Esse Quam Videri

Enforcing North Carolina’s State Motto: To be, rather than to seem

October 20, 2018

This November, voters in North Carolina have the opportunity to send a strong message to policy makers and public schools. Both will receive strong feedback from the election results, but which group will prevail in having their efforts validated?

How have we reached the point in our state where supporting incumbent policy makers and supporting public schools are dichotomous instead of synonymous?

The Great Recession wreaked havoc on our state. The recovery has neglected our schools. In times of hardship belts must tighten, but during the recovery public schools continue to starve because of deliberate policies designed to hasten their demise in the effort to transform schools into outsourced businesses motivated by a desire to increase personal wealth for some, instead of creating a well-informed citizenry prepared to contribute to their communities.

Don’t sit this one out. EVERY vote counts!

A satirical response to Treasurer Folwell’s letter to state employees regarding their new insurance cards

December 5, 2018

Help us protect your publicly funded education!

A message from Teachers in North Carolina

Dear North Carolina public school student:

When we applied for the job of Teacher, we promised to reduce ignorance and build academic growth of students in North Carolina.  As part of that effort, we’ve been able to streamline graduation rates despite diminishing per pupil funding, and will provide more transparency to the challenges of this endeavor.  Our top priority is to preserve and protect the quality of your K-12 education.

However, the fact that there is a $955 gap between what the state paid for students like you to attend school in 2008 and 2018 when adjusted for inflation, and class sizes are rising, the sustainability of your education is at risk.  These liabilities are ultimately the responsibility of residents and students in North Carolina like yourself, which is why we must take action and do our part to drive down costs and maximize your learning experience.

You can help by making smarter, more informed decisions about your education.  That’s why we have initiated the Watchdog initiative.  This effort is designed to give you the tools to be better-educated students.  This new hall pass is just the beginning.

Taking ownership of your time on task to protect your education is the only way to address these unfunded liabilities and prevent further cuts in teaching assistants, textbooks, copy and other supplies, health and counseling staff, and other core functions of schools.

Join us as we fight against ignorance in and outside the classroom and help to restore adequate school funding.  Be a public education Watchdog!

Sincerely,

Teachers of North Carolina

Open Immediately!

FORWARDING SERVICE REQUESTED

Attached is your new State Hall Pass (Pass), which you may begin using on your coverage effective date.  The pass has a new look to provide greater transparency about your benefits as well as better descriptions of services and required copay amounts.

What Changes Were Made?

  • “Paid for by YOU and other NC Taxpayers”

This was added to highlight the fact that the State and students like you ultimately pay for your education NOT your teacher.  They grade your papers and provide lessons, but the money to pay for your education and personal needs comes from taxpayers and students like you.

  • Average Per Pupil Funding Paid

The people of North Carolina value your studies.  Your state governments paid around 65% of the cost of your education.  On average, this is more than $8.93 billion per year.

  • Easier to Read and Understand

Descriptions for your out-of-class copays have been itemized to clearly describe the service and your responsibility for payment.

Did You Know?

During 2017-2018, the state and local governments spent over $12 billion on K-12 public education.  Since 2008, the number of students has increased around 7% while per pupil expenditure saw a 9% decrease when adjusted for inflation.  In addition, the North Carolina General Assembly refused to add to this past election’s ballot a bond that would have dedicated $1.9 billion to build and renovate schools throughout the state.  This avoidance of responsibility promises to have long term consequences for K-12 students and continuation of inadequate funding will cost our state the benefit of economic development.

What Can You Do?

You can help improve public education by taking control of your time spent while in school.  Be a smart student time-user.  This new pass is a first step by emphasizing that as a student and future taxpayer, you are paying for your education.

An open Letter to North Carolina State Superintendent Mark Johnson

February 16, 2019

I, along with other classroom stakeholders, have had our tickets to Supt. Johnson’s dinner revoked. I have replied to his email and wanted to share to help inform public school stakeholders about this event.

Dear Mr. Johnson,

My name is Kim Mackey and I would like to follow up regarding the cancellation of my ticket, and the tickets of other classroom stakeholders, to your Innovation and Leadership Dinner on February 19. As a teacher in my fifteenth year of teaching with hopes of staying in the classroom for at least another fifteen years, and a parent of two children who will be passing through public schools over the next fifteen years, I am sincerely interested in being present for your scheduled announcement regarding the future of education in North Carolina.

In your letter rescinding my ticket, you mentioned that you are “at capacity.” I can assure you that as someone who ends my day with a class of 34 seniors in a trailer classroom, I am accustomed to tight spaces. If you wish to spare me from the discomfort of an overcrowded room, I deal with it all day at work so a few hours one evening in a convention center sized-room is no sweat. I will bear any crowd to hear you announce that the state will invest in constructing more brick and mortar classrooms with lower class sizes to foster the development of our students.

You also “regret” that you will “not be able to provide…a seat at the dinner.” I do not require a seat. I’m used to standing all day as I coach students through critical thinking activities and address their individual needs. This includes opening my room to students during lunch periods when I do not have planned meetings and prioritize answering their questions and supporting their efforts over finishing my turkey sandwich.

If you are concerned about having enough resources to supply enough dinners to meet the demand, I suggest serving smaller portions. That is how the state deals with per pupil spending so surely if our students can endure being shortchanged in resources, your invited guests of mostly policy makers, philanthropic and community leaders can manage with lighter fare for one meal. In fact, I will decline a bite of dinner and eat another time to hear you share that our students will no longer deal with $1000 pay cuts in per pupil spending when adjusted for inflation. I may bring a turkey sandwich to hold me over though. Maybe I’ll even get to finish it.

Before you correct me on your list of invited guests to include educators, I am curious to know what percent of your invited guests are classroom teachers. I look forward to your disclosure of this information. I would also like to note that as a classroom teacher I am a policy maker, philanthropist, and community leader, so I am confused at your distinguishing educators as a separate category in your emailed list.

As educators, we understand that presentations require a team effort. As you have tasked Kevin Wilkinson as the event organizer, and copied Susan Auton and Wade Butner with their state employee email addresses, we can see that you appreciate the work of those assisting you as NC Superintendent. We look forward to your announcement at your dinner that there will be funding to reinstate the over 9,000 teaching assistant positions cut since the recession and more counselors to support the academic and developmental needs of our students.

Perhaps since many of your guests are members of the business community, you plan to inspire them to model the efficiency of teachers in North Carolina and announce that additional corporate tax cuts will not go into place this year as planned. While you have their attention, I would also like to be there when you announce that they should create pay and benefit structures that disincentivize their employees from working for them for more than 15 years by freezing their pay for years 15-24 as the current teacher salary schedule is structured. I would really like to see for myself their reactions when you tell them that they should forgo the experience of these employees in favor of those new to the workforce, or those who wish to transfer into their business with no industry experience. If these policies are good enough for our students and school systems, then wouldn’t they be good enough for their employees and businesses?

I cannot run my classroom like a business, or like this dinner, for the sake of my students. I do not dismiss a concerned parent with an email refusing to meet with them. I have enough faith in my policies and efforts to sit at any table with anyone and discuss decisions I make. Whatever you plan to announce, if it is in the best interest of students, I would hope that you have enough security in that announcement to not filter your audience. I request that you reconsider allowing classroom stakeholders who have expressed interest in hearing your announcement in person, and welcome the opportunity for us to be part of the conversation your guests have with each other while mingling at this event. It would serve us all well to listen to each other and explore common ground.

I appreciate your consideration of my request to reinstate my ticket and the tickets of others whom you have denied. I need to wrap this up as I have my own big announcement I wish to celebrate this weekend. My son turned 7 years old and I’m proud of the kind, socially conscious boy he is becoming. I’ve invited my family to celebrate his growth and recognize their support. It will be a tight fit in the house as it’s raining today, and some will have to stand while eating their dinner since there won’t be enough tables. I’m not sure that I have enough cake so I may have to slice it a bit smaller than usual. Despite that, the priority will be to celebrate my son’s special day, so we’ll make it work.

I look forward to your reply.

Sincerely,

Kim Mackey

Thanks for your seat, Sen. Searcy!

February 18, 2019

Food for thought for N.C. elected officials from tonight’s dinner

February 19, 2019 – NOT at capacity!

1. 2030? We’re 10 years behind already. Our kids can’t wait. Our current first graders are the Class of 2030.

2. 5% raise? When? How about smaller class sizes? If you continue packing more students in my room, it doesn’t feel like a raise when I’m responsible for a growing caseload of students (I have 200 students pass through my care each school year)

3. PERSONalized education means interacting with people, not apps on screens. A formulaic app is not a substitute for the art of learning from a PERSON. Decrease class sizes to foster personal interactions, don’t increase app development that further isolates a student from social development with peers and teachers.

4. The baseline for success is the MEDIAN income in N.C.? NC has the second largest wage gap in the country when comparing teachers with other workers with college degrees.

5. The plan to recruit teachers is an ad campaign appealing to the intrinsic satisfaction of teaching and the quality of life in N.C. How about making our state a great place to teach and learn by closing the appx. $950 pay gap for our students by boosting per pupil spending to at least pre-recession levels when adjusted for inflation?

6. If you want veteran teachers to lead professional development and support new teachers, give them a salary schedule that incentivizes them to remain in the classroom beyond 15 years.

7. Invite teachers to the table as you develop policies. Ask us what our students need and use that as a starting point.‬

March 6, 2019 Photo courtesy Debbie Yamauchi

Students take refuge in the hallway of modular (trailer) buildings during today’s severe weather drill. This is one of the many reasons we need a school construction bond in North Carolina. Contact Senator Phil Berger (Phil.Berger@ncleg.net) and tell him to stand down on his resistance to this bipartisan effort.

Update: This is an opportunity to point the finger where it belongs – inadequate funding for our schools. Focusing on which school is pictured misses the message of how our schools are put into a no-win situation. This school surely isn’t alone in managing this situation. Protocol may be that students should be covering their heads in ditches instead of huddling in a trailer, but surely that’s not as productive a conversation as addressing school infrastructure needs.

An open letter to NC Lt. Governor Dan Forest

March 8, 2019

Dear Lt. Governor Forest,

I am writing to express concern about Senate Bill 134: Economics and Financial Literacy Act. On the surface, requiring students to take a course that explores economics and prepares them with skills in personal finance is a great idea – but this wheel has already been invented. It’s called “American History: The Founding Principles, Civics and Economics.” The course description published by the North Carolina Department of Instruction states:
“American History: The Founding Principles, Civics and Economics has been developed as a course that provides a framework for understanding the basic tenets of American democracy, practices of American government as established by the United States Constitution, basic concepts of American politics and citizenship and concepts in macro and micro economics and personal finance.”

Cutting the civics curriculum from the “Foundations” course in order to stretch out the study of economics and personal finance is like taking one of the colors out of our flag to leave more space for the other two.

I have taught the “Foundations” course for the past three years. My students are high school seniors on the cusp of being able to fully participate in our democracy and economy. I find it to be one of the most practical courses among those required for high school graduation. SB 134 is not only a solution in search of a curriculum problem, but it creates another as it guts exclusive civics education. I will practice what I preach and align my opposition to SB 134 with the current “Foundations” course Essential Standards.

FP.C&G.2.7 Analyze contemporary issues and governmental responses at the local, state, and national levels in terms of how they promote the public interest and/or general welfare (e.g., taxes, immigration, naturalization, civil rights, economic development, annexation, redistricting, zoning, national security, health care, etc.)
FP.C&G.3.3 Analyze laws and policies in terms of their intended purposes, who has authority to create them and how they are enforced (e.g., laws, policies, public policy, regulatory, symbolic, procedural, etc.)
FP.C&G.5.5 Analyze the development and implementation of domestic and foreign policy by outlining opposing arguments on major issues and their efforts toward resolutions (e.g., health care, education, immigration, regulation of business and industry, foreign aid, intervention abroad, etc.).

Senate Bill 134 proposes that a “new” course “shall provide instruction…that shall include the following…” personal finance curriculum priorities. The “Foundations” curriculum that exists is more extensive than the proposed bill’s 7 priorities. In my first letter to you last week, I outlined how these priorities are already addressed in the current “Foundations” course. Lawmakers have demonstrated a lack of understanding that personal finance is a significant component of an existing course, but perhaps assumed otherwise since “personal finance” is not part of the course title, despite its inclusion in the curriculum. One personal finance “clarifying objective” of the current course is of particular note:

FP.PFL.2.3 Summarize ways consumers can protect themselves from fraudulent and deceptive practices

On March 1, you were interviewed by Pete Kaliner about the details of SB 134, and motivations for its creation. Throughout the conversation, there is evidence of disconnect between policymakers and existing policies, and pursuit of solutions that do not effectively address the sources of problems. The statements in this interview reinforce the need to continue exclusive civics education and keep the existing “Foundations” course intact.

Here are excerpts of your statements in that interview. https://www.facebook.com/OfficialDanForest/videos/2220732954858169/

“…when you don’t teach it, there’s been no curriculum, there’s been no (classes?)”
“We do not really teach financial literacy now and we don’t really teach economics anymore.”
“…get financial literacy and economics classes into all of our high schools so all of our high school students will take this mandatory class before they graduate.”
This course exists: “American History: The Founding Principles, Civics and Economics” (and Personal Finance!) If the onus is on teachers to more extensively teach personal finance because ignorance of interest rates is the source of personal debt, how will our state be affected when civics is no longer an exclusive section in a course required for graduation?
Several days ago, I received a printout of my North Carolina Final Exam data in my school mailbox. The portions of our instructional time are similar to the question breakdown on the NCFE:
Civics and Government: 48.6%
Economics: 29.7%
Personal Financial Literacy: 21.6%
This bill promotes the same course it claims to replace – however the bill eliminates exclusive civics and government instruction. Civic lessons and preparedness rely on use of “contemporary issues” and cannot be done justice using only a historical context if “absorbed” into American History curriculum.
Here is a sample of civics lessons from my classroom that I fear would be lost as there is no room or context in other existing courses to properly “absorb.”
1. A course where being able to read and use the Constitution is as important as the calculator in a math course
2. Debating current policies through lawmaking simulations and learning how to hold a civil conversation even with people with whom they disagree
3. Applying knowledge of campaign strategy and current policies through a campaign simulation and presidential debate
4. Analyzing the same event across the media coverage spectrum
5. Identifying fake news, deceptive techniques, and propaganda techniques
6. Empowering students with understanding current political dynamics and policies, and respectfully voicing their opinion through civic engagement
7. Learning about civil and criminal court procedures, and how to exercise their rights in this process
8. Criminal “mock trial” simulation
9. Getting students excited about participating in our democracy instead of rolling their eyes at “politics” that they don’t understand

“We have high school students that go out, leave high school, go get a job…they have no tools at their disposal so they go get a credit card and they rack up $20,000 in credit and then their credit card gets maxed out, and they can never afford to pay that off…”
One of the key components of personal finance is credit scores and developing credit worthiness. A new high school graduate cannot secure a credit card without a cosigner, or proof of independent income, until the individual turns 21. What credit card company would give a borrower with little to no history a $20,000 credit limit? Instead of passing responsibility solely to teachers, why not more aggressively pursue punishing predatory lending practices? North Carolina was one of the first states to enact legislation against predatory lending in mortgages. Perhaps it can lead in applying this zeal to credit card companies.

“…quite frankly, they don’t know the impacts of student loans because student loan debt is the largest form of debt in America…the average student comes away with $38,000 in debt and usually spends the rest of their lives paying it off.”
The increased cost of a four-year degree has outpaced growth in financial aid and wages. In 2017, the Raleigh News and Observer published an article, “UNC is losing ground in budget and reputation. Whose fault is that?” Author Rob Christensen shared, “In real, inflation-adjusted dollars, UNC has absorbed a double-digit cut in state appropriations during the past decade.” Students borrow more when states fail to adequately fund colleges and universities.

There are many variables contributing to debt that have little to do with understanding interest rates and how to balance a checkbook. Ignoring systemic issues that make it difficult for people to save and invest, and telling them, “if only those teachers taught you something!” (it’s 50% of the existing curriculum – we teach it) is not an effective solution.

“…the statistics around what people have saved for retirement or even being able to pay a bill, if the average family got a bill that was unexpected for even $400, they would have to borrow money or sell something to pay that bill so there’s just not enough money put away for emergencies.”
Only 43% of working age Americans have a retirement account, and the average balance of those who do is $40,000. The median personal savings account was $5,200 in 2018. Again, variables beyond personal financial literacy contribute to these issues. 14.7% of people in NC live in poverty, including over 20% of children. School system employees are excluded from the $15/hour state employee minimum wage. People who are barely making ends meet do not have much left over for personal savings, nonetheless investing for retirement. Sure, there are examples of people who spend frivolously, but are you asserting that all people who save little and invest little because their paychecks are little, fall into this category?

“The cost is going to be about $2.2 million over four years, and the majority of that cost is a $500 stipend for teachers to actually go get trained…take the class and then pass the test at the end of the class that declares that they’re actually eligible to go out and teach this material.”
I have a teaching license issued by the State of North Carolina that confirms that I am “actually eligible to go out and teach this material” as I’ve been teaching it for the last three years in a course that has been required for graduation since at least 2008, since that’s the publishing date of the less-than-class set of textbooks in my trailer classroom.

“We know that we have over $22 trillion debt in America, we have over $100 trillion in unfunded liabilities and, you know, the average person out there graduating from high school doesn’t even know how to balance a checkbook.”
Students learn about fiscal policy in the “Foundations” course. The debts you describe are the result of decisions made by governments, which are led by high-achieving individuals. The checkbook balancing challenge does not appear to be unique to average people graduating from high school, so perhaps lawmakers would like to join teachers at the prescribed North Carolina Council on Economic Education professional development sessions. Since this bill grants at least $1.2 million to this organization, they should be happy to oblige lawmakers. On a related note, I will be teaching fiscal policy in early May. However, I can’t pay lawmakers $500 to attend since it’s not in my budget.

FP.C&G.4.3 Analyze the roles of citizens of North Carolina and the United States in terms of responsibilities, participation, civic life and criteria for membership or admission (e.g., voting, jury duty, lobbying, interacting successfully with government agencies, organizing and working in civic groups, volunteering, petitioning, picketing, running for political office)
FP.C&G.3.8 Evaluate the rights of individuals in terms of how well those rights have been upheld by democratic government in the United States.

This letter is a reflection of practicing what I teach in the “Foundations” course. I cannot understand why standards like those listed above are at risk of being cut or so-called “absorbed.” Students should be empowered to participate in our government through exclusive civics study, not as a sidebar to historical references. Pitting civics instruction against developing personal finance skills is a false choice. I am happy to meet to discuss this bill at your convenience. I will continue to contact representatives and encourage those similarly concerned to do so as well, in an effort to keep the current “Foundations” course intact.

Civilly,
Kim Mackey

Well over $100,000 are missing from EACH classroom in NC over the past ten years

April 21, 2019

I’m a teacher

April 22, 2019

Have you ever had to tell a group of people, who you’ve known for only a few weeks, that their friend has died? I’m a teacher. I have.

Have you ever had someone come to you with a list of names of classmates who he/she worried were suicidal? I’m a teacher. I have.

Have you ever had someone come to you and say he/she is suicidal and doesn’t know who else to turn to? I’m a teacher. I have.

Have you ever had a nightmare where one of your current students was shooting up your classroom? I’m a teacher. I have.

Have you ever had to receive training on administering a rectal seizure medication? I’m a teacher. I have.

I’m a teacher. I don’t have a full-time school psychologist at my school.

I’m a teacher. I don’t have a full-time social worker at my school.

I’m a teacher. I work with counselors who have almost double the recommended caseload of students and try to fill the void of the off-campus school psychologist or social worker.

I’m a teacher. I don’t have a full-time nurse at my school.

You’re a member of this community too. Have you ever contacted lawmakers about fixing these staffing issues?

I’m a teacher. I have. Will you?

Restore Master’s degree pay

April 23, 2019

Earning a Master’s degree is rich professional development that deserves to be recognized with extra compensation. North Carolina became the first state in 2013 to eliminate extra pay for teachers who earned their Master’s degree. I have a Master’s degree in secondary education and was grandfathered in, but I am concerned that this has hurt our state’s ability to recruit and retain teachers, and disincentivizes the great teachers my children will have as they pass through North Carolina schools.

We can’t recruit great teachers from other states if our neighbors offer pay increases for advanced degrees, but we do not.

We can’t retain in state teachers who choose to cement greater bonds to developing as professionals if we don’t show that we find that achievement valuable as well.

We know that a highly effective teacher is one of the most powerful drivers of student growth. Instead of buying into scripted curriculum or the latest software developer making promises for how their binary product can address our students’ complex learning needs, let’s acknowledge that our students are spectrums, not machines. Let’s stop insisting on software supplanting the work of people lest we continue putting a square peg in a round hole and continue wondering why it won’t fit.

Teaching is an art, not a science. Handing Michelangelo a paint-by-numbers would deprive us of the Sistene Chapel.

Invest in those who commit their lives to student achievement. Let them learn additional tools through advanced degrees so that they can better design curriculum and lessons that fit the needs of the students they work with each day.

School staff are the common core in our communities – invest in them.

Highly qualified teachers are the MVPs of our classrooms – encourage the pursuit of higher qualifications by supporting pay for advanced degrees.

Please support the development of the art of teaching by reinstating pay for advanced degrees so our students can be exposed to more Sistene Chapels, and fewer paint-by-numbers.

Contact your lawmakers and tell them to pass SB 28/HB 890

No more “may I?” on May 1

April 27, 2019 *Where’s The Funding?

A satirical and “transparent” response to NC Superintendent Mark Johnson’s April 25 email campaigning against the priorities of public school employees he is supposed to lead.

April 25, 2019

Parents, Caretakers, and Educators,

As educators in North Carolina’s public schools, we want to encourage constructive policies that support our public education system. To that end, we support greater transparency. We want to empower you with clear facts at your fingertips as we work together to improve public education in our state.

That is why we are sharing this link to support the May 1 Day of Advocacy in Raleigh and organizing efforts: www.red4ednc.com/may-1st-links.html

With this easy-to-use site, you now have the facts about how you can join us to show our NCGA that we won’t tolerate the continued starvation of our education system by cutting corporate income taxes an extra $900 million this year alone instead of supporting students, educators, and schools. You can even discover the key issues public school supporters around the state want remedied by May 1.

Here are some facts about our education system you might find important:
• Between 2008-2018 the NC General Assembly has shortchanged our schools $6549.10 per student.
• An NCGA subcommittee released findings in Spring 2018 shortly after the Parkland massacre. Despite the NCGA’s apparent sense of urgency surrounding these findings when they were released, the May 1 Day of Action sponsored by North Carolina Association of Educators seeks to restore that resolve among our lawmakers by demanding that staffing ratios meet national standards. The report included these ratio discrepancies (NC staff to student ratio / national recommendations)
o nurse (1 : 2,315 / 1 full time nurse per school)
o counselor (1 : 350 / 1 : 250)
o psychologist (1 : 1,857 / 1 : 700)
o social worker (1 : 1427 / 1 : 400)
• In 2013, North Carolina became the first state to eliminate extra pay for teachers who earn advanced degrees.
• In 2017 the NCGA eliminated state retiree health benefits for anyone joining the profession as of January 1, 2021.
• North Carolina ranks #49 in the nation for teacher pay competitiveness.
• In 2018, a $15/hour minimum wage was established for all state workers EXCEPT school employees. Our teaching assistants, bus drivers, cafeteria workers, custodial staff, and other classified staff who interact with and care for our students each day were sent a message that their work supporting the development of students is not worth a livable wage.
• Our retirees’ purchasing power has diminished because of a lack of cost of living adjustments to pensions they contributed to while working.
• The NCGA continues to deny Medicaid expansion that has been accepted by 37 other states and would be paid for with federal funds. Healthy communities can better support student achievement.
• North Carolina’s 115 school districts receive mostly state funding, but the burden of supplementing funding shortages from the NCGA has fallen on counties to use property tax revenue.

We are powerful when we work together to demand change, and we are happy to have your support and attendance in Raleigh on May 1.

In this together,
Kim Mackey and all NC Educators
Strong Students, Strong Schools, Strong Communities
#inthistogether #redfored #alloutmay1 #itspersonal #ncaestrong

Who will pay the price?

May 21, 2019

There’s a lot of discussion this week about Wake County’s proposed property tax increase which will amount to $16/month for property worth $300,000. Much of the funding will go to education. Over half of the increase was democratically approved by voters last November. While we discuss who should pay, if we should pay, how much we should pay, let me share with you who has been paying.

Your kids and grandkids, nieces, nephews and neighbors have been paying. Our local schools have been asked to do more with less during a period of nationwide economic growth. If you’re looking to voice your frustration with an increase in property taxes, it is short sighted to direct that frustration to the County Commissioners. Like students and teachers have been doing for too long now, you are now experiencing the consequences of tax cuts and unfunded mandates from our state’s General Assembly.

Over the last ten years the North Carolina state government has shortchanged our schools $6549 per student. That’s over $137,000 less in my son’s first grade classroom, and around $200,000 that could have been invested in my own high school classroom. Our students are paying for cutting the corporate income tax rate in half, and individual income taxes that cut rates for the wealthy by over 25% but offered little savings for families like mine.

As County Manager Ellis shared with us, “Growth doesn’t pay for itself.” Our students and schools have been paying for growth. We’ve added over 24,000 students to our district since 2008. Some point to the 42 student increase last year in Wake County students. Flip it around and add three zeros: 24,000 students since 2008. There are around 42 trailer classrooms on the campus of the school where I teach, and over 1,000 trailers county-wide. A new school opens nearby next year but all of the trailers at my school will still be full. If you find trailers adequate learning environments, come visit my class with 34 seniors packed inside, or smell the papers inside my work bag.

If I turned down wages and bragged about my savings while starving my children, would you be impressed with my family budget? This fiscal year our state is projected to have a $643 million budget surplus, yet public school supporters are still fighting to return state per pupil funding to 2008 levels. Since the tax cuts in 2013, our state has surrendered $3.6 billion per year. Last year alone $900 million that could have gone to our schools went to an additional .25% corporate tax cut so state lawmakers could congratulate themselves for having the lowest corporate tax rate among states who have one. This year leaders in the General Assembly want to lower the franchise tax by 33% which would cost the state $1 billion in franchise tax revenue over the next 5 years.

This property tax increase has stirred some of you to action. Direct it to the source of the problem: leadership in the state General Assembly, not our County Commissioners trying to shield our schools from paying so much of the price of state level tax cuts.

Response to the NC House budget: If I ran my household like the NCGA wants to run our state…

May 24, 2019

Publicly funded education is inherently political, but doesn’t need to be so partisan

June 3, 2019

Over the last month, I have shared my thoughts with the Wake County Board of Commissioners and community for why our schools should receive the full budget request.  The blame lies with the General Assembly for cutting corporate taxes at the state level while the trickle down effect is to raise your county property taxes in order to keep our classrooms above water.  I look forward to working with anyone who would like to adjust the General Assembly’s priorities when it comes to funding education in this state.

Publicly funded education is inherently political, but doesn’t need to be so partisan.  From our nation’s founding, supporting public education was a foregone conclusion in supporting a democracy.  If I support the common good, some label me a communist.  If I support institutions that contribute to a better society, I am labeled a socialist.  I teach history so we can stand on the shoulders of those who came before us and work toward a “more perfect union.”  What would our Founding Fathers say?

Benjamin Franklin said “The good education of youth has been esteemed by wise men of all ages as the surest foundation of the happiness both of private families and of the commonwealth. Almost all governments have therefore made it a principal object of their attention, to establish and endow with proper revenues, such seminaries of learning, as might supply the succeeding age with men qualified to serve the public with honor to themselves, and to their country.”

Thomas Jefferson said “The value of science to a republican people, the security it gives to liberty by enlightening the minds of its citizens, the protection it affords against foreign power, the virtue it inculcates, the just emulation of the distinction it confers on nations foremost in it; in short, its identification with power, morals, order and happiness (which merits to it premiums of encouragement rather than repressive taxes), are considerations [that should] always [be] present and [bear] with their just weight.”

John Adams said: “Public Virtue cannot exist in a Nation without private, and public Virtue is the only Foundation of Republics. There must be a possitive Passion for the public good, the public Interest, Honour, Power, and Glory, established in the Minds of the People, or there can be no Republican Government, nor any real Liberty. And this public Passion must be Superiour to all private Passions.”

John Adams (again): “The whole people must take upon themselves the education of the whole people and be willing to bear the expenses of it.  There should not be a district of one mile square, without a school in it, not founded by a charitable individual, but maintained at the public expense of the people themselves.”

When public education for “We The People” becomes associated with communism and socialism, and not popular sovereignty that serves as the basis of our democratic government, I fear we have bigger problems in our county than whether there’s an average $16 or $18 per month difference in one’s property tax.

NC lawmakers are confused about regulations, punishments, and opportunities

June 6, 2019

Does anyone else see the irony in today’s N&O article about charter school expansion? Lt. Gov. Dan Forest says charters are “punished” for having to go through requirements in applying to exist, but once formed, it’s OK for them to be exempt from requirements of traditional public schools. If requirements are “punishment” and lack of requirements is “opportunity” why do we have so many mandates from the NCGA?

To be clear, I think basic mandates such as transportation, food and teacher licensure are fundamental and should be required of all schools receiving public money. Our state writes blank checks after charters are formed, yet continually adds bureaucratic hoops for public schools on the premise that local schools won’t use the money in the best interest of students. State policy is invading our classrooms with non-educators micromanaging curriculum, assessment and staffing.

Action needed by noon today!

June 13, 2019

ACTION NEEDED BY NOON TODAY: On June 4th a delegation of social studies teachers (myself included) met with a representative of Lt. Gov. Dan Forest’s office (all roads on this issue lead to him) to explain why the reorganizing of the high school social studies curriculum to include a semester course on personal finance was unnecessary and disruptive. We offered a compromise that would double instruction in personal finance but not reorganize the four courses we teach.

His response? Get his friends to ram the idea through faster by inserting it into House Bill 924. It is being offered on the Senate floor for a vote today at 12:30! This may be the last chance for amendments to be offered! We suggest amendments that push back against the victim blaming narrative that people have financial trouble because of lack of knowledge, and instead recognize the systemic and structural problems that contribute to financial distress: low wages ($15 min wage for school workers), lack of benefits (expand Medicaid! COLA for retirees!).

PLEASE call your Senator this morning! Tell them to amend HB924 to include the above elements, and tell them curriculum changes should be shaped by teachers, not elected leaders like Dan Forest who don’t understand what we teach and test!

Share and ACT NOW to amend teachers back into the curriculum process. For the pdf with links: https://tinyurl.com/mindyourownbudget

Amended HB 924 passes the Senate

June 18, 2019

Students learn personal finance in a course required for graduation. Districts have started offering teacher contracts. We do not need H 924! Dan Forest needs it as he runs for Governor with a “bipartisan” talking point to show he cares about public education (he doesn’t) and people in poverty (he doesn’t). Contact your House representatives and tell them we don’t need or want this bill! Thank you Sam Searcy for standing strong with teachers.

Fact checking Lt. Governor Dan Forest’s Tweet

June 19, 2019

Why we can’t just teach and learn our way out of debt and systemic poverty:

– Economics and Personal Finance has been in social studies curriculum required for graduation since at least the mid-1990s. There is also a 1 credit personal finance course offered by the Career and Technical Education department. 

– North Carolina is ahead of the national curve requiring EPF has 50% of the “Foundations” course.  Fewer than half of states currently require any study of Economics and Personal Finance as a graduation requirement.

– There is no correlation between states requiring personal finance as a graduation requirement and that state’s bankruptcy filings, student loan debt, household debt, etc. 

Nonetheless, teachers have offered proposals to address your concerns, but were rejected:

– Require the existing Personal Finance elective for graduation.  If a stand-alone course is so important, and this content is so essential, isn’t it worth adding this course as a 23rd credit hour required to graduate?  Students in a 4×4 schedule have 32 course slots available during their high school career so one more credit is possible if this course is so necessary.

– Shift historical units from the “Foundations” course and increase their emphasis in American History I to make room for increased study of personal finance in the “Foundations” course.  This would have accomplished the sought-after goal without overhauling the entire social studies curriculum.

Regarding data cited to support the need for additional personal finance curriculum:

– Many students take the PISA test before they take the “Founding Principles” course so their knowledge of personal finance is assessed before exclusive instruction.  The reported score indicates a “pre-test.”

– Teachers have been requesting NCFE data from DPI for weeks.  It appears you have found it.  We look forward to you passing along this data to those who have requested it so we can see it for ourselves.  My students averaged 80% on the EPF section.

– The $22 trillion debt you describe is the result of decisions made by the US government, not individual consumers.

– Students borrow more when states fail to adequately fund colleges and universities.  The increased cost of a four-year degree has outpaced growth in financial aid and wages.  In 2017, the Raleigh News and Observer published, “UNC is losing ground in budget and reputation.  Whose fault is that?”  Author Rob Christensen shared, “In real, inflation-adjusted dollars, UNC has absorbed a double-digit cut in state appropriations during the past decade.” 

– 43% of working age Americans have a retirement account, and the average balance of those who do is $40,000.  The median personal savings account was $5,200 in 2018.  Variables beyond personal financial literacy contribute to these issues. 14.7% of people in NC live in poverty, including over 20% of children.  People who are barely making ends meet do not have much left over for personal savings, nonetheless investing for retirement.  Sure, there are examples of people who spend frivolously, but are you asserting that all people who save little and invest little because their paychecks are little, fall into this category?

– Credit card debt is problematic, but credit card defaults are a better indicator of the extent of this issue.  Instead of passing responsibility solely to teachers and consumers, why not more aggressively pursue punishing predatory lending practices?  North Carolina was one of the first states to enact legislation against predatory lending in mortgages.  Perhaps it can lead in applying this zeal to credit card companies.

If concern regarding people’s state of personal finances is not political, please encourage the NCGA to support these policies that will do more to assist personal financial challenges:

– Expand Pre-K with access to real classmates and teachers, not “virtual” ones

– Restore K-12 per pupil expenditures to pre-recession levels since over the last 10 years schools have lost $6,549 per student in state funding.  If education is seen as solution to financial issues, fully funding schools to adequately deliver all curriculum should be a parallel priority.

– Expand vocational training and support the “Early College” model in public schools

– Restore funding cut to the UNC system so students don’t need to borrow as much to earn a degree

– Close the health care gap

– Encourage $15 minimum wage for non-state workers

– Freeze tax cuts for corporations and the wealthy and focus on helping the 20% of our state’s children who go hungry

I have expressed these concerns to you since February.  My colleagues and I (who teach the “Foundations” course that addresses economics and personal finance) met with your advisor to discuss this further and your response was to shove your “stand alone” course into an unrelated bill (H 924) the following day instead of factor in any feedback offered by social studies teachers. 

Esse Quam Videri, Kim Mackey

Back to the House…

June 21, 2019

ACTION ALERT: Please send the email below to your NCGA House Representative. This is the last chance to prevent unnecessary disruption to CTE and Social Studies. Please ask your rep to NOT CONCUR with the Senate’s amended HB 924 (on calendar for Monday).

Dear Rep. —-,
I am reaching out this afternoon to discuss the Senate amendment to H 924 (original teacher contract amendment provisions). For your reference, I am sharing a brief in the text below that has been assembled since SB 134 (Economics and Financial Literacy) was introduced in late February.
Teachers have expressed these concerns to Senators and the Lt. Governor since it was introduced. We are not opposed to having students learn personal finance: our assertion has been that they are already studying it in a course required for graduation: http://www.dpi.state.nc.us/…/…/socialstudies/scos/civics.pdf

There are ways to incorporate additional study of personal finance without such a prescriptive bill that has many negative side effects. Teachers have been working to bring light to these concerns and offer compromises that would both enhance study of personal finance and avoid unnecessary disruption to our high schools and the students they serve. Unfortunately, instead of taking this feedback into account, H 924 which passed unanimously in its original form, was hijacked by the Senate to add SB 134, a bill that never made it out of committee.

As this bill makes it back to the House, we hope there is an opportunity to address these concerns in conference by removing the language unrelated to the original teacher contract bill that passed unanimously in the House. Teachers are in favor of teaching personal finance, and those who teach the “Founding Principles” class and CTE “Personal Finance” class have been doing so for years. The prescriptive path outlined in the amended HB 924 is full of pitfalls that can be avoided while still reaching the goal of further study of personal finance by offering expansion of personal finance as a recommendation to the SBOE as it re-evaluates the social studies curriculum. I hope that the information provided below helps you understand why teachers have been sounding the alarm since this bill was introduced. The bill is on Monday’s calendar for concurrence. I hope you will not concur with the amended version.

I am available to discuss this further and share additional information at your convenience. The summary can be found in the text below.

A. Teachers have offered 3 proposals to address EPF concerns, but were rejected:
1. Require the existing full credit Personal Finance CTE elective for graduation. If a stand-alone course is so important to sponsors, and this content is so essential, isn’t it worth adding this existing course as a 23rd credit hour required to graduate? Students in a 4×4 schedule have 32 course slots available during their high school career so one more credit is possible if this course is so necessary.
2. Shift historical units from the “Foundations” course and increase their emphasis in American History I to make room for increased study of personal finance in the “Foundations” course. This would have accomplished the sought-after goal without overhauling the entire social studies curriculum.
3. The Senate offered an amendment pushed for by teachers that would eliminate prescriptive language and turn the bill into an NCGA recommendation to be considered by the Board of Education as it re-evaluates the social studies curriculum. The SBOE is best equipped to help avoid the unintended consequences of the bill (described below)

B. Negative externalities of implementing this prescriptive bill as written:
1. It would eliminate the need for the Personal Finance course offered by the CTE department. This would result in CTE teachers’ positions being cut as social studies teachers are now tasked with teaching this course.
2. This could diminish the number of students willing to take AP US History and AP US Government in NC. The current AP US History course counts as credit for both American I and American II so part of the appeal for students who may not otherwise choose to take on this rigor is the 2-for-1 exchange that allows them more freedom in their schedule to explore other courses of interest. Because of the prescriptive nature of the new “Civics” course, the possibility exists that AP US Government may not fit all of the criteria for credit of the reformulated “Civics” requirement. These variables reinforce the need for full evaluation by SBOE instead of such prescriptive language from the NCGA.
3. The need to provide two tracks of instruction simultaneously can reduce economies of scale and crowd out electives like AP courses, which are not required for graduation. In the transition, some of our older students will need the “old track” of social studies (World History, American History I, American History II, Civics and Economics) and our younger students will need the “new track” (World, American, Civics, Personal Finance and Economics).
4. All pacing guides, unit plans, unit tests and common assessments in three of the four courses in social studies will become obsolete and will have to be recreated. This will likely expedite the retirement of some of our most experienced teachers who qualify for retirement. We understand that the social studies curriculum is up for re-evaluation by the SBOE, but re-evaluation does not mean imminent overhaul. Social Studies teachers have offered suggestions for how to expand study of personal finance, the ultimate goal of this bill, without so severely disrupting the social studies graduation requirements. Classroom curriculum designed in accordance with State Board of Education Policy- SCOS-012 can more practically address curriculum concerns. The current Personal Finance course offered by CTE counts as a math credit for OCS students and could be extended to all students as another alternative to addressing EPF concerns. Educator involvement via SCOS-012 would offer a more comprehensive approach to curriculum sequence and design.

The State of Health Care in the Old North State

June 22, 2019

Working age, able-bodied adults who would qualify for Medicaid if expanded ARE WORKING but their employers don’t offer health coverage.
We have 3 options N.C.:
1. Expand Medicaid with the fed gov paying 90% of the cost as 37 other states have done
2. Demand employers who have benefitted from NCGA tax cuts “trickle down” to offer health coverage for their employees instead of gov’t subsidizing their unwillingness to do this
3. Continue with hundreds of thousands of N.C. workers lacking health care, and our rural hospitals close while money we send to the fed. gov’t goes to help people in 37 other states

How Bad Education Policy Happens

July 3, 2019

My friend Angie Scioli wrote a great piece about lessons learned from our HB 924 experience these last few months. It’s a great case study for those still learning about some of the inter-workings of ed policy in N.C. and includes information for fellow activists so we can learn from each other’s experiences. Read it here on the Red 4 Ed NC blog

Apologies to my son for reforming his room like the NCGA “reforms” education

July 3, 2019

Dear Public School Supporters on the Eve of Independence Day,

My name is John and I am going into second grade. I am writing to get some advice, and express my support in your fight to get the schools we deserve. I’ve been sharing my mom with you in this work, but the last few days have really been a struggle with her since she’s gone all Phil Berger on me with reforming my room. I realize there are some changes that need to be made in my room, and want to work with my mom to improve its condition, but we have some differences of opinion in which problem areas should be prioritized and how best to reorganize my room. Since the similarities are striking as you all battle against some of the reforms championed by Sen. Phil Berger, Rep. Tim Moore, Supt. Mark Johnson, and Lt. Gov. Dan Forest, I thought you may be able to offer some advice.

First off, I have a younger sister who likes to come in to play with my toys. I know she’s younger and new around here, but I don’t like when she plays with or takes my stuff, or when she contributes to the mess. Mom says it’s my room, so it’s my mess to clean. Is this what it’s like sharing with less accountable charter schools and voucher programs?

We started by taking everything out of my room and while mom does some deep cleaning, it’s my job to sort through my books and donate the ones that are below my reading level or no longer of interest. I quickly realize that there are few books that remain, so I shuffle some back over from the discard pile so my shelf isn’t so bare. Mom doesn’t get paid in the summer so I know they won’t be replaced quickly, but there’s always the library. Do you hang on to books that aren’t as useful because something is better than nothing? Do you have a textbook library?

We pulled back my bed to clean under it. We deep clean in the summer when mom is home to catch up. Suffice it to say, I think I’ll be sneezing a lot less when it’s done. It would be great to vacuum under the furniture more often, but thorough cleaning time is rare during the school year. With major cuts in custodial services, is this what your schools look like by the end of the year?

I have a twin bed and I’m tall for my age and growing fast. Between Dad’s height and my pace of growth, I’ll need a bigger bed in a few years. I hope I don’t have to fight tooth and nail for one like you all have to in order to get a state school construction bond. How will I get a sound, basic night’s sleep if I’m so scrunched up?

Legos are my favorite! I love building and using my imagination. Mom likes what I build, but doesn’t like buying so many of them, stepping on them, or nagging me to clean them up. The other week she went to California to catch up with a friend who works for Apple. Her friend sold her on the idea of buying an iPad for me so I could play Minecraft instead. She thinks she’ll save money on new Legos and my room will be less of a mine field if I just play Minecraft. I tell her I like Legos better and they’re better for my brain development, but she insists I’ll learn to like the new setup once I have more training on how to use it. HELP!!!

My baseball piggy bank brings me joy and helps me to save money. While helping Grandpa prepare for his move, she brought back Uncle Greg’s big blue crayon bank for me. I told her I don’t need a bigger bank since my money fits just fine in my baseball pig. Mom countered that Uncle Greg is in finance and does well for himself, so if it worked for him, I will learn to like the big blue crayon bank. Despite the adequacy of my current bank, and failure to convince Mom that a bigger bank doesn’t mean more money in the bank, I’m now forced to find space in my room for this big blue crayon because my finance industry uncle owned it so mom thinks it’s a good idea. I try appealing to Dad to see things my way and help my case with Mom, but he already drove it across the country and doesn’t want to tell Mom he changed his mind, no matter how much sense I make. Have your allies done this to you?

Mom is now in my room with the door closed, reforming it as she sees fit. She said my complaining is unwarranted and that I’ll like my room much better once she’s done. She fails to realize that I’ll be the one living in it, not her. I respect that she’s my mom and as her son I have limited sway by design. I wish she would catch the spirit of the upcoming Independence Day, and offer to me more autonomy over my room. How do you all deal with being stonewalled in a democracy whose power is sourced in you – the people?

I look forward to your suggestions and watching you model them as an example.

Sincerely,
John

Warning: no classroom teachers were included in the creation of this law (proof below – note which groups he credits)

July 8, 2019

If they were included, the existing CTE course could have become a required course (one of a few alternatives offered by those of us on the front lines who teach personal finance in a course required for graduation) instead of reinventing a wheel while NCCEE wins a grant and “supporters” get to act like they’ve helped those facing financial struggles.

Larger bank = more money?

July 9, 2019

This is no way to address personal financial struggles, yet is the current preferred method of legislatures nationwide.
We teach personal finance K-12 in NC, and for weeks in a course required for graduation. Teaching it instead for months in a “new” course as our lawmakers ignore aspects of the wealth gap and opportunity gap is just as hollow as giving a students a larger bank when a key problem is lack of means with which to fill it.

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