Gov. Pat McCrory, previously a Common Core supporter, signed a bill into law Tuesday that could set the stage for North Carolina to Common Core picrid itself of the more rigorous academic standards—although he doesn’t quite see it that way.

“It (the legislation) does not change any of North Carolina’s education standards,” McCrory said in a press release indicating his support for the legislation. “It does initiate a much-needed, comprehensive and thorough review of standards.”

Lawmakers began moving toward a repeal of the Common Core standards months ago, which are a set of guidelines that that the state adopted in 2010 which outline what students should be able to know and do in mathematics and English language arts.

The House passed legislation that would repeal the standards and force the State Board of Education to consider alternatives that would not include the Common Core. But the Senate version, sponsored by Sen. Jerry Tillman, keeps the door open for Common Core, allowing a review commission of mostly political appointees to recommend to the State Board some or even all of the standards currently in place.

Forty-five states and the District of Columbia have adopted the Common Core State Standards, which were developed by local stakeholders, the National Governors Association and The Council of Chief State School Officers, of which North Carolina’s State Superintendent, Dr. June Atkinson, is president-elect.

But states have recently begun to step away from the standards. Indiana, Oklahoma and South Carolina have repealed Common Core, and numerous other states have expressed their intention to renege on their promise to implement them in various ways.

North Carolina has spent many millions on implementing the Common Core, using mostly federal Race to the Top (RttT) funds. The state has spent at least $72 million of RttT money on transitioning to the Common Core, and an additional $68 million was spent on building local districts’ technological capacity to be able to deliver on the new standards.

Outside of RttT funds, local school districts have also spent their own money on CCSS implementation – and it’s difficult to even put a figure on that cost.

While Sen. Tillman’s legislation seems like a compromise, potentially allowing Common Core to stay — it should be noted that Tillman has been a vehement opponent of the standards, telling some folks at a news conference last May that Common Core is a sellout and “we’ve sold our soul.”

“Well, they dangled $430 million dollars out there, Race to the Top. Good old easy money, bought us off…But we got some powerful people fighting this thing. And so I want us to stop it [Common Core],” said Tillman.

Tillman will likely play a role behind the scenes in suggesting who will sit on the Academic Standards Review Commission, which will comprise four appointees selected by Senate leader Phil Berger, four appointees selected by Speaker Thom Tillis, 2 members of the State Board of Education and one appointee of Gov. Pat McCrory.

Stay tuned to learn who will sit on that commission, which is designed to determine the fate of the Common Core standards in North Carolina.

 

On the heels of its Raleigh job fair in May, the Houston Independent School District (HISD) is once again looking to poach North Carolina’s school teachers to come work in Texas for much higher pay. The Texas school district will be holding job fairs this week in Greensboro, Raleigh and Charlotte.Houston

The available jobs in Houston, according to Greensboro’s News & Record, are in “critical shortage” areas including bilingual education, secondary math and science, special education and career and technical education.

HISD, which is headed by former Guilford County Schools superintendent Terry Grier, advertises a starting salary for teachers of $49,100. In North Carolina, the starting salary for teachers is currently $30,800. The advertisement says the Houston school district is “prepared to make job offers on the spot.”

North Carolina currently ranks 46th in the nation in teacher pay, and there has been no shortage of attention to the fact that teachers, who haven’t seen a significant pay increase in six years, are leaving the state in large numbers.

Lawmakers are currently embroiled in a budget battle over how much more to pay teachers, proposing anywhere from a 6 to 11 percent pay raise and bringing the starting salary for teachers up to $35,000.

But those salary increases may come at the expense of teacher assistants, who could be laid off in large numbers this fall to pay for the pay bumps.

See HISD’s job fair advertisements here, here and here.

Teacher pay is at the heart of the 2015 budget negotiations right now—and if you’re wondering why, consider this: in 64 of North Carolina’s 100 counties, a school system is that county’s largest employer.

WUNC reporters Dave DeWitt and Keith Weston put together a fascinating infographic that highlights this reality, noting that in 24 more counties, the school system is the second-largest employer. In only 12 counties are school systems not in the top two.

Why is this so important?

Well, after the General Assembly’s session last summer, legislators went home and likely heard from many of the employees (i.e. teachers) who worked for the single largest employer (the school system) in that legislator’s district. That political pressure clearly changed some minds regarding teacher raises, especially in an election year.

But a raise for teachers also has a longer-lasting impact beyond November.

If you think of a raise as an economic stimulus, more money in the pay checks of 95,000 teachers (spread out from Manteo to Murphy) will mean more middle-class people buying groceries, going on vacations, etc. And that will have a real, immediate economic impact on the state as a whole.

Lawmakers continue to work through a budget stalemate that is heading in the direction of providing teachers with a pay raise of somewhere between 6 and 8 percent — the first significant salary increase in six years.

But the General Assembly could end up paying for that raise by laying off thousands of teacher assistants who not only provide much needed services in the classroom, but outside of it too — many of them double as school bus drivers.

Check out DeWitt and Weston’s infographic by heading over to WUNC’s website.

Is Senator Jerry Tillman truly the man of compromise that he says he is when it comes to the Common Core standards?

State lawmakers are coming close to passing legislation that would aim to repeal the Common Core standards, although the language in the bill currently would allow for a review commission to recommend keeping parts of the Common Core standards in place, if they so choose.

Sen. Tillman was behind the softer language (the House version doesn’t allow for Common Core to remain), saying last week that the Common Core has “some good and rigorous standards, and I’m sure that we will adopt some of them,” Tillman said. Tillman has also said publicly that he has rallied pro-Common Core stakeholders around his version of the bill, including the NC Chamber and State Superintendent June Atkinson.

But at a May news conference about Common Core at Phoenix Academy, where Tillman was flanked by Lt. Governor Dan Forest and State Board of Education member Buddy Collins, Tillman’s vehement opposition to the Common Core was made very clear in a lengthy speech he gave. (Head over the jump for video highlights)

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School vouchersSchool voucher money could be in the hands of families and schools one month earlier than planned for the upcoming school year—and prior to a court date that could rule the program unconstitutional.

According to an updated schedule published on June 20 on the N.C.  State Education Assistance Authority’s website, funds for the school vouchers, formally known as taxpayer-funded Opportunity Scholarships that are worth up to $4,200 per student annually to attend a private school, are now scheduled to be delivered to schools on August 15.

The money for school vouchers was previously scheduled for disbursement September 15, according an affidavit by Elizabeth McDuffie of the NC SEAA. But a court date that had been scheduled for August 22 could halt the program before school starts if Judge Robert H. Hobgood rules the voucher program unconstitutional.

Attorneys filed a motion late last week to block the early disbursement of funds, concerned about the harm that could result from providing families with potentially worthless vouchers just as they send their kids to private schools this fall. A hearing to consider delaying the disbursement of funds until after the court decides if the program should go forward will take place this Friday at 3:30p.m.

“If funds are distributed to parents and schools to support a program that is going to be declared unconstitutional in late August, then the state is put in the position of having to retrieve that money from hundreds of schools, and parents who are relying on these vouchers are going to find that the voucher is worthless,” said Burton Craige, attorney for plaintiffs who are challenging the constitutionality of the voucher program.

“So this disrupts parents, children, schools, and the state in its use of taxpayer funds.”

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