Mark Johnson Wants You To Know That He’s Also A Lawyer

Mark Johnson is the North Carolina State Superintendent.

He also wants you to know that he’s a lawyer in an email that has probably the best first line ever from a high ranking official.


Here’s the entire text:

I’m the NC Superintendent of Public Instruction, but I’m also a lawyer. That’s a good thing on weeks like this one. 

 DIT improperly issued an injunction on the reading diagnostic contract this week that ignored due process and was in contradiction of state law and their own agency rules. DIT rendered a decision after only hearing arguments from one party, the losing vendor, and failed to give DPI its proper chance to respond.  

Today, DPI has filed a motion to dissolve this improper stay. DIT lawyers need to understand they are accountable to North Carolinians, not the CEO of Amplify. Given that DIT procurement specialists advised DPI throughout the procurement process, it is odd to begin with that the same department that approved the process is now in charge of reviewing that same process.  

We are reviewing our options to eliminate the uncertainty in our schools that DIT and this frivolous protest have recklessly created. 

Istation is the best reading diagnostic for NC students, parents, and educators. If you get outside the Raleigh Beltline or out of Uptown Charlotte, you get to read how Istation is already working. In Scotland County for example, the Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum and Instruction told the Scotland County Board of Education, “This is something that is really solid for students that’s going to make a difference,” and “It [Istation] is something that can really make a difference for the students.” 

And, we are getting similar feedback across North Carolina. The State Board and I made the right decision after a fair, just, and legal procurement process. It might not be supported by those who prefer to always go the more of the same route regardless of frustrations from teachers or lack of results for students. But, this is the right decision for the State of North Carolina. DIT has thrown this process into chaos, which is unacceptable, careless, and unnecessary. We are moving forward at DPI because we owe nothing less than positive change for our students and educators. 

Mark Johnson

Superintendent of Public Instruction

For a man who has wanted you to know for over two years that he was a teacher for less than two years, he now wants you to know that he is a lawyer who knows the legal workings of Raleigh.

Maybe he could have saved the state money and defended his own office in the lawsuit over HB17 that lasted over a year.

Maybe he could have advised the very people who prop him up that their gerrymandered districts are unlawful.

And while he is at it maybe he can fully and legally disclose how he got money and made the agreement to purchase iPads that stayed in a warehouse for a full year.


Catherine Truitt Says She May Run For State Superintendent If Mark Johnson Doesn’t; She Made Some Interesting Claims in 2016

Image result for NCDPI

This week on Alex Granados posted a piece entitled “Will state Superintendent of Public Instruction Mark Johnson run again?” that explored Johnson’s secretive plans for 2020’s election cycle.

Catherine Truitt, chancellor of WGU North Carolina, said she is interested in being state superintendent, but not if it means challenging Johnson. 

Truitt has a lot of background in NC education.

Truitt is a former teacher, turnaround coach, associate vice president of University and P-12 Partnerships at UNC General Administration, and former senior education advisor to Republican Gov. Pat McCrory. 

And as the senior education advisor for McCrory, she penned an op-ed posted on on March 25, 2016 entitled “The truth on education spending.”

The claims she made about NC’s “commitment” to public education were slanted at best and received one of the first ever published posts on this blog when it started in March of 2016.

It deserves revisiting as my stance on what she claimed back then has not changed.


Dear Ms. Truitt,

I read with great interest and frustration your op-ed that appeared on March 25, 2016 on (“The truth on education spending”) .

While you state that you have been a senior education advisor for Gov. McCrory a “short time,” the arguments that you make to boost Gov. McCrory’s reputation as an advocate for public education have been long overused and are cursory at best. As a teacher in North Carolina for over the last almost 11 years (and 13 of my 18 years as a teacher), I can with certainty state that your arguments only highlight a faint bloom of success, but not the toxic soil that feeds it.

You make several “spun” assertions in your op-ed. Please allow me to respond in hopes that the positives you attempt to point out are actually the opposite and are actually real problems that the governor has helped foster.

  1. The state’s portion of budget to public education.

You state,

“The truth is, total K-12 funding has increased each year of Gov. McCrory’s administration and North Carolina now spends 57 percent of its state budget on education, far higher than the national state average of 46 percent.”

This is the same argument that Rep. Hardister made on Sept, 3rd, 2015 on his blog The Hardister Report ( He talked of three sources of financing for NC public education – federal, state, and local. You are right; 57percent is far higher than the national average. But that’s because it is supposed to be. The state constitution declares it.

The Public School Forum of North Carolina’s publication the 2014 Local School Finance Studyprovides a great history of the state’s practice in funding public schooling which is rooted in the proclamation that all children in the state ages 6-21 are guaranteed a good public education. The rest of my explanation to him can be found at this link,

However, I do want to point out that before we had a “Republican governor and a Republican-controlled legislature,” the state spent an even higher percentage on public education because THAT IS WHAT THE STATE CONSTITUTION DECLARED. As I stated to Rep. Hardister,

“…those percentages of spending are not a badge of honor that this General Assembly gets to wear; it was earned many decades ago. The fact that the percentage is getting lower actually is not a positive sign for this administration. It is a reflection that the NCGA’s level of commitment to public education is wavering. Since most of the state funding goes to salaries of certified and classified employees, the fact the percentage of funds from the state is not higher than it was in years past is indicative of the stagnated salaries NC gives to teachers and assistants. With the elimination of funds for professional development and talk of cutting numbers of teaching assistants, how can you brag about the level of money spent on public schooling?”

Also lost in this is the uneven fashion in which money from the state is actually dispersed to LEA’s on the county and city levels. One of the more cohesive explanations of North Carolina’s state funding practices is a publication by the Center for American Progress entitled “The Stealth Inequities of School Funding” produced in 2012. It summarizes our state’s practices in a fairly concise manner, especially on page 46.

  1. Teacher Salary.

The statement you make about teacher salary is the most recycled, spun statement used by West Jones Street concerning public education in the last three years. You state,

“Teacher salary raises enacted in 2014 reversed the pay freezes that were enacted under Gov. Beverly Perdue shortly after she took office in 2009. In fact, the 7 percent increase in average teacher salary between the 2013-14 and 2014-15 school years was the largest teacher pay raise in the entire nation.”

First, Gov. Perdue and the NCGA at that time (2009) froze salaries and salary schedules because of the GREAT RECESSION. I think almost every business (in every state) froze their salaries; many even lowered them. Less money in people’s pockets, less money in state coffers. I, for one, was grateful to still have a job during that time. But ironically, why didn’t the governor just reinstall the salary schedule that was in effect in 2008 when he came into office after Perdue if he helped to guide us out of the recession? I surely would be making a lot more than now.

Secondly, you use that magic word – “average.” When Brenda Berg, CEO of Best NC made that same claim as a positive for NC, I responded with an explanation that has been made many times by many people. I stated in an August, 2015 open letter printed on (“A teacher weighs in on the war on public education”),

“The operative word here is “average.” Beginning teachers saw an average pay hike of over ten percent, yet the more years a teacher had, the less of a “raise” was given. The result was an AVERAGE hike of 6.9 percent, but it was not an even distribution. In fact, some veterans saw a reduction in annual pay because much of the “raise” was funded with what used to be longevity pay. And as a teacher who has been in North Carolina for these past ten years, I can with certainty tell you that my salary has not increased by 6.9 percent.

Mr. Hogan’s (James Hogan) claim that there was only an average salary increase of $270 comes when one takes the actual money allocated in the budget for the increase and dividing that evenly across the board.

That raise you refer to was funded in part by eliminating teachers’ longevity pay. Like an annual bonus, all state employees receive it—except, now, for teachers—as a reward for continued service. Yet the budget you mentioned simply rolled that longevity money into teachers’ salaries and labeled it as a raise. “

Your claim here, Ms. Truitt, is simply using that same “average bear” technique.

  1. Technology

You state that the governor is championing “transformational measures” to make NC’s schools the best in the nation. You state,

“For example, North Carolina is on track to be the first state in the country to connect every classroom to high speed wireless Internet. This development will enable a wide range of personalized learning applications for all North Carolina children and has the potential to transform the way students learn.”

Interestingly enough, when politicians talk of personalized learning through technology, this veteran teacher (and many others) hears that you want to make the learning experience more virtual than realistic, specifically through virtual charters and academies.

I do understand that many students have circumstances where technology can help alleviate problems and open avenues for learning. My own son, who happens to have Down Syndrome, is a very visual learner. Technology has been huge for him when it is facilitated by a professional educator. However, when you put in technology for technology’s sake (with an already biased “positive” view of for-profit virtual schools), then your claim seems more like a plug for buying more computers and software and divesting from the human capital that really drives the dynamic learning experience – the student/teacher relationship.

  1. Teacher / Student ratios

You state,

“The budget he signed provides funds to reduce class size in first grade to one teacher per 16 students by 2016-17. He also signed legislation that will dramatically increase access to summer reading camps to ensure every student achieves the needed literacy by third grade.”

Let me refer to the Allotment Policy Handbook FY 2013-14 on guidelines for maximum class size for all classes. There is a table from p.26 that gives some guide lines to students per classroom. However, local authorities can extend those class sizes if there is a need in their eyes. If you look on the very next page of the same handbook there is a reference to the use of provisions according to HB112.

That bill referred to, HB112, allowed the state to remove class size requirements while still allowing monies from the state to be allocated based on the previous table’s numbers. And that’s huge! I rarely have a class that is at or below 29 students. Some classes on my campus push upwards to 40 students.

Another detail to emphasize is the change that some districts have taken to move away from the 6/7 period day to block scheduling. Take my own district for example, the Winston-Salem / Forsyth County Schools. When I started ten years ago, I taught five classes with a cap of 30 students. With the block system in place, I now teach six classes in a school year with no cap. The math is simple: more students per teacher.

So, you claim that putting a cap on class size for one of the twelve grades is a positive? My own son’s class for developmentally delayed children has well over a dozen students in it. Would the governor help cap those classes as well to help in those situations? I will partially believe it when my son’s teacher sees it. I will fully believe it when all classes have caps.

            5. Opportunity Grants

You stated,

“In 2014, the governor increased choice for low income parents by enacting the Opportunity Scholarship that provides financial assistance for alternative schooling for students who are not succeeding in a traditional school setting.”

Allow me to use the explanation I offered in a recent Winston-Salem Journal op-ed I wrote in February (“Defending public education”) against the use of Opportunity Grants which at a maximum of $4800 does not even cover one semester in a competitive, private school that can reject any applicant without explanation. I stated,

“One can argue that the Opportunity Grants can help alleviate high tuition costs, but if the grants are targeted for lower income students, then how can those families even think about allotting their already limited funds for a private education, especially when NC has refused to expand Medicaid services for many who would qualify to obtain an Opportunity Grant? That’s not really giving families choices.

If you scroll down on the North Carolina State Education Assistance Authority website for the Opportunity Scholarship and click on the link called “Current List of Nonpublic Schools”, you will find a list of schools participating in the grant program. Notice a vast majority of those schools have religious affiliations. Ironically, many of those schools are already supported by churches that do not have to pay taxes. And now those entities are getting more taxpayer money to support curricula and processes that are not even regulated like those of public schools?”

Furthermore, if you think that it is necessary for funds to be given to people to get them a good education, then why not invest that very money in the very public schools you are constitutionally supposed to support to help those very students succeed in their public schools?

            6. 21st Century Skills

You stated,

“Gov. McCrory recognizes the role the state’s community colleges play in giving North Carolina citizens the skills they need to prosper in a 21st century economy.”

First, it helps that we have a strong public school system that gives a strong foundation of learning and academic skills for those who enter the community college classrooms. But there has to be jobs for these citizens to use their skills.

Look at the list of businesses, companies, and corporations that have disavowed the governor’s signing of HB2, the most discriminatory piece of legislation in recent memory which ironically was signed merely hours before your op-ed was published on

Too bad that the very citizens the governor is claiming to help train for the 21st century economy will not have companies that are willing to relocate and start here or even continue to do business with the state. That’s because 21st century economies do not work well with Jim Crow-style, bigoted climates that the governor promotes.

This is an election year, Ms. Truitt. Your boss is embarking on a re-election campaign that daily is coming under fire for his very lack of leadership. As teachers and voters, we need to be able to see substance to your arguments, not airy claims.

About “The Smear Campaign Against Charters” Op-Ed in the WSJ By The Founder of Four NC Charter Schools – There’s So Much More There

This week the Wall Street Journal printed an op-ed by Baker Mitchell, the founder of the Roger Bacon Academies four of  which are classified as “public” charter schools in North Carolina.

Simply put, when considering the context in which these schools operate, the actual student body makeup compared to other geographically close schools, and Mitchell’s loyalty to privatization efforts in North Carolina of public education, then it is easy to see how baseless an argument he has.

Here is the text:

Leland, N.C.

With a new school year ahead, the attacks on charter schools have begun anew. In North Carolina we’re hearing outrageous charges of racism. A public-television commentator claimed recently that “resegregation” was the purpose of charter schools “from the start.”

Meanwhile, parents are voting with their feet. Statewide enrollment in traditional public schools has declined four years in a row. Less than 80% of K-12 students now attend district schools. More than 110,000 are enrolled in charters and 100,000 in private schools. More than 140,000 are being home-schooled.

The suggestion that district schools are being resegregated through “white flight” to schools of choice is nonsense. North Carolina charters today have a slightly higher percentage of black students (26.1%) than district schools (25.2%). And those students aren’t assigned. Parents choose our schools. 

It’s “certainly no accident” that critics invoke the Jim Crow era by referring to “segregation,” Lindalyn Kakadelis of North Carolina Education Strategies told me. “The goal is to stop the growth of K-12 education options at any cost.” Charter school critics “do not want families making educational decisions for their children. The system does not want to lose control or money.”

Charges of racism are intended to divert attention from the failure of traditional public schools to educate minority children. According to the most recent Charter Schools Annual Report to the North Carolina General Assembly, published in February, charter-school students at virtually every grade level and in virtually all student subgroups—white, African-American, Hispanic, economically disadvantaged, students with disabilities, and students with limited English proficiency—outperformed traditional public-school students in English, math and science at the end of the school year. The sole exception was high-school math scores, where results were mixed.

The Roger Bacon Academy, which I founded in 1999, oversees four charter schools in southeastern North Carolina that are among the top-performing in their communities. All four schools are Title 1 schools, meaning 40% or more of the students come from lower-income households. One of the schools, Frederick Douglass Academy in downtown Wilmington, is a majority-minority school.

We succeed where others fail because we do things differently. Our classical curriculum, direct-instruction methods, additional instructional hours, and focus on orderliness are a proven formula for successful learning.

I never intended to get involved in education. But after selling a company I founded, I began volunteering as a science instructor at Houston-area elementary schools. I met Thaddeus Lott, principal of Wesley Elementary, a high-achieving school with a predominantly low-income black student body.

I pulled into the parking lot and noticed a 6-foot-high barbed-wire fence around the school. I quickly learned the problems were outside. The students were well-behaved and academically advanced. They read Shakespeare, learned phonics, and memorized multiplication tables. The results were so impressive that Houston school officials accused the school of cheating on tests—then forced the superintendent out when the charge was proved wrong.

Charter schools do not seek to replace traditional public schools, but rather to complement them, providing alternatives to the existing system. Our way is better for some students, not all. Let parents decide.

The “resegregation” attacks are a continuation of a broader smear campaign that began last year. Parents and policy makers shouldn’t be distracted. Charters are doing well—and if they don’t, they lose their charters and are shut down, unlike failing district schools.

First, let it be known that Baker Mitchell has a fairly long history here in North Carolina that’s not pretty and seems to be bent on making money.

From 2014 in a report from Lindsay Wagner for NC Policy Watch:


There was also a 2014 ProPublica report that stated:


Mitchell even caught the attention of John Merrow, the venerable education reporter.


And he also is involved with the North Carolina libertarian think tank, The John Locke Foundation, which is funded by Art Pope, who along with Mitchell is aligned with the Koch brothers. Pope was also the first budget director for Gov. Pat McCrory when he won office and crafted many of the financial details still governing school funding today and helped push many of the education reforms in NC.

What Mitchell talks about in his op-ed doesn’t reveal even a clear, cursory story and fails to go into detail. It’s literally opaque glossing.

He uses charged words like “racism.” In fact, he is trying to utilize talking points that many pro-charter school advocates in North Carolina are adopting to combat serious criticisms that have merit based on resegregating populations in NC. In fact, the Executive Director of the North Carolina Association of Public Charter Schools sent out such a list that Mitchell parrots. Those points are easily debunked.

But this part of Mitchell’s op-ed really needs clarification:

The Roger Bacon Academy, which I founded in 1999, oversees four charter schools in southeastern North Carolina that are among the top-performing in their communities. All four schools are Title 1 schools, meaning 40% or more of the students come from lower-income households. One of the schools, Frederick Douglass Academy in downtown Wilmington, is a majority-minority school.

These are the report card summaries of each of those schools.

Here is the Leland Charter Day School in Brunswick County.


11.5% of students in this school for this last report card are economically disadvantaged. 44.3% of students in the state are considered economically disadvantaged.


This is Columbus Charter School in Columbus County.


43.6% of students in this school for this last report card are economically disadvantaged. 44.3% of students in the state are considered economically disadvantaged.


This is South Brunswick Charter in Brunswick County.


7.5% of students in this school for this last report card are economically disadvantaged. 44.3% of students in the state are considered economically disadvantaged.


This is Douglass Academy in Wilmington (New Hanover County) which Mitchell highlights in his op-ed.


67.8% of students in this school for this last report card are economically disadvantaged. 44.3% of students in the state are considered economically disadvantaged.

One of those schools seems to be servicing large numbers of economically disadvantaged students. One services the same percentage as the state average. Two service really small numbers of students who are economically disadvantaged.

It would be really interesting to compare Mitchell’s schools with the schools in geographically close proximity on those same variables. In fact, the tables below show those differences for each school.

School Performance Grades for all schools were taken from the official North Carolina School Report Cards site. Percentages for student race and economically disadvantaged students for charter schools were taken from there as well. Percentages for students in traditional public schools who are economically disadvantaged are also from the official North Carolina School Report Cards site.

Percentages for student race race for traditional public schools schools were taken from as those numbers are not in the school report card outline for those schools.

Here is the comparison for Leland Charter Day School in Brunswick County.

School Public / Charter School Performance Grade % White students % Economically disadvantaged
Charter Day School Charter 74 (“B”) 75.4 5.0
Acme Delco Elem. Public 65 (“C”) 35.9 52.8
Belville Elem. Public 70 (“B”) 61.8 48.1

Just look at the differences in the numbers of white students and economically disadvantaged students in the charter school compared to the two closest traditional schools geographically.

Here is the comparison for Columbus Charter School in Columbus County.

School Public / Charter School Performance Grade % White students % Economically disadvantaged
Columbus Charter Charter 68 (“C”) 65 44
Evergreen Elem. Public 49 (“D”) 53.2 53.9
Chadbourne Elem. Public 52 (“D”) 21.6 75.2

Here is the comparison for Douglass Charter School in New Hanover County.

School Public / Charter School Performance Grade Racial Makeup % Economically disadvantaged
Douglass Charter 51 (“D”) 89.9% African-Amer 67.8
Williston Middle Public 49 (“D”) 24.3% White
48% African American
21.8% Hispanic
Wrightsboro Elem. Public 50 (“D”) 33.6% White
31.5% African American
24% Hispanic

Performance Grade- wise these schools are very aligned. But Mitchell highlighted this school to show his commitment to minority students. But he never mentions the word “diversity.” And Douglass is NOT diverse. In fact, looking at those other two schools, there is much more diversity and more likely a very active ESL/ELL program.

Here is the comparison for South Brunswick Charter School in Brunswick County.

School Public / Charter School Performance Grade % White students % Economically disadvantaged
South Brunswick Charter Charter 78 (“B”) 82 5
Virginia Williamson  Elem. Public 60 (“C”) 68.4 71

5% versus 71%?

Baker Mitchell intentionally forgets to mention is in measuring his schools in North Carolina against those in the surrounding community.

Why? Because his narrative would fail horribly.

He fixates on one point and never fully explains the context. It would be nice if he clarified if he just was just looking at racial divisions or socio-economic divisions or income-levels. It actually would be nice to see how many of the students in his schools are considered students with disabilities.

This is what NC defines as “students with disabilities.”


That might be a whole new post.


“Disappointed” About iStation? This Teacher Has Been Disappointed For A While

Something happened with the iStation situation and Mark Johnson is “disappointed.”

From an N&O report tonight which detailed the Department of Information Technology’s decision to grant Amplify a temporary stay against the roll-out of iStation in schools:

Johnson said in a statement Tuesday night that he is “disappointed” in the temporary stay.

“It sows unnecessary confusion for our educators just as the school year starts but am confident that the decision the State Board (of Education) and I made in support of a positive change will stand,” Johnson said.

Not that there has not been a lot of confusion about what Johnson has been doing these last couple of years with a lawsuit against him brought on by the same SBE he is referring to or the iPAds or the “reduction” in testing or the audit to find overspending that told him that DPI was actually underfunded.

No confusion at all.

But with the temporary stay will we as North Carolinians be spared all of those emails from iStation?

And social media posts that pop up in Facebook accounts?


That would be “disappointing.”

Not really.

But it does possibly make yesterday’s odd email from Johnson seem a little more understandable. If Johnson had known about the DIT’s decision before it was released, then his email may have been an attempt to quell the effect to a certain extent.

Or not.



Six Claims Made By Mark Johnson Debunked With Eight Tweets

If you do not follow the work of Kris Nordstrom, then start now. He has been the best resource I have found on policy and finance laws that help shape and mold NC’s public education system.

In eight tweets he completely debunked many of the claims made by Mark Johnson on a recent episode of WRAL’s On the Record.

Claims concerning:

  • School Safety
  • Mental Health
  • Budget
  • Money Teachers Spend on Supplies
  • Teacher Salary
  • iPads



When the state superintendent makes claims about six issues concerning public education in North Carolina that can be easily debunked in eight tweets, then the state superintendent is either really bad at spinning the narrative or is completely stuck in an echo chamber.

Or both.

The Thin Truth About “The Truth About Read to Achieve” Letter From Mark Johnson

This morning all educators in the state received an email from State Superintendent Mark Johnson entitled “The Truth About Read to Achieve.”


Here is the entire text:

Educators – 
     Unanimous political agreement is rare these days, but the truth is everyone – Democrats, Republicans, and Independents – agree on at least one thing. We must support our youngest learners’ reading skills to ensure they have the best chance for success in school and in life.

     While I support the statewide program focused on K-3 literacy (Read to Achieve), I have been very vocal that it needs to center more on supporting teachers and instruction and less on testing students. Unfortunately, you may have heard some wild theories over the summer about the new reading diagnostic tool required by Read to Achieve. 

     The truth is the process to select a diagnostic tool had to be cancelled twice due in part to unethical actions by former DPI employees. Fortunately, thanks to the hard work of other DPI employees, the final process was fair and objective. Istation was the recommendation of the evaluation committee and was unanimously approved by the State Board of Education. We are already getting positive feedback from educators who have been trained on the new system.  

     Please click here if you want the full story, gory details and all, as to what happened during the procurement process. It’s not pretty. The truth is the two processes that were cancelled each had unfair advantages for the incumbent vendor over others. Even worse, some bad actors at DPI went so far as to state that my efforts are just to “appease lazy a** teachers.” I know North Carolina’s educators are working harder than ever, and I do NOT agree with that negative assessment. 

     The truth is when I took office, we found millions of dollars from Read to Achieve that were going unused at DPI. We jumped into action to get this money to you and your classrooms. We sent $200 for each K-3 reading teacher to buy supplies, started a new professional development program with NC State to mentor new teachers on best practices when teaching reading, and provided master literacy training to every school district. 

     We also utilized those millions to buy iPads for K-3 reading teachers to use in their classrooms. (I recently met with teachers who were told they could only use the iPads for assessments. The truth is you can use those tablets and the new ones you receive this year for any literacy activities in your classroom you want! So, please do.) 

     At the start of this school year, we are using Read to Achieve state funds to send districts an additional $400 per K-3 classroom. We will also be using state funds to purchase more devices for you to use to support K-3 literacy activities, including personalized learning. The Read to Achieve funds are earmarked specifically for kindergarten through third grade literacy efforts, but the truth is the money won’t stay in Raleigh like it used to! 

     While this email has been focused on K-3 literacy, please know that we appreciate your hard work in every grade and every subject. A well-rounded education gives our students the best opportunity to work hard and succeed. (Another email will follow with updates on our work to reduce testing, support teachers, and increase funding for schools.) 

     Thank you for everything you do for our students and your service to our state. North Carolina is fortunate to have you. 

The truth is that our future is brighter thanks to your hard work.

Mark Only

Mark Johnson
NC Superintendent of Public Instruction

This email simply screams, “I am the victim! It’s someone else’s fault.” From the iPad situation to iStation’s contract to the renewal of Read to Achieve, Johnson tries to cast cast doubt on the very people who are literally trying to shine a light on issues that need more transparency.

It also shows that he is trying hard to control the narrative. Never in my 20+ years of teaching have I received an email from a state superintendent that was meant to explain actions or lack of action for absolution when so many pieces of evidence point at the need for investigation.

Some things to maybe consider:

“Unanimous political agreement is rare these days, but the truth is everyone – Democrats, Republicans, and Independents – agree on at least one thing.”

First sentence and he makes it partisan.

And this overall argument has really nothing to do with wanting students to be able to read. It has everything about how we resource the initiatives that need to be critically selected to fulfill those needs.

“While I support the statewide program focused on K-3 literacy (Read to Achieve), I have been very vocal that it needs to center more on supporting teachers and instruction and less on testing students.”

First, Mark Johnson is not “very vocal.” Sending blanket emails, videos, and glossy flyers is not being vocal.

Being vocal is fighting openly for students. Did he rally with nearly a fifth of the teaching force in Raleigh who were asking more from a miserly NCGA to help students? Did he openly confront lawmakers about public education issues?

And supporting Read to Achieve and not acknowledging its shortcomings since its inception is nothing more than rubber-stamping Phil Berger’s platform.

There was that May 2018 study by NC State in conjunction with the Friday Institute that found really no success in the Read to Achieve initiative on a state level since its inception. five years earlier.


It did find, however, on a local basis that there were some local initiatives that have shown some promise. Look at pages 23-24 of the study report and see how actually fully funding a reading instruction initiative and supplying those initiatives with effective instructors makes a difference.

In fact, fully funding schools and making sure that there are enough professionals in the rooms with the students are vital in any place. The fact that any success in this depends on the local professionals (teachers, assistants, administration) being able to dictate what can be done and having the faith that required resources will be available simply flies in the face of people like Berger who preach “smaller government” but actually practice more overreach.

Actually didn’t Johnson help oversee a reduction of DPI’s budget when the audit he called for actually found that DPI was underfunded?

What really stands out in this study is the suggestion that the state needs to front-load more support and resources for Pre-K through second grade students as well as continuing interventions through all grades.

So Johnson “did” a couple of things about that… at least according to Johnson.

One was the $200 to every reading teacher in the state.

“We sent $200 for each K-3 reading teacher to buy supplies”

Yes, in March of 2018 Mark Johnson all of a sudden distributed $200 to each elementary reading teacher in the state. As reported by Liz Bell of at the time:

The Department of Public Instruction is distributing a total of $4.8 million from funds allocated by the state in 2016 as part of its Read to Achieve initiative for “literacy support” in early grades. Johnson, in his time as superintendent, has emphasized the importance of reading proficiency and early literacy education.

Yes, this seemed like good news. But it seemed rather little when looking at the bigger picture. And it seemed a little empty in the bigger conversation. In fact, it looked more like a publicity stunt.

That money was part of funds originally provided in 2016, yet its allocation in 2018 is something that Johnson seemed to want to get credit for. Did it ever occur it’s being allocated in 2018 was because Johnson was in office to make him look better?

“We also utilized those millions to buy iPads for K-3 reading teachers to use in their classrooms.”

Remember the iPads?

In August of 2018, right after a slew of positional layoffs at DPI, Mark Johnson made the improbable announcement of a six million dollar purchase of iPads. How that money was obtained and how it was immediately spent on Apple products has never really been revealed.

From Travis Fain at WRAL from August 7th, 2018:

Reading teachers across the state, from kindergarten to third grade, will get computer tablets from the state this school year in an effort to track and improve student reading.

Superintendent of Public Instruction Mark Johnson announced the plan Tuesday morning, holding up an iPad for the media, the governor and other members of North Carolina’s Council of State. Johnson’s office put the statewide pricetag for the devices at about $6 million.

Apparently that money came from a “discovered” account of unused funds that DPI had from years past. Johnson claims that it is money that previous DPI officials just sat on. Dr. June Atkinson said differently in this piece from NC Policy Watch that Fain cites within his report.

North Carolina’s former public school superintendent June Atkinson says the state’s current K-12 leader “misled” the public when he blasted the Department of Public Instruction (DPI) last month over $15 million in unspent Read to Achieve dollars.

Atkinson criticized Superintendent Mark Johnson in recent interviews with Policy Watch, nearly a month after Johnson slammed the K-12 bureaucracy for “disturbing” spending practices, including its alleged failure to dole out state cash in 2015 and 2016 intended to boost elementary reading proficiency.

“Mark does not understand or has not in all candor or transparency pointed out that a substantial amount of that unspent money would be a direct result of (local) school districts not using the dollars,” says Atkinson.

And now without even a budget in place that forces schools to go into the new school year with last year’s financial allotments, he announces this:

“At the start of this school year, we are using Read to Achieve state funds to send districts an additional $400 per K-3 classroom. We will also be using state funds to purchase more devices for you to use to support K-3 literacy activities, including personalized learning.”

What’s even more ironic is that many of the original iPads that were purchased last year were never distributed and have stayed in a warehouse for over a year. They were “so needed” last year that they were never given out to teachers and now we as a state have bought more when we do not even have a budget to accommodate the growing number of students in a growing  number of schools around the state.

But it’s the part about the iStation contract deal that really makes this email a rather immature stab at “transparency.”

“It’s not pretty. The truth is the two processes that were cancelled each had unfair advantages for the incumbent vendor over others. Even worse, some bad actors at DPI went so far as to state that my efforts are just to “appease lazy a** teachers.” I know North Carolina’s educators are working harder than ever, and I do NOT agree with that negative assessment. “

Some people would say that iStation had some “unfair advantages.” When Johnson refers to that line about appease (ing) lazy a** teachers” he is making a reference to the now almost famous Exhibit C in his “defense” to mClass’s appeal process.


There’s a lot more in that exhibit.

Along with the “ass” comment were these lines:

MJ came into their voting meeting to basically (without coming directly out and
specifying) tell them how to vote! However the vote did not go his way so it will be
interesting to see how he gets his way on this.

Yep, she said they walked out of the building and several people said what just

Re-read that part: “MJ came into their voting meeting to basically (without coming directly out and specifying) tell them how to vote!”

Why would Johnson have come into the voting meeting? And why would he have pressured them directly or indirectly to vote a certain way? So awkward was Johnson’s actions that “several people said what just happened?”

That sounds like a breach of something to me.

Oh, and that We are already getting positive feedback from educators who have been trained on the new system” part? 

Is that really representative of all of the feedback?

There was only one statement in this email that really seemed both true and too the point – “It’s not pretty.”

No, it’s not.







About Those Vague & Amorphous “Talking Points” from the Executive Director of the NCAPCS (North Carolina Association of Public Charter Schools)

Below is a copy of a letter / email from Rhonda Dillingham, the Executive Director of the North Carolina Association For Public Charter Schools to charter school advocates in the state concerning the growing criticism of the unregulated charter school growth in NC.

It begins, “At our conference a few weeks ago, I shared with you my concern that our opponents are ramping up their attacks against charter schools.” She specifically refers to arguments that concern segregation and then offers six “Talking Points” that she feels should quell those “attacks.”



In some regards, all of these “talking points” really are reiterating the same ideas: “diversity,” “choice,” and “opportunity.”

But not once did Dillingham offer any DATA or analysis.

This past January, Kris Nordstrom published an article that openly showed data that  maybe Dillingham should also consider when issuing “talking points.”

Did you know that student performance in North Carolina charter schools is increasingly falling behind traditional public schools?

Probably not. After all, that message was absent from state charter office Director Dave Machado’s presentation to the Board last week, nor will you find it in the related Charter Schools Annual Report submitted to the General Assembly by the N.C. Department of Public Instruction.

Yet charter school performance is increasingly lagging the performance of North Carolina’s traditional public schools. And the percentage of charter schools meeting or exceeding annual school growth is increasingly falling behind traditional public schools.

The cap on the number of charter schools was removed in 2013. Since that time the number of charter school in NC has more than doubled. The super-majority in the NCGA that enabled all of these “reforms” like charter schools further weakened the oversight and regulation of charter schools in NC. With the national dialogue starting to expose the charter school industry, Dillingham is trying to preserve that loose oversight on charter schools and steer the direction into other realms like “diversity.”

It would be nice if Dillingham further define her use of “integration” and “diversity.” Is it just looking at racial divisions? socio-economic divisions? income-level?

The last report on the state’s charter schools did show some improvement on the enrollment of students of color, but it would require more concrete “talking points” from Dillingham to adeqately explain that data.

From NC Policy Watch last January:

One interesting tidbit in the report shows the percentage of students of color enrolled in charters has increased each of the last four school years.

From 2014-15 school year to the 2017-18 school years, the percentage of students of color enrolled in charters rose slightly, from 41.5 percent to 45 percent.

During that same span, the percentage of students identified as economically disadvantaged dipped slightly from roughly 35 percent during the 2014-15 school year to approximately 33 percent.

Another tidbit: The percentage of Latino students enrolled in charters ticked up slightly from 9.2 percent to 9.9 percent, the second consecutive increase following the creation of a task force by Lt. Gov. Dan Forest to examine charter school outreach to Hispanic families.

Yet that number still lags behind traditional schools, where Latino students accounted for more than 16 percent of overall enrollment as of 2015-2016.

And in North Carolina, we are seeing more instances of charter schools helping enable what is called “white flight.” Here is an example  that the Washington Post highlighted this past May in a rural district in North Carolina.

It was put together by Justin Parmenter and Rodney Pierce and it makes reference to a new law (Municipal Charter School Bill) that allows for local municipalities to take public funds and create charter schools for their students within the city limits. The problem is that the original bill listed four municipalities – all of which were over 80% white and fairly affluent in a county that has one of the largest populations in the state.

And that article also makes mention of the fact that many charter schools are minority-majority.

While some charter schools in some states have helped low-income students improve academically, in North Carolina they’ve been used predominantly as a vehicle for affluent white folks to opt out of traditional public schools. Trends of racial and economic segregation that were already worrisome in public schools before the [charter] cap was lifted [in 2012] have deepened in our charter schools. Now more than two-thirds of our charter schools are either 80 percent+ white or 80 percent+ students of color. Charter schools are not required to provide transportation or free/reduced-price meals, effectively preventing families that need help in those areas from having access to the best schools.

Can Dillingham create a “talking point” that explains that?

What Dillingham’s talking points lack are specificity and concrete evidence. They are meant to be amorphous. Yet, they beg explanation.

Here’s a list of others claims she makes:

  • “Charter schools are open to all.” Then why does she have to explain in the fifth point that charter schools are exploring “weighted lotteries?”
  • “North Carolina’ charter schools strengthen the public school.” How? In what ways? Data? And the simple answer of “choice” is not good enough to prove what she says.
  • “More personal attention.” Doesn’t that just prove that traditional public schools have classes that are too big?
  • “Ability to be innovative.” So, where have those innovations been shared with the traditional public schools in order to help even more kids. Dillingham says that charter schools are public schools. Shouldn’t those innovations be publicly used?
  • “By nature, charter public schools have the ability to drive innovative curriculums, draw students from a wide geographical area, tailor learning in their own communities, and do it all while being held to a higher standard than public schools.” What higher standards? Data? And remember that charter schools do not have to offer transportation and other services that public schools must. That means that drawing students from further geographic areas means that only students whose families have those resources could attend.
  • Taking the lead on integration.” Dillingham might want to look at Parmenter and Pierce’s work published in the Washington Post.
  • “Addressing accessibility.” That was just implicit proof that this state should fully fund traditional public schools for educationally and economically diverse students. If just creating charter schools is going to address this problem, then the state has not done a good job at resourcing the already existing public schools.

And then there is that one electioneering point used by many in Raleigh like Berger, Moore, and Forest: the “zip code” platitude.

“Regardless of zip code, income, or ability level.”

Maybe Dillingham could ask the the NCGA to raise minimum wages in NC, stop gerrymandering poorer communities and their zip codes into the same districts to stifle political voices, and change the state’s school performance system from the only one in the country that weighs achievement over growth.

Oh, and expand Medicaid to those zip codes as well.


My “Better Work Story” For TeachNC in One Picture

BEST NC recently sent out an email announcing the TeachNC initiative with links and information complete with some testimonial / advertisements.

TeachNC’s media campaign, “Teachers Have Better Work Stories,” highlights the ways in which teaching profession is challenging, fulfilling, and constantly evolving. These career qualities are particularly appealing to Millennials and Generation Z as they seek fulfilling professions.” – from

Under that text is a video for a public service announcement from Teach NC.


Right under that, TeachNC literally asks for more teachers to share their own “Better Work Stories.”

“TeachNC will also be curating Better Work Stories from real North Carolina teachers. To view the stories collected so far, click here. If you are a teacher or know of one who should share their Better Work Story, please share it here.”

Here is mine.

In one picture.

And it’s worth a million words.


Would be happy to share that “Better Work Story. ”


Can TeachNC Explain This To Prospective Teachers? How NC Devalues Veteran Teachers.

Can TeachNC and BESTNC explain this to prospective teachers?

Below is the proposed salary schedule just released this summer for 2019-2020 school year that is still in limbo because of budget cuts.


For the first 15 years of a career in NC, a teacher will receive a 1,000 raise for each year. It will go from $35,000 to $50,000.

In Years 16-20, a teacher will make $50,500 – each year. No raises within that time. And a $500 raise overall compared to Year 15.

In Years 21-24, a teacher will make $51,500 – each year. No raises within that time. That’s a $1,500 raise compared to Year 15 and a $1,000 raise compared to Year 20.

In Years 25+, a teacher will make $52,600 – for the rest of his/her career.

Granted, that schedule may change in the next year or years, but it proves one thing: this NCGA does not value veteran teachers.

Look at the salary schedule above just based on raises.


Now consider there is no longer longevity pay and that all teachers now coming into the profession in NC will be on an “A” certificate because of the removal of graduate pay.

And the consider this.


This NCGA budget proposal is a slap in the face of veteran teachers.

So does TeachNC and BESTNC want to call this a selling point?

What TeachNC Will Not Tell Prospective Teachers: Comparing NC Teacher Salaries Now to 2008-2009

Below is the salary schedule for a teacher in North Carolina for the 2018-2019 school year. With the current stalemate in budget negotiations, it will be the salary schedule for the 2019-2020 school year.



Any teacher new to the profession in the last four years would never be on the second schedule because newer teachers are not allowed a pay bump for graduate degrees. Notice how the salaries also plateau after year 15.

There is no longevity pay included as it does not exist for teachers any longer.

And remember that the average pay that people like Mark Johnson, Phil Berger, and Tim Moore like to brag about includes local supplements that the state is not responsible for.

Now go back ten years.



Ten years ago each salary step would have had an increase in pay.

All teachers, new and veteran, would have had graduate degree pay ten years ago.

All veteran teachers would have received longevity pay ten years ago above and beyond what the salary schedule said.

Will TeachNC and BESTNC explain that?