Funny to see this tweet from the other day posted by a DPI official who has been touting the new teacher licensure / pay proposal from PEPSC. She’s making reference to that proposal and a veiled attempt to curb the deserved criticism of the actual plan and how it was put together.

“Together.”

“#Diplomatsnotdetractors”

To be a “diplomat” means that you practice the art of diplomacy; you practice negotiation and compromise. You bring in all parties. Have discussions. Listen to all sides.

To be a “detractor” means to be someone who slanders, talks behind other people’s backs, or tries to sabotage in either overt or covert ways.

To be a diplomat is to be what many people call a “bridge-builder.” In the world of public education, it’s difficult to build bridges in this state with those who are making the very divides that separate us.

That includes this new teacher licensure / pay proposal.

Remember that before the 2008 Great Recession took hold of the country, North Carolina had what was considered one of the more progressive public school systems in the Southeast. That is no longer the case.

While other states have helped their public education systems recover over the last decade, North Carolina’s General Assembly deliberately put into place measures that continued to weaken public education in the name of “reform” and privatization that included:

  • Removal of Graduate Degree Pay
  • Removal of Longevity Pay
  • Removal of Career Status
  • Removal of Due- Process Rights
  • School Performance Grading System
  • Bonus Pay Schemes
  • Vouchers
  • Charter Cap Removed
  • Class Size Chaos
  • Removal of Professional Development Funds

And there are many more.

When one surveys the terrain of North Carolina and sees just how many divides there exist, it might be easy to “diplomatically” say that we need to “build bridges.” Diplomats would bring people together “at the table” to start a dialogue of how we can be great again.

But then it needs to be asked why those divides are there in the first place and why have certain parts of North Carolina been shut off from others.

Yes, public education can be the ultimate bridge that spans socio-economic divides, that links the rural to the urban, that allows for social gains, yet the parties who are in the construction of those bridges must be in complete synchronicity as far as goals and intentions are concerned.

But after watching lawmakers like Tim Moore and Phil Berger hold this state hostage through unethical measures to pass budgets, hold special sessions, and pass legislation that continuously weaken our public schools it has become apparent to this teacher that these are not the people with whom you build bridges.

In fact, why would public school advocates even want to “have a seat at the table” with them? Time and time again, the powers in the NCGA have shown that not only will they not invite teachers to the “table” but that they will go out of their way to make teachers part of the menu.

Yes, there has been a lot of talk about “building bridges” and having a place at the table and “diplomacy.”

But that is not happening – even with this new teacher licensure / pay proposal. And by law, teachers can’t even collectively bargain.

Ironic, that on the map above only seven states outlaw collective bargaining rights.

Eleven allow for them to be used.

32 require them to be used.

When in the last ten years of Moore and Berger has there ever been any indication that teachers and public school advocates would be given even a small role in the building of metaphorical bridges much less have a “seat at the table?”

That’s not a rhetorical question.

How can one build a bridge or diplomatically sit at a table with lawmakers who actively promote the policies of the Koch brothers and their use of dark money?

How can one build a bridge or diplomatically sit at a table with a governing body that actively promotes the use of secret algorithms to measure our schools and our teachers?

How can one build a bridge or diplomatically sit at a table “together” with people who allow North Carolina to be the only state that uses achievement scores more than growth to determine a school’s worth?

How can one build a bridge or diplomatically sit at a table “together” with legislators who actively fought against Medicaid expansion in a state where over 20% of our public school students live in poverty.

How can one build a bridge or diplomatically sit at a table “together” with legislators who deliberately passed a budget bill through a committee (nuclear option) rather than open up the discussion for debates and amendments?

How can one build a bridge or diplomatically sit at a table “together”  with people who champion a voucher system that is considered the least transparent in the country and overwhelmingly goes to religious schools?

How can one build a bridge or diplomatically sit at a table “together”  with people who champion charter school construction in places that jeopardize the very funds of the traditional public schools that already service those students?

How can one build a bridge or diplomatically sit at a table “together” with people who knowingly allowed per-pupil expenditures to remain lower when adjusted for inflation than levels before 2008?

The list goes on and on….

So, speaking out loud against this licensure / pay proposal is not being a “detractor.”

It’s calling out one of the more undiplomatic attempts to turn the teaching profession into contract work. And it doesn’t even begin to really address why the teaching profession is hurting in NC so much. 

Lack of respect. 

The fact that teachers really have not been part of the discussion (that “together” thing) and really never part of any of the discussions about how to “reform” education in NC is the real issue. 

That’s the “detraction.” 

What many of the teachers speaking out against this latest proposal are doing are being diplomats – diplomats for a profession that has been under attack for over a decade in this state.

And it will take way more than a new “pay” plan to begin to even heal the fractured teacher pipeline that has been so deliberately damaged.





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Clarence Choe