Rep. Pat McElraft, R-Carteret, told teachers in her district last week that she would fight to get all teachers pay raises, not just for 25 percent of teachers in the state, who must accept 4-year contracts in exchange for tenure, or only for beginning teachers as Gov. Pat McCrory has proposed.

From the Carteret County News-Times:

The Appropriations Act of 2013 is designed to phase out teacher tenure by 2018. As a first step, the law requires school boards in 2014 to give $500 pay raises and four-year contracts to 25 percent of their eligible teachers. In exchange, teachers who accept the raises and contracts agree to give up tenure. Principals evaluate teachers and decide which ones qualify for raises, with the school board giving final approval.

“This is not a good way to ask a principal to evaluate you for raises when you all work in teams. That is a bad plan,” she said. “If we want to stop tenure, then just stop tenure. Don’t keep it hanging out there like a carrot for raises.”

Ms. McElraft said she also disapproves of a proposal by Gov. Pat McCrory to give raises to new teachers instead of all teachers.

She said she planned to ask that money set aside for the 25 percent and new teacher raises be used instead to give all teachers a pay raise.

“As far as I’m concerned all of you should get raises. Was I happy with all that went into the education budget this year? Absolutely not. But in order to get the budget passed, sometimes you have to approve things you don’t agree with.”

Ms. McElraft said when Gov. McCrory and legislators took office, they inherited a $3.5 billion state budget deficit. Plus, the state is facing an astronomical cost for Medicaid, which has hurt the economy even more. She said half of the state’s population is now on Medicaid.

Many teachers who attended the meeting at Bogue Sound Elementary fought back tears as they explained to McElraft how difficult it is to be a teacher in North Carolina.

For teachers such as fourth grade teacher Jason Vanzant, not getting a pay raise in several years has caused him to get a second job on the weekends.

“I work two jobs and have since 2007,” said Mr. Vanzant, choking back tears. “I work 15 hours a day here, then eight hours on Saturday and several hours on Sundays. I’m cleaning bathrooms and it’s actually demeaning. But you do what you have to do to teach in this county. It doesn’t give me much time for my family. I guess what I’m trying to say is ‘help.’ ”

While McElraft supports pay raises for all teachers, she did say she opposes career status, also known as teacher tenure, which is set to be completely eliminated in North Carolina by 2018. Career status offers teachers a hearing by a third party in the event they are demoted or dismissed.

Members of the N.C. Educator Effectiveness and Compensation Task Force will meet today at 2:00 p.m. to discuss ways to create an alternative compensation system for educators.

Did you know today is Pi Day? I plan to celebrate by eating a piece of pie, but others around the country are doing it a little differently.

Congress designated March 14 as National Pi Day in 2009. The resolution the House passed “encourages schools and educators to observe the day with appropriate activities that teach students about Pi and engage them about the study of mathematics.”

For those of you who have forgotten, Pi is the ration of the circumference of a circle to its diameter, or 3.14 plus an infinite amount of numbers beyond that decimal point. It’s also Albert Einstein’s birthday.

Looks like one Wake County public school has the right idea combining math + cookies to celebrate Pi Day:

USA Today reports that in Massachusetts, Raytheon Company employees will deliver apple pies to middle and high school math teachers within 3.14 miles of company offices in Arizona, California, Florida, Maryland, Massachusetts and Virginia.

If you’re keen on celebrating Pi Day like me, with a slice of pie, then check out this story on the examiner.com, where you’ll find a list of local restaurants offering delicious pies.

And if you’re actually in a baking mood, here are six of your favorite authors’ favorite pie recipes. Willa Cather’s Gooseberry Pie is calling my name.

 

Education blogger Valerie Strauss of The Washington Post has highlighted a new story by the Center for Public Integrity that reveals how ed reform groups, which are by and large funded by wealthy philanthropists, are pouring money into mostly conservative candidates’ races for office across the country.

How powerful are organizations such as  Michelle Rhee’s StudentsFirst and other like-minded groups that support charter schools, voucher programs and the weakening of teachers unions.?

The Center for Public Integrity, a nonpartisan, nonprofit investigative news organization that works to reveal abuses of power, corruption and betrayal of public trust by public and private institutions, takes a look at this issue in a new post on its Web site, ”Education groups battle teachers unions in state races.” It reveals the growing power of the purse of “education reform” organizations that are funded by wealthy philanthropists and that are spending big bucks to support mostly conservative candidates running for local and state offices around the country.

And get this: Federal tax rules allow them to operate without revealing from whom they get their money, meaning the public doesn’t know who is funding many candidates running for public office.

Read the entire story here, which chronicles how some of the biggest spenders — the American Federation for Children, 50CAN, Stand for Children and Democrats for Education Reform as well as the Walton Family and Broad —  have poured loads of money into local and state elections, with the end goal of promoting school privatization.

Some of that money has made its way into North Carolina — for more about that, click here and here.

Members of the North Carolina Charter School Advisory Board made a recommendation to the State Board of Education yesterday to give fellow advisory board member Baker Mitchell’s Wilmington charter school, Douglass Academy, a temporary waiver that would allow the K-2 school to avoid complying with state law that requires charter schools to enroll at least 65 students.

Last month, the Office of Charter Schools sent a warning to newly opened Douglass Academy, placing it on Governance Cautionary Status for failing to bring its enrollment numbers up to the statutory minimum of 65. At the time that the Office of Charter Schools visited the school, only 35 students were in attendance. Currently the school’s student enrollment stands at 33.

Members of Douglass Academy’s Board of Trustees, as well as its headmaster, Barbra Jones, were asked to come to Raleigh yesterday to explain its low enrollment numbers to the Charter School Advisory Board.

Douglass officials said that their low student numbers were attributable to the fact that they had to change the school’s location and deal with last-minute renovations, prompting confusion and doubt among what they referred to as their “target market.” Read More

More than 94 percent of respondents to a survey conducted by researchers at UNC-Wilmington said that they felt public education in North Carolina is headed in the wrong direction and overwhelmingly trusted teachers and administrators — not lawmakers — to make educational decisions for the state’s public schools.

Residents of North Carolina, 80 percent of which were parents with children in public schools, were surveyed about the quality and direction of education in the state and asked to react to recent legislative decisions passed by the General Assembly, including the removal of additional funding for teachers who earn advanced degrees, implementation of a voucher program, removal of class size limits, and the abolishment of tenure, among others.

  • More than 85 percent of respondents disagreed with the state’s decision to provide low-income families with private school vouchers.
  • Ninety-six percent of participants disagreed with the removal of additional pay for teachers earning a master’s degree in education.
  • More than 76 percent of respondents disagreed with the elimination of teacher tenure. 
  • Ninety-six percent of participants disagreed with the removal of class size caps.
  • Ninety-five percent of respondents disagreed with the decision to not increase teacher salaries in 2013 for the fourth time in five years.

Participants were also given the chance to respond to the survey in their own words. Below are a few of those comments:

“These laws will not improve NC education, but destroy it!”

“I am just very disappointed in the direction NC education is headed. I hope to find work in another state that values children and education. NC is no longer that state.”

“I am shocked, angered and saddened by the direction of education in this state, all at the hands of the current legislature and governor. Because of these devastating changes, and in spite of a strong desire to teach again, I will not likely re-enter the profession.”

“My family is very concerned about the direction in which the 2013 NC State Legislature seems to be taking our public education system. We have two children enrolled in public schools now, and have witnessed firsthand the exodus of quality teachers and the swelling of class sizes. At all levels, we will be paying attention to candidates’ attitudes, statements, and actions regarding this issue and will vote accordingly.”