Where Is State Superintendent Mark Johnson? When Silence Becomes Complicity

In the past week, North Carolinians have seen a budget that pays nothing more than lip service and give some crumbs to public education in a budget process kept out of debate and amendments.

They have seen one bill propose to log any video shown by a teacher in a classroom to be kept in a ledger in Raleigh, but another bill that wants teachers to carry arms in classrooms.

They have seen a bill called HB514 which may set a national precedent for passing off the financing of schools through local property taxes and the apparent rise of locally controlled charter schools that will surely increase segregation in LEA’s.

They have seen a lawmaker literally write into the budget a provision to finance some of his local affluent schools with taxpayer money to outfit them with supplies negating every other public school in the state.

They have seen 50 million dollars meant to go to Pre-K programs given by the federal government reallocated to other state endeavors in a state that refused to expand Medicaid which was to be financed by the federal government. .

In the federal budget passed earlier this year, Congress sent around $75 million to North Carolina for early childhood education. But the state budget approved on Friday doesn’t increase early childhood funding by $75 million. It increases it by $25 million.

So where did the other $50 million from the federal government go? Legislators used it to replace $50 million in state funding that the state budget removed from NC Pre-K, freeing it up for other uses (http://www.newsobserver.com/news/politics-government/article212107609.html).

They have seen a report concluding that over 3 out of 4 religious schools who receive money from state vouchers do not meet the state requirements for curriculum.

Fundamentalist Christian schools are receiving most of the money from North Carolina’s 4-year-old school voucher program, but they’re not providing anything close to the “sound basic education” the state Constitution promises to North Carolina’s children, according to a new report from the League of Women Voters.

The League said in announcing its findings that “77 percent of private schools receiving vouchers are using curricula that do not comply with state standards, leaving many students unprepared for college-level coursework or careers in certain fields” (http://amp.newsobserver.com/opinion/opn-columns-blogs/ned-barnett/article212352824.html?__twitter_impression=true).

Most of the vouchers used in the state go to religious schools. And the state budget has allocated an additional 10 million for next year.

But North Carolinians have not heard from the man who runs the Department of Public Instruction, Mark Johnson, whose job concerns these very issues like vouchers, pre-k services, funding, and teacher support.

Not one word – except what he sent in an email to teachers and school staffs last week:


And while it is nice that Johnson did go to a school and help proctor a state exam, it is odd that he send out a questionnaire about testing when the answers to the loaded questions are obvious and he already knows them – he’s literally been talking about that  as a result of his “listening tour.

Yes, the last sentence in the above email does state, “Look for our budget updates in the coming weeks about salary increases and funding for school safety and mental-health resources.”

If Mark Johnson was one tenth the state superintendent as Dr. Atkinson was, then he would have already spoken against the issues highlighted earlier, and he would have ended his email with this:

“Look for our continued suggestions to the budget in the coming days about the inadequate salary increases for a our veteran teachers and lack of funding given for school safety and mental-health resources.”