Archives for category: North Carolina

A North Carolina judge ruled voucher legislation unconstitutional because it gives money intended for public schools to private and religious schools. He ordered an immediate halt to the program.

Yvonne Brannan of PublicSchools First NC sent the following response, which included a video of Judge Robert Hobgood reading his decision:

“PLEASE watch this– you will better understand why this is so critical!! Hobgood is brilliant — he clearly points out how children will be denied the promise and privilege of public education if in a private setting where they have no constitutional rights!!!! EVERYONE must get this!! Rs and Ds…please understand the common good of public education for us all must be protected!!!! THIS IS A WIN FOR all children – regardless of race, income, gender, ZIP CODE!!!

“Our forefathers gave us this gift!!! THANKS TO the Great leaders of the past and thanks to fair courts!!

PLEASE CELEBRATE by joining me on Sat at 3:30 pm at the Bicentennial Mall for Moral Week of Action EDUCATION DAY!!

“I CANNOT STOP WATCHING THIS!
http://www.wral.com/news/state/nccapitol/video/13911824/”

Civitas is a libertarian, anti-union organization in North Carolina. It is funded by Art Pope, who may be the most powerful powerbroker in the state. Civitas recently put up billboards saying “Teachers: Want a $450 Raise?” If teachers go to the Civitas website, they will learn that they can increase their annual salary by $450 if they quit the North Carolina Association of Educators, which is affiliated with the NEA. By no longer paying union dues, they can give themselves a raise!

Art Pope is a multi-millionaire who is passionately interested in politics. He gives generously to like-minded libertarians and has played a decisive role in ousting Democrats and moderate Republicans from the state legislature. North Carolina, once the most progressive southern state, has swung to the other extreme. Unable to win election on his own, Pope is now the state budget director, and his fine hand can be seen in legislation that is hostile to teachers (but not TFA) and that promotes charters and vouchers. The legislature has been so extreme on so many issues that it has brought into being a resistance movement called Moral Mondays, led by Reverend William Barber, head of the state NAACP. If the momentum of Moral Mondays continues to grow, North Carolina could change direction.

Stuart Egan, a teacher in Clemmons, North Carolina, wrote to tell me that teachers who have been teaching 33 years or more received a pay cut under the new state budget. One friend took an annual cut of $4866.35.

Stuart added the following letter:

Dr. Ravitch,

The following Facebook posting is from a teacher in Cleveland County. Its contents are not that surprising, especially if you have been aware of the North Carolina General Assembly’s actions concerning public schools. It is yet another example of how many in the North Carolina General Assembly view public educators. This only reaffirms Peter Greene’s observation that the North Carolina General Assembly is the most egregious state legislature when it comes to supporting public schools.

Julia Clore-Laurich, a veteran teacher, posts:

I am not an “idiot teacher” for calling State Representative Tim Moore’s office on Wednesday afternoon to voice my concerns about the current budget that is being proposed, yet that was what I was called after the conversation was over and Legislative Assistant Nancy Garriss didn’t realize she had not hung up. Speaking to another staff person, she told him that “some idiot teacher” had called that and that I made her “blood boil.” About that time, someone realized the phone had not been hung up and proceeded to disconnect the line. Of course, I called back immediately. When she answered and I reintroduced myself, she asked if she could put me on hold; I reluctantly agreed. Shortly, a male staffer answered the call and said that Nancy had gone to a meeting. I also got a legal staffer on this call. They apologized, listened politely to what I had to say, offered to have Nancy call to apologize (which I declined), and got my email address.

Having taught for 18 years, I am smart enough to know that the 7% raise that is currently being debated is not 7% for everyone; for step 19, it means 3.31% according to Nancy. I wanted to get on the record and voice my opposition to losing longevity pay. Teachers should not have to give up longevity pay, and I should not have to be grateful to receive a small portion of one of the largest teacher raises in the state’s history that will be funded by giving up what I have already earned. The “wonderful” 7% raise that is being talked about is not so wonderful for the teachers who have put in years of service to the community for the education of young people.

If exercising my right as a citizen to argue that I should not have to give up longevity pay in return for a small portion of the raise that is being debated gets me called an “idiot teacher” by the Legislative Assistant in my North Carolina State Representative’s office, then it is no wonder teachers are being devalued by our State Government.

I have sent the following letter to Ms. Garriss and also copied her employer, Rep. Tim Moore.

Dear Ms. Garriss,

I received a Facebook posting that highlighted an exchange you had with a veteran teacher from Cleveland County. I am troubled by what seems to be a cavalier attitude on your part and I want to say a few words. But more importantly, I want to present myself as a fellow state servant, one who wants to improve conditions in North Carolina.

Like Ms. Clore-Laurich and the thousands of veteran teachers in our state, I am directly affected by such actions as the removal of longevity pay, the disproportional rearrangement of the salary schedule and the elimination of increased pay for advanced degrees. This could be most devastating for the region (Cleveland County) that Rep. Moore represents.

Cleveland County sits on the border with South Carolina, which is successfully recruiting teachers from North Carolina with higher pay and better teaching conditions. Other out-of-state systems (Houston is notable) also are recruiting actively here. Bumper stickers are starting to appear around the state that parody North Carolina’s iconic automobile license plates. Instead of just saying “First in Flight,” they read “First in Teacher Flight.”

Possibly Ms. Clore-Laurich was relating to her elected official that she is concerned with keeping qualified, experienced teachers in her school district because they are crucial to sustaining quality education in Cleveland County. The “7%” raise for teachers being touted by the General Assembly is really a weak and misleading way of saying that public education is being cut into again. With the Teaching Fellow Program eliminated, teacher career status attacked and the measuring of teacher effectiveness with untested means, it is no wonder many veteran teachers are speaking out. They need to be heard. The Winston-Salem/Forsyth County School system I serve will have to deal with a $4 million shortfall that most likely will affect the hiring of teacher assistants. I have a son who has Down Syndrome and will enter first grade. Having teacher assistants is not a luxury in his classroom; it is vital.

A majority of the money in this so-called raise will be given to newer teachers with the short-term goal that they will start a career in North Carolina. However, the General Assembly refuses to see that the long-term outcome of this is that few teachers will end their careers in North Carolina.

Longevity is now eliminated and then given back to experienced teachers in the form of a raise. It is not an actual raise; it’s a reallocation of money that we teachers have already earned. Think of it this way: someone goes into your savings account and withdraws $10,000 and then hands it to you and says you got a bonus. And all state employees get longevity pay, possibly you as well. But now, teachers will not. It is being used to finance this “raise.”

The new salary schedule simply puts into place the actual numbers promised in the old salary schedule from 2007, but it does not consider inflation and cost-of-living increases. You should read James Hogan’s recent post on this matter. It can be found at http://www.forum.jamesdhogan.com/2014/07/the-pay-scale-no-politician-wants-you.html. Mr. Hogan is a very lucid, straightforward thinker and explains this very well.

The elimination of advanced degree pay is another item of concern. Advanced degrees have been the only means for teachers to get some sort of monetary promotion in the profession of education. Please remember that a profession, such as the fields of law, medicine and education, require licensure; however, our General Assembly apparently does not think educators deserve the same treatment as doctors and lawyers. Take Rep. Moore for example. He is an attorney, which means that he probably has a Juris Doctorate. But what if he was in business law and also possessed an MBA? Would he be able to command more recompense for his knowledge? Yes he would. Why should the field of education be any different?

There are other ramifications of this budget that invite many more questions and concerns. How does this affect teacher pension plans in the future? What about the message this sends to our post-secondary schools that train our teacher candidates? Why is more money going to fund “Opportunity Grants” when that money was already tagged for public education?

But the most obvious concern is keeping qualified, seasoned veterans in our classrooms to teach our kids and to mentor fabulous new teachers to become seasoned educators. And a border county like Cleveland County cannot afford to lose teachers, unless the goal is to always have your students taught by inexperienced teachers who plan to finish their careers elsewhere. Is that really the intent of Rep. Moore, a six-time incumbent seeking reelection this November?

All of this negative talk about public schools and teacher salaries is enough to make my “blood boil” as well. But I have no problem being called an “idiot teacher” if it means trying to speak up for public schools in North Carolina. I will gladly wear that label if it helps our students.

Respectfully,

Stuart Egan, Ed.S., NBCT

West Forsyth High School

Clemmons, NC

James D. Hogan, a former high school English teacher who now teaches in a liberal arts college, decided to fact check the North Carolina legislature’s claim of a “historic pay raise” for the state’s teachers. Other states have been luring North Carolina teachers away with a promise of higher salaries. North Carolina has more National Board Certified Teachers an any other state. The state’s elected officials have taken a lot of criticism for freezing teacher salaries since 2008, and now they are running for re-election boasting of the new teacher pay scales.

So Hogan compared the pay scales for 2008 to the projected pay scales for 2014-15.

Hogan found:

“If you only look at the 2013-14 numbers, the proposed budget looks like a great deal–an average pay increase of $2,129, thanks mostly to the big jumps in the first 12 years of the pay scale. But when you stack the proposed 2014-15 scale next to the 2008-09 scale, the numbers tell a different story. Under that scenario, out of the 32 steps of the scale, 13 pay grades earn less money in the 2014-15 budget. The average pay increase is $270. Read that again: if we were simply comparing the proposed 2014-15 salary schedule to the 2008-09 salary schedule, the average teacher would see a pay increase of $270.

“Further more, these are raw numbers. What that comparison fails to take into account is the simple cost of inflation over the last 6 years. If the 2008-09 salary schedule had been kept in place and updated each year to account for inflation, the average teacher would earn $4,212 more than the 2014-15 proposed budget would pay them. Again: if we simply adopted the 2008-09 salary schedule this year and adjusted it for inflation, the average teacher would make $4,212 more.”

Another interesting fact:

Under the new salary schedule for 2014-2015, it takes 30 years of teaching to reach a salary of $50,000 a year.

Hogan’s solution:

“Our state legislators tell us they value public education. This year, they’re offering a tiny bit of compensation and billing it as a historic raise. What they’ve yet to do, so far, is admit that rebuilding and restoring our public school system to a funding level it experienced within this decade will mean raising taxes.”

See more at: http://www.forum.jamesdhogan.com/2014/07/the-pay-scale-no-politician-wants-you.html#sthash.P2Ba0XjX.dpuf

Lindsay Wagner of NC Policy Watch reports that the virtual charter corporation K12 is hoping to open an online school in North Carolina.

 

K12 was founded by Michael and Lloyd Milken and  has turned out to be a highly profitable corporation that is listed on the New York Stock Exchange.

 

It academic results are unimpressive, to say the least. Its students have a high dropout rate, low graduation rates, and low test scores. A study by the Walton-funded group at Stanford found that virtual charter schools in Pennsylvania, including K12, get worse results than either public schools or brick-and-mortar charter schools. A study by the National Education Policy Center criticized K12’s poor academic results and high administration costs; students at K12 actually fall behind real public schools. Stories in the New York Times and the Washington Post showed K12 to be one of the worst of all possible choices.

 

K12 makes a lot of money for investors. The schools it creates are not good schools, as judged by results.

 

Why would North Carolina want to siphon money away from its community public schools to pay off investors in a for-profit corporation?

 

Must be campaign contributions.  Or ideology. Or stupidity.

Lindsay Wagner reports in NC Watch that a judge in North Carolina said it was okay to dispense $10 million for private school vouchers before the courts rule on whether vouchers are constitutional. The far-right legislative leader Thom Tilles said the budget for vouchers would grow by another $800,000.

Do you think President Obama or Secretary Duncan will speak out against this diversion of public funds to private and religious schools?

Lindsay Wagner of the NC Policy Watch reports that the NC House passed a bill to guard the privacy of salaries paid to employees of for-profit charter management companies, even though they are paid with public funds. The bill also removes protection of LGBT students that had been in earlier versions.

She writes:

“While the bill, SB 793, or Charter School Modifications, clarifies that the salaries of charter school teachers and non-profit boards of directors are subject to public disclosure, employees of for-profit companies that are contracted to manage the operations of charter schools would not be subject to those rules.

“In a prior version of the bill, language simply required charter schools to publicly disclose all employees’ salaries.

“The change comes at a time when one prominent Wilmington-based charter school operator, Baker A. Mitchell Jr., has been fighting media requests for months that have asked him to fully disclose the salaries of all employees associated with his charter schools – teachers as well as those who work for his for-profit education management organization (EMO), Roger Bacon Academy.

“Mitchell, who also sits on the N.C. Charter School Advisory Board that is tasked with approving and monitoring charter schools, operates four charter schools in southeastern North Carolina through his for-profit company.

“Roger Bacon Academy has raked in millions of dollars in profits that consist of public funds since 1999 – and Mitchell himself has profited to the tune of at least $16 million in management fees over the past several years.

“While debating the conference report of the charter school bill, Cotham told fellow lawmakers this bill protects Mitchell and others like him who are free to hire family and friends through a private company that runs charters, and then pay them anything they like with public funds.”

- See more at: http://pulse.ncpolicywatch.org/2014/07/25/house-oks-bill-that-allows-private-charter-school-education-management-companies-to-keep-their-employees-salaries-secret/#sthash.sBQKWS2z.dpuf

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.

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