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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

Shell gameHundreds of school administrators gathered in Raleigh yesterday to review the state of public education and, not surprisingly, Gov. McCrory dodged the event and sent an assistant to what promised to be a not-terribly-friendly venue. That former Gov. Jim Hunt was speaking (he got a standing ovation at one point) probably helped guarantee that the Guv would have a “conflict” and decline the invitation to appear.

Another probable reason for sending aide Eric Guckian was the message he was forced to deliver — namely, that things are unlikely to improve in the education funding department anytime soon. According to AP reporter Emery Dalesio’s story, any significant improvements in educator pay beyond the bumps recently proposed for starting teachers will take “years” and will only occur “if state finances allow” — i.e. when Budget Director Pope assents. In other words, the beatings will continue until morale improves.

Of course, this is an absurd and utterly dishonest position. North Carolina could easily have a great deal of money to address many important needs (including the abysmal pay it provides to teachers and many other state employees) if McCrory and legislative leaders had merely chosen not to slash taxes on wealthy individuals and profitable corporations in recent years to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars.

Simply put, the administration’s rap is like that of a father with a gambling or drinking addiction who refuses to make eye contact as he tells his family that there will be no new clothes or shoes this year because “finances are tight.” No wonder the Guv found something else to do yesterday.

Last year state leaders passed a tax plan that will overwhelmingly benefit the wealthy and profitable corporations. The plan does little to rid the tax code of costly tax loopholes, it makes the state’s upside-down tax system even worse, and it reduces annual revenue by more than $650 million once all the new tax changes are in place.

As Gov. McCrory and state leaders try and “find’ revenue to provide a modest pay raise to only a portion of North Carolina’s public school teachers, more tax cuts for profitable corporations look to be on the horizon.

This week BTC released a policy brief that highlights an arcane tax policy change proposed by members of the NC General Assembly’s Revenue Laws Committees. This tax change – referred to as a single sales factor (SSF) apportionment formula – would only consider the sales component in determining the amount of state income taxes paid by corporations. The state’s current tax system uses a formula that considers a corporation’s property, payroll, and sales in North Carolina.

This tax change would provide a tax cut to only certain corporations, with no guarantee of job creation or a boost in economic growth for the state and would reduce revenue available for public investments by $90 million for FY 2015. This revenue loss would be in addition to the massive annual revenue loss under the tax plan passed last year. Read More

Good news last night in Boone. This is from the ACLU of North Carolina:

Watauga Board Votes to Keep “The House of the Spirits” in Honors High School Curriculum
ACLU of North Carolina Joined Parents, Students and Community Members Earlier in the Day to Rally in Support of the Freedom to Read  

BOONE, N.C. – The Watauga County Board of Education tonight voted 3-2 to keep Isabel Allende’s “The House of the Spirits” in the county’s public school curriculum for sophomore honors English students after a challenge to the board had been brought. Two board-sanctioned committees had previously voted unanimously to keep the book in the curriculum.  

Chris Brook, Legal Director for the ACLU-NC Legal Foundation, released the following statement: Read More

School-vouchersIn case you missed it over the weekend, be sure to check out Professor Jane Wettach’s excellent essay in Saturday’s edition of Raleigh’s News & Observer in which she exposes the enormous practical and constitutional problems with the school voucher scheme passed into law by conservative politicians last summer. The essay comes, of course,  in the aftermath of Friday’s very welcome court ruling that enjoined the implementation of the new law. Among other things, Wettach cites several damning statistics from a new report by the Children’s Law Clinic at Duke University Law School including:

  • A total of 696 private schools are registered with the State Division of Non-Public Education. Of those, 70 percent are religious and 30 percent are independent.
  • A quarter of the private schools have enrollments of fewer than 20 students; nearly another quarter have enrollments of fewer than 50 students. Read More