In the wake of recent questions concerning his purchase and distribution of iPads in the past couple of weeks, Mark Johnson seems to have taken the same route as iStation when pandering for public sentiment: penning an op-ed in the largest newspaper in the state to put a rosy veneer on yet another stain that is the current lack of leadership in the Department of Public Instruction.
This op-ed fails.
The text of it follows:
FIGHTING EDUCATION BUREAUCRACY
The writer is state superintendent of schools.
I often disagree with the N.C. Board of Education, especially when they prioritize bureaucracy over classrooms. In 2016, my predecessor chose to use the State Superintendent’s operating budget for sponsoring conferences and paying for meals for hundreds of attendees. In 2017, the Board of Education, which sued to try to keep control of the state education agency, used $380,000 to pay for lawyers in courtrooms rather than resources in classrooms.
They have their priorities, and I have mine.
I travel the state often to avoid becoming yet another Raleigh insider who never meets face-to-face with constituents. I frequently hear about the delay in response time caused by bureaucracy. I also get to see firsthand how N.C. teachers make use of iPads to help provide better, personalized opportunities for students.
In 2019, my team and I made operations at DPI more efficient and, consequently, had money in the budget at the end of the fiscal year. We decided to use those funds to directly support classrooms.
I ran for office to be an agent of change. I knew that meant establishment insiders and media elites would never like me. But I work for the people of North Carolina.
Mark Johnson, Raleigh
Every time Johnson mentions his predecessor, Dr. June Atkinson, he keeps reminding this teacher of three specific things that separate him from Dr. Atkinson:
- His absolute lack of experience in education compared to hers,
- His lack of a backbone in confronting the NCGA about what is best for public schools, and
- His obsession in comparing his lack of achievements with hers.
But just looking at the glossy points Johnson tries to make in his vain attempt to campaign for a better image, one can easily see that his disconnect with the reality of the NC Public School System continues to widen.
“I often disagree with the N.C. Board of Education, especially when they prioritize bureaucracy over classrooms.”
That’s a hilarious way to begin this letter considering that before Johnson even took office he was granted more power as a state superintendent than any of his predecessors, even though he was the most inexperienced person to ever hold the job.
Just remember that HB17 was passed in a special session meant for hurricane relief. It literally made Johnson the most enabled man in Raleigh.
And when the chair and vice-chair of the GOP controlled State Board of Education said that the General Assembly overstepped its boundaries in granting Johnson as the incoming state superintendent this much power, then that sent more than one red flag into the air.
When two former governors, one of whom is Republican Jim Martin, said that special session went too far with bills such as the one which enabled Johnson, then sirens were screaming.
When the John Locke Foundation said that the power grab that involved the role of Johnson’s office had gone too far, then many were saying that part of hell is freezing over.
“In 2016, my predecessor chose to use the State Superintendent’s operating budget for sponsoring conferences and paying for meals for hundreds of attendees.”
Maybe that is true, but when Johnson puts on “private” dinners for major announcements that are funded by outside entities, taxpayers still “pay.”
What that night showed was that Johnson was willing to have private entities finance the chance to craft and mold initiatives that have proven not to help public education.
“In 2017, the Board of Education, which sued to try to keep control of the state education agency, used $380,000 to pay for lawyers in courtrooms rather than resources in classrooms.”
Interesting that Johnson forgot to tell you that the NCGA gave him taxpayer money as well, knowing full well that there would be a lawsuit.
In 2017, Johnson was given 700,000 dollars to hire people loyal only to Johnson who were performing tasks already fulfilled and to cover legal fees in a lawsuit with the state board.
That also happened when Johnson allowed the NCGA to cut the budget for DPI by millions of dollars without any fight.
From WRAL’s Kelly Hinchcliffe in June of 2018:
State Superintendent Mark Johnson announced Friday that the Department of Public Instruction is eliminating 61 positions – 40 employees and 21 vacant positions. The layoffs are in response to $5.1 million in budget cuts lawmakers made to the agency.
The cuts mainly affect employees in two divisions – Educator Support Services, which helps some of the state’s lowest-performing schools, and Information Technology. The General Assembly reduced the agency’s administrative funds by 6.2 percent this school year and 13.9 percent next school year.
“I support the decisions we made, but we did not make them lightly,” Johnson said in a statement. “I thank all the affected employees for their hard work in support of our public schools. Each will have the option to receive transition assistance, and we are adamant about helping each affected employee who wants our help to find new employment.”
“They have their priorities, and I have mine.”
Yep. Johnson sure does.
“I travel the state often to avoid becoming yet another Raleigh insider who never meets face-to-face with constituents.”
If Johnson could identify himself in this picture, then this teacher will believe his statement.
“In 2019, my team and I made operations at DPI more efficient and, consequently, had money in the budget at the end of the fiscal year.”
Remember when Johnson spent a million dollars to pay Ernst & Young to perform an audit to find supposed “wasteful” uses of funds in DPI?
The audit concluded that DPI was underfunded.
To say that he is being more “efficient” with money is another way of saying that he is complicit in the underfunding of public schools here in North Carolina.
“I ran for office to be an agent of change. I knew that meant establishment insiders and media elites would never like me.”
This prepackaged talking point supplied to Johnson by those who enable him is another way to say he was elected to change the “status quo.”
Nothing could be further from the truth.
The term “status quo” has become something of a nebulous term for public education and has evolved into a powerful logical fallacy used by reformers. The use of the “status quo” fallacy is not new, certainly for Mark Johnson. And it is a crutch that has reached absurdity because in actuality, Mark Johnson might be the very poster child for the “status quo.”
What Johnson and other business model reformers consider the “status quo” in education is intrinsically linked to a final product, measured by standardized testing and other mercurial measurements. However, the real “status quo” is not really linked to that final product. It is more a reflection of the constant infusion of reform models that have altered the process by which public schools have been able to teach our children. The truth is that the existing state of public education is always being subjected to scrutiny, modification, alteration, and change from outside forces for political or profit-minded reasons.
The real “status quo” is the commitment to flux and change to the variables that measure student achievement and school success by people outside of the actual education process.
“But I work for the people of North Carolina.”
Only for some.