@NCCapitol

@NCCapitol

Teachers group to mount legal challenge to budget proposal

Posted July 22, 2013

— A little more than 12 hours after House and Senate negotiators announced a budget deal, the North Carolina Association of Educators announced plans Monday to try to block key provisions in the $20.6 billion spending plan.

"You are placing a sign on each school's door that says, 'Quality educators need not apply,'" association President Rodney Ellis wrote in a two-page letter sent to lawmakers criticizing the budget.

Superintendent of Public Instruction June Atkinson, teachers and public school advocates also expressed disappointment in the budget compromise, which is expected to be approved by lawmakers on Wednesday and head to Gov. Pat McCrory.

"For the first time in my career of more than 30 years in public education, I am truly worried about students in our care," Atkinson said in a statement. "North Carolina has moved away from its commitment to quality public schools. I am disappointed for the children in our state who will have fewer educators and resources in their schools as a result of the General Assembly’s budget."

Unlike earlier proposals, the budget provides no raises for teachers. But the NCAE is most upset with the $20 million set aside over the next two years for "opportunity scholarships" to allow low-income public school students move to private schools and the elimination of "career status," or tenure rights, for veteran teachers.

Instead of tenure, school districts could place all teachers on one-, two- or four-year contracts, depending on their length of service and performance.

"Hopefully, we get the very best teachers in front of our classroom, which is what we're trying to do," said Sen. Neal Hunt, R-Wake, one of the Senate's top budget writers.

Hunt also defended the voucher proposal, which he called a pilot program, suggesting more resources could be devoted to it in the future.

"We're taking folks that couldn't afford to go to a private school, giving them the opportunity to get out of a public school that's maybe not performing very well (and) giving them an opportunity to go to a private school where they might really have a chance to improve their education," he said.

Classroom generic Compromise budget angers teachers, public school backers

Advocacy group Public Schools First NC argued that the private schools who receive the voucher funding won't be held to the same standards as public schools.

"The de-funding of public education and privatization of our public schools is in violation of our state constitution and a direct attack on our state’s economic viability," Yevonne Brannon, chairwoman of the group, said in a statement. "We will lose high quality teachers and fail to attract new business as a result of these harsh policies."

Meanwhile, the conservative group Americans for Prosperity called the vouchers "a giant step" toward educational choice for families.

“Beyond empowering parents with school choice, this General Assembly is also making significant advances to differentiate, reward and retain the highest quality public school teachers," Dallas Woodhouse, the group's state president, said in a statement. "Changes such as elimination of teacher tenure and an additional allocation of $10.2 million to fund annual pay raises for the most effective teachers show that North Carolina wants the best teachers in our public school system.”

The NCAE called the vouchers unconstitutional, and Ellis said the group also plans to challenge changes to school funding that it says put the state's constitutional obligation to provide sound education for all students in jeopardy.

"The elimination of class size caps, the firing of thousands of teacher assistants, investment in a private school voucher scheme that will only enrich those who seek to profit off of public schools and the devaluing of education as a career will position our state as a model in what not to do in education," he wrote.

Some Wake County teachers said the package of changes makes them feel like they're under attack.

"We have wonderful talent in Wake public schools – best I've ever seen – and they're dropping like flies," said Linda de la Pena, a teacher at Dillard Drive Elementary School in Cary.

De la Pena said the loss of thousands of teaching assistants, whose jobs are eliminated in the budget, will make her job more difficult, especially when combined with the elimination of a cap on the number of students in elementary school classes.

"I can get around to every student in the classroom if I don't have 30, students. 35 students," she said.

Swift Creek Elementary School teacher Stephanie Smith said the five extra vacation days lawmakers handed out to teacher in lieu of raises is a meaningless reward because teachers are already hard-pressed to take days off during the school year.

"Those five vacation days, I cannot take them while the kids are here," Smith said.

Atkinson thanked lawmakers for eliminating discretionary cuts at the school district level, but she said they need to "start putting action behind" their professed support for education. Teachers need to be better paid, and schools need new textbooks and other resources, she said.

"Teachers are working as hard as they can. Materials and supplies are wearing thin. Classrooms are crowded, and there are fewer adults in each school today than there were five years ago but there are more students than ever across our state," she said.

Ellis noted that North Carolina has dropped far behind neighboring states in teacher pay – plummeting from 26th to 46th nationwide in five years – and he said the budget ensures North Carolina will continue to rank among the bottom nationally in terms of supporting education.

"While it pains us to see the devaluation of education by our elected officials, we will now shift our focus to the judiciary, where we are confident we will find yet another victory in our struggle to provide quality public schools for every child," he wrote.

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  • visavisa21 Jul 27, 10:11 p.m.

    "Raise the standards (which many will never meet) and pay these more. We would be better off without the other group anyway. More money for quality instruction, yes!" - williammjohnston

    Teachers do have high standards that they have to meet. They are evaluated and observed throughout the school year. Teachers have to put portfolios together on top of all the work in the classroom they do. The problem is that even the teachers that receive the highest rating in Wake County don't get a penny extra for their work and dedication. Teachers here in Wake County who provide the "highest" quality education get nothing extra nor do they get a run of the mill raise. This state treats teachers and education like dirt on the bottom of their shoes. They want high quality education then start paying your teachers what they deserve!!! As the old saying goes, "You get what you pay for!" I wouldn't put much time into teaching if I knew there was no raise coming my way or no incentive.

  • jlanser Jul 25, 6:53 a.m.

    Nufsaid private schools may get better results but they work with a different student population. There is no private school that has 40% free and reduced lunch. There is no private school where kids are homeless or don't have money for food at home or school, supplies. They come from well off fa,likes. Like someone also pointed out there is an exam and these schools will not take Special Edication kids who are 4 grade levels below. So yea....it would be easy for the, to have bett results. And before you shoot back with it is teachers that got them 4 grades behind...that is actually family life. I have so,e students that have been to 3 different states and over 10 schools by 5th grade.

  • peplquitwhinin Jul 24, 3:00 p.m.

    I was a teacher and administrator for 9 years, in military for 9 years, and have been a business owner in private industry now for 8 years. Good teachers are under paid. Bad teachers are over paid. Tenure should go away, but NC being 46th in the nation in pay is ridiculous. Require more but pay more. As for many of the comments I see on here coming from individuals that think they know something about education because they went to school once, your comments continue to prove your ignorance. All of the corporate tax cuts to grow jobs is ruined by a poor education system. Highly skilled workers typically value education for their children and may choose other places to work instead of NC.

  • Groogrux Jul 24, 1:35 p.m.

    nufsaid, private schools generally dont accept students with disabilities. They will also toss out signifiant behavior issues. Ive worked with students who had parents who could afford private school, but their child wasnt accepted for these reasons. Ive even had some who had siblings at private schools but the private school could not meet their behavioral/medical needs or disabilities. Some of you won't believe me.Ignorance is bliss, right?

  • BIlzac Jul 24, 1:07 p.m.

    "I know quite a few people that would love to have your work schedule. Not to mention the summer break."
    nufsaid

    I don't know what you do for a living, but I certainly wouldn't presume to tell you anything about how easy or hard it is, nor would I be able to comment as to your personal ability at that work. You seem to be able to do both.

    If you think of teaching as hanging out with kids playing games and watching movies for 7 hours, then going home to rest and relax, maybe comments like yours make sense.

    On the other hand, if you actually spent time fulfilling the job of an educator - preparing lessons, tutoring, creating differentiated assignments and lessons, serving as an advisor by meeting with students every couple weeks, sponsoring school teams, working in professional learning communities to develop curriculum, serving on county-wide curriculum development teams, designing and implementing projects for classes, grading, contacting parents, etc - you would know different.

  • nufsaid Jul 24, 11:38 a.m.

    "I have worried about their education for forty years! More money for lesser qualified teaches has never been the answer! Raise the standards (which many will never meet) and pay these more. We would be better off without the other group anyway. The NCEA is just a labor union designed to protect the latter group who already make more than they are qualified to earn! If the public schools in Wake County were doing even a fair job there would be less need for private schools. If we do not promote private schools, the future source of professionals (other than athletes!!) will go lacking. More money for quality instruction, yes!
    williammjohnston"

    I find it interesting that many/most private school teachers in K-12 are paid less than public school teachers in the same arena. And they seem to get better results. Why??

  • lprop Jul 24, 10:50 a.m.

    If you have 100 stedents and only 10 are given scholarships to go to privates schools and there are no teachers, what happens to the 90 that are left ?

  • btneast Jul 24, 8:37 a.m.

    In the private sector you get a raise every year with when you get an annual review

    That is not true at all.

  • carrieshaw9 Jul 23, 11:36 p.m.

    Nufsaid: I worked in the private sector before and during college. I have also had a second job to supplement my income while teaching. In conferring with colleagues and through personal experience obtaining a full time job outside of education is near impossible. Teachers are viewed as "over qualified" to potential employers. Try volunteering all day in a school to see exactly what goes on in a given day. Observe the teachers doing the jobs of nurse, mediator, bookkeeper, and in some cases mom or dad. See the principals doing much of the same while they are making sure their staff members are teaching the curriculum. Don't forget the custodians cleaning the campus making it safe for the students as well as being a positive role model for some of the children. Talk with these people and watch them work before you negatively criticize their choices. I, along with many others, are in it for the children. That being said, we also need to be able to survive with the given standards.

  • williammjohnston Jul 23, 8:20 p.m.

    "... for the first time... I am concerned about the students in our care".... I have worried about their education for forty years! More money for lesser qualified teaches has never been the answer! Raise the standards (which many will never meet) and pay these more. We would be better off without the other group anyway.
    The NCEA is just a labor union designed to protect the latter group who already make more than they are qualified to earn! If the public schools in Wake County were doing even a fair job there would be less need for private schools. If we do not promote private schools, the future source of professionals (other than athletes!!) will go lacking. More money for quality instruction, yes!

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