Archives for category: North Carolina

North Carolina legislators do not like public employees. They sit around and dream up new ways to cut their salaries or benefits. Here is a new one. Maybe ALEC came up with this one.

“A few short lines in the 2015-17 Senate budget would eliminate state-paid health retirement benefits for teachers and state employees hired after January 1, 2016.

“This will negatively impact the state’s ability to recruit good, qualified folks,” said Richard Rogers, executive director of the North Carolina Retired Governmental Employees’ Association. “In the future, I don’t see folks sticking with state government for the long term or for a career.

“Current law provides teachers and state employees with a paid health insurance plan for the duration of retirement. It’s a graduated system, said Rogers, so employees must work a certain number of years in order to receive the maximum benefit of a fully-paid health insurance plan.”

– See more at: http://pulse.ncpolicywatch.org/2015/06/19/senate-budget-ends-health-retirement-benefits-for-future-teachers-and-state-employees/#sthash.aZ6YPPLr.dpuf

The North Carolina Court of Appeals overturned a law passed in 2013 that was intended to eliminate tenure. The court said the law was unconstitutional.

Sharon McCloskey of the Progressive Pulse in North Carolina writes:

The General Assembly’s 2013 repeal of the teacher tenure law amounted to an unconstitutional taking of contract and property rights as to those teachers who’d already attained that status, according to a Court of Appeals opinion released this morning.

Writing for the court, Judge Linda Stephens said:

[W]e cannot escape the conclusion that for the last four decades, the career status protections provided by section 115C- 325, the very title of which—“Principal and Teacher Employment Contracts”— purports to govern teachers’ employment contracts, have been a fundamental part of the bargain that Plaintiffs and thousands of other teachers across this State accepted when they decided to defer the pursuit of potentially more lucrative professions, as well as the opportunity to work in states that offer better financial compensation to members of their own profession, in order to accept employment in our public schools.
The ruling by the three-judge panel affirms Superior Court Judge Robert H. Hobgood’s decision handed down a little over a year ago.

Under North Carolina’s “Career Status Law,” teachers in their first four years were deemed “probationary” and employed year-to-year under annual contracts. At the end of the four-year period, they became eligible for career status, giving them rights to continuing contracts and due process protections from arbitrary or unjustified dismissals.

In summer 2013, lawmakers enacted a repeal of that law in an effort to rid the state of tenure by 2018, saying that it enabled bad teachers to stay in the system.

– See more at: http://pulse.ncpolicywatch.org/2015/06/02/just-in-court-of-appeals-says-repeal-of-nc-tenure-law-is-unconstitutional/#sthash.nkB65Sc2.sKSMHTmS.dpuf

The Board of Governors of the University of North Carolina eliminated 46 degree programs across the system, mainly in education. The Legislature earlier eliminated the highly successful NC Teaching Fellows while expanding Teach for America. Evidently, the Legislature and the university governors don’t want professionally trained teachers.

Here are the degree programs that were eliminated:

DISCONTINUED DEGREE PROGRAMS

Appalachian State University: Family and Consumer Sciences, Secondary Education; Technology Education; Mathematics, Education

Elizabeth City State University: Special Education, General Curriculum; Middle Grades Education; English, Secondary Education; Political Science

East Carolina University: French K-12; German K-12; Hispanic Studies Education; German; French; Public History; Special Education, Intellectual Disabilities; Vocational Education

Fayetteville State University: Art Education; Music Education; Biotechnology

North Carolina Agricultural & Technical State University: Comprehensive Science Education; Physical Education North Carolina Central University: Theatre; Jazz

North Carolina State University: Africana Studies; Women’s and Gender Studies; Business and Marketing Education; Physiology

UNC-Charlotte: Child and Family Development; Special Education, Adapted Curriculum; English Education; Mathematics Education

UNC-Chapel Hill: Human Biology

UNC-Greensboro: Mathematics, Secondary Education (BA); Mathematics, Secondary Education (BS); Economics, Secondary Education; Biology, Secondary Education (BA); Biology, Secondary Education (BS); Composition; Latin Education; Biochemistry

UNC School of the Arts: Film Music Composition

UNC-Wilmington: Physical Education and Health; Music Performance

Western Carolina University: Health Information Administration Winston-Salem State University: Biotechnology; Elementary Education; Teaching English as a Second Language and Linguistics

Oh, those wild and crazy legislators in North Carolina! What will they dream up next to promote privatization?

 

Here is the latest:

 

As Rob Schofield reports in “Progressive Pulse”:

 

“A lot of people are justifiably outraged at the House budget provision that gives $1 million (and delegates public duties) to the conservative school privatization lobby group, Parents for Educational Freedom of North Carolina (PEFNC). As Rep. Rick Glazier — who tried to amend the budget to shift the money to fund teacher assistants — said yesterday (as reported by Raleigh’s News & Observer):

 

“This is the first time that I believe in the history of the legislature that we’ve done what this is asking. We’re giving $1 million of taxpayers’ money to an entity to then choose the charter schools to fund. … It is not our job to take away public funds and give them to a private entity to make public decisions.”

 

– See more at: http://pulse.ncpolicywatch.org/2015/05/22/nc-house-gives-1-million-to-lobby-group-that-pays-e-d-more-than-governor-mccrory/#sthash.PkT2cAHO.dpuf

A new paper by scholars Helen F. Ladd, Charles T. Clotfelder, and John B. Holbein analyzes the charter school sector in North Carolina. http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=2593657

The group give a brief history of charter schools in the state, which were capped at 100 until Race to the Top encouraged the Legislature to remove the cap altogether. As they show, the original charter schools enrolled mainly black students. As the sector grew, however, especially in the recent period, the charter sector has been increasingly segregated by race. It now enrolls more white students than black students. The test scores of entering students are higher than in the past.

As the authors summarize:

Taken together, our findings imply that the charter schools in North Carolina are increasingly serving the interests of relatively able white students in racially imbalanced schools.

It is indeed an irony that a policy fostered by the Obama administration (Race to the Top) has encouraged the growth of segregation, which appears to be a predictable result of market-based education. The policies of Race to the Top in this respect reinforce the preferences of the far-right political forces that gained control of the North Carolina legislature and governorship in 2010.

Even more troublesome is the effect of charters on the public school systems of the state, which continue to enroll the overwhelming majority of students.

As of 2014, charter school students accounted for 3.6 percent of all public schools students in the state, with the percentage of K-8 students (4.2%) being twice that of 9th to 12th grade students (2.1%). Although the overall percentages are low, they are far higher in some of the urban districts—currently, charter school students account for 15.1% of all students in Durham, 4.7% in Winston-Salem, 6.1% in Charlotte-Mecklenburg, and 4.9% in Wake County Schools.

The authors write:

In this paper, we have said nothing about how the growth of charters in particular districts is likely to affect the ability of those districts to provide quality schooling to the children in the traditional public schools. That issue is currently an urgent concern in Durham County, for example, where the rapid growth of charters has not only increased racial segregation, but also has imposed significant financial burdens on the school district. One recent study found that the net cost to the Durham Public Schools could be as high as $2,000 per student enrolled in a charter school, although the precise amount differs based on the assumptions (Troutman, 2014). Major contributors to this burden are the fact that the charter schools serve far lower proportions of expensive-to-educate children than the traditional public schools and that the district cannot reduce its spending in line with the loss of students because of its fixed costs. In ongoing research we plan to investigate further the evolving financial and other implications of charter schools on districts’ traditional public schools.

Mary Nelson, the mother of a 9-year-old boy with disabilities, wanted to opt her child out of state testing, but the law doesn’t permit opting out.

 

She wrote a heart-wrenching story about her efforts to get him excused from what she knew would be a painful and humiliating experience for him, but the bureaucracy could say only that there is no opting out, no excuses. They even insisted that they were protecting his “rights” by requiring him to take tests that he could not pass.

 

She wrote:

 

I am the mother of a wonderful 9-year-old who has some learning differences. His challenges make school days very hard. He has fetal alcohol syndrome, ADHD, oppositional defiant disorder, anxiety disorder and mood disorder. Quite a list for such a little guy. To say we have had a rough time at school is an understatement.

 

At my son’s last Individualized Education Program meeting, considerable time was spent discussing how to help him get through the English Language Arts benchmarks and the End of Grade tests.

 

It was the consensus of his team that the tests were above his ability. Why should he be required to take tests that are above his ability when we already know what the results will be? The answer: “It’s the law.”

 

As his mother, I have spent all his life trying to protect him and doing what I believed to be best for him. So this did not sit well. I envisioned him having to sit at a desk for three hours at a time, trying to answer questions he doesn’t know the answers to. To me, that is child abuse. State and federal leaders are currently debating how many standardized tests children should be required to take and whether parents should have the choice to opt out of tests they see as harmful to their children. These leaders need to pay closer attention to the experiences of children like my son.

 

Imagine if your boss told you that you needed to take a three-hour test and that, when you opened it, you discovered it was in Latin. What would you be feeling? Anxiety? Fear? Anger? Embarrassment? Am I going to lose my job? What will my boss think? Was I supposed to know this? If your boss told you not to worry, that it didn’t matter whether you knew the answers, would you believe it? If your performance didn’t matter, why would you be taking the test in the first place?

 

Now consider this happening to a 9-year-old with emotional issues. How, in good conscience, can I let this happen to my child?….

 

If you know anything about children with disabilities, you know that you can do things right 100 times and that all it takes is to do it wrong once and it’s like starting over. For what? Why can’t his school be allowed to make a sensible, child-centered decision? Why can’t I do what I know is right for my child? To me, this is just crazy.

 

Many state legislatures have established official opt-out procedures that recognize the right of parents to make decisions in the best interests of their children. If North Carolina’s legislators care about children like my son and about the rights of parents, they will take similar action.

 

Read more here: http://www.newsobserver.com/opinion/op-ed/article19417917.html#/tabPane=tabs-b0710947-1-1#storylink=cpy

 

In North Carolina, a state senator has filed a bill requiring all professors to carry a heavy course load. It seems there’s no institution free of the heavy hand of government, when legislators grab the reins of power.

University spokesmen said such a provision would kill research and cause a flight of top talent from research universities.

Lindsay Wagner writes for NC Policy Watch:

“Senator Tom McInnis (R-Richmond) filed a bill last week that would require all UNC professors to teach no fewer than four courses a semester. It’s a move that, McInnis says, is an effort to make sure classes are not taught primarily by student assistants — but some are concerned it could hamper research and development at the state’s prestigious institutions of higher education….

University of North Carolina–Chapel Hill Professor Stephen Leonard, who teaches political science and is chair of the UNC system-wide Faculty Assembly, said the legislation is nothing more than an attempt to kill public higher education in North Carolina.

“I think it’s pretty simple,” said Leonard. “Talented faculty would start looking for work out of state, it would be hard to attract junior faculty coming out of graduate school, and it would be impossible to attract senior faculty who bring a lot of resources to our institutions.”

Leonard says the most problematic consequence of the proposed law would be that the discovery and production of knowledge would grind to a halt.

“Which I suppose is okay if you don’t want to cure cancer, fix infrastructure or make new discoveries about manufacturing processes,” said Leonard.

“SB 593 would tie professors’ salaries to their course loads—those teaching fewer than four courses each semester would earn less than their full salaries, determined on a pro-rata basis.

“The legislation also allows for the salary difference to be made up by an individual campus’ endowment, should they determine a professor should take on a lighter course load in order to conduct research – but Leonard says that’s an untenable scenario for most campuses…..

“The bill comes at a time when the state’s university system is undergoing considerable turmoil thanks to recent controversial decisions to raise tuition, close three academic centers and fire UNC’s widely-praised president, Tom Ross. The system has also been handed substantial budget cuts over the past five years by the state legislature, including a $400 million cut in 2011.”

– See more at: http://pulse.ncpolicywatch.org/2015/03/31/bill-would-require-all-unc-professors-to-teach-heavy-course-load/#sthash.PFhDfrjE.dpuf

Ron Schofield of NC Policy Watch thinks that the schools would thrive if legislators gave them their annual appropriations and then left them alone.

“It is becoming increasingly clear that the single, best thing that North Carolina lawmakers could do to aid public education in our state is this: nothing.

Seriously, lawmakers would do our young people, educators, public education officials, employers, and the state at-large an enormous service if they would simply pass one bill each year providing the funding that our schools really need and then get the heck out of the way and check back in five or ten years. No more “ABC’s” of this or that or “Excellent Schools Acts.” Nothing, nada, zip. Just give our professionals the money and the mandate and let them do their jobs.”

I bet teachers and principals feel the same. Unfortunately, the legislators can’t resist the urge to meddle. Maybe they heard something at dinner or on Fox News, and here’s a new law.

The latest comes from state Senator Tim Apodaca. He wants to bill schools for the cost of remedial courses that students take in college.

Schofield writes:

“You got that? The premise of the law — as with so many other conservative education proposals in recent years — is that North Carolina can wring better results out of its public schools through sheer force. Rather than addressing poverty, providing universal pre-K, lowering class sizes or investing the money that it would really take to hire the teachers and counselors and other professionals who could perform the miracle of preparing millions of kids for the insanely competitive 21st Century economy (half of whom come from families too poor to afford lunch), the Senate would propose to get better K-12 grads by threatening to take away more money from their schools.

“What a great idea! Maybe this can even set a precedent for other parts the education system. For instance, after this bill is passed, lawmakers can pass legislation that allows K-12 systems to bill pre-K programs (or parents) for the kids who show up needing “remediation. ” Another bill could force colleges and universities to pay for the young teachers who arrive in K-12 not fully prepared to teach.

“After that, who knows where such an innovative idea might lead? Maybe North Carolina could enact a law that forces prisons to pay for the cost of recidivism or perhaps one that cuts the environmental protection budget each time there’s a coal ash spill. How about a law that docks legislators’ pay for poor state job growth? Yeah, that’s the ticket!”

– See more at: http://pulse.ncpolicywatch.org/2015/03/26/nc-senate-floats-yet-another-silly-and-simplistic-education-proposal/#sthash.dUS5XYw3.dpuf

Terry McAuliffe, the Democratic governor of Virginia, signed a law repealing the A-F letter grades for schools. As Lindsay Wagner of NC Policy Watch reports, this action takes place at the same time that North Carolina learned that the letter grades are highly correlated with the proportion of disadvantaged students in the school. Thus, the report card serves to stigmatize schools with high poverty levels, making it harder for them to recruit teachers and setting them up for takeover and privatization.

 

The A-F letter grades are Jeb Bush’s idea. As State Superintendent Tony Bennett showed in Indiana, the formula for the letter grades can be manipulated to protect campaign donors who own charter schools. Mainly they stigmatize schools that serve the neediest children.

Allison Eisen and Helen F. Ladd studied the promises and performance of North Carolina’s first 100 charter schools and found that their record was spotty, at best. After the Legislature raised the cap, the number of charters in the state is now 147 and growing.

 

Most distressing are the findings related to the provision of transportation and lunch services, given that serving “at-risk” and low-income students was an initial goal of the state’s charter school enabling legislation.

 

Although charter schools are not legally required to provide transportation to their students, 64 of the initial 100 charter schools in North Carolina pledged to do so in their charter applications. Yet only 33 were doing so in 2011.
Likewise, 62 of the original charters promised to provide lunch to their students even though they had no legal obligation to do so. In fact, only 43 of them were doing so.

 

These services are essential for any school hoping to attract substantial numbers of minority and low-income students. Largely because so many charter schools do not offer transportation and lunch, as a group they have increased racial and socio-economic segregation in North Carolina’s schools.

 

Up until now, there has been little oversight of charter schools in the state. The authors offer four recommendations:

 

▪ Strengthen the application guidelines for charter schools. Charter applicants should be required to carefully consider their operating model with particular attention to the costs of providing lunch and transportation services and their recruitment strategies for disadvantaged students. More detailed applications should help the Advisory Board identify flaws before the school is approved and should help school administrators better adhere to their contracts once the school is open.

 

▪ Shorten the timeline for state review from the current 10-year period to five years. A shorter window would strike a balance between ensuring N.C. schools are successful and allowing charters to operate with a sense of autonomy.

 

▪ Expand the capacity of the various offices within the Department of Public Instruction, including but not limited to the Office for Charter Schools. DPI will clearly need more personnel to support and monitor the growing number of charter schools.

 

▪ Impose consequences when a charter school fails to meet its contractual obligations. These consequences might include financial penalties or school closure. Organizations applying for a charter need to understand that they will be held accountable for their commitments.

 

As more and more students enroll in charter schools across the state, it is high time for North Carolina to provide the tools and resources needed to ensure taxpayer money is being well spent and families are getting the services for which they signed up.

 

Given the current makeup of the Legislature, there seems to be a lack of will to hold charter schools accountable for their performance or their promises.
Read more here: http://www.newsobserver.com/opinion/op-ed/article13130276.html#storylink=cpy

 

 

 

 

 

 

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