Archives for category: North Carolina

North Carolina won’t wait for a court to rule on vouchers. It will start giving them out next month before the court hearing.

“RALEIGH, N.C. — Taxpayer money for private or religious school tuition may start flowing to North Carolina families before a judge rules whether the program is legal.

“The state agency in charge of the Opportunity Scholarships late last month advanced to August 15 the date it planned to distribute tuition funding to families of students who won a lottery. That date is a month earlier than the North Carolina State Educational Assistance Authority previously projected and a week before a scheduled court date intended to debate the law’s constitutionality.

“The educational assistance authority isn’t setting its timetable based on the legal dispute, executive director Steven Brooks said Thursday. The agency decided distributing the money sooner was better than later, he said.

“I think we just said let’s get it out there as soon as we can,” Brooks said.

“But distributing the money before a court hearing late next month would cause needless chaos, said Burton Craige, an attorney for plaintiffs who are challenging the voucher program.

“It’s taxpayer money. It makes sense to have a ruling on whether it’s constitutional before we release that money to private schools,” Craige said. “Once money is paid out, it’s hard to get it back.”

“Wake County Superior Court Judge Robert Hobgood blocked the program in February until the issues raised in two lawsuits could be fully considered at a trial. Lawyers for two dozen taxpayers and groups representing teachers and many of the state’s 115 school boards had challenged whether it was constitutional for the state to spend public money on K-12 education at private or religious schools.”

Read more here: http://www.newsobserver.com/2014/07/17/4012139/nc-school-vouchers-may-flow-before.html?sp=/99/100/&ihp=1#storylink=cpy

A teacher from North Carolina wrote the comments below. I don’t agree with his conclusion that unions are responsible for teachers’ loss of control over their work. What he describes can be found in states that never had unions, that were always “right to work.” Who is the villain of the piece? Testing companies? NCLB? I would put the blame on the accountability movement, which now belongs to Congress and legislatures. They want to know “are we getting our money’s worth?” Can’t trust teachers to tell you, must trust standardized tests.

Mr. Worley of North Carolina writes:

There was a day when teaching was considered a profession. As a profession, those who taught were trusted with the education and the evaluation of the student. I grew up in schools that worked that way. Many of you did as well.

My first few years in teaching, it was still pretty much that way. While I dreaded the work of creating fair final exams and then grading them, there was satisfaction in knowing that my kids were doing the same kind of work they had done all year, and that I was the one doing the grading of it.

What has happened?

In my 18th year of teaching now, I no longer write any finals – the state writes them all. I no longer grade any finals – a bubble reading machine does that. I no longer have to consider whether and how to set a curve on their final exam – the state does that. I no longer am even allowed to administer the final to the students I have spent a whole semester with – a teacher outside of my content area must do that. I can’t even proctor the exam.

I spend months building a relationship with my students, slowly but surely getting to know each of them, and them getting to know me. We laugh together, we struggle together, we get mad at each other sometimes. Some days are hard, some not so much, but all of them are interesting.

My favorite comment from my kids remains, “Mr. Worley, you don’t understand. I so look forward to coming to your class each day.” It doesn’t matter whether they like math or not, whether they are particularly good at math or not. In our class, we are united in the notion that our day can be better as a result of having been in math class that day. For whatever reason.

What has happened?

It’s easy to point the finger at politicians and power-wielders who have precious little understanding of just what K-12 education looks like on a daily basis. And certainly these people continue to harm public education for what appear to be selfish reasons.

But we in the education camp have to take some responsibility as well. For far too many years we allowed union representatives to dig in their heels on issues related to rethinking education. We tolerated teachers who should have been quickly removed, protecting with union rights instead of taking a stand for a high level of professionalism. And with every story in the news, trust deteriorated.

Don’t misunderstand me. I have belonged to the teachers union. I was a building representative and believe strongly in the value of collective bargaining rights.

What I’m saying is, we allowed the union to take our voice. And, as a result, we lost our place at the discussion table. Now that sentiment is generally anti-union across the country, teachers are no longer welcome to have a voice, because they don’t feel they need to welcome us. Here in North Carolina we see a state General Assembly passing one piece of vicious attack legislation after the other against educators.

At some point we, the teachers, the ones who love this profession and who are passionate about the kids we serve, need to rise up and reclaim our rightful place as professionals. I’m not sure how. I’m not sure who can or will lead such a rising. But I am certain it needs to happen soon, before public education is dismantled and turned in to a private sector business.

Because education will be dead then…

In this spell-binding video, borrowed from Fred Klonsky’s blog, the Reverend Dr. William Barber speaks at the AFT convention and describes the powerful Moral Mondays movement in North Carolina. This movement has a broad social and economic agenda, and it may well bring down the hard-hearted, mean-spirited governor and legislature of that state.

Do yourself a favor. Watch it. Take hope. What Dr. Barber describes is not a miracle. It is about what we can do when we stand together. Not as Republicans or Democrats. Not as conservatives or liberals. But as people joined in a moral cause, committed to bringing justice to our nation.

To think about charter schools in America today, you have to separate the rhetoric from the reality. It helps to have a guide, someone who sees the man behind the curtain. Blowing smoke in the eyes of the media and the public. Fortunately there is such a man in North Carolina. His name is George Hartzman. He is a financial consultant. The smoke machine doesn’t blind him to the reality.

The rhetoric tells us that charter schools will save poor minority kids from failing schools. The reality is that charter schools produce no better results and make their sponsors rich with taxpayer dollars.

Look at North Carolina. There, the red red legislature passed charter legislation. Not all charter teachers need certification. Some people with good friends are getting very rich, like Baker Mitchell, who is on the board of the libertarian John Locke Society, which was created by zillionaire Art Pope, who happens to be state budget director. Mitchell collects rent on charters, which provide him with a few millions a year. Nice. He also sits on the state advisory board on charters.

But here’s another happy charter story. The president pro tem of the State Senate is Phil Berger Sr., who is responsible for legislation authorizing charters, vouchers, and the virulent anti-teacher legislation that is causing many veteran teachers to leave the state. You might call him North Carolina’s one-man wrecking crew of public education, except he has plenty of helpers in the legislature. When Berger’s obituary is written someday, that’s how Phil Berger will be remembered: the man who tried to destroy public education in the state and nearly succeeded until parents and citizens rebelled.

So who do you think is opening charters and getting in on the ground floor of the biggest new education industry opportunity in North Carolina? Phil Berger, Jr. No conflict there. Daddy passes the law, and junior cashes in.

I know there are a few decent charters doing the right things. But they are being overtaken by a racket. The racket is about scooping up taxpayers ‘ money while providing schools with uncertified low-wage teachers who turn over with high frequency. There is nothing idealistic about what is happening in North Carolina. It is all about the Benjamins. The politicians turning education into a money machine for their friends and relatives should hang their heads in shame.

Peter Greene has scoured the nation to determine which state legislature is most hostile to teachers. Here he explains why North Carolina wins that dubious title.

He begins:

“There are several state legislatures that are working hard to earn the “Worst Legislature in America” medal. Florida, where it’s cool to use terminally ill children as political tools and their families as punching bags, has always been a strong contender. New York State staked its claim by taking the extraordinary measure of overruling local government because they didn’t like its decision. Several states have worked to promote the teaching profession by stripping it of any professional trappings like decent pay and job security.

“But when it comes to suck, North Carolina is a tough state to beat.

“The legislature tried to make tenure go away entirely, but was frustrated to discover that they could not legally revoke tenure for people who already had it. But the wily legislators realized that they had a unique piece of leverage in a state where teachers’ real-dollar wages have dropped every year for seven years.

“The proposal is simple. NC teachers can have a raise, or they can have job security. They cannot have both.

“They may have a raise. And who knows. Some day they might get another one. But they can also be fired for being too expensive. Or they can have job security, but Senate Leader Phil Berger warns that they will probably never see another raise again.

“The message is as clear as it is simple:

“North Carolina legislators do not want teaching to be a career in their state.

“If you want to devote your career, your lifetime of work, to teaching, you cannot do it in North Carolina.”

North Carolina’s Republican-dominated State Senate hates teacher tenure. They hate it so much that they are willing to offer nearly $500 million in higher salaries if teachers are willing to abandon their tenure.

Bear in mind that tenure in K-12 education is not a guarantee of lifetime employment; it is a guarantee of due process rights. Also note that until recently, North Carolina was thought to have one of the best school systems in the South. The state has–or had, at last count–more National Board Certified Teachers than any other state in the nation.

Why Republicans hate tenure so passionately is a mystery. There is no reason to believe that principals are itching to fire teachers. North Carolina has had such a large exodus of teachers from the profession and the state that wise policymakers should be worried about holding on to teachers, many of whom are demoralized by years of legislative attacks on them.

Stuart Egan, a National Board Certified Teacher in North Carolina, wrote the following letter in response to this latest move by the State Senate:

“North Carolina’s GOP legislators certainly appear to have paid attention in English class: The motif of “making a deal with the devil” is a common theme in many works of fiction and in anything they write concerning teachers.

“Sen. Phil Berger is championing a bill that would create substantial pay raises for teachers who relinquish “career status” and longevity pay for “professional status.” The salaries of teachers who do not surrender career status would remain frozen in a stagnated schedule. Career status is often referred to as “tenure,” but that is a nebulous term. Career status does not mean teachers are untouchable. The General Assembly has spun this word to make it appear that teachers have the same “tenure” as college professors. Not true. We can still be dismissed for not performing our duties or upholding standards.

“The past 10 years in NC educational policy is enough to tell us where this is going. Under the ABC plan from years ago, teachers in schools that achieved certain growth expectations would get bonuses. That system ran out of money several years before it ended, but the requirements for teachers did not change. The monetary “incentive” simply was taken away.

“When the state budget began experiencing shortfalls, teacher salaries were frozen. Many of us are making the same salary we did years ago, but now we have more students and more classes as well as increases in the cost of living. Consequently, North Carolina has lost many of its best, brightest and potential career educators. Between a lack of financial security and the near-constant disdain in which legislators hold us, there is little reason to stay.

“When the General Assembly tried a few weeks ago to lure teachers into giving up their career status early in exchange for a monetary incentive, the courts struck it down as unconstitutional. But what many in the general public may not know is that the state did not have the funds to finance that incentive past the first year. It would have had to remove the monetary incentive three years early.

“This is exactly what will happen in the proposed legislation introduced this past week. The General Assembly already faces a shortfall for next year, and the salary increase for those who give up their right to due process will be removed because the money does not exist.

“To look at this latest deal another way, it would cause North Carolinians to lose advocates for the public school system. In a time when the state budget siphons off money for a voucher program to promote privatized education and decreases the average amount of money spent per pupil, you need to have teachers speak up for students and schools. Removing the right to due process leads to those same teachers being afraid to do so for fear of reprisal.

“Whether you call it career status or tenure, the concept helps keep public education in the hands of the public. It is so valuable to public schools that Sen. Berger and others are willing to pay more than $400 million to take it away. North Carolinians should take note and wonder why our legislators want teachers hamstrung by either low pay or worry about keeping a job more than they want our students to receive the best education possible to prepare them – and North Carolina – for a modern and innovative job market.

“This teacher will not sell his soul, no matter how attractive the devil tries to make the package. There is too much at stake – for teachers, for students and for North Carolina’s future.”

Stuart Egan, NBCT
West Forsyth High School
English Teacher, Career Status

After Stuart sent the letter above, he added this sad postscript:

Concerning the high teacher salary raises in NC tied to tenure forfeiture, I saw this in my local paper (Winston-Salem Journal) after I sent my previous letter. It seems that to fund these raises, Senator Berger pushed through a budget that “would cut financing for teacher assistants, classrooms teachers, administration and transportation to pay for teacher raises.” Therefore, the county school system would have to request from the county that loss of money to cover the positions lost. But the county commissioners cut the local school budget already. The result would be “the loss of more than 250 early grade teacher assistants and 28 classroom teachers, according to preliminary estimates from the district’s finance department.” That is devastating to the K-3, elementary level.

I have a child with special needs in kindergarten who happens to have Downs Syndrome. If his teacher does not have an assistant, then positive results will not be seen as quickly and effectively in his education. Interestingly enough, if I as a high school teacher (or his regular teacher in elementary school) take the salary increase and make a “deal with the devil,” I may have a direct impact on my own son’s education.

Public education should never be this cruelly ironic.

If this is happening in a place like Winston-Salem, imagine the effect on rural counties in North Carolina.

http://www.journalnow.com/news/local/emory-says-teachers-job-loss-inevitable-under-n-c-senate/article_ac04391e-2aae-58df-8370-8a6c67f1869b.html

The Houston Independent School District is taking advantage of abysmal salaries in North Carolina. HISD is holding a job fair today in Raleigh, hoping to poach some of NC’s terrific but underpaid teachers.

“HISD is promising a starting salary of $46,805.

“In a response to the ad posted on Facebook, North Carolina state Representative Graig Meyer (D-District 50) notes the average salary for teachers in North Carolina is $45,737, and the starting salary is much lower.”

NC salaries are 46th in the nation.

The free market at work.

This letter came from Stuart Egan, one of North Carolina’s National Board Certified Teachers. The state has more NBCTs than any other, and almost the lowest salaries of any state. Egan responded to Senator David Curtis’s letter brushing off science tea her Sarah Wiles.

Stuart Egan writes:

I am a high school teacher from Winston-Salem / Forsyth County Schools.

On Monday, May 12, I read an article on WUNC’s website that published a letter (response) written by Sen. David Curtis to a young teacher in the Charlotte area. It can be found on the following link: http://wunc.org/post/teacher-email-legislators-draws-harsh-reply#.U3F64LlKCEE.email. It deserves a public response.

Dear Senator Curtis,

I have given your email response to Ms. Sarah Wiles’s letter entitled “I am embarrassed to confess: I am a teacher” much thought, and I am embarrassed that you represent our state with such an attitude as was displayed. You are right: Teachers do have an incredible influence on students, However, your response only highlighted the uninformed, and, quite frankly, pompous stance that many in the NC legislature have adopted toward public education.

It is obvious that you were blessed to have great teachers in your life to enable you to achieve all that you talk about on your website, davidcurtisforncsenate.com. Think of all those teachers who helped you in elementary school, middle school, high school, undergraduate school and medical school. Clearly, they instilled in you a love of learning that has carried you throughout your life. Your life also seems to center around your faith, which probably was influenced by Sunday school teachers, pastors who went to schools and seminaries, and by the teachings of the greatest of teachers – Jesus Christ.

My concern is that your North Carolina constituents are “picking up on your (negative) attitude” toward the teaching profession. Since you naturally want the support of teachers in the next election cycle, here are my suggestions for what you could investigate and consider. I simply took your original itemized remarks from your “imaginary conversation with a private sector employer” and responded to them.

1. “You (Ms. Wiles) expect to make a lot more than you made as a teacher because everyone knows how poorly compensated teachers are.” Of course any teacher who makes a move to the private sector would expect more monetary compensation. Almost every other profession that requires a similar level of education and training as the teaching profession makes more monetarily than a teacher.

2. “You expect at least eight weeks paid vacation per year because that is what the taxpayers of North Carolina gave you back when you were a poorly compensated teacher.” You mistake eight weeks of vacation with what is actually unemployment. Teachers have 10-month contracts. What you call “vacation” is actually unpaid time that is spent getting renewed certification, professional development, or advanced degrees—all of which are paid with teachers’ own money that gets taxed by the state. Until recently, the only way teachers can get a pay increase is to fund their own advanced education. But even that is no longer the case because of a crusade led by Pat McCrory and Thom Tillis to eliminate advanced-degree pay increases. Would you expect those who get their MBAs or MDs to forego the expected increase in salary? Of course not. Yet many of NC’s legislators seem appalled that teachers would expect the same.

3. “You expect a defined contribution retirement plan that will guarantee you about $35,000 per year for life after working 30 years even if you live to be 104 years old.” It is ironic that you talk about retirement plans for teachers, especially to younger professionals in education. Our retirement is tied to our salary. By law, we have to pay into the system. And don’t misunderstand me; I am grateful to have that. But when my pay stays frozen, my contribution to retirement stays frozen as well. As prices climb and as inflation exerts its influence, what I may get decades down the road probably will not support me and my family. Considering my age, I may not have the Social Security benefits that you will enjoy. In fact, the way it works now is that I pay into a system that will benefit you before I see any return in my own life. It is also ironic that you, too, will receive retirement pay from the state as a legislator, but have much more say about your state pension than I get with mine. If you need reminding, simply reference the following article:http://www.newsobserver.com/2012/02/26/1884711/amid-retirements-state-lawmakers.html.

4. “Your potential employer may tell you that he has heard that most North Carolina workers make less than the national average because we are a low cost-of-living- state, private sector workers making 87% of the national average and teachers making 85% of the national average.” You imply that low teacher salaries are justifiable because of low cost-of-living expenses; however, that logic does not hold water unless you can prove that the cost of living has frozen in North Carolina. It would help to study the relationship of consumer indexes and teacher salaries for NC and the surrounding states. Furthermore, if you want to attract more industry and business to North Carolina, you need to convince companies that their employees’ families will have a good education system and a quality of life based on their productivity and company success instead of the state’s cost of living.

5. “The teachers union has convinced parents that teachers are grossly undercompensated based on a flawed teachers union survey of teacher pay. “ Where is a teacher union in North Carolina? Are you referring to NCAE? That’s not a union; that’s an association. If you want to see how a teachers’ union works, go to Chicago and New York City. Now, those are unions.

Whether you are in Denver, NC, or Denver, CO, you need to understand investing in teacher pay is not to quench some thirst for greed. It is needed to keep the best and most experienced teachers here in North Carolina, teaching our students because those students are the biggest investment we have. Many of them go on to be successful private sector employers. Your website devotes a great deal of space explaining the importance you place on family-centered values. I think the vast majority of NC families believe their children – who are the future of this state – are valuable enough to make teacher pay attractive to the best educators, regardless of the cost of living.

And last, whether you intended it or not, the tone in your response to Ms. Wiles came across as condescending and patronizing. It was not a tone or attitude you would want to witness in a classroom, and it certainly is not an attitude North Carolinians want to witness in their legislators.

Sincerely,

Stuart A. Egan, MAEd., Ed. S., NBCT

West Forsyth High School English Teacher

10-month employee, 12-month educator

Sarah Wiles, a science teacher in the Charlotte-Mecklenburg schools with six years experience and a master’s degree, sent an email to every member of the North Carolina General Assembly with the subject line: “I am embarrassed to confess: I am a teacher.”

This was her email:

“From: Sarah Wiles

“Sent: Tuesday, May 06, 2014 6:47 PM

“Every year there is a debate on teacher compensation. This is only exacerbates during election years. However, nothing happens. As a sixth year teacher, I have only seen a pay increase once (and then again after plunging myself into debt by earning my Masters in Education). I have attended rallies, joined NCAE, petitioned, and worn red (or blue and white, or whatever color of the rainbow I was required to wear to “show my support’). Nothing ever changes, except my wardrobe. So, that brings me to this one request: leave me alone.

“I am so tired of being lied to about how important I am and how valuable I am. I am also sick and tired of politicians making my profession the center of attention and paying it lip-service by visiting a school, kneeling next to a child, shaking my hand and thanking me, telling the nightly news that I deserve a raise, and then proceeding to speak through the budget that I am not worth it. If you aren’t going to do anything, and you know nothing will change, just leave me alone. I would rather be ignored than disrespected.

“And on the topic of disrespect, our salary is disrespectful. I tutor my own students for free four days a week after school until I have to go to my next job. I tutor outside of school for pay about fifteen hours a week, and that includes weekends. I also babysit. And I manage pools and teach pool operator classes. And, I currently have an application for summer school being reviewed. I get home at eight pm, spend a half an hour with my husband, answer parent emails, fall asleep, and am back at work at seven am the next morning. I have come very accustomed to being disrespected. My students know that no one cares about education because they frequently ask me why I ever made the decision to become a teacher. Honestly, I am running out of answers. Do not misunderstand or misconstrue what I am saying as apathy for my students (I love them more than most adults), but I can no longer defend that North Carolina cares about education because they are not willing to pay for it. It’s a lie and everyone knows it.

“I know that you all will continue talking about how important teachers are and weaving those wonderful words that tax payers love to hear from the people who are “leading” them that make them believe that it isn’t all about the bottom line and that you care about their kids and the public education system. But, I am calling your bluff. If you continue to do nothing even though you can do something, you should be ashamed. I am embarrassed for you. I am embarrassed by you. And, save for my students, I am embarrassed by being a teacher in North Carolina, the doormat of society.”

Sarah Wiles, M.A.Ed.”

She received a response from Senator David Curtis of Denver, North Carolina, which was copied to every other legislator. Note that he addressed her by her first name, which struck me as condescending.

He wrote:

From: Sen. David Curtis

“Date: May 12, 2014 at 9:46:57

“Dear Sarah,

“I have given your e-mail titled “I am embarrassed to confess: I am a teacher” some thought, and these are my ideas. A teacher has an incredible influence on students–for good or for bad. My teachers, coaches, and Boy Scout leaders had a great influence on my decision to go to college which was not a family tradition. My concern is that your students are picking up on your attitude toward the teaching profession. Since you naturally do not want to remain in a profession of which you are ashamed, here are my suggestions for what you should tell your potential new private sector employer:

“1. You expect to make a lot more than you made as a teacher because everyone knows how poorly compensated teachers are.

“2. You expect at least eight weeks paid vacation per year because that is what the taxpayers of North Carolina gave you back when you were a poorly compensated teacher

“3. You expect a defined contribution retirement plan that will guarantee you about $35,000 per year for life after working 30 years even if you live to be 104 years old. Your employer will need to put about $16,000 per year into your retirement plan each year combined with your $2,000 contribution for the next 30 years to achieve this benefit. If he objects, explain to him that a judge has ruled that the taxpayers of North Carolina must provide this benefit to every public school teacher. Surely your new employer wants to give better benefits than the benefits you received as a poorly compensated teacher.

“4. Your potential employer may tell you that he has heard that most North Carolina workers make less than the national average because we are a low cost-of-living- state, private sector workers making 87% of the national average and teachers making 85% of the national average. Tell him that may be true, but to keep that confidential because the teachers union has convinced parents that teachers are grossly undercompensated based on a flawed teachers union survey of teacher pay.

“I support the teacher pay raise but am very concerned that the teachers union has successfully presented to the public a deceptive view of total teacher compensation that is simply not consistent with the facts.

“Sincerely,

“Senator David Curtis”

North Carolina Superior Court Judge Robert H. Hobgood ruled that the state’s effort to eliminate teacher tenure was unconstitutional.

“Superior Court Judge Robert H. Hobgood ruled this morning that the state’s repeal of teacher tenure, also known as “career status,” and the 25 percent contract system that would award temporary employment contracts to those who relinquish their tenure, are both unconstitutional. Hobgood issued a permanent injunction.

“It’s a great day for teachers in North Carolina,” said Rodney Ellis, President of the North Carolina Association of Educators, following Hobgood’s ruling.

- See more at: http://pulse.ncpolicywatch.org/2014/05/16/breaking-court-rules-that-repeal-of-teacher-tenure-25-contracts-unconstitutional/#sthash.LmEaN7Ii.dpuf

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