News

N.C. lawmaker to propose bill excluding teacher pay from public records

EducationCourtesy of Ed NC’s Alex Granados, N.C. Rep. Paul Stam, a Republican from Wake County who served as one of the primary sponsors on yesterday’s highly controversial anti-LGBT bill, is expected to file legislation soon that includes a sweeping set of changes for teacher and administrator pay and certification.

The bill has not been filed yet, but Stam passed out a copy of its key points to members of the legislature’s Selection Committee on Education Strategy and Practices Thursday morning.

Based on Stam’s presentation, the bill would declare individual teacher pay to no longer be public record. With lawmakers expected to consider differentiated pay scales, Stam says it would curb jealousy among school teachers.

While the proposal does not mention public records exclusions on administrator pay, Stam indicated the legislation would limit administration severance packages to one year’s salary and bonus in order to place restrictions on ballooning administrator deals across the state.

The proposal would also open up teaching without a license to individuals with a master’s or doctorate degree in a certain content area.

Additionally, Stam’s bill speeds teacher certification for the spouses of active duty military personnel and axes the “break in service” designation that educators say can lead to lower salaries for teachers who move into administration.

More on this legislation as it develops.

Commentary

Editorial: State Supreme Court should bust tenure-busting law for teachers

The Fayetteville Observer gets it right with an editorial blasting the anti-teacher law that would transform all state educators into, in effect, “temps.” The law, which stands as one of the real signature “achievements” of conservative rule in North Carolina these past five years, is now before the state Supreme Court. Here’s the Observer:

“The battle over tenure for North Carolina teachers reached the state Supreme Court this week. We hope the justices will put this misbegotten piece of punitive legislation out of its misery.

The law, passed by the General Assembly in 2013, stripped teachers’ ability to earn “career status” after four years of satisfactory performance. Lawmakers mischaracterized it as tenure, saying it prevented school districts from firing incompetent teachers.

The truth is, if school districts use it as an excuse to keep lousy teachers in the classroom, it’s their own fault. The law specifically empowers administrators to fire bad teachers for reasons including poor performance, insubordination and immorality.”

After noting that Attorney General Cooper is, regrettably, defending the inane law, the editorial concludes this way:

“As the teachers’ association lawyer responded, if lawmakers really wanted to improve the quality of teaching in the state’s classrooms, they could have raised the performance criteria teachers must meet to keep their jobs.

We’d like to see the General Assembly do just that, instead of simply attacking anything that looks remotely like a union – a theme that has run through a considerable body of legislation for the past three years.

That, in truth, is what the tenure battle is about. Even though there are no public-employee unions in North Carolina – they’re already banned by law – lawmakers appear determined to rid the state of any protection that looks even remotely union-ish. Hence a war on a tenure status that doesn’t exist.

Teachers have earned what little job protection they do have. In fact, it was promised to them as a benefit of their employment. That’s why the court should strike down this law.”

Commentary

Editorial: Conservative policies led directly to declining interest in teaching profession

An editorial in this morning’s edition of Raleigh’s News & Observer (“In NC a teacher shortage develops by design”) tells it like it is:

“One would have thought, when Republican lawmakers raised starting teacher pay in North Carolina to $35,000, that they’d marched into classrooms in North Carolina with sacks of gold and silver. Of course, that salary is hardly a king’s ransom, and teachers with more experience didn’t fare so well. The state remains in the bottom half of the country in teacher compensation.

Teachers also are skeptical of these GOP lawmakers, who have so cheated public education at all levels and undermined conventional public schools with a too-rapid expansion of charter schools and public “scholarships” for children in private schools.

So it should come as no surprise that enrollment in the 15 schools of education in the public university system has dropped – by 30 percent since 2010.

This forecasts a deepening teacher shortage in North Carolina, one that will impact tens of thousands of families.”

After refuting the notion that the decline is driven merely by the fact that young people are more interested in “making a lot of money as opposed to making a difference,” the editorial concludes this way:

“Republicans are going to reap what they sowed with their lackluster support of public education. Unfortunately, the rest of us are going to reap it, too. When there are not enough teachers to get the job done, and classrooms are overloaded and children are being deprived, the political rhetoric from the GOP about lowering taxes on the wealthy and big business for the good of North Carolina isn’t going to pass muster with the people of North Carolina, who support more investment in public education.”

The bottom line: Would-be teachers have eyes and ears. They see and hear how low the morale is amongst a large percentage of current educators — not just because of low pay, but also because of the Right’s multi-front attack on the profession and public education generally. Plenty of people are willing to make sacrifices to become teachers, but understandably, fewer and fewer are willing to endure the constant attacks on the very idea of public education (e.g. the effort to eliminate their professional association, the derisive drumbeat of attacks on “government schools,” the deceptive snake oil “competition” provided by unaccountable voucher and charter schools, the efforts by the religious right to dismantle the teaching of actual science).

Sadly, despite the crocodile tears being shed in some corners, the new numbers are exactly what the ideologues on the right had in mind decades ago when they commenced their effort to dismantle and privatize our public schools. It’s going to take sustained commitment over the next couple of decades for caring and thinking people to roll back the tide.

Commentary

Teacher pens open letter, op-ed defending public education

Forsyth County high school teacher Stuart Egan has a couple of “must reads” you should check out this morning.

Number One is this open letter from the main N.C. Policy Watch site to State Rep. Paul Stam in which he dissects some of Stam’s recent comments about what’s needed in our public schools. Here’s Egan on Stam’s call to evaluate teachers and pay the “best” ones more:

“You said in the interview that ‘we do not pay our best teachers enough and we pay our ‘unbest’ teachers too much.’

I have not really heard the terms ‘best’ and ‘unbest’ used on actual teacher evaluations and would very much like to hear what how such labels might be applied in the real world. But I believe you are touching on teacher effectiveness and teacher evaluations as currently measured by the state.

The problem with teacher evaluation processes in the state of North Carolina is that they are arbitrary at best. No one single protocol has been used to measure teacher effectiveness in your tenure as a legislator. That’s because there has not been one that accurately reflects teacher performance. In fact, during your tenure in Raleigh we have switched curriculum and evaluation protocols multiple times. It seems that teachers are always having to measure up to ever-changing standards that no one can seem to make stand still, much less truly evaluate.”

Click here to read the rest of of the letter.

Number Two is an op-ed in this morning’s Winston-Salem Journal debunking the hokum state leaders have been peddling on the subject of vouchers and charter schools. Again, here’s Egan::

“The original idea for charter schools was a noble one. Diane Ravitch, in ‘Reign of Error,’ states that these schools were designed to seek ‘out the lowest-performing students, the dropouts, and the disengaged, then ignite their interest in education’ in order ‘to collaborate and share what they had learned with their colleagues and existing schools.’

But those noble intentions have been replaced with profit-minded schemes. Read more

Commentary, News

Not a very Merry Christmas for a lot of NC teachers

The fact that lots of North Carolina public school teachers have to work at second jobs after the school day is over to make ends meet is not a new story. All across North Carolina, parents, students and administrators regularly encounter teachers working cash registers and mopping floors during the evening hours in an effort to earn extra cash to supplement their frequently pitiful salaries.

The holiday season — a time during which teachers ought to be recharging their batteries in preparation for the New Year — is a time, however, during which this phenomenon is especially widespread and poignant. Reporter Stephanie Carson at Public News Service has the story:

“RALEIGH, N. C. – During your holiday shopping, you may have bumped into your child’s teacher working in a seasonal retail job.

According to many teachers, in most cases it’s not just to earn mad money or take advantage of an employee discount. The average teacher’s salary in North Carolina is slightly more than $45,000 a year, with some making as little as $30,000.

Christina Burchette, a science teacher at a North Carolina school, said she has to work at a retail job to pay her bills.

“I’d love to spend more time doing things for my students – spend more time tutoring them, spend more time on lesson plans and things like that,” Burchette said. “But I’m not able to, because I do have to work a second job in order to pay my bills.”

Beginning teachers recently received a small pay raise, but many others got a one-time $750 bonus in lieu of a 2 percent pay raise.

This year, the state had a $400 million surplus.

North Carolina now ranks 47th nationwide when it comes to teacher pay. Burchette says while many citizens claim to value the state’s teachers, few people are willing to fight for action.

“I have a Master’s degree and I don’t feel like I should have a second or third job with that, if it’s something that North Carolina, or our country, really values,” she said.

According to the state Department of Public Instruction, the teacher turnover rate for last school year was almost 15 percent. That’s up for 11 percent in the 2010-2011 school year.”

Click here to read the story at the Public News Service website.