News

As reported in the Durham Herald Sun and The Washington Post, the Durham school board voted last week not to keep its relationship with Teach for America (TFA) beyond the 2015-16 school year, allowing the school system’s current TFA teachers to finish out their contracts.

According to the Durham Herald Sun:

Among concerns voiced by school board members who voted not to pursue any new relationships with TFA is the program’s use of inexperienced teachers in high-needs schools.

“It feels like despite the best intention and the efforts, this has potential to do harm to some of our neediest students,” said school board member Natalie Beyer, who voted against the school district’s contract with TFA three years ago.

Others said they were concerned that TFA teachers only make a two-year commitment.

“I have a problem with the two years and gone, using it like community service as someone said,” said school board member Mike Lee.

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Commentary, News

In case you are wondering if the animosity between Governor Pat McCrory and Senate leaders has lessened since the legislative session adjourned, the answer seems to be no, judging by comments at this weekend’s apple festival in Hendersonville.MC_AP

McCrory rode in the King Apple Parade Monday and told the Times-News that he was still upset about the new coal ash commission created by the General Assembly and believes it is unconstitutional. McCrory said his lawyers are still reviewing the coal ash legislation that includes the commission.

That prompted powerful Senate Rules Chair Tom Apodaca, who represents Hendersonville and was also in the parade, to respond with this about McCrory’s legal team.

His attorney is probably a great attorney for real estate closings, but I don’t think he pays a lot of attention to the constitutional picture.

Ouch.

It’s not clear from McCrory’s comments if he still plans to sign the coal ash bill. It is clear that his relationship with Senate leaders is still strained.

Commentary

With all of the incessant battles over testing and standards and privatization, it’s easy to lose sight of the forest for the trees when it comes to public education. Fortunately, a recent New York Times op-ed that was republished in this morning’s edition of Raleigh’s News & Observer serves to remind us of what’s really most important when it comes to making schools work — namely the presence of a full complement of caring, loving and properly-trained educators and other professionals.

And as the op-ed notes, one group of professionals that has been proven essential in making schools work — especially schools with high percentages of kids from tough home situations — is social workers:

For the 16 million American children living below the federal poverty line, the start of a new school year should be reason to celebrate. Summer is no vacation when your parents are working multiple jobs or looking for one. Many kids are left to fend for themselves in neighborhoods full of gangs, drugs and despair. Given the hardships at home, poor kids might be expected to have the best attendance records, if only for the promise of a hot meal and an orderly classroom.

But it doesn’t usually work out that way. According to the education researchers Robert Balfanz and Vaughan Byrnes at Johns Hopkins, children living in poverty are by far the most likely to be chronically absent from school (which is generally defined as missing at least 10 percent of class days each year)….

The key is to put dedicated social-service specialists in every low-performing, high-poverty school, whether they are employed by the school district or another organization. This specialist must be trained in the delivery of community services, with continued funding contingent on improvement in indicators like attendance and dropout rates.

Putting social workers in schools is a low-cost way of avoiding bigger problems down the road, analogous to having a social worker in a hospital emergency room. It’s a common-sense solution that will still require a measure of political courage, something that all too often has itself been chronically absent.

Of course, merely adding an adequate number of social workers is no panacea for all that ails poor kids or struggling schools. But doing so would be a huge improvement over the current situation and also reenforce the all-too-frequently-forgotten bit of common sense that — whether it’s funding small class sizes, adequate administrative personnel or school nurses — there’s simply no substitute for employing an adequate number of skilled professionals with reasonable workloads when it comes to making our public schools truly successful.

News
  • Senator Kay Hagan and Speaker Thom Tillis square off – On Wednesday, the North Carolina Association of Broadcasters Educational Foundation hosts the first debate in North Carolina’s U.S.

    The first debate in the U.S. Senate race is Wednesday at 7:00 p.m.

    Senate race featuring incumbent Senator Kay Hagan (D) and Speaker of the NC House Thom Tillis (R). The 7:00 p.m. debate will be aired live, statewide and be moderated by Norah O’Donnell, co-anchor of CBS This Morning.

  • Education results to be released – The State Board of Education kicks off their September board meeting on Wednesday. We’ll be watching Thursday when they discuss the cohort graduation rate for the 2013-14 school year. They will also  release data on end-of-grade tests for the ’13-’14 school year.
  • Health Care enrollment is the talk of the town – On Thursday, the NC Health Care Access Coalition along with Senator Angela Bryant, Representative Nathan Baskerville, and former Congresswoman Eva Clayton will discuss the benefits of the Affordable Care Act, how Medicaid expansion would help the community, and implementation of the online marketplace, including
    State Budget Director Art Pope will step down next month, and be succeeded by Lee Roberts.

    State Budget Director Art Pope leaves office Friday, and be succeeded by Lee Roberts.

    Special Enrollment Period opportunities. The event will be held on Thursday from 6:00-7:30 p.m. at the Shiloh Baptist Church, 635 S. College Street in Henderson.

  • Art Pope exits – Art Pope departs the McCrory’s administration at the end of this week, stepping down from the post of state budget director effective September 5th. Succeeding Pope will be Lee Roberts, a Raleigh banking executive who the governor appointed to the North Carolina Banking Commission last year.
  • Focus on fracking – Friday morning, the Mining & Energy Commission will meet following three recent, heated public hearings on the state’s draft fracking rules. Want to attend? The 8:00 a.m. meeting will be held in the Archdale Ground Floor Hearing Room, 512 N. Salisbury Street, Raleigh, NC. (Note: The final public hearing on the state’s fracking rules will be held in Cullowhee/Western NC on September 12.)
Commentary, News, The State of Working North Carolina
MaryBe McMillan

MaryBe McMillan of the N.C. AFL-CIO answers questions from some of the reporters in attendance prior to this morning’s rally in Raleigh.

About a hundred people gathered next to the Fallen Firefighters Memorial in downtown Raleigh this morning for a rally/press conference to help kick off a three-stop “#TalkUnion” tour that is being by state union and civil rights leaders. The tour will also feature a noon event in Greensboro at the Beloved Community Center at 417 Arlington Street and conclude with a 5:30 p.m. rally in Charlotte’s Marshall Park at 800 east 3rd Street. All are invited.

The event in Raleigh featured Rev. William Barber of the North Carolina NAACP and state AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer MaryBe McMillan as well as rank and file workers and leaders from the local faith community.  All spoke of the desperate need in North Carolina to raise wages for average workers and to halt and reverse the conservative policy agenda of the state’s current political leadership.

The claims of the various speakers were boosted this morning by the release of the latest “State of Working North Carolina” report by experts at the North Carolina Justice Center.

This is from a release that accompanied the new report:

  • Almost six out of every 10 new jobs created since the end of the recession are in industries that pay poverty-level wages, keeping workers trapped in poverty even when they are working full-time.
  • The growth in low-wage work is disproportionately impacting workers of color and women: 13.2 percent of women, 13.5 percent of African-Americans, and 23 percent of Latinos earn below the living income standard, compared to 9.7 percent of men and 9 percent of whites.
  • The persistence of higher unemployment rates for African-Americans is in part being driven by the greater labor force resiliency of African-American workers. Since the recession, African-Americans have not dropped out of the labor force at the same level as white workers.
  • There are approximately 260,000 North Carolina working families who live in poverty, with 12.8 percent of working families earning poverty wages.
  • 13 of 14 metro areas saw labor forces decline since June 2013. For eight metros, the decline in unemployment was driven by the unemployed moving out of the labor force rather into jobs.
  • Rural employment dropped 2.7 percent since the start of the recovery while the state’s large metropolitan areas have seen 6.5 percent job growth.

These data coincided neatly with Rev. Barber’s statement in announcing today’s tour in which he noted:

“While we honor our workers on Labor Day, we cannot ignore the policies and laws passed down from this North Carolina General Assembly that are attacking poor and working families. We believe North Carolinians who work 40 hours each week should be able to put food on their tables and buy school clothes for their children. The long fight for labor rights, for voting rights, for educational equality and for quality health care for all is not a fight between Republican and Democrat. It is a moral fight for the soul of the nation. That is why we are making this Labor Day a Moral Monday.”

Click here for more information on the #TalkUnion tour.”

Click here to read the entire “State of Working North Carolina” report.