Pete's Prep: Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Hysterical rhetoric undermines teachers' arguments

To be clear: tomorrow's one-day teacher strike is political. The NC Association of Educators leader - Mark Jewell - has said it is.

"We don’t anticipate much change from this group," NCAE President Mark Jewell said. "So, we’re going to change the players in the game."

The NCAE is being pretty clear in its intentions:


There is no sense in denying this, and doing so just makes a person look dishonest or uninformed.

Cue the latest from Progress NC:


Let's take a look at the rhetoric being used to justify the trouble and cost that the teachers (don't call it a) union is inflicting upon parents, students, and taxpayers.

 1. "Low pay"

The average teacher pay in North Carolina is $51,214. This is a figure from the Department of Public Instruction.


This does not include other forms of compensation. As Dr. Terry Stoops from the John Locke Foundation outlined in his piece last week, there is nearly $20,000 worth of annual compensation provided to the average educator:

Social Security and retirement contributions exceeded $11,600. The state  subsidy for health insurance nears $5,900 and will climb to more than  $6,100 next year. At the same time, lawmakers added a slew of teacher  training and incentive pay initiatives that corresponded to their  education reform priorities.

I think most folks in the private sector would look at these numbers - as well as the additional perks that come with the job - and say this is pretty good.

That's not to say the job has drawbacks. All jobs do.

That's not to say some teachers are underpaid. Some are grossly underpaid. And some are grossly overpaid. 

But to argue that teacher's suffer from "low pay" indicates a certain level of detachment from what others in the private sector are paid - as well as the lack of benefits and stability.

2. Crumbling buildings

There are 2,592 public schools in North Carolina with nearly 1.46 million students. The construction of buildings (the capital costs) is the responsibility of the local governments. If a school needs to be replaced, it's up to a county or city to do so.

To wit:

Counties are responsible for financing their own capital programs and have spent almost $12.8 billion on school construction and maintenance since 1998. The state has contributed over $1.9 billion for capital expenditures during the same period.  Taking all sources of revenue into account, school districts have spent over $14.7 billion for school capital expenditures since 1998.

3. No supplies

First of all, if there were no supplies, teachers would be spending more than $500 a year out of their own pockets to buy them. But teachers say they want more supplies - and school operating budgets don't provide enough money to buy what teachers say the kids need.

The Washington Post published a story citing a report from the US Department of Education that found teachers spend, on average, $79 per year on supplies for their classrooms.

This is a national number, but we'll use it for North Carolina, even though it would be slightly lower due to a lower cost of living than the US average.

The report, prepared by the National Center for Education Statistics and released Tuesday, is based on a nationally representative survey of teachers during the 2015-2016 school year. It found that 94 percent of teachers pay for classroom supplies, spending an average of $479 a year. About 7 percent of teachers spend more than $1,000 a year.

The state currently spends more than $88 million dollars on supplies.

There are about 99,000 public school teachers. If we funded every one of those teachers an extra $500 per classroom, it would cost $49.5 million. Not even the Democratic Governor is calling for that kind of an increase in school supplies.

Further, I suspect if the Republican General Assembly funded an additional $500 per classroom - strictly to cover the cost of supplies - that it would not prompt a change in the rhetoric. Because the goal is to elect Democrats. As such, there is never an optimal spending level that will suffice.

To me, this is a problem that screams out for a private-sector charitable answer.

Like the annual Tools For Schools supplies drive WWNC and Ingles does every year. Over twenty years, we have donated more than $15 million to local schools - or about $750,000 per year.

And this does not include the work of non-profits and organizations like Classroom Central.

Or Good 360.

Or Donors Choose.

Or Adopt A Classroom.

Or ClassWish.

Or School On Wheels.

Or Fund My Classroom.

So, "no supplies" is not correct. And not only is it incorrect, but it dismisses the years of good work by decent people who have helped kids and teachers.

If the goal is to convince parents and taxpayers that they need to give up more of their own money, this kind of rhetoric undermines the effort.

Of course, if the goal is simply to motivate an angry progressive base and cast Republicans (who have given teachers five pay raises in as many years) as anti-education, then this all makes perfect sense.

President Trump & Sean Hannity talk every day

This isn't really surprising, although it does have me remembering the many times Hannity has said on his radio program that he doesn't speak regularly with the President.

But, yes... apparently the FOX News and radio host chats with Donald Trump every night before they go to bed.

The operator then dials the president, who leaves the Oval Office around 7 p.m. and who, by this point in the evening, is almost always by himself on the third floor of the executive residence (the First Lady reportedly sleeps in a separate bedroom). He tells the operator to put Hannity through.

Their chats begin casually, with How are yous and What’s going ons. On some days, they speak multiple times, with one calling the other to inform him of the latest developments. White House staff are aware that the calls happen, thanks to the president entering a room and announcing, “I just hung up with Hannity,” or referring to what Hannity said during their conversations, or even ringing Hannity up from his desk in their presence.

And another thing...

Sooo... this is just gross.

Pete Kaliner

Pete Kaliner

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