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

News

The National Education Association released on Wednesday its annual report on public school rankings and estimates and North Carolina is once again toward the bottom on teacher pay in 2013-14, ranking 47th in the nation – but the rankings pre-date the General Assembly’s move to boost teacher pay last year.

North Carolina inched up in the 2014 rankings on per-pupil finding – from 47th to 46th – but the amount of funding in actual dollars spent per student fell from $8,632 to $8,620, according to the North Carolina Association for Educators (NCAE).

“The rankings once again show the troubling trend of falling per-student funding in our public schools,” said NCAE President Rodney Ellis. “Instead of righting the ship, North Carolina’s per- pupil expenditure continues to drop. If we are going to get serious about what works, we must get serious about modern textbooks in the classrooms, more one-on-one interaction with teachers and students, and a quality teacher in every class.”

The NEA estimates that North Carolina will rise in the rankings on teacher pay to 42nd in 2015, the first year that lawmakers’ average 7 percent pay raise for teachers, which was enacted last year, will be reflected in the rankings.

Previously, lawmakers said that last year’s pay bump for teachers should move the state up to 32nd in teacher pay—and that promise is prominently displayed on Senate leader Phil Berger’s website still today.

“The budget will provide public school educators an average seven percent raise – averaging $3,500 per teacher. The $282 million investment will be largest teacher pay raise in state history – moving North Carolina from 46th to 32nd in national teacher pay rankings,” according to Berger’s website.

North Carolina ranks 51st in percentage change in teacher salaries between 2003-04 and 2013-14.

Read the full report below, which also includes rankings and estimates on school revenues and expenditures, student-teacher ratios and other information about state and local investment in public schools.