He’s Back! Open Letter to Sen. David Curtis – Why do you not support public schools?

Many of you remember from 2014 a letter that Sen. David Curtis wrote to a young teacher that admonished her for even asking politicians to help public education. I wrote him back. You can revisit that exchange here if you would like – https://dianeravitch.net/2014/05/20/a-teacher-in-north-carolina/.

He’s back. Better than ever. So…

I wrote him again. As pen pals do.


Dear Sen. Curtis,

I have written to you in the past regarding your actions and statements concerning public education here in North Carolina.

In May of 2014 you wrote your infamous open missive to a teacher named Sarah Wiles in which you attempted to shame her for even asking politicians like yourself to help advocate more for teachers. In that letter, you perpetuated many egregious myths surrounding the teaching profession circulating in the General Assembly such as the “two-month vacation,” the “low cost of living in North Carolina” offsetting the low salary, and the evil “teacher union” prevalent in our state. That particular exchange (your letter and my reply) can be found here – https://dianeravitch.net/2014/05/20/a-teacher-in-north-carolina/.

Almost a year later you helped sponsor legislation that according to a report from Julie Ball, the education reporter from the Citizen-Times in Asheville, would “shift the cost of remediation classes at community colleges to the counties where the students who need them graduated from high school.” When asked about the idea of the proposed bill, you replied, “If they (students) graduate from high school, I think we as taxpayers have a right to think they are prepared to do college level work” (http://www.13newsnow.com/story/news/local/north-carolina/2015/04/01/if-students-cant-do-college-work-nc-counties-would-pay/70764104/).

And now we have another example of your consistent barrage against public schools and those who teach in them.

This month the Lincoln Times-News reported that the local school system will have to cut over 30 teachers and 8 teacher assistants from next year’s budget (“School system to lay off 34 teachers”). As recounted by staff writer Adam Lawson, Lincoln County Schools have seen “a reduction of $3.7 million in state educational funding since 2008,” as well as a “decrease in K-12 enrollment, despite a steady rise in approved residential developments on the eastern end of the county.”

Senator Curtis, this county is in your district. And this reduction of funds has occurred mostly on your watch. But considering that your allegiance to public schools has been flaky at best, it is not surprising that your lack of supporting public schools has been a hallmark of your tenure in office.

In fact, that very lack of support for the public schools in your district corresponds to the growing number of public displays of affection for the profit-minded charter school industry that continues to compromise the very schools you are constitutionally bound to protect.

In the Oct. 6, 2013 issue of  the Mooresville Tribune, Jessica Osbourne reported on the opening of Langtree Charter Academy where you joined “guests speakers including Dave Ferguson, chairman of the North Carolina Charter Education Foundation Board; Jonathan Hage, CEO of Charter Schools USA.” That’s the same Jonathan Hage who has poured money into the campaigns for elected officials who work on behalf of for-profit charter schools that take away state money to fund privately-run and selective charter schools, the same money that is helping contribute to the reduction of funds for the school system you supposedly represent.

One just needs to look at his profile on www.followthemoney.org to see that Hage has a lot of interests in North Carolina. It reveals contributions to Gov. Pat McCrory, Sen. Thom Tillis, Rep. Jason Saine, and another enabler of charter schools in the General Assembly, Sen. Jerry Tillman.

While hobnobbing with Mr. Hage at the Langtree celebration, you were quoted as saying,

“Parents should be able to decide where their children go to school and not forced to attend a district because of where they live. My next concern is about money. I don’t understand the difference in how a charter school can do a great job on what little money they get, but public schools are still struggling to get by when they receive much more money. I’ll be working on legislation more with that.”

You specifically stated that you would introduce legislation to take money from public schools to help finance a private industry with tax payer money that will only “benefit” a few students. And why are those schools struggling? The reason is because you have helped push through legislation that weakens public schools in North Carolina. Furthermore, the standards by which charter schools are measured are not the same as public schools have. What would really be the strength of charter schools if they had to take all of the same local, state, and national assessments public school did and had to educate every student who walked into the doors?

Your voting record according to www.votesmart.org is a long list of partisan kowtowing to the GOP establishment in Raleigh. Whatever people like Sen. Berger, now Sen. Tillis, Rep. Moore, and Sen. Tillman have proposed for the public schools and the charter schools, you have simply echoed with your votes.

You have voted to eliminate due process rights for educators as well as professional development opportunities, teacher academies, longevity pay and salary increases for advanced degrees. You have eliminated spaces for students in pre-k classrooms, teacher assistant positions, and class size caps. You have created obstacles for textbook funding and digital rollout efforts.

You have voted to extend vouchers which take away resources and money from traditional public schools. You supported a nonsensical A-F grading system of public schools as well as helped eliminate caps on the number of charter schools in North Carolina. You even helped to outsource virtual high schools to companies outside of North Carolina.

And you want to blame public schools for not doing an adequate job?

Furthermore, you voted for HB2, which actually discriminates against some of the very people you claim to represent.

Your growing disdain for public schools has even prompted your own party members to endorse other candidates for your seat. Adam Lawson in a report entitled “School board member Cathy Davis endorses Carney for state senate” related a statement by Ms. Davis that seems to sum up your commitment to public education. She said,

“I’ll just go on record as saying I’ve been gravely disappointed in his (Sen. Curtis) lack of support and understanding of public education. I think it’s been evident during his tenure that he’s been more supportive of charter schools, and that’s fine as long as we’re not taking away from the public school system. I’m going to be voting for Chris Carney.”

Senator Curtis, you seem to have been taking away from the public school system in an attempt to weaken them to create a climate that allows for-profit charter schools to embed themselves in our state. This is totally antithetical to your role as a member of the Appropriations on Education/Higher Education Committee and a co-chair of the Education/Higher Education Committee in North Carolina. You are supposed to protect public schools and their roles in communities like Lincoln County.

Simply put, you are harming many students’ ability to access a good education when you allow schools like those in your district to lose teachers and resources because of underfunding and a blind allegiance to a for-profit charter industry.

Stuart Egan, NBCT
West Forsyth High School