Archives for category: North Carolina

The National Basketball Association announced that it would not hold its all-star game in Charlotte, North Carolina, due to the Legislature’s adoption of HB 2, which strikes down local laws that protect LGTB people against discrimination.

The legislation, passed in March, also mandated that transgender people use public bathrooms that match their birth gender.

The law created an immediate backlash and raised speculation that the N.B.A., the North American professional league now most identified with engagement on social issues, would conclude that it had no choice but to move the game.

In a statement accompanying the announcement, the league said it hoped to hold the 2019 All-Star Game in Charlotte — with the clear implication that changes to the legislation would have to be made — and that a new site for the 2017 game would be announced in the next several weeks. The game had been scheduled for Feb. 19 at Time Warner Cable Arena.

Gov. Pat McCrory of North Carolina issued a blistering statement soon after the announcement by the N.B.A. He said “the sports and entertainment elite,” among others, had “misrepresented our laws and maligned the people of North Carolina simply because most people believe boys and girls should be able to use school bathrooms, locker rooms and showers without the opposite sex present.”

Mr. McCrory, a Republican, did not specifically refer to the N.B.A. in his statement, but he said that “American families should be on notice that the selective corporate elite are imposing their political will on communities in which they do business, thus bypassing the democratic and legal process.”

Several musicians — including Bruce Springsteen, Ringo Starr and Itzhak Perlman — have canceled concerts in North Carolina to protest the law, and there have been calls for repeal by a number of businesses, some of which have canceled plans to create new jobs in the state.

Governor McCrory doesn’t care about the thousands of jobs that were lost because of this unnecessary and obnoxious law. He doesn’t care that entertainers are shunning his state. But basketball? That’s a hard pill to swallow.

As I wrote previously, the brouhaha over bathrooms is absurd because most major public spaces in North Carolina already offer gender-neutral bathrooms, called “family” bathrooms.

The Charlotte Observer in North Carolina reports that Chinese investors put up $3 million to start up a new charter school, which is now struggling for survival.

Is a foreign-financed charter school a public school?

They did it in exchange for green cards,

Chinese investors provided $3 million in startup money for Thunderbird Preparatory Academy, a Cornelius charter school that’s fighting for survival.

That’s one of the insights that emerged from last week’s state review of the school’s finances, governance and facilities.

Thunderbird’s network of investors and lenders left Charter School Advisory Board members shaking their heads and palming their faces. “A spider web,” one member dubbed it. “Exceedingly messy and complex,” said board Chair Alex Quigley.

But as North Carolina has opened itself to rapid charter school expansion, a growing number of startup schools are turning to charter-school finance companies to pay for facilities. Some also tap a network of companies and consultants to help them run the schools. That means tax money from North Carolina is flowing across the country and around the globe to repay debts and cover outsourced services.

Lee Teague, executive director of the N.C. Charter Schools Association, said he had never heard of the Chinese investment in charter schools. But because charter schools don’t get public money for facilities – and because schools must begin paying bills before the first state check arrives – it’s common to see new schools taking out loans, he said.

Thunderbird, which opened in 2014, got its $3 million through the EB-5 program, which provides green cards to foreign investors who create U.S. jobs. Although charter school salaries are paid with public money, an Arizona-based company called Education Fund of America offers the opportunity to invest in charter schools, claim the job-creation visa benefit and rely on government support of such schools to secure the investment.

Parents at the Thunderbird Charter School are angry, and they have called for the removal of the principal and the chair of the charter board. The school opened in 2014 and has struggled with staff, rodents, finances, and academics.


After probing topics ranging from rodent infestation to high-interest loans, a state charter panel Thursday backed away from a call to close Thunderbird Preparatory Academy in Cornelius.

But the Charter School Advisory Board voted unanimously to demand intense scrutiny in the coming year.

“I think you have a very short period of time to right this ship,” board Chairman Alex Quigley told school leaders.

The advisory board called Thursday’s special meeting after voting June 14 to recommend closing the school when Thunderbird leaders missed a regular meeting where they had been summoned to discuss financial, academic and health/safety concerns.

Thunderbird board Chair Peter Mojica said Thursday that bad publicity has damaged recruitment for the coming year, with enrollment dropping from 500 at the start of last year to 432 enrolled for 2016-17. The school has also lost 11 of the 23 teachers it had last year.

But Mojica said the board and the school’s recently hired principal are committed to fixing problems and reviving the school.

“We have a great school that is not absent of its problems,” he said. “We are well aware of them and are trying to address them.”

Thunderbird, which opened in 2014, has struggled to find and pay for a building, establish leadership and show academic gains – challenges that face many new charter schools. The problems have been compounded by spring flooding and a bitter rift dividing board members, faculty and families.

The school has had three principals in three years. Some parents vow to return to the public schools. Others say they are satisfied. The state has gotten more complaints about this charter than any other.

The Chinese investors have their green cards, so they are not complaining.

Read more here: http://www.charlotteobserver.com/news/local/education/article87268177.html#storylink=cpy

Public Schools First NC reports here on the actions of the state legislature in its closing hours. It enacted as much as possible of the ALEC privatization agenda, inviting out-of-state charter operators to take over public schools, creating an “achievement school district” like the one that failed in Tennessee, and reducing oversight of charters.

Go to the website of http://www.publicschoolsfirstnc.org to see the full report and open the links.

The $22.34 billion conference budget (and money report) was released Monday evening, June 27. The Senate passed the budget Wednesday, and the House passed it on Friday, July 1. The spending plan for the next fiscal year obviously affects our public schools in many ways:

Average 4.7% salary increase for teachers. The teacher salary schedule will restore annual step increases for teachers in years 0-14, at year 15 salary will stay the same for next 10 years.

Raises average teacher salaries to over $50,000 in 2016-17 and $55,000 over the next three years.

School administrators receive step increase and a 1.5% increase to base salaries
Noncertified school personnel receive a 1.5% salary increase.

School administrators and noncertified personnel will also receive a one-time 0.5% bonus.

Starts a pilot program for rewarding third grade teachers. Teachers who are in the top 25% in the state for EVAAS student growth index scores in reading will share $5 million. Teachers who are in the top 25% of their LEAs for the same score will share $5 million, and teachers who fall in both categories will receive both bonuses.

Expanding the voucher program by an extra $10 million and 2,000 students every year until 2026-2027 when spending will plateau at $134.8 million per year. The budget also expands the percentage of money that can go to Kindergarten and 1st grade recipients, from 35% to 40% of what remains after prior recipients are enrolled.

Keeping the school performance grade formula at 80% test scores, 20% growth and the 15-point scale will remain for the next three years.

Requiring maximum class size ratios are: Kindergarten 1:18; 1st grade 1:16; and 2nd and 3rd grade 1:17. The budget also eliminates districts’ flexibility around those caps.
Funding 260 new pre-K slots at a cost of $1.325 million. This is far less than the more than 7,000 children on the state’s pre-K waiting list and contrasts with both the governor’s and the House plans to spend $4 million on 800 spots.

Changing requirements for virtual charter schools, including reducing the percentage of teachers who must live in state from 90% to 80%, and changing the way students who withdraw are counted under the withdrawal rate cap of 25% by creating four new exceptions. For instance a student who withdraws for “a family, personal, or medical reason” and who notifies the school would not count as a withdrawal under the cap.

Reducing central office budgets by $2.5 million, bringing funding down to mid-90’s levels.

The House passed the omnibus charter school measure HB 242, which changes many aspects of charter reviews and renewals, despite the opposition of a national charter school group. The National Association of Charter School Authorizers criticized the bill in a letter because the changes leave little way for the State Board to close low-performing charters while also making reviews too infrequent for high-performing charters to be eligible for federal grants. The measure was sent to Governor McCrory to be signed on Wednesday, June 29.

In addition to the budget, the Senate amended and passed the ASD bill HB 1080 this week, over the objections of several Democratic members. Sen. Chad Barefoot amended the bill to require the chosen school operators be experienced in turning underperforming schools around, to allow the extension of the charter operators’ contracts, and to allow Charlotte-Mecklenburg schools to create an innovation zone with their existing Project Lift schools. The House quickly concurred with the coercive takeover measure and sent it to the governor along with its li’l buddy, HB 242. Is it a coincidence that a measure forcing communities to surrender schools to out-of-state charter operators was put before the governor on the same exact day as a measure shredding accountability for charter operators? I can raise one eyebrow at a time, and I’m doing it now. For real.

These bills and many others are on the governor’s desk now. No surprise vetoes are expected, but all that signing is a hand cramp waiting to happen. Keep hope alive!

Follow us on Facebook and the web for the latest on the massive voucher expansion contained in the budget. Refresh yourself on the differences between public and private schools in order to scrutinize the growing Opportunity Scholarship program.

Be sure to visit our LEGISLATIVE UPDATE page for information, including our Week In Review summary and our weekly video review.

Over the next few weeks, we will provide more in-depth analysis of the bills that impacted K-12 public education in North Carolina.

I posted last night that Governor Pat McCrory plans to appoint a man to the state board of education who has little experience in public education, but is known for his strong support for removing a book taught in a high school English honors class.

North Carolina teacher Stuart Egan points out that the nominee has a conflict of interest. His wife ran/runs a school that receives state-funded vouchers.

In reference to North Carolina, you can never say “it can’t get worse.” It always can, as long as Pat McCrory is Governor and the Tea Party extremists control the legislature.

Governor McCrory named a new member of the state board of education: J. Todd Chasten. His major qualification appears to be his role in efforts to ban a book from the English honors class in his district.

The North Carolina General Assembly will vote on his nomination tomorrow.

NC Policy Watch reports:

Governor Pat McCrory’s recent nomination of J. Todd Chasteen to serve on the State Board of Education has raised the eyebrows of some western North Carolinians.

A Boone resident who appears to have a thin record of experience with public education, Chasteen was deeply involved last year in efforts to ban a book from a public high school English classroom in Watauga County.

“We should reject Governor McCrory’s recent nomination of Wataugan J. Todd Chasteen to the North Carolina Board of Education,” said Appalachian State University English professor Craig Fischer at a public forum at the university earlier this week, objecting to Chasteen’s lack of experience in public education.

“Chasteen sided with would-be censors during last year’s battle over keeping Isabel Allende’s The House of the Spirits in the sophomore English Honors curriculum at Watauga High,” Fischer added. “He spoke on behalf of banning the book at a February 10, 2014 school board local forum about the controversy, claiming–inaccurately–that Allende’s book is full of ‘deviancy’ and child pornography.”

Chasteen, an attorney and executive with Boone-based international aid organization Samaritan’s Purse, not only spoke publicly for removing The House of the Spirits from the classroom, but also lobbied the eventual tie-breaking board of education member, Ron Henries, in person and via email in an effort to persuade him to vote for banning the book, according to emails obtained by N.C. Policy Watch.

This is the mission statement of his organization:

Samaritan’s Purse is a nondenominational evangelical Christian organization providing spiritual and physical aid to hurting people around the world. Since 1970, Samaritan’s Purse has helped meet needs of people who are victims of war, poverty, natural disasters, disease, and famine with the purpose of sharing God’s love through His Son, Jesus Christ. The organization serves the church worldwide to promote the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ.

He is obviously a man drawn to charitable, faith-based work. But he has no particular qualification to sit on the state board of education. His activity in the book-banning controversy was sufficient to recommend him to McCrory as right for the state board of education.

Stuart Egan, NBCT high school teacher in North Carolina, describes the latest disaster cooked up by the North Carolina General Assembly, which is dominated by Tea Party extremists: a constitutional amendment to lock in steep tax cuts.

The General Assembly majority calls it TABOR, a Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights.

Egan calls it “A Tourniquet Around the Bloodlines of Our Republic.”


GOP leaders in the North Carolina General Assembly are pushing for a proposal to place a constitutional amendment on the November ballot that would cap the income tax rate a 5.5% (currently it is 10%).

That proposal is a political tourniquet, pure and simple. And just as limited blood flow would cause harm to the skeletal system in a body, this measure would cause our state’s infrastructure to slowly disintegrate.

Chris Fitzsimon puts it very bluntly in his latest “The Follies” from June 17, 2016 (http://www.ncpolicywatch.com/2016/06/17/the-follies-253/). He states,

“As the N.C Budget & Tax Center points out, that cap would cut off a vital source of revenue that the state needs and make it virtually impossible for future lawmakers to use the income tax to increase state investments, even in times of emergencies.

It also locks in place the massive tax cuts for the wealthy passed in 2013 that will cost more than $2 billion a year when fully in effect, more than the entire budget of the community college system and early childhood programs combined.

The new lower tax cap could threaten the state’s coveted AAA bond rating and force increases in the state sales tax and could lead local governments to raise property taxes and fees. It’s a terrible idea that threatens funding for public schools, health care, and environmental protections and makes decisions for future members of the General Assembly that will be elected by the voters just like the current members were.”

That’s scary to think about. The very fabric, the very sinews of society like schools, healthcare, and environmental protections would be instantly jeopardized and it would take years to recover as part of the GOP’s plan is to change the constitution of the state.

Remember that all three of those areas (schools, healthcare, and environment) have already been hazardously affected in the last three years here in North Carolina.

Per pupil expenditures are lower, charter school growth is uncontrolled, and teacher pay is still low despite what the current administration wants to boast.

Medicaid expansion was denied and we as a state are still paying into a system that benefits other states but not ours because of political ideology and a dislike for the current president.

The fracking industry is being given an open door and permission to do whatever it wants. Duke Energy’s coal ash spills have still gone relatively unpunished.

How long will the people of North Carolina let these barbarians rampage through the state and destroy the public sector?

Wake up, people of North Carolina! The legislators in your state are pummeling your public schools with a sledge hammer. They are turning them over to for-profit corporations! Do you want your local public school to be run by a national corporation? Do you care who “owns” your neighborhood school?

Stuart Egan, a high school teacher in North Carolina, has been writing recently about the step-by-step privatization of public schools in North Carolina.

In this post, he describes the General Assembly’s decision to create an “Achievement School District,” modeled on the one that failed in Tennessee. The basic idea is to gather up the lowest-performing schools in the state (attended by the poorest students) and turn them over to a charter operator.

He cites the comment made by Rep. Cecil Brockman, who favors outsourcing these schools to out-of-state corporations:

Perhaps the most frustrating moment of the final debate came when Rep. Brockman impulsively quipped,

“If (teachers) don’t like it, good. This is about the kids. Who cares about the teachers? We should care about the kids. If they don’t like it, maybe it’s a good thing.”

Do Republican legislators in North Carolina really have that much contempt for teachers? Apparently so. North Carolina raised entry level salaries to $35,000 but capped salaries at $50,000. Legislators work hard to remove any job protection or recognition for teachers. They even abolished the successful North Carolina Teaching Fellows Program–a five-year program at the University of North Carolina intended to prepare career teachers–and transferred the funding to Teach for America.

This is the same legislature that rolled out a budget proposal to spend $1 Billion on vouchers over the next decade. Most of the students who get vouchers will go to religious schools with uncertified teachers and no curriculum. How is this supposed to improve education?

The parent-led Public Schools First NC calls on the public to speak out against legislation to create an “achievement school district,” modeled on Tennessee’s failed ASD. The goal of the law is to invite charter takeovers of low-scoring schools.

 

 

“An Achievement School District is a bad idea for North Carolina. Taking over failing schools and giving them to out-of-town charter operators does not help students or communities. Yet the House is ready to take up a bill (HB1080) that would create an ASD with five of our most vulnerable elementary schools. Tell your representatives you DO NOT SUPPORT this unproven and unaccountable strategy when state transformation teams working closely with local schools and districts are beginning to succeed. They deserve more staff and funding, not an expensive state takeover!
Tell your legislators to REJECT HB1080! (click here and sign the petition

 

 

http://www.publicschoolsfirstnc.org/engage/petitions/achievement-school-district-petition/?platform=hootsuite

 
HERE IS the calendar in the house tomorrow.

 

http://www.ncleg.net/Calendars/CurrentCalendars/CurrentHouseCalendar.pdf

 

HERE is the calendar in the senate tomorrow.
http://www.ncga.state.nc.us/Calendars/CurrentCalendars/CurrentsenateCalendar.pdf

 

HERE is the House Education Budget
http://www.publicschoolsfirstnc.org/resources/education-budget/”

I previously wrote a post about the powerful multimillionaire Art Pope, who controls Tea Party politics in North Carolina. The New Yorker’s Jane Mayer profiled him and showed how he cannily used his fortune to defeat moderate Republicans so Pope’s ideological allies could gain control of the party and push it to the far right. Pope funds the John Locke Foundation, which espouses his views. When Pope ran for office, he was defeated, but he was appointed state budget director by Governor Pat McCrory and set the priorities for the state, which reflected his own views.

 

One of his many allies is John Hood, who is former president (and current chairman) of Art Pope’s John Locke Foundation. Hood has been placing articles in the North Carolina press, boasting of North Carolina’s progress in reforming its school system. As is by now well known, the Pope battalion in the legislature has cut education funding and launched charters, vouchers, and online charters. Not many would view these “reforms” as a boost to the state’s students and teachers. But John Hood does. Indeed, his last article was titled “How to Pay Teachers More.”

 

Stuart Egan has been writing open letters to John Hood on his blog. Egan does not have the access to the media that is granted to the powerful Mr. Hood. In Egan’s latest open letter, he takes apart Hood’s false claims, one by one, to show how the public has been hoodwinked by the John Locke Foundation and the state government.

 

Hood claims that the state enjoys a budget surplus because  taxes were cut, and the economy boomed (the old supply-side mantra of the Reagan administration).

 

Egan writes:

 

Interestingly enough, that budget surplus was created by a tax revenue overhaul crafted by none other than Art Pope, who not only serves your mentor and boss, but also served as Gov. McCrory’s first budget director. You may claim that we have had lower tax rates than we did before McCrory took office, but there’s more to it.

 

While tax cuts did come for many, standard deductions were greatly affected. Many of the standard deductions and exemptions that were once available to citizens like teachers no longer exist. In fact, most people who make the salaries commensurate of teachers ended up paying out more of their money to the state, even when “taxes” went down. Why? Because we could not declare tax breaks any longer. Who designed that? The budget director.

 

Furthermore, there is now a rise in sales tax revenue because many services like auto repairs are now taxed. So to say that the surplus just appeared because of spending limitations is a little bit of a spun claim. In fact, most of those spending limitations in public schools came when we saw increased enrollment and costs of resources rise.

 

Hood goes on to boast that the state had eliminated salary increases for teachers who acquire additional degrees. Of course, North Carolina wants to have teachers who do not invest in continuing their education.

 

He also boasts that the state is embracing merit pay. As Egan points out, no merit pay program has ever produced better education.

 

So eliminating pay increases for more education and introducing merit pay is supposed to translate into higher pay for teachers? Scuttling North Carolina’s successful North Carolina Teaching Fellows program, which produced career educators, and replacing it with TFA is supposed to improve the workforce?

 

Egan points out that Hood is engaging in election year rhetoric:

 

McCrory’s claim to want to raise teacher pay looks more like pure electioneering. It is synonymous to a deadbeat dad who shows up at Christmas with extravagant gifts so that he can buy the love (or votes) of his children.

Here we go again. Governor Pat McCrory of North Carolina is running for re-election this year. His government has repeatedly passed legislation that harms workers, immigrants, public education, higher education, and the environment, while cutting taxes for the rich and corporations. Anyone interested in learning how the Tea Party Republicans have damaged North Carolina is invited to read Altered State, which describes the radical changes of the past five years.

 

Since it is best not to talk about those things, McCrory and his Tea Party pals want to keep focused on their valiant effort to keep transgender women out of public restrooms. This “crisis” appears to have emerged only this year, since there are already many gender-neutral public restrooms in hotels and the airport.

 

The U.S. Justice Department told North Carolina that the law aimed at restricting the right of transgender people to use the restroom of their gender identity was discriminatory. Now McCrory can appear at the great restroom martyr, protecting little girls and women from sexual predators in the bathroom.

 

North Carolina announced today that it will sure the federal government.

 

The U.S. Justice Department is suing North Carolina. If the Justice Department prevails, North Carolina could stand to lose billions of dollars in federal assistance. This seems unlikely but not impossible.

 

Playing the bathroom card didn’t work for Ted Cruz. Let’s see if it works for McCrory and his fellow disrupters.

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