News

A bill filed this week by Sens. Wells, Brock, Wade and Soucek would limit school employees’ political activities — and while it only pertains to what teachers can and can’t do during working hours, some are concerned the bill could keep teachers from speaking out altogether on issues they care about.

“I think it could have a chilling effect,” said Guilford County Spanish teacher Todd Warren in an interview with the Greensboro News & Record on Thursday. “Teachers aren’t the most politically active people anyway, but right now there are a lot of people who are afraid for their jobs if they speak out on some of these issues. This could just make that worse.”

Senate Bill 480 would disallow school employees from working on political campaigns during working hours, use the authority of his or her position to secure support or opposition for a political candidate, and use public funds to these ends. Read More

News

Guilford County Schools chief Maurice “Mo” Green is asking the county for an additional $26 million in local funds to help fill the gaps that schools are facing thanks to years of disinvestment in public education by state lawmakers.

The News & Record reports that school leaders say they’re persistently seeing increased needs and mandates but dwindling funds.

“We’re just not doing what we know is educationally sound for children,” Guilford schools superintendent Green said Tuesday.

The $26 million would go toward mitigating some of the following scenarios Guilford schools are dealing with, according to the N&R:

  • Enrollment has increased by more than 1,200 students since 2008-09 but there are 185 fewer full-time teacher positions, district figures show.
  • The fiscal 2015 budget included almost $18 million in reductions and included a dip into the school system’s fund balance.
  • The amount of local funds allocated per student has steadily dropped over seven years from $2,416 to $2,340.
  • The school system hopes to avoid increasing class sizes once again and have enough funds to provide students and teachers with the resources they need, like textbooks.

Governor McCrory’s latest budget proposal would translate to a $4.4 million loss for Guilford County schools that would sap funds for teacher assistants and driver’s education, among other line items. Read More

News

Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe signed into law last Thursday a bill that repeals the state’s A-F school grading system – an accountability mechanism similar to North Carolina’s own new model that grades public schools largely on the basis of how students perform on standardized tests.

A Republican Senator, Virginia Rep. Richard Black, introduced the bill to repeal A-F school grades late last year because, he said, public schools receiving F grades would be unfairly stigmatized and such schools would find recruiting new teachers very difficult, according to Education Week.

Virginia’s A-F school grading system was enacted in 2013 by then-Gov. Bob McDonnell, but never put into place thanks to a two-year delay ordered by lawmakers.

In North Carolina the A-F school grading system, which has been assailed by critics as nothing more than a proxy for which schools serve high poverty student populations, now awards letter grades to every public school beginning with data from the 2013-14 school year. Read More

News

The Greensboro News & Record reported this weekend that the Houston Independent School District, which is led by former Guilford County schools chief Terry Grier, held another job fair for teachers at a hotel on Saturday.

Houston is offering starting teachers with no experience $49,100 — a far cry from North Carolina’s current base starting salary of $33,000 (some local districts offer salary supplements).

Depending on experience, Houston’s salaries could top $80,000 for some teachers. In North Carolina, base teacher salaries max out at $50,000.

“The bottom line is we have to provide for our families and provide for ourselves,” Jeff Roberts, a Thomasville teacher told media at a news conference to discuss concerns about teacher pay in North Carolina.

The lure of higher pay is pulling teachers away from North Carolina, harming the state’s future, Democratic leaders said at that news conference held outside the DoubleTree Hotel by Hilton.

Houston held job fairs for teachers twice in 2014, in Raleigh, Greensboro and Charlotte.

The National Education Association estimates that North Carolina will rank 42nd in teacher pay in 2015 — that’s with the average 7 percent pay raise lawmakers enacted last year and well below Senate leader Phil Berger’s estimation that the pay bump would bring North Carolina up in the rankings to 32nd.

Read more about the Houston job fair for teachers over at the News & Record.

Commentary

It’s been a busy couple of weeks at the General Assembly, now that there’s no longer any snow or ice to contend with (our neighbors in DC are not so lucky on this first day of spring).

Lawmakers have set their sights already in the 2015 session on a number of education policy reforms, and here are some of those bills to track in the weeks ahead.

SB272: Eliminate Personal Education Plans

Filed by Sens. Jerry Tillman and Tom Apodaca, this bill would jettison PEPs, which are intended to provide additional academic supports to at-risk, academically struggling students.

Some teachers are cheering the proposition, saying it’s an unfunded mandate resulting in unnecessary amounts of paperwork. Others worry about taking away helpful interventions from underperforming students in an era of increased accountability. Read more here.

The bill will be heard in a Senate rules committee on a date TBD. A companion bill is in the House. Read More