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lw-1-21Standards and assessment, teacher pay and school vouchers were some of the hottest  education issues that key stakeholders predicted would dominate this year’s legislative session at a breakfast hosted Wednesday by the Public School Forum in Raleigh.

Tom Campbell, host of the weekly talk show NC SPIN, held a special taping of his program at the breakfast, during which he quizzed Rep. Craig Horn (R-Union) and others about what lawmakers plan to do this year for education.

“I do think we need to look at expanding it [the school voucher program],” said Horn. “The number of applications alone for these vouchers show the demand by the public.”

“We need to watch it very carefully,” Horn added. “I’m not at all suggesting that we fling the doors open, but we have got to allow parents to take control of the education of their children.” Read More

News

The struggling charter school Entrepreneur High School has shut its doors, leaving dozens of students scrambling to find new schools to finish out the academic year.

Tim Markley, New Hanover schools superintendent and a reviewer of Entrepreneur’s application, told N.C. Policy Watch he didn’t think the school should have opened.

“The application [for Entrepreneur] came forward two years in a row and I voted against it twice. The entire board turned it down the first time,” said Markley, who previously served on the N.C. Charter Schools Advisory Council.

“Honestly, I thought the financials were’t there,” said Markley. “Their plan for implementing a vocational program wasn’t there. The plan included a lot of vocational teachers, but didn’t exhibit an understanding of the business side of running a school. I was critical of it both times.”

Markley’s assessment was overruled by two other advisory council members who decided to allow Entrepreneur to open, even though they also expressed reservations about the financial and academic plans of the school that can be read in the school’s application here.

Entrepreneur High School is a vocational public charter school that had hoped to enroll 180 students in its first year. But it only attracted 78 students to start with last September, said the head of the N.C. Office of Charter Schools, Dr. Joel Medley. By January, only 31 students were attending classes.

Those low enrollment numbers — and the fact that the school continued to lose students throughout the fall — left the school in dire financial straits.

Speaking of Dr. Hans Plotseneder, the founder of the school who was fired by its board just before Christmas, Markley said, “he had a lot of passion for the school, but he didn’t have the wherewithal to start a school.”

Andrew Dunn of the Charlotte Observer reported today that Plotseneder plans to reopen the school with a combination of state funds he believes he can secure next month, loans, and a plan to sublease part of the school’s building. His hopes to have a charter management organization (CMO) take over the school eventually.

 

News

Members of the Academic Standards Review Commission (ASRC) met Friday afternoon to continue their work in reviewing the Common Core State Standards and developing recommendations for high quality alternatives. But commission members quickly ran into a road block when the issue of the Common Core’s copyright arose, with some members becoming concerned that attempts to revise the standards, instead of scrapping them wholesale, would be met with a lawsuit.

State Board of Education attorney Katie Cornetto told ASRC members that they were free to come up with replacement standards that comprise some or even nearly all of the Common Core yet are called something else, and that they would not be in violation of copyright law because the standards are part of the public domain.

Cornetto’s assertion was contradicted by ASRC member Tammy Covil, who said that the National Governors Association (NGA) and the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO), which are owners of the Common Core, would have to issue North Carolina a waiver if they wanted to use some of the Common Core standards in their replacement recommendations.

Covil, who has publicly decried the Common Core, said she did not feel comfortable moving forward with evaluating the standards and considering keeping parts of the Common Core until she saw a waiver from either the CCSSO or the NGA, neither of which have agreed to awarding one to North Carolina, she said.

“Either we go with an entirely new set of standards…as a recommendation…or we merely revise Common Core and open us up to a lawsuit,” said Covil. Read More

News

For the first time in at least a half century, a majority of American public school students live in poverty, according to a new report released by the Southern Education Foundation.

Fifty-one percent of the nation’s public school students were eligible for free and reduced lunch programs in 2013, according to federal data. In North Carolina, that figure stood at 53 percent—and in the south overall, the numbers of poor students were the highest.

Lyndsey Layton at the Washington Post explained the significance of the new development:

The shift to a majority poor student population means that in public schools, more than half of the children start kindergarten already trailing their more privileged peers and rarely, if ever, catch up. They are less likely to have support at home to succeed, are less frequently exposed to enriching activities outside of school and are more likely to drop out and never attend college.

It also means that education policy, funding decisions and classroom instruction must adapt to the swelling ranks of needy children arriving at the schoolhouse door each morning.

Back in 2006, a report by SEF highlighted how low income children became a majority of the public school students in the Southern states. The authors made this observation:

Currently the South alone faces the implications and consequences of having a new majority of low income students in its public schools… the South also faces a new global economy that requires higher skills and knowledge from all who seek a decent living. In this brave, new world, the people and policymakers of Southern states must realize that continuing the current, uneven level of educational progress will be disastrous.

They must understand more fully that today their future and their grandchildren’s future are inextricably bound to the success or failure of low income students in the South. If this new majority of students fail in school, an entire state and an entire region will fail simply because there will be inadequate human capital in Southern states to build and sustain good jobs, an enjoyable quality of life, and a well-informed democracy. It is that simple.

With today’s news, the president of the Southern Education Foundation had this to offer:

“This is a watershed moment when you look at that map,” said Kent McGuire, president of the Southern Education Foundation, the nation’s oldest education philanthropy, referring to a large swath of the country filled with high-poverty schools.

“The fact is, we’ve had growing inequality in the country for many years,”he said. “It didn’t happen overnight, but it’s steadily been happening. Government used to be a source of leadership and innovation around issues of economic prosperity and upward mobility. Now we’re a country disinclined to invest in our young people.”

News

Senator Phil Berger and Speaker Tim Moore

Asked if he planned to change his approach to paying North Carolina’s veteran teachers by offering them better pay raises during this legislative session than what he had originally sketched out for them in 2014, Senate leader Phil Berger stuck with his game plan on the opening day of the 2015 General Assembly on Wednesday.

“We passed last session one of the largest pay raises teachers have seen in North Carolina,” Sen. Berger (R-Guilford, Rockingham) said during a press conference he held jointly with newly minted Speaker of the House Tim Moore (R-Cleveland)

After much political wrangling, lawmakers passed an average 7 percent pay raise for teachers in 2014–but those at the beginning of their careers were the ones who saw the largest bumps in pay. Many veteran teachers saw very small salary raises after coping with several years of frozen salaries, and should expect more of the same for 2015 based on salary plans presented last year.

“I think we’ve made a commitment, and I think it’s one of the things the Senate is intending to do and I think the House is and the Governor as well, is to get the beginning pay up to $35,000,” Berger said, not directly addressing the question of veteran teachers, some who had as much as 30 years of experience only receiving a 0.3 percent pay bump last year. Read More