Three Possible “Major Announcements” at Mark Johnson’s Private Dinner for Innovation & Leadership

What follows is not gospel, but not necessarily speculation.

There are three currently viable possibilities of what might be announced on February 19th at Mark Johnson’s private dinner about public education.

Maybe they all get announced; maybe none get announced. Maybe in a moment of clarity, Mark Johnson announces something that is actually received well by public school advocates, but that would be an anomaly and certainly uncharacteristic.

But a private affair to make major announcements about public education does not seem on the outside something that benefits the public. It smells more like something that will benefit a few, private individuals.

1. The Koch Brothers New Initiative on Curriculum and Technology

“Officials with the powerful political network led by conservative billionaire Charles Koch said Monday that they are promoting a state-level education strategy that they hope educators and teachers unions will support.

The Koch network is launching a new group next month that will focus on 15 million kindergarten through 12th-grade students in five unnamed states, chairman Brian Hooks said.”

The Associated Press on January 28 released a report entitled “Koch group touts education push on curriculum, technology” which begins with the above excerpt.


For most public school advocates in this state, the mention of wealthy out-of-state “donors” who want to help “reform” public education through providing curriculum and school options for families does not bode well. As a state that serves as a laboratory of business-minded school reforms prescribed by ALEC, it would not be hard to see NC as one of the states that will be targeted.

Add to that, it is the Koch bothers’ network who is spearheading this “initiative.”

If you know anything about the American Legislative Exchange Council, then you know of its toxic hold on policies on many fronts that advance a free-market approach and education is a foundational issue for them.

The Koch brothers have been large donors to ALEC and Koch Enterprises has been on the ALEC corporate board for at least two decades. Any initiative ALEC has probably has the Kochs’ fingerprints all over them.

No, the AP report did not name North Carolina explicitly, but it is not a long stretch to see how easily North Carolina could be in line for such a “project” as NC has many connections with ALEC and with the Koch brothers personally.

Think Art Pope, who served as a national director for the Koch’s PAC groups.

Think Jason Saine, who in 2018 became the national chairman of ALEC.

2. A New Initiative Concerning Read to Achieve

There are rumors circulating from credible sources (which I will not name) that suggest more money being pumped into Read to Achieve initiatives.

A recent NC State Study showed how ineffective that initiative really was, but Phil Berger (and therefore Mark Johnson) will not let it go. Instead there may be a major announcement about funding more summer programs for students such as reading camps to help get students up to “proficiency.”

And that would entail hiring teachers for an extra month in the summer to conduct such camps. That’s right – some teachers might make an 11 month salary in this scenario. They would receive the training and professional development to make them better at literacy instruction – training and professional development that maybe was not available for the last so many years because the current powers in the NCGA cut professional development as a budget item in the last few state budgets.

While there is no verification of this, the people who helped start the Florida version of Read to Achieve and still champion it were in town recently talking about possible next steps with NC’s failed program.


ExcelinEd is the think tank founded by Jeb Bush right after his tenure as the governor of Florida.

Their donors (2018) include:



Gates. Walton. Pearson. Zuckerberg. Koch. Charter Schools USA.

And ExcelinEd was in NC talking about how to improve Read to Achieve, the initiative passed in 2012 has been a complete failure. From an October, 2018 Charlotte Observer report:

The General Assembly passed Read to Achieve legislation in 2012. It was modeled on literacy efforts in other states, including the “Just Read, Florida!” program created by Gov. Jeb Bush in 2001. The goal in North Carolina was to end “social promotion” by keeping students in third grade until they could read at grade level and providing extra support to help them get there.

But in the years that followed the percent of North Carolina third- and fourth-graders graders passing state reading exams stayed flat or declined. National reading exams showed equally discouraging results.

The scores for those 3rd grade reading tests are eye-popping.


3. Wallace Foundation Grant for NC State Developing a Principal Pipeline

Recently, NC State received a sizable grant from the Wallace Foundation.


And the following is from a September, 2018 Wallace Foundation blog post partly written by Dr, Anna Egalite, who happens to be an education researcher at NC State University.

It states,

With support from the Wallace Foundation’s $47 million initiative to improve the quality of principal preparation, NC State has been engaged in redesigning our program to train principals who are ready to meet the demands of a constantly changing job. We joined forces with local school leaders to identify the skills and attributes of effective school leaders. We then developed our program selection criteria, curricula, assessments, and internship to align with this framework. We’re now partnering with the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction and SAS to develop a leadership-development dashboard that tracks the career pathway and performance of our graduates, with a vision of scaling the system state-wide to include all North Carolina-based principal preparation programs and school districts.

The data don’t exist yet to answer the most pressing questions about the relationship between principal preparation and leadership effectiveness. It’s our hope that’s about to change.

DPI? SAS? And do not forget the surreptitious work of BEST NC in helping restructure the principal pay system in North Carolina that has not been well-received.

BEST NC will be a presence at the Dinner for Innovation & Leadership.

The Wallace Foundation will be as well. This is one of the invitations that was printed for the Feb. 19th event. That’s their logo on the right side.



4. Everybody in Attendance is Getting an iPad.

Wouldn’t be surprised.