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It’s not a new argument from North Carolina conservatives; we’ve been hearing from the so-called “free market think tanks” for years. Still it was a bit of an eye opener to read the following letter from State Senator Warren Daniel to a North Carolinian who expressed concerns about the state’s abysmal teacher salaries (as first posted at the site Pay Our Teachers First):

“Ms. Greene,

Do teachers teach because they love teaching, & they love children, or
because they are paid at some national average? Are you considering that
in addition to the State salary, teachers also make approximately 14
thousand dollars in taxpayer paid benefits, and most counties have salary
supplements? In addition, compared to similarly situated state
employees, a teacher’s work year is approximately two months shorter.
While a department of corrections employee or a highway patrolman may
have to work on Christmas and Thanksgiving, teachers receive vacations
for every major holiday and are with their families. Read More

041211_1720_Publiceduca1.jpgIn a rare happy development in the North Carolina General Assembly, a study committee decided yesterday to table a proposal (for now) that would have brought radical and disastrous upheaval to North Carolina’s public education system by letting students enroll at any school in the state. The proposal was so extreme that even Rep. Edgar Starnes — once one of the most conservative lawmakers in Raleigh — derided the idea as one that would have caused “utter chaos.”

Good for Starnes and other members of the Joint Legislative Program Evaluation Oversight Committee who apparently recognized the proposal for the nightmare that it was and would have brought about. Let’s hope the idea remains dead and buried. Here’s, however, why that may be wishful thinking: Read More

Nearly 300,000 students in high-poverty schools across North Carolina could potentially benefit from an initiative that ensures every child in these schools receives two nutritious meals each day so that they are ready to learn all day.

This nationwide initiative, known as the Community Eligibility Program (CEP), allows high-poverty schools to eliminate school meal applications and offer breakfast and lunch to all of their students at no charge. It aims to increase participation rates in breakfast and lunch programs by eliminating the stigma associated with the existing free and reduced meal programs offered only to students from low- and moderate-income families. These students may be reluctant to participate in the free- and reduced lunch program and go hungry, which can adversely impact their ability to succeed academically.

Schools in other states that have already implemented free breakfast and lunch programs for all students in high-poverty schools have experienced positive outcomes. In schools in Illinois, Kentucky, and Michigan that adopted CEP for two years, daily lunch participation rose 13 percent. Daily breakfast participation in these schools rose 25 percent.

For the 2014-15 school year, eligible schools across the U.S. will be able to implement CEPs. In North Carolina, nearly 300,000 students in around 1,600 schools could potentially be served by the program.

This initiative can serve as a powerful option to help alleviate childhood hunger. Ensuring that students receive nutritious meals, in turns, helps enhance the overall quality of students’ classroom experiences. Students are inclined to be more focused and attentive, less distracted, and more engaged when they have enough to eat.

The CEP presents a mutually beneficial investment that can provide immediate and long-term benefits – for students, schools, families, and the larger Tar Heel state. Building a workforce that can compete for good-paying jobs and meet the demands of a 21st century economy requires that students show up to the classroom ready to learn.

Ensuring that more students participate in breakfast and lunch programs is one way to help promote a quality education for all North Carolina students. North Carolina can invest in its future today by encouraging eligible schools to adopt CEP beginning with the upcoming school year.

Common coreYet another prominent voice has weighed in against the move advanced by some conservatives in the General Assembly to abandon North Carolina’s adoption of the Common Core education standards for math and English (an issue we explored in some depth yesterday). This is from this morning’s Fayetteville Observer:

“Those with fringe views invariably claim they represent many similar-minded folks, but such support can be measured more in volume than numbers.

Unfortunately, some of those with an extreme education agenda have won seats in our General Assembly and are pushing to erode the Common Core curriculum standards that educators worked so hard to put in place…. Read More

Common coreThis morning’s edition of the Weekly Briefing attempts to explain why the debate over the education standards known as Common Core are distracting us from larger and more important issues in public schools. Though the standards and the process surrounding their development are certainly flawed, repealing them isn’t the answer. That said, it’s important not to oversell the new standards either:

“For all of its imperfections, simply repealing Common Core is probably not the answer. For some percentage of children, broad-based higher standards will probably help.

By the same token, however, it’s also important not to kid ourselves. For the vast majority of children not currently achieving at desired levels, it will take lots more than just tougher standards [i.e. significantly larger public investments] to lift them up. Let’s hope the current debate isn’t just the latest in a long series of illusory solutions that have repeatedly served to distract Americans from this hard reality.”

It’s also important not to get carried away with criticism as continues to occur on the far right. This morning’s article on Talking Points Memo (“The Vast Network of Common Core Conspiracies”) explains just how loony that talk has gotten — with talk of pornography, Agenda 21 and Muslim conspiracies.

The bottom line: Common Core isn’t as bad or as good as the opponents or proponents allege. Let’s get on with implementing the standards carefully and skeptically and move on to bigger and more important matters.