Archives for category: Teachers

I posted recently about the growing exodus of teachers from Arizona due to low salaries, testing, mandates, and poor working conditions. Do the legislators and governor understand the consequences of their actions? This teacher says they do. They know exactly what they are doing.

 

 

Here is his comment:

 

“I’ve been teaching in Arizona for 16 years (having come here from Texas). It is harder now than it’s ever been. I happen to live in a community that strongly supports public education. However, the community itself is poor with one of the highest non-reservation levels of unemployment. Still, the board is seriously looking at raising tax rates to try to compensate for salaries that have been frozen for 8 years. While the state has shrugged off its obligation to fund public education, it has made the problem worse by making it more difficult for local communities to raise funds themselves. It is difficult to look at the mess we are in here and come to any other conclusion than that this is a concerted effort to destroy public education.”

Philadelphia has hired a search service to hire 5,000 substitutes.

“Whether you’re a recent college graduate looking to work your way into a full-time teaching position, a retired teacher interested in getting back in the classroom, or someone looking to make a positive contribution to the development of children, Source4Teachers has a place for you. We offer health insurance and other benefits including a 401(k) plan and opportnities for various bonuses. Plus, working as a substitute is extremely flexible –how frequently, when and where you work is entirely up to you,” the SubinPhilly.com website says.”

This could happen only in a district that doesn’t care about education or children. This could happen only in a district that serves poor Black and Hispanic children. It would never happen in a ritzy white suburb.

The Los Angeles Times published letters from some teachers about why teachers quit.

Bottom line: The “Children First” mentality drives teachers away by creating the presumption that teachers are on a “different side” from children and that they put their own greedy self-interest above the needs of their students.

Alex Caputo-Pearl, the head of the United Teachers of Los Angeles, announced that teachers would fight Eli Broad’s plan to expand the number of privately managed charter schools to include half the children in the city. The plan was announced recently and has the support of the rightwing Walton Family Foundation and the Keck Foundation.

The first point to be made about the Broad plan is that it is a direct affront to democracy. Who elected Eli Broad to decide what the shape of the LAUSD should be? Who gave him the power to redirect public funds to private entrepreneurs?

The second is that the union is a natural antagonist to the charter expansion because charters are almost always non-union schools. Their teachers have no job protections, work long hours, and can be fired at will. Of course, this is not an incidental feature of charter schools; it is central to their purpose to disempower teachers. That is why the charter movement is supported by the staunchly anti-union Walton Family Foundation of Bentonville, Arkansas.

The third is that the expansion will cripple public education, leaving the public schools with the students unwanted by the charters and removing resources and the best students.

““We’re going to make every effort that we can to organize against the expansion of what are essentially unregulated non-union schools that don’t play by the rules as everybody else,” Caputo-Pearl told LA School Report. “So we’re going to take that on in the public, take that on in the media, engage the school board on it. We’re going to try to engage Eli Broad. We’re going to try to engage John Deasy because we understand he’s the architect of it. It will be a major effort. It is a major concern.”

Michael Hiltzik is a business writer for the Los Angeles Times. He seems to understand education issues better than many other journalists. In this post, he explains the animus and ideology behind a lawsuit against teachers’ unions in California known as Bain vs. California Teachers Association, et al. In this suit, a group of four teachers are suing six California and national teachers unions, claiming that their free speech rights are denied when the union takes positions they don’t agree with. Hiltzik understands that the goal of the lawsuit is not to protect free speech, but to deny the unions’ right to speak for its members.

Follow the money.

“The lawsuit purports to defend the “free speech” rights of its plaintiffs, four California schoolteachers. But its real goal is to silence the collective voice of union members on political and educational issues. Its lesson is simple: If you don’t like the decisions your organization or community reaches through the democratic process, just refuse to pay for them.

“The plaintiffs in Bain vs. California Teachers Assn., et al, say the conditions of union membership coerce them into supporting “political or ideological” viewpoints they don’t share. StudentsFirst, an education reform group supported by wealthy hedge fund managers and the Walton family, is bankrolling the lawsuit. StudentsFirst was founded by onetime Washington, D.C., schools chancellor Michelle Rhee, who, before leaving the organization in 2014 under a cloud, established its philosophy that the problem with education is that teachers have too much power and job protection.

“Bain vs. CTA should be viewed in the context of a long war against public employee unions. Among its landmarks were Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s 2005 ballot initiatives to reduce teacher tenure rights and hamstring public employee unions’ authority to spend member dues on political activity. Both failed.

“The lawsuit’s prime target is the “agency” or “fair share” fee. Under the law and according to a 1977 Supreme Court decision known as the Abood case, workers can be assessed non-member fees to cover solely the cost of negotiations and contract enforcement, without being compelled to join the union and support its political activities with their dues. That’s the arrangement in California. For decades, union opponents have been trying to get Abood overruled. The Supreme Court is pondering whether to hear one challenge from California, Friedrichs vs. California Teachers Assn. Bain “helps create a favorable political climate for the Supreme Court” to accept the Friedrichs case and overturn Abood, says Joshua Pechthalt, president of the California Federation of Teachers, a defendant in Bain. Its purpose is “pretty clear,” he says: “The erosion of unions’ ability to be involved with politics.”

If the union-haters get their way, union voices will be silenced, but the well-funded voices of corporate America will not. After the Citizens United decision by the Supreme Court, muzzling the unions would be another blow against democracy. We are accustomed to the cacophony of divergent opinion. It would be disgraceful if those who defend working people were silenced.

John Kasich has been trying, along with Jeb Bush, to present himself as a moderate. Readers of this blog, especially those from Ohio, know that he is no moderate on the subject of education. Ohio is a state where wealthy charter operators pay with campaigb contributions to operate their low-performing schools without accountability. If it were up to Kasich, public education would be replaced with charters and vouchers, unions would be banned, and teachers would serve at-will.

Kasich blew his cover the other day. He said if he were king, he would eliminate teachers’ lounges, so that teachers could not congregate and complain. Free speech seems to be a problem for Kasich.

This post went viral. Nancy Bailey points out that several Presidential candidates are “old,” compared to most teachers.

“Jeb Bush is 62. Hillary Clinton is 67. Donald Trump is 69 and Bernie Sanders is 73. If these individuals were teaching in a public school, and not famous politicians, what would you bet that they’d still be working?

“How many older teachers do you know who are still teaching? While there is much gnashing of teeth in the news about a teacher shortage, I don’t see any effort to bring elderly teachers back to the classroom. And by elderly I’d start at age forty (no, I don’t think 40 is old but they do!). Instead, they’d rather put someone in charge of a class who hasn’t earned credentials!…

“In 2013, The Guardian’s anonymous “Secret Teacher” column titled “There’s an Insidious Prejudice Against Older Teachers” describes a veteran teacher’s unsettling fear that Teach First, which sounds eerily like England’s version of Teach for America, was being highlighted as the answer to education problems—older teachers were cast as culprits….

“Today’s education reformers don’t want teachers who cost more, or who speak their mind about untested curriculum changes, who bitch about Common Core State Standards, high-stakes testing or crummy student treatment. They sure don’t want an elementary teacher who demands recess! Or, a high school teacher who remembers free advanced classes that didn’t rely on AP as a convoluted way to make money for the College Board!

“They don’t want teachers who will point to troubling outside corporate influence by those who are not teachers. In America, that would include people like Microsoft’s Bill Gates (59) or business entrepreneur Eli Broad (82)….

“Teachers who choose teaching as a profession and who want to be there for students—always—are critical. Students deserve to experience good teachers of all ages. But older teachers have been targeted for years. Even if they hang in there, most are not respected as they deserve.

“Their voices are ignored. Their valuable experience cast off. How often do they get to do original planning these days? How often do they have to put up with scripted, commercialized material foisted into their classrooms?…

“Today’s teaching workforce is built upon the desire on the part of education reformers to have transitory teachers. Here today, gone tomorrow! That is the way to keep costs down and teachers aligned to curriculum changes and charter school control.

“They will not build teachers who commit to students in a long-term career, who will strive to remain in teaching and do what is right and good to help students learn.

“And when students get older they won’t have any teachers to go back to visit. The older teachers just won’t be there.”

Gus Morales, the outspoken leader of the Holyoke, Massachusetts, Teachers Association, won the right to a hearing from the state’s Department of Labor Relations after he was laid off by his district.

The Massachusetts Teachers Association and his colleagues believe he was dismissed because he led protests against the state takeover of the district.

“The state Department of Labor Relations (DLR) has found “probable cause” to believe that the Holyoke Public Schools illegally fired Holyoke Teachers Association (HTA) President Gus Morales because of his activism as a union leader.

“The DLR will hold a hearing on the complaint, which stems from a charge filed by the HTA on June 25. The DLR complaint is similar to a grand jury indictment; the upcoming hearing will have many of the characteristics of a trial, with witnesses and cross-examination.

“Because I speak out against policies that I see as bad for our students and bad for our educators, I have been targeted for two straight years,” said Morales, whose employment contract with the Holyoke Public Schools was not renewed at the end of the school year.

“Morales, who does not have professional teaching status, was similarly dismissed at the end the 2013-14 school year after his election to lead the HTA. Then, as now, the DLR issued a complaint that found reason to believe that Morales was illegally terminated for his union activism.”

Morales and the HTA were vocal opponents of the takeover, which was imposed in April despite widespread objections from the community and several of its elected leaders.

“It is an outrage that an educator and leader such as Gus Morales, who has spoken out for the students and the Holyoke community, is being targeted for dismissal,” said MTA President Barbara Madeloni. “The MTA will not tolerate attacks on educators, especially when the attack is meant to cause fear among those who challenge the deeply flawed accountability system used to punish educators, students and communities. Gus has the courage to address the real issues affecting Holyoke — such as economic and racial injustice — and the MTA supports him and the HTA in holding the state accountable for providing resources that the community can use to combat these problems.”

“Throughout stakeholder meetings to craft a “turnaround” plan for Holyoke Public Schools, Morales and others from the HTA raised concerns about the influence of standardized tests, the need to provide social services to students living in poverty, inadequate programs for students on special education plans, the lack of ethnic diversity in the teaching ranks and other issues that they felt that the receiver needs to address.”

Morales never got a bad evaluation until he spoke out against bad policies.

This article is an outstanding and heart-breaking account of the harsh treatment meted out to the public school teachers of New Orleans in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. It appears in Education Week.

About 7,000 veteran teachers were summarily fired. Most were African-American and most were women. They fought their firing in the courts because they did not receive due process, but a few months ago, the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear their appeal. Their legal battle was defeated, like them.

Many of their schools were physically destroyed. Most were turned into charter schools. Public schools that were once the heart of their communities, are gone. Now everything is choice, as though a goal of reform was to destabilize black communities.

Defenders of the wholesale privatization, like Leslie Hacobs, defend it on grounds that test scores are up. We all know that the data about this experiment are hotly contested. Since so many children never returned after the storm, it is hard to make fair comparisons.

Read this article and ask whether it was a good trade off: ruining the lives of thousands of dedicated teachers and uprooting historic communities as the price of a few more points on standardized tests?

This is a debate about the state of public education in North Carolina.

First James D. Hogan, a former high school English teacher, wrote a scathing article about the war against public education in North Carolina, waged by the Governor and the Legislature against teachers, students, and public schools.

Then came a rebuttal by Brenda Berg, a spokesperson for business, saying that Hogan was wrong.

Now comes an article by North Carolina high school teacher Stuart Egan, refuting Brenda Berg, point by point.


Ms. Berg,

I read with great interest your essay, entitled “The real war on education in North Carolina.” It was a carefully crafted response to James Hogan’s widely circulated op-ed piece, entitled “The war on North Carolina’s public schools,” in which he explained actions taken in the last few years by a GOP-led General Assembly that have seriously handcuffed the public school system in our state.

You are certainly right in many respects: There is a war on public education and much of the rhetoric surrounding this war is “built on half-truths” and masterfully spun double-speak.

You responded to Hogan’s arguments in a very professional and matter-of-fact manner, taking each of his supporting points and rebutting them with your own information. Yet, I would be remiss in not offering some clarification and insights as a veteran North Carolinian educator who has seen much in these last few years. In many instances, you have not only misinterpreted the data, you have also not explained the whole picture.

The first item you “debunked” from Mr. Hogan’s article was his assertion that “Among their first targets: … cuts to public schools, including laying off thousands of teachers… The state lost thousands more teacher and teacher assistant positions.”
You countered with numbers from the Department of Public Instruction about how the number of teachers in the state has actually increased since 2008. You said:

“We don’t know where Mr. Hogan finds evidence for the layoff of thousands of teachers. The North Carolina Statistical Profile from the Department of Public Instruction shows that in 2008, North Carolina had 97,676 teachers. Since 2008, the largest decline in the number of teachers employed in North Carolina was between 2011 and 2012, when the state employed 641 fewer teachers. There is no evidence that teachers were laid off; rather, it is more likely that vacant positions remained unfilled. In 2012, the state hired an additional 1,357 teachers and since then, the number of teachers has grown to 98,988 in 2014.”

With this use of numbers, you appear correct, but you are actually ignoring one very important item: growth of population. North Carolina has grown tremendously in the last few years. In fact, the number of teachers in 2014 should have been much higher to keep the same student to teacher ratio we had in 2008. Instead, high school class size caps have been removed statewide, and teachers are teaching more students per day.

Add to that your observation that vacant positions were unfilled. That in and of itself tells one there is no longer a teacher employed to “fill” that position. The duties remain, but now others have to assume them along with already growing responsibilities. Two teachers now are doing the work of what three teachers did in 2008. Attrition rates, early retirement, and reduction in force (RIF) are all real forces in schools today, and the effect is akin to layoffs.

Furthermore, do the numbers you refer to include all of the teacher assistants, media assistants, administrators, and other classified personnel who are no longer employed?

The next item you attempted to debunk involved state funding for schools. Mr. Hogan said, “Two years later, in the last budget cycle, 2014-15, the legislature provided roughly $500 million less for education than schools needed.”
You countered with the PolitiFact claim that “In fact, by 2014-15, North Carolina was still spending $100 million less on public education than it had before the economic recession.” Then you further explained:

“North Carolina is spending more today on public education than it did before the economic recession, even when adjusted for inflation. The public education appropriation for the 2014-15 school year is $11,013,800,000—a significantly higher number than the $9,406,300,000 allocated in 2007, just before the Great Recession. When adjusted for inflation, North Carolina is also spending more per pupil now than in any of the ten previous years, with the exception of 2009, a peak budget year.”

Again, you simplified the numbers. There is more there and much of it has to do with population increase and the need to educate more students.

Let me use an analogy. Say in 2008, a school district had 1,000 students in its school system and spent $10 million dollars in its budget to educate them. That’s a $10,000 per-pupil expenditure. Now in 2015, that same district has 1,500 students and the school system is spending $11.5 million to educate them. According to your analysis, that district is spending more total dollars now than in 2008 on education, but the per-pupil expenditure has gone down, significantly by over $2,300 dollars per student or 23 percent.

A WRAL report from this past school year stated, “In terms of per-pupil spending, an NEA report ranks North Carolina 46th in the United States in 2014-15, up from 47th in 2013-14. But spending actually drops from $8,632 to $8,620 per student from last year to this year.” According to Governing magazine, even the Census Bureau confirms that we are spending less per student than in years past.

Mr. Hogan stated next, “And when Republicans finally acted to increase teacher pay, they claimed to make the biggest pay hike in state history–but in reality only bumped up paychecks by an average of $270 per year.”
Your rebuttal was:

“We find no evidence that supports Mr. Hogan’s claim that the teachers received on average a $270 increase in salary. The average salary for a North Carolina teacher in 2013, the year before the raise was added, was $44,990. If you multiply this number by the average percent raise, 6.9 percent (according to calculations from Fiscal Research), teachers received on average an additional $3,104 dollars on their annual paycheck, plus benefits….

In 2014, the General Assembly passed an average 6.9 percent raise for teachers. This year, both the House and the Senate have proposed additional teacher raises averaging 4 percent. Combined, this nearly 11 percent average raise makes significant progress toward addressing the 17.4 percent decline (adjusted for inflation) in salaries teachers experienced between 2003 and 2013.”

The operative word here is “average.” Beginning teachers saw an average pay hike of more than 10 percent, yet the more years a teacher had, the less of a “raise” was given. The result was an AVERAGE hike of 6.9 percent, but it was not an even distribution. In fact, some veterans saw a reduction in annual pay because much of the “raise” was funded with what used to be longevity pay. And as a teacher who has been in North Carolina for these past ten years, I can with certainty tell you that my salary has not increased by 6.9 percent.

Mr. Hogan’s claim that there was only an average salary increase of $270 comes when one takes the actual money allocated in the budget for the increase and dividing that evenly across the board.

That raise you refer to was funded in part by eliminating teachers’ longevity pay. Like an annual bonus, all state employees receive it—except, now, for teachers—as a reward for continued service. Yet the budget you mentioned simply rolled that longevity money into teachers’ salaries and labeled it as a raise.

In the point about out-of-state teacher recruitment, Mr. Hogan said, “Meanwhile, Texas and Virginia started actively recruiting North Carolina teachers to go work in their states. It didn’t take much to convince Tarheel teachers to flee…”

You responded:

“Relatively few North Carolina teachers are leaving to teach in other states, and fewer are leaving now than before the economic recession. The North Carolina Department of Public Instruction’s 2014 Teacher Turnover Report reports that only 455 left for this reason in 2014—just three percent of the 13,616 teachers who left their jobs last year. The percentage of teachers “fleeing” to other states was actually higher before the recession, as 3.5 percent of teachers in 2008 left to teach in other states.”

Editor’s Note: This paragraph in Berg’s original article has been corrected. It now states:

Relatively few North Carolina teachers are leaving to teach in other states, and rates have been relatively consistent since the economic recession. The North Carolina Department of Public Instruction’s 2014 Teacher Turnover Report reports that the percentage of teachers leaving for other states rose slightly in 2014 (734, or 5.4 percent) with fewer leaving (341, or 3.5 percent) in 2012, consistent with the rate in 2008 (467, or 3.5 percent).

Teachers are not simply leaving North Carolina to teach in other states; many are leaving the profession altogether. The 2014 Teacher Turnover Report only states the information given to DPI. Not all teachers who leave teaching jobs take the survey, but from what I have witnessed, many teachers leave the profession because they cannot simply afford to raise a family on a North Carolina teacher’s salary. Younger mothers cannot afford day care, and teachers in border counties are easily lured to other states. They do not have to be recruited.

Furthermore, other states like Texas have had recruitment fairs in the state, and highly publicized ones at that. Most notably were a couple done by the Houston Public Schools, who are now led by Terry Grier, the former Guilford County superintendent. He knows the conditions in North Carolina and took advantage of the situation. While he may not have taken entire faculties with him, the fact that he was actively recruiting in North Carolina shows how conditions have deteriorated in this state.

So many teachers left the Charlotte-Mecklenburg School System this past year (some estimate that it was more than 1,000), that the school system participated in over 50 job fairs, according to a May 25th WBTV report. As of two weeks ago, over 300 positions were still posted. And the CMS system is in a border county. Just look in York County, SC and see how many of their teachers were formerly employed by our state.

There is more. If you want to see a brilliant teacher, with no research assistant, doing a demolition job, keep reading.

You be the judge.

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