With local school districts battling for funding, one Iowa district promises to break the law

school-busespng-91b35e2c325e0b5bHere’s a fascinating report Monday from Education Weekwhich tells the story of one Iowa school district’s surprising response to apparently insufficient state funding.

According to the paper, the Davenport Community Schools district says that it may be forced to break state law in order to fill in budget gaps, gaps wrought, according to the district’s superintendent, by state funding holes.

This sort of story is, of course, playing out across North Carolina as well, with many districts complaining that they are forced to tap into their reserves to offset withering state allotments. 

From Education Week:

Fed up with years of political battling over the fairness of Iowa’s education funding formula, Arthur Tate, the superintendent of the Davenport public schools, says in order to balance his books next year, he will illegally pull $2.7 million out of the district’s reserves. It’s an amount he bases on the state’s 1971 funding formula, which leaves Davenport $175 less to spend per student compared to some other districts.

The state tightly controls how much districts can spend, and dipping into emergency savings accounts without state permission is strictly forbidden. Officials say Tate could lose his superintendent’s license given by the state if he goes ahead, and the district’s board members, who unanimously approved the plan this month, could be charged criminally.

“I’m tired of the inequality,” said Tate, the head of a district whose 15,500 students are mostly low-income, Hispanic, and black. “I think there’s a higher philosophy and principle at stake here. Every student should be worth the same, and the state is saying ours are worth much less.”

Read more


McCrory’s teacher pay proposal fails on retention goals

In honor of National Teacher Appreciation Week, I thought I’d focus my first blog post on the most obvious way North Carolina shows its appreciation (or lack thereof) for teachers:  the North Carolina teacher salary schedule.  In particular, let’s take a closer look at Governor McCrory’s 2016-17 Proposed Teacher Salary Schedule.

On the positive side, the McCrory administration has been refreshingly honest in its description of this salary proposal, touting it as an average pay increase of 5%. While McCrory proposes providing a number of one-time bonuses to teachers in FY 2016-17, the dollars for these bonuses are not included in the 5% figure. While not all teachers would receive a salary increase under the governor’s plan, the average teacher would indeed receive a recurring salary increase of 5%.

Also, a 5% salary increase is decent.  Of course, a 5% salary increase is insufficient to bring teacher salaries to the national average, or to equal the inflation-adjusted average salaries of years’ past. However, if North Carolina made a sustained effort to increase teacher salaries 5% per year every year, rather than just in election years, North Carolina’s teacher salaries would eventually surpass the national average (though it would likely take nearly ten years).

Within McCrory’s teacher salary schedule there are faults, however.  Read more

2017 Fiscal Year State Budget, NC Budget and Tax Center

Initial review of Governor’s K-12 education budget: Falls short of ensuring public schools have adequate resources

Gov. McCrory’s proposed revised budget for K-12 education for the upcoming fiscal year maintains the status quo for public investments in public schools. Under the Governor’s budget, state funding per student remains well below pre-recession spending when adjusted for inflation and schools will continue to be hurting for resources.*

Teacher pay is just one thing on a long list that needs to be addressed so that public schools are able to deliver a top-notch education to all students. And while additional funding for pay increases for educators is much welcomed, this increase is largely delivered as one-time bonuses. As the only major component of the Governor’s education budget that is possible under the tax-cut constrained reality, it leaves far more needed to ensure every child’s access to a quality education.

Consequently, the Governor’s proposed budget once again challenges schools to do more with fewer resources and support despite heightened expectations regarding student achievement.

Here are key items in the K-12 education budget. Read more


Attorney General Roy Cooper files suit against eastern North Carolina charter

604-chartN.C. Attorney General Roy Cooper has filed suit against an eastern North Carolina charter school, contending that leaders of the now-closed Kinston school mismanaged public funds.

Cooper’s office released the details of their complaint against Kinston Charter Academy Tuesday, which named the school, CEO Ozie L. Hall and the school’s board chairwoman, Demyra McDonald-Hall, as defendants.

“Charter schools receive taxpayer dollars to educate students and they have a duty to spend them wisely,” Cooper said in a statement. “There are many excellent charter schools but North Carolina needs more tools to protect families who choose charter schools.”

From Cooper’s statement:

Currently state law fails to adequately provide how North Carolina can fully recover taxpayer dollars from charter schools that fail or become insolvent.  Legislators should put safeguards in place to protect public education resources, Cooper said.

The complaint filed today in Wake County Superior Court alleges violations of North Carolina laws on deceptive trade practices, non-profit management and false claims. Cooper is asking the court to freeze the defendants’ assets and order them to repay misspent state funds as well as pay damages and civil penalties.

As alleged in the complaint, Hall and McDonald-Hall:

  • Falsely inflated the number of students Kinston Charter Academy would enroll so they could get more tax dollars, even though they knew the school would not be able to stay open for the 2013-2014 term.
  • Failed to disclose the school’s problems to students and their families, recruiting new students to enroll in the school while on the verge of closing it.
  • Took out risky loans with exorbitant fees and interest rates, borrowing $170,000 for less than two months at a cost of $60,000 which put the school in worse shape financially.
  • Used public money intended for educational purposes to enrich themselves and their family.

A January, 2015 report released by the State Auditor revealed many of the financial improprieties alleged in the lawsuit, including more than $11,000 in payments made to the defendants for unused vacation time and unspecified reimbursements and $2,500 to a daughter for a website that didn’t work—all while Kinston Charter Academy owed $370,825 for teacher salaries, insurance, retirement and other payroll obligations.

Read more


Governor’s budget press conference short on details when it comes to teacher pay

26514179491_2290925c45_zWe’re still largely short on details when it comes to Gov. Pat McCrory’s proposed $22.8 billion budget plan. But when it comes to teacher pay, those who were critical of the governor’s overtures for a raise plan that again targets beginning teachers rather than the state’s veteran educators are likely to find more fuel after today.

In this video posted over at The News & Observer, you’ll get some explanation from McCrory’s budget chief Andrew Heath on the governor’s proposed plan. The full budget proposal should be released sometime next week, although most observers expect significant changes from the legislature, which reconvenes Monday.

As we reported earlier this month, the governor’s plan will focus on raises for beginning teachers that will bring the state’s average teacher pay up to about $50,000. Veteran teachers, it seems, can expect a $5,000, one-time bonus.

“Every teacher will get at least a bonus of 3 percent,” Heath said during Friday’s budget press conference. “For the younger teachers we’re getting them bigger pay increases and they’re getting the bonus on top of that. With the veteran teachers, we want to recognize their service by giving them a higher percentage of the one-time bonus, and that will be about $5,000.”

Of course, that explanation isn’t likely to soothe some critics like Christine Fitch, the N.C. State Board of Education’s local school board advisor, who lambasted the governor’s pay plan for veteran teachers earlier this month.

“Let’s not call this a raise,” said Fitch. “Call it what it is: a bonus. Tell them that you’re giving them a one-time bonus.”

More details on the governor’s budget as it becomes available.