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Instead of scapegoating teachers, politicians are competing to claim they raised salaries. How short are teachers’ memories? Vying and usually lying:

“TEACHERS’ PETS?: Forget soccer moms. This election cycle, candidates across the country are scrambling to get teachers on their side – or at least, to convince voters that they stand with educators.

- In Alaska, Republican Senate candidate Dan Sullivan jumped into the chalk wars first with an ad [] featuring a seventh grade teacher praising him for saving her pension by standing tough against Wall Street malfeasance during the financial crisis. The National Education Association fired back with a spot [ ] starring a music teacher conducting a cacophony of out-of-tune instruments as he accuses Sullivan of letting Wall Street off easy in the deal. “Sullivan sold Alaska’s teachers out … letting Wall Street play Alaska like a cheap fiddle,” he says. Sullivan faces incumbent Democrat Mark Begich in the pivotal race.

- In the equally pivotal North Carolina Senate race, Republican Thom Tillis and Democratic incumbent Kay Hagan have been playing the teacher card for months. Tillis, speaker of the state House, has been running an ad [] boasting of pushing through legislation to raise teacher pay 7 percent. The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee has countered with a spot [ ] warning that Tillis’ math “doesn’t add up.” Only a fraction of the most experienced teachers got that pay raise, the DSCC says, while teaching assistants lost their jobs and schools lost hundreds of millions in funding.”

Professor Helen Ladd of Duke University, internationally renowned economist of education, and her husband Edward Fiske, former education editor of the New York Times, recently wrote about a sneaky move by the North Carolina legislature to undermine the funding of children in public schools. Not content to fund charters and vouchers, the legislature is directly attacking the basic funding formula for the state public system. The overwhelming majority of children in the state attend public schools. Why do their parents elect these people who short-change public education?

Ladd and Fiske write:

“In a last-minute change that was taken with no hearings and no prior publicity, the Republican-controlled General Assembly has undermined the fundamental building block of school finance in North Carolina.

“Ever since the state took over responsibility from the local districts for funding public schools during the Great Depression, state funding in North Carolina has been based on the number of students served. When a local district’s school rolls increased or decreased, the state would adjust the funding up or down accordingly, using a variety of formulas, all of them driven by the number of students.

“Under legislation enacted last month, the legislature has scrapped this system. From now on, every spring the state will make an initial commitment of state funds to districts for the following year based on the number of students currently enrolled rather than, as in the past, on their projected enrollments. In other words, districts with growing enrollments will no longer be guaranteed an increase in per pupil funds to cover the costs of educating the additional students.

“Any additional funds will have to be negotiated as part of the legislature’s more general budgetary process later in the year.

“Local and state school finance officers describe this change, seemingly quite technical in nature, as the most fundamental, even “drastic,” change in school finance in North Carolina in nearly a century. It constitutes a direct attack on the state’s ability to carry out its constitutional obligation to provide a sound basic education to all children in the state.

“Here’s how the system has worked since 1933. Every February or March the Department of Public Instruction notifies local districts what their per pupil allotments will be for the coming school year. The calculation is based on the prior year’s statewide per pupil funding levels or a range of expenditures, from teachers to textbooks, multiplied by the number of students projected for the district for the following year. Districts then use this figure as they construct their budgets and make plans for hiring teachers and other spending decisions.

“Now that the legislature has struck down this system, districts with growing enrollments will no longer be guaranteed a proportionate increase in funding to cover their additional students.

“The legislature will still have the option, through its budgetary process, to provide additional funding, but it will have no obligation to do so. Funding to cover growing enrollments will have to be negotiated and compete with other state priorities.

“The practical implications of policy change are huge for two reasons. First, it undercuts the basic pupil-based structure for distributing state funds to local districts that has served the state well for many decades. Second, it undermines the ability of district officials to do responsible financial planning. Whereas districts normally hire teachers for the coming year in the spring, they will now have to wait until the legislature gets around to adopting a new budget, which this year was August, before they can make firm commitments.

“Perhaps the most far-reaching aspect of the new policy is that it undermines the state’s constitutionally mandated commitment to provide sound basic education to all young people in North Carolina. While politicians in the past have debated about what constitutes adequate per pupil funding, now, for the first time, they will also be debating whether to appropriate any additional funding simply to cover the costs of additional students. Such funding will now be a matter of political give and take.

“The new policy will clearly have the most obvious effect on districts with growing student populations. Although a majority of North Carolina school districts, especially those in rural areas, are currently experiencing population declines, the overall number of students in the state continues to increase, and six of the eight largest districts are dealing with a growing number of students. Wake County schools are projected to see an increase of more than 8,000 students over the next three years, while Charlotte-Mecklenburg is facing growth of more than 9,000 during the same period. Even districts with declining school populations will be hurt because available state funds will have to be spread among a larger total student population….

“So why would Republican leaders adopt a policy that weakens the state’s ability to provide quality education for all students and makes it more difficult for district officials to engage in responsible planning? Perhaps one answer is that, since the large tax cuts Republicans implemented last year have reduced the revenue available for major state expenditure items such as education, they are now scrambling to find new ways of reducing support for education without seeming to be doing so. A related answer lies in the overall thrust of their education policies.

“Since taking power in 2012 Gov. Pat McCrory and the Republican leaders have enacted a series of efforts aimed at weakening the state’s commitment to public education. They have, among other things, reduced the number of classroom teachers, teacher assistants, assistant principals, guidance counselors and nurses in North Carolina schools They have cut funding for textbooks and other learning materials and eviscerated teacher professional development – all the while giving favored treatment to charters and adopting a voucher program that diverts funds from public schools and puts them in the hands of religious and other private schools immune from public accountability…..

“The sleight of hand continues.”

Helen F. Ladd is professor of Public Policy and Economics at the Sanford School of Public Policy at Duke University. Edward B. Fiske, formerly Education Editor of The New York Times, edits the Fiske Guide to Colleges.

Read more here:

The North Carolina Policy Watch reports on the latest turn in the battle over vouchers, which were declared unconstitutional in August by a Supreme Court judge.

“The N.C. Court of Appeals ruled today that the 1,878 students who have already been granted school vouchers can now use those taxpayer dollars at private schools while the fate of the program is decided.

“Students enrolled at private schools this fall expecting to have the vouchers, worth $4,200 annually, in hand – but an August ruling by Superior Court Judge Robert H. Hobgood found the school voucher law to be unconstitutional, halting a program that, as Judge Hobgood said, “appropriates taxpayer funds to educational institutions that have no standards, curriculum and requirements for teachers and principals to be certified.

“As a result, voucher recipients either returned to public schools or paid the full cost of attendance at private schools. Some private schools also indicated they would temporarily subsidize voucher students with the hope that the final court ruling would turn out in their favor.

“While the Court of Appeals’ ruling obligates the state to disburse taxpayer funds to the private schools of those students who were awarded vouchers no later than August 21, 2014, it also blocks the state from awarding any additional vouchers until the final merits of the case are decided.

“State lawmakers passed a 2013 budget that tagged $10 million to be used for the school vouchers, or “Opportunity Scholarships,” beginning this fall. The vouchers funnel taxpayer funds to largely unaccountable private schools–70 percent of which are affiliated with religious institutions…..”

Judge Robert Hobgood, who ruled against vouchers in August, said at that time:

““The General Assembly fails the children of North Carolina when they are sent with public taxpayer money to private schools that have no legal obligation to teach them anything.”

This farce, which transfers public money from public schools to mostly religious schools, has nothing to do with education reform, and everything to do with extremist ideology and the ALEC agenda. It is a betrayal of the state’s obligation to its children.

Shortly after posting that the school board of Durham, North Carolina, voted not to renew its contract with Teach for America, I recalled that another major city had done the same, reversing the previous board’s decision to bring in 30 TFA recruits.

Last December, the newly elected majority on the Pittsburgh school board voted 6-2 not to renew its contract with TFA. The issue was how to fill positions at hard-to-staff schools. One of the board members who voted not to renew TFA said, “Board members said they’re concerned resignations from teachers in those schools stem from a lack of support for the educators. “People will come to hard-to-staff buildings if they know they will have support there.”

The Durham public school board voted 6-1 to finish its current contract with Teach for America and then sever the relationship.

“The Durham school district will honor its current contract with Teach For America, but the national teacher training program’s future with Durham Public Schools is up in the air.

“The school board voted 6-1 last week to honor its commitment to TFA teachers, including five hired to work for DPS this school year, but to not pursue any new relationships with the program beyond the 2015-16 school year.

“That’s when the five TFA teachers hired for this school year will complete their service obligation with the program.

“Seven other TFA teachers have begun their second years with DPS and will complete their two-year obligation with the program at the end of this school year.

“Among concerns voiced by school board members who voted not to pursue any new relationships with TFA is the program’s use of inexperienced teachers in high-needs schools.

“It feels like despite the best intention and the efforts, this has potential to do harm to some of our neediest students,” said school board member Natalie Beyer, who voted against the school district’s contract with TFA three years ago.

“Others said they were concerned that TFA teachers only make a two-year commitment.

“I have a problem with the two years and gone, using it like community service as someone said,” said school board member Mike Lee.

“School board Chairwoman Minnie Forte-Brown was the only member to vote in favor of the district’s continuing its relationship with TFA.

“She agreed that school districts need teachers who are willing to make long-term commitments, but only if they are doing a good job in the classroom.

“Having tenure, just being there because you’re there and not dong what you should be doing, committed to every child, every day, having high expectations for every child, every day, if you’re not doing that, it doesn’t matter if you’ve become a veteran in the classroom,” said Forte-Brown. “I need a veteran, qualified teacher in every classroom.”

Some teachers asked the board to use the funds to try to replicate the highly successful North Carolina Teaching Fellows, a five-year training program for career teachers that was defunded by the Legislature. But the executive director of TFA for Eastern North Carolina defended the program, saying that it was “North Carolina’s source for our state’s most effective beginning teachers.”

The district was expected to pay TFA $3,000 for each beginning teacher. But the board decided not to continue the relationship.

Patty Williams has been an active advocate for good public schools in Wake County. The second of her two children just graduated and is off to college. Does this mean she will abandon the public schools? No way! In this article, she and her husband David Zonderman explain why good public schools are important for our society, our communities, and our economy. Whether you have children in the public schools or not, you benefit by making sure that all children get a good education and that all public schools provide one.

They write:

“Better schools produce better-educated students who get better-paying jobs that allow people to make a better life for their families and pay taxes for more investments in our schools and roads and parks – there is that virtuous cycle again.

“This fall, we have elections for our state legislature. Most candidates will go to great lengths to tell you how they support public education. But we all need to look beyond the rhetoric to the decisions they made. Ask those running for office whether they supported budgets that froze teacher salaries and cut money for classroom assistants and textbooks and supplies. Ask whether they endorsed the nearly complete deregulation of charter schools and vouchers that give our tax dollars to private and religious schools that can discriminate against children. Ask them whether they have a long-term vision for protecting and enhancing public education in our state. Actions speak louder than words in supporting strong public schools for all children in North Carolina.

“We all have a stake in making North Carolina’s public schools the best they can be. These schools are essential to building healthy communities, a vibrant democracy and a prosperous economy.”

Read more here:

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!!


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 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.


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:


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