Republican attack on public schools

The NC GOP's empty promise on teacher raises

At least snake-oil salesmen put a bottle of something in your hand after their spiel:

No doubt sensing that their attacks on public education – and public school teachers in particular – might backfire on Election Day, Gov. Pat McCrory and Republican legislative leaders grudgingly started flirting with pay hikes for some teachers. But now they seem to be backing up and denying the real cause of their retreat.

But here’s the rub on teacher pay. Thanks to the fact that the Republican giveaway will cost the state about $2.4 billion over five years in lost revenue – personal income tax withholdings are behind forecasts by $221 million – there’s not going to be enough money for an across-the-board teacher pay increase. The entire scenario is brought to you by inexperienced legislative leaders driven by something akin to the tea party ideology of little or no government and few if any taxes. They took a leap without calculating distance and speed and looking at what might be at the bottom.

And now McCrory is saying the raises will happen in 2015, in an effort to get the Republicans past that whole pesky election nonsense unscathed. If we let them get away with it, all it will do is reinforce the value of lying to the people, and 2015 will be even more of a kabuki theatre.

More on the lack of transparency in NC charter schools

Taxpayers don't have a "need to know" on administrators' salaries:

“Charter staff are not employed by a public school board but by a private nonprofit board and, as a result, their salaries are not subject to public records law the way public school board employees’ or state employees’ salaries are,” said DPI spokeswoman Vanessa Jeter.

Cohen, N.C. Press Association lawyer Amanda Martin and CMS attorney George Battle III say she’s got it backward: There’s no legal protection for any information in the files. “It’s the privacy act. It’s not the publicity act,” Cohen said. “If they’re subject to the public records law, then nothing is private.”

It will be interesting to see if the Legislature clarifies this in the upcoming Short Session, as there seems to be a consensus from both sides of the aisle these salaries should be made public. That said, you have to question the relevance and integrity of an oversight Board that is so conflicted:

Sunshine Week spotlight: NC charter schools lag in compliance

Once the public money flows, so should the information:

Charter school boards, unlike their school-district counterparts, are not elected. They begin as self-selected groups of like-minded people with a vision for a school. First they must form a nonprofit group to apply for the charter; during the planning stage – which often takes more than a year – they are not public bodies.

That changes when the N.C. Board of Education awards a charter, which entitles the board to get state, local and federal money for education. With that money comes public obligations, from holding open meetings to reporting academic data.

Old habits die hard, which is why these boards should operate as transparently as possible, even before the taxpayer dollars kick in. Getting feedback from parents and other members of the public during the planning stage could be crucial in the survivability of the school itself; an "idea" only becomes a "good idea" after it's been picked apart and put back together again. Those who would shield their ideas from exposure are merely exposing their lack of confidence. And their lack of skills, too:

Mismanagement threatens future of Charlotte charter school

The invisible hand picks the taxpayers' pocket:

In documents filed in court and with the state charter school office, Mack, vice chair Jennifer Winstel and consultants hired by the StudentFirst board say Handford overstaffed the school, put family members on the payroll, failed to pay bills and document expenses, arranged big raises for herself and Moss, and let the school fall into academic disarray.

“Once operations were underway, we met monthly and received glowing reports from the school’s leaders – reports that we would later discover were mischaracterizations at best and outright fabrications at worst,” Mack wrote in his Feb. 19 response to Medley.

The court case is shaping up to be a big hot mess, but there's no doubt the financial stability of the school is in jeopardy. And the way the Legislature has designed oversight for these entities, taxpayers have very little control over how their money is spent.

Americans For the Prosperous tours charter schools

Apparently "choice" means choosing what definition of the word "choice" you use:

“We applaud Douglass Academy for giving all area students educational choices, options and opportunities they didn’t have before,” Paige Freeman, area field coordinator for Americans For Prosperity, told a small crowd. “Renovating and revitalizing this building is a gift to the downtown area…It is a true gift, especially to residents in the adjacent lower-income areas, and a true gift to the students.”

Unlike most charter schools, Douglass provides buses and lunches for the approximately 35 students enrolled there. Since charters do not receive state transportation or child nutrition funding, they are not required to offer either services. As guests toured the facility, the word “choice” echoed through the hallways.

Bolding mine. New Hanover County has some 40,000 children under the age of 18, meaning you would need over 1,000 "facilities" of this nature to accommodate all of them. Even just the 1st & 2nd Graders number in the thousands, so I really don't see how this 35 student school gives "all area students" an educational choice. But propaganda like that is what we've come to expect from AFP.

A closer look at NC's private schools

Less of an "opportunity" than we were led to believe:

A new report on private schools in North Carolina finds that most of the schools available to voucher recipients are very small, unaccredited religious schools with uncertified teachers, nonstandard curricula and no public accountability. The report, “Characteristics of North Carolina Private Schools,” provides insights into the schools that may be accepting the vouchers.

The report was issued by the Children’s Law Clinic at Duke Law School, based on data from the North Carolina Division of Non-Public Education and an extensive phone survey of those schools.

It's extremely ironic that Republicans harp so much about public schools being "broken" and how they're tired of "throwing good money after bad", and then they turn around and throw money into a collection of schools that have such dubious qualities and shadowy characteristics there's no way to even assess them properly. Here are some numbers to ponder:

Lawsuit challenging NC's voucher program continues today

Here's some background to bring you up to speed:

Debating the value of the GOP's proposed teacher raise

Looking a gift Trojan horse in the mouth:

Last week, Gov. Pat McCrory and his fellow Republican legislative leaders announced that starting salaries for public school teachers will be raised when the General Assembly goes back into session in a few months. It’s an important boost for young teachers in the state’s public education system.

The cynics among us will say that McCrory’s and the GOP leaders’ move is all about politics. The naïve among us will say that it had nothing to do with the upcoming November elections. But those among us who want to see reforms and improvements to North Carolina’s public education system will say this move is one that has been needed for years in order to address an identified problem among young teachers.

Mixed metaphors aside, this is an issue Democrats may need to take a second look at. As a few folks mentioned on social media, this is actually a victory of sorts. Most of us can agree this move on the part of Republicans would not have happened were it not for the Moral Monday protests and the threat of teacher walkouts that followed. But like most GOP initiatives, the plan itself is seriously flawed and will leave a majority of teachers holding nothing. So, what do we do? If we reject it outright, we're also losing the opportunity to claim it as a victory. If we support it, we're giving both legitimacy and our tacit approval to a flawed and politically-motivated move by the GOP. What say you?

The roots of private school vouchers and re-segregation

Those who do not study history are doomed to repeat its mistakes:

The NC NAACP filed an Amicus Brief Wednesday in the lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of North Carolina’s new private-school voucher program. The brief gives a history of the role private-school vouchers have played in maintaining racially segregated schools in North Carolina.

This Report and the Pearsall Plan were adopted by the General Assembly in 1956. Governor Luther Hudges told the legislators at the opening of the session that “the people of North Carolina expect their General Assembly and their Governor to do everything legally possible to prevent their children from being forced to attend mixed schools against their wishes.” Governor’s Address to the General Assembly, July 23, 1956, 10 Senate Journal.

Regardless of the Republicans' stated motives in creating a dual school system, the end result is a separation of students and their learning potentials and the dilution of resources we as taxpayers set aside for the education of NC's children. And once these institutions are in place, the unfairness lingers:

Election year politics: GOP desperately tries to repair image with teachers

Not unlike an abusive husband bringing home a dozen roses:

Gov. Pat McCrory and other Republican leaders will propose Monday a higher minimum salary for North Carolina's least experienced public school teachers as part of a long-awaited proposal designed to improve morale and retention.

The plan, detailed in a document obtained by The Associated Press, would in part ensure all public school teachers make a base salary of at least $33,000 during the 2014-15 school year and at least $35,000 the following year.

Another attempt to divide teachers, by giving entry-level educators a raise while the more experienced ones lose tenure and have to sign short-term contracts. This is not leadership, it's divide and conquer politics. And considering these new teachers will be drawing a bigger paycheck for a few months running up to the election, it might just work.

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