Republican attack on public schools

GOP union-busting on steroids

There's more than one way to skin a teacher's association:

The notice, sent today, came in response to a Dec. 1 letter by Sen. Ralph Hise which questioned whether the North Carolina Association of Educators was eligible for the due deduction service. NCAE had declined to cooperate with a state auditor's report earlier in 2015.

The teacher's group has tangled with lawmakers since Republicans took control of the General Assembly in 2011. It has been critical of the GOP-lead legislature's funding for schools and backed Democratic candidates for office. In 2012, lawmakers returned the favor by holding an unprecedented midnight session to override Gov. Bev Perdue's veto of a bill that would have stopped the state from collecting NCAE dues. The group went to court and won, keeping the right over lawmakers' objections.

Divide and conquer, that's all this is about. Tear down NCAE, and you tear down the ability of teachers to collectively bargain, stand up for each other in numbers large enough to matter, and a whole host of other supportive activities. Bullies hate solidarity, because it neuters them. Which is just one more reason they shouldn't be "governing" our state.

Forest uses right-wing talk radio to whine about charter schools report

Wants less evidence, more anecdotal cheerleading:

“Is there an actual anti-charter bias in the Department of Public Instruction?” Kaliner asked. Forest didn’t answer directly, but said “they” see charter schools as competition. DPI and the state Board of Education oversee North Carolina’s school districts and 158 charter schools, which are run by independent nonprofit boards.

He says delaying the report, which state lawmakers required by Jan. 15, allows more time for it to be reviewed by the Board of Education and the Charter School Advisory Board. In addition, Forest said said there should be an opportunity for “charter schools themselves to be able to read it and look at it and go, ‘Wait a minute. This isn’t painting our picture.’ There’s a lot of great positive things going on with charter schools in the state. Let’s tell that story, too.”

Apparently Forest doesn't know the difference between art and science. If the numbers don't "paint the picture" you want to see, then you need to institute policies that change those numbers. And two of the main policy drivers keeping charters from being diverse are their refusal to provide transportation and free- or reduced-lunches. The sad thing is, I have a feeling charter school proponents view that as a selling point; keeping out the riff-raff. And Republican leaders, including Forest, likely see it the same way. The problem with institutional bias is, you can't hide it when the numbers come rolling in.

Dan Forest wants more happy talk in charter schools report

Because form over substance is so important in the education formula:

The State Board of Education is expected to vote Thursday on several charter school issues, including whether to give newer charter schools more chances to remain open if they are struggling to meet performance standards.

The board could also hear more about the annual charter schools report, which is due to the legislature on Jan. 15. Lt. Gov. Dan Forest advised the board to take more time to review the report and possibly make changes, saying he thought the statistics provided in the report were "negative" and "did not have a lot of positive things to say."

Statistics are what they are. That's why we go to the trouble to collect them, because they are untainted by ideology or preconceived notions. If you don't like the story they tell, change the factors that drove them, not the data itself. And one of the biggest factors driving those negative statistics is the mismanagement of resources, something a former Pope Puppet has positioned himself to take advantage of:

The newest attack on public schools: Achievement School Districts

A special invitation for failure:

An evaluation of those Tennessee schools Vanderbilt University researchers published in December said results were inconsistent and performance, measured by test scores, was about the same as other low-performing schools. The schools are in different cities but are all part of an Achievement School District run by a single superintendent.

But state Rep. Rob Bryan, a Charlotte Republican, who worked this year to get an Achievement School District established in North Carolina, said he was encouraged by information published by the Tennessee district itself that showed high student growth in schools that were in the program for more than a year.

Yeah, nevermind what Vanderbilt says, let's focus on how the privately-managed district describes itself. Those who have been following the school privatization issue are well aware of Rob Bryan's preference for faulty research that supports his views on gutting public schools, but what we really need are a few Legislators to face off with him in the next session to stop this movement. And somebody needs to state the obvious: Republicans frequently bash DPI, because trying to run school districts from a couple hundred miles away is "foolish and counterproductive." But that's exactly what this Achievement School District boondoggle is all about: Putting schools from various cities under one (private-sector) umbrella. The wheels on this snake-oil wagon need to be knocked off the axle before it's too late.

GOP crusade against NCAE continues

Special laws for special enemies:

A state law passed last year required NCAE to have at least 40,000 members to qualify for payroll deductions from state employees. The law calls on the state auditor to verify the membership count every year...The law also singles out NCAE, which is the only group in the law that must have at least 40,000 total members to qualify for dues collections through payroll deductions.

For about a dozen other groups, such as the State Employees Association of North Carolina, the threshold is 2,000 members. In the audit report, SEANC is reported to have 52,900 members – and 32,033 were using the payroll deduction to pay dues.

This particular clause in the law is what's known as a "punitive" state action, as it sets aside a specific group for a regulatory burden others don't have to deal with. There are some rare cases where this is justified, but there must be an overarching "public good" to be attained. In this case, it's purely political, as evidenced by our idiot junior US Senator before he was prematurely elevated:

Paving the way toward privatization

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The hemorrhaging of education dollars is increasing:

Before the voucher program began, there was little concern about the low level of state oversight of private schools because they received no public money. The voucher money is flowing now — $11 million this year, with $24 million budgeted for 2016 — but private schools are subject to minimal requirements for student assessment and none at all for curricula, instructional staff or financial viability. The schools can choose the pupils they want to admit and are free to provide religious instruction.

The hypocrisy of those on the right over this issue is mind-boggling. They wail about accountability and waste in our traditional public school system, and yet don't believe government has any business monitoring those very same things when taxpayer dollars are funneled into private and charter schools. And their predictable reaction to requests for more funding of struggling public schools, that "throwing more money" at them will do no good, is exactly reversed with charters and private schools. We need to direct more state and local funding in that direction, and every failure of one of those schools is blamed on a lack of monetary support from the government. It's amazing they can tie their own shoes without tying them together and then falling on their faces.

Charter school bullies: Baker Mitchell takes critic to court

Telling the truth doesn't always set you free:

“Pruden has falsely stated to third parties that public charter schools assist in ‘dismantling’ North Carolina’s system of public education…and that public charter schools have ‘morphed into an entrepreneurial opportunity,’” according to the original suit.

Mitchell says Pruden intentionally caused his Local Education Agency Impact Statement–a document submitted to the state as part of the charter approval process–to be published by the media. In that statement, Pruden accused Mitchell’s “private companies” of profiting from taxpayer dollars in the amount of $16 million.

Formal communications between local government entities and state agencies *should* be made public, especially if they concern possible changes in the way public funds are spent. Make no mistake, this is merely a version of a SLAPP suit, the main purpose of which is to silence opposition voiced in the public sphere. Combine that with the likelihood Charter-supporting Republicans in the General Assembly will soon introduce Parent Trigger legislation or other more aggressive approaches to shifting educational resources from public to private entities, and the chilling effect of this lawsuit should increase for many reading this.

NC Policy Watch series continues: Starving the schools

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And squeezing blood out of the teachers:

Staffing isn’t the only dwindling resource in the classroom — so are classroom supplies. Carter and other teachers dip into their own pockets to buy supplies and to meet emergency student needs. Carter said she typically spends $500 to $600 a year. Compared with 2008, the state has reduced the public schools’ classroom supplies budget by 52 percent.

“Let me be clear,” added Carson, the school’s principal. “Our teachers have been back and forth to that Wal-Mart across the street purchasing their own supplies for their classrooms.”

This is not a new, unforeseen problem, General Assembly members have been aware of this issue from day one. And they've made a conscious choice to hold back needed funding and put that burden on teachers, many of whom are under financial strain even without these added expenditures. It's contemptible, and even more so when you consider the bond package we're looking at now, which will spend hundreds of millions on University-related Capital projects most of these unfortunate students will never be able to touch. Scientia potentia est, and to withhold it from some indicates weakness and fear of their potential.

Teacher turnover in Guilford County just under 15%

That's one out of every six or seven teachers who are walking away:

Guilford County Schools’ teacher turnover rate, 14.95 percent, is the highest since 2007-08, the first year of the recession. The turnover rate that year, 15.7 percent, is the highest during nearly two decades.

When asked about the reasons why teachers are leaving the classroom, some educators also point to teacher pay and a negative political climate around public education...The average salary for a public school teacher in Virginia is about $15,000 more than in North Carolina. And that’s just with a bachelor’s degree.

This is quite possibly the single biggest threat to the future of our state, and what does the Republican-led General Assembly do? They throw a one-time "bonus" at teachers, knowing they will get a healthy chunk of that money back in taxes, while they (once again) cut income taxes for the wealthiest North Carolinians. Their priorities are clear, regardless of rhetoric and data-twisted graphs, and the smarter the teacher is, the more likely he/she will see through the lies and make the decision to leave. So we're not just losing a percentage, were losing the sharp edge, as well.

Voter survey on education spending

Private schools and for-profit charters are not as popular as the GOP thinks:

• 75% agree public tax dollars should not be used to pay for exclusive private schools
(up from 73% in 2013).

• 73% agree public money should not go to private schools. If parents choose to send their
children to private schools, they should pay for it (up from 68% in 2013).

• 71% agree tax dollars should not go to for-profit companies who run charter schools that are
not accountable to taxpayers for delivering student outcomes in the same way local public
schools are.

This is what happens when elected officials pay attention to a small group of advocates who echo their own prejudices; they strike off on a Crusade that does not have the support of a super-majority of the people they are supposed to represent. It's also one of negative effects of gerrymandering, because their inevitable re-election leads them to falsely believe people actually support what they're doing.

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