There is a Public School Crisis Alright – But it Has Nothing to Do with Unacceptable Teacher Pay

TEACHER PROTEST DAY in RALEIGH - Pic

by Diane Rufino, May 3, 2019

On Wednesday, May 1 (“May Day”), teachers all across the state ignored their responsibility to educate our children and met in Raleigh at the state legislature buildings to pressure the General Assembly for a list of demands. Under the guise of addressing a crisis in education or wanting to provide a better education for North Carolina children, the teachers, dressed in red shirts, descended on the legislative buildings to speak with legislators, to walk around simply to make their presence known, and to congregate outside on the commons to listen to speakers convince them that they continue to be neglected and mistreated.

In an article he wrote in Real Clear Education, Terry Stoops wrote:

For a second year, those aligned with the North Carolina Association of Educators (NCAE) insist on creating school-day hardship for hundreds of thousands of parents and kids. They’re taking delight in their disruption, keeping a tally of closed public school districts for the aptly named “All Out for Public Education” demonstration. Each new addition is cheered. “So why shut down the schools?” asks an activist in an April 21 letter to the editor of the Raleigh News & Observer. “To tell the state and the nation that there is a public school crisis right now in our state.”

That’s true. But our crisis has little to do with the list of demands union officials have published in advance of the walkout. Those who think so have sadly missed the point of being an educator. Look into the eyes of a child who can’t read her book or solve her math equation, and you will come face to face with North Carolina’s education crisis. Student achievement is dismal and has been for years. NCAE/NEA demands for money and power will do little to improve the achievement prospects for these fragile kids.   [Terry Stoops, “Teacher Walkout Ignores North Carolina’s Crisis of Student Achievement,” April 29, 2019]

Mr. Stoops is correct. The North Carolina Association of Educators (NCAE), the state affiliate of the National Education Association (NEA) which is the country’s largest teacher union, together with Progress North Carolina, organized the Teacher Rally Day to push for a set of issues, including their progressive socialist agenda. Note that May 1 (again “May Day”) was the date chosen in the late 19th century for International Workers’ Day by the Socialists and Communists, and then chosen as Workers’ Day in the US.

The priority issues being pushed by the NCAE, teachers, and Progress North Carolina are as follows (word-for-word from a memo sent to legislators):

  • Provide enough school librarians, psychologists, social workers, counselors, nurses, and other health professionals to meet national professional-to-student standards.
  • Provide $15 minimum wage for all school personnel, 5% raise for all ESP’s (non-certified staff), teachers, administrators, and a 5% cost-of-living adjustment for retirees;
  • Expand Medicaid to improve the health of our students and families;
  • Reinstate state retiree health benefits eliminated by the General Assembly in 2017;
  • Restore advanced degree compensation stripped by the General Assembly in 2013.

NOTE: In MY day, when public education was still a huge success, there was one nurse per high school, one librarian, and a few academic/college counselors. That was it! Also, it should be noted that an analyst from the John Locke Society was at the rally and found the Medicaid expansion demand to be disingenuine. He said it is not likely at all that any student or family will benefit from Medicaid expansion.

And let’s look at the demand for increased compensation for a Master’s Degree in Education… I can speak to this with experience for I have such a Master’s Degree. The degree is a joke and what I learned to earn the degree was mostly progressive nonsense, crap, and more crap. There was nothing I learned that would have made me a better teacher or that would have benefitted any student in any of my classes. In fact, often I thought the lessons were intentionally seeking to make me a worse teacher, to dumb down my lessons, and to lessen my expectations from students with respect to academics. I thought it a joke that a teacher with such a useless degree should expect to receive higher pay. Here is what Mr. Stoops wrote about it:

The NCAE also demands the state legislature restore advanced degree compensation discontinued in 2013, a reform supported by decades of empirical research that consistently found teachers with master’s degrees were no more effective than those without. Rather than reward a select group of teachers with the credential, lawmakers in the Republican legislative majority redirected that funding to boost teacher pay for all teachers. After five consecutive years of base salary increases, North Carolina’s average teacher salary reached nearly $54,000 this year, a 20 percent increase over that period. At the same time, state-funded health insurance and pension contributions have surged. A sixth consecutive teacher pay hike is almost guaranteed.  [Ibid]

Republican legislators were prepared for the teachers and for the union demands. Most were not going to take them seriously, and for good reason. First, they disapproved of their tactic. Why would they plan a day of action during the school year, on a school day, when most schools are already behind in calendar school days on account of last fall’s hurricane Florence? Some schools were closed up to a full month. If they were planning a day to pressure the legislature for items that benefit THEM (not a single one would benefit students or improve the education of a single student), why didn’t they pick a day on THEIR time – say in June or July when the legislature would still be in session?

For the luxury of going to Raleigh on Wednesday to pressure the General Assembly for more money, over 1 million children, two-thirds of the public school students in North Carolina, were told to stay home, creating untold hardships for parents that had to forgo hourly wages to care for their children on what SHOULD have been a typical instructional day.

Second of all, the Republican-majority legislature has been very good to the teachers over the years, giving them a pay increase six times. A seventh pay increase is being proposed for this legislative session as well.

And so this was the approach that these Republican legislators took:

(1) On every floor of the legislative buildings, and at every corner and sitting area, there were very large boards propped up on easels, that reminded teachers that the legislature has already given them 6 pay increases (while the Democrat-controlled legislature not only did NOT increase their pay, but reduced their pay three times).

(2) On the tables in every single sitting area, and in the cafeteria, and on the chairs out in the halls, there were colored hand-out sheets titled “TEACHER PAY FACTS” to remind teachers of the TRUTH about North Carolina’s raising of teacher salaries and WHICH PARTY was responsible for it. (the facts, by the way, come from: www.ncteacherraise.com)

(3) Some legislators took the position that if the schools were closed in their district so teachers could travel to Raleigh, thus denying students an opportunity to be in school to learn, then they would absolutely REFUSE to support any of their issues and would vote against a seventh pay increase.

Here is the list of schools (public and charter schools) that closed on Wednesday for the Teacher Rally (aka, “teacher work day”).

▪ Alamance-Burlington Schools: 22,734 students

▪ Asheville City Schools: 4,317 students

▪ Bertie County: 2,104 students

▪ Brunswick County: 12,471 students

▪ Cabarrus County: 33,008 students

▪ Carter Community (charter school): 251 students

▪ Central Park School For Children (charter school): 629 students

▪ Chapel Hill-Carrboro: 12,307 students

▪ Charlotte-Mecklenburg: 147,406 students

▪ Chatham County: 8,833 students

▪ Cumberland County: 50,073 students

▪ Davie County: 6,110 students

▪ Durham County: 32,356 students

▪ Exploris Charter School: 454 students

▪ Franklin County: 8,119 students

▪ Global Scholars Academy (charter school): 215 students

▪ Guilford County: 71,413 students

▪ Hertford County: 2,725 students

▪ Hickory City: 4,077 students

▪ Hoke County: 8,758 students

▪ Iredell-Statesville Schools: 20,236 students

▪ IC imagine (charter school): 1,034 students

▪ Johnston County: 36,360 students

▪ Kannapolis City Schools: 5,438 students

▪ Lee County: 9.855 students

▪ Lexington City Schools: 2,983 students

▪ Maureen Joy Charter: 638 students

▪ Mooresville Graded School District: 5,980 students

▪ Nash Rocky Mount Schools: 14,801 students

▪ New Hanover County: 25,719 students

▪ Orange County Schools: 7,300 students

▪ PAVE Southeast Raleigh (charter school): 380 students

▪ Pitt County: 23,358 students

▪ Raleigh Charter High School: 563 students

▪ Robeson County: 21,673 students

▪ Rolesville Charter Academy: 578 students

▪ Thomasville City Schools: 2,273 students

▪ Vance County: 5,515 students

▪ Wake Forest Charter Academy: 767 students

▪ Wake County: 160,471 students

▪ Wayne County: 18,223 students

▪ Weldon City Schools: 794 students

▪ Wilson County: 9,041 students

▪ Winston Salem/Forsyth: 53,805 students

***  That’s a lot of students being denied a opportunity to learn and denied a rightful expectation of being educated.

Here are some facts about NC Teacher Pay that most people don’t know (including the teachers):

  • The average teacher salary in 2018-2019 is $53,975
  • North Carolina is ranked second highest in teacher pay in the southeast
  • There have been 6 pay increases, but 5 of them were consecutive increases.
  • North Carolina has the third fastest-rising teacher pay raises in the country
  • The average pay raise for teachers since 2013 is $8,600
  • The average percentage pay increase since 2013 is 19%
  • The average pay increase that Governor Cooper vetoed is 9.5%
  • The increase in the lifetime earning potential of a North Carolina teacher since 2013 is $237,200

People would support teachers in their appeals to the General Assembly if those appeals actually had anything to do with the real crisis in education, which is substandard academic performance (probably related to substandard teaching, or poor curriculum standards). The crisis is not in the state’s treatment of teachers or its funding of teachers. Terry Stoops breaks down the problem in clear terms:

Results from state achievement tests administered last year show that only 56% of elementary and middle school students were proficient in math, and just 57% were proficient in reading. Since 2014, math proficiency has increased by just over 5 percentage points, but reading has gained only a single percentage point. And that’s not the worst of it. A mere 42% of economically disadvantaged elementary and middle school students are proficient in reading, and around the same percentage reached math proficiency. Shockingly, only around four of 10 African-American students in elementary and middle school grades are proficient in reading and math. Within both these subgroups, far fewer earn scores that equate to college and career readiness. Think of what’s ahead – and not ahead — for these boys and girls as they become men and women. [Ibid]

The teachers assembled in Raleigh in red shirts and adopted as their rally logo the iconic “clenched fist.” Is there some hidden meaning? Or maybe it’s simply quite clear. They combined the color red (the color of communism) with the favorite symbol of revolution (resistance!) and communism.

Conservative organizations are urging teachers to “walk-away” from the union – from the NCAE. Parents just want their kids to be taught successfully and to have teachers who put kids and education first rather than their own agenda.

 

References:

List of schools closed for Teacher Rally in Raleigh – https://www.newsobserver.com/news/politics-government/article229063454.html#storylink=cpy

Terry Stoops, “Teacher Walkout Ignores North Carolina’s Crisis of Student Achievement,” Real Clear Education, April 29, 2019. Referenced at: https://www.realcleareducation.com/articles/2019/04/29/teacher_walkout_ignores_north_carolinas_crisis_of_student_achievement__110324.html?blm_aid=35853&blm_aid=41423

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About forloveofgodandcountry

I'm originally from New Jersey where I spent most of my life. I now live in North Carolina with my husband and 4 children. I'm an attorney
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2 Responses to There is a Public School Crisis Alright – But it Has Nothing to Do with Unacceptable Teacher Pay

  1. Nicole F Smith says:

    Thank God for our right to free speech! You can freely give your opinion and that of the Locke Foundation! As a teacher, I can also peacefully assemble to address funding decisions which are often made before my students get out of school for the summer. I disagree with your reasoning, but it is your right.

    • Thank you very much for your comments. And you are right, we can agree to disagree. I should mention that I spent many years as a teacher and just recently stepped away because of frustration with a school system that cares far too little about the actual education of students. I know I might be somewhat prejudiced by this personal experience but I didn’t hear anything from teachers about how to improve the quality of teaching and educating students and to improve the competency success rate.

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