Thursday, July 10, 2014

Senate walkout a first for Morrison

Heath Morrison came to Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools with a reputation for his work with the Nevada state legislature, and he's worn out the pavement between here and Raleigh since taking this job two years ago.

But Wednesday morning's Senate walkout as Morrison prepared to speak to the budget conference committee was a first for him.


The senators weren't objecting to the CMS superintendent personally.  They were protesting the House members' insistence on summoning three superintendents to talk about the harm that would come from the Senate proposal to cut teacher assistants.

Morrison voiced gratitude that the Senate,  House and governor's plans include teacher raises,  but said the Senate plan would cost CMS 817 assistant jobs.  Assistants average about $19,000 a year,  he said,  describing them as  "some of the best bangs for our buck that we have in our state."  If they lose their jobs,  Morrison said,  they could end up collecting $14,000 a year in unemployment and health benefits from the state.  Giving up their skills to save $5,000 a year is  "not a good return on investment,"  he told the House members who remained.

House Speaker Thom Tillis,  R-Mecklenburg,  asked Morrison whether he'd prefer to keep the two-year budget approved last summer,  which includes no raise for teachers and other state employees,  or get a revised budget that includes raises but eliminates 800 teacher jobs that were promised for 2014-15.  Morrison compared that question to the movie "Sophie's Choice,"  in which Nazis force a woman to choose between her two children.  "I don't think either of those are particularly appealing,"  he said.

In response to another question from Tillis,  Morrison said that the Senate plan,  which provides the largest teacher raises,  would require going back to Mecklenburg County commissioners for more money or cutting $6 million to $7 million from the 2014-15 budget to match those raises for teachers paid with county money.

When Frank Till,  Cumberland County's superintendent,  spoke about the importance of teacher assistants,  Tillis posed what he described as  "a slightly fairer choice:"  Would he prefer the House plan,  which gives raises averaging 5 percent,  or the Senate plan,  where raises average 11 percent but teacher assistants and other aspects of public education are cut?

"I'd rather not make draconian cuts and have a smaller raise,"  Till said.  He added that he'd prefer to see the state raise more revenue,  but said he understood that legislators don't consider that an option.

"We agree on that,"  Tillis said with a laugh.  (By the way,  if you want to listen in on legislative discussions,  check the House and Senate calendars near the top of the General Assembly web page, then find the appropriate audio link.)

Morrison said afterward he wasn't offended by the walkout:   "I had a number of Senate members come out and chat on the way out, and thanked me for what we are doing in CMS and for coming up to testify,"  he emailed in response to my query.  "They wanted me to know that their issue was respecting the rules they had established (with) the House not a lack of respect for the superintendents and teachers speaking." 


Wiley Coyote said...

Mr. Morrison,

What you have been doing and that of your predecessor hasn't made any significant impact on education at CMS.

You just added several positions paying over $100K per year to the long lost of six figure salaries we are paying for that many of us feel are a waste of tax dollars.

It's a fair question as to what are you willing to cut in order to ensure teachers get the raises they deserve.

Taxpayers make those decisions everyday in their households.

You should do the same with CMS.

Anonymous said...

So when did teacher assistants come into being anyway and why? Have tests scores improved in America?

America used to be 1st place worldwide yet today with a million spent on each kid with early nursery babysitting up to free college for the unqualified.

Those who attended public school in a different age never had teaching assistants or 10 assistant principals or grief counselors or 10 student counselors.
They also didnt have athletic directors or 10 coaches per 50 sports now offered or computers in every classroom plus over 50% on free lunch programs.

They also didnt have 50 million dollar new schools with 2 gyms and every conceivable luxury including
artifical turf athletic fields etc.

The older way of the 70s or before also had little discipline problems and paddling students was routine if they were bad.
Guns, knives, gangs etc? Please. Only for cowards.

Go back to the future and clean up this liberal mess.

Keep It Simple Stupid works.

Get back to the basics.

Eliminate all pre K-12 babysitting waste.
Eliminate Kindergarten that is babysitting also.
Eliminate free lunch programs. Most public kids are fat as pigs and do not need to eat. Same with their fat hog parents. Bring your own lunch in a paper bag.

Make it 1-12 grades only.

Eliminate mandatory public education enrollment requirement.
Make public education non mandatory. It should be a choice.

Why should kids be forced to go to public school at any age? 50% of students are not cut out to be in school anyway.

Eliminate media tv contracts for all pro sports and colleges that are raping trillions out of 300 million US consumers while pro athletes make 50 million each a year. What a crock.
Ban pro sports otherwise as a detriment to the nations economy. Total union mafia racket.

Time to clean up the government mess made by liberals in power and save trillions and the nation.

Shamash said...

It still seems to me that breaking CMS into smaller pieces and getting rid of some of the folks at the top would help.

I think everyone has seen the various studies on optimum school district size (which is typically WAY BELOW the size of CMS).

Why not a plan that "shares the pain" between the lowest and highest paid CMS employees?

While the use of assistants may be questionable, at least THESE "assistants" are involved in actual teaching and not something like the "assistant" superintendent of "school options, innovation and design" who is making $126,900 .

Anonymous said...

whether you agree with Tillis's policies or not, he does raise some interesting points about CMS. There is great deal of waste within the CMS system! We witnessed a component of that waste a couple of weeks ago with the creation of 3 very high paying admin jobs ($160K, $111K and $126K).
Morrison lost just about all credibility with me when he created those positions in a time when he is pleading poverty for his school system. Secondly, I don't think he helped his cause any further by over paying for two recent hires for principal at North Meck($123K) and Mallard Creek($113K).

Anonymous said...

^^^^ Borderline delusional.

Heath, thank you for going to Raleigh to fight the good fight. Sorry you had to witness first-hand what an embarrassing lot we have assembled in our state's legislature.

Teacher assistant. said...

Good to see Morrison caring about us assistants. If you go to any school especially mine, you would realize that the assistants play a valuable role. Too bad I'm already interviewing for other positions because I'm sick of this back and forth.

Wiley Coyote said...

I'm sure Bolyn has the number of teacher assistants CMS has cut during and since Gorman.

Since that time, CMS' graduation rate rose dramatically to 81% without them.

American's have been doing more with less over the past six years.

It's time government and CMS do the same.

Anonymous said...

Wiley - the CMS graduation rate "rose dramatically" because CMS lowered the number of courses required to graduate. Do some research before you use stats to help your argument.

Lisa said...

There is a misconception that teacher assistants are babysitters. No, we did not have teacher assistants when I went to school either. However, we also did not have 35 students in a classroom. We also did not have IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act) that mandated students with learning disabilities be taught in regular classrooms. Now teachers have nearly double the students and several different learning disabilities within one classroom, each with a different set of accommodations that are required to be met lest they and the school get sued. We HAVE to stop using our own education experiences as a know-it-all approach. I went to school; therefore, I know how a school should be run. I went to the doctor, but I'm no closer to becoming one just as many of these uneducated arguments make any of you closer to being a teacher and knowing how to do that job and what that job needs for our children to be successful.

Anonymous said...

I think splitting CMS into smaller, more manageable districts would be a great solution if the legislature would allow it. IF the General Assembly does allow it, then Mecklenburg County residents would then vote on a referendum. Next comes the difficult part of actually dividing up CMS. How many districts and how to divide them would be two of the difficult questions however necessary.

With smaller districts, there would no longer be a need for all of these high paying yet useless managerial positions. Every dollar spent on pay, benefits, office space, etc for for upper management is one dollar LESS for the classroom where, unless I am mistaken, the actual learning takes place.

Anonymous said...

CMS did not cut core classes. They still require more credits then the rest of the state. Please refrain from uninformed arguments.

Anonymous said...

I think the money from all levels needs to be pushed down to the classroom. Teachers and students should be the priority. I do not want to see assistants cut but I do want to see DPI and downtown cut. Teachers should get a large raise. Heath should look around for fat to be cut.

Traci said...

Yes Lisa!!! We also didn't have all this testing that our children are going through now, and who do you think is doing the testing while teachers are teaching their classes? The assistants. And being my child is one of those with a learning disability, the teaching assistant worked with him on his oral reading skills, helping to increase them for the tests and grades that are possibly going to affect his teacher's pay. My son's reading skills have increased thanks to his hard work and that teaching assistant and the work we do with him at home, least you all think his family isn't working with him as well.

And since the cuts in funding for teaching assistants already, our teaching assistants are each going between at least 3 classrooms in all the grades in our elementary school. They are not sitting on their duffs for any moment of the the day. They are hard working individuals getting payed crap, often doing what teachers do in the classroom.

Anonymous said...

To those who cite their experiences going to school many years ago (with large class sizes and no teacher assistants) as proof that assistants aren't needed: can you honestly say that society hasn't deteriorated in the years since you have been in school? How did children conduct themselves both in school and in public back then compared to now?

No, there weren't social workers nor school psychologists in schools either "back then" but society wasn't as deep in the moral sewer that it is in now.

Anonymous said...

Armchair QBs.. Got love em.. The state needs to cut from the top. For to long NC has cut from the bottom. CMS is a great example of this. How many assistants could you have for one administrative position? Cut DPI and move down. Give teachers their long overdue pay raise and a pay plan. Keep the assistants and start looking at the suits in cubicles that have little to nothing to do with children. Why is Mcory backing the status quo on this?

Anonymous said...

Lisa is correct. Teachers assistants spend their time in classrooms assisting teachers as well as covering classrooms in the event that a substitute does not show up or the regular teacher has an emergency with their own children.

As far as the budget is concerned, as a second career teacher coming into teaching after a business career the prospects are not pretty. I will never have career status nor will I ever reach the "average" salary mentioned ($45,000)- a salary I made in the private sector at the beginning of my career 15 years ago - let alone the $65,000 30 year teachers make. I make $35,000 with 6 years of experience teaching. I wish I was at the average salary. I pay $1000 per month for my health insurance. Someone should report on the numbers of teachers making significantly under the "average" I do the same job - very well based on my evaluations and growth percentages- as other teachers making $20,000+ more than me. They just started earlier rather than decide to make a difference by leaving an established career. I don't have enough years of working life left to reach 20 years. There is no hope for this profession. (Plus my masters degree does not count as it is not an "education" degree.) I am currently looking to leave teaching. My $22,000 take home pay puts me below the poverty level. I have 2 children to send to college. What was I thinking?

Anonymous said...

12:10 I totally agree with you on that! Do we really need more area superintendents, executive directors, etc etc ETC??? How far would all of that money go if it was directed at the classroom levels where actual learning takes place?

The last thing that I need is yet another self-important stuffed-shirt telling me how to teach my class.

Anonymous said...


Almost 900 teachers have walked out on you this year alone. Why do you keep ADDING to the " Market Adjusters " on the payroll? More teachers are planning on running for the door. Even our bleeding hearts cant keep doing it " for the children ".

Wiley Coyote said...


I know the stats, have quoted them many times.

You missed the sarcasm in my comment, but the fact is, regardless of whether the required number of credits to graduate was decreased, they still have to pass core classes.

CMS will do what they do each year with or without teacher assistants. No difference.

Wiley Coyote said...


No one is suggesting we know how to be a teacher or teach, but it is not "uneducated" to put forth experiences others have had during their time in school.

Did you know the highest US graduation rate was in 1969/1970 and was just matched only a year ago?

When I was in elementary school from 1961 to 1966, we had over 30 kids in my classes, one teacher and no assistants. We also had kids with disabilities such as hearing and sight issues. Those with more severe learning disabilities when to a school that specialized in LD areas. Yes, even back in the 60's.

You can cite IDEA all you want, but the fact is, forced busing and a lack of discipline in the schools and home is what killed public eduacation for the past 45 years and continues today.

My experiences were during both times, before and after forced busing, yet schools were performing, the graduation rate was near 80% nationally, with large classrooms and no assistants, so something must have been working.

The only uneducated people are the educrats and politicians pulling the strings.

Anonymous said...

Heath has chosen not to reduce the cost of running CMS. Several comments give excellent examples of the ways costs could be reduced, many in my mind without hurting the students. The reduction in high paid staffing may actual help students and teachers. When will we get leadership in CMS that does things efficiently without just running to others to pay. The cutting of assistants and not increasing pay is this CMS leadership's way of emotionally trying to get more money, rather than using the current money effectively.
I also would not have wanted to listen to Heath - but for different reasons. I find his inability to speak clearly (too many umms, etc for me) difficult to take.

Anonymous said...

Ummmms is the least of his problems.

He is no different than Gorman. Neither can teach in a classroom in the state effectively or by law.


Unknown said...

TO: Wiley

Subject: Number of TA’s

I don’t have any numbers on TAs. What I do have are paraphrases by Gorman and Morrison.

In Gorman’s last year he said that there would be a negative impact on achievement due to the shrinking budget. This was only after he had been persistent in saying the previous cuts could be compensated for. He gets an “A” for effort. It was a difficult time.

Morrison said achievement gains would continue. Unfortunately for him the state’s computer systems didn’t function well. It’s hard to validate what happened. He also gets an “A” for effort. He went door-to-door looking for drop-outs. While some may have seen these as major PR, he backed it up with programs like LIFT Academy.

Bottom line: It would be nice to have more TAs but there is still a job to be done in the classroom.

Bolyn McClung

Anonymous said...

Broadies add Broadies at high salaries. They also create task forces.

But they do what they want as a top down organization. Period. Research be damned! Teachers be damned...

Anonymous said...

Anon at 10:43--there are 17 different independent school districts within Dallas, Tx, County, including the Dallas Independent School District, plus several of the most prestigious in adjacent counties but within the metroplex. Each has taxing authority, plus the selling price of houses is largely determined by the ISD plus the proximity to Downtown, although at least three centers for corporate headquarters have sprung up in affluent areas. This means that folks pretty much can choose the kind of public school they wish their children to attend. There are few private schools outside the Dallas ISD. I think county-wide CMS hurts Charlotte's ability to recruit divisional headquarters and such. But because of how the demographics would shake out, you know they would let Charlotte die a Detroit-type death before splitting the district into smaller, more manageable ones. Once again. It is not what is better for the whole; it is what is better for the politicians in power,

Anonymous said...

Anon at 12:48, besides telling you how to teach your class, they are also licking Morrison's boots. So, they will stay. In fact, he will probably hire more. He cannot educate, so he builds an empire.

Anonymous said...

Anon at 3:28. We must remember that we could have had the ousted super from Memphis. That thought will cheer us up.

Anonymous said...

To 12:22pm
You are exactly the type of teacher our current pay system is hurting way too much. Pay is going to the growing bureaucracy and to very highly paid teachers in some disciplines that are in plentiful supply, rather than the teaching areas that need the help.
Seniority of teachers should not be the primary reason they get paid more - what they teach and how well they teach it should also be a greater part of the salary - if we really want improvement.

bobcat99 said...

I'm sorry Mr. Morrison, as a relative newcomer, had to witness this poor behavior on the part of the Senate. I appreciate the time he takes to work with Raleigh.

We need to get rid of gerrymandered districts. Maybe that will make elected officials more willing to work together.

Anonymous said...

I would say culture at CMS is at an all time low under this leadership. Teachers leaving the state and the amount of movement in principals in alarming. CMS makes teachers apply to Principal and Asst Principal pools and then you see them hiring all sorts of folks from other states and districts. This is great for morale! Good job of respecting the process and current talent.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Morrison should worry more about his teachers walking out rather than the NC Senate.

Anonymous said...

Teacher Assistants make a huge difference in the classroom, and in my opinion are more able to work with the students on a one-on-one basis than the classroom teacher.

Heath, get rid of your high paid band of Educrats and put all that money into the classroom where it belongs. Say yes to TAs.

Anonymous said...

The issues with CMS have little to do with the behavior of the senate.

The state already provides adequate funding for CMS, Morrison chooses to spend that funding on things he considers more important than teachers, such as very highly paid admin people. Even so, look at how much we spend on education, it seems to me a some point we have to come to the reasonable conclusion that our state is already spending a fortune on public education, I think people sometimes over look this fact.
Something else worth noting, CMS must stop overpaying for principals at the expense of teachers, it's absurd! Rhymer who is the new principal at North Meck is not worth $123k, she won't even be there in 3-4 years, she will move on like so may of the check chasing principals.

Anonymous said...

1) Change the law in each state legislature and in Congress to eliminate mandatory education enrollment to knock out 50% of the problem and allow those who desire an education to learn without interruption or problems. Public school should not force anyone to attend at any age. Trillions would be saved nationally in taxation and help pay off a 20 trillion debt.

2) End fraud welfare food stamp and fake disability entitlements that are over 50% now under Santa Claus and only 16% under Bush and previous presidents including Clinton. Save trillions in taxes and help pay off the massive 20 trillion debt.

3) Reverse the child labor laws that ended in 1948 to bring back millions of SE Asia factory jobs to America to be self contained again and with the tens of millions of illegals flooding in who can work in sweat shops plus the inner city can develop a work ethic at an early age who dont need education.

4)End all extra entitlements for the military and its officers who mooch as bad as the welfare crowd and this includes ending all retirement pay for Congress and presidents or judges etc who all likewise feed at the tax trough.
Why should generals make 150k and presidents 200k a yr for laying on their fat rumps? Military starts at 18 and retire at 38 to start a new career. Same for commisioned officers. Save trillions to pay off the national debt.

5) Lastly end all tv and media socialist type contracts using advertisements for pro and college sports destroying the national economy with ever increasing higher prices for everything and paying pro athletes 50 million each on the average with endorsements that is criminal. Who do you think foots all these costs but 300 million legal citizen consumers?

America must regroup and reorganize after the massive socialist attacks from within who have failed Marxist agendas for everything from health care to education to sports raping the masses.
America has zero responsibility to illegal aliens but can use them to harvest crops and manual labor plus other menial jobs as long as they are fully monitored.

The idea is not to damage America or its masses and its youth but to change failed programs and failed institutions to being successful and retrain its citizens in work ethics at an early age to prevent crime and ensure for a cleaner organized less expensive debt free safer stronger ethical America that has gone completely.

It all began with Lyndon Johnson who said he would minorities and poor people voting democrat for the next 200 years with his socialist liberal Great Society boondoggle in cahoots with MLK.

Socialist liberalism of the mid 60s saw the complete destruction of minorities with family and social structure, business, neighborhoods, and replacement of the 2 parent home with welfare and food stamps while education went to hell and gangs, crime drug, etc took over.

The road to hell is always paved with good intentions.
The saying originated with Frances Saint Bernard of Clairvaux in 1150, "L'enfer est plein de bonnes volontés et désirs"

(hell is full of good wishes and desires)

Anonymous said...

Your points are valid and I agree with Traci on the topic of over testing madness.

However, I would like to point out that "back-in-the-day" we didn't have gifted teachers or the number of EC teachers we have today. Shouldn't AG and EC teachers be part of the discussion? How do we measure and evaluate AG and EC teachers who are part of today's IDEA inclusion measures? If you think about it, the average 2nd grade classroom has one licensed teacher, one teaching assistant in addition to access to at least one EC specialist and an AG specialist on top of a school counselor and, in some schools, a social worker. Something's radically wrong if students aren't progressing with this many adults in a classroom.

Also, my great-grandmother, grandmother and father attended rural one room multi-age school houses with 35 students and more without the help of assistants or specialists. My deceased but retarded aunt (that's what she was called back then) somehow learned to read before "inclusion" became modern day law. My father went on to earn a PhD from Columbia Univ. and a law degree from UConn without the benefit of an AG teacher.

As someone pointed out in a previous blog, a culture of school success is no longer a societal norm.

A school is nothing more than a reflection of the community of people it serves.

Licensed Teacher

Anonymous said...

There are at LEAST 4 postitions at each High School that could be done by 1 person.

Look at the top salaries. The money from the people at these positions could hire almost 10 new teachers.

And dont get me started at ALL the downtown market adjustment salaries that have limited to NO IMPACT on students in the classroom.

STRIKE and Top Down be damned

Anonymous said...

TA's in theory are a great idea. However as a CMS elementary teacher, I only have one for about 30 minutes a day anyway. Weighing that against the 2 part time jobs I have to pay off student loans and the cost of living in Charlotte, I'll take that 11% and figure out how to manage in the classroom.

Anonymous said...

Kindergarten is not baby sitting. If students do not show up knowing their site words, their behind. Some principals do not even let teachers work on craft projects.

Anonymous said...

I read where the house is trying to give teachers a 5% raise, to me, that is like taking a teaspoon of water the the Chicago fire. Sen. Berger has countered with an 11% raise but will come at a cost, teacher assistants.

when I look at the state of things today, I really question why anyone would want to be a teacher. No respect, low wages, no credit, but all of the blame!
Secondly, look at the quality of the children in schools today, a challenge to work with to say the least, just pitiful.

Anonymous said...

Every teacher that ACTUALLY has an impact on the student in the classroom should walk out on MOrrison and the Board of Education.

STRIKE is the only way to demonstrate the contempt teachers have on the tens of millions spent on wasted performance testing creation and consultants.

Shamash said...

Anon 9:01am...

"Kindergarten is not baby sitting. If students do not show up knowing their site words, their behind."

What, exactly happens to their behind?

Did you, by any chance, go to Kindergarten?

Or perhaps teach Kindergarten?

Anonymous said...

I have been supporter of traditional public education, but I must confess, my support is eroding, quickly. I used to think peopel lie Larry were nuts, but the more you look at traditional public education, the more I think he made some very valid points.

Anonymous said...

TA'a = NO

Most teachers are teaching over 30 without any T.Assistants.

Teachers have been doing more for MUCH LESS these past 5 years. We need more than the cost of living 11%.

Anonymous said...

for me, the biggest issue I have with public schools today is they have forgotten what they were intended for, Academics.

Anonymous said...

Would you please find out the teacher turnover rate at the individual Project Lift schools?

Anonymous said...

Poor guy Good Luck Heath in getting the state of NC to listen any better than Nevada. KW Hurley

Anonymous said...

Evidently Metrolina Regional Scholars is in need of teachers as well with an ad in the paper.

Anonymous said...

Teacher pay has been frozen for about five years. A teacher who leaves one district and goes to work for another district automatically gets a pay raise because they are hired at the number of years experience they have completed. If this can happen, why can't the state pay teachers for their years of experience based on the salary schedule listed on the DPI web site????

Anonymous said...

5:27, I don't think that's how it works. It's not the individual's pay that's frozen; the state actually adjusts the whole pay scale. Teachers used to get a "step" raise every year; now the pay levels have been bumped back so that a teacher with any given level of experience is making what a less experienced one made before the freezes. Switching districts doesn't help.

Anonymous said...

Ann, can you check on that? I know of someone who is changing jobs for that very reason. Thanks!

Anonymous said...

12:25, I'd strongly advise the person who's considering a job change to check on that. It's a simple thing to look up state/district pay scales and see where you'd land. It is possible that a district might be trying to entice someone and making them a better offer, and/or that a person could move to a district that has a better local supplement. But just switching districts doesn't bring an automatic raise.

Anonymous said...

Teacher with 10 years' experience, pay frozen at 5 year level ($30,800)resigns from one county and goes to another county, is a new hire with 10 years of experience ($35,800). That's a salary increase of $5,000.

Years Bachelor's Teacher
of Monthly 12 Monthly Annual Salary

Monthly/12 Monthly/Ann. Salary

0-2 $3,080 $2,566.67 $30,800
3-5 $3,080 $2,566.67 $30,800
6 $3,122 $2,601.67 $31,220
7 $3,167 $2,639.17 $31,670
8 $3,303 $2,752.50 $33,030
9 $3,445 $2,870.83 $34,450
10 $3,580 $2,983.33 $35,800