NO RAISE

Bill put forth in the NCGA is another slap in the face to North Carolina educators

Another day, another screw you by the legislature in Raleigh. The always brilliant NCGA has decided in their infinite wisdom to give public school workers in North Carolina a raise. Not one penny.

Many of you probably know what this means, but let me break it down for you just in case.
– This means that the starting salary will be staying at $35,000.
– This means that veteran educators still do not even get a step raise.
– This means the pay scale still tops out at $52,000.
– This means still no advanced pay for an advanced degree
– This means our ESPs still will not earn $15 per hour like other state employees.
– This means the statewide bus driver shortage will continue.

I’m angry. You should be as well.

The question is, what are you going to do about it?

Ascend Leadership Academy

North Carolina’s newest segregation academy is in Lee County

Back in January of this year, I wrote a post warning public education advocates to look at the record of politicians instead of just their political party. This was in part due to the fact that the Mayor of Sanford, North Carolina is a Democrat who took part in a photo op at the first charter school in Lee County, Ascend Leadership Academy (ALA). Having worked in Lee County Schools for two years I was confident that I knew the demographic breakdown of the school district, approximately 33% Black, 33% White, 33% Latinx with upwards of 66% of those students dealing with poverty at home.

So naturally, I found it suspicious when much of the promotions that ALA put out featured majority white students. I specifically remember making the remark to a friend, “The only classes that we have that are that white are our AIG classes.” Yes, I recognize how problematic that statement is, the truth of that statement was undeniable then, and it would not surprise me if it was still true this school year.

Luckily for us, but unluckily for the segregationists, it is easy to test that hypothesis because they have to report demographic data to the state. The data is quite appalling.

Of the 163 students that attended Ascend Leadership Academy in grades 6-8 last year,

  • 32 (19.6%) were Black
  • 25 (15.3%) were Latinx
  • 1 (0.6%) were Indian
  • 1 (0.6%) were Asian
  • 4 (2.45%) were 2 or more races
  • 100 (61. 3%) were White

61.3%. That should be considered insane. But are we truly surprised?

Just for kicks, after this I went and looked at the data for students classified as EC. There were 12 students in total. A grand total of 7.36%.

Charter schools, as described to us, are supposed to represent the communities that they exist in. ALA certainly does not do this, not even close.

Charter schools are supposed to perform higher on standardized tests correct?

Let’s compare ALA to the rest of the schools in the county looking at that incredibly flawed measurement from the state.

  • East Lee – D (53 reading, 51 math and did not meet growth)
  • West Lee – D (59 reading, 50 math and did not meet growth)
  • Sanlee – C (62 reading, 59 math and met growth)
  • Ascend – D (58 reading, 52 math and did not meet growth)

Even by the flawed measurement from the state of North Carolina, Ascend Leadership Academy has shown no ability to outperform the other schools in Lee County.

Seems to me the only thing it is truly doing is making sure that white parents can send their kids to school with less students of color.

What Can We Learn From West Virginia?

We cannot allow this latest defeat get us down, instead we must look for lessons we can take from this latest battle.

As I type this, the West Virginia Senate has just finished debating and voting on an education bill that will allow charter schools to enter the state. The famously independent West Virginia had been one of six states that did not have charter school legislation.

This means we are now at a point in this country where only five states: Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska and Vermont are still without charter school legislation.

The legislation passed today is similar to the bills that caused the educators of West Virginia to go on strike twice, once each year for the past two year. It is telling that this time, the West Virginia legislature sought to pass the bill when school was not in session. How best to get around a teacher strike by bringing the legislation up for a vote when school is not in session? Charter schools are particularly unpopular in West Virginia with 88% of West Virginian’s disagreeing with creating charter schools. It should not surprise anyone then that a proposed amendment to the bill when it was in the West Virginia House to allow the people in individual counties to vote on whether to allow charter schools in their counties was defeated.

Public education supervillain, Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos even got in on the action tweeting:

West Virginia has an opportunity to improve education for all & put the needs of students first. Looking forward to seeing bold moves to offer robust options like charter schools & ESAs and support great teachers. Let’s get it done @WVGovernor, @SenCarmichaelWV & @SpeakerHanshaw!— Betsy DeVos (@BetsyDeVosED) May 31, 2019

It should be noted that all Democrats serving in the West Virginia Senate voted against the bill and that they were joined by two Republicans. So it goes that the privatizers of education win another battle in another state. As educators, it is easy for us to grow despondent over the continue attacks on our profession and the lives of our students, especially as the advocacy that we do, we do in addition to our full-time job.

We cannot allow this latest defeat get us down, instead we must look for a lesson or lessons that we can take from this latest battle. Truly speaking, the easiest lesson is this. In order to beat the privatizers we must beat them at the ballot box.

We need to continue to fight for all of our students and explain to their families why and how our fight is also their fight. That what we do, we do for them.

We are committed to making sure ALL our students are successful, in 2020 we need to make sure that our legislators are dedicated to the same commitment.

An Open Letter to Those Who Vote Against Closing Schools for #AllOutMay 1

You have shown your true colors.

Dear Local Board of Educations,

This letter began as thoughts swirled in my head in the hours after my local board of education here in Lee County voted to alter the 2018-2019 school calendar to make May 1st an optional teacher work day in response to the amount of public school workers who had put in for the day.

The conversation in the lead up to the vote in my county swirled around the safety issue that had been created by the amount of substitutes that were going to be needed for the day and the fact that there was the very real chance that students would be put in danger on the morning of May 1st if (or when) people called in sick.

I’ll be honest. I understand why you do not want to close. It’s close to testing. While most everyone these days can agree that testing is harmful to students it is still a large factor in our choices because of the pressure put on districts to get our students to succeed on them. Personally, that pressure we feel is part of why I will be in Raleigh on May 1st.

That being said, with the amount of leave forms that have been turned in over the past month or so, that was not the discussion that was being had at this meeting.

The discussion as mentioned before, came down to safety.

Safety for our students.

At that point, your personal feelings about the politics about the day, which have been and will continue to be discussed ad nauseum, do not matter. Your sole concern should be safety.

So why is it.. that when your Superintendent and head of transportation tell you that they are not comfortable with having school on May 1st, would you still vote against turning it into an optional work day?

That was the case in my district. The vote was 5-2 in favor of the calendar change.

To the 2 votes AGAINST the change.. if you had won the vote, then what? Did you think that far ahead? Or did you just want to score cheap points with your base, which is increasingly shrinking?

You lost any moral high ground you may have perceived that you had when it came to talking about the safety of our students.

You say that May 1st is political theatre. I disagree. That being said, your vote against changing the calendar was political theatre. The difference? May 1st has a good chance at making positive change for our students. Your vote, just showed how out of touch you are and how political you have made the Board of Education.

May 1st, I will be rallying to support our students and school systems who desperately need help.

When you are up for re-election, I will be rallying voters to vote you out.

In a way I should thank you, for you have shown your true colors.

Sincerely,

Dane West

Public School Advocates: It is still personal

It was only last year on May 16, 2018 that public school advocates of all walks of life flooded the streets of Raleigh with 30,000 of their closest friends. Teachers, parents, administrators, and ESPs marched through the streets telling the state government that enough was enough and changes needed to be made.

At the 49th Annual NCAE Convention, it was determined by the Representative Assembly, that our legislators still have a lot more work to do.

May 1st.

On May 1, 2019, the NCAE Representative Assembly is calling on public school advocates of all stripes to take to the streets of Raleigh once more.

Why? Well here are the demands as passed at the Representative Assembly:
1. $15 minimum wage for all workers in schools, 5% raise for all teachers, ESPs (classified staff) and administrators, including a 5% COLA for retirees.
2. Hire enough social workers, counselors, psychologists, nurses and other health professionals to meet nationally recognized student-to-professional ratios.
3. Expand Medicaid to cover 800,000 more North Carolinians.
4. Reinstate retirement benefits for educators joining the profession after 2021.
5. Restore pay for advanced degrees.

Five issues, one day. May 1st

This is about so much more than a raise. A raise is needed though, especially for our staff members who did not receive a raise with the rest of state workers therefore still make below $15 an hour.

Not having enough social workers, counselors, psychologists, nurses and other professionals is an enormous stain on North Carolina’s education system.

You do not realize how important having a school nurse in every building, every day is until you do not have one. It is hard to understand how important the school counselors are until you cannot send a student to talk to them because they have lunch duty.

Paying more money for an advanced degree is a no-brainer. What incentive do educators have to spend thousands of dollars on a degree other than a Bachelor’s Degree if they will not be compensated? There is none.

So many of our students would be covered by the expansion of Medicaid. If my students are not healthy, then they cannot learn.

By not giving retirement benefits to those who entered the profession after 2021 will further dilute and suppress the amount of people willing to enter the field of education.

Last year, public school advocates sent a message to Raleigh telling them they would remember in November if significant changes were not made. They held up their end of the bargain, literally changing the faces in the General Assembly.

This year they are coming back. It is still personal. We still demand action.

I was not there May 16, 2018. I will be there on May 1, 2019.

My message to legislators? Stop crawling, start running. My students deserve immediate changes to our education system here in North Carolina.

NC Teachers: We have work to do

North Carolina, if we want sustained improvement in public education then we need better organization and communication.


Supporters in Raleigh for the Respect for Public Ed Regional Meeting on Jan. 19, 2019

To say that the past year has been a whirlwind for public education in North Carolina would be an understatement. It started with a march on May 16th that shutdown schools for 75% of the state’s students and ended with the election later that year which broke the GOP super-majority in both the NC General Assembly and Senate. This ended the unchecked power of decidedly anti-public school legislators.

2018 seemed to be a year where teachers, and other supporters of public education, seemed to stand up and say, “ENOUGH.” Two weeks into 2019 had seen little movement in the country regarding public education. Was 2018 going to be the high water mark of the public education movement? Action in West Virginia, Oklahoma, North Carolina and Arizona saw thousands of educators in red to purple states push for respect, higher pay, smaller class sizes, and more resources. That being said, educators across the country know that not only is more needed, but that the actions in 2018 were not enough.

January 14th, the teachers in Los Angeles went on strike. 50,000 people marched through the streets demanding action. That strike is on-going.

January 18th, hundreds of teachers in Oakland, CA took the day to protest in front of their district offices, in an action that was not sanctioned by their union but shows the growing unrest among educators there.

Now, being a teacher and resident of North Carolina, I have been invigorated by the movements happening on the West Coast. I also wish that there has been more movement to help public education in North Carolina.

With this thought in mind, I traveled the approximately 35 minutes from my home in central North Carolina to the headquarters of the North Carolina Association of Educators in Raleigh. Not only had I never met any of the people that I was going to be around, but I had no idea what I was going to get myself into.

The day was spent networking with educators and supporters from across the state and looking at what was needed to make continued and sustained changes for our state.

As an educator looking at LA and Oakland, it is very easy to say that I like that idea and we should do that here! As was articulated at the meeting on Saturday (and this makes sense), we are not ready for any type of action like the ones going on in California.

While the march on May 16, 2018 was successful in closing schools for 75% of the state’s students and bringing awareness to the plight of public education in the state, those closing were in generally liberal leaning areas, with Charlotte-Mecklenberg, Durham, and Wake Counties leading the way, teachers in these areas had a general sense of security in what they were doing.

Many did not. My county vote for President Trump by an overwhelming margin and in the 2018 election shifted the Board of Commissioners and Board of Education to the right, highlighted by the election of a man who is a frequenter of many far-right websites. My county did NOT shut down for May 16th. There was no communication from my local NCAE unit and I am not even sure how many educators from my county went to the march. My best guess? 15. That might even be optimistic.

Do I want my pay raised? Yes. But that aside, we need nurses, social workers and psychologists in EVERY school. More guidance counselors and to allow the ones we have to do their job without additional duties.

We need FUNDING for smaller class sizes. NOT just for our elementary schools but also our middle and high schools.

We need to do away with high stakes testing at all levels.

We need respect.

What I gained from the Respect for Public Education Regional Meeting in Raleigh was a renewed sense of hope, motivation and security. I hope that educators will attend the ones in Asheville, Greenville and Charlotte in the coming weeks.

North Carolina, if we want sustained improvement in public education then we need better organization and communication. Not sure where to start? Buy a red shirt that adheres to your school’s professional dress code and wear it every Wednesday. Get your school friends to do the same. Next, join NCAE and become involved at the local and state level. Not only are the people friendly, but they are all fighting for the same thing. To better public schools for all involved.

We have to start somewhere.

EDIT: From Angie Scioli in the comments, “People can go to the red4ednc.comwebsite to find dress code compliant red clothing. We don’t make any money off the sales; we just want people to be able to wear red4ed without fear.”