In a vote of 18 to 11, you and the House Committee on Education, pushed through a bill that would establish an ASD (Achievement School District) in North Carolina allowing the control of some of our low-performing schools to be outsourced to out-of-state entities.
It is egregious that a leading legislator who claims to have an educational background as an alumnus of Teach for America had to craft the original version of this bill last year behind closed doors. Oftentimes when one secretly meets with others of his choosing, then those “others” tend to have like-minded views. Even Rep. Tim Moore appointed one of the bill’s co-sponsors, Rep. John Bradford III, another republican from your home county to the committee to help it pass.
Interestingly enough you endorsed some enlightening statements concerning your views on public education on the website, http://www.friendsofrob.com/about. It states,
“Raised by a teacher and an engineer, Rob spent his first two years after college participating in the Teach for America program. In a low-income school in inner-city Los Angeles, he saw firsthand the problems created by non-innovative, bureaucratic districts unwilling or unable to change. Red tape and politics prevented teachers, principals, and parents from choosing the creative solutions that would work for their students.”
There is a lot of information there. Your tenure in the classroom, while admirable, was not long at all. Most teachers in NC went through more time training to become a teacher than you were in the actual classroom. You worked in a poverty-stricken inner-city school, the same kind of schools you labeled as failing with a Jeb Bush style grading system that you helped create. Furthermore, you have actually helped foster an environment that keeps those poverty-stricken schools under the foot of government by lowering per pupil expenditures and vilifying veteran educators. And now you meet with a loaded committee who is willing to siphon money to charter schools run by out-of-state private entities?
You also said in your statement, “Red tape and politics prevented teachers, principals, and parents from choosing the creative solutions that would work for their students.” You are exactly right. But if one sees the actions that you as a legislator have participated in while crafting the current educational landscape here in NC, I think one could label you as part of that “red tape and politics.”
Consider your actions on the following:
- Allowed teacher pay to continue to drop when adjusted for inflation.
- Removed due process rights for new teachers to keep them from advocating loudly for students and schools.
- Removed graduate degree pay bumps for teachers entering the profession.
- Lowered the amount of money spent per pupil in the state.
- Removed class size caps.
- Instituted a Jeb Bush style school grading system that is unfair and does nothing more than show how poverty affects public schools.
- Created an uncontrolled and unregulated system of vouchers called Opportunity Grants.
- Fostered charter school growth that has not improved the educational landscape and siphons money from the public school system.
- Eliminated the Teaching Fellows Program.
- Created an atmosphere of disrespect for teachers that teaching candidate numbers in colleges and universities have dropped 30%.
That sounds like creating obstacles, not removing them.
It seems that if you wanted to really remove “red tape and politics” then you would attack the root of the problems like the lack of medical care and lack of economic stability for those people who send students to the very schools you want to outsource.
Furthermore, you seem to be placing a lot of “faith” in an unproven solution. I wrote to you last summer about how unproven the ASD districts were in Tennessee. I stated,
“You claim to have talked with the Tennessee governor and those responsible for the Achievement School District. Simply do a “Google” search on ASD in Memphis and you see the polarizing results of Tennessee’s experiment with the charter school takeover. Whether the criticisms are all valid or not, the fact that so much animosity exists begs for there to be more open discussion about the use of charter schools to “takeover” failing schools. And Rep. Bryan, the words “open discussion” never really apply to you when it concerns your phantom bill.
In reading the Oct. 29, 2013 article from The Atlantic entitled “When Outsiders Take Over Schools: Lessons From Memphis”, I noticed that those who praise the ASD’s efforts talked about the smaller classes, more one-on-one teaching, and tighter structure. If those are ingredients for success in turning around schools, then why are you advocating policies that remove class size caps, lower per pupil expenditures, and abolish teaching assistants in the very schools you hope will be taken over?”
When confronted with the questionable nature of ASD’s results in TN, you seemed to acknowledge its limitations. An NC Policy Watch report (http://pulse.ncpolicywatch.org/2016/05/25/breaking-house-committee-approves-controversial-achievement-school-district-bill/) reported,
“On Wednesday, Bryan acknowledged “mixed results” for the program in Tennessee, but argued that the district did report some gains in the third year of operations.
“We can compare it to other states, but we’re looking to create something unique for North Carolina with its own guard-rails and parameters where we’re learning from other states,” said Bryan.
You never engaged in a public debate about how to best help our “failing” schools with our own proven resources. There are state-driven teams that are doing good work using taxpayer money to reinvest in our schools. But it seems that you want someone to profit from this monetarily. Dr. June Atkinson, whose opinion about public schools I trust because she has extensive educational experience, even has cautioned you about ASD’s.
Atkinson told Policy Watch in January that she believes the state “would get a better return on their investments by going with a model that has proven positive results.”
Atkinson said the state’s efforts would be better spent offering additional support and funding to low-performing schools, in addition to greater flexibility in their calendar and curriculum.
But that would not profit anyone monetarily, would it now?
In fact, when looking at the whole picture, it seems that you are trying to solve a problem that you have helped to create with even a worse solution.