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North Carolina Relaxes Oversight for Charters, Launches ASD to Turn More Public Schools Over to Charters

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Public Schools First NC reports here on the actions of the state legislature in its closing hours. It enacted as much as possible of the ALEC privatization agenda, inviting out-of-state charter operators to take over public schools, creating an “achievement school district” like the one that failed in Tennessee, and reducing oversight of charters.

Go to the website of http://www.publicschoolsfirstnc.org to see the full report and open the links.

The $22.34 billion conference budget (and money report) was released Monday evening, June 27. The Senate passed the budget Wednesday, and the House passed it on Friday, July 1. The spending plan for the next fiscal year obviously affects our public schools in many ways:

Average 4.7% salary increase for teachers. The teacher salary schedule will restore annual step increases for teachers in years 0-14, at year 15 salary will stay the same for next 10 years.

Raises average teacher salaries to over $50,000 in 2016-17 and $55,000 over the next three years.

School administrators receive step increase and a 1.5% increase to base salaries
Noncertified school personnel receive a 1.5% salary increase.

School administrators and noncertified personnel will also receive a one-time 0.5% bonus.

Starts a pilot program for rewarding third grade teachers. Teachers who are in the top 25% in the state for EVAAS student growth index scores in reading will share $5 million. Teachers who are in the top 25% of their LEAs for the same score will share $5 million, and teachers who fall in both categories will receive both bonuses.

Expanding the voucher program by an extra $10 million and 2,000 students every year until 2026-2027 when spending will plateau at $134.8 million per year. The budget also expands the percentage of money that can go to Kindergarten and 1st grade recipients, from 35% to 40% of what remains after prior recipients are enrolled.

Keeping the school performance grade formula at 80% test scores, 20% growth and the 15-point scale will remain for the next three years.

Requiring maximum class size ratios are: Kindergarten 1:18; 1st grade 1:16; and 2nd and 3rd grade 1:17. The budget also eliminates districts’ flexibility around those caps.
Funding 260 new pre-K slots at a cost of $1.325 million. This is far less than the more than 7,000 children on the state’s pre-K waiting list and contrasts with both the governor’s and the House plans to spend $4 million on 800 spots.

Changing requirements for virtual charter schools, including reducing the percentage of teachers who must live in state from 90% to 80%, and changing the way students who withdraw are counted under the withdrawal rate cap of 25% by creating four new exceptions. For instance a student who withdraws for “a family, personal, or medical reason” and who notifies the school would not count as a withdrawal under the cap.

Reducing central office budgets by $2.5 million, bringing funding down to mid-90’s levels.

The House passed the omnibus charter school measure HB 242, which changes many aspects of charter reviews and renewals, despite the opposition of a national charter school group. The National Association of Charter School Authorizers criticized the bill in a letter because the changes leave little way for the State Board to close low-performing charters while also making reviews too infrequent for high-performing charters to be eligible for federal grants. The measure was sent to Governor McCrory to be signed on Wednesday, June 29.

In addition to the budget, the Senate amended and passed the ASD bill HB 1080 this week, over the objections of several Democratic members. Sen. Chad Barefoot amended the bill to require the chosen school operators be experienced in turning underperforming schools around, to allow the extension of the charter operators’ contracts, and to allow Charlotte-Mecklenburg schools to create an innovation zone with their existing Project Lift schools. The House quickly concurred with the coercive takeover measure and sent it to the governor along with its li’l buddy, HB 242. Is it a coincidence that a measure forcing communities to surrender schools to out-of-state charter operators was put before the governor on the same exact day as a measure shredding accountability for charter operators? I can raise one eyebrow at a time, and I’m doing it now. For real.

These bills and many others are on the governor’s desk now. No surprise vetoes are expected, but all that signing is a hand cramp waiting to happen. Keep hope alive!

Follow us on Facebook and the web for the latest on the massive voucher expansion contained in the budget. Refresh yourself on the differences between public and private schools in order to scrutinize the growing Opportunity Scholarship program.

Be sure to visit our LEGISLATIVE UPDATE page for information, including our Week In Review summary and our weekly video review.

Over the next few weeks, we will provide more in-depth analysis of the bills that impacted K-12 public education in North Carolina.

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