Thursday, February 4, 2016

Why Are Genuine Requests by Teachers for Fair Pay and Benefits Seen as Greed?

If you want to see greed, just look to Congress and the business world. It was their fault the economy crashed in 2008, though they still try to blame educators. The problem with all this is simple: we’ve allowed politicians, corporations, and businesses paint workers as “greedy” when they are simply trying to get a raise of a few percentage points, or have insurance that actually does insure them when an illness or injury occurs, and paying executives exorbitant salaries is perfectly acceptable. It is perfectly fine for a CEO or administrator at the top to demand more pay, but when classroom teachers or other state employees demand the same consideration from our North Carolina politicians, they are painted as part of a greedy labor union.

We need to shift the discourse back to the real truth! The ones who are truly greedy are those who are really taking home all the bread and leaving crumbs for everyone else: CEOs and “executives.” Just look at the Martin Shkreli Congressional hearings today. Are we really surprised when we see sarcastic smirks and smug smiles from the likes of Martin Shkreli when he testified before Congress to explain why he raised the price of a life-saving pill from $13.50 to $750 while CEO of a pharmaceutical company? Shkreli defends his role by saying his job was to earn the most money for his stockholders and himself, and shows absolutely no remorse. We’ve created a culture that worships money. Everything is “All about the money.” What’s even worse, making money “legally” is perfectly fine, nevermind if that way the money is earned is unethical. Add that fact that those who make the money are the ones who decided and enacted the laws, so of course it is all going 
to be legal.

Martin Shkreli Before Congress

Amazing, North Carolina Can't Find Money to Give Teachers 10% Raise But They Can Give University Vice Chancellors One

Interestingly, it seems the UNC System Trustees gave whopping 10% raises to several vice chancellors, and gave the UNC Chapel Hill Athletic Director Bubba Cunningham a 10% or $58,388 raise, retroactive to July 1, 2015. (See “UNC Gives Raises to Top Administrators”). His annual pay is now $642,3268. Is it really surprising that our state would give that much of a raise to an athletic director? Not really. In a society that values athletics over education, and paying CEOs exorbitant salaries, it is not surprising at all. At least Bubba will not see his raise erased by increased health plan charges like most state employees and educators.

If 10% raises to university “executives” isn’t enough to ponder about this state’s priorities, it seems a rally against this plan to raise health insurance costs for state employees and educators was held at the Legislative Building in Raleigh today. (See the News and Observer article “NC Government Workers Slam Proposal to Raise Insurance Costs”). The article makes it sound like those greedy “labor organizers” and agitators are at it once again. They just don’t want to pay their fair share of health care costs it seems to suggest. They are just a bunch of greedy, mooching state employees. That kind of thinking never ceases to amaze me. An athletic director gets a $60,000 dollar per year raise and state workers who are simply trying to avoid having $120 to $180 of their $200 raise, or less if you are an experienced educator, taken back to pay for insurance. How is that greed?

Even Though Controversial Health Plan Changes on Hold, Educators Had Better Remain Vigilant!

Apparently, the board planning to vote on changes to the NC State Employees Health Plan has decided to hold off voting on those controversial changes proposed earlier in the week. According to WRAL (See “State Heath Plan Will Put Off Discussion of Controversial Changes”) and emails from lawmakers, this board will only “vote on changes in store for 2017, including rises in costs for members.” That is certainly some good news to educators and state employees, but not entirely good news. Applause certainly goes out to all of North Carolina legislators who, no doubt, put pressure on this board to "hold off” on making the controversial changes. But "holding off” certainly does not mean the issue is dead. State employees and educators need to remain vigilant, because this will definitely come back in some form.

The increased costs in 2017 in the State Health Plan is still cause for concern. For example, after 20 plus years in education, I wish I could count the times that our state has engaged in a bit of “bait-n-switch” with our pay increases and health insurance. There have been quite a few times that they have provided raises to teachers, then, when the next health insurance cost increases come around, those increases immediately go to pay for the increased health insurance costs. This kind of switcharoo is common and is just plan old political practice in North Carolina. Politicians can say, with a straight face, that they gave teachers a raise, and even pass a lie detector test. After all, appearances mean a hell of lot more than truth and reality in the political game in North Carolina, no matter political party.

As I indicated earlier, educators and state employees need to remain vigilant, especially with a legislature known to put together some late night shenanigans to get things passed before anyone notices.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

More Info on NC Legislature’s Gutting of Health Insurance for Educators and State Employees

According to a WRAL article “State Health Plan Board Could Remove Option Popular with Workers” our North Carolina Legislators and Governor Pat McCroy might even make it worse for educators and state employees when it comes to insurance. Due to our state politician’s demand to find savings, here’s just some of the ways our political leaders are trying to find ways to degrade our health insurance:

  • elimination of coverage for spouses.
  • drop the 80/20 plan which a large number of state employees have chosen.
  • add premiums and raise deductibles.
  • passing on more costs to state employees.

This is on top of a refusal by our North Carolina legislature and North Caroline Governo Pat McCroy to substantially raise teacher and educator pay in North Carolina. It is becoming fairly clear that this legislature and governor’s office does not see state employees as valuable to the state of North Carolina. The haven’t listened to educators in the past so I am not sure they will in any way change their ways.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

NC State Legislature & Governor Find Backdoor Way to Cut Educator & State Employee Benefits

The deviousness and downright deviltry of our North Carolina political leaders never, ever ceases to amaze me. North Carolina educators enjoy salaries at the bottom of the barrel, and now, it seems, our legislature and governor have found yet another way to stick it to, not only educators, but this time, to all state employees. They are tinkering and destroying what little health insurance benefits we have left. Their deviousness never ends. I suggest all North Carolina state employees contact their legislators today and the governor’s office to object to this latest slap across the face. If you want to know more about this diabolical move to destroy our health benefits, check out this video.

So What If I'm Using Microsoft Office 365! It's Still a Good Bet!

I recently purchased Microsoft Office 365. I realize there's a great deal of "anti-Microsoft" sentiment floating around, but this office suite still has proven its utility, over and above any other office suite. It has features that make it so useful for my work as an administrator and my doctoral work and writing.

  • Seamless integration across devices. The Office 365 package I purchased allows installation on 3 computers and 5 mobile devices. I can work on my reading notes in OneNote and then access them on my iPhone or iPad and not miss a beat. This cross device access is exactly what those of us who use multiple devices need.
  • Simplified user interface. Some may have actually enjoyed the days when Microsoft Office had all those buttons, but I for one, enjoy the less is best concept.
  • Integration with Mendeley Citation Manager Software. This is probably important to only a few, but I am in the midst of writing my dissertation, so having the Mendeley is a plus. Mendeley is the free citation manager program that I am currently using. (If you're interested in downloading Mendeley, check out their web site here.)

Microsoft Office 365 was worth the close to 100 dollars I spent. By using it you get Microsoft cloud space subscription as well. The value of an Office Suite these days, as with any productivity program is not always with all the things it can do and its features; it is its simplicity and access across devices.

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Why Are NC Politicians So Reluctant to Raise Teacher? They’ve Been Listening to Frederick Taylor Too Long

"The writer has great sympathy with those who are overworked, but on the whole a greater sympathy for those who are under paid. For every individual, however, who is overworked, there are a hundred who intentionally underwork---greatly underwork---every day of their lives, and who for this reason deliberately aid in establishing those conditions which in the end, inevitably result in low wages." Frederick Taylor, The Principles of Scientific Management

Could it be that at the heart of the reluctance by North Carolina political leaders to provide raises to teachers is the Taylorist belief that “most teachers are lazy, therefore, none of them deserve a raise?" In his Principles of Scientific Management, Frederick Taylor made it clear that he believed that workers are inherently lazy and will seek to do least amount of work they can. There can be no doubt that Taylor’s Principles have been and consistently are applied to education, but this stubborn reluctance on the part of our state political leaders seems to defy logic at times, unless your logic happens to be based on Taylorist principles. That logic goes: “Because most teachers are lazy, we only want to reward the few who aren’t."

Taylor’s Principles of Scientific Management, though written a little over a hundred years ago are still bedrock thinking in business and I would contend much of our schools and their operations. Since our legislative leaders see the application of the business and corporate model to everything as the ultimate answer, it only stands to reason is that the last thing they want to do is give those “lazy teachers a raise.” Instead of finding ways to improve North Carolina teacher pay , they continually look for ways to reward “good” teachers.

The problem becomes though how do you define “good” teachers? If you follow Taylorist principles to the maximum, you must rely on science to identify those “good teachers.” In our American Taylorist education system, the only measure of a “good teacher” often perceived to be “scientific” is a test score. A merit pay system where pay is based on test scores is usually the option explored, because, after all, the job of teachers is to produce student achievement, and test scores are an accetable proxy for student achievement. But most psychometricians and educators who know education, know this to be incorrect. Tests just are incapable of capturing all worthwhile learning, and they are impossible instruments to measure achievement in the arts and performance-based disciplines. If you make the product for which teachers are rewarded test scores, then anything that can’t be tested or is not tested automatically becomes irrelevant.
So then how do you reward “good teachers?” Some of our politicians talk about rewarding teachers who work in science and math, and other hard to fill areas with more pay. Additionally, they want to pay more to teachers who take on additional responsibilities. Certainly, it is understandable to try to find ways to fill those math and science positions, as it is also understandable to try to find ways to reward teachers who take on additional responsibilities. But by focusing only those in hard-to-fill areas, aren't they saying that only teachers in math and science are “good teachers?” “Good teachers” are not just those who teach in areas deemed “highly-valued” by the current regime. To reward only those teachers immediately subjugates English teachers, foreign language teachers, kindergarten teachers, and guidance counselors. They are not seen as valuable. Our cultural richness exists because the arts are valued, literature is valued, film is valued. Like a good Taylorist though, our political leaders and even education leaders want to subjugate every aspect of education in the pursuit of economic dominance anyway.

As far as rewarding teachers for taking on additional responsibilities, what about the hard and difficult job that these teachers already do? The idea of rewarding additional responsibilities is so wrought with the stench of Taylorist thinking, that it should be discarded immediately. It communicates to all teachers that they do not deserve a raise. It tells them they are not working hard enough. It tells them that they currently do not earn the salaries they currently receive.

In the end, our state political leaders don’t really think our educators in this state work hard. There are certainly lazy educators, just like there are lazy legislators, governors, and business men, even CEOs. Lazy leadership is relying on belief without going out and gathering the facts before making decisions, and that’s what these merit pay ideas demonstrate. Our political leaders need to perhaps spend some time in the shoes of a kindergarten teacher or of a urban school principal. They perhaps they can make the correct decisions about educator pay.