This week, I look at the year ahead. Sorry, wrong punctuation mark. This week, I look at the year ahead!
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I am morally obligated to provide one of those "what to expect in 2014" articles, so here goes…
Liberal activist organizations are challenging two new laws. In North Carolina Association of Educators, et al, v. The State of North Carolina, the state’s teachers union challenged recent changes to North Carolina’s tenure (aka "career status") law. They contend that the elimination of tenure is unconstitutional because it violates a provision in the state constitution that prohibits "uncompensated takings" of private property. In other words, the plaintiffs argue that tenure is a form of private property and teachers did not receive adequate compensation for the "taking" of that property by the legislature.
Alice Hart, et al, v. State of North Carolina, et al is a legal challenge of North Carolina’s new voucher program for low-income families. The plaintiffs argue that the voucher law violates Article IX, Section 2(1) of the North Carolina Constitution, which states, "General Assembly shall provide by taxation and otherwise for a general and uniform system of free public schools." The word "exclusively" is used three times in Article IX of the state constitution. As I have explained elsewhere, my non-lawyer interpretation is that "exclusively" refers to money deposited into state and county school funds. Neither type of school fund receives money earmarked for the state’s voucher programs.
Neither lawsuit will be resolved this year. If the courts appear to favor the plaintiffs in either case, then I would expect legislators to use the upcoming session to revise the laws accordingly.
Expect the left to spend a great deal of their money disseminating stories about the supposed "war on public education" in an attempt to guilt lawmakers into taking and spending more of our money.
A number of elected officials have indicated that they support an increase in teacher compensation, but do not expect the Republican-led General Assembly to jack up taxes to bring about those increases. Legislators will look to revenue growth and/or spending cuts in other areas of state government to increase public education funding.
Moreover, do not expect the public school advocacy organizations to be satisfied with any Republican proposal to increase education funding or raise teacher compensation. Let me repeat — they will never be satisfied. Ever. Despite their best intentions, Republicans cannot "make nice" with the education establishment by raising teacher pay by a few percentage points.
North Carolina adopted the Common Core State Standards in 2010, but debate about the standards will continue in 2014. A legislative research commission, the Committee on Common Core State Standards, will convene three more meetings in coming months. At this point, there is very little information available about these meetings, but we do know that they will feature impassioned debate by those on both sides of the issue.
Speaking of debate, the Department of Public Instruction will offer a Common Core testing proposal for consideration by the State Board of Education (SBE). The SBE-approved testing plan will then go to the state legislature for their consideration. State law requires the General Assembly to approve any statewide testing plan, which they must do this year to prepare for a new testing program next year. It will be a tough sell, particularly if the testing proposal requires a significant, long-term investment.
James B. Hunt, the former governor of North Carolina, will be a key figure in the education reform debate this year. This week, the News & Observer published his op-ed on teacher pay. In February, Hunt is scheduled to speak (5 times) at this year’s education-themed Emerging Issues Forum, Teachers and the Great Economic Debate. Expect more op-eds and speeches to follow his initial volley.
To be honest, Democrats have little choice but to appoint Hunt as their spokesman on education issues. Moral Monday protests have burned any remaining bridges between Democrats and Republicans. Hunt wisely distanced himself from the protests, and thus preserved the idea that he is a neutral arbiter of education policy.
Last year, over 50 business leaders got together to form a new education advocacy organization, Business for Education Success and Transformation North Carolina (BEST NC). The organization will occupy a unique, purgatory-like place in the education reform debate. BEST NC will support Common Core, which will not sit well with conservatives and liberals concerned about standardized testing. Similarly, BEST NC will be an advocate for big business, a turnoff for liberals and conservatives who oppose economic incentives. I suspect that conservatives in Wake County are not happy to hear that local education activist Brenda Berg has been hired to lead the group.
Of course, BEST NC will appeal to pro-business Republicans, including Governor McCrory. But that may not be enough to persuade legislators to adopt their reform agenda.
It will be a year of sentimentalism, fanaticism, and Manichaeism. I’ll let others explain.
- Sentimentalism: "To expect too much is to have a sentimental view of life and this is a softness that ends in bitterness." (Flannery O’Connor)
- Fanaticism "Fanaticism consists of redoubling your effort when you have forgotten your aim." (George Santayana)
- Manichaeism: "They want to take us back to an imaginary age of absolute moral clarity, when good was good and evil was evil and everyone could see the difference. They want to take us back to an imaginary Manichean age when you’re either with us or against us…" (Mark Crispin Miller)
Finally, 2014 will be the year of the exclamation point! After all, there is only one punctuation mark suited for the "-isms" described above.
Facts and Stats
358 — days remaining in 2014
Education Acronym of the Week
BEST NC — Business for Education Success and Transformation North Carolina
Quote of the Week
"IN THE YEAR 2014" (Joker), January 31. — This film story looks ahead 100 years, when women will be in charge of all work and men their employes [sic]. The idea is an amusing one and brings out many smiles, but it is not the highest type of comedy. Max Asher has the leading role.
— "Comments on the Films," The Moving Picture World, January 31, 1914, p. 545
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