There is no question that education is political. In the state of North Carolina, over 56% of the state budget is dedicated to public education, most of which goes to K-12 (and pre-K) education.
It’s specifically stated in Article IX of the state constitution that the state establish a free and viable means of educating school age-children.
Sec. 2. Uniform system of schools.
(1) General and uniform system: term. The General Assembly shall provide by taxation and otherwise for a general and uniform system of free public schools, which shall be maintained at least nine months in every year, and wherein equal opportunities shall be provided for all students.
That alone makes education a political issue.
But it hasn’t always been this partisan. It’s funny that decades ago, public education was supposedly championed by both democrats and republicans alike. The governor’s office and the General Assembly were often in different hands politically speaking, but on the issue of public education, they stood much more united than it is today.
Then we got to 2011 and a super-majority in the NC General Assembly and the rise of Sen. Phil Berger as the most powerful lawmaker in the state. Then we got the removal of due-process rights, graduate degree pay bumps removed, less per-pupil expenditures, vouchers, unregulated charter school growth, school performance grading system, class size cap removed, etc.
And then came the 2016 election of Mark Johnson and a special session in late 2016. It was supposed to be for hurricane relief after another busy storm season.
It gave us HB17.
With the effects of House Bill 17 from the surreptitious special session of December in 2016, Mark Johnson became the most enabled incoming state superintendent in state history. He gained powers that even his predecessor did not possess one-tenth the magnitude of.
DPI got reorganized. The State Board of Education got less control over the state’s public school system.
And Phil Berger got his puppet.
With less than two calendar years in the classroom and no experience in running a department, Mark Johnson assumed an office for which he was not prepared for, and he certainly has not shown any ability to confront lawmakers over issues that affect public schools.
If he has then please name one.
But what we as North Carolinians have now is this:
- A long court case over power in public schools that ultimately cost taxpayers.
- Still no reduction in testing.
- The only school performance grading system in the country that places achievement over growth.
- An over-reliance on SAS for EVAAS scores that do not come to teachers until well after school starts and are calculated by a secret algorithm.
- An audit of DPI that showed that DPI was underfunded.
- DPI reorganized into silos.
- A state superintendent that will not fight for more funding.
- A state superintendent who caters more to the charter school industry than he does defending public schools.
- Lots of iPads.
- A renewed commitment to Read to Achieve which has been shown to not work.
- A renewed commitment to low-performing virtual for-profit charter schools.
- A state superintendent who sets up a personal website for himself during a natural state disaster to start funneling people through his chosen channels rather than DPI.
- An Innovative School District.
- Class Wallet.
It is August of 2019. Two and one-half years later. And Johnson’s campaign committee just has their 2019 campaign contribution report published for the first six months of 2019. Over $110,000 raised.
One of those contributions is this one:
That’s Jonathan Hage of Charter Schools USA, a for-profit chain that is trying to open up more campuses in North Carolina.
The 2020 elections start now.