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It’s been reported previously in recent weeks, but this essay in this morning’s edition of Raleigh’s News & Observer by veteran  education policy experts Helen Ladd and Ted Fiske provides what is perhaps the most thorough review thus far of the potentially disastrous decision by the General Assembly and Governor McCrory to alter an 80-year-old mechanism for funding schools and student growth.

In a last-minute change that was taken with no hearings and no prior publicity, the Republican-controlled General Assembly has undermined the fundamental building block of school finance in North Carolina.

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Thom TillisNorth Carolina House Speaker Thom Tillis headlined a press event at the General Assembly this morning that was supposed to be about kicking off the 2014 legislative session but that, at times, felt a lot like a part of Tillis’ U.S. Senate campaign.

There will plenty of time for dissecting the details of what was said at the event, but there was at least one familiar conservative talking point repeated by Tillis that deserves to be debunked immediately and often.

Namely, it is utterly absurd for legislative conservatives (or anyone else for that matter) to argue — as the Speaker did at at least one point — that Democrats imposed more significant cuts on state services (like public education) back in 2009 and 2010 than have been imposed since the GOP assumed control of the General Assembly  in 2011 and the Governor’s mansion in 2013. This is like blaming FDR for the plunge in federal spending during the Great Depression.

Earth to Speaker Tillis: Yes there were large and problematic state budget cuts in 2009 and 2010, but that’s mostly because state revenues had literally dropped like an anvil as a result of the global Great Recession. Read More

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North Carolina’s General Assembly reconvenes in less than two weeks and it’s still unclear whether veteran teachers or state employees will see a pay raise this year.

Governor Pat McCrory has said raising the base salary for starting K-12 teachers is his goal, but available revenue will determine if others see a jump in pay.

State Schools Superintendent June Atkinson, who joins us this weekend on News & Views with Chris Fitzsimon, says the state cannot afford to overlook any of its teachers:

“One of the first priorities must be to give all of our teachers a raise, ” said Atkinson in a radio interview with NC Policy Watch.

Atkinson also shares her thoughts on the proposal by some lawmakers to ditch the Common Core and replace it with new state standards, which have yet to be developed.

For an excerpt of Dr. Atkinson’s weekend radio interview, click below:
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Open-letter2011One of the many “make-do-with-less,” “up-by-their-bootstraps” creations of the modern public education system in North Carolina is something known as the “school improvement team” or “S.I.T.” These are simple, common sense groups created by state law that include “the principal of each school, representatives of the assistant principals, instructional personnel, instructional support personnel, and teacher assistants assigned to the school building, and parents of children” and that have the eminently reasonable and unsurprising objective of improving schools.

Recently and much to the group’s credit, the School Improvement Team at Chapel Hill’s Culbreth Middle School (a bipartisan group, by the way) crafted an open letter to Gov. McCrory about the state of education in North Carolina and the state’s dwindling investments. We offer it here as a potential inspiration to other dedicated S.I.T.’s around the state:

“Dear Governor McCrory,

The bipartisan School Improvement Team at Culbreth Middle School respectfully requests that you act in the best interests of all North Carolina’s children by advocating for a greater investment in public education.

After years of bipartisan failure to increase their salaries, North Carolina’s teachers are paid $10,000 below the national average.  Many of our teachers struggle to support their families and must devote time to second jobs to make ends meet.  Read More

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After Gov. Pat McCrory and state legislative leaders announced their pay raise plan for new and less-experienced teachers last week, a pair of veteran teachers from Davie County (who also happen to be married) felt compelled to respond. Here is their open letter:

Dear Governor McCrory,

We moved here in 1998 from New York. North Carolina promised us a chance at living our dreams and becoming teachers. Although it was difficult, we moved 600 miles south, away from family and friends, away from the comforts of home, to start a life in Davie County. Culture shock aside, things went well. We assimilated quickly and seamlessly became crucial parts of our school and community’s culture. Both of us were elected Teacher of the Year for our schools, became National Board Certified Teachers, and achieved our Masters Degrees from North Carolina Universities. Life was good. Each of us became respected members of our school. We bought a modest house in a new neighborhood and in a few years two children were born.

We made a good living, were able to take small vacations and laugh. We could fill up our tanks and buy groceries without having to constantly check to be sure we could afford these necessities.

We didn’t expect to become rich doing the job we love to do. We knew from the very beginning that the payoff in education is not the savings account, but in the touched lives and future investment. We knew we would always need to balance our checkbooks and account for the summers off, but we were okay with that. We were able to live our lives, put two children in daycare, and still invest a little bit for the future.

Sixteen years later, things are different. Read More