Archives for category: Supporting public schools

The global coronavirus pandemic reminds us of the importance and value of strong, effective public institutions. We are all in this together. “Everyone for himself” is a recipe for disaster. None of us can solve the problems on our own. The only way to address the disease is by collective action and public leadership.

The widespread closure of schools has made parents and communities aware of the crucial importance of these institutions.

Donald Cohen of the nonpartisan “In the Public Interest” asks why school districts were reluctant to close the schools.

He answers:

It’s simple. Public schools are public goods. They provide basic educational, social, emotional, and even physical needs to not only students and families but also entire communities. Closing them has effects that ripple out beyond school doors. As Erica Green wrote in the New York Times, mass school closings could “upend entire cities.”

Just look at the numbers:

The nation’s public school system serves more than 50 million students, many of whom have parents who work and need childcare during the day.

The federal National School Lunch Program serves food to over 30 million kids annually. Many families rely on school to feed their children meals throughout the school year.

There are more than 3.1 million public school teachers, many of whom are already struggling to get by. Teachers, paraprofessionals, front office workers, bus drivers, janitors, and other school staff rely on public school jobs to make ends meet.

But perhaps most importantly, public schools provide kids with the opportunity to learn alongside their peers. Schools are where the community comes together to learn and grow regardless of skin color, income level, sexual orientation, or any other difference.

Only public institutions—not private markets—can make sure that these basic needs are available to everyone.

The next few days, weeks, and months are uncertain, but one thing’s for sure: we’ll be learning how much public schools really matter to all of us. Some—teachers, administrators, and school staff—already know how important they are.

Stuart Egan, an NBCT high school teacher in North Carolina, reminds us of why teachers protested last year and how the elected officials responded (mostly with silence).

Fortunately, the people of North Carolina have a chance to change the state’s direction by electing a genuine and experience advocate for public education as state superintendent: Jen Mangrum won the Democratic nomination and she will campaign vigorously to restore the state’s once-esteemed public schools as great places for students and teachers and communities.

If you live in North Carolina and you are tired of politicians tearing down the public schools and shifting public money to entrepreneurs and religious schools, vote for Jen Mangrum in November.

Nancy Bailey wisely explains the lesson of the current emergency and boils it down to this fact:

Online learning can never replace human teachers and support staff.

Parents who are staying home with their children have taken to Twitter to express their admiration for teachers. “How do teachers do this all day with 30 children,” they wonder.

Be sure to open her post and check out the links as well as the stuff I did not include here.

Bailey worries that the Ed-tech industry is zooming in to search for profits.

“While Covid-19 is of utmost concern, parents and educators, who’ve worried about the replacement of brick-and-mortar schools and teachers with anytime, anyplace, online instruction, wonder what this pandemic will mean to public education long term. Will this disaster be used to end public schools, replacing instruction with online competency-based learning?

”We’re reminded of disaster capitalism, a concept highlighted by Naomi Klein in The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism, how Katrina was used in New Orleans to convert traditional public schools to charter schools. Within nineteen months, with most of the city’s poor residents still in exile, New Orleans’ public school system had been almost completely replaced by privately run charter schools. (p. 5-6). Who thought that could happen?

”The transitioning of technology into public schools, not simply as a supplemental tool for teachers to use at their discretion, but as a transformative means to remove teachers from the equation, has been highlighted with groups like Digital Promise and KnowledgeWorks. Both promote online learning and it’s difficult to find teachers in the mix.

”Combining this with the intentional defunding of public schools, shoddy treatment of teachers including the unwillingness to pay them appropriate salaries, inadequate resources and support staff, crumbling buildings, and the destruction of public schooling in America, should we not question what placing students online at this strange time will mean in the future to our schools?

The pandemic has demonstrated the importance of brick-and-mortar public schools, she writes.

“In “Coronavirus Has Shown Us the Vital Role Schools Play, But Will America Listen?” Glenda Cohen outlines how parents and the nation need public schools for survival. I have added some additional services and citations.

“Public schools are on the frontline fighting against childhood hunger. According to a CNBC report: Each day, the National School Lunch Program serves over 30 million children. The fact that many children will go hungry without their public school should give us pause.

“Students rely on school counseling. Students rely on school counselors for support.

“Parents need childcare so they can work. Working parents need schools to take care of their children so they can work. When schools close, parents are unable to do their jobs. This has a negative effect on the overall economy.

“Schools provide homeless children with stability. As Cohen points out, many homeless children rely on public schools. U.S. News and World Report claims 1.36 million students in the 2016-17 school year were homeless.

“Students with disabilities need accommodations and services. Most guidelines indicate that during the Covid-19 crisis, students with disabilities must have access to the same services as students without disabilities, but this leaves out accommodations that address the differences. Here are questions and answers from the Department of Education. How will students with autism, ADHD, and many other disabilities get the services they need?

“Shortcomings of Online Instruction

“Many children don’t have access to Broadband. Nearly 12 million children, many living in rural settings, lack access to an Internet connections. While ed-tech enthusiasts will claim it’s a matter of time before everyone has Broadband, looking for funding to do so indicates it will take time for this to occur.

“What happens with student privacy and information? Parents already worry about their child’s online personal identifiable information when they work online at school. How is a student’s online information protected when they work online at home during a public heath crisis? Here’s information about Covid-19 and FERPA.

“Socialization is missing. Speaking to someone on a screen is better than nothing, but it’s still isolating.

“Students work online alone. Many students need guidance and might not be able to focus on screens.
Children enjoy social gatherings that schools provide. The Covid-19 virus has left students agonizing over the field trips and school social events that they will miss, that cannot take place online.
How good is the instruction? There’s no research to show that working only online is better than teacher instruction.

“Parents have to supervise their children. Usually parents have to monitor their student’s work and make sure they stay on task.

“Teachers Are Loved and Respected.

“A college student whose classes were cancelled and switched to online stated they would miss their teacher who had provided extra help and whose class everyone enjoyed.

“Teachers have been the unsung heroes during this Covid-19 crisis. They have struggled the last few weeks to take care of their students, cleaning and disinfecting their classes due to an overwhelmed custodial staff, along with keeping students calm, comforting confused children and teens.

Now they struggle to go online to provide lessons from home. As blogger Nancy Flanagan notes in “Once Again Teachers are First Responders:”

“Keeping a functional learning community together is job #1. Meaning: every child, K-12, who is out of school involuntarily, knows for sure that the adults who have been his/her teachers, playground supervisors or joke-around buddies in the hallway, still care. Staying connected and checking in matter much more than reviewing fractions or watching a dissection video.

“Online learning can never adequately replace public schools and teachers. In such a desperate time, closing public schools due to this pandemic is showing Americans how reliant we are upon those schools to fulfill, not just an educational purpose, but the real social and emotional needs of children and families.

“We’re left with stark revelations about this country’s shortcomings, while at the same time we witness the heroism of teachers and staff who care for all children at this dark time. It is that caring and love that have always been the hallmark of what teaching and public schools have been all about. It is and will continue to be what saves public education and the teaching profession.

“This crisis will not throw students into a future of nothing but online learning. It will instead remind parents and students of how much their public schools and teachers mean to them.

“Or, as American television producer, television and film writer, and author @shondarhimes lamented on Twitter: been homeschooling a 6-year old and 8-year old for one hour and 11 minutes. Teachers deserve to make a billion dollars a year. Or a week.

“We must have hope for the future, hope for our democracy, and the great and enduring role of teachers and brick-and-mortar schools, which are temporarily closed.”

I confess that I was very disappointed by the review of my new book in the New York Times. The reviewer thought that I should have presented “both sides,” not argued on behalf of public schools, which enroll 85-90% of American children. If we starve the public schools that enroll most children, we harm them and the future of our society. I debated whether to respond on this blog but then decided against it. Sometimes it is best to remain silent.

Happily, Neil Kulick, a teacher, critiqued the review. He posted his comment here.

Thank you, Neil!

He writes:

Your new book gives public school teachers (like me) hope. You are truly our champion. Thank you.

A while back, I read the review of “Slaying Goliath” in the NY Times. I did not quite like the review. Here is my reply to it:

Readers of Annie Murphy Paul’s review of Diane Ravitch’s “Slaying Goliath” (in the February 2 NYT Book Review) can be forgiven for thinking that Professor Ravitch has lost her way and written a book in which she exults in the failures of all who are interested in strengthening our public schools.

In fact, “Slaying Goliath” is a work of meticulous scholarship that chronicles the failure of every single “reform” in recent decades, most of them market-based (as if children or their teachers were commodities, or schools factories) and virtually all funded by billionaires who know little about teaching and learning but are glad to call the shots when it comes to our schools. Professor Ravitch is not against reform but rather the particular set of “reforms” that have been foisted on our public schools and our teachers and students, including so-called merit pay and the oddity of evaluating teachers based on their students’ test scores. Her book ends with a call for genuine reform, which would require adequately funding our public schools so that they have a fair chance of educating a population that includes so many children born into poverty and who come to school already behind and lacking the supports at home of their more affluent peers. It would also require funding programs to support impoverished families. Our public schools are not broken; our society is.

Professor Ravitch accurately terms those who push (and, astonishingly, continue to push) for these failed reforms “disrupters,” because the purpose or effect of their actions is to undermine the very institution of the public school. And yes, Professor Ravitch does name names. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, for one, is not an advocate of public schools. Rather she favors “choice,” as if that were an end in itself. But that choice does not include a well-funded public school for every child, though if Secretary DeVos had her way it would include a charter school. Charter schools, unfortunately, are generally no better than public schools, and some are militaristic, so that students learn not to question but to obey. Nor are charters known for serving the needs of children with learning disabilities or who have emotional or behavioral problems or for whom English is not their first language. They do, however, succeed in draining money from public schools.

Ultimately, Professor Ravitch is optimistic, believing that today’s “reformers” will inevitably lose, despite their vast wealth, because the “resisters” — parents and grandparents, schoolchildren, and their teachers — are multitudinous and motivated by passion. And they cannot be bought. As a public school teacher, I hope Professor Ravitch is right.

Some might wonder why public schools matter. Apart from the fact that the vast majority of American schoolchildren attend them, public schools are our best hope for a flourishing democracy. In public schools, children from diverse backgrounds come together as one community. They learn together, and they learn from each other. John Dewey understood how essential public schools are to our way of life: “A democracy,” he wrote, “is more than a form of government; it is primarily a mode of associated living, of conjoint communicated experience.”* It is just this “conjoint communicated experience” that public schools afford.

Donald Cohen, executive director of “In the Public Interest,” explains a new direction that the organization will take. Not just to say that privatization is bad public policy, but to explain why the public sector can be more efficient and effective at the things it does best. In education, we have seen how privatization exacerbates segregation by race, religion, and social class; we have also seen how it opens the public purse to exploitation by profiteers and grifters who take advantage of public money without public accountability.

He writes:

 

 

 

Over the last ten years, In the Public Interest has educated organizations, leaders, and journalists nationwide about the perils of privatization—how private interests are increasingly gaining control over vital public goods.

We’re going to continue to do that. But we’re also going to start showing what public control over public goods means and looks like—both a governing vision and practical examples from across the country.

Like Kansas City, Missouri, making public transit free for all. Or the Puerto Rican public school that assigned a social worker to every student. Or the small Florida town that opened its own grocery store.

Becoming “pro-public” means a few things:

  • Reclaiming the ideal of the public in a free, democratic society.
  • Arguing that there are market things and public things. They’re different things, like apples and oranges.
  • Ensuring public goods have adequate resources—a more progressive tax system is a must.

So, what are we actually going to do? 

We’ll continue to help build a pro-public movement that can effectively compete to govern in a way that puts public over private and creates public institutions that deliver on that promise.

Everything we do—our research, writings, trainings, policy work—will be oriented towards creating a larger, more inclusive, educated, connected, and active movement competing to govern across the country.

We’ll create tools and conduct training for leaders, organizers, and activists to fully use the tools and powers of governance.

We’ll develop and support new rules and revenue generators to expand access to public goods, rebalance economic power, and eliminate the corrupting influences of money in democracy.

We’ll lift up good things government does and has done—there’s plenty of that too.

And, of course, we’ll do everything we can to stop the spread of reckless privatization schemes.

Stay tuned. And send us ideas: info@inthepublicinterest.org

Read more about our shift to becoming a “pro-public” organization here.

Thanks for being in the fight with us,

Donald Cohen
Executive Director
In the Public Interest

North Carolina has critical needs that the state’s General Assembly has made worse. A court decision—called Leandro—requires the state to improve its schools. One of its recommendations is to:

provide a qualified and well-prepared, and diverse teaching staff in every school. Working conditions and staffing structures should enable all staff members to do their job effectively and grow professionally while supporting the academic, personal and social growth of all their students.

 

Highlights of Findings

#1 Teacher supply is shrinking and shortages are widespread. Budget cuts have reduced the total number of teachers employed in North Carolina by 5% from 2009 to 2018 even as student enrollments increased by 2% during that same time period.

#3 Experienced, licensed teachers have the lowest annual attrition rates. Teach for America teachers, on the other hand, had the highest attrition rates. National trends show that teachers without prior preparation leave the profession at two to three times the rate of those who are comprehensively prepared.

#4 Teacher demand is growing, and attrition increases the need for hiring. The total number of openings, including those for teachers who will need to be replaced, is expected to be 72,452 by 2026….

Recommendations:
1.Increase pipeline of diverse, well-prepared teachers who enter through high-retention pathways and meet the needs of the state’s public schools.

2. Expand the NC Teaching Fellows program. [The General Assembly cut the funding of the NC Teaching Fellows program to prepare career teachers and transferred its funding to TFA.]

3. Support high-quality teacher residency programs in high-need rural and urban districts through a state matching grants program that leverages ESSA title II funding.

4. Provide funding for Grow-Your-Own and 2+2 programs that help recruit teachers in high-poverty communities.

5. Significantly increase the racial-ethnic diversity of the North Carolina teacher workforce and ensure all teachers employ culturally responsive practices.

6. Provide high-quality comprehensive mentoring and induction support for novice teachers in their first 3 years of teaching.

7. Implement differentiated staffing models that include advanced teaching roles and
additional compensation to retain and extend the reach of high-performing teachers.

8. Develop a system to ensure that all North Carolina teachers have the opportunities they
need for continued professional learning to improve and update their knowledge and practices.

9. Increase teacher compensation and enable low-wealth districts to offer salaries and other
compensation to make them competitive with more advantaged districts.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Supporting public schools through information,

education, and engagement. 

       
Teacher Pipeline

North Carolina’s teachers are dedicated and hardworking, and their professionalism has made our public school system a jewel among Southern states. North Carolina leads the nation in number of teachers who have earned certification from the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards. Disappointingly, we do not compensate our educators accordingly. The average teacher salary was $53,975 for 2018-19, according to the NEA, $7,755 less than the national average of $61,730.

 

It is also critical to remember that this average includes the salaries of veteran teachers who receive longevity and master’s pay, which newer teachers do not. With reduced job security, low pay and no incentive to get advanced degrees, the appeal of a teaching job has been significantly reduced in North Carolina.

 

Enrollment in undergraduate education programs across the UNC system is down, negatively impacting our once vibrant teacher pipeline. There are 15 UNC system schools with teacher preparation programs, and all are reporting declines in enrollment in their degree and licensure programs. The severe shortage of math and science teachers and middle school teachers for all subjects is a critical and growing problem.

 

As the WestEd report shows, we must work to provide a qualified and well-prepared, and diverse teaching staff in every school. For our students living in poverty, with little access to educational opportunities, an effective, experienced and qualified teacher is critical to their educational success. We must all work together to make this a reality.

 

We know that teachers and students depend on and benefit from our school support staff. These hardworking, valuable, dedicated individuals have been left out of pay increases for far too long. It is imperative we press lawmakers to pay them a living wage and start showing them the respect they deserve!

 

Leandro: A Recap

If you’re just tuning in, here’s a brief summary of Leandro and the recently released WestEd report. You can find more information on our website.

 

In 1994, in Leandro v. State, parents, students and school districts in low-wealth, rural counties filed a lawsuit alleging that students in these counties were denied their right to a sound basic education under the NC constitution.

 

The case affirmed that inequitable and inadequate school funding bars access to a sound and basic public education. In 2002, the court found that there was a violation of students’ rights to a sound, basic education and ordered the State to remedy this violation.

 

On December 10, 2019, the WestEd report was finally released confirming what educators and public school advocates believe: our public school system does not meet the educational needs of all children. High poverty, high needs school districts bear the brunt of these inequities.

 

The report estimates the state will need to spendnearly $7 Billion to properly address education funding. The report detailed the following critical needs. Over the next several weeks, we will be taking a deeper dive into each one.

 

1. Revise the state funding model to provide adequate, efficient, and equitable resources.

 

2. Provide a qualified, well-prepared, and diverse teaching staff in every school.

 

3. Provide a qualified and well-prepared principal in every school.

 

4. Provide all at-risk students with the opportunity to attend high-quality early childhood programs.

 

5. Direct resources, opportunities, and initiatives to economically disadvantaged students.

 

6. Revise the student assessment system and school accountability system, and statewide system of support for the improvement of low-performing and high-poverty schools.

 

7. Build an effective regional and statewide system of support for the improvement of low-performing and high-poverty schools

 

8. Convene an expert panel to assist the Court in monitoring state policies, plans, programs, and progress.

 

What happens next? Public education advocates are waiting to see if: 1) Judge Lee will order the NCGA to fund WestEd recommendations and/or 2) Will the NCGA take action on their own to fund the recommendations? Stay tuned!

ICYMI

Highlights From Recent Education News ​

The State Board of Education is considering changes to how it approves contracts after North Carolina Superintendent Mark Johnson signed a $928,000 contract late Tuesday night without the board’s knowledge.

 

Lawmakers return Tuesday. Will they finally vote on a budget?

 

On the education front, NC can invest in early childhood education and “commit to North Carolina’s constitutional responsibility to deliver a sound, basic education.”
A Charlotte voucher school announced it would not open for the second semester, leaving 145 students in limbo. The school is a former charter school that closed and reopened as a private school.

 

State Superintendent Mark Johnson charged Wednesday that thousands of third-grade grade students have been improperly promoted to the fourth grade when they aren’t proficient in their reading skills.

 

In the 2020-21 school year, high school freshmen will be required to take an economics and personal finance course before they graduate. To accommodate this class, the State Board of Education adopted new graduation requirements Thursday that say high school students will take one U.S. history course, instead of two.

Impact of Charter Schools Webinar

Sun, Jan 19, 2020 7:00 PM – 8:00 PM EST​

Join us for an in-depth look at the impact of charter schools on the Northeast school districts in Wake County. Our panelists are the Wake Board of Education representatives for Northeast Wake County: Roxie Cash and Heather Scott. They will share data on Northeast Wake Schools and participate in a conversation about how to best balance school choice in public education without damaging the economic vitality of traditional public schools in the same geographic area.

 

REGISTRATION REQUIRED

 

Budget News

The House and Senate are scheduled to reconvene January 14. Will they finally vote on a budget?

Leandro #2nd Recommendation:  Teachers Critical to Student Success

Before winter break, WestEd released their report  on the Leandro case. The report outlined 8 critical needs the state must address in order to fulfill its constitutional obligation to deliver a sound, basic education to all children.

 

The second critical need identified by the WestEd report is to provide a qualified and well-prepared, and diverse teaching staff in every school. Working conditions and staffing structures should enable all staff members to do their job effectively and grow professionally while supporting the academic, personal and social growth of all their students.

 

Highlights of Findings

#1 Teacher supply is shrinking and shortages are widespread. Budget cuts have reduced the total number of teachers employed in North Carolina by 5% from 2009 to 2018 even as student enrollments increased by 2% during that same time period.

#3 Experienced, licensed teachers have the lowest annual attrition rates. Teach for America teachers, on the other hand, had the highest attrition rates. National trends show that teachers without prior preparation leave the profession at two to three times the rate of those who are comprehensively prepared.

 

#4 Teacher demand is growing, and attrition increases the need for hiring. The total number of openings, including those for teachers who will need to be replaced, is expected to be 72,452 by 2026.

 

#5 Salaries and working conditions influence both retention and school effectiveness.
Teacher attrition is typically predicted by the following 4 factors:

  • The extent of preparation to teach
  • Extent of mentoring and support for novices
  • The adequacy of compensation
  • Teaching and learning conditions on the job

The report explained that teacher pay, after climbing for many years, began falling in 2008. Findings also show that the amount of the local supplement paid to teachers does influence retention.

 

#6 Although there has been an increase in the number of teachers of color in teacher enrollments, the overall current teacher workforce does not reflect the student population. Many teachers of color enter through alternative routes, which have higher rates of attrition than more comprehensive paths. Additionally, teacher education enrollments dropped by more than 60% between 2011 and 2016 in minority-serving institutions.​

 

#7 Disadvantaged students in North Carolina have less access to effective and experienced teachers.

For students who come from under served populations, an effective, experienced and qualified teacher is even more critical to their educational success.

 

Recommendations:
1.Increase pipeline of diverse, well-prepared teachers who enter through high-retention pathways and meet the needs of the state’s public schools.

2.Expand the NC Teaching Fellows program.

3.Support high-quality teacher residency programs in high-need rural and urban districts through a state matching grants program that leverages ESSA title II funding.

4. Provide funding for Grow-Your-Own and 2+2 programs that help recruit teachers in high-poverty communities.

5.Significantly increase the racial-ethnic diversity of the North Carolina teacher workforce and ensure all teachers employ culturally responsive practices.

6. Provide high-quality comprehensive mentoring and induction support for novice teachers in their first 3 years of teaching.

7. Implement differentiated staffing models that include advanced teaching roles and
additional compensation to retain and extend the reach of high-performing teachers.

8. Develop a system to ensure that all North Carolina teachers have the opportunities they
need for continued professional learning to improve and update their knowledge and practices.

9. Increase teacher compensation and enable low-wealth districts to offer salaries and other
compensation to make them competitive with more advantaged districts.

 

It is anticipated the recommended actions would result in:

  • Increased number (5,000 annually) of in-state trained and credentialed teachers
  • Increase in teachers of color in the teacher workforce to better reflect the student population (from 20% to 40%)
  • Comprehensive mentoring and induction support provided for all first-, second-, and third-year teachers (approximately 15,500)
  • Competitive teaching salaries in all North Carolina LEAs
  • Teacher attrition statewide at 7% or lower
  • Increased number (annually 1,500) of Teaching Fellows awards
  • Increase in experienced, effective, and certified teachers in high-poverty schools
  • Improved teacher retention in high-poverty schools
  • Improved capacity in districts and schools to provide high-quality, job-embedded professional learning
  • Increased student achievement.

 

Read the full report here.

 

We must restore our teacher pipeline and make teaching a viable, attractive option for students considering career paths. The state must work to restore adequate teacher pay and support. It is also crucial that our teachers reflect the diversity of their classrooms. It will require lawmakers to work together to prioritize adequate funding public education.

 

This is where you can help. Talk to your community about the importance of this report! Tell your representatives in the NCGA how important it is to fully fund schools for all children. Stay tuned for more advocacy ideas from us and our partners in education advocacy!

Teacher Diversity

There has been a great deal of research in the past few years showing the many benefits of a diverse educator workforce. The benefits are both academic and socioemotional and prepare students for the world they will be working and living in.

 

An article from the New York Times states “The homogeneity of teachers is probably one of the contributors, the research suggests, to the stubborn gender and race gaps in student achievement: Over all, girls outperform boys, and white students outperform those who are black and Hispanic.”

 

Researchers from Johns Hopkins University and American University​ found black students who’d had just one black teacher by third grade were 13 percent more likely to enroll in college—and those who had two were 32 percent more likely.

 

There are increasing numbers of students of color in our public schools, but the teaching force is still comprised of mostly white women. It is crucial that our state work to make teaching an attractive, tenable option once again and work towards diversifying our teaching staff.

Early Childhood Grant

The preschool years of a young child’s life are a crucial time in their social, emotional and cognitive development. A high-quality early education program sets up children for academic success. ​

 

On January 9, Governor Roy Cooper announced that North Carolina will receive $56 million in federal funding over the next seven years to support children’s health and well-being, improve access to high-quality early learning for families across the state and invest in the state’s early childhood workforce.

 

The PDG grant invests in the people who shape young children’s healthy development – parents and early childhood professionals. It will help early childhood teachers build the skills needed to support children’s optimal development without having to leave the classroom. By providing job-embedded professional development and coaching, the grant removes barriers that make it difficult for teachers to pursue higher education.

 

In addition, the grant funds a partnership with the Smart Start network to expand access to Family Connects, a nurse home visiting program for parents of newborns; support for families as their children transition into kindergarten; and expanded access to high-quality child care for infants and toddlers. This is the state’s second PDG grant. In 2018, the NCDHHS was awarded a one-year $4.48 million PDG planning grant.

 

Read the full press release here and view the North Carolina Early Childhood Action Plan here.

Candidate Forum

Public Schools First NC, the NC Parent Teacher Association, ​the Public School Forum of North Carolina, and the NC League of Women Voters are pleased to co-sponsor a candidate’s forum for the March primary for NC Superintendent of Public Instruction. This live screening will be held on February 6th, 2020 from 7 PM – 9 PM.

 

David Crabtree, WRAL anchor/reporter, will moderate the forum. The Republican primary candidates will be presented from 7pm-8pm and the Democratic primary candidates will be presented from 8pm-9pm.

 

We will be streaming the forum LIVE (provided by WRAL). You will find the link at wral.comcloser to the event. Please note that this a livestreaming event only, NO TICKETS available to the public.

 

We look forward to a stimulating exchange of ideas about the issues facing public education and hope you’ll join us.

Webinar- Legislative Update

 

Missed our webinar? Click here to listen

 

The NC General Assembly will reconvene on January 14, 2020. In the meantime, we have an update on the public education bills that passed this session and those bills still under consideration.

 

Legislators also provided an overview of funding so far for Pre-K to 12th grade education.

 

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John Merrow writes here about the Governor’s Inaugural Address. It could be delivered in any state. It should be delivered in every state.

It is about the importance of education to creating the future we all hope for.

Read the entire address and email it to your governor. Perhaps he or she will crib a few lines.

Let’s remind ourselves that public education serves an important public purpose.  Yes, of course there is an undeniable private benefit to getting education: children who finish high school and college will earn significantly more over their lifetimes than high school dropouts.  Parents know that, which is why they seek out communities reputed to have ‘the best schools.’

However, in addition to the individual’s private gain, education provides significant public benefits.  Investing in one child’s education helps all of us.

Think about it: Educated citizens have better jobs, pay more taxes, are more likely to vote, get involved in civic life, and work cooperatively with their neighbors.  Educated citizens are less likely to be on welfare, live in homeless shelters, or require public benefits.

It’s a win-win when people are educated.  That’s why we–government–cannot stand by and leave it to parents to see their children get educated. We need to enable, and we need to provide.  And we need to pay the bills!

Let me remind you that, until fairly recently, America understood that. The GI Billpaid for the college education of millions of returning World War II veterans, creating the middle class and the greatest economic boom in history.  In the mid-1960’s generous Pell Grants opened the door to college opportunity for millions of low income young people, creating another economic surge.

But during the Reagan years government walked away from a public commitment to education. Pell Grants were cut.  States cut their commitments to their public colleges and universities. Government began making students borrow for college, rather than using public dollars to help them.  Basically, we swapped grants for loans, and now student debt is over $1.5 trillion!

There have been other harmful changes.  For the past 20 or more years, those controlling public education have emphasized test scores to the detriment of just about everything else.  Adding to those bad policies, two major economic downturns did serious damage to school budgets, harm that most of our communities have not yet recovered from.  School spending here in _______ is down from 2008, just as it is in 31 other states.  And because too much money is being spent on testing and too much time on test-preparation, our young people are not enjoying art, music, drama, physical education, field trips, and other extra curricular activities–all the good stuff that (at least for me) made school enjoyable.

Schools need less testing and more money.  Making that happen will require the courage cited in the ‘Serenity Prayer,’ because we also must change how we pay for schools here in _______.  Back in 1973, the US Supreme Court ruled that education is not a federal constitutional right; it’s the job of individual states to educate its citizens.  As in most states, here in ______ we have passed down the job to cities and towns and let them figure out how to pay for it.

 

Amy Frogge is a member of the elected school board in Metro Nashville. She is a parent activist and a lawyer. She is also one of the heroes of my new book SLAYING GOLIATH: THE PASSIONATE RESISTANCE TO PRIVATIZATION AND THE FIGHT TO SAVE AMERICA’S PUBLIC SCHOOLS (Knopf), which will be published January 21.

When Amy ran for the school board, the Disruption movement funded her opponents. Groups like Democrats for Education Reform and Stand for Children poured money into the race to beat her, and she won. They outspent her, but she had troops, volunteers, parents as passionate as she was.

Amy recently spoke to the Nashville Chamber of Commerce about public education in Nashville.

This is what she told them:

Good morning. I would like to start out this morning with a confession, speaking only on my own behalf: Since I was first elected, I’ve bristled at the very idea of the business community grading the school system with a yearly report card. If I, as a school board member, decided to “grade” the Nashville Chamber for the dismal state of Metro’s finances and offered suggestions as to how you might better conduct your business dealings to avoid such poor outcomes, I’d wager that you would take offense. You would likely respond that I’m not qualified to make such an assessment, since I have no background in business, and you’d be right.

 

This is how our educators feel. Our teachers and public schools are continually scapegoated for the societal ills that impact student learning. Our schools and teachers are often labeled as “failing,” which destroys morale and is an entirely inaccurate statement. They are faced with a constant barrage of new policies, procedures, assessments, and ratings tools crafted by those with no real expertise in education- by politicians, by lawyers (like me), and by business leaders. The metrics used to assess our teachers and students are often deeply flawed and ever-changing. We must begin to respect our teachers, grant them the autonomy they need to succeed, and pay them handsomely. They are our true experts. Our school staff members best understand how to reach students and how to help them grow academically. They often give of their own limited resources to ensure that our children have what they need- food, clothing, shoes, supplies, etc., and even the love and care many do not receive at home.

 

That said, I want to commend you today for the general focus of this year’s Report Card: investment, equity and support. These are the true keys to success in public education. It’s become painfully obvious that Nashville schools and teachers are underfunded and that there exist vast inequities within our school system. As a city and larger community, we must ensure that every child in Nashville has access to an excellent, well-rounded education. ALL children- not just those in private schools or wealthy neighborhoods- should have access to the arts, to physical activity (recess, PE, athletics), to proper nutrition, to time in nature, to books and school libraries, to learning through play when they are young, to enrichment activities that spark their creativity and interests as they grow, and to healthy, evidence-based educational practices. So many of Nashville’s students come to school having experienced trauma and adverse childhood experiences, which impact their ability to focus on learning. That’s why the Chamber’s emphasis on social emotional learning has been so very important. We must also maintain focus on whole child education. We need more school counselors, social workers, and nurses. MNPS needs greater support and increased partnerships from our larger community.

 

But our current national fixation on ridiculous amounts of flawed standardized testing, which ultimately measures little, has impeded progress toward these goals. The number one factor impacting a child’s test scores is the socioeconomic status of the child’s family. This does not mean, of course, that children who come from impoverished backgrounds cannot succeed; it simply means that we as a community must provide the extra support to help these children thrive. School privatization efforts also impede progress toward these goals. Conversations about vouchers and charter schools are ultimately about equity- whether we want to fund the few at the expense of the many and whether we can continue to support a parallel, competing set of school systems when we cannot afford to support our existing schools. These conversations are also about accountability, the need for public regulation and transparency, the misuse of tax dollars intended for children, and school segregation- again issues of equity and fairness. Ultimately, though, these issues are a distraction from the hard work at hand- a band-aid on a much larger problem. It is a sad day when we all rally around the idea of “Adopting a Teacher” in a city as rich and thriving as Nashville. It’s embarrassing that we have come to this point.

 

I’ll close today by adding to this Report Card a few ways that you, sitting here in this room, can help MNPS succeed:

 

First, I invite each of you to tour your zoned schools before deciding where to enroll your own child. My husband and I opted to send our children to our zoned schools, and it has been an excellent choice for our family. We have utilized schools that our neighbors once warned us against, those with poor ratings on sites like greatschools.org- and yet, my children are both thriving, academically and otherwise. Their test scores are just as high as those of their friends who have attended elite private schools, and my children have benefitted from diverse learning environments. It saddens me that we in Nashville have somehow come to view our public schools as charities meant to serve only those without means. Children in our public schools shouldn’t be viewed as future worker bees for businesses, and our city’s schools are not just for other people’s children. Public schools are the very hearts of our community, and if everyone in Nashville actually utilized our public schools, we would have very different outcomes. Socioeconomic diversity, as well as racial diversity, in schools are proven drivers of success.

 

And when we all get involved in public schools, small miracles happen. When I was PTO President at our local, Title I elementary school, I helped bring in community partnerships and local support for the school. As a result, test scores went up, the school’s culture improved, and a waiting list developed at that school. This could happen throughout the whole city with your support.

 

On a related note, please do not recruit businesses to Nashville with the promise that they can live in surrounding counties and send their children to school in places like Williamson County. This increases the divide between the haves and the have-nots and paints a misleading picture of our city.     

 

Second, in addition to the suggestions you’ve made in this year’s Report Card, I hope that you will consider a greater investment in MNPS’s Community School programs, which provide wrap-around services to children and families in need. Businesses could partner with local schools to meet student needs and provide community volunteers. This would absolutely change a school’s outcomes.

 

Third, please help us advocate at the state level for our needs- increased funding, greater teacher pay and autonomy, and local control of schools so that Nashville can make the best decisions for our community.

 

Finally, I hope that you, as leaders in our business community, will put effort into advocating for larger changes in our city that will have the greatest impact on our schools and children. We need more affordable housing. Last year, over 3,400 of the children in our school system qualified as homeless. And as you are aware, our teachers and support staff desperately need better pay. Many can no longer afford to live in the New Nashville. We must stop investing in shiny things at the expense of infrastructure and community needs. When our city becomes more equitable, this will be reflected in our schools.

 

Thank you for your time this morning and for your commitment to public education. I know that a lot of hard, thoughtful work goes into your Report Card each year. I will leave you with the encouragement that Dr. Battle, Mayor Cooper, and the board are already working on the issues that your Report Card Committee has identified. It’s a new day for Nashville, and I hope we can all work together in partnership to make a difference for Nashville’s children.

Peter Greene, as usual, is sharp and on target in reviewing the Public Education Forum in Pittsburgh.

He fact checks the candidates. He was pleasantly surprised by Amy Klobuchar, which seems to be a common reaction.

Ignore a few spelling errors and enjoy.

Steven Singer participated in the Public Education Forum in Pittsburgh, where the leading Democratic candidates (and a few not-leading candidates) spoke to an audience of teachers, members of civil rights groups, and teacher unionists.

These are his ten take-aways from the day. 

A few highlights:

 

The fact that it happened at all is almost miraculous.

 

Who would have thought Presidential hopefuls would care enough about public schools to address education issues and answer our questions?

 

Who would have thought it would be broadcast live on TV and the Internet?

 

And – come to think of it – who would have EVER thought it would happen in my hometown of Pittsburgh!?
But it did.

 

I was there – along with about 1,500 other education activists, stakeholders and public school warriors from around the country.

 

It was an amazing day which I will never forget.

 

Perhaps the best part was getting to see so many amazing people in one place – and I’m not talking about the candidates.

 

There were members of the Badass Teachers Association, the Network for Public Education, Journey for Justice, One Pennsylvania, the American Federation of Teachers, the National Education Association, and so many more!

 

I wish I could bottle up that feeling of commitment to our children and hope in the future…

 

Here’s my top 10 most important lessons:

 

1) Charter School Support is Weak

 

When the forum was announced, Jeanne Allen of the Center for Education Reform wrote a blistering memoabout how the charter school community would not put up with politicians listening to constituents critical of their industry. Allen is a far right Republican with close ties to the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) who even used Donald Trump’s public relations firm to publicize her protest. But when we got to the forum, all it amounted to were a dozen folks with matching yellow signs trudging through the rainwho didn’t even stay for the duration of the forum. YAWN! Silly school privatizers, that’s not how you protest!

 

2) Michael Bennet Doesn’t Understand Much About Public Education

 

The Colorado Senator and former school superintendent really doesn’t get a lot of the important issues – even when they intersect his life. As superintendent, he enacted a merit pay initiative for teachers that resulted in a teachers strike. He still doesn’t comprehend why this was a bad idea – that tying teachers salaries to student test scores makes for educators who only teach to the test, that it demands teachers be responsible for things beyond their control, etc. Moreover, he thinks there’s a difference between public and private charter schools – there isn’t. They’re all bankrolled by tax dollars and can be privately operated.

 

But I suppose that doesn’t matter so much because few people know who Michael Bennet is anyway.

 

3) Pete Buttigeig is Too Smart Not to Understand Education – Unless He’s Paid Not to Understand

 

Mayor Pete came off as a very well spoken and intelligent guy. But he also seemed about as credible as wet tissue. He said a bunch of wrongheaded things. For instance, he said that “separate has never, ever been equal,” but he supports charter schools. Separate but equal is their business model.

 

It’s the kind of misunderstanding that only happens on purpose, and it’s not hard to see why. He’s taken so much money from anti-education billionaires like Netflix Founder Reed Hastings, no one else can trust him. How are we supposed to think he works for us when his salary comes from the super rich? You never recover from ignorance when it’s your job to be ignorant.

 

Read the rest of his post to see what he wrote about Warren, Sanders, Steyer, Klobuchar, and Biden.