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Mark your calendar for the next N.C. Policy Watch Crucial Conversation luncheon on Tuesday, February 10:

“The constitutional challenge to school vouchers: Where do things stand? What happens next?”

Click here to register

For the time being, school vouchers have come to North Carolina. Thanks to the state’s conservative political leadership, several million dollars in taxpayer money now flow to unaccountable private and religious schools throughout the state.

Last summer, state Superior Court Judge Robert Hobgood struck down the voucher plan as unconstitutional saying: “The General Assembly fails the children of North Carolina when they are sent with public taxpayer money to private schools that have no legal obligation to teach them anything.”

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Since that time, however, both of the state’s higher courts have allowed the voucher program to proceed. Meanwhile, the case challenging its constitutionality has been fast-tracked for final argument. On February 17, lawyers for both sides will appear before the state Supreme Court to make their cases.

What will the parties say? What should we expect to happen? What can and should concerned citizens do?

Please join us as we explore the answers to these questions and others with one of the lead plaintiffs in the constitutional challenge to the law, former State Superintendent of Public Instruction, Mike Ward. (Pictured above, right)

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Ward will be joined by two of the state’s leading education policy advocates, attorneys Christine Bischoff (picture far left) of the North Carolina Justice Center and Jessica Holmes (pictured at left) of the North Carolina Association of Educators.

Don’t miss the chance to get fully up to speed on this important issue at this critical juncture.

When: Tuesday, February 10, at noon — Box lunches will be available at 11:45 a.m.

Where: The North Carolina Association of Educators Building, 700 S. Salisbury St., Raleigh, NC 27601

Space is limited – preregistration required.

Cost: $10, admission includes a box lunch.

Click here to register

Questions?? Contact Rob Schofield at 919-861-2065 or rob@ncpolicywatch.com

Commentary

TeachersRaleigh’s News & Observer features a rather strange op-ed this morning by a Duke University Master’s student who once gave teaching a try and who is also the husband of a current, relatively young public school teacher. In it, the author praises last year’s convoluted state teacher pay plan as “brilliant” because it targets young teachers like his wife for big raises.

According to the author, raising pay for young teachers “stopped the bleeding” of teacher exoduses and makes sense because young teachers are full of great new ideas and most older teachers ain’t going anywhere anyway. He goes on to “praise” the pay plan as an amoral business move that has “quelled public unrest.”

“No one is wearing red anymore, Moral Mondays are just Mondays now, public support is waning and the Republicans won the elections. The battle is over, teachers lost and no one is listening anymore.”

To which, all a body can say in response is: Wow – it’s good to know that someone with such opinions and values isn’t in the public schools anymore. Read More

Commentary

Education 1If you care at all about the actions of the  North Carolina General Assembly, your “must read” for this morning on the first day of the 2015 legislative session should be this excellent overview of what’s on the table and at stake in the world of public education by NC Policy Watch reporter Lindsay Wagner.

Wagner’s report summarizes the situation when it comes to funding, teacher pay, testing, vouchers, charters, grading, textbooks and multiple other key issues. Here’s the intro:

“As members of the North Carolina General Assembly make their way back to Raleigh this week for the 2015 legislative session, many have education at the top of their agendas—which is no surprise given that the lion’s share of the state budget is devoted to public schools.

After years of frozen salaries, the busy 2014 session saw large pay bumps for beginning teachers and relatively small raises for veteran teachers—but those raises came at the expense of teacher assistants and classroom supplies as well as cuts to other critical areas of education spending.

The salary increases also came with a promise of even more raises to come in 2015.

But as North Carolina faces a year in which some predict tax cuts will lead to inadequate state revenues that leave lawmakers with little choice but to rob Peter to pay Paul, what can we expect for our public schools?”

Click here to find out.

News

In case you missed it, the News & Observer first reported this week that GOP leaders will gather privately in Kannapolis on Thursday to discuss their 2015 education agenda.

One of the key presenters at today’s closed door meeting? A representative from the education privatization group Foundation for Excellence in Education (FEE), which was founded by former Florida Governor Jeb Bush.

And if you follow education policy news at the national level, then maybe you didn’t miss the lengthy report filed this week by The Washington Post’s education reporter, Lyndsey Layton, which takes a close look at how Bush’s foundation has played a huge role behind the scenes in privatizing education at the state level since 2008.

But in case you did miss Layton’s story, here’s the foundation’s strategy:

Since its creation, the foundation has been largely devoted to exporting the “Florida formula,” an overhaul of public education Bush oversaw as governor between 1999 and 2007.

That agenda includes ideas typically supported by conservatives and opposed by teachers unions: issuing A-to-F report cards for schools, using taxpayer vouchers for tuition at private schools, expanding charter schools, requiring third-graders to pass a reading test, and encouraging online learning and virtual charter schools.

Layton notes that this agenda has already spread far and wide, having affected education policy in 28 states. While not mentioned in the Post story, it is worth noting that North Carolina is no stranger to the “Florida formula.”

In recent years, the Tar Heel state has seen the passage of legislation and policies that have opened the door for most of the initiatives that Bush’s foundation promotes. Read More

Commentary

There are a lots of ways that we over-think things in the world of education policy and ignore obvious, common sense solutions.

As this article by an NYU doctoral student from the website OZY.com reminds us today, many such solutions are as simple, practical and cheap as a peanut butter and jelly sandwich:

“Many big public schools are overcrowded to the point that students have to stagger their lunches. This means some kids are eating lunch at 10 a.m. and others at 2 p.m. Considering that a lot of these kids skip breakfast, many of them are going eight hours or more without anything to eat. In fact, a 2013 report by No Kid Hungry, a nonprofit working toward ending childhood hunger, found that 73 percent of teachers say they have students who come to school hungry on a regular basis. Feeding America and the USDA report that, in 2012, 15.8 million kids in the U.S. didn’t have reliable access to food. This hunger, combined with the long wait to eat or the very early lunch, has two big impacts on these kids’ lives….

Luckily, it’s a pretty simple problem to solve. When I was a holistic health counselor at a public high school…I asked the guidance counselors to send me students who would regularly either fall asleep or start fights at 10 a.m. or 3:00 p.m. — the hungriest hours. My theory was that these kids were not angry or petulant, but instead were acting out the effects of their hunger. My prescription? Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. PB&Js were an easy, delicious and culturally acceptable way to get healthy energy into students who were struggling so mightily against their own biology. While my results were far from scientific, many of the students I worked with ended up with better grades and fewer trips to the counselor’s office.

PB&Js are far from a panacea. A sandwich cannot address the funding issues, crumbling infrastructure or myriad social burdens our schools and students face in their struggle to learn. However, when we don’t give our students enough food to fuel their brains, we set them up to fail. If we are serious about improving educational achievement and ending childhood obesity, we have to make sure our students have the most basic tools they need to succeed, which in many cases might involve peanut butter and jelly.”

Read the entire article by clicking here.