Portfolio Special: Teachers Win Battle
Teachers Win A Major Battle Portfolios Dead At Last!!!
This victory shows what can be accomplished when teachers and principals speak up. Perseverance has finally given front line educators a major victory over the ivory tower experts who have controlled our schools to the detriment of teachers, students and education. It is overdue.
Last year, the House and Senate voted to kill portfolios. Unfortunately, some individuals violated the rules of the legislature to replace the death verdict passed by the House and the Senate with a suspension and a study.
Nobody was willing to claim responsibility for his or her actions in violating the rules to save portfolios last year. After all, whoever did it replaced language passed by both bodies with language that neither body had ever passed and that the House had specifically rejected. I submitted a resolution calling on the Speaker, who was then Jim Black, to name the guilty parties. Coincidentally (?), the session adjourned the day the resolution was first printed in the calendar. ( To see the resolution, go to: http://www.ncleg.net/Calendars/house_/2002_/10302housecal/default.htm )
This year, the bill to kill portfolios passed both houses of the General Assembly by what appeared to be veto-proof margins. On the original Senate vote, no one spoke in opposition and only one person voted against it. The House passed the bill with only one minor change by a vote of 108-6. The Senate concurrence vote was unanimous.
And then, on a Sunday afternoon, the Governor had his assistant Franklin Freeman call to tell me the Governor had decided to veto the bill. I presumed he meant Easley, but Monday's Raleigh paper contained the following interesting comment: “Easley said he also conferred with former Gov. Jim Hunt, his predecessor. Hunt has been a national leader in pushing for more teachers to become certified.”
So who should be blamed for the portfolio fiasco? Hunt, Easley, the NCAE, or all three? Does it matter, since portfolios are dead? Given the importance of the issue, I'd really like to know for sure.
Emergency Meeting Called By State Board of Education
If you thought portfolios were a waste of time, or worse, be sure to thank Judy Kidd (CTA), Jim Stegall (PENC) and the other representatives of the Classroom Teachers Association and the Professional Educators of North Carolina for helping to lead the fight that led to the State Board of Education's decision to ban portfolios.
After last year's trickery and this year's surprise veto, it would have been understandable if they had given up the fight, but they didn't. And because of their efforts, new teachers no longer have to dread preparing a portfolio.
The Sunday, June 8, veto came as a surprise, but by session Monday night there was agreement to go for override, despite the fact that the governor had clearly contacted the Democrat leaders of the Senate to secure their support for upholding the veto of a bill they had originally supported. A flier was distributed urging Senators to vote to override, but by prior arrangement between Governor Easley, Marc Basnight and Tony Rand, no vote was taken..
Tuesday morning I issued a press release that gave a detailed rebuttal to the Governor's spurious excuses for his veto and announced a press conference for that afternoon. In addition to representatives of CTA and PENC, Rep. Alex Warner, who led the fight against portfolios in the House, and S931 co-sponsor Sen. Andrew Brock were present to express their shock and displeasure at the surprise veto.
That evening I was told that the State Board of Education had called an emergency meeting for Wednesday morning, June 11. Why meet? They had just met the previous week (June 4 & 5) without acting on portfolios.
Wednesday the State Board of Education finally did what they had resisted for three years. They voted 8-0 to kill portfolios and issued a statement that included the following long awaited announcement: "A teacher shall not be required to prepare or submit a portfolio to receive an initial or continuing license." At last!
(For background, check the Raleigh Reports for Sept. 10 and Oct. 28, 2002)
Former AG's Veto Message Mighty Misleading to Public
When the executive branch fights for so long to preserve portfolios despite the fact that the vast majority of educators oppose portfolios because they lower standards and runs off good teachers, legislative oversight is clearly justified. Yet the Governor's Veto Message misrepresents the Constitution to justify avoiding oversight. It reads:
“… While the Constitution reserves certain powers to the General Assembly, it specifically grants the general authority for the State Board of Education to “administer the free public school system.” Section four of this bill impairs the executive branch's ability to execute its constitutional duty.”
What the Constitution actually says is:
“The State Board of Education shall supervise and administer the free public school system and the educational funds provided for its support, except the funds mentioned in Section 7 of this Article, and shall make all needed rules and regulations in relation thereto, subject to laws enacted by the General Assembly.”
No wonder North Carolina keeps losing in court. The bill was clearly Constitutional. Did NCAE Support Override?
NCAE has finally admitted that they supported portfolios but thought they were poorly implemented. (Legislative Week in Review for February 28, 2003.) But did they support the override effort? I don't know. When I was unable to reach any of their representatives by phone, I sent an email Tuesday morning asking if they supported override and inviting their support at the press conference. No response yet, but given NCAE's close relationship with the Democrats, as documented at www.landmarklegal.org , I'm not surprised.
New York Times Isn't the Only Paper With Problems
If all I knew was what I read in the papers, I'd think Governor Easley vetoed the bill to end portfolios because the bill sponsor sneaked something into the bill that was unrelated to portfolios and most of the legislators didn't catch her “tacked on” trickery. Besides, according to the Constitution, as misquoted by the Governor, the bill is probably unconstitutional.
The story as written should never have run. It appears the press simply ran with the Governor's press release with no regard for accuracy and no attempt to contact anyone who could point out the inaccuracies.
Anyone familiar with the legislature knows they can call up S931 and its history by going to www.ncleg.net . If they did they'd see that the so-called “tacked on” section was part of the bill from day one. Wouldn't you think a reporter would be interested enough in the suggestion of trickery to see when and how the questionable section was “tacked on?”
Hunt and Easley both suggested that most legislators were unaware of section 4 of the bill, which the governor blamed for his veto. Nonsense. That section was debated and amended in the House Education Committee, but the amendment was only to remove a reference to last year's violation of the House rules by parties unknown.. How could the committee members amend a section of which they were unaware?
Furthermore, there was an attempt to delete that section on the House floor. It failed because 90 out of 120 representatives believed that without that section there was a serious risk that the State Board of Education would try to reintroduce something like portfolios with a different name. Mathematically it is indisputable that the clear majority of legislators was quite aware of section four and thought it needed to be in the bill.