Commentary

The following essay was submitted to NC Policy Watch this week by a concerned public school teacher.

North Carolina teachers and the Common Core: Now what?
By Rod Powell

It’s already here—a new school year.

Despite a turbulent summer for North Carolina schools—in which legislators repealed the Common Core, slashed teacher assistant funding, and implemented a controversial teacher pay schedule—educators are back in the classroom, preparing students for a year of rigorous and engaging learning.

But as teachers begin their classes, many are asking the question, “What exactly should we be teaching our students?”

For the past three years, the answer was the Common Core. But now, thanks to the General Assembly, the work teachers have done to hone the standards is for naught.

Governor Pat McCrory has called for a review of the Common Core, with a commission to put new standards in place for the 2015-2016 school year. (Members of the commission have yet to be appointed, even though the September 1 deadline looms.)

But teachers can’t wait till 2015. We have students in our classrooms now. So what should we do? Do we spend countless hours planning our instruction and lesson plans for this year’s classes, only to have to overhaul them for entirely new standards just one year from now?

State superintendent Dr. June Atkinson assures educators that North Carolina will still operate under the Common Core for this school year. I hope teachers can take her at her word. But that doesn’t change the millions of dollars that have gone into developing Common Core materials and professional development—not to mention the thousands of hours that hardworking North Carolina teachers have dedicated to refining their craft and implementing the standards.

All that money and effort—what a waste.

I’ve had some interesting conversations with my teaching colleagues about this murky situation as we prepare for the school year. Read More

Commentary

Raleigh’s News & Observer has re-posted an editorial this morning that recently ran in its McClatchy sibling in Charlotte that deserves to be spread far and wide. It’s central message: North Carolina’s law mandating that judges retire at age 72 (the one that force current Supreme Court Justice Sarah Parker to retire this weekend) is ridiculous, out-dated and needs to be retired itself. Here is the excellent conclusion

Thirty-three states require the compulsory retirement of judges, with most setting an age limit between 70 and 75. Some of those laws were written to avoid lifetime tenure in states where judges don’t face re-election challenges. Some were written to ensure that the courts have a vigorous judiciary. (If North Carolina must have an age limit, we suggest a look at Vermont, which doesn’t force the gold watch on its judges until they hit 90. Now that’s some long-lasting vigor.)

The best approach: Lose the age limit. Federal judges don’t have one. Neither does any branch of government. Mandatory retirement is unnecessary and discriminatory. It’s also costly – North Carolina has to pay retirement benefits to a perfectly good judge, then pay another judge to take his or her place.

The bigger cost, however, is the experience and wisdom that leave the bench when judges are forced to retire. Let judges – and the people who elect them – determine when it’s time to go.

ead more here: http://www.newsobserver.com/2014/08/28/4103439/judging-when-someones-too-old.html?sp=/99/108/#storylink=cpy

Click here to read the entire editorial.

Back to School Series

This is part of a Back to School blog series that highlights various issues to be aware of as the 2014-15 school year kicks off. (See Parts 1, 2, and 3).

Schools opened their doors this week to the state’s more than 1.5 million children for the beginning of a new school year, but there are children who will miss vital days of school as their families attempt to navigate the maze of paperwork that can be required to register for school in North Carolina. Each of the state’s 115 school districts has its own unique registration process and documentation requirements.

It is extremely difficult to catch up after missing a significant number of school days at the beginning of the year, particularly with the lack of funding available for remediation and other educational interventions. Fortunately, there are resources available to help families register their children for school as quickly as possible and avoid falling behind.

The North Carolina Justice Center has a guide posted on its website for parents looking for help registering their children for school. Students are eligible to register for school in a given district:

  • If they have reached the age of 5 on or before August 31
  • If they are under the age of 21, have not been removed from school for cause, and have not obtained a high school diploma
  • If the student’s parent, legal guardian,  legal custodian or caregiver adult resides in the school district’s attendance area.

The United States Department of Justice and United States Department of Education jointly issued new guidance over the summer regarding the types of documents that school districts may require in order to prove they meet the above requirements for students to enroll in school. School districts can request proof of residency within the school district, proof of age, and immunization records. However, they should accept a variety of documents for proof of residency and proof of age so students do not miss school while their families track down required documentation.  Schools also may not prevent or discourage your child from enrolling in school because he or she lacks a birth certificate or has a birth certificate indicating a foreign place of birth.  Under the McKinney-Vento Homeless Education Assistance Act, homeless children who lack any or all documentation must be enrolled in school immediately.

North Carolina public schools are the cornerstone of communities across the state and represent the first point of contact for newcomers and kindergartners embarking on their educational careers. Please help them welcome new students to school and start children off well-prepared for the start of a great year.

News

Just weeks after passage of a bill that allows publicly-funded charter schools to hide the salaries of their for-profit education management companies’ employees, State Board of Education chair Bill Cobey requested all charter school boards to disclose the salaries of their for-profit operators by September 30, or face the possibility of being shut down.

In a letter requested by Cobey to all charter school boards dated August 13, N.C. DPI’s CFO Philip Price explains that the new legislation, SB 793 or “Charter School Modifications,” does not change the fact that charter schools must abide by North Carolina’s Public Records Act as well as requirements set forth in their charters that demand them to disclose all employees’ salaries associated with the operation of their schools – whether they be employed by for-profit companies or not.

“After we looked at the law with lawyers, they ensured me it was our [the State Board of Education] authority to ask all charter schools, even for-profit education management organizations, to send all the salary info to us,” said Cobey.

Read More

News

U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) doesn’t want to spend much time focused on all the speculation about whether he’ll make a run for the White House in 2016.  As we approach Labor Day, the 72-year-old wants to talk about the jobs deficit and stagnant wages.

The longest-serving Independent in Congressional history was in Raleigh this week for a town hall forum at Pullen Memorial Baptist Church.

In an interview with N.C. Policy Watch, Sanders spoke about the need for Congress (and individual states) to do more to help America’s shrinking middle class:

“The very bad news is that many of the new jobs that are being created are low wage jobs, part-time jobs. Median family income today is $5,000 less than it was in 1999. Our goal is obviously job creation, but it is also creating jobs that pay people a livable wage.”

As for conservative lawmakers who have suggested that it may be time to scrap minimum wage laws altogether, Sanders offers this assessment:

“Their belief is that we should abolish the concept of the minimum wage. And that means if you are in a high unemployment area, and you are desperate enough, yup, you’re going to have to work for three or four bucks an hour. That is a step toward feudalism,” explained Sanders. “It’s not just the minimum wage, it’s safety on the job, all types of child labor laws…these guys believe that ‘freedom’ means abolishing all of these laws and leaving working people at the mercy of whatever an employer wants to pay them, or how that employer will treat them.”

Sanders, who joins us this weekend on News & Views with Chris Fitzsimon, also shares his thoughts on dark money in politics, the need for campaign finance reform, and new efforts to improve  veterans’ health care.

For a preview of that radio interview, click below. For more on North Carolina’s Living Income Standard, click here.
YouTube Preview Image