It was just confirmed that Sen. Jerry Tillman is resigning as a state senator.
Sen. Jerry Tillman is a former teacher, coach, and administrator in public schools who retired long ago. He then became one of the biggest champions of reforming the very public school system from which he gets his pension. And those reforms have not been good for our public schools. They favor privatization and opaque transparency of charter schools.
He made that perfectly clear on Feb. 23rd, 2011, when Tillman was shown on a video posted by Rob Schofield on the ncpolicywatch.org website fielding a question that expressed concern over whether lower-income kids could have equal chances to attend charter schools. His response was indicative of the exclusionary attitude he embraces.
Tillman said, “It’s certainly okay if they don’t go there [the charter school]. They can go to their public schools. They can get their free and reduced price lunch. And they can do that. But the charter school itself and the commission must decide what they can do and when they can do it financially. And that’s where we are now and that’s where we’re gonna’ be and I’m certainly for that.”
Tillman was also a primary sponsor for the Voting Reform Act in the 2013-2014 sessions, leading the charge to fight non-existent voter fraud in our state by fast-tracking a voter ID law that was purposefully constructed to keep many people’s voices from being heard, especially minority and low-income citizens.
That version of the Voter ID law was ruled unconstitutional. The current edition of the Voter ID law has been stopped pending further review.
And unlike a good teacher or a servant of the public, Tillman’s manner of debating hotly contested issues around public schools was the antithesis of what we really needed in Raleigh. If you read Sen. Tillman’s comments from the June 16th, 2016 report by Alex Granados in EdNC.org, you will see the strong-arm method of debate that is often used by the senator when he senses that others disagree with him.
Sen. Tom Apodaca, R-Buncombe, first said he wouldn’t vote for the bill because it didn’t extend to the way math is taught at the elementary school level, where he said damage was being done with the teaching methods currently being used.
“I’m not voting for this bill, because this bill doesn’t do enough,” he said.
Tillman fired back that if Apodaca wanted to be stuck with Common Core, not supporting his bill would make that happen.
“If you don’t like choice, and you want to be stuck with the June Atkinson/Bill Cobey Common Core, well that’s exactly what you’re going to get,” Tillman said.
June Atkinson is the state Superintendent, and Bill Cobey is the chair of the state Board of Education.
It seemed that according to Sen. Tillman, Dr. Atkinson and Mr. Cobey invented Common Core. Not really.
His bill from 2016 concerning math tracks in high school would have required all high schools to offer two tracks of math and presented an incredible challenge for schools to adequately teach those differing courses in high schools in such a quick amount of time – especially when the likes of Tillman keep funding from going to traditional public schools.
Sen. Tillman thought it could be done in the blink of an eye. He was quoted in an EdNC.org report,
“If you can teach math, your same certifications are required, same students, same allotment of teachers. Not gonna change,” he said.
Tillman said the practical aspect of teaching could be accomplished by having a teacher teach Algebra I alongside Math 1 in the same class.
“With a good teacher, you can do it,” he said.
That’s shortsighted. And Tillman’s voting record has made it harder for North Carolina to have good teachers.
Remember House Bill 334 from the summer of 2015? As reported on July 23rd of that summer in Lindsay Wagner’s news story entitled “Tillman’s bill impacts charter school oversight”, Tillman championed an amendment to that bill to place oversight of charter schools under the care of the State Board of Education and out of the Department of Public Instruction’s jurisdiction. That was when Dr. June Atkinson was the state superintendent. She would have made sure that charters would be overseen as much as possible. Today’s state super is not as keen on that transparency.
What House Bill 334 would have done was to allot more money on charters by creating a situation where Tillman could have protected them from checks and balances. It was a way for Tillman to fashion a favorable situation for new charter schools to not only operate more freely, but be less transparent.
Ms. Wagner also detailed the abrupt manner in which Tillman fielded questions from other legislators who were concerned with the surreptitious manner in which he operated. Tillman made ludicrous statements such as:
- · “DPI was never in love … with charter .”
- · “I’m not going to give you the details. A good lawyer would never do that.”
- · “We don’t air dirty laundry here.”
The person he was talking to? Josh Stein, the current NC Attorney General. He’s considered a good lawyer.
Tillman’s bills and lawmaking have also enabled measures to allow for school takeovers by private entities. Billy Ball reported in his article on NC Policy Watch on June 24, 2016 (“Senate committee approves controversial charter takeover of low-performing schools”):
“Committee Chair Jerry Tillman, a Republican who supports the measure, declared the “ayes” to have won the vote Friday, although to some listeners, the voice vote appeared to be evenly split or favoring the opposition.“
Tillman was going to make sure it would pass. That’s why there was a voice vote. And the oldest ears in the room declared a winner.
The measure being voted upon? The ASD which became the Innovative School District.
And then there’s Tillman’s steadfast allegiance to those virtual charter schools. The following was a tweet from T. Keung Hui in 2019:
And Sen. Tillman co-chaired the Education Appropriations Committee for the NC General Assembly.
This man was not the legislator public schools deserved.