Category Archives: Education

Pubic Funding Of Education


Following a theme here lately I wanna get this article off of my stack:

Raleigh, N.C. — Although they won’t be issued until next March, vouchers that will allow hundreds of students from low-income families to attend private schools across North Carolina already have officials at many schools eagerly anticipating an influx of students.

State lawmakers set aside $10 million in the budget for so-called “Opportunity Scholarships” to help pay private school tuition for about 2,500 students, starting in the 2014-15 school year. Legislative leaders said they plan to ratchet the fund up to $50 million a year after that.

For the life of me, I cannot understand how this is not a win/win for both the liberal and the conservative.

On the one had, you have a continued commitment by the state to fund education.  On the other hand you let market forces shape the flow of that education.

I firmly believe that the public has a role, a critical role, in funding the education of our youth.  However, I see no characteristic of the government that would make it the go-to provider of that education.  There is simply nothing that would make government agencies more adept at delivering education than a private sector.

Death Of A Teacher’s Union


I absolutely love Love LOVE this turn of events:

The union representing Kenosha teachers has been decertified and may not bargain base wages with the district.

Because unions are limited in what they can do even if they are certified, the new status of Kenosha’s teachers union — just like the decertification of many other teachers unions in the state that did not or could not pursue the steps necessary to maintain certification in the new era of Act 10 — may be a moral blow more than anything else.

Teachers in Milwaukee and Janesville met the state’s Aug. 30 deadline to apply for recertification, a state agency representative says. Peter Davis, general counsel for the Wisconsin Employment Relations Commission, said the Milwaukee and Janesville districts will hold recertification votes in November.

To continue as the recognized bargaining unit in the district, 51% of the union’s eligible membership must vote in favor of recertification, according to the controversial Act 10 legislation passed in 2011.

With contracts that were in place through the end of June, teachers in the three large southeastern Wisconsin districts were protected the longest from the new legislation, which limits collective bargaining, requires unions to hold annual votes to be recognized as official entities, and mandates that teachers and other public employees pay more out-of-pocket for their health care and retirement costs.

Christina Brey, speaking for the Wisconsin Education Association Council, downplayed recertification, calling it just another hoop for local unions to jump through.

Unions can exist without certification, but they cannot bargain for limited base-wage increases with the district. And there are fees involved with chasing recertification.

“It seems like the majority of our affiliates in the state aren’t seeking recertification, so I don’t think the KEA is an outlier or unique in this,” Brey said.

It’s long past time that we recognize that unions across America are nothing more than power grabs and democrat fundraising machines.

Good riddance.

Governor McCrory – Tests and Pay

Pat McCrory

Pat McCrory and the republican legislature have taken significant heat for their budget and how it impacts education in North Carolina.  However, missed have been two important policies:

Chapel Hill, N.C. — Days after a crowd of angry educators marched on the State Capitol to protest changes to public school spending in the state budget, Gov. Pat McCrory on Thursday proposed a fund to reward “master teachers” and cutting the number of standardized tests required in North Carolina classrooms.

Speaking at the North Carolina Chamber’s annual education conference in Chapel Hill, McCrory said business owners repeatedly tell him that they cannot find qualified employees for their job openings. The state needs to do more to prepare students for the workforce, he said.

“When employers are begging for qualified applicants in a state with the fifth-highest unemployment rate in the nation … that tells me we have a disconnect between commerce and education,” he said. “All of us need to come together and eliminate this gap.”

McCrory said he wants to create a $30 million Education Innovation Fund with federal Race to the Top grant money to pay for digital classroom initiatives and trailblazing schools and to reward teachers. Under the program, at least 1,000 teachers selected by their peers statewide would receive $10,000 stipends to implement career- and college-ready standards.

“These master teachers will be working and taking input from their colleagues and will serve as a direct conduit to North Carolina’s educational leaders as to what’s working in our classrooms and what isn’t working and what should be tossed aside,” he said. “(These) teachers will not only be teaching students, they will be schooling us in the most important subject in education – what works actually in the classroom.”

Calling the state’s pay scale for teachers “archaic,” he said the stipends would begin the shift toward rewarding classroom expertise and provide recognition for North Carolina’s top teachers.

The governor also called for cutting “ineffective and burdensome testing” in North Carolina classrooms. The number of mandatory exams in Mecklenburg County, for example, is approaching 200 per year in grades 4-12, he said.

I think it’s irresponsible to take a position that republicans don’t value education in the same way that democrats do, or the left do.  Rather it’s important that reasonable people can be expected to have different methods to the same problem.

Education – Better With Less

Technology Bad

A new report, and I stress “A”, demonstrates that not ALL money spent on education is good money spent on education:

Laptops may actually hinder students ability to learn, providing a distraction and even affecting students sitting near their owners, according to a stunning new Canadian report.

With laptops and tablet computers pervading the modern classroom, the report suggests that paper and pencil might be less distracting overall.

“We really didn’t think the effects would be this huge,” explained McMaster University researcher Faria Sana, who co-authored the study with fellow doctoral student Tina Weston. “It can change your grade from a B+ to a B-.”

If true, this would be an example where a reduction in an education budget is actually a good thing.

Old Governors And Old Ideas

Mike Easley

I’m not sure why the good governor is getting involved, but past North Carolina governor, Mike Easley, has filed suit over changes to a program here – More at Four:

Raleigh, N.C. — Former Gov. Mike Easley, who created the More at Four early childhood education program more than a decade ago, has jumped into the legal battle over access to pre-kindergarten programs in North Carolina.

The North Carolina Supreme Court could hear the case as early as October, and Easley filed a brief Wednesday in support of wider access.

“These children, their young minds are perishable commodities,” Easley said Thursday.

Two years ago, Manning threw out legislative changes to the early childhood education program that limited access and required parents to pick up part of the cost. He ruled that North Carolina has a constitutional duty to provide pre-kindergarten to at-risk 4-year-olds.

Lawmakers later dropped those limitations, but as part of this year’s budget, they changed the definition of “at-risk” to reduce by half the number of children who would qualify for NC Pre-K, the state-run pre-kindergarten program that Republican lawmakers created to replace More at Four and the Smart Start program.

Easley said the state needs to invest more in early childhood education, not find ways to cut funding.

Interesting on three levels:

  1. An ex-governor, not a citizen, trying to shape legislation that he passed.
  2. This is an example of educational policy that doesn’t work.
  3. Eliminating programs that don’t work seems to be good policy.

On the one hand, as a citizen, Easley is free to file suit any way that he sees fit.  And for someone who cares about education, working hard to save a program that he created might make sense.

But it smells of politics.

As for the success of early education – the benefits fade away as the child grows up and slower students catch up:

Looking across the full study period, from the beginning of Head Start through 3rd grade, the evidence is clear that access to Head Start improved children’s preschool outcomes across developmental domains, but had few impacts on children in kindergarten through 3rd grade. Providing access to Head Start was found to have a positive impact on the types and quality of preschool programs that children attended, with the study finding statistically significant differences between the Head Start group and the control group on every measure of children’s preschool experiences in the first year of the study. In contrast, there was little evidence of systematic differences in children’s elementary school experiences through 3rd grade, between children provided access to Head Start and their counterparts in the control group.

Head Start had an impact on children’s language and literacy development while children were in Head Start. These effects, albeit modest in magnitude, were found for both age cohorts during their first year of admission to the Head Start program. However, these early effects rapidly dissipated in elementary school, with only a single impact remaining at the end of 3rd grade for children in each age cohort.

Not all money spent on education is spent well.  So the idea that reducing the spend on bad policy somehow represents an “attack on education” is insulting.

Teacher Salary: North Carolina


North Carolina now ranks # 46 nationally in the amount of money we pay our teachers:

RALEIGH — North Carolina public school teachers saw their pay drop to among the lowest in the country as state budget-balancing during the Great Recession included a multiyear pay freeze, according to a report Wednesday to the State Board of Education.

Pay for the teachers who educate the state’s roughly 1.5 million public school students ranks 46th in the country, above only Mississippi and West Virginia among 12 Southeastern states, the report said. Five years ago, North Carolina teachers’ salaries were in the middle of the state rankings.

That’s pretty bad.  I guess.  At first blush anyway.  I’m not sure that ranking 4th from the top would be any better than 4th from the bottom.  After all, I don’t wanna be in the position of overpaying teachers to perform at a level more consistent with the median salary range.

For example, the highest paying state is New York at $72,708 a year.  However, New York SAT test scores are 43rd in the nation.  North Carolina ranks 40th, a full 3 spots higher than New York.

The second highest spender on teachers?  Massachusetts.  At a spending rank of #2 they purchase the #27 spot in SAT scores.  How about the worst SAT scoring state in the nation – Delaware.  How much do THEY spend?  They come in #13.  So, for all that money Delaware spends, they come in dead last in SAT scores.  But, you can argue that at a 100% test taking clip, they are at a disadvantage.  So let’s go to the 2nd worst performing state – Washington DC.  Their spend?  #6 on the list.

Truly pathetic.

Anyway, it got me to thinking.  Who controls the spending in these various states?  In Minnesota, for example, teacher salaries are negotiated and funded at the local district level.  But here in North Carolina, a vast amount of the spending falls on the state.  Perhaps if local citizens felt that their teachers needed to be better compensated, they could organize at the local level and pay the teachers as much as they like.

Just a thought.

From Poverty To Middle Class

Middle Class

A conversation on my Facebook feed brought me here today:

In addition to the thousands of local and national programs that aim to help young people avoid these life-altering problems, we should figure out more ways to convince young people that their decisions will greatly influence whether they avoid poverty and enter the middle class. Let politicians, schoolteachers and administrators, community leaders, ministers and parents drill into children the message that in a free society, they enter adulthood with three major responsibilities: at least finish high school, get a full-time job and wait until age 21 to get married and have children.

Our research shows that of American adults who followed these three simple rules, only about 2 percent are in poverty and nearly 75 percent have joined the middle class (defined as earning around $55,000 or more per year).

Three things.  Simple things.  Not hard to do things.

Go to school and finish it.

Get a job.  Any job.

Wait to have children.

North Carolina Education – This Isn’t What We Want Either


North Carolina is making national headlines with voter ID, with capital punishment, with tax reform and even educational priorities

Much of that change is being portrayed negatively in the press, though I do believe that much of that reporting is the result of a definite left leaning bias.

One of the priorities of the republicans has been to reform our educational system here in the state.  And part of that strategy has been to limit spending:

The Senate’s budget, which passed last week, would freeze public teacher salaries for the fourth time in five years and spend $50 million less on K-12 education in 2013-14 than Gov. Pat McCrory’s proposal.

Funding for teaching assistants and professional development for teachers would also be slashed under the Senate plan, as would the 10- to 15-percent pay bonus for incoming teachers with master’s degrees.

Not that educational spending  has been a target simply because legislatures feel that education should be cut, but rather because the budget doesn’t allow that spending to take place.

For example:

“The idea that we can simply increase teacher pay with the money we have … reveals ignorance about the different things the state government does and is obligated to fund,” he said.

He added that North Carolina’s high school graduation rate — which hit 80.2 percent in 2012 — is the highest it has ever been.

“We haven’t seen any evidence that freezing teacher pay has had any negative consequences on student performance.”

And there are other changes to the system that are taking place that should award more money to the right educators:

The Senate budget also includes a provision that would begin to eliminate teacher tenure at the K-12 level and shift to a pay-for-performance model — which rewards teachers based on classroom evaluations and students’ standardized test scores, not years of experience.

A full merit pay system would not be funded next year, but the budget allocates $10.2 million in 2014-15 to start implementing pilot programs for merit pay, which McCrory has said he supports.

Starting in fall 2014, tenured teachers could opt out of their tenure status in exchange for a four-year contract and a $500 bonus.

All of which is a long version of me saying that I support fiscal responsibility and value based increases in pay.

However, that being said, this is unacceptable:

“I do the babysitting to help get money to buy toys and books,” said the North Carolina native. “I even had to buy shelves and a stool for the kids to stand on to wash their hands at the sink. I spent about $500 on supplies last year, and It definitely hurts my own pocketbook.”

With school budgets across the country slashed, Martin is part of a growing number of teachers spending more of their own money for school supplies, according to a recent survey from insurance firm Horace Mann, which focuses on products for educators.

The problem has reached near-crisis levels, especially in states like North Carolina.

There’s a not so fine line in the expectation that a professional purchase reasonable equipment for their jobs.  For example, at my office I buy my own notebooks, pens and pencils.  I buy my own clocks and calculators.  When I need to study for a specific technology, I buy the books and or course.  But I do NOT buy paper towels, or desk cleaner.  I don’t buy carpet scrubber or PCs for which I work company business.

I don’t buy my own desk phone or desk for that matter and I don’t contribute to the electric or water bills.

If these teachers are providing supplies out of their own pockets, the system is abusing them and we have to address that.  One way or another, these teachers can not be expected to:

The survey said that 26% of the 814 teachers participating spent $400 of their own money on supplies last year—that’s a 3 percentage point increase from 2011 in the number of teachers spending that much.

The teachers need to send notes home with their kids and explain that parents have to pick up the slack – items like books and tissues, wipes and books and pencils, they need to come to school with the kids.  I’ll tell you what, I get a note like that from my kid’s teacher and I’m going to talk to the principal and then the board.

North Carolina: Education


For the first time in 150 years, North Carolina has a republican controlled government.  It should surprise no one that republican favored agendas are being passed into law.

[ It should also serve as a stark lesson to all liberals who rejoiced in massive democratic majorities following the election of Obama that such majorities are not always good ]

One of the priorities of the republican legislature is to pass a voucher bill:

The House budget set aside $10 million for vouchers this year for families meeting income requirements, and $40 million next year. Parents would receive $4,200 per child to help cover private school tuition. Vouchers are in play in the negotiations between House and Senate budget writers.

Such “hatred of poor kids” is, of course, the subject of Moral Monday marches in Raleigh.  For as long as I can remember, the concept of vouchers in specific and private schools in general have been a special hatred of the left.

And I can’t understand why.

I get that the state has a vested interest in the education of its children.  And in so far as the state is interested in said education, I would suppose that how that education was delivered would largely be inconsequential.  What MIGHT be of importance is who is best able to deliver education that results in the highest levels of quality.  That is, if the state can do it better than the private school, then I get the argument that the state should provide education.

However, our public schools are horrible, yes?  And if private schools are able to deliver at least equal levels of education at prices that are dramatically cheaper, ought we not go where it makes sense?  And there is little evidence to suggest that public schools are superior to private ones.

So why the outrage over private school vouchers?

Is it because the left feels that parents of the most at risk students don’t care enough even to apply for and receive such vouchers?  Or is it because the democrat machine is dominated by the most powerful lobbying force in the country – the Teacher’s Union?

Teaching Our Teachers – Teacher Prep Programs Fail


An interesting consequence of the workplace opening up to women more and more – those places where women COULD find satisfying careers suffer.

Consider, when women were largely limited to teaching careers, the best and brightest of the women became teachers.  Now, with every corporate door open to women, with women earning degrees at ever increasing rates, the best and brightest of the women are finding that they are able to enjoy the challenges and wealth that comes with careers outside the classroom.

Perhaps that contributes to the problems that were experiencing in educating our future teachers:

Teacher education in the nation’s universities is “an industry of mediocrity,” says a new report that rates hundreds of programs and gives less than 10 percent a favorable grade.

The “Teacher Prep Review” from the National Council on Teacher Quality prompted widespread attention in the education world and scorn from universities who were the target of the ranking. The report looked at data from 1,100 universities and assigned star ratings to 608 of them, concluding that most are failing.

The review gave only four programs in the United States its highest ranking of four stars. Only 20 elementary programs and 84 secondary programs made the report’s “honor roll” of at least three stars.

Is it any surprise that the kids were sending to our schools are struggling?

This is telling:

These days, brilliant women become surgeons and investment bankers — and 47 percent of America’s kindergarten through 12th-grade teachers come from the bottom one-third of their college classes (as measured by SAT scores). The figure is from a study by McKinsey & Company, “Closing the Talent Gap.”

Not only are we allowing those who graduate in the lower third of their class into our school, we’re filling our classrooms with those students.  And look, I went through the program to become a licensed teacher in the state of Minnesota – one of the strongest teacher education states in the country – the program is not difficult, it’s not even rigorous.

I’ve read and discussed “The Bell Curve” here and I buy into the fact that intelligence, measured by the imperfect method of IQ, is heritable.  And not just kinda heritable, very Very heritable.  However, I’ve taken the other side and am reading a book called “How Children Succeed”.  A very different take than the “Bell Curve” -though to be fair, the authors of “The Bell Curve” did stipulate that while intelligence is incredibly heritable there is room for policy discussions that speak to the remaining portion of intelligence that doesn’t come from mom and dad – and the book is telling.

For one, the difference between a strong teacher and a weak teacher can be 1 full academic year.  For example, a strong teacher can go through an entire extra half of an academic year in her classroom while a weak teacher may struggle to make it only half way.

If we want to increase our performance in educating our youth, we have to have real powerful conversation surrounding the quality of our teachers, how to attract more of it, remove the worst performing one and how to reward the best ones.