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The Friday Report

April 14, 2017

Forum News

This Weekend on Education Matters: Teaching Fellows 2.0

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This week’s episode of Education Matters takes a look at the proposal to re-establish a NC Teaching Fellows Program to recruit new teachers into our state’s classrooms.

Guests Include:

  • Rep. Craig Horn (R-Union)
  • Sen. Chad Barefoot (R-Franklin, Wake)
  • Dr. Mary Ann Danowitz, Dean, NC State College of Education
  • Danny Bland, NC Teaching Fellow, Heritage High School, Wake Forest

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When and Where to Watch Education Matters

Saturdays at 7:30 PM, WRAL-TV (Raleigh/Durham/Fayetteville)

Sundays at 6:30 AM and Mondays at 3:00 PM, UNC-TV’s NC Channel (Statewide)

Online at https://www.ncforum.org/

Note: The North Carolina Channel can be found on Time Warner Cable/Spectrum Channel 1276 or check local listing and other providers here.

If you missed last week’s episode on school building needs and state employee benefits, you can watch it online at 

https://www.ncforum.org/education-matters-school-building-needs-and-state-employee-benefits/

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The Senate Education Committee approved a quintet of new bills this week, advertising them as the Senate’s answer to the teacher recruitment and retention problems facing North Carolina (none of them, however, solve the class size allotment problem for the 2017-18 school year):
  • Would expand (from 5 to 15 qualifying low-performing school districts) the teacher assistant tuition reimbursement pilot program for those pursuing a college degree and teaching license.
  • Would allow such a teacher assistant to continue receiving salary and benefits while student teaching.
  • Would add $225,000 (recurring) for the 2017-18 fiscal year.
  • Bill now goes to Senate Appropriations Committee.
  • Would allow faculty from community colleges and universities to work as adjunct instructors within K-12 schools in core academic subjects without the standard teaching license.
  • Would evaluate whether the UTEACH Program (started at the University of Texas, Austin) is feasible in NC and report by April 1, 2018.
  • UTEACH recruits students majoring in a STEM field to become licensed teachers without adding time or cost to the 4-year degrees.
  • Would pay beginning teachers at higher steps on the salary schedule if they:
    • Graduate from a teacher prep program with at least a 3.75 GPA, and
    • Score at least a 48 on the edTPA (or comparable teacher preparation) assessment.
    • If the teacher meets the above criteria, s/he can earn an even higher salary if s/he:
      • Teaches at a low-performing school; or
      • Teaches STEM or special education.
  • Would appropriate a new $1 million (recurring) to the NC New Teacher Support Program.
  • Would reimburse the $70 initial teacher licensure fee for qualifying NC teacher graduates.
  • Bill now goes to Senate Appropriations Committee.
  • Proposes a program modeled off Future Farmers of America, with teacher preparation courses and field experience offered in participating high schools.
  • Eligible students earning a B or higher in these courses can also earn college credit.

In This Issue

This Weekend on Education Matters: Teaching Fellows 2.0

NC Legislative Update

With HB13 In Limbo, Teachers Say Art, PE, Music At Risk

NC House Decides on School Calendar Flexibility

NC Superintendent Mark Johnson Files Response in SBE vs. State of NC Lawsuit

Having a Black Teacher Means More Black Kids Graduate

State’s Largest Voucher School Has a History of Tax Delinquency

Break up Wake County Schools? Bill Looks at How To Divide NC School Districts 

Student-Inspired Bill Filed in NC House

DeVos Praises This Voucher-Like Program. Here’s What It Means For School Reform.

Special Ed School Vouchers May Come with Hidden Costs

Burroughs Wellcome Fund Accepting Applications for Student Science Enrichment Program

Women in Educational Leadership Symposium (WIELS) Call for Proposals

Public School Forum Programs

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Public School Forum in the News

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Forum President and Executive Director Keith Poston will appear on Sunday’s Black Issues Forum to discuss the state of public education in North Carolina.

The show will air Sunday, April 16, at 11:30am on UNC-TV and then again on Monday, April 17, at 5:00pm. The show will also be available on the Black Issues Forum website.

State News

With HB13 In Limbo, Teachers Say Art, PE, Music At Risk

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Jenni Sonstroem, Wake County elementary music teacher, lobbying Sen. Chad Barefoot, R-Franklin. Photo Credit: ABC11.

Michelle Craig holds the handwritten letter her son Jesse, a first grader at Cary’s Briarcliff Elementary School, wrote to senators who have yet to act on House Bill 13. “Dear Senators,” Craig reads aloud. “Don’t lower class sizes next year so we can have PE, Art and Music.”

The bill, which would alleviate pressure put on by a state law reducing K-3 class sizes in the 2017-2018 school year, is stalled in the Senate Rules and Operations Committee, after passing the house unanimously, 114-0 in February.

State lawmakers left Tuesday for a week-long Easter recess, without acting on HB13. Special classes such as art, music, and P.E. are on the chopping block along with those teachers’ jobs as local school districts craft their budgets with HB13 hanging in the balance.

Wake County Superintendent Dr. James Merrill said unless the bill passes and districts are allowed the flexibility in spending state dollars as they’ve always had, it would be nearly impossible to protect those programs.

“I may be without a job,” said Jenni Sonstroem, a WCPSS elementary music teacher in Apex.

Sonstroem was among other teachers and parents who lobbied senators at the General Assembly last week, after she got a letter from her principal letting her know funding for her position is at stake if HB13 doesn’t pass.

“I’ve never in 30 years seen these kinds of shifts in funding,” said Sonstroem. “And it’s like the senators are putting it on the districts to say that they have misused funds and there’s no evidence for that.”

To continue reading the complete article, click here.

Excerpt from:

Blanford, A. “WITH HB13 IN LIMBO, TEACHERS SAY ART, PE, MUSIC AT RISK.” ABC11. 4/11/17.

NC House Decides on School Calendar Flexibility

Two bills for calendar flexibility for local school districts have passed the state House. Both bills passed on second reading last week, but the third reading on one — House Bill 375 — was delayed until Tuesday of this week.

House Bill 375 would allow school districts to align their calendars with those of nearby community colleges. The synchronization is one reason many districts prefer flexibility. Under the legislation, a school would not be able to open earlier than August 15. Rep. Chuck McGrady, R-Henderson, the bill’s primary sponsor, said the provision is meant to appease some tourism businesses which have historically backed traditional school calendars.

House Bill 389, backed by Rep. Harry Warren, R-Rowan, passed both second and third reading last week; it would create a 20-county study to assess the impact of calendar flexibility in different parts of the state.

Given the number of bills filed to give specific districts control over when they start and end the school year, the legislation aims to give the state data on how calendar flexibility would affect student achievement and opportunities for summer internships.

To continue reading the complete article, click here.

Excerpt from:

Bell, L. “NC House decides on school calendar flexibility.” EducationNC. 4/11/17.

NC Superintendent Mark Johnson Files Response in SBE vs. State of NC Lawsuit

Wednesday, Superintendent of Public Instruction Mark Johnson filed his legal response in the State Board of Education’s lawsuit against the State of North Carolina and the Superintendent of Public Instruction over House Bill 17.

The documents can be viewed by clicking this link.

Reprinted from:

NCDPI. “NC Superintendent Mark Johnson Files Response in SBE vs. State of NC Lawsuit.” 4/13/17.

Having a Black Teacher Means More Black Kids Graduate

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Black male students are more likely to graduate high school if they have at least one African-American teacher in third, fourth, or fifth grade, a new study found.

Using data from North Carolina, researchers found that low-income black male students’ chances of dropping out declined 39 percent and their interest in going to college increased 29 percent when they had at least one black teacher in the later elementary school years.

Studies have shown that black students do better on tests when they have black teachers, so it was interesting to see that teacher assignments have lasting effects, said Nicholas W. Papageorge, an assistant professor of economics at Johns Hopkins University in Maryland and one of the study’s authors.

Papageorge said the findings are encouraging because it presents a workable way to address the persistent problem of lagging graduation rates of black males. Getting more students to graduate wouldn’t require districts to hire lots of black teachers, he said. Schools could use the existing workforce, he said, while making sure that black students get at least one black teacher. “We can reassign students today with a careful look at rosters and use the black teachers we have, and maybe get something that’s working now,” he said.

After looking at North Carolina data, researchers looked at Tennessee student information and affirmed their findings. IZA Institute of Labor Economic published the findings.

To continue reading the complete article click here.

Excerpt from:

Bonner, L. “Having a black teacher means more black kids graduate.” The News & Observer. 4/10/17.

State’s Largest Voucher School Has a History of Tax Delinquency

North Carolina’s largest recipient of private school voucher funds, Trinity Christian School in Fayetteville, has a history of delinquencies when it comes to paying federal and state taxes, court records show.

The school is currently at the center of allegations that its athletic director embezzled hundreds of thousands of employee withholding dollars intended to go to the state Department of Revenue between 2008 and 2015.

In July 2004, the state Revenue Department issued a Certificate of Tax Liability to Trinity Christian School’s parent organization, Truth Outreach, Inc., for failure to pay withholding taxes to the state in the amount of $95,408 between 2001 and 2004.

Information about that tax debt—which the Cumberland County Clerk’s office says has been repaid—surfaces after the recent disclosure of allegations that the athletic director, Heath Vandevender, embezzled $388,422 from employee withholding money that was to go to the N.C. Department of Revenue.

Vandevender is said to have “aided and abetted the [Truth Outreach Center, Inc.] to embezzle, misapply, and convert to its own use $388,422.68 in North Carolina Withholding Tax,” according to a Department of Revenue news release. [Truth Outreach Center is the nonprofit umbrella organization that includes Trinity Christian School.]

The state tax debt during early 2000s isn’t the only tax issue the organization has faced. The U.S. Internal Revenue Service filed a tax lien against Trinity Christian’s parent organization in 1997 for failing to pay $33,285 in federal payroll taxes between 1991 and 1994.

That debt was repaid almost one year after the federal government filed the tax lien, the Cumberland County Court’s clerk said.

Opposed to paying taxes on religious grounds

It is noteworthy to consider these instances because Trinity Christian School is the state’s largest recipient of taxpayer-funded private school vouchers, known as “Opportunity Scholarships.”

Since North Carolina launched the private school voucher program in 2014, more than $1.2 million in taxpayer dollars have gone to Trinity Christian to subsidize tuition for low-income students.

To continue reading the complete article, click here.

Excerpt from:

Wagner, L. “State’s largest voucher school has a history of tax delinquency.” A.J. Fletcher Foundation. 4/10/17.

Break up Wake County Schools? Bill Looks at How To Divide NC School Districts 

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Rep. Bill Brawley spoke at a 2016 meeting on Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools and the south suburbs, convened after Matthews Mayor Jim Taylor started talking about splitting the district. Photo Credit: John Simmons, The Charlotte Observer. 

Some state legislators want to look at how to split North Carolina school systems into smaller districts, a preliminary step that could make it possible to break up large systems such as Wake County and Charlotte-Mecklenburg.

House Bill 704 filed this week would create a joint legislative study committee to look into whether legislation should be introduced to allow for the breakup of previously merged school systems. The committee would also consider how to divide school districts and whether a local referendum or petition would be needed before a district could be split.

Many transplants to North Carolina are used to individual towns running their own small school systems. In contrast, most school systems in North Carolina are county-based.

Over the years, many school systems in the state merged to try to save money and to integrate schools. The state went from 167 school districts in the 1960s to 115 now.

“Over the past few decades, the emphasis in North Carolina has been merging small school systems to form big ones,” Rep. Bill Brawley, a Mecklenburg County Republican and one of the bill’s primary sponsors, said Wednesday. “The idea was economies of scale would improve education in North Carolina. Now there’s a concern there may be diseconomies of scale in the big systems. They may be too large.”

Brawley said the study committee is needed because while state law lays out how to merge school systems, it doesn’t cover the process for how to break systems up.

Tim Lavallee, vice president of the WakeEd Partnership, a business-backed group that supports Wake schools, questioned the need for the legislation. “If a school district wanted to seek to divide itself into smaller districts with the permission of the General Assembly, they could do that through filing a bill with one of their legislators,” he said. “There doesn’t need to be a structure coming from the state to break up a large district.”

The bill’s two other primary sponsors, both Republicans, are Rep. John Bradford of Mecklenburg and Rep. Chris Malone of Wake. Bradford, Brawley and Malone all represent counties where there’s been support from some residents to break up their large school districts.

Student-Inspired Bill Filed in NC House

Two Guilford County Schools students want to see civics and economics education improved. So they suggested a bill to do just that. And Guilford County Reps. Jon Hardister and Cecil Brockman filed the students’ suggested bill in the N.C. House on Thursday.

House Bill 643 would create a joint legislative study committee to consider ways to improve civic and economic education in the state’s public schools.

The legislators had asked high school students to offer ideas for legislation as part of a contest several weeks ago. Hardister, a Republican, and Brockman, a Democrat, reviewed the ideas before picking one to file as a bill.

To continue reading the complete article, click here.

Excerpt from:

Staff Reports. “Student-inspired bill filed in N.C. House.” Greensboro News & Record. 4/7/17.

National News

DeVos Praises This Voucher-Like Program. Here’s What It Means For School Reform.

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President Trump thanks fourth-graders Janayah Chatelier and Landon Fritz for homemade greeting cards they presented during his visit to St. Andrew Catholic School in Orlando on March 3. With the president, from left to right, are Jared Kushner, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, and Ivanka Trump. Photo Credit: Joe Burbank, Associated Press.

Florida has channeled billions of taxpayer dollars into scholarships for poor children to attend private schools over the past 15 years, using tax credits to build a laboratory for school choice that the Trump administration holds up as a model for the nation.

The voucherlike program, the largest of its kind in the country, helps pay tuition for nearly 100,000 students from low-income families.

But there is scant evidence that these students fare better academically than their peers in public schools. And there is a perennial debate about whether the state should support private schools that are mostly religious, do not require teachers to hold credentials and are not required to meet minimal performance standards. Florida private schools must administer one of several standardized tests to scholarship recipients, but there are no consequences for consistently poor results.

“After the students leave us, the public loses any sense of accountability or scrutiny of the outcomes,” said Alberto Carvalho, the superintendent of Miami-Dade County public schools. He wonders what happens to the 25,000 students from the county who receive the scholarships. “It’s very difficult to gauge whether they’re hitting the mark.”

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, a longtime advocate for school choice, does not seem to be bothered by that complaint.

She is driven instead by the faith that children need and deserve alternatives to traditional public schools. At a recent public forum, DeVos said her record in office should be graded on expansion of choice-friendly policies. She did not embrace a suggestion that she be judged on academic outcomes. “I’m not a numbers person,” she said.

In a nutshell, that explains how the Trump administration wants to change the terms of the debate over education policy in the United States.

In the past quarter-century, Republican and Democratic administrations focused on holding schools and educators accountable for student performance.

Now, President Trump and DeVos seem concerned less with measuring whether schools help students learn and more with whether parents have an opportunity to pick a school for their children. They have pledged billions of dollars to that end. And they have visited private schools in Florida to underline their support for funding private-school tuition through tax credits.

Special Ed School Vouchers May Come with Hidden Costs

For many parents with disabled children in public school systems, the lure of the private school voucher is strong.

Vouchers for special needs students have been endorsed by the Trump administration, and they are often heavily promoted by state education departments and by private schools, which rely on them for tuition dollars. So for families that feel as if they are sinking amid academic struggles and behavioral meltdowns, they may seem like a life raft. And often they are.

But there’s a catch. By accepting the vouchers, families may be unknowingly giving up their rights to the very help they were hoping to gain. The government is still footing the bill, but when students use vouchers to get into private school, they lose most of the protections of the federal Individuals With Disabilities Education Act.

Many parents, among them Tamiko Walker, learn this the hard way. Only after her son, who has a speech and language disability, got a scholarship from the John M. McKay voucher program in Florida did she learn that he had forfeited most of his rights.

“Once you take those McKay funds and you go to a private school, you’re no longer covered under IDEA — and I don’t understand why,” Ms. Walker said.

In the meantime, public schools and states are able to transfer out children who put a big drain on their budgets, while some private schools end up with students they are not equipped to handle, sometimes asking them to leave. And none of this is against the rules.

To continue reading the complete article, click here.

Excerpt from:

Goldstein, D. “Special Ed School Vouchers May Come With Hidden Costs.” The New York Times. 4/11/17.

Opportunities

Burroughs Wellcome Fund Accepting Applications for Student Science Enrichment Program

The Burroughs Wellcome Fund has opened its application for the 2017 Student Science Enrichment Program (SSEP) grant awards. SSEP supports diverse programs with a common goal: to enable primary and secondary students to participate in creative, hands-on scientific activities for K-12 students and pursue inquiry-based exploration in BWF’s home state of North Carolina. These awards provide up to $60,000 per year for three years. The application deadline is April 18, 2017.

For more information or to access the application, visit http://www.bwfund.org/grant-programs/science-education/student-science-enrichment-program.

Women in Educational Leadership Symposium (WIELS) Call for Proposals

The second conference of the Women in Educational Leadership Symposium (WIELS) will be held at Appalachian State University in Boone, North Carolina on September 22 through September 24, 2017. The purpose of WIELS is to bring women together to share, learn, and grow in leadership. Women who are interested in learning from others and those who are willing to share skills and expertise are urged to attend. This conference aims to provide personalized learning and mentoring opportunities for those who aspire to become or currently serve as educational leaders. The conference theme is Advancing the Leader Within: Building Capacity. Attendees are urged to submit proposals on salient issues, skills, and experiences affecting women leaders.

Conference proposals are due by May 31, 2017. Visit https://wiels.appstate.edu/about-us/call-proposals to submit a proposal. 

The Friday Report is published weekly by the Public School Forum of NC and is distributed to Forum members, policymakers, donors, media, and Forum subscribers. Archived editions can be found at www.ncforum.org.

©2017 Public School Forum of North Carolina. All Rights Reserved.

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