Join us for a Day of Action May 1, 2019. 700 S. Salisbury St. Raleigh. 9am - 5pm.

It has been a week of big announcements related to public education. Suddenly, Senate leader, Phil Berger seems interested in public education. On Monday, April 1 (we wondered if it would be an April Fools’ Day joke), Senator Berger, Superintendent Johnson and some others announced changes to Read to Achieve. This falls under Senate Bill 438, the Excellent Public Schools Act of 2019. The News & Observer reports these changes:

▪ K-3 teachers developing individual reading plans for students who are not reading at grade level;
▪ The state Department of Public Instruction developing a Digital Children’s Reading Initiative so parents can find resources online to help their children read;
▪ DPI developing a model curriculum, based on what some districts say is working, that can be used statewide;
▪ Revising training standards for teachers to promote early childhood literacy;
▪ Requiring school districts to get approval from DPI for their summer reading camp plans.
The bill also tries to improve the quality of the teachers who work at the camps by offering $2,000 to retired educators who come back to work for the summer. Teachers who’ve gotten reading bonuses based on their students’ scores would get extra credits toward keeping their teaching license if they work in the camps.

I am so happy they are making changes to Read to Achieve including focusing more on instruction with a plan to catch and address deficits in the early grades instead of focusing mostly on assessment. However, after recent reports that students have not made gains in reading since it was started in 2012, I am wondering if after more than six years and $150 million if it is too little too late. Supposedly, they will model the updated Read to Achieve after best practices in other states. Read more here.

(Speaking of assessment, HB 377 passed the house last week with the goal of reducing testing. SB 621 was introduced this week also. NC lawmakers say they want to reduce student testing. Can they agree on a plan?)

Well that’s not all Superintendent Johnson had up his sleeve this week. On Wednesday, April 3,  there was another special announcement made jointly between Superintendent Johnson, Senators Ballard and Tillman, and Representatives Elmore and Horne. The announcement was about SB 580, Classroom Supplies to Teachers which would give $400 to each classroom teacher. The catch is that to do this, about $37 million would be taken out of school district budgets. The timing on this would actually be great, schools and classrooms are always short on supplies and teachers often pay out of pocket to get materials their students need. However, this legislation falls many dollars short because we actually needed more dollars instead of having dollars just shifted around. Read more here and here about how this bill falls short. The Classroom Supplies to Teachers bill seems a lot like the class size chaos problem. People generally thought lowering class size was a good thing, but not funding the mandate was a problem. Now flash forward to present day. Generally, giving each teacher $400 for supplies seems like a good idea until you realize, it isn’t properly funded.

While we are discussing too little too late, let’s revisit SB 399 Re-Hire High Needs Teachers.This bill (by the way, Senator Berger is one of the sponsors) would allow retired teachers to return to work in high-need schools without adversely impacting the retired teachers’ benefits. Read more here. Stu Egan, veteran teacher and author of Caffeinated Rage, wrote:

I have to ask, why has the NCGA gone out of its way to not treat veteran teachers respectfully?
But more than that, why has the NCGA gone out of its way to make sure that there will not be as many veteran teachers or even retirees in the future when they are “our best teachers?" Remember this is the same NCGA that removed graduate degree pay, removed career status, removed investment in applying for national boards, removed health benefits for new hires, and complains about the pension system already in place for teachers. . . . So, to those who files this bill, if this sentiment that we veteran teachers are really the best, then could you share that with the other members of the NCGA who have been rather negligent of us.

Remember how the NCGA gave a “historic raise” by eliminating longevity pay? (Read more here.) Also, veteran teachers have disproportionately been left out when it comes to raises. (Read more here.) Could we be a day late and a dollar short when we say veteran teachers are “our best?”

So why this new interest in public education from those (like Senator Berger) who have not been known as friends of public education? Stu Egan provided a little insight here. He points out

the political terrain has changed in a once-veto proof North Carolina General Assembly . . . . It speaks to the need for the current NCGA powers to try and save face because the race for 2020 began the day after the 2018 elections were over and now Gov. Cooper can issue vetoes that can stick. Secondly, it is happening literally right after NCAE announced another day of public education advocacy in Raleigh on May 1st. Last year’s May 16th rally brought around 30,000 people on a day where many school systems had to close down because of the sheer number of teachers who came to Raleigh by financing their own personal leave days.
Except this year’s rally is specific to five issues and is much more organized at the same point in planning as last year’s.

Here’s the bottom line, the NCGA has not made the needed progress to create schools our students deserve so we will advocate on May 1 despite Superintendent Johnson’s request to protest on another day. Read about the five issues - one day (5/1) in last week’s post.

(Tags: education )

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