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The once semi-prevalent illusion that the charter school movement is somehow about aiding public education and not just privatizing it continues to fall apart. The latest confirmation comes from the Wilmington Star-News which which has still more news on the stubborn and absurd refusal of charter school chain owned by conservative power broker Baker Mitchell to release information on the salaries it pays its staff:

“The nonprofit Charter Day School Inc. has yet to comply fully with media requests for the salaries of its employees.

Missing from the list school officials released Friday are 33 employees – including headmasters, assistant headmasters and many lead teachers at Charter Day School in Leland, Columbus Charter School in Whiteville and Douglass Academy in Wilmington. Read More

NC Budget and Tax Center

Local communities across North Carolina are already feeling the impact of recent tax policies and budget decisions made by state policymakers. A recent news article quotes a Pitt County commissioner lamenting disapproval with the state pushing off on local governments what they should be funding. Indeed, the tax plan passed last year results in self-imposed budget challenges today that will continue for years ahead, resulting in continued state funding cuts to core public investments that serve as the foundation of economic prosperity.

We at the Budget & Tax Center have traditionally talked about the net revenue loss under the tax plan, but that masks something important that happened when policymakers overhauled the tax code. The tax plan passed last year shifts responsibility for funding core public investments to local governments, in part, by recapturing some of the shared revenue from state sources that went to local governments to meet their obligations.

One example of this shift was the decision to repeal and eliminate the allocation of a portion of corporate income tax revenue dedicated to the School Capital Building Fund (SCB Fund), created in the late 1980s to assist local governments in meeting their public school building capital and technology equipment needs. Prior to the tax change, a portion of revenue generated from the state corporate income tax went to the SCB Fund. That practice ends under the tax plan. Over the next five years, this tax change takes away $382 million from local governments who used the revenue to improve education facilities in their communities. Read More

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Michael Cowin, Assistant Superintendent of Finance for Pitt County Schools, had some startling words for Pitt County School Board members last week, when he presented them with the Senate’s 2014 budget proposal for education.

“It appears that the Senate’s version of the budget proposes salary increases for teachers as a pawn in a political game that allows certain areas of education to be put on the chopping block.”

The Senate budget would cut 117 teacher assistants (TAs) from Pitt County schools, increase class sizes in second and third grades to eliminate 12 teaching positions, reduce the transportation budget by $300,000, and cut five school nurses from the district’s schools – an overall reduction of $5 million in state funding.

“It’s saying these areas aren’t needed,” said Cowin. “We need to promote to our legislative group the importance of teacher assistants in all areas, and not to be using such areas as leverage in a political game.”

Cowin also notes a key conflicting element contained in the Senate budget proposal – drastically cutting TAs while putting $300,000 into the Read to Achieve program, which relies on TAs to administer reading assessments that determine third graders’ reading proficiency.

Watch this cut of the video to see Cowin’s presentation and Board members’ reactions, who applauded Cowin for his courage to stand up and call out the Senate proposal as he saw it – a political game.

You can watch the entire Pitt County school board meeting from last week here.

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common-coreIf you missed it yesterday, be sure to read Lindsay Wagner’s story , “State Board of Education’s authority weakened with legislation that replaces Common Core,” over on the main Policy Watch site. It’s an extremely informative piece that explains the latest developments in North Carolina’s never-ending political game of legislative micromanagement of public schools.

As Wagner reports, lawmakers are poised to repeal the state’s involvement in the Common Core State Standards because of the standards’ supposed widespread unpopularity amongst parents and educators. (There was more action today.) Notwithstanding the fact that the proponents are likely wrong — at least about the attitudes of educators — here’s the part of the story that especially deserves to be highlighted:

It is not Common Core that’s really causing the widespread unrest being felt in many public schools these days as students, teachers and parents deal with the explosion of high-stakes tests. This from Wagner’s story: Read More

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This morning’s Charlotte Observer has an excellent editorial on Judge Robert Hobgood’s recent decision that at least partially strikes down the counter-productive law passed last year that would end teacher career status:

“Last week we urged lawmakers to ditch this law during their short session that’s under way. We repeat that today. Time and tax dollars are being wasted in litigation.

If the past is an indicator, lawmakers are likely to appeal, as they’ve done with other court rulings on controversial laws they passed last year. But it is wrong to string this matter out with more legal action. The law was a wrongheaded move – and an unnecessary one.

Proponents contended that the new law, set to go into effect in 2018, was needed to ensure that bad teachers could be removed from the classroom. They argued that the current system protected poor performers.

Hogwash. Bad teachers could be fired before this law. The current system, in place since 1971, only guaranteed educators a hearing.

Hobgood’s ruling now reiterates that fact.

Unfortunately, this injunction applies only to teachers who already have career status. Teachers without such status – which is granted to those who made it beyond the first four years of a probationary period – are not covered.

Lawmakers should give up this fight. But if they won’t, they should suspend the process for teachers not covered by this injunction until litigation is done.

A two-tiered system where some teachers have hearing rights that others do not would compound the bad legislative decision a judge has now rightly upended.”

Read the entire editorial by clicking here.