Donors Choose pork in NC budget bill flops

When this year’s NC budget bill was posted on Monday night, public education advocates immediately noticed some outrageous educational pork.  The budget included $200,000 in taxpayer money for classroom supplies.  The catch was the funds would only be available to teachers at schools in Senator Jeff Tarte’s District 41, one of the wealthier districts in Mecklenburg County:

The supplies were to be distributed through Donors Choose, a nonprofit organization that “connects teachers in high-need communities with donors who want to help.”  North Carolina teachers know this organization quite well, as General Assembly budget cuts (including -55% to classroom supplies and materials since 2009-10) have forced many of them to rely on public donations to provide for classroom needs.

The budget move galled teachers because it unfairly prioritized schools based on geographic location rather than need.  It also ruffled feathers because it was such an obvious attempt to gain votes in Tarte’s bid to win reelection in one of the most competitive Senate districts in the state.

On Tuesday, teachers took to social media to let Donors Choose know they were not happy:

On Wednesday, Donors Choose informed the public via Twitter that the organization had decided the budget provision was not consistent with its philosophy and that it would not participate in Senator Tarte’s pork barrel spending:

Unfortunately for Senator Tarte, this year’s budget bill was fast tracked by House and Senate GOP leaders in such a way as to avoid debate.  That means the Donors Choose budget provision most likely cannot be amended.

Kudos to the teachers who reached out to Donors Choose to let them know about the shenanigans in North Carolina.  Thanks due as well to Donors Choose for recognizing the inequity in distributing classroom supplies in this politically underhanded manner.  

Budget provides $200k for Charlotte Mecklenburg school supplies, but only in Senator Jeff Tarte’s district

Earlier this month, more than 20,000 North Carolina teachers marched through the streets of Raleigh, demanding state legislators increase support for public education.  One of the things those teachers were asking for was more funding for classroom supplies. After all, budget cuts by the General Assembly have reduced allocations for supplies and materials 55% since peak levels in 2009-10.  Many teachers work part time jobs to be able to purchase items needed to provide their students with a top notch educational experience, often spending thousands of dollars of their personal funds each school year.

At least one state senator appears to have been listening.  Sort of.

When this year’s budget bill went online last night, it included $200,000 for classroom supplies as a grant-in-aid to Donors Choose, an organization that teachers routinely use to solicit public donations to purchase needed classroom materials.  But, interestingly enough, this money will only be available to educators who work at schools located in Senate District 41.  


As it turns out, Senator Jeff Tarte, currently in a very competitive race for reelection against Democratic challenger Natasha Marcus, recently asked CMS Government Relations Coordinator Charles Jeter for a list of schools in his newly drawn district.

While there are some high poverty schools in Tarte’s district, many of the 35 schools that will share this $200,000 lie in some of the wealthiest areas of Mecklenburg County, including Ballantyne and Davidson.  Those schools in many cases have high-powered PTSAs with well-oiled annual fund-raising operations that budget specifically for teacher supply needs. They are able to make up the shortfall for what the state fails to provide.  

It’s also worth noting that Donors Choose charges fairly hefty overhead fees.  I recently got a set of 80 novels funded on Donors Choose.  As you can see, nearly 20% of the project cost went to processing fees, mysterious ‘materials,’ and a large ‘suggested donation’ (It is possible for donors to opt out of the suggested donation but the process is somewhat counter intuitive).  It’s fair to ask whether this is a responsible use of taxpayer dollars.

Apart from handwringing, there doesn’t seem to be much that can be done about this inequitable distribution of resources.  This year’s budget adjustments were fast-tracked in such a manner as to deliberately avoid debate and amendments, so it appears Tarte’s egregious pork barrel spending is a done deal.

Make no mistake, schools need more supplies.  But our legislators need to provide those resources starting where they are needed most, not just dole them out in their own districts in return for votes.  They need to support public education simply because it’s the right thing to do. 

 

Proposed Mecklenburg County budget falls short on public education

On May 16, thousands of North Carolina teachers–including more than 2000 from Mecklenburg County alone–marched through the streets of Raleigh, calling on state legislators to increase funding for public education.  Less than a week later, Mecklenburg County Manager Dena Diorio unveiled her proposed budget for FY 2019.

Charlotte Mecklenburg Schools had requested an increase in funding of just under $40 million for school year 2018-19.  The County Manager recommended the county commission cut that number to $24 million.

There are some positives in the proposed county budget.  For example, it increases funding for support services personnel, adding 33 school counselors, 10 psychologists, and 17 social workers.  These new hires will help improve local staffing ratios that lag far behind recommended levels and provide better support for CMS students’ social and emotional health.

Unfortunately, as it stands, the FY 2019 budget declines to fund important CMS program expansion efforts.  The county will not fund expansion of AVID, a program which works to close the opportunity gap by preparing students from groups that are traditionally underrepresented in higher education for success in college and beyond.  

The budget also does not fund 20 additional teachers of English language learners (students who are unable to speak or read fluently in English and whose primary home language is something other than English) despite the fact that their enrollment is projected to increase next year.  The lack of funding means that class sizes will grow for our students who need language development the most.

When presenting the budget to the Board of County Commissioners, County Manager Diorio commented that her goal was to create economic opportunity.  Expanding AVID and providing a better level of service to English language learners would help make that economic opportunity available to a broader cross section of our community.

Another shortcoming of the budget is that it continues the freeze on the local salary supplement that began in 2012 rather than honoring CMS’s request to increase it by 7%.  The cost of living is higher in Mecklenburg County than it is in Wake County, but Wake’s supplement averages $1500 more.  More teachers leave Charlotte Mecklenburg Schools than leave Wake County Public Schools.  Unless our county is willing to make fair compensation a higher priority, that trend is likely to continue.  

One of my favorite signs from the May 16 rally in Raleigh said simply “Your future is in our classrooms.”  The future of Mecklenburg County is being created in our classrooms and in our schools. How our leaders prioritize funding for education will help determine what that future holds.  

There is a public hearing on the proposed budget on Monday, June 4 at 6 PM in the Government Center.  (600 E. 4th St, free parking available in the garage across the street) Teachers and friends of public education, if you believe our county commission needs to fully fund CMS’s budget request, please RSVP here and be prepared to show up at 5 pm in your Red4Ed.  If you’re interested in speaking, you can sign up here.

CMS schools desperately need more support staff

Picture a young lady named Ava in one of our local high schools. She is overwhelmed by her parents’ separation and difficulty at school.  Ava begins to experience suicidal thoughts, then to inflict harm on herself. Her mother notices her wounds and takes her to the hospital.  She learns that her daughter has never talked to school support personnel because she found it too difficult to get an appointment. How have we gotten to this point?

Recently I was fortunate enough to talk with a group of school counselors, psychologists, and social workers about their work serving the children of Charlotte Mecklenburg Schools.  These folks are true heroes in our community, working long, difficult hours to ensure that our students’ social and emotional health is supported so they can be successful in school.

I was impressed by their passion and dedication but also troubled by what I heard.  Most said they spent all day putting out fires, unable to see children unless there was a crisis.  They spoke of training they’d had in preventative strategies which was being wasted as they found themselves constantly in reactive mode.  They explained how lack of funding for support services resulted in enormous caseloads, decreasing the quality of their work.

The primary reason our support staff are stuck in reactive mode is that insufficient funding has left them woefully understaffed.  Industry standards recommend ratios of 1:250 for school counselors and social workers. This year CMS students are supported by counselors at a ratio of 1:381 and by social workers at just 1:2957. The suggested ratio of psychologists per student is 1:500-700. Our current ratio is 1:2112.  

Our student support services play an essential role in ensuring that our schools are safe, orderly, and focused on learning.   When they are able to deliver the range of services they are trained to deliver, all of our students benefit.

Research says:

  • Interventions that improve students’ social, emotional, and decision-making skills also lead to stronger academic outcomes.
  • Interventions that nurture engagement in school reduce dropout rates.
  • Prevention and early intervention programs that serve at-risk students result in reduced special education referrals, suspensions, and grade retentions.
  • Effective early childhood interventions decrease public expenditures for welfare assistance and criminal justice.
  • Suicide rates have risen steadily for the last twenty years.  Preventative models can provide students with coping skills to deal with pressure in a healthy way.

Whether or not we’re able to meet our students’ needs hinges on the willingness of our elected officials to prioritize the  funding of education. After the Parkland, FL massacre, NC legislators convened a select committee on school safety. Unsurprisingly, they found that their own deep budget cuts had resulted in staffing ratios that did not adequately provide for students’ social and emotional needs.  When the short session begins in May we’ll see whether legislators are willing to act on the committee’s recommendation to increase the number of support services personnel.

While we wait for progress at the state level, there’s also work to be done in Mecklenburg County.  In this year’s budget, CMS Superintendent Wilcox is asking county commissioners for $4.4 million to hire 33 school counselors, 17 social workers, and 10 psychologists.  The new hires would leave our schools well short of the recommended ratios but would represent a step in the right direction.  The BOCC has to make tough decisions about how to allocate resources, but nothing is more important than making sure our county’s future taxpayers, workers, and citizens are socially and emotionally healthy.

Students today endure more pressure than ever, and their futures depend on our support.  We need to enable our support services to use their training in preventative strategies. We need to put them in a position to build trusting relationships with children and nurture the coping skills our students so desperately need.  Prioritizing the social and emotional well-being of our students will help us transform our schools into the safe and supportive learning environments that benefit us all.

 

CMS budget now in hands of a skeptical county commission

On Thursday, May 17th, there was a meeting of the Mecklenburg County Board of County Commissioners at which Charlotte Mecklenburg Schools formally presented its proposed 2018-19 budget.  The budget asks for a $40 million increase in county money for next year.  

If you’re interested in watching the meeting, you can find video of it here.  It’s not for the faint of heart.  

One of the requests in the CMS budget is for $6.9 million to increase the local supplement for the first time since 2012 and enable Mecklenburg County to do a better job of hiring and retaining teachers.  

Comparisons are often made between Wake County and Mecklenburg County as the two largest school districts in the state.  Wake County’s local salary supplement is roughly $1500 higher than what teachers in Mecklenburg County earn. According to the Department of Public Instruction’s 2016-2017 State of the Teaching Profession in North Carolina report, last year Charlotte Mecklenburg saw an attrition percentage of 10% while only 8.6% of teachers in Wake County chose to leave.

Charlotte Mecklenburg Schools is proposing an increase of 7% to the local supplement.  For a teacher with 10 years of experience, that comes out to less than $2 a day. It’s not too much to ask.

Another proposal in this year’s budget is for increasing the number of student support services personnel.  Our school counselors, psychologists, and social workers play a vital role in ensuring that our students are socially and emotionally healthy.  Unfortunately, they are so understaffed that they are constantly stuck in reactive mode, unable to utilize their training in the preventative services that our students need.  Take a look at our current staffing ratios compared with what is recommended:

The 2018-19 CMS budget calls for $4.4 million to hire 33 elementary school counselors, 17 school social workers, and 10 school psychologists.  It’s not nearly enough, but it’s a step in the right direction.

When pressed by Commissioner Matthew Ridenhour to offer his top priorities for the entire budget, Superintendent Wilcox named our students’ social and emotional health and fair compensation for employees.  Commissioner Jim Puckett scoffed at prioritizing social and emotional health, asking “How does that relate to education?”

It’s actually a really important question.  Research says:

  • Interventions that improve students’ social, emotional, and decision-making skills also lead to stronger academic outcomes.
  • Interventions that nurture engagement in school reduce dropout rates.
  • Prevention and early intervention programs that serve at-risk students result in fewer special education referrals, suspensions, and grade retentions.

Of course the ability to implement those interventions effectively depends in large part on having a reasonable caseload.  Our Charlotte Meck support services caseloads are certainly not reasonable.

On Monday, June 4 there will be a public hearing on the budget, 6 pm at the Government Center building in Charlotte.  If you are a supporter of public education, please consider coming out and asking our county commissioners to fully fund Charlotte Mecklenburg Schools’ budget request.

If you don’t want to wait that long to let our commissioners know what your priorities are as a Mecklenburg County resident, you can find contact information here.

 

May 16 was unprecedented. Now what?

The May 16 Day of Advocacy in Raleigh was an amazing, historic event–the largest coordinated teacher action in state history.  The sea of red that turned out despite sometimes pouring rain showed North Carolina how many of its teachers are passionate about their work and deeply committed to improving education in our state.  

 

 

Senator Jeff Jackson endorsed my sign

 

Gallery in the House of Representatives chamber was packed with teachers

Teachers who were present among the more than 20,000 in Raleigh and those who supported us from home probably have the same question:  What’s next? Will it be back to business as usual, with our public education system continuing to suffer from the same neglect that has plagued it for the past several years?  Or will we find a way to harness the teacher power we saw in Raleigh and use it to bring about substantial change in North Carolina?

There is good news.  What happened May 16 in Raleigh was a movement, not a moment.

Under the umbrella of Red4EdNC, we will capitalize on the unprecedented momentum we’ve created together over the last few weeks.  We will build a stronger, statewide coalition of teacher advocates that has the power to secure real legislative gains for public education in North Carolina.  This coalition will be represented by a Teacher Congress composed of teacher leaders from both urban and rural districts across the state who will determine, collectively, a clear and specific policy agenda.

To help us take the next step, teachers and education allies should check in with Red4EdNC using this form, then share this information with others in your school and in your network.

NC has incredible teachers who have stuck it out, despite increasingly difficult conditions, over the past few years.  We’ve done that because we care about our students and we believe in what we do. On May 16 we caught a glimpse of how powerful those teachers can be when we speak with one voice.  Now it’s time to translate that collective power into action that will lead to substantive changes that public education in North Carolina desperately needs.

Together we are strong.

An amazing show of teacher resolve in Raleigh today

My favorite sign from today.  Simple, funny, profound, and so accurate.

I have never seen anything that comes close to the awesome display of teacher power that happened in Raleigh today.  Thousands upon thousands of teachers from every corner of our state converged on the state capital to send a clear message to our legislators that we’re putting our foot down and demanding that they give public education the funding it deserves.

I stood in line outside the legislative building with a bunch of new friends for more than two hours.  We finally got in and up to the chambers at about 12:30.  Outside the chambers, teachers were pressed up against the glass with their signs, giving lawmakers on the floor their best “you’ve been naughty” teacher looks.  The galleries were completely packed with teachers, so full that nobody was allowed to enter until someone else came out.

I was fortunate enough to get inside and spend about 15 minutes watching the House of Representatives in action.  Outside the teachers got louder and louder, clapping and chanting, “Remember!  Remember!  We vote in November!!” over and over.  At times the Speaker of the House had to stop talking because he could not be heard.  Absurdly, the House carried on inane business as usual, with members giving shoutouts to their fraternities and one taking the time to remind her colleagues how important it was to regularly check their blood pressure (actually pretty good advice for today).

While I was watching all this unfold, I got a message from someone at WBT Radio in Charlotte, asking if I’d be willing to speak by phone on a radio program.  WBT is a conservative talk radio show which airs the Pat McCrory Show, Rush Limbaugh, etc.  I wondered at first if it might be some sort of ambush, but I agreed to do it.

You can listen to the segment below if you’re interested–it was not an ambush and actually turned out to be a good platform to air some of the concerns we all brought to Raleigh today.  But I was struck by the question that I heard from the host and also heard from so many other members of the media today:  What now?

I think they’re asking the wrong people.  I think that North Carolina’s teachers delivered a very clear message to state lawmakers today.  Now it’s time for them to decide whether they want to do their jobs.

 

https://soundcloud.com/user-754797769/wbt-interview-on-teacher-march-justin-parmenter

NC teacher thugs are coming to Raleigh

 

A Union County legislator is making headlines for a Facebook diatribe against North Carolina teachers who have shut down school districts across the state next Wednesday to call attention to the underfunding of public education.

Rep. Mark Brody’s rambling, semi-coherent statement came after Union County closed schools for the May 16 rally.  It reads, in part:

Union County teachers choose to inconvenience near 30,000 parents in order to pressure the General Assembly to increase their pay!

The hypocrisy is that they say they are supporting the students. One less day of instruction does not help students. Teaching our children that it is OK to not show up for work does not set a good example. And, if you can make the assumption that teachers have achieved a level of education where they can make well thought out decisions, why is it that they cannot figure out that in about 3 weeks the school year will be over and the legislature will still be in session? Strange but, unfortunately, they cannot make a simple connection – protest without inconveniencing anyone. (Inconveniencing people is a main tactic of the Labor Union movement)

Let’s call this what it is, Teacher Union thugs want to control the education process! I am speaking up because I don’t want Union County schools, and for that matter all NC school systems, to turn into Chicago. Let the Union thugs get their way now and we are halfway there.

I will end this by saying I strongly support those teachers who do the right thing, in the right way and at the right time. Your biggest legislative support comes from the Republican State legislature. Your greatest enemy for the causes you strive for is the Teacher Union, your incompetent and/or spineless local administrations and, the biggest problem of them all, the NC Department of Public Instruction.

 

Brody is right to be concerned about the more than 13,500 thugs who will be storming Raleigh on Wednesday.  After all, these thugs bring a very special skill set that make us extraordinarily effective advocates:

We are black belts in sarcasm and penmanship.  Just wait til you see our signs.

We can hold our pee all day long.

We reserve a special teacher voice that demands attention.

We are very good at waiting in line (no cutting).

We can go 8 hours without sitting down once.  The secret is in the shoes.

Most importantly, these thugs are experts in fact-based arguments.

Brody claims that teachers’ “biggest legislative support” comes from the Republican legislature.  Let’s review what that support looks like:

  • Funding for Textbooks is down 45% from peak levels (09-10)
  • Funding for Supplies & Materials is down 55% from peak levels (09-10)
  • Funding for Technology is down 59% from peak levels (09-10)
  • 5.3% fewer teachers per student compared to pre-Recession levels
  • Per-pupil state funding down 7% from pre-recession levels (2008-09) when adjusted for inflation
  • Per-pupil spending is 25% lower than the national average
  • Teachers no longer enjoy a 10% raise for earning a Master’s degree
  • Teachers who stay in NC long term no longer earn longevity pay
  • New hires have no career status (protection from arbitrary firing)
  • New hires after 1/2021 will not have retiree health benefits

 

The teachers that are descending on Raleigh next week are completely fed up with our state legislature prioritizing tax cuts over investments in quality public education for North Carolina’s children.  Representative Brody, we’re coming to have a very serious heart-to-heart talk with you and your colleagues. And we’ve been saving our jeans pass for this day for a very long time.

 

For NC teachers it’s about more than the paycheck

Note:  This article appeared in the Washington Post

Classes with so many children that some have to sit on the floor.  Other classes taking place in closets. Blind students who can’t get books in Braille.  History textbooks that have George Bush as president. Kindergarten classes with 30 students and no assistant.  Teachers forced to stop class to attend to special medical needs because there’s no nurse on duty.

Welcome to public school in North Carolina.

Thousands of teachers from all over the state who are fed up with these conditions have begun to connect with each other via social media.  The connections have helped mitigate our feeling of isolation, develop a crucial sense of community and build collective strength. Just as importantly, they have allowed us to share information about the common challenges we face.  

As the number of teachers taking personal days to come to Raleigh for the 5/16 Rally for Respect passes 10,000, efforts by some to discredit the uprising by characterizing teachers as money grubbers have intensified.  Detractors point to pay increases of the past few years, ignoring the fact that average pay for NC teachers is still 16% below the national average, just as it was in FY 10-11 before Republicans took control of the General Assembly.  They say teachers should be grateful for what they have and not abandon their students.  However, the fact is, it’s not really about the paychecks.

Granted, North Carolina’s teachers would love to be able to quit their second and third jobs and spend more time with our families.  We’d love to see our principals compensated fairly instead of facing $20,000 pay cuts because of standardized test scores.  But it’s important for the public to remember that we didn’t get into education for the money.  We teach because we love North Carolina’s children, and we want to see them succeed. Unfortunately, our General Assembly’s misplaced priorities not only create difficult working conditions for our teachers, they create unacceptable learning conditions for students that have lasting impacts on student behavior and achievement.  Those misplaced priorities include lowering NC’s corporate tax rate to the lowest in the country and giving up $3.5 billion in potential revenue each year.

In case the ‘teachers are just in it for the money’ argument isn’t ludicrous enough on its face, allow me to explain some of the non-paycheck-related reasons teachers are coming to Raleigh on May 16.

Class sizes:

Since school year 2008-09, North Carolina’s population has increased more than 10%.  Over the same period, we’ve lost nearly 7,500 teacher assistants due to state budget cuts, and we now have fewer teachers per student.  The enormous class sizes teachers face are crippling their ability to differentiate, manage behavior, and provide quality instruction to children.  Take a look at these shocking numbers from around the state:

  • 30 kindergarten students in a library class with no assistant (Mecklenburg)
  • 31 high school students in Honors Chemistry.  The teacher reports that ‘labs are terrifying.’ (Cabarrus)  
  • 37 fifth graders in a trailer (Winston-Salem/Forsyth)
  • 37 8th grade math students in an Exceptional Children/Inclusion class (Cabarrus)
  • 38 10th-12th graders in AP German class, no planning period (Guilford)
  • 39 freshmen through seniors, Math 4 (Union)
  • 40 high school students in a trailer for Math 3, Title 1 (Mecklenburg)
  • 42 students in Math 2 (New Hanover)
  • 43, 8th graders in healthful living. Only have 40 desks, when all are present, one sits at teacher’s desk, the other two sit on the floor (Wake)
  • 44 students American History I (Onslow)
  • 45 kids in physical science.  The majority of them have taken the class before, class includes many students with learning disabilities and students classified as seriously emotionally disabled.  (Mecklenburg)

In order for effective teaching and learning to take place, teachers must be able to build meaningful relationships with their students.  Apart from the obvious stress on teachers and risks to student safety, our current class sizes make it extremely difficult for teachers to give students the individual attention they deserve.  Reducing teacher/student ratios would improve our educational outcomes but would also require a major increase in education funding by state lawmakers. That’s one thing teachers will be demanding on May 16.

Student support services:

After the Parkland, FL massacre, NC legislators convened the House Select Committee on Safer Schools.  The committee investigated support services’ role in student health. Unsurprisingly, they found that current staffing ratios did not adequately provide for students’ social and emotional needs.  Industry standards recommend ratios of 1:250 for school counselors. This school year, North Carolina’s students are supported by counselors at a ratio of 1:350.  It’s recommended that social workers be provided at a ratio of 1:400. Our ratio is 1:1427. The suggested ratio of psychologists per student is 1:700. This year our ratio is 1:1857.  Nurses should be available at a ratio of 1:750, but we are currently at 1:2315–with many schools forced to have parent volunteers staff the nurse’s office rather than leave it empty.

One teacher in an unnamed county has a student with special medical needs.  Because the school’s nurse is only on campus three days a week, the teacher has been trained to attend to those needs.  She is concerned about liability and having to stop instruction on a regular basis, but she has no other alternative–the child needs help he can’t get elsewhere.

Teachers in Raleigh on May 16 will be demanding the General Assembly act on the House committee’s recommendation to increase the number of support services personnel.  Our students’ academic success hinges on their social and emotional health, as does their safety. It’s time for us to stop cutting corners and do the right thing.

School supplies/textbooks:

Since 2008-09, the General Assembly has cut allotments for textbooks by 38%, technology by 45%, and school supplies by 54% (numbers are per student and adjusted for inflation).  Teachers are stuck teaching classes with outdated textbooks (or no textbooks), spending their own money on books, paper, and other supplies for their students, and begging parents and community members to make up the difference for what state lawmakers don’t provide.  The number of projects funded by Donors Choose has skyrocketed in the past few years.

Consider these examples of how cutbacks have affected our students’ educational experience:

  • A history teacher in Guilford County has a textbook with Bush as president.  Obama appears in the book once–as a senator. Her school rebinds books regularly because it is cheaper than purchasing new ones.  The same outdated textbook is in use in many other districts as well.
  • A biology teacher in Iredell-Statesville has no biology textbooks and has to create all of her own materials to teach the class.  Her earth science textbooks are the same edition from when she was a high school student 14 years ago. They are moldy and falling apart.
  • A teacher in Union County has 39 students in her 8th grade AIG English 1 class.  She has 10 copies of one of the required textbooks. This forces the students to do all work in that book either in shifts or as a group. She has just one copy of another required textbook. The only way to meet county requirements would be to make photocopies, which is illegal.
  • A district literacy specialist in Durham has had zero dollars for the past seven years to purchase books.  She and her colleagues are reduced to asking for donations so their students will be able to read.
  • A teacher in an unnamed county has a student who is blind.  Braille books cost $50 each, and the school receives a maximum of $300 per year to support this student.  Since they don’t have the money to buy the books this student wants to read, they have been forced to purchase a Brailler so they can make their own books.

The difficulties noted are shocking, but they are not unusual.  They represent the reality of what thousands of North Carolina students and teachers face every single day in our schools.

Our students are the future of North Carolina.  They deserve to be provided with textbooks and novels.  They deserve access to support services to ensure they are socially and emotionally healthy.  They deserve class sizes that will enable them to get the attention they need to be successful.  In order to provide those conditions, our General Assembly must make education priority number one in our state.  On May 16, thousands of teachers from all over North Carolina will be descending upon Raleigh to demand that state lawmakers do just that.  We won’t be abandoning our students that day, we’ll be making a collective sacrifice to stand up for them.

Photo gallery:

Overcrowded, 600 square foot 11th and 12th grade classroom in New Hanover County.  35 students squeeze into it.

 

 

Termite and ant infestation in media centers, Mecklenburg County

 

 

Door to music room in Winston-Salem/Forsyth County school, work in progress during the school year

 

 

The teacher in this Mecklenburg County trailer reports that last year it was infested with ants living inside its walls. She suffered regular ant bites while teaching, and her students had to kill them with their hands while trying to learn. Student lunch boxes could not be kept inside because they would be filled with ants by lunchtime.  The teacher left the district due to these working conditions. The trailer is still in use and still infested with ants.

 

 

Outdated civics and economics textbooks in use in Wake County

 

Textbooks so old that children have to draw in the missing presidents

In Wake County there are no textbooks for math grades K-8.  Teachers are paid to create online lessons. The lessons are filled with mistakes, lack answer keys, and don’t always align with standards.  

 

 

5 IPads for 27 fifth grade students, New Hanover County Schools.  Teacher is supposed to ensure the students are technologically proficient 21st century learners.

 

 

Extreme classroom temperatures make for terrible learning conditions.  Durham, January 2 at left, Alamance-Burlington, May 3 at right

 

Never fear, teachers! NC Professional Teaching Standards support your presence in Raleigh on May 16

As thousands of North Carolina public school teachers put in for personal leave in order to attend the May 16 Advocacy Day event in Raleigh, some school districts have resorted to scare tactics in an attempt to keep teachers in the classroom.  Teachers in various counties report receiving emails from district leadership reminding them about policies governing employee political activities, implying that travelling to Raleigh on May 16 would violate those policies.

Every district has policies governing political activity by school employees, and they’re important.  Such guidelines ensure that teachers will not use their position as a platform to convince students of their political views.  Beaufort County’s Policy 7720, for example, states that employee political activity must not

 

1. take place during school time or at any time that the employee is performing his or her job duties;

2. involve school monies or materials; or

3. make use of an official school position to encourage or to coerce students or other employees of the system to support in any way a political party, candidate or issue.

As important as these policies are in ensuring that teachers don’t stray outside the parameters of their job description, it should be obvious that have absolutely nothing to do with what a teacher does on a personal day.  It’s called a personal day for a reason.

On the contrary, the North Carolina Professional Teaching Standards actually encourage teachers to be active in their advocacy and work to improve teaching conditions and change policies that negatively impact our profession.  Take a look at Standard 1 for yourself:

Teachers lead the teaching profession.

Teachers strive to improve the teaching profession.  They contribute to the establishment of positive working conditions in their school, district, and across the state.  They actively participate in and advocate for decision-making structures in education and government that take advantage of the expertise of teachers. Teachers promote professional growth for all educators and collaborate with their colleagues to improve the profession.

  • Strive to improve the profession
  • Contribute to the establishment of good working conditions
  • Participate in decision-making structures
  • Promote professional growth

Teachers advocate for schools and students.

Teachers advocate for positive change in policies and practices affecting student learning. They participate in the implementation of initiatives to improve the education of students.

  • Advocate for positive change in policies and practices affecting student learning
  • Participate in the implementation of initiatives to improve education

North Carolina teachers who are coming to Raleigh on May 16 will be hard at work on Standard 1, demanding that our state legislators work to reverse the alarming trend of defunding public education, making it harder for our state to attract and retain great teachers, and depriving our state of billions in potential revenue through massive tax breaks for the wealthy and corporations.  

While you’re at the General Assembly advocating on behalf of your students and colleagues, be sure to get some pictures of yourself.  They will serve as useful evidence of your distinguished performance on Standards 1c and 1d.