With the state of North Carolina facing an estimated $2.4 million budget shortfall, Governor Bev Perdue pledged last night in her state of the state address to protect teacher and teacher assistant positions. But Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools (CMS) superintendent Peter Gormon isn’t buying it. Gormon still projects a $100 million shortfall and the elimination of roughly 1500 jobs (over 600 teachers) for CMS. Given that Gov Perdue has not yet said how she will protect teacher and teacher assistant jobs, Gorman is probably wise. With cuts to other areas of the state budget, Perdue may be able to salvage a significant number of teaching jobs across the state, but given the severity of the projected budget shortfall, I think it would be more than a stretch to think that she can save them all. But maybe I’m the pessimist. I hope I am wrong and Gov. Perdue does in fact pull a rabbit out of her hat. North Carolina’s children and schools could sure use it.
In response to a looming significant state budget shortfall, The University of North Carolina General Administration released a memorandum last week call for the discontinuation of 60 degree programs across the state. I have included the link to the memorandum here for your viewing.
I should note that an alarming number of the programs to be discontinued are educator preparation degree programs that will soon be offered as concentrations within degree programs in the the content subject areas. For example, at the University of North Carolina Charlotte (UNCC), the bachelor’s degree in History Education will be discontinued, but teacher licensure for middle grades and secondary history will continue to be offered through the bachelor’s degree program in History.
I believe what we are seeing in North Carolina is not isolated. In fact, I believe it is a trend. Other university systems and universities across the US have already eliminated educator preparation degree programs in the wake of budget shortfalls, and others across the country will likely follow suit. As this happens, I believe we will continue to see educator licensure degree programs eliminated from colleges of education and placed as concentrations or degree options in content area degree programs in colleges or arts and sciences, liberal arts, music, etc. If I am correct, we could be seeing the end of colleges of education as we know them.
After a week of mounting racial tension on the campus of Georgetown College in Georgetown, Kentucky, including reported racial slurs directed toward African American students, racist graffiti found in campus buildings, and racist comments made in a classroom setting, the college president asked the local police department to maintain a 24-hour a day presence on the campus throughout this past weekend.
What I find positive in the midst of this unfortunate and hurtful situation is the action that the college’s administration has taken. The college’s president William H. Crouch, Jr. has taken the stance that such behavior will not be tolerated at Georgetown College and assured the college community that the perpetrators of these acts will be dealt with quickly and appropriately. While such circumstances are always unfortunate, we understand that in our society these things do still occur. But I am heartened to see leadership that stands up without hesitation to call out and condemn such behavior, act to remedy the situation to the degree possible, reassure students that the college community is one that truly values inclusiveness, and works to quickly bring the community to a place of healing. We will watch this situation as things progress.
My thoughts are with the student body as it tries to move past this last week. My hope is that leaders, faculty, staff, and students will use it as a valuable learning and growth experience. Let us now try to understand the source(s) of such hate and act proactively to avoid similar situations in the future.
In an effort increase practicing principals’ capacities to select high quality teachers, Senate Bill 124 would require that the Kentucky Department of Education (KDE) in collaboration with the Education Professional Standards Board develop a teacher selection training module that would assist principals with identifying “quality indicators” of effective teachers, including teachers’ verbal ability, content knowledge, quality of education coursework, ability to relate to students, and ability to monitor student learning through formal and informal assessments.
Although I question whether the state legislature should play such a micromanaging role in the training provided by KDE, I believe such training is useful. However, I am not sure that most practicing principals do not already possess the skills that this statutorily mandated training would provide, so I question the amount of money that would be spent at that state and local district levels by mandating this state training for all principals. Additionally, such a mandate presupposes that neither principal preparation programs nor local districts are already providing such training to principals and aspiring principals.
Finally, I would caution the legislature to consider that even having principals who possess these capacities, and I believe many principals already do, would not necessary result in higher quality teaching candidates being selected for vacancies. In many cases principals make decision to hire teaching candidates not because they are high quality teachers, but because they are the best candidate that has applied for the job. I am sure we can all appreciate the fact the best candidate for a teaching position, especially in hard-to-staff areas of the state, is not always a high quality candidate. I provide this word of caution simply so that legislators do not make the mistaken assumption that having all principals trained to “identify quality indicators of effective teachers” will result in a “high quality, effective teacher in every classroom.” It will not. Efforts to increase the capacities of the pool of teaching applicants across the state will go much further toward that end.