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GTNThis summer, approximately 450 teachers in North Carolina could receive $10,000 bonuses if they are selected for the Governor’s Teacher Network (GTN), a federally funded initiative that will ask teachers to share their best work around instruction and professional development in exchange for a pay bump.

Gov. Pat McCrory, along with the NC Department of Public Instruction, established GTN with funds from the federal Race to the Top grant. Teachers who apply and are selected to participate in GTN will serve for one year as Race to the Top-aligned instructional and professional development experts, in addition to their normal teaching duties.

Applicants are expected to submit project proposals, which could include developing professional development sessions and materials, or creating unit plans, lesson plans and assessments for the state’s Home Base system, a suite of web-based technology tools designed to elevate teaching.

“The Governor’s Teacher Network is a fantastic opportunity for teacher leaders to offer their very best thinking and expertise to support their peers across the state,” said Gov. McCrory in a press release. “Their work will directly result in North Carolina teachers having access to more resources that will help them help students achieve at greater levels.  Best of all, these resources will be designed for NC teachers, by NC teachers.”

The proposal sounds similar to a plan McCrory floated last summer, when he announced his intention to use $30 million of Race to the Top funds for an Education Innovation Fund that would reward 1,000 top teachers with $10,000 stipends. That proposal was met with criticism by State Board of Education members at a meeting shortly after his announcement. Read More

Open-letter2011One of the many “make-do-with-less,” “up-by-their-bootstraps” creations of the modern public education system in North Carolina is something known as the “school improvement team” or “S.I.T.” These are simple, common sense groups created by state law that include “the principal of each school, representatives of the assistant principals, instructional personnel, instructional support personnel, and teacher assistants assigned to the school building, and parents of children” and that have the eminently reasonable and unsurprising objective of improving schools.

Recently and much to the group’s credit, the School Improvement Team at Chapel Hill’s Culbreth Middle School (a bipartisan group, by the way) crafted an open letter to Gov. McCrory about the state of education in North Carolina and the state’s dwindling investments. We offer it here as a potential inspiration to other dedicated S.I.T.’s around the state:

“Dear Governor McCrory,

The bipartisan School Improvement Team at Culbreth Middle School respectfully requests that you act in the best interests of all North Carolina’s children by advocating for a greater investment in public education.

After years of bipartisan failure to increase their salaries, North Carolina’s teachers are paid $10,000 below the national average.  Many of our teachers struggle to support their families and must devote time to second jobs to make ends meet.  Read More

Shell gameHundreds of school administrators gathered in Raleigh yesterday to review the state of public education and, not surprisingly, Gov. McCrory dodged the event and sent an assistant to what promised to be a not-terribly-friendly venue. That former Gov. Jim Hunt was speaking (he got a standing ovation at one point) probably helped guarantee that the Guv would have a “conflict” and decline the invitation to appear.

Another probable reason for sending aide Eric Guckian was the message he was forced to deliver — namely, that things are unlikely to improve in the education funding department anytime soon. According to AP reporter Emery Dalesio’s story, any significant improvements in educator pay beyond the bumps recently proposed for starting teachers will take “years” and will only occur “if state finances allow” — i.e. when Budget Director Pope assents. In other words, the beatings will continue until morale improves.

Of course, this is an absurd and utterly dishonest position. North Carolina could easily have a great deal of money to address many important needs (including the abysmal pay it provides to teachers and many other state employees) if McCrory and legislative leaders had merely chosen not to slash taxes on wealthy individuals and profitable corporations in recent years to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars.

Simply put, the administration’s rap is like that of a father with a gambling or drinking addiction who refuses to make eye contact as he tells his family that there will be no new clothes or shoes this year because “finances are tight.” No wonder the Guv found something else to do yesterday.

Last night, Buncombe County joined a growing list of school districts that have passed resolutions rejecting the state’s new teacher contract system, which awards 4-year contracts to the top 25% of teachers (how those teachers are chosen is unclear) in exchange for relinquishing their tenure rights early.

From the Citizen-Times:

“The Board believes that retroactively removing career status from those teachers who have already obtained it may unconstitutionally interfere with employment contracts legally issued by the Board,” the resolution states.

The resolution also claims that the language in the 25 percent mandate is “vague and subject to multiple, inconsistent interpretations.

“The 25 percent mandate fails as a ‘merit-based’ pay initiative in that teachers had no prior notice of the criteria necessary to earn additional compensation.”

“I’m glad we’re taking this bold first step,” board member Lisa Baldwin said. “I want to challenge the board to go further.”

Buncombe County joins 15 other school districts in rejecting the merits of the 25% teacher contracts. Guilford and Durham counties have gone a step further, filing a lawsuit challenging the new teacher contract system and the dissolution of teacher tenure, also known as career status.

A full list of the local school districts that have passed resolutions rejecting the teacher contracts, with links to their resolutions, can be found on NCAE’s website here.

Pat McCrory 4Let’s hope Gov. Pat McCrory’s latest statements on teacher pay (namely that he wants a “long-term strategy” that will lead to pay hikes for all teachers in both K-12 and higher education) reflect an attitude and policy shift for the administration rather than just another example of the governor talking out of both sides of his mouth and telling an audience what it wants to hear in measured and backtrackable terms.

It’s got to be one or the other, however, because it certainly isn’t what McCrory and his allies have been fighting for over the last several years. Indeed, it’s one of the biggest and most under-reported scandals of present-day North Carolina politics that the governor and conservative legislative leaders have repeatedly been allowed by a distracted news media to lament the fact that teacher salaries have been essentially frozen for years.

Earth to Governor McCrory, Speaker Tillis and Senate President Berger: Read More