Mark Johnson and the Word “No” – Following the Money

“I have decided to stop taking offense at the suggestion that we are buying influence. Now I simply concede the point. They are right. We do expect something in return. We expect to foster a conservative governing philosophy consisting of limited government and respect for traditional American virtues. We expect a return on our investment.” – Betsy DeVos, 1997.

“These are things I have learned from my own experience. If I disagree with the policy, I’m not afraid to say ‘no’ to anyone who gave me money.” –Mark Johnson, 2017.

“Bulls*%$t” – Me, 2017 after I read the previous statement by Mark Johnson.

A recent article in the Raleigh News & Record has shed some more light on the power that money plays in buying influence within the now lucrative business that privatizing public education has become.

In “Here’s how much charter school backers have spent on NC campaigns,” Lynn Bonner, Jane Stancill, and David Raynor wonderfully “follow the money” that has been pouring into the coffers of lawmakers and officials who make decisions on charter school funding.

DeVos’s quote above has become rather famous since her contentious confirmation as secretary of education. And it is rather blunt and honest. But apparently Mark Johnson is in a little denial as he takes a “little offense” at the thought that his influence is being bought.

Why? Because if he was not afraid to say “no” to anyone, then we as a state would have heard many more “no’s” coming from him.

  • When DPI’s budget was cut by the very General Assembly that is extending him unchecked power over the public school system, did Mark Johnson say, “No?”

    No, he did not.

  • When he said that “local leaders know what we need” for their local schools, did Mark Johnson tell the people pushing for charter takeover with an ISD, “No?”

    No, he did not.

  • When a lobbying group like BEST NC and lawmakers covertly produced a new principal pay program that is obviously flawed and punishes veteran school administrators, did Mark Johnson say “No!” to them?

    No, he did not.

  • When promoting saying that he would curb the use of testing in the state, did Mark Johnson change the amount of testing in the state’s ESSA report or the rampant rise of the ACT in measuring student achievement by saying “No!” to lawmakers?

    No, he did not.

  • When the state released its school performance grades, did Mark Johnson challenge the use of the grades because they do nothing but report how poverty has stricken schools by saying “No!” to their use?

    No, he did not.

  • When the DACA was undercut by Trump and Sessions, di Mark Johnson defend NC’s “Dreamers” and say, “No!” to its potential effects?

    No, he did not.

  • Has there ever been a time where Mark Johnson has openly said “No!” to any of the very lawmakers whom he says he might have a disagreement with?

    No, there has not been.

  • Has Mark Johnson ever told the General Assembly “No!” to taking more money out of the budget for public schools to place in a voucher program that has not yielded a positive outcome?

    No, he has not.

  • When the state “fired” several public education officials with a wealth of experience like Martez Hill, did Mark Johnson say “No!” or even ask “Why?”

    No, he did not.

  • Has Mark Johnson ever publicly questioned the actions against teachers and the education profession by Phil Berger or Tim Moore?

    No, he has not.

In fact, in looking at all of the “special interests” represented by the very people who have made the contributions to people like Johnson, Dan Forest, and Jason Saine in promoting NC’s investment into for-profit charter schools, there has not been one time where Mark Johnson has said “No” to whatever they were seeking.

But that doesn’t mean that Mark Johnson has not said “No” to people.

When pressed for details about how he would “innovatively” change NC education, Mark Johnson did not give any. That’s like saying, “No.”

When asked by Greg Alcorn to comment on DPI’s budget cuts in a state board meeting, Mark Johnson deliberately skirted the question. He in so many words said, “No.”

When teacher advocacy groups like NCAE have asked Johnson to come and clarify his positions, he has refused. He said, “No.”

With a record of compliance and non-action that Mark Johnson has displayed in his tenure that has already lasted the equivalent of a school year, his claim that he is not afraid to say “no” to anyone who has given him money is rather weak.

In fact, if anyone asked this educator if he believes what the state superintendent says in his statement in the article in the N&O, I would say, “No.”

And I would say it publicly.

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