This summer has been busy for education advocates in Raleigh. Numerous education policies have passed the House and Senate that challenge teachers’ livelihoods through salary and tenure. One particularly detrimental measure defunds the masters pay schedule from the state teacher salary, where an effect date of April 1st would remove current (e.g. May) graduates from the benefits of a 10-15% increase in pay. This pay is seen as crucial for North Carolina teachers, as NC ranks 46th in the nation for teacher compensation. State Representatives Bill Brawley and Ruth Samuelson have recently stated to the Charlotte Observer that they will try to amend the law in the next legislative session to aid those currently in graduate programs to receive the benefits of increased pay. However, they have made no concession or justification for defunding this incentive for teachers to professionally develop through higher education. This is tough for the educational community to accept given Governor McCrory’s ample 11% increase to his cabinet’s salaries which start at well over $100,000 each while NC holds the 48th lowest per pupil expenditures in the nation. These policies run deeper into the value of teacher preparation, as the assembly has given $10 Million over two years to the Teach for America (TFA) program while defunding the equally performing, but higher retaining homegrown, NC Teaching Fellows program (TFA has less than 10% retention whereas NC Teaching Fellows was more than 75%). Teacher tenure has now been effectively eliminated; all teachers are subject to 1-2 year contract where Senate Leader Berger stated on record to provide principals the means to remove ineffective teachers from classrooms. However, with questionable teacher evaluation instruments and providing administrators carte blanche to punitively dismiss teachers at will, has left educators statewide more uncertain to the stability and feasibility of remaining and enduring in the teaching profession.
ESEA waivers of states and LEAs continue to be submitted and approved as a means of amending the federal pressures of the long unauthorized No Child Left Behind legislation. Forty-one states, including the District of Columbia have been approved, where 6 are pending (Texas, Illinois, Iowa, Wyoming, Puerto Rico, Bureau of Indian affairs). The most surprising outlier is California, where 8 LEAs have independently applied and sought flexibility. Due to mounting pressure from student advocacy groups, new technical assistance has come from the Department regarding annual measurable objectives or AMOs, or the means in which schools are accountable for student outcomes. This information helps states outline the responsibilities and action for identifying, measuring, reporting and acting on low-performing schools. Regardless, discontentment is growing in both chambers of Congress with the waiver process and implementation where whispers reauthorizing ESEA may happen before the end of the 113th session. A promising yet troubling development has been the house passing HR5 or “The Student Success Act,” a highly partisan reauthorization for ESEA that passed the US House of Representatives in late July.
NC Policy Watch, a part of the North Carolina Justice Center, has created a clearinghouse of the mounting education cuts to 27 and counting Local Education Agencies or LEAs across the state. To track the changes that have been taking place, you can follow them on Facebook, Twitter, or through this direct link to the site: http://www.ncpolicywatch.com/tracking-the-cuts-the-dismantling-of-our-public-schools/
Utilize and mobile your social media outlets to continue the discourse of education changes online. Encourage your local representative(s) and senator(s) to take action to save NC public education and funding for STEM. To determine your members you can use the General Assembly’s search Tool called “Who Represents Me?” for contact and social media information. http://ncleg.net/representation/WhoRepresentsMe.aspx
Submitted by Rebecca Hite