Archive for Education
(Cross-posted from Thomas Mills’ Politics North Carolina.)
Guest blogger Gerrick Brenner is Executive Director of Progress NC .
How many Republican state lawmakers does it take to defend the GOP’s cuts to our public schools? Apparently at a town hall meeting in his own district, House Rep. Tim Moffitt of Buncombe County knew he could not do it alone.
There was Moffitt Thursday night in a high school gym that was packed with about a thousand parents, teachers, and students. They wanted answers on repeated decisions in Raleigh to cut public schools. Many of these folks were Moffitt’s constituents. It was a chance for Moffitt to speak directly to voters on the hotest issue in state politics – public education. Instead, Moffitt brought in other seemingly anonymous GOP lawmakers from 150 miles away for help. But Moffitt’s bullpen only made matters worse.
Virtually no one in this Asheville gym had ever heard of House Reps. Bill Brawley of Mecklenburg or Craig Horn of Union Counties. No one had ever seen their names on a Buncombe County ballot. But there they were, trying to carry water for Moffitt in front of an audience that was clearly agitated to hear Brawley claim the GOP had passed the largest education budget in state history. People groaned. Brawley started lecturing in a condescending tone reserved only for politicians who don’t really care because they are speaking to someone else’s voters. No one was buying it. Some started heckling.
Rep. Horn came next and explained he was Chair of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Education. People were more interested in cuts to their children’s classrooms than the politician’s job title. Horn rolled out a now familiar accounting claim that North Carolina is actually 10th in the nation in education spending if you don’t count local dollars. People shook their heads, and Horn finally admitted on some of the GOP decisions on education funding: “We screwed up. We’re going to fix it.”
Most in attendance had to wonder, “Just who are these guys? Where did they come? And why isn’t our own Representative leading this conversation on our public schools.” Moffitt, of course, is the lawmaker who once said in a legislative committee in Raleigh: “I’m very suspect of early childhood education. I’m very suspect of education in general.” This time, he hoped to import some politicians who are more seasoned at talking about schools. Instead, all three looked like the GOP is out of answers.
Other local Republican lawmakers spoke after Moffitt, but they too sounded almost apologetic in the high school gym.
Yes, Republicans will likely offer some kind of teacher pay raise in the short session, which starts this week. But it’s likely too little and too late. Their tax cuts have dug a $445M budget hole. Any miserly one-time pay raise they offer for teachers will make hardly a dent in North Carolina’s embarrassing ranking of 46th in the nation in teacher pay. And if lawmakers like Moffitt need to wheel in other politicians to explain the cuts to public schools, the voters and media will quickly come to see that the folks they send to Raleigh are not really engaged in a top priority.
Stories of teachers leaving the profession and leaving NC for other states with better pay and working conditions continue to roll in. Lots of anecdotal accounts of teachers moving to Virginia for better pay. One teacher told me she was headed to South America. And this one from Wake County:
To Whom It May Concern,
It is with great sadness that I submit my written notification of resignation from my teaching position with Wake County Public School Systems effective 3/14/14. I have found it more and more difficult to pay my bills every month and continue to fall further and further into debt, not to mention the feeling of absolute disrespect that I feel every time a new “expectation” is mandated for our classrooms while all of our resources are being taken away. I had no choice but to search for a job that will allow me to provide for my family and to pay back the thousands of dollars in college loans that I took to be a teacher. I find the condition of our education system in NC to be heartbreaking. It seems that our leaders and law makers have completely forgotten what is the most important thing here, the kids! We are failing our students, our teachers and our future. Please accept this letter as my official resignation from Wake County Public Schools.
Melissa Taylor, M.Ed, NBCT
Yesterday the American Federation of Teachers and In the Public Interest launched Cashing in on Kids, a website devoted to researching and exposing corporate influence in and privatization of public education. We have written plenty about that here.
Cashing in on Kids is described as
a one-stop shop for the facts about for-profit education in America. The site profiles five for-profit charter operators: K12 Inc., Imagine Schools, White Hat, Academica and Charter Schools USA. It identifies several issues that need to be addressed in charter school policy, including public control, equity, transparency and accountability.
Rent-seeking investors see a huge potential for private profit in public education. The only obstacle is the public part. By state constitution and/or by the statehood acts that admitted them, states states provide education on a not-for-profit basis (the HORROR!). Investors need to elbow states, communities and public school teachers out of the way if they want to get at … well, let Rupert Murdoch explain it:
In 2010 Rupert Murdoch, who now has a growing education division called Amplify, said recently that “[w]hen it comes to K through 12 education, we see a $500 billion sector in the U.S.”
The site features details on the failures in major cyber and for-profit charter schools. All seem to suffer from a lack of transparency, public control and accountability. The site hopes to serve as a resource for tracking the underperformance of the national chains.
“This is a simple exercise of following the money,” says Randi Weingarten, president of the AFT, one of the nation’s two largest teachers unions. “How many times do people simply get up on a pedestal and say we care about kids, and then you realize that they care about profits, they care about tax deductions, they care about privatizing the public system?”
Weingarten says she is not ideologically opposed to charters.
“I am not anti-charter, and there are many people that run great charter schools that are very well-intentioned and well-meaning,” she says. “But there are also people within the so-called charter school movement … who are really all about profiteering.”
Follow the money.
North Carolina educators angry at recent legislation that phases out tenure, cuts extra pay for advanced teaching degrees, cuts teacher assistant jobs, and cuts money for instructional supplies and more planned to send Gov. Pat McCrory a sack of coal for Christmas. In August, when women’s health advocates angry over new abortion restriction protested in front of the governor’s mansion, McCrory tried to placate them with a plate of cookies.
Despite recent attempts by the state of North Carolina to marginalize them, Moral Monday protests will continue into 2014. Over 930 people volunteered to be arrested in civil disobedience against extreme legislation passed by the GOP-led legislature in 2013. New voting restrictions have been described as the most restrictive in the nation.
The Nation‘s John Nichols declared the 10,000-strong Mountain Moral Monday protest in Asheville, NC on August 5 the Most Valuable Protest of 2013.
Wisconsin and Minnesota provide a nice side-by-side comparison of Republican and Democratic economic policies in action. They’re next door to each other and share similar demographics.
Three years into [GOP Gov. Scott] Walker’s term, Wisconsin lags behind Minnesota in job creation and economic growth. As a candidate, Mr. Walker promised to produce 250,000 private-sector jobs in his first term, but a year before the next election that number is less than 90,000. Wisconsin ranks 34th for job growth. Mr. Walker’s defenders blame the higher spending and taxes of his Democratic predecessor for these disappointments, but according to Forbes’s annual list of best states for business, Wisconsin continues to rank in the bottom half.
Along with California, Minnesota is the fifth fastest growing state economy, with private-sector job growth exceeding pre-recession levels. Forbes rates Minnesota as the eighth best state for business. Republicans deserve some of the credit, particularly for their commitment to education reform. They also argue that Minnesota’s new growth stems from the low taxes and reduced spending under Mr. Dayton’s Republican predecessor, [GOP Gov. Tim] Pawlenty. But Minnesota’s job growth was subpar during Mr. Pawlenty’s eight-year tenure and recovered only under [Democratic Gov. Mark] Dayton.
It is a little early to assess NC Gov. Pat McCrory. In spite of McCrory’s and the NCGOP’s refrain that the state is “broken” owing to one hundred years of Democratic dominance, North Caroilna consistently ranks as one of the top ten best states to do business. But it has lost ground since last year on one survery, falling from first place to second behind Georgia. This, of course, leaves McCrory with not much of anywhere to go except down.
The education reform industry is hungry for a bite of “the Big Enchilada,” the trillion dollars in public money spent in this country each year on public education. The charter, voucher and online schools reformers promote have been plagued by financial scandals and a checkered achievement record. Lack of academic and state oversight, coupled with reduced teacher standards have shown that leaving our children’s education to the Wild West of corporate capitalism is no way to guarantee our children’s or our country’s future.
David Sheriff and his daughter found out just how wild school choice has become when she tried to use her diploma from Wisconsin Career Academy, a Milwaukee Public Schools charter school, to get into college.
David’s daughter Amanda enrolled and attended all four years of high school. She graduated, and got her diploma in 2009. After working for a few years she decided this summer she’d like to apply to college, so she says she looked into the medical assistant program at the Milwaukee Career College.
The Admissions Director said she’d have to get her GED because the charter school she attended wasn’t accredited. Amanda says she was shocked.
“I’m like, so basically you telling me that I have a 8th grade education, right now?”
Luckily for Amanda, there was a mix up on dates. She’d graduated before the school lost its accreditation. But David is not exactly sanguine about the outcome and took her cautionary tale of school choice to the local news. It’s buyer beware. Voters, too.
Under the rubric of freedom, choice, competition and reform — even after disastrous the Crash of 2008 — voters are being offered more chances to be played by sharks in the Finance, Insurance, and Real Estate industries by public officials elected to protect the interests and futures of people like Amanda. But even record profits are not enough. Parents with children in primary and secondary education are now targets as well. And why? What is the largest portion of the annual budget in all 50 states?
(Cross-posted from Crooks and Liars.)
In a letter to the News & Observer, Karen Lewis slams North Carolina House Majority Leader Paul “Skip” Stam for condescending and sexist remarks about June Atkinson, the superintendent of public instruction for North Carolina.
Atkinson said private schools funded under the new voucher program should be evaluated using the same tests as public schools so parents can compare apples to apples. “The public needs a consistent measure of reading achievement in particular,” Atkinson said. New legislation allows private schools to select which national tests to us and allows some to opt out of reporting results.
Stam suggested that Atkinson “stick to her own knitting.”
Setting aside for the moment the appallingly condescending and sexist rhetoric Stam chose, I propose that he do the same thing he calls on Atkinson to do. Voters elected him and his cohorts to create jobs and restore economic prosperity to North Carolina, but they’ve instead rolled back personal freedoms, voting rights, access to medical care and, yes, funding of the very public schools Atkinson has been elected to lead.
With the North Carolina state legislature in recess, Moral Mondays – the Forward Together Movement – began a march across the state, starting in Asheville on August 5 with the largest protest yet. The crowd “well exceeded” the 5,000 the Asheville police department had prepared for, with early police estimates to 10,000.
“You can’t do wrong in Raleigh and then hide back home,” said NC NAACP president the Rev. William Barber. Firing up the crowd as he has in Raleigh, Barber condemned the actions of the state legislature as “constitutionally inconsistent, morally indefensible and economically insane.” Barber and other speakers called out local and state legislators by name, some of whom were in the crowd.
“From the mountains to the coast, we’re sick of this mess,” Barber declared. “This is no momentary hyperventilation or liberal screaming match; this is a movement. We have a governor that has decided to be on the wrong side of history. We have a legislature that is bragging and boasting about its power and is legislating on the basis of lies and discrimination. Though they have temporary power, the future does not belong to them.”
Barber and other speakers addressed education, labor, LGBT rights and a bill seizing the local water system. Asheville local, Heather Rayburn, spoke surrounded with a group of other civil disobedience protestors arrested in Raleigh. Keeping with the moral theme, Rayburn reminded the crowd, “This group of jailbirds and I believe in the Golden Rule. That we should treat people the way we would want to be treated. And politicians should live by the Golden rule too.”
(Cross-posted from Crooks and Liars.)