“PEFNC has been the primary advocacy group responsible for bringing school vouchers to North Carolina.

“Last summer, lawmakers passed the Opportunity Scholarships program, a school voucher program that would enable taxpayer dollars to be funneled directly to private schools–$10 million in 2014-15 and $40 million in 2015-16, with the goal of expanding the program even further in the future.

“The law, passed as a part of the budget bill last summer, provides little in the way of accountability for private schools while reducing funds for public education at a time when schools are seeing sharp reductions in funding over a years-long period.”

Read the post to open the links to other articles about privatization.

- See more at: http://pulse.ncpolicywatch.org/2014/04/03/walton-family-spends-big-on-school-vouchers-in-north-carolina/#sthash.wNEd4Eig.dpuf

Governor McCrory has had a new idea.

Given the terrible morale of teachers in his state and the exodus of veteran teachers, it is important for the state to act quickly to support its teachers.

But that is not his idea.

 

He wants to use Race to the Top dollars to pay $10,000 each to 450 teachers across the state.

Since merit pay and bonuses have not had a positive effect anywhere else, consider this just a way of getting rid of RTTT money fast.

He previously announced a plan to pay new teachers more, which will be a boost for the TFA that the far-right governor and legislature are bringing to the state, but he has no plans to raise the salary of experienced teachers.

The proposal sounds similar to a plan McCrory floated last summer, when he announced his intention to use $30 million of Race to the Top funds for an Education Innovation Fund that would reward 1,000 top teachers with $10,000 stipends. That proposal was met with criticism by State Board of Education members at a meeting shortly after his announcement.

In September, NC Policy Watch reached out to Gov. McCrory’s education advisor, Eric Guckian, to see if the Education Innovation Fund was on the table. While the name seemed to have changed by then, policymakers were still moving forward with the idea.

“The goal of the Governor’s Teacher Empowerment Network is the same as the Innovation Fund was, to get the money in teachers’ pockets,” said Erin Gray, Guckian’s assistant. “However, the process of how the teachers receive this money is different. We want to be able to reward as many teachers as possible with this network and produce innovative [sic], master, leader teachers to not only benefit from the extra pay, but will be active to reform schools and lead other teachers.”

Today’s announcement about the GTN comes at a time when the state’s entire teacher workforce has not received a raise since 2008, with the exception of a 1.2 percent pay increase in 2010. Recently ranked 46th in the nation in teacher pay for the second year in a row, North Carolina is also dead last in teacher salary growth over the past decade.

- See more at: http://pulse.ncpolicywatch.org/2014/03/24/mccrory-announces-plan-to-give-450-teachers-10000-bonuses-with-race-to-the-top-funds/#sthash.USLAC2Vj.dpuf

 

 

Governor Pat McCrory and the Legislature in North Carolina are doing their best to get rid of the state’s’s star teachers, and they are succeeding.

The state is losing large numbers of experienced teachers, because of low salaries. Teachers’ salaries have been flat for six years and are now 46th in the nation.

This National Board Certified Teacher quit, and she wrote a letter to the governor to explain why.

A 13-year veteran, Melissa Taylor wrote:

“To Whom It May Concern,

It is with great sadness that I submit my written notification of resignation from my teaching position with Wake County Public School Systems effective 3/14/14. I have found it more and more difficult to pay my bills every month and continue to fall further and further into debt, not to mention the feeling of absolute disrespect that I feel every time a new “expectation” is mandated for our classrooms while all of our resources are being taken away. I had no choice but to search for a job that will allow me to provide for my family and to pay back the thousands of dollars in college loans that I took to be a teacher. I find the condition of our education system in NC to be heartbreaking. It seems that our leaders and law makers have completely forgotten what is the most important thing here, the kids! We are failing our students, our teachers and our future. Please accept this letter as my official resignation from Wake County Public Schools.

Sincerely,

Melissa Taylor, M.Ed, NBCT”

Do you think Governor McCrory cares? Or will he gladly full her job with a TFA who will leave before vesting for a pension?

On February 11 of this year, I met Vivian Connell. She was on a panel at the North Carolina Emerging Issues Forum moderated by John Merrow. Vivian was one of six people who explained why she left teaching. She described the disrespect in which the current leadership of North Carolina holds teachers and the deterioration of working conditions. She said she decided to go to law school, yet she missed teaching. She loved teaching; she misses her students. A few weeks later, I met Vivian at the Network for Public Education conference in Austin. She is beautiful, vibrant, thoughtful, filled with passion for life and service to others.

This morning I received a copy of a message that Vivian posted on Facebook. I am in awe of her spirit, her courage, her determination to make a difference and to help others. In facing life and in facing whatever happens to her, she is truly a hero, a champion of children, a champion for democracy, a woman of valor.

I will think of Vivian every time I hear the hireling of a plutocrat tell me that those of us who fight for free, high-quality public education are “on the wrong side of history.” I want to be on the side of history with Vivian.

She is the real thing. Martin Luther King Jr. wrote that “the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.”

Vivian is one of those people who are bending the arc of the moral universe. I want to be on her side. She gives all of us inspiration and hope.

 

This is what Vivian posted:

 

 

OK. Big news; long post. (Longest. Post. Ever.)

On March 12th, after months of investigating leg weakness that started just before I took (and passed, thank God!!) the NC bar exam, I was diagnosed with ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. It is progressive and terminal. My likely life expectancy is 2-7 years, but more likely 3-5 years. 

And I am at absolute peace with this. Of course, it will be harder on friends and family I leave behind, and I want to inform you all. I have, of course, told family and closest friends, but many of you-

My delightful and beloved former students with whom I LOVE staying connected;

My law school friends and colleagues who participated in one of the most worthy experiences of my life;

My old friends with whom I’ve been able to reconnect and whom I’ve really enjoyed keeping up with through this crazy social media thing;

My newer but no less dear friends and associates whom I’ve met advocating for issues about which we are passionate: consumer protection, the preservation of free quality public education, and campaign finance reform – all issues serving the ideals of genuine liberty and justice for all; and

My family, friends, and neighbors from many seasons of life -

You are all important to me in diverse ways, and I do not have the energy to tell you all individually!

Everyone asks, “What can I do?”

What can you do, you ask?

Well, I made a handy dandy list of affirmative steps and invite you to consider doing one or more of them:

1) PLEASE Read this whole post and LIKE it. I will know that your LIKE does not mean that you are glad to hear that I am terminally ill. But I do want to know who knows!!

2) Do respond in any way you like through a Private Message or email, but please don’t post about it on my wall. ALS will win this war (unless I am 1 in 1700 or unless some miracle happens in clinical trials – and you can feel free to hope for that!) but I intend to win all the daily battles. I want to continue to work on issues I care about and interact here on Facebook as I always have. I am determined, as I write in my first blog post, not to have my life become “The ALS network: All ALS, All the time.” I have a LOT of living to do. I get to participate in the internationally known Duke ALS clinic and will likely have more months of quality life because of that, so I feel blessed among the cursed . There is no fighting this and no painful treatments or chemo to endure – I get to plan and enjoy the rest of my life for as long as I can, which is a genuine silver lining.

3) Help my two children know and remember their crazy mom. If you have a memory or story you’d be willing to write and share, that would be the greatest gift. Formers, some of you have written very touching and complimentary notes and messages of thanks. I have saved lots of these and will be collecting them for my kids. So any stories or comments anyone is willing to relate would be deeply appreciated by me and probably treasured by my kids after I experience my “early check out” from this big hotel where we are all staying! Leaving my children as much of me as I can is my #1 priority. I have created email accounts for each of them and I am trying to write them a message a day for the remainder of my life. If you snail mail something, I will put it in the photo and scrapbooks I am starting; alternatively, you can send your remembrance(s) it to their email accounts; message me for info about this if you are so inclined.

4) Help me do THIS: I want to raise about $15k to take our 32 students at the alternative high school here in Chapel Hill to the US. Holocaust Memorial Museum. Many of them have never even left the area, much less the state, but they are fascinated when we teach about the Holocaust. Many of them have also encountered racism and cultural hatred, and a full day at the USHMM would make a permanent positive impact in their lives. I probably cannot work another year; therefore, it is important to me to make this happen for these young people – “my kids.” I hope to have the crowdfunding site up within the week, and I will post the links in the comments here as well as in a separate post. (Many of you know that I was a world and American lit specialist. I was also a Belfer Teaching Fellow at the Holocaust Museum and taught the Holocaust for many years; therefore I am uniquely qualified to prepare our students, train chaperones, and take steps to maximize the benefits of this trip for my students.) So when I post it, you can make a small donation, then share it with friends and family; this will be my last major act as a teacher.

5) Follow my blog: vivcon.wordpress.com. Post comments there, and I will be both grateful and excited. I will be as prolific as I can after this academic year ends. I will blog primarily about the issues that drove me to law school and have become passions. After every quarterly visit to the ALS clinic, I will post an update on the progress of my disease, as well as an update on my family. Chances are I’ll feel pretty free to speak my mind on a number of issues, so you should feel free, but not obligated, to join me in this journey.

6) Make a donation to the Duke ALS clinic. The international ALS community is currently excited about a recent clinical trial that shows great promise, though it is in early stages, and, I should be frank, is unlikely to change my fate. It is a stem cell procedure that for the first time, actually reversed the progress/damage in mice. One of the 12 patients who participated in the first human trials has responded similarly. Only one. But this is one more than has ever improved in the history of the disease, so we’ll take it. Duke is trying to raise $2 million to run a trial on 5 patients. Yep. It’s $300k per patient. And there is no great lobby for ALS research: patients do not live very long, and only 1 in 100,000 people develop ALS. (See. I always knew I was special. You are supposed to laugh.)

7) If you benefited from my passion/efforts as a teacher and/or are so inclined, please support Public Schools First, NC. LIKE their Facebook page and pay attention to what is happening in this state. Resist market-based education reforms and fight to maintain in your communities and state the equitable access to quality education for EVERY CHILD that is ESSENTIAL to a just society and a healthy democracy. Like I said every time we “pledged allegiance” in my classroom: “ . . . with liberty and justice for all . . . SOMEDAY, IF WE ALL WORK AT IT.” 

8) Reach out or visit if you are inclined! We are selling our Charlotte home and putting down roots here in Chapel Hill, where we plan for the kids to finish school while I receive care at Duke. Call or visit. Things are pretty crazy now, but chances are, if you are someone who would want to visit, then you are someone we would love to see.

9) And finally, share and tell others so that I do not have to have this conversation ad infinitum!! To my wonderful new NPE friends from Austin: I took so many business cards from wonderful education advocates, but I may never get to contact everyone. Please make sure everyone knows why.

10) I have few regrets and feel very privileged to have lived the life I was given. Do not feel sorry for me or for my family; I am confident that the Maker of All Good Things will manufacture blessings from my experience. I certainly hope to walk this path in a manner with gratitude and grace.

I have enjoyed, and will continue (hopefully for several-many more years) to enjoy walking through this life with all of you. And I certainly plan to spend my time investing in my kids and advocating for a better North Carolina, a better nation, and a better world. That seems good practice, even if one does not have ALS, right?

As my students have heard me say, regardless of what we each believe about our ability to “Change the World,” we all DO change it: we each make it a little better or a little worse. I have tried to live with a determination to be on the right side of history and, when I could muster the strength, the generous side of kindness. I certainly have won some and lost some – I am not the gentlest or most patient soul – but I hope I have made the world a bit better, and I have a very short bucket list. I wish you all the courage to aspire to your highest ideals and the blessing of facing the end of your days with as few regrets as I have. 

THANKS for reading to the end, and please LIKE the post. 

Not my will, but God’s will be done. It’s really OK.

 

As I reported earlier today, Arne Duncan reviewed the results of the $4.3 billion competition called “Race to the Top,” and he lauded four states for making the most progress: Hawaii, Delaware, North Carolina, and Tennessee. Note that two of the four states are controlled by legislatures and governors that are to the far-far-far right: North Carolina and Tennessee. The commissioner of education in Tennessee is Kevin Huffman, ex-husband of Michelle Rhee, who spent two years in Teach for America, and has been pushing hard to expand enrollment in privately managed charter schools. Huffman’s egregious indifference to the views of experienced educators has provoked rebukes, including a letter to the governor signed by about 40% of the state’s district superintendents in opposition to Huffman’s tin ear. North Carolina has, frankly, been a tragic state in the conscious effort of its legislature and governor to demoralize teachers, authorize vouchers, expand charters, and allow for-profit charters. It is one of the worst states in the nation to be a teacher; teacher pay is 46th in the nation. The governor has responded to teachers’ complaints by raising teachers’ salaries–but only for new teachers, which will benefit the large cohort of Teach for America that he is importing. Governor McCrory’s senior education advisor is Eric Guckian, an alum of TFA.

For the record, the most widely read post in the history of this blog came from Kris Nielsen, a teacher in North Carolina, who wrote “I Quit.” Kris’s post went worldwide. It was viewed 323,000 times on this blog alone, and it was reflagged many other places.

On February 10-11 of this  year, I was invited to participate in a major state-wide forum in Raleigh, where state leaders of both parties, civic leaders, education leaders, nearly 1,000 people met to discuss education in North Carolina.

One of the major concerns of the conference (if not the legislature) was the ongoing, alarming exodus of experienced teachers from teaching and from the state.

Before I spoke, John Merrow moderated a panel in which six experienced and very articulate teachers explained why they quit. The common theme was that they could not afford to live in North Carolina because of the low salaries paid to teachers. No raises since 2008. One teacher said she moved to Maryland, immediately got a job, and her salary was $20,000 more than in NC.

Others talked about how much they loved teaching, but the onerous conditions created by the legislature and the governor made it impossible to stay.

I was the keynote speaker on February 11. Drawing on the extensive reporting by Lindsay Wagner at NC Policy Watch and the research of Helen Ladd of Duke and her husband Edward Fiske, former education editor of the New York Times, and news reports from across the state, I gave the speech that was recorded here by the conference organizers. It is only 34 minutes long. Watch if you have time.

The idea that Duncan would single North Carolina out for its stellar improvement during the past few years is beyond my understanding.

Was he misinformed? Does he think that the erosion of teachers’ job stability is the right way to go? Does he think that the flight of experienced teachers is a mark of progress? Is that an accomplishment for Race to the Top? Sound like Race to the Bottom or Race to Oblivion.

This one beats me.

Only days before Arne Duncan hailed North Carolina as one of the stars of the Race to the Top, Bill McDiarmid, dean of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, warned that public education was in dire peril in the state. 

Although North Carolina was once renowned as the most forward-looking state in the south, known for fundings its schools and for promoting statewide early childhood education under previous governors, the current governor and legislature seem determined to obliterate the common schools of North Carolina. The mantra of the legislature–echoing Arne Duncan, Bill Gates, Michelle Rhee, Joel Klein, and the rest of the false reformers, is that “our schools are broken.”

Their solution: charters and vouchers; Teach for America; flunking third graders who don’t pass a reading test, and other punitive actions. At the same time, they enacted generous corporate tax breaks. The shift of public funds away from public schools to the private sector will exacerbate racial segregation. When the radical extremists took control of the legislature, they made sure to gerrymander their own districts to maintain a majority.

McDiarmid writes:

Concerns about the direction of education in the state are widely shared. Researchers at UNC-Wilmington recently conducted a poll of 2,350 state residents. They found that 94 percent of the respondents believe that education is now headed in the wrong direction in the state. Large majorities disagreed with recent policy decisions: 85 percent disapprove of vouchers for students to attend private schools; 81 percent believe that the state should provide scholarships to talented high school students to attract them to teaching via the Teaching Fellows Program; 96 percent disagree with cutting the salary incentive for teachers to pursue master’s degrees; and 75 percent disagree with eliminating tenure. In sum, probably a very significant majority of North Carolinians disagrees with the current policy direction.

The bad news for those concerned about where we are headed is that a number of key folks in the General Assembly are in “safe seats.” This tends to make legislators less responsive to the concerns of the public. These lawmakers are highly unlikely to be turned out this fall — or perhaps for several elections to come. In 2010, the Republican majority in the Legislature controlled redistricting. They were able to create for themselves election districts that virtually ensured their re-elections and the dominance of their party throughout the decade. Certainly, a number of these folks in the majority are open to conversation and debate about educational policy and attend to non-partisan research. Some who hold key leadership posts appear committed, however, to an agenda intent on replacing public schools with private schools.

Equally discouraging are the changes to the tax code. The majority passed legislation rolling back corporate and individual taxes. A flat 5.8 percent tax on incomes replaced the almost century-old graduated tax schedule. The cost to the state of these changes? Over $1 billion annually. At this rate, North Carolina is well on its way to meeting Grover Norquist’s goal of shrinking the size of government to “where it can drag it into the bathroom and drown it in the bathtub.” As the largest expenditure category in the state budget, education is already fighting for air.

Absent from much of the debate about the move toward privatization is attention to the role of public schooling in a democratic society. Our schools trace their origins back to 19th century public school advocates. Recognizing that an educated citizenry is essential to maintaining a democracy, they believed that mixing of children from all social classes in free “common schools” would lead to a stronger sense of shared civic purpose.

Due to persistent residential segregation, North Carolina failed to achieve the goal of schools where all our children – regardless of social class, race, or family circumstances – learn together. Yet, for many children, school remains the one place where they rub shoulders with others who differ from themselves socially, linguistically, and culturally. Like it or not, they must learn to get along with these “others” – arguably a critical attitude in a diverse democratic society such as ours.

Peter Greene noticed in his scan of reports from Arne Duncan that Duncan singled out the super stars of his Race to the Top.

Most surprising of all was that North Carolina won a gold star for improving the teaching profession.

To call this startling is an understatement.

Don’t take my word for it: Read what Duke University Professor Helen Ladd and former New York Times education editor Edward Fiske wrote about the appalling attacks on teachers and on public education in recent years in North Carolina.

Teachers are bailing out of North Carolina because salaries are so low and have not increased since 2008.

The legislature has passed law after law stripping teachers of any and all rights and privileges.

Teachers can no longer get a raise for earning an advanced degree (just shows you what the legislature thinks of education).

The legislature killed off its successful North Carolina Teaching Fellows, which produced well-prepared teachers who made a career of teaching, yet found $5-6 million to bring in Teach for America, guaranteed not to stay in teaching.

North Carolina has one of the worst climates for teachers in the United States, and it has gotten progressively worse over the past three years since hard-right Republicans took control of the legislature and the governorship.

What exactly did Arne find admirable about teaching conditions in North Carolina?

Was he misinformed or does he approve of the war against teachers by the state’s extremists in the legislature and its governor?

The bottom line is that Race to the Top was a waste of $5 billion that might have been used for the arts, for reducing class sizes in needy schools, for opening health clinics, for doing what was actually needed by students and teachers and communities. It could have been a national competition to reward the districts that produced actionable plans for racial integration. Instead, it piled on more testing, demoralized teachers and principals, added tons of paperwork, and rewarded consultants, entrepreneurs, and snake-oil salesmen.

The Board of Education in Dare County, North Carolina, voted unanimously to oppose the law recently passed by the extremist legislature that would end career status for teachers, require the board to give a $500 bonus to the top 25% of teachers in exchange for their giving up their career status.

 

“The Board of Education unanimously approved a resolution calling for the state to roll back the new policy, which calls for school systems to pick the top-performing 25 percent of teachers for a four-year contract with $500 in annual bonuses if they give up career status.

 

Career status will be eliminated in 2018, but the bonus money has not yet been included in the state budget, according to the North Carolina Association of Educators.

 

Career status provides a process and the right to a hearing before an experienced teacher can be dismissed or demoted.

 

Dare County joins with Wake County and Guilford County in opposing this law, which has angered and demoralized teachers.

 

North Carolina is losing large numbers of veteran teachers who can’t afford to live on their low salaries. Teachers in North Carolina rank 46th in the nation in salary, a steady slippage in recent years. When Jim Hunt was governor, he brought teachers’ salaries to the national average. But there have been no salary increases since 2008. A teacher in the state must teach 15 years to reach a salary of $40,000.

 

Dare County cares about its teachers.  Unlike the legislature, it doesn’t want to destroy its public schools.

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