Republican attack on public schools

Group with ties to Art Pope pushes anti-teacher propaganda

State Policy Network pens instruction manual for discrediting teacher strikes:

The new rightwing strategy to discredit the strikes that have erupted in protest against cuts in education funding and poor teacher pay is contained in a three-page document obtained by the Guardian. Titled “How to talk about teacher strikes”, it provides a “dos and don’ts” manual for how to smear the strikers.

Top of the list of talking points is the claim that “teacher strikes hurt kids and low-income families”. It advises anti-union campaigners to argue that “it’s unfortunate that teachers are protesting low wages by punishing other low-wage parents and their children.”

I have to give credit upfront to the NCAE and all of our teachers who have washed over the NC Capitol grounds with a sea of red for several years now. It would not surprise me if Civitas was a driving force behind this propaganda manual, because they've been trying to attack the Moral Mondays movement with whatever tools they can, up to and including publishing the names and photos of those who dared to challenge Republican leadership. And it also comes as no surprise that money (tax cuts for the wealthy) is at the core of this devious attack on teachers:

Elon Poll: Supermajority of teachers oppose arming themselves in classroom

This bonehead idea just got a failing grade:

More than three-quarters of North Carolina public school teachers believe that allowing teachers to carry guns in school is a bad idea, according to a new Elon University Poll conducted in partnership with the Raleigh News & Observer and the Charlotte Observer. The poll found that only a quarter of teachers would consider carrying a gun in school if allowed to do so.

The Elon Poll found that a majority of N.C. public school teachers said allowing teachers to carry guns on campus and in the classroom would be harmful to the learning environment, would make them feel less safe, and would ultimately lead to an increase in gun-related deaths in American public schools. Most expressed concern that a gun carried by a teacher would fall into the wrong hands.

Bolding mine. As you can see, they don't merely *not* want to carry guns themselves, they believe it would make things more dangerous. That's an important distinction, especially for those lawmakers who envision a subset of teachers with the proper skills (or to be trained with) stepping up to become sentinels. Now that it has been made clear what they *don't* want to do, let's look at their opinions on other options:

The NC GOP's hypocrisy on lottery funds abuse

And of course the irony is lost on them:

State Sen. Phil Berger, a Rockingham County Republican, led lottery opponents as minority leader in 2005. He derided the lottery as “a diversion from other educational problems that Democratic leaders have failed to address,” in the far-right Carolina Journal in August 2005. He also told the Journal he doubted the money would end up where advocates said it would go. ‘The money for education is not going to increase.”

Now they are addicted to its cash. Worse, they are the ones fulfilling their own dire prediction – using the cash to pay for basic education needs. Today much of the money goes to “non-instructional support staff” that provide for on-going school operations while Berger, House Speaker Tim Moore and others shower their political patrons, particularly the businesses that control the N.C. Chamber of Commerce, with tax breaks and credits.

This K-3 class size (unfunded) mandate is about to crush schools statewide, and the friction between school boards and county commissions is going to boil over long before Spring Break rolls around. But instead of rolling up their sleeves and preparing to fix it, BergerMoore is too busy crafting propaganda in an effort to shirk the responsibility for this crisis. The next few months are going to get ugly.

Billionaire trying to take over NC schools gave $50,000 to Dan Forest

And since Dan Forest will have a vote on who wins the contract, the conflict of interest is glaringly obvious:

John Bryan has contributed about $600,000 to legislative candidates in North Carolina, most of them Republicans, and GOP political committees from 2011 to 2016. Included is a $100,000 contribution to a group supporting GOP candidates for the state Supreme Court. He contributed $50,000 to a political action committee called Truth & Prosperity, set up to support Republican Lt. Gov. Dan Forest. Forest is a member of the State Board of Education, which will help select which companies are chosen.

Forest said in an interview earlier this year that he did not know why Bryan contributed to the PAC.

Whether you know or don't know why is beside the point; at minimum, you should recuse yourself from any actions dealing with the Innovative School District. But the best way to handle this would be to resign your seat on the State Board of Education entirely. Because make no mistake, this story is not going to "fade away" like you're hoping it will.

GOP meddling in teacher pay is like gasoline on a fire

Kicking turnover and teacher shortages into overdrive:

A pivotal legislative task force may be just beginning its dive into North Carolina’s school funding maze, but lawmakers’ hints that they may abolish the state’s teacher salary schedule or other state-set funding allocations is already spurring criticism from local district advocates. Talk of nixing a state-set pay scale emerged this year when lawmakers took on a revamp of school principal pay, and it’s resurfaced multiple times in the Joint Legislative Task Force on Education Finance Reform’s first meetings in November.

The state’s teacher pay struggles coincide with massive teacher shortages in many of the state’s 100 counties, as well as a substantial drop in students seeking teaching degrees in the UNC system. Mark Jewell, president of the N.C. Association of Educators (NCAE), the top lobbying organization for North Carolina teachers, said lawmakers’ invitation to ditch the salary schedule would be “short-sighted,” adding it may “jeopardize teacher retention and recruiting.”

With every year that passes under Republican reign, it becomes more clear what they are actually trying to achieve: A massive failure of our pubic school system. Making it much easier to stimulate the growth of charters and private schools, pushing millions of taxpayer dollars into the pockets of businessmen instead of genuine educators. In a political environment where scams are around every corner, this one has the potential to top all the others by a wide margin.

Oregon billionaire's charter school empire invades North Carolina

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And Team CFA likes to keep the money in the family:

In fall of 2016 Aristotle Prep -CFA received an F from the state and failed to meet academic growth standards. This year Aristotle Prep – CFA received a D. Last year Aristotle enrollment was 150 students, compared with 550 projected when it received the charter. The Aristotle Prep – CFA and Achievement for All Children contract requires state Board of Education approval. A fundamental problem is that Aristotle’s board did not seek proposals from other management companies. It seems a sweetheart deal for Aristotle Prep-CFA was arranged by a network of TeamCFA members.

In this case, the advisory board requested a three-person panel of state Board of Education members to review the Aristotle Prep -CFA plan. The trio endorsed the plan originally, but conflict of interest concerns moved the full board voted unanimously to defer action and get a ruling from the ethics commission.

That's a pretty sweet deal if you think about it: Screw up the academic status of your school while bilking taxpayers for tuition, which then triggers an "in-house" contract to fix the problem you created. Making money coming and going. Be on the lookout for these charter school pirates sailing into your home town:

The flaws of pay-for-performance in teacher salaries

Coming soon to the Chapel Hill/Carrboro school system:

The State Board of Education on Thursday approved a plan to provide up to $10.2 million over the next three years to six school systems to test their alternative models for paying teachers. The districts are planning to use different options, such as paying teachers more based on whether they take advanced leadership positions or have good student test results.

Lawmakers who ordered the state board to establish the pilot program are looking to see whether the district models can be applied statewide. “This is an opportunity for teachers to advance in their career while still working with students in the classroom,” said Bryan Hassel, co-director of Public Impact, a Chapel Hill-based education firm that is working with two of the districts in the pilot program.

As in any occupation, professional development should be rewarded. Advanced degrees, newly acquired skills, targeted certifications, these things represent efforts to improve one's capabilities and should not be overlooked or taken for granted. But this whole idea of imagining a subset of teachers who are a "cut above" the rest, and should be elevated to role models for the vast majority of their colleagues who are "substandard," is really nothing more than a backhand slap to the profession itself. And in an environment where nearly everybody can agree that testing as a tool for educating has gotten out of control, to throw extra money at teachers if their students score higher completely ignores all the new research that shows economic status is the main determining factor in student performance. A good analogy would be if you went to a grocery store parking lot and said, "These four rows of cars will race each other." And then be surprised when the Porsche wins. A few observations from Mark Jewell:

GOP education plan: Unfunded mandates and temporary fixes

You can have tax cuts for the wealthy or proper school funding, but not both:

In passing the bill, Senate leaders have publicly promised to provide additional funds for enhancement teachers beginning the 2018-19 school year. Despite the pledge, the Senate worryingly voted down an effort by Sen. Jay Chaudhuri to include that funding pledge in the bill’s language. As a result, North Carolina’s class-size controversy remains unsettled.

Absent from the class-size debate has been an estimate of exactly how much additional funding will be required to meet 2018-19 class-size requirements while preserving enhancement classes for students in grades K-3. To fully-fund class-size requirements and enhancement teachers, the General Assembly will need to increase classroom teacher funding by approximately $293 million in FY 18-19.

Just a comment about messaging and word choice: I like the term "Enhancement" when classifying teachers and their subjects, much more than what I've been hearing a lot over the last few weeks, "Specials." I realize the latter is educator jargon and is not meant to be derogatory or demeaning, actually the opposite. But words don't automatically become what you want them to just because you chose them, they have their own baggage, their own connotations, and your meaning can be misinterpreted and your words used against you very easily. Special can mean enhanced, but it can also mean in addition to, on top of, on occasion, temporary, and other meanings that make it easier for someone to say, "That would be nice, but we can't afford it." I would argue these subjects are just as "Core" as the core classes, but if you're going to delineate between the two, choose the terminology wisely.

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