Thursday, August 1, 2013

Making sense of an education whirlwind

Reaction to the budget N.C. legislators passed last week has been flooding social media and inboxes this week.

For most of the 11 years I've covered education, educational change at the state level has moved at glacial pace. This year it swept in like a summer thunderstorm, and some educators feel like they got soaked.

Plenty of teachers have penned and posted letters expressing dismay. I thought this  "Dear North Carolina"  letter from first-grade teacher Kayla Moran was a nicely written example of the first-hand emotional reaction.  "North Carolina,  you're breaking my heart,"  she begins.  "I wish you could see the faces of my children,  but they're just numbers to you."

Julie Kowal of the newly-formed advocacy group CarolinaCAN posted a three-part (so far) series of budget briefings.  She says the state's first steps toward tenure reform replaces one meaningless reward,  career status,  with a $500 annual raise for top performers that is "just insulting,"  and says the legislature's compensation task force has serious work ahead.

Jo Ann Norris,  president of the Public School Forum of North Carolina, offers a detailed analysis of changes in staffing,  teacher pay,  tenure and the N.C. Teaching Fellows program in a piece titled  "What a Difference a Year Makes."

 "I do not envy principals, personnel directors, or other administrators seeking to hire teachers in the 115 school systems in North Carolina in the coming years,"  Norris writes.  "It will be a state in all likelihood that will drop to the last ranks in both average teacher salary and per pupil expenditure."

Bill Anderson,  executive director of the local advocacy group MeckEd,  pulled together a data-based report on changes in the state's education scene since 2006,  looking at staffing,  teacher salaries,  enrollment growth and academic performance.   Anderson,  a former Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools principal,  challenges the notion that legislators are fixing a  "broken"  public education system.  Instead,  he contends,  teachers have helped students make gains despite hurdles imposed by spending limits.

"Reduced funding will only continue to damage our local schools,  reduce diversity,  divide communities,  force more cutbacks in classrooms and extracurricular activities,  and fail to provide each and every child with the education necessary for success in life,"  Anderson writes.

I did find one rave review for the legislature  --  let me know about others I may have missed  --  from Parents for Educational Freedom in North Carolina, which called the budget a victory for low-income and working-class students and families.  That's because it provides opportunity scholarships  based on income and disabilities to help families send their children to private schools.

"Make no mistake about it that this legislative session, North Carolina’s voice was heard loud and clear around the nation that she intends to chart a more comprehensive educational course in how we will educate our neediest children,"  wrote president Darrell Allison.  "Passage of these two scholarship measures amid continued public charter school expansion means parents will have more options within the K-12 process regardless of their income or zip code.”


Anonymous said...

Pay Teachers and bring back their benefits !


Anonymous said...

The part you left out: after 100 years of Democratic control, North Carolina was saddled with some of the highest business and individual income tax rates in America.

Republicans promised to lower tax rates to make the state more competitive, even if that meant postponing state employee pay increases. Democrats promised increased teacher pay. Republicans won the election. Voters got what they voted for.

Anonymous said...

I'm sorry, but Kowal has never been in a classroom...she has no ethos here. She's yet another in a long line of groups who think they have an answer for something they really don't have any context for and yet another group hell bent on privatization, mechanization, and decimation of public education in favor of the corporate model.

Unknown said...

I feel it is all economics. If more students go to schools that the state does not have to pay their teachers or cover their benefits, the state saves money. It is always just about money.

Pamela Grundy said...

Calling CarolinaCAN a "newly formed advocacy group" is misleading. The group is a branch of a longstanding national group, 50CAN which specifically targeted North Carolina because our Republican legislature seems likely to be friendly to their corporate reform efforts. Although their website notes that they "take local branding very seriously," they're selling the same "test and punish" system that has proven to be a profound failure nationwide.

"Over the past 20 years we made significant strides in developing rigorous state standards and aligned student assessment systems. We must now use the information collected through these systems to drive instruction and curriculum, expand public awareness of school performance, ground teacher evaluations in student results and close chronically failing schools."

Unknown said...

To the idiot that assumes that "opportunity scholarships" will somehow pull low-income and disabled students from the brink. Keep in mind, that private schools can choose who they ALLOW to enroll.

The assumption, by this General Assembly, is massive opportunity scholarships will be available for all children in certain income levels and they'll magicially be accepted into a private school. That simply will not happen and do not forget that private schools are not held accountable to the taxpayers. Their results do not have to come under the scrutiny of the public eye.

Like all theories, it looks good on paper but application can be something totally and horribly different!

Jim said...

Back up a week or so. . .there was an item in the news about an area "educator" inappropriately touching female parents of children in his elementary school. Job title of the offender? Dean of Students!!! You want more available funding, school administrators? Start by spending what you have in a responsible way! Elementary schools functioned just fine for generations with a principal and a school secretary! And kids even learned to read, write and figger!

Anonymous said...

People think politicians create the biggest mess with public education. Actually the mass media and race profiteers have caused all this uproar and the mass media jumps on it for their own egos. (They think they are all noble and such.) And those of you who want to put blame on the Republicans refuse to face the facts hiw you have been "used" by the democrats all this time.

I am amazed how what the Republicans are doing only mirrors what is coming from Washington.

Wiley Coyote said...

"Reduced funding will only continue to damage our local schools, reduce diversity, divide communities, force more cutbacks in classrooms and extracurricular activities, and fail to provide each and every child with the education necessary for success in life," Anderson writes.

Typical head in the dirt comment.

We have thrown so much money at public education for decades and what do we have to show for it?

The same failed-diversity-driven at-all-cost-lousy-system that was built on divisiveness called busing over 40 years ago.

Also, teachers have been "helping to make gains" for years so this isn't some new phenomenon since 2006. The problem is, the gains have been small due to educrat and political interference in the process.

Extracurricular activities have long been cutback and the ones left, like pay to play schemes for sports, only hose more dollars from "those who can afford it".

If Bill Anderson really believes public education isn't broken, them he is the poster child for what is and has been wrong in public education since the early 70's.....

bobcat99 said...

I started to disagree with anonymous above, the one that talks about being used by Democrats. But this person makes a good point at the end. "Test and drill and test" has been the mantra of both parties for some time, including Arne Duncan, US Secretary of Education. There is little light between Dems and Repubs on this. The only difference is that Repubs like kicking you when you're down.

Wiley Coyote said...


You are correct that there is little difference between Democrats and Republicans, both occupy opposite ends of the same stick, but-

Who kicked you to the ground in the first place with 100 years of Democrat rule in this state?

Which governor froze teacher salaries?

Which Governor raided $110 million dollars from the education lottery?

I'll give you a hint: Chicken.

Anonymous said...

My thing is everyone that works for cms should except the superintended and his cabinet. Teachers custodians cafeteria and some administrators are important to our kids today

Anonymous said...

What I meant was getting a raise

Pamela Grundy said...

Sadly, both Democrats and Republicans have bought into the "test and punish," and "blame the teachers" corporate reform mindset. The Obama administration is a major problem there. But the Democrats in Washington haven't been cutting education funding. Our current legislature can take full credit for that part of their policy.

Anonymous said...

Those high powered people up there do not care. Let them take a pay cut!

Anonymous said...

Actually, "Dean of Students" was implemented under Peter Gorman to have people work as assistant principals without the pay.

When I went to school, we had a principal and an assistant principal and they had significantly less duties than current staff. And the schools were much smaller ( and I attended CMS).

Anonymous said...

I moved to Charlotte straight out of grad school 20 years ago largely because of the robust local economy. The city was a different place then. As we've been forced to prioritize our spending in the economic decline, I see Charlotte (and the state) making the worst possible choices. We can't afford to fund our schools, but we can offer huge tax incentives to extremely profitable corporations. Why? I'm not here to subsidize millionaires. My tax dollars should be spent strengthening my community (and no - the handful of jobs we bought with those incentives were not a better investment than our community's schools and infrastructure).

Anonymous said...

This is what makes the liberals so angry:

North Carolina Ends Teacher Tenure, Teachers Will Now Have to Be Good at Their Jobs to Keep Them

Anonymous said...

Again its outsiders with little experience in education making bold statements. If BIlly Anderson is so interested in education he would have never taken the olive branch from Petey. Yeah I said it he was funded by CMS tax dollars via Petey. Get real folks and follow the money if you want any idea as to what these fools are up to.

Pam said...

To be honest, anon 1:25, the tenure thing makes us angry most because it was the NCGA's way of saying "and your mother, too!" It saves $0. I have seen poor-performing teachers of career status lose their job because a principal went through the due process necessary to get them fired. It can be done and it is done. Had the NCGA given us a charitable raise while eliminating tenure there wouldn't be so much noise. We'd see it as more of a given take. This budget is a take and take and take and take from teachers. It offers us NOTHING but insult. For the life of me, I can't think of what we teachers have done to deserve such wrath. Looking at the data Ann posted above, we've actually performed quite well in recent years. Quite well, especially given the chokehold we've been under resource-wise. What this budget says is "you will never be good enough and you will always be regarded as little more than welfare recipients."

Pam said...

^^ give and take (should have read it over before posting)

Anonymous said...

This stuff is comical. Administrators, principals, and area Supt. pull criminal pay checks and yet the onus about teacher pay from the MEDIA makes it all sound like teachers are whining and complaining. AT SOME POINT WILL SOMEONE WRITE OR REPORT something that else's the criminal pay that the people above those who actually impact the loves of students???????? When does it become evident that pay for our teachers is debilitated by the the clowns who work above them????? What a joke. The General Assembly could care less, voters could care less, and the medi has done little to nothing to expose where the true waste continues to be.....Ann your blogs are are like the beginning or end of any and all Benny Hill shows. Get it right for once!

Anonymous said...

Yeah I know Grammar errors..... BLAH BLAH BALH

Anonymous said...

I fail to understand why so many "fail to understand" the economic wet blanket this state is under. This state has lost so many good jobs that created a middle class with only a high school diploma.

Many of you think the NC Legislature has bundles of money to dole out but you are sadly mistaken. Yes they are trying to lure more industries here but they are caught up in the tax incentive game all other states are playing. You were okay with Gov Bev's dad gettig state money to build an ocean pier?

The point is the federal government as made it too beneficial to not work and when many do not work, all you get is crime, drug abuse and babies not supported by their birthers.

You make it sound like all you have to do is bring the democrats back into power and all will be well. All you will do is run more businesses out of the state to others where the business climate is more hospitable. Everyone can not live off the government. You are in a case where you are running out of the people's money. The producers simply choose to leave.

Teachers, the democrats started this mess with trying to spend more money than they could take in. They robbed the highway trust fund. They robbed the education lottery and they set up the frozen pay scales for you.

Gorman came in with this attack on teachers. He had to appease the urban race profiteers. Look at the damage that has been done to society with all this placating to the urban crowd and the illegal immigration crowd.

Anonymous said...

Teechers thinks there better than every one else! We don't need no more education!

North Carolina Leguslature

CMS SciTeacher said...

First, let me just state that I am a CMS teacher of six years, so that nobody questions my motives or viewpoint. I came here from a Northern state where teachers are protected by unions, and yes, some of them do not deserve that protection. I actually do not feel that I need union protection for my job, because I do my job well.

Now, I’ve read comments where people blame teachers for getting in to the profession knowing how poorly it pays. I looked at North Carolina’s teacher pay scale, particularly the CMS schedule, and was satisfied with the way in which step raises were handled for experience, not counting any adjustment, or actual “raise” that the legislature could make to the pay schedule. What the public does not understand is that we are not paid, in any way, by the same rules that go for the private sector. The lawmakers are playing with the salary schedule in a way that most other states generally do not mess with.

Bottom line – in 2007, the State claimed that at this point in my career, I would be making $40,906.00 this upcoming school year. That was a promise folks, one that I used to guide my decision to move to North Carolina. This upcoming year, I will be making $35,906.40. The way I see this, I will be having (and have had) almost $5,000 a year taken out of my pocket, literally stolen from me. Oh, but I could get an extra $500 bonus if I’m really, really good. That is truly insulting.

I still love what I do, which is educating children. That satisfaction cannot be replaced. So, to help support my family, I will be looking for a second job this year. I have told myself that this change will most likely reduce me from being an excellent teacher to a good teacher. Because being an excellent teacher requires a big time investment. No more after-school tutoring. Giving kids Scantron tests that are quickly graded rather than ones that truly show what they know. I will have to cut corners in my teaching to make ends meet. I will not be fired for this, as I will still be a good teacher, just no longer an exceptional one. What is happening to me is happening to a lot of people, and as a result is what will be facing your children.

I hope that paints a good picture of the reality of our situation. Second, I would like to make a point about “tenure” or career status. It does not really mean much in North Carolina as it is. Principals can get rid of bad teachers without too much trouble. What everyone does not understand is that there must be a buffer between administration and teachers when it comes to grading students, in the interest of academic integrity. In my six years with CMS, I have felt pressured, every year, to change student grades and not fail as many students (who deserve their failing grades). This is especially the case with seniors, so they may graduate. The leading argument usually goes something like, “We’ve passed them on this far, so let’s just get them through.” Basically, our school system has failed them, but we’ve socially promoted them to this point. Who am I to stand in their way of graduating now? If I do not feel some sort of protection to stand up and say that I will not give students grades they do not deserve, we might as well just let administrators assign grades. I MUST be protected to give grades that children earn. Eliminating career status will accomplish one thing, I promise, and that is increasing North Carolina’s graduation rate due to inflated grades and scared teachers.

Anonymous said...

Those "opportunity scholarships" are a joke. Special needs students are being used to open the door to vouchers for others who want to stop supporting public schools through tax dollars. $4200 a year does not begin to pay for a high end private school.
So they take the money out of the public school then send the children back to these schools because the private schools do not have the resources in place to provide the services they. The money never comes back with the child.
Charter schools are already doing this quite well. Stop using poor, black and hispanic children as shields to enact this shameful legislation. We all know the legislature does not care about them, either, or especially? That gentleman ought to be ashamed of himself, your forefathers are turning in their graves. You dishonor their memory. Show us your money trail!

These folk are sending their children to private schools and if you think

Anonymous said...

The folk paying the big bucks to send their children to private school are not going to tolerate, for long, those "bringing the vouchers". The ones that are charging 2100 per semester are pitiful.
Teachers, we are at war. You must fight back for the children that you know will suffer because of these policies. You must fight back because of the pain you are in. Fight Back and you will win! As you ought to see now, doing nothing has only allowed the to make it worse!