This past February, Michelle Rhee came to North Carolina for a “closed-door” meeting (February 7th)) with lawmakers in a visit that did not sit well with public school advocates.
In fact, this meeting was brokered by an educational lobbying body of business leaders called BEST NC.
This meeting with Rhee was passed off as a session with leaders where candid questions could be asked and ideas exchanged on how to improve public education seemed to be void of the very people who know education the best – educators.
And while the media did have a chance to meet and greet with Ms. Rhee and George Parker in a manicured and measured way, what happened behind closed doors with people who make decisions on how to spend taxpayer money and fund public schools along with controversial educational reformers remains a mystery.
So much for transparency and including all stakeholders. In fact, it seemed more like a special session of the NC General Assembly who used such “secret sessions” to spawn actions such as HB2, SB4, and HB17 which are still being debated in courts months later after an entirely new school year has begun.
BEST NC also has had an initiative to reinvent how principals in North Carolina are compensated. Until now, we as a state rank 50th in principal pay. Of course that needs to change, but would it not make sense for principals and educators to have a say in that process?
This month, the state released its new principal pay plan and if anything, it was not well received.
From Lindsay Wagner’s piece for the Public School Forum on 9/7,
State Board of Education members expressed shock this week upon learning just how seriously the General Assembly’s newly enacted principal pay plan could hurt school leaders, particularly those who have devoted decades of service to the state’s public schools (https://www.ncforum.org/new-principal-pay-plan-could-result-in-steep-salary-reductions-for-veteran-principals/).
Keung Hui from Raleigh’s News & Observer reported on 9/15,
Supporters say the new plan provides a needed increase for underpaid principals while putting a focus on improving how students perform. But critics worry the change will discourage principals from working at struggling schools and lead to veteran principals retiring.
Lawmakers agreed to make sure that no principals saw pay cuts this school year. But that “hold harmless” budget provision expires at the end of June (http://www.newsobserver.com/news/local/education/article173533601.html).
The backlash from actual veteran principals concerning this new pay plan was swift and fierce. Diane Ravitch even included it on her widely read blog referencing Wagner’s report while adding,
The North Carolina legislature will go down in history as the most anti-education lawmakers in the history of the state. I would say the nation, but Wisconsin’s hostility to educators is tough to beat.
The legislature enacted a principal pay plan that cuts principal pay and drives out veteran principal. In North Carolina, this is called “reform” (https://dianeravitch.net/2017/09/15/north-carolina-new-principal-pay-plan-cuts-pay-drives-out-veteran-leaders/).
The traffic for this post quickly made it one of the more read that day and Ravitch’s blog gets a lot of readers. In fact, it just passed 31 million hits this past week.
But BESTNC seems to love the new plan. They even praised it behind closed doors half a country away.
Last week, America Succeeds (the parent of BESTNC) held its annual convention in Boise, ID. It’s called EdVenture. On opening night there is a session for affiliates only. But a tweet did make it out for advocates to see. BESTNC even retweeted it.
It says, “Brilliant policy by @BESTNC.org: pay principals by size + complexity of schools AND results w/kids.”
For an organization that seems to only meet with lawmakers about education rather than educators and explains their policies only to like-minded groups, it is hard to look at their description as a “non-partisan group” seriously.
So how does BESTNC respond to all of the backlash of this principal pay plan that this tweet seems to show them owning? Have they come out into the open and explained to principal groups why they seem to have the ability to transform policy while principals and other educators seem to have no say?
Despite what they claim, the intention of BEST NC to improve public education seems to have a different meaning to them than it does to those who are educators in our public schools.
That’s because there exist too many relationships between business leaders, lobbying groups, wealthy benefactors, politicians, and educational reformers to be coincidental. In fact, many in the “reform” movement that have started to dismantle the public school system are strategically linked to each other, including BESTNC.
Look at the graphic below:
That is a diagram of the relationships between entities that many public school advocates deem as detrimental to our public school system. The box at the bottom represents the state of North Carolina. All of the other listed players are national.
Consider the following groups:
- Teach For America
- Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation
- Walton Family Foundation
- Eli Broad Foundation
- KIPP Charter Schools
- Democrats For Educational Reform
- Educational Reform Now
- America Succeeds
- American Legislative Exchange Council
- Civitas Institute
- SAS Software
- North Carolina General Assembly
- BEST NC
They are all linked. And the only teachers who seem to have any sustained dialogue with any of these is the Hope Street Group – and that dialogue seems mostly to have been with BEST NC.
If you want a full explanation on how all of these entities are involved then please refer to my post last February – https://caffeinatedrage.com/2017/02/11/the-dramatis-personae-in-the-privatization-of-public-schools-in-north-carolina-or-who-is-trying-to-reform-education-through-deformation/. But for this post, I will stay with America Succeeds and its direct links.
BEST NC is affiliated with an outfit named America Succeeds that feeds and supports various “reform” groups within certain states that bring together powerful business leaders to push “educational reform.” Look at the following article: – http://www.prwatch.org/news/2016/03/13065/how-dfer-leaders-channel-out-state-dark-money-colorado-and-beyond. The title alone alludes to the ability for Democrats For Educational Reform (DFER) to channel “dark” money to out of state entities that promote anti-union, pro-charter, voucher supporting measures.
Actually, Teach For America, StudentsFirst (Michelle Rhee’s outfit), DFER, and KIPP Charters are about as incestuously linked as a Greek god family tree and it is feeding support to groups like BEST NC who just happens to be the Carolina affiliate of America Succeeds.
In essence, this principal pay plan seems to have been in the works for a while by a whole consortium.
So, it needs to be asked again:
How does BESTNC respond to all of the backlash of this principal pay plan that this tweet seems to show them owning and have they come out into the open and explained to principal groups why they seem to have the ability to transform policy while principals and other educators seem to have no say?
I think I already know the answers, but to get a full explanation you need to be part of a private group that is molding public education.
BESTNC says on its website intro,
“BEST NC is a non-profit, non-partisan coalition of business leaders committed to improving North Carolina’s education system through policy and advocacy. We do this by convening a broad constituency; encouraging collaboration around a shared, bold vision for education; and advocating for policies, research, programs, and awareness that will significantly improve education in North Carolina.”
But that brings up many other questions and doubts? Like
- Non-partisan? Really?
- Advocacy for whom?
- Broad constituency? Really?
- Collaboration? With whom?
The actions don’t match the claims and the benefits don’t help schools as much as they help certain individuals.
So much for transparency and including all stakeholders.