Category Archives: Educational Politics

Vol. #96: NC Budget & Education

After three continuations, there were rumblings Friday evening of a budget deal finally being reached. However, leaders in both houses declined to give any specifics, so we don’t know if the $500 raise or even the $750 one-time bonus discussed for teachers made it in.

Since they haven’t offered to give any details, I thought I’d put a few details and specifics together in an infographic.

NC Budget

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Vol.#85: Toil & Trouble

As testing season soon approaches, visions of #edreform dance like sugar plums in teachers’ heads…

Bubble Bubble

Just one of those that’s been dancing in mine.

Carry on.

Vol.#73: “Turn Out for What?” #ItsOnNov4

October has completely run away from me. A new school, a new curriculum, a new role as department chair, a mentor training program, leading Professional Development sessions and a conference presentation… I completely neglected the “Volumes”.

However, I couldn’t let this week get away without saying my (predictable) piece for getting out there to vote this Tuesday.

In honor of World Teacher Day on October 5th, WalletHub researched the 50 states and DC and ranked them in order of the best and worst states for teachers. Guess who’s dead last at #51? Our legislation denies this reality, even reporting skewed numbers to try to downplay the 25% increase in teacher resignations this past year from the year prior.

Voting is always important. But this Tuesday, it’s crucial for our teachers and the North Carolinian children they serve.

The NCAE website has a form where one can enter his or her address and  receive a list of candidates endorsed by the North Carolina Association of Educators for that region here at ncaevotes.org.  (Spoiler alert: It’s not Thom Tillis)  #ItsOnNov4

What are you turning out for?

Vol.#66: Disrespect & Open Contempt

When Teaching Speaks Volumes gets more traffic than usual, it also typically means I’ve ruffled quite a few feathers. Last week’s post was no exception.

  • “Why don’t you just quit if you don’t like it? “
  • “At least no teacher level will be making *less* money then last year.”
  • “The Democrats/Beth Perdue/previous administrations didn’t do any better. “

Once-again-teachers-areI’m so weary of those who say teachers should just give up the fight (as if many haven’t already) or suggest we have to compromise, as if that’s not what we’ve already been doing all along. And yes: the teacher status in North Carolina has repeatedly fluctuated between mediocre to abysmal to mediocre to abysmal for a long time. As I’ve told those who want to fight “team politics” before,  I don’t see the point in rehashing who did exactly what when in our history. Now… right this moment…the teaching profession is under assault by the current NC policy makers.

Maybe not all teachers are under attack, but teaching as a profession certainly is.

  • Offering raises to the younger teachers, but at the top most  veteran level offering one-third of 1%.
  • Removing longevity pay for those that continue to bring their expertise to NC classrooms
  • No longer advancing salaries for advanced degrees.
  • Attacking tenure which puts teachers under threat of being unfairly fired

Teaching is clearly not respected as a noble profession, or even a profession at all: It’s a “starter job”. You know, like a starter house? They seem to believe it’s what you do when you’re too young or inexperienced to get a “real” job. If you’ve been teaching longer that 20 years, it’s an expensive liability, not a strength.

A-NC-teacher-would-haveAnd honestly, teachers would probably not give two cents what legislators thought, since we don’t think very much of them, except they get to be in charge.

Knowing and understanding nothing about us and what we do, they get to be in charge.

And they are not only ignorant about what we do… but have open contempt for those who do it.

For example, there’s the teacher who was called an idiot on the phone for her transgression of trying to talk about her concerns with State Representative Tim Moore.

And then there’s my own experience with Representative Bob Steinburg this week:Screen Shot 2014-08-04 at 8.32.18 PM

He says the national average of teacher pay doesn’t matter except we’re ranked number 32 now, however if that is true, why would he be so angry in the next sentence that we’re “talking national averages’?  I asked several times for a source backing up this new 32% ranking, but he failed to provide any.

He did, however, post part of our conversation on his own facebook wall and make fun of teachers and how greedy we are with his followers, as I predicted would happen in the very post he’s calling garbage. I’m not a bit surprised that he and Representative Owens talked about teachers in the way I predicted, but I am a little surprised Mr. Steinburg put their contempt for teachers in writing. After all, he won by less than 5,000 votes.

We need to make it very clear that, while they hold teachers’ jobs in their hands as law makers, we all hold their jobs in ours as voters.

Vol.#65: Hocus Pocus Headline

Any NC teacher, parent, or voter who has not read : “The Pay Scale No Politician Wants You to See: How the “largest pay raise in state history” amounts to an average of $270.” by James D. Hogan needs to do so. Now.

Image Credit: Flickr User Xtream_i

Clearly aimed at generating a headline and talking point during re-election this November, the NC GOP has pulled a “please just re-elect us” rabbit out of their hat. They’ve done some “smoke and mirrors” math, such as removing our earned longevity pay (which the other state employees get to keep by the way) and not including that subtraction in the figures as a loss when declaring they gave teachers a 7% raise.

In fact, some teachers will make the same or less.

And as teachers point this out, we’re set up to look greedy and unable to be pleased, since all many voters will hear is the “7% raise” party-line. Even the state paper now has a headline that sets up teachers for blame. (We paid for your raises by cutting all these things – are you happy now?) As seen in the comments section, for some voters the teacher-blame is already in full-swing:

  • “Unbelievable. The GA does more to increase teacher pay than since Jim Hunt was our Governor and you still whine about it.”
  • “Amazing… teachers get the largest salary increase in State history and that is still not enough for some.”

And this misinformed mentality is just what those up for re-election are counting on this November. “We tried to give teachers a raise, but they just can’t be pleased.” *shrug*

Presto-chango: Is this your victim card?

I couldn’t resist making an infographic using some actual facts from Mr. Hogan’s piece above and this News & Observer Editorial:

 NC GOP Budget (2)

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Educators and parents of school-aged children can only hope the NC public is smarter than the NC GOP thinks. Otherwise, they will see what’s left of our dedicated North Carolina teaching force…disappear.

Abraca-flippin-dabra!

Vol. #60: Save Your Wallet Fiscal Conservatives! Invest in Education!

The current misguided philosophy is that tax payers are paying for “results” (ie: standardized testing scores) out of their teachers. Besides the simple fact that standardized tests don’t measure educational quality, it’s approaching the funding of education completely wrong. You are not buying a result, you are investing in one.

Fiscal conservatives, please listen up: Funding education is an investment that will pay you back in spades. And I don’t mean that hippie-dippy, “the world will just be a better place” crap you may not believe in…you will be better off financially.

Consider a few points from this CBS article titled, “High School Dropouts Costly for American Economy””

  • Dropouts cost taxpayers more than $8 billion annually in public assistance programs.
  • Dropouts earn about $10 thousand less a year than workers with diplomas. That’s $300 billion in lost earnings every year.
  • They’re more likely to be unemployed: 15 percent are out of work versus a national average of 9.4 percent.
  • They also are more likely to be incarcerated. Almost 60 percent of federal inmates are high school drop-outs.

I have often heard that for every dollar that is spent in education, we will save ten dollars down the line in the prison system. It doesn’t seem unreasonable, considering this Forbes article titled, “A $5 Children’s Book vs. a $47,000 Jail Cell — Choose One”:

  • “Texas uses fourth grade reading scores to project the number of prison cells they’re going to need 10 years later.”
  • 60% of America’s prison inmates are illiterate
  • 85% of all juvenile offenders have reading problems.
  • It costs approximately $47,000 per inmate per year to keep a young (and relatively healthy) inmate locked up.

 “Can’t Read? Let’s Build You A Prison Cell” says while reading scores to project the numbers of prisons is an urban myth:

“In 2011 the Annie E. Casey Foundation report “Early Warning! Why reading by the end of third grade matters” showed definitively that low-income children who are not reading on grade level by 3rd grades are six times more likely to drop out of high school than their peers are. And low-income children of color who are not at grade level by 3rd grade? Eight times more likely to drop out of high school.”

Meanwhile, my state is cutting teachers’ assistants at those grades to “help” the bottom line. Seems counter-intuitive, doesn’t it?

What does the difference in cost look like to you, the tax payer, in your state?

studentvsprisoner
easel.ly

And just in case you thought it was “different money”…

“Analysis by the National Association of State Budget Officers shows that elementary and high schools receive 73 percent of their state funding from this discretionary fund; colleges and universities count on the fund for half of their budgets. However, $9 out of every $10 that support imprisonment come from the same pot of money.”

Beside the cost of prison, there’s the fact that citizens will be gainfully employed, paying their share of taxes on their higher income, happier and more fulfilled… no, I forgot, we aren’t factoring in that last part.

So, the question is, do you want to spend money to educate a citizen, or what in my state is over three times as much to imprison one?

Which one makes fiscal sense?

VOL.#57: Open Letter to Senator Tillman [GUEST POST]

Screen Shot 2014-04-12 at 7.39.47 PM
Image Credit: flickr user theparadigmshifter

We have discussed the North Carolina General Assembly’s systematic dismantling of NC education from our unacceptable frozen salaries which rank us dead-last nationally over the last decade to the growing mass exodus of NC teachers. 

Are we being heard?

Senator Jerry Tillman [R] is the chair of the Educator Effectiveness and Compensation Task Force. They meet again tomorrow, Monday, April 14th to make their recommendations to the NCGA.

Please contact him and have your voice heard.

One of the great educators from my digital PLN, Pam Lilley, has done just that. She forwarded me her letter, and when asked agreed to let me share it here with you.
~          ~          ~          ~          ~          ~          ~
Senator Tillman,

I am a school library media specialist in Cornelius, North Carolina. I have always had a keen interest in politics in general, though lately my interest has become more focused in the area of educational policy because, obviously, those decisions affect my career, my children’s education, and my bank account.  

As a citizen and mother in North Carolina, I am gravely concerned about the rapid exodus of teachers leaving North Carolina for higher pay in other states.  While I recognize that there are highly qualified teachers such as myself (all “accomplished/distinguished” per this year’s evaluation) who consider North Carolina their home and teaching their calling and refuse to wave the white flag, I completely understand why teachers are leaving at higher rates.  Last summer, in my frustration with the legislation that was passed removing teacher tenure and once again denying teachers a cost-of-living adjustment or step increase, I started a blog to archive teacher resignation letters:  www.resignnc.org Obviously, most teachers don’t go out in a blaze of glory like this and instead leave quietly, not to burn any bridges in case the situation ever does improve here.  But for those brave teachers willing to speak up about why they were leaving, I wanted to create something of a time capsule to the period in which we find ourselves.

Recently, I began thinking about how much this moratorium on teacher pay is costing teachers out of their paychecks.  I appreciate that people such as yourself are trying to come up with a system that you believe teachers such as myself (accomplished/distinguished) will prefer because there is the opportunity to earn more.  I saw from Mr. Baxter’s presentation last week at the task force (via Twitter) that the current salary schedule is over 100 years old.  Indeed, something that old justifies a closer examination of its relevance to the profession of teaching in the 21st century.  The question I keep coming back to is this: if we were to poll every school’s “teacher of the year” or those teachers who got the highest performance evaluation at each school, what would they say?  Obviously, they’re the ones who stand most to benefit from a new pay structure that recognizes and rewards their work.  Yet, I am friends with hundreds (literally) of teachers, many of whom HAVE been teachers of the year at their school and nobody is interested in a model that pays some teachers more than others based on performance and it boils down to the argument I’m sure you’ve heard before: effective school-wide teaching depends on collaboration.  When only so many teachers or a certain percentage of teachers can qualify for the higher pay, that creates a competitive atmosphere.  And if the state were to say that there are no caps and that any teacher who meets or exceeds a proscribed set of criteria gets additional pay, it’s quite likely we would see a replay of the ABC bonuses wherein the criteria was met but the money wasn’t there.  And that gets to the core of the issue: just as legislators clearly do not trust us to do our jobs, we do not trust them to pay what is promised.  You can see this playing out now with the 25% contracts.  Only the first year of the 4-year contract bonuses are funded.  Teachers do not trust that the money will be there beyond that. (Though, obviously, our concerns about those contracts run deeper than the lack of funding).

In the meantime, teachers are making less many than they did 5 years ago.  In fact, I took the time to create a blog post about this a few weeks ago and it’s generated quite a bit of traffic so far: resignnc.org/five-steps-back  I wanted to share it with you.  I am a teacher with 14 years of experience.  I have a master’s degree (required for my position) and national board certification (an experience which truly did make me a better teacher).  I am making $2560 less than a teacher with my EXACT credentials did in 2008.  Over the past five years, I have lost a total of approximately $15,000.  That’s the cost of a new economy car.  That’s a year and a half of tuition at my son’s preschool.  That would pay for 4 years of the Duke TIP camps that my daughter qualifies for but cannot attend because we can’t afford it.

I recognize that these numbers are based on the salary schedule that you and others feel is antiquated but right now it’s the only pay structure we have.  And it’s the salary schedule we agreed to when we signed our contracts years ago.  We have held up our end of the bargain but the state has not.  We recognize that in 2008 the state entered a deep recession and when our pay was frozen the first year, most of us were grateful not to have been furloughed.  But this year when the state cut revenue that could have been used to help teachers in order to instead help the wealthy and corporations, the trust between teachers and legislators hit an all-time low.  And that is why any proposal for a hastily-prepared new salary structure will not be well-received by teachers: we have lost faith that the legislators are doing what’s best for us or for our students. What would it take to open our minds and hearts to something new?  An act of good faith on part of the state to restore our step increases and get our base pay up to the national average.  Then we will know their money is where their mouth is when they say they value education.

Until then, I will continue to collect resignation letters and hope that enough qualified teachers remain to prepare my own children for the future.

Sincerely,

Pam Lilley
Cornelius, NC

Vol.#55: Is the NC Goal “First in Teacher Flight”?

It may be only be six weeks after New Year’s, but already both the state of North Carolina and Wake County have grave concerns about filling the needed teaching positions for next school year.

And so they should.

North Carolina often fills positions from teachers in states like Ohio and New York where turnover is low and teachers can’t find positions. However, with no more pay for advanced degrees in NC, most of those candidates will likely no longer be coming here anymore.

Besides needing to attract teachers, there’s the issue of teacher turnover. NCDPI was concerned enough about this very issue to send a report to the General Assembly. You can read the whole report here, but I’ve compiled a few highlights:


easel.ly

You’ll notice it’s not just that more teachers are leaving, but that more and more tenured, experienced teachers are leaving. The mentors of the beginning teachers. The department chairs. The leadership team members. The teachers any principal needs upon which to build a school.

The concerns the data raise are only the tip of the iceberg for what I feel is impending, based on my front-row view from the classroom trenches.

TeacherXing

For example, of significant note but not yet reflected in this report is the fact that in Wake County alone, the number of teachers who have left specifically to teach in another state have already doubled so far this year from this data last year.

And…it’s still only February.

Also consider this year so far this blog has included:

None of these facts are reflected in the reported data. Yet.

And then, this week a teacher raise for only new teachers was proposed. This conversation, which I’ve been given permission to share with you, should give you some insight into the morale and mindset of North Carolina’s teacher leaders:

facebook quit FINAL

These are some of the best educators in North Carolina classrooms from all over the state. And although I can personally vouch for their exceptionalism as educators, I am certain these sentiments are not exceptional. Conversations like this one are happening on every facebook wall and in every teacher lounge in the state.

Yes, indeed…they should be gravely concerned about the mass exodus coming North Carolina’s way.

first in flight

Vol.#47: Education Infographic Inferences

I learned last week that communicating data via an infographic is a power not to be wielded lightly. The ongoing feedback in the comments had me repeatedly changing and re-editing numbers and phrasing. For example, at the bottom teachers work “more than others” became “more than full-time” because so many commenters seemed to be taking it as a personal judgement on how much they did or did not work in their own jobs.

Back in July, I’d gotten quite a lot of feedback (almost 200 comments) about the infographic on the data of the change in average teaching salaries over a decade, so I wondered: what about an infographic on just the average teachers’ salaries per state? What would that information look like?

The most recent data I found was from 2012, and as I created the high-to low list, I thought I also saw a pattern on how states voted during that same year’s presidential election.

I color-coded the infographic according to those results:


easel.ly

I thought about how NCAE almost always supports the democratic candidate, and I found those who “stood out” like Alaska and New Mexico very interesting. Also, I wondered how much of the “average salary” was higher from retention of experienced teachers (particularly abysmal in my own state of North Carolina) or other factors outside of education specifically, such as the general cost-of-living. For example, even though Hawaii is in the top half of the states for a teacher’s average salary, according to at least one source the “comfort index” on that salary is actually the lowest in the nation due to how expensive it is to live there.

What do you infer from this data?

Vol.#45: Why Doesn’t George Clooney Have to Deal With This Crap?

It was September 2000. My first year teaching. Greenville County, South Carolina.

A math teacher on my hall, whose name escapes me now, left on maternity leave. The woman they got to sub for her was a parent of one of the seventh-graders at the school. She had been a fairly prominent and successful businesswoman, running a major division of IBM up until she’d had her son. After staying home with him for the first 12 years of his life, she thought substitute teaching would be a great slow start back into the workforce.

Exactly. I hear you all laughing right now and I share in your chuckle.

What I remember so clearly about this woman was her way of explaining how overwhelmingly demanding teaching is as compared to a job in the business world:

When I worked for IBM, my job was to make phone calls, process paperwork, make contacts, and have meetings. Now as a teacher, I still have to do all of these things. I need to plan lessons. I need to call parents. I need to process paperwork. I need to grade stacks of papers. I need to meet with other teachers, with parents, and with administrators. However, very little time during my day is available for me to actually do any of the that large part of my job. Teachers have a 9-to-5 job’s worth of work to do, and they can’t get any of it done from 7:30 to 3:00.

Coming from the business world, this seemed to really shock her. If you’re a teacher reading this, you’re nodding and smiling (or rolling your eyes) as you already know what she was just learning: Teachers are almost always “on” for their audience. They rarely sit at a desk and work. They are constantly meeting students’ needs: moving and teaching and coaching and intervening and quite often forgoing sitting for lunch or taking restroom breaks. Their own tasks and goals must wait.

However, this concept of a teacher’s time during the day seems to elude the public at large, with common comments like: “It must be so nice to be done by 3 o’clock.” and “I emailed you this morning, but I haven’t gotten a response from you yet.”

I can’t help but wonder: Why doesn’t George Clooney have to deal with this crap? Is anyone under the impression that he spent the exact 116 minutes it takes to view Ocean’s Eleven to actually make it? No. The American public understands that a movie takes months or even years to make those two hours. However, they fail to understand that the teacher – who’s paid dirt compared to Hollywood – is also working under a misleading ratio of time-in and quality product-out.

Teachers are not compensated for most if not all of the time they put in preparing innovative lessons. Sure, a teacher could just “phone it in” and not spend as much extra time on lesson planning. A teacher that just gives textbook work and worksheets? That’s what that looks like. Few educators, however, want to be a C-list or D-list teacher. Many educators strive to be A-list, putting their hearts into a quality product well after the school bell has rung.

And while I am sure teachers put in time outside the scheduled day the world over, the United States compensates its teachers particularly poorly for our time demands compared to other countries:

Source: http://master-degree-online.com/files/2011/04/a-teachers-worth-around-the-world1-e1303099013770.jpg
Source: http://master-degree-online.com/files/2011/04/a-teachers-worth-around-the-world1-e1303099013770.jpg

So our society either needs to:

  • recognize innovation, collaboration, and all things that make professional education great by valuing how much time and effort outside the classroom is required,

– or –

  • acknowledge that we have set up a system that is okay with exhausting teachers to the point of mediocrity.

With the current climate, I may be asking too much just with verbs like ‘recognize’ and ‘acknowledge’, but I intend to aim high…

Writing Volumes About Teaching Whist Learning Volumes About Teaching

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