Education

Teachers stand with Gov. Cooper despite veto risking pay raises for 2019

By Greg Childress

North Carolina teachers march in downtown Raleigh for better pay and more education funding in May.

It’s looks like North Carolina educators won’t get a pay raise in 2019.

Nevertheless, teachers appear to be standing with Gov. Roy Cooper in opposition to a Republican-led General Assembly’s plan to increase teacher pay by 3.9%.

On Friday, Cooper vetoed the proposed 3.9% pay increase approved by lawmakers for teachers along with a 2% increase for non-instructional staff, arguing the increases simply aren’t enough.

The Democrat favors a compromise that would mean 8.5% raise for teachers over two years. The current Republican proposal would amount to a 2.0% raise in 2019-20 and 1.8% in 2020-2021.

The N.C. Association of Educators (NCAE) issued this statement:

“North Carolina educators rejected the Republican budget as anemic and insulting in June, and we reject essentially the same today,” said NCAE President Mark Jewell. “We stand behind Governor Cooper’s veto of this bill and demand the leaders in the General Assembly stop wasting time on failed veto overrides and unpopular corporate tax cuts and start spending time doing the hard work of governing. Educators, students, and families have been waiting and watching since January, and it is past time for Republican leadership to work in good faith towards the public education priorities they purport to embrace.”

Cooper’s veto of the GOP’s pay plan for educators followed a week of teacher protest across North Carolina over better pay and increased funding for education.

Protests took place in Durham, High Point and other locations around the state.

Teachers also shared their opinions about the governor’s veto on social media.

“The NCGA will not divide us from our students and families by trying to buy us off with minuscule teacher pay raises in exchange for Medicaid expansion, student support staff, raises for classified staff, and everything else our communities need,” Anna Grant, a Community School Coordinator in Durham wrote on her Facebook page.

Cooper’s veto was quickly criticized by Republican leaders.

“Teachers are told to be good, loyal Democrats and their union and their Governor will take care of them. But they need to ask themselves: ‘What has Roy Cooper ever done for me?’ He’s vetoed every single teacher pay raise that’s come across his desk, and he chose today to give teachers nothing for the next two years,” said Senate leader Phil Berger.

And House Speaker Tim Moore offered this: “Instead of having more money over the holidays, teachers will continue to wait for Gov. Cooper to put their needs ahead of other issues.”

Rhonda Dillingham, executive director of the N.C. Association for Public Charter Schools, said Nov. 8 will be remembered as the “true Black Friday in North Carolina.”

“With his veto of SB354, the “Strengthening Educator Pay Act,” the Governor [Cooper] has dashed the hopes of our state’s teachers, making their ability to care for their families more difficult,” Dillingham said in a statement. “Instead of looking forward to the holidays with excitement, our state’s teachers will once again be forced to tighten their belts. North Carolina’s teachers deserve better! North Carolina’s charter schools stand with our teachers!”

At a morning press conference surrounded by teachers wearing red (Red for Ed), Cooper asked Republicans to meet with him to negotiate teacher pay raises.

Cooper said the negotiations wouldn’t be linked to Medicaid expansion, which he sought but did not receive in the budget submitted by lawmakers.

“I will negotiate these educator raises separate and apart from Medicaid expansion and other budget issues,” Cooper said. “There is no Medicaid ultimatum and Republican leaders have clearly used this false premise to shortchange teachers,” Cooper said.

 

 

Education

UNC professor urges State Board of Education to prepare for “disruptive changes’

GREENSBORO — America is changing.

UNC professor James Johnson (standing} talks demographics during a State Board of Education meeting held in Greensboro on the N.C. A&T University campus.

It’s quickly becoming a nation where the people are older and browner.

These “disruptive demographic” changes, as James Johnson, the William R. Kenan Jr. Distinguished Professor of Strategy and Entrepreneurship and director of the Urban Investment Strategies Center at the Frank Hawkins Kenan Institute of Private Enterprise, calls them, will challenge the country and bring change in ways once unimaginable.

“They’re going to dramatically transform all of our social, economic and political institutions,” Johnson told the State Board of Education (SBE) during its fall planning and work session held on the campus of N.C. A&T University.

Johnson also cited a re-emerging South, interracial marriage, the withdrawal of men from the workforce and the increasing number of grandparents rearing grandchildren as disruptive forces changing the country

His advice to the SBE? Be prepared because the business of education will continue to be dramatically impacted by ongoing demographic shifts.

“The way we manage these issues are going to be the key to our ability to thrive and prosper,” Johnson said.

Perhaps nowhere is the changing demographics of North Carolina felt more intensely than in the state’s 116 school districts.

Chart provided by James Johnson

The dramatic increase in the state’s Hispanic population — it’s grown 1114% between 1990-2016 – has forced districts to make acute adjustments to serve student populations that look a lot different than they did a few decades ago.

By comparison, the state’s black population grew 48 percent during that span and its white population 29 percent. Meanwhile, the population non-Hispanic immigrants grew 586 percent and the state’s Asian population 440 percent.

Johnson said North Carolina is quickly moving from a largely black and white state.

“If you think you have change in your school system now, you haven’t seen anything,” Johnson said. “Buckle your seat belt, because the change is going to become more dramatic.”

As a result of the demographics changes, public schools must rethink the way they deliver instruction and services, Johnson said.

“The kids who walk in the school door moving forward wont’ fit into the nice and neat crucibles we’re accustomed to putting them in, and they won’t allow you to put them into those crucibles,” Johnson said. “This is further transforming the complexion of our society, and what it means is, whose history do we teach? What are the curriculum implications of a more diverse population?”

Johnson’s presentation comes just months after the SBE adopted a new strategic plan that focuses on equity. The SBE has pledged to use the concept as a guiding principle in its decision-making.

The plan has three broad goals: Elimination of opportunity gaps; improving school and district performance and increasing educator preparedness to meet the needs of every student.

SBE member James Ford, who co-chaired the board’s strategic planning committee, said he was introduced to Johnson’s work about four years ago, and found it “stunning.”

“So much of what we talk about when we talk about equity is rooted in systems and structures that go far beyond education,” Ford said via a telephone conference call. “The demographic data and picture that he [Johnson] painted back then [four years ago] has shaped the political discourse and climate for the last three years.”

Ford said Johnson’s work gives us a look at what the state will look like if it doesn’t appropriately respond to the needs of its growing and diverse student population.

“One of the most pressing concerns and questions we have to answer as a state board is, if we fail to respond to and negotiate and interrogate how we’re serving students from diverse backgrounds, what does prosperity in North Carolina look like,” Ford said. “We have an ethical, moral and frankly and economic imperative to respond to the data and changing demographics.”

Like Ford and others attending the board’s planning session, SBE member J.B. Buxton had seen Johnson’s presentation before.

“It never ceases to help you better understand the state,” Buxton said.

He said board can use the information to help guide decision-making when it comes to students.

“This all feeds into our new strategic plan and trying to better understand the challenges of the state and how to best address them,” Buxton said. “It gives us a sense of where the state is going from a demographic perspective and what the challenges are for the kids coming into the school systems.”

 

Education

Gov. Cooper signs bill forgiving days Ocracoke School students missed due to Hurricane Dorian

The gym at Ocracoke School shortly after Hurricane Dorian.

Gov. Roy Cooper on Friday signed into law a bill forgiving  up to 20 days of missed school for Ocracoke School students whose school was forced to close in September due to flooding in the aftermath of Hurricane Dorian.

The law also provides for teachers and other personnel at the school to be paid for days of work missed due to the school closing.

The school and Ocracoke Island were heavily damaged by flooding after Dorian skirted the North Carolina coast in early September.

Ocracoke School was flooded with more than three feet of water. Hyde County School Superintendent Stephen Basnight said the gym floor looked like a pond.

Cooper said his signature on Senate Bill 312 is an important step to getting Ocracoke School back on track.

“The people of Ocracoke are working hard to recover, and we’re committed to getting them and other storm survivors the help they need,” Cooper said.

Students returned to classes in early October. Classes are held in temporary locations while the school undergoes repairs.

Despite the damage to Ocracoke Island, federal emergency officials declined to provide additional help to residents, many of who lost everything in the storm.

Rep. Bobby Haning, a Republican from Dare County whose district includes Ocracoke, sponsored SB 312.

He told area media that passage of the bill would help to relieve some of the financial pressure on teachers and ensure students complete the school year close to the originally scheduled time.

Education

Republican-led General Assembly has approved teacher pay raises. The ball is in Gov. Cooper’s court.

North Carolina teachers marched for better pay last May.

As was expected Thursday, the North Carolina General Assembly approved in a party line vote a 3.9 percent teacher pay-raise that would be distributed over the next two years.

Republicans in the House and Senate voted in the favor of the pay raise while Democrats voted against it, many arguing that the proposed raise is too little.

In the House, the bill passed on a 62-26 vote with Democrats on the losing end. The margin in the Senate was closer. Twenty-eight Republicans voted in favor of the bill and 21 Democrats against.

“I’m not going to say $250 million [additional money for raises beyond what’s in the vetoed budget] is not a substantial investment,” said Rep. Darren Jackson, a Wake County Democrat. “What I will say, it’s not good enough.”

Non-instructional staff such as clerical assistants and custodians would also get a 2% boost in pay under the legislation now headed to Gov. Roy Cooper’s desk where it’s expected to receive a chilly reception.

Cooper tweeted earlier Thursday that he believes the proposed raises are insufficient.

“Republican leaders hold teachers hostage. Demand sweeping corporate tax breaks and their entire bad budget in exchange for paltry teacher pay raises that are less than other state employees. Like kidnappers wanting ALL the ransom $$ and still not letting victims go.” Cooper tweeted.

Senate leader Phil Berger quickly responded in a tweet of his own: “This is false. Nobody should accept this as true. The teacher raise bill provides a 3.9% raise no matter what happens with the rest of the budget. Misleading the public is unacceptable. #ncpol

Cooper proposed an 8.5 % teacher pay raise as a budget compromise in July.

Rep. Cynthia Ball, a Democrat from Wake County, touted that compromise during a House budget debate Thursday, contending the governor’s plan would keep North Carolina competitive in the recruitment and retention of quality teachers.

“Competitive, not at the top of the national pay scale but competitive,” Ball said.

But Michael Speciale, a Republican from Craven County, said it’s “nonsense” to argue that the pay raise supported by the GOP is inadequate.

“We’re sitting here at the end of October, going into November because we have a stalemate because people are scared to vote their conscious because we have a governor running roughshod over them and we want to sit here and debate that his bill, which spends $250,000 to give teachers and employees a pay raise is not good enough,” Speciale said.

Rep. Jeffrey Elmore, a Wilkes County Republican and veteran educator, said the stalemate between Democrats and Republicans over teacher pay has had the effect of freezing pay for thousands of North Carolina educators.

“They’ve [teachers] got reality,” Elmore said. “They’ve got to pay bills. They’re expecting money.”

Mark Jewell, president of the N.C. Association of Educators, has called the Republican pay proposal “wildly insulting to educators.”

Jewell issued this statement Thursday afternoon:

“The miniscule pay increase offered in the educator pay proposal just passed by the General Assembly is an outrageous affront to the professionalism of every educator in our state, be they a teacher, an Education Support Professional, or a retiree. It is incomprehensible that Republican leadership would think educators could be pressured into taking such an inadequate offer, and we stand with the governor in opposition to this legislation.”

 

Education

Effectiveness of ‘Read to Achieve’ called into question after dip in reading scores

“Read to Achieve,” the state’s signature education reform program, was under attack Wednesday after the 2019 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) showed a dip in reading scores for North Carolina students.

The state has spent more than $150 million on the program since it was launched by the North Carolina’s Republican leadership in 2012 but has little to show for it.

The NAEP report shows reading scores in fourth-grade dropped between 2017 and 2019 and that the scores are lower than they were in 2011 before “Read to Achieve” was enacted.

More specifically, only 36 percent of fourth-graders were proficient in reading in 2019 compared to 39 percent in 2017. The percentage of eight-graders proficient in reading was unchanged at 33 percent both years.

The NAEP reading assessment is given every two years to students in grades 4 and 8.

Fourth-graders saw a one percent decrease in math proficiency, with the score dipping from 42 percent to 41 percent. Eight-graders saw a slight uptick in math scores, which increased to 37 percent, up two percentage points compared to 2017.

See the full report at: https://nces.ed.gov/nationsreportcard/

The disappointing scores led the N.C. Association of Educators (NCAE) to call for a course correction.

“Scores should be viewed in context, over time and, just because a single test score goes up or down, it does not represent the complexity of the system, or should be interpreted to say that good things are not happening,” said NCAE President Mark Jewell. “But, taken in context and analyzed over time, what these scores do make clear is that the path set forth in 2012 of the ‘Read to Achieve’ program must be changed if we are serious about improving reading in North Carolina.”

Charlotte educator Justin Parmenter who blogs at “Notes form the Chalkboard” about education officials reminded us Wednesday that “Read to Achieve” was intended to end “social promotion” and help third-graders avoid what  Senate leader Phil Berger, a Republican from Rockingham, warned was an “economic death sentence” for third-graders who were not proficient in reading.

“Six years and approximately $200 million wasted taxpayer dollars after the debut of Read to Achieve, this latest round of test scores reinforces what many of us have been saying for years: state legislators need to focus on providing sufficient funding for public education in our state, stop legislating in the classroom, and let the professionals figure out how to get the job done,” Parmenter wrote.

In a news release, the N.C. Department of Public Instruction attempted to soften the news under the headline “NC Holds Stead on National Education Assessment.”

The press release went on to say that North Carolina was among 32 state without statistically significant changes in reading scores at the fourth-grade level and among 19 without significant change in eight-grade reading scores.

Meanwhile, in eight-grade math, North Carolina was one of 40 states that saw no significant change in fourth-grade math performance and among 42 states that saw no appreciable gains or losses in eight-grade math.

In announcing proposed reforms to “Read to Achieve” in April, Senate leader Phil Berger, a Republican from Rockingham, acknowledged that the program hasn’t lived up to expectations.

Berger said North Carolina would look to adopt best practices from other states such a Florida and Mississippi where early childhood literacy efforts are experiencing success.

NAEP scores released Wednesday showed that Mississippi was the only state to improve reading scores and was number one in the country for gains in fourth- grade reading and math.

Gov. Roy Cooper vetoed Berger’s reform legislation, calling it an attempt to put a “Band-Aid on a program where implementation has clearly failed.”