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During a hectic week, NCGA Republicans moved bills that could further cuts to education and continue advancements of unchecked privatization of public schools

A recent study found that just 23 percent of 4-year-olds in North Carolina have access to pre-k, below the national average. Meanwhile teacher pay in N.C. remains $7.8k less than the national average and NC teachers make 35.5 percent less than other 4-year college graduates in the state. Teachers pay out-of-pocket for school supplies to meet classroom needs. However, unchecked growth of charter schools has created a fiscal burden on local school districts of $500 to $700 per student.

A number of education-related bills are moving through the NCGA this session, but some appear to do more harm than good. We’ve highlighted three of those bills below.

H485 seeks to address a problem created by Republicans when they rolled back Smart-Start funding and, since then, continually failed to address the growing pre-k waitlist. Instead of funding pre-k, lawmakers want to send 4-year-olds to school online. Experts have concerns about the virtual learning pilot program because the value of pre-k “is less about the skill-learning in reading and math and more about skill-learning in social-emotional domains.” Virtual pre-k is a short-sighted effort to solve a funding failure with long-term impacts.

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#TBT: Mark Johnson again claims NC teachers are making plenty of money

Mark Johnson falsely claims teachers make more than other college grads in NC

State Superintendent Mark Johnson doubled-down Wednesday on his controversial teacher pay comments from early 2018 during an interview on a conservative talk radio show.

Last year Johnson faced criticism for claiming that the base starting teacher salary was “good money” for people in their 20s. For reference, Johnson, 35, makes $127,561, but if he were still on the teacher pay scale would be making just $38,000

Johnson repurposed his now-debunked talking point to again claim teachers in NC are making plenty of money.

“[average teacher pay] is also more than the median wage of a person in North Carolina with a four-year degree for a year. That means that the average teacher is making more than what these median households in North Carolina make, families are bringing home,”Johnson said Wednesday on Wilmington’s Big Talker.

This claim is blatantly false, especially his point about what families are actually “bringing home.”

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low teacher pay in North Carolina is a crisis

Have you talked to a teacher in North Carolina recently? Or, more importantly, have you really listened to one? If you know or care about any teachers in this state, you most likely have witnessed their struggle to make ends meet under salaries that do not reflect their unremitting workload.

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Mark Johnson on School Nutrition: A Close Reading

A few days ago, Superintendent of public instruction Mark Johnson sent out the mailer below on school nutrition. School nutrition remains a critical battleground as students and families battle food insecurity amidst stagnating wages and continual budget cuts in North Carolina. 

Real Facts previously documented how Johnson used the NC public schools email list as his personal blog. Now, it seems that Johnson has moved to glossy mailers as a medium for his vacuous nutrition advice. Below, find an annotated version of Johnson’s note.

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UNC BOG Series Part III: Lack of communication on million-dollar ad campaign raises questions about its motive

At the beginning of October, coinciding with the opening of FASFA applications for 2019, the NC Promise program launched an ad campaign to promote the new plan. “We Promise” aims to raise awareness amongst North Carolinians about the opportunity to utilize NC Promise, which UNC claims will make higher education more affordable for students, yet has many low-income students paying more out-of-pocket costs. The marketing campaign comes with a $1 million price tag.

The News & Observer reported that the legislature funded the marketing push but did not specify who requested the funding. A public records request for any correspondence between Margaret Spellings, President of the UNC System, Drew Moretz, Vice President for State Government Relations for the UNC System, Timothy Minor, Vice President for University Advancement for the UNC System, Andrew P. Kelly, Senior Vice President for Strategy and Policy for the UNC System, Camille Barkley, Associate Vice President for Media Relations for the UNC System, Josh Ellis, Associate Vice President for Media Relations for the UNC System, Clayton Somers, Vice Chancellor for Public Affairs and Secretary to UNC-Chapel Hill, Amy Auth, Director of State Affairs at UNC-Chapel Hill, and the North Carolina General Assembly turned up no communication. According to this, there was absolutely no communication about a $1 million ad campaign between any members of the UNC System’s senior staff.

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Rep. Ross misrepresented his record on education, clean water and taxes in an ad where he tried to run away from his three-time incumbency

Rep. Steve Ross (R-Alamance) is running for a fourth term in the North Carolina House of Representatives.

In a new ad, Ross claims he’s made several legislative decisions that help Alamance County: boosting teacher pay, safeguarding schools, protecting clean water and cutting income tax for 99 percent of families. His record proves otherwise.

Claim 1: “He fought to boost teacher pay.”
Claim 2: “He fought to safeguard our schools.”
Claim 3: “He fought to protect our water.”
Claim 4: “He fought to cut income taxes for 99 percent of North Carolina’s families.”  
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North Carolina Legislator Profile: Rep. Jon Hardister (R-Guilford)

Jon Hardister, the House Majority Whip and close ally of Speaker Tim Moore, was elected to represent Guilford County in 2012.

Since his election to the General Assembly, Hardister supported Republican budgets that shortchange public education by failing to meaningfully raise teacher salaries or fund classrooms.In 2017, the Republican budget gave no raises to beginning teachers and a 0.6 percent raise to experienced teachers— the equivalent of “just a tank of gas.” He has also supported moves to end tenure while asserting that having an advanced degree “does not necessarily make a teacher more effective.” Hardister called the 2017 budget “a commitment to public education.” This “commitment to public education” did not include a stipend to aid teachers with out-of-pocket expenses. After voting to pass the 2013 budget—which similarly failed to adequately fund schools— Hardister said he came to regret his vote after “experiencing firsthand how hard the teachers work.”

Hardister voted to deny affordable insurance to thousands.In 2013, he and the Republicans voted to block a fully-funded Medicaid expansion that covered half a million North Carolinians. Studies said this failure to expand affordable healthcare would cost the state $15 billion in new economic activity and 455 to 1,145 lives per year. Hardister later said it would be “unwise” to expand Medicaid and that we need to be “cautious about expanding the role of government in healthcare.” In 2018, Hardister and House Republicans used a loophole on a non-controversial bill to attempt to dismantle coverage for pre-existing conditions. By adding an amendment to an unrelated school psychologist licensure bill, Republicans tried to pass a statute that would discriminate against those with pre-existing health conditions, offer skimpy benefits, and come with few or no consumer protections.   

Hardister likes to harp on redistricting reform as a talking point but chose to repeatedly support unconstitutional districts that suppress voters’ electoral power. He has sponsored three independent redistricting bills, but they all stalled in committee. To avoid “double-bunking” with incumbent Guilford representative John Faircloth, Hardister moved, even though he says he believes the “seats don’t belong to us, they belong to the people.” After both the 2011 and 2017 legislative maps were struck down by the courts, Hardister said he believed the maps were “in compliance with the law.” He also helped draw the 2016 congressional maps that were later thrown out in court. When Sen. Trudy Wade tried to pass a Greensboro City Council redistricting bill, Hardister said he would oppose the bill. He “caved when it counted,” changing his vote at the last minute.

Read more here.

Photo: Greensboro News & Record
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UNC BOG Series Part II: Financial contributions to lawmakers play a role in UNC System policy

One of the largest concerns for current students, prospective students, faculty, and staff in the UNC system is how the state legislature, which controls nearly all of the system’s overall budget, selects and interacts with the System’s leadership. Looking at political contributions made by the Board of Governors, the governing body of the UNC system, and to NC lawmakers who make the appointments brings to light how budgetary and other crucial decisions about the UNC System are made.

Sen. Wesley Meredith (R-Cumberland) was the only original NC Promise Plan sponsor to receive contributions from current members of the BOG. His biggest contributor is Michael Williford, who contributed a total of $24,700 to Meredith between 2012 and 2018. Williford was appointed to the Board in 2015, and received his JD from NCCU, another HBCU within the system that is not slated to be deeply impacted by the Promise Plan, but is currently facing criticism for erasing the culture of the university.

Source: NCSBE
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