Answer CREED’s Freedom Hill Coalition Call To Action! About New Social Studies Learning Standards

Please take time to look at and respond to the state school board about social studies learning standards.

This is crucial. As the site explains:

Call to Action! 5 minutes of Engagement!

We know many of us are feeling exhausted by the compounding dangers of COVID-19 and the ongoing nationwide protests. If you can, here are two things you can do to combat the systemic inequities in the North Carolina public education system: (The State Board has major vote next week!)

  1. We need 20 people within the next 24 hours to contact the state boardregarding the newly drafted social studies learning standards and how it perpetuates curriculum violence in North Carolina public schools as well as the cultural erasure of our students and their families of color. There are many pages and three different courses (American History, World History & Founding Principles), but as you peruse any of the PDFs, please note what you see related to Black, Latinx, Native American and Asian communities in NC. Are the lives and experiences of communities of color lifted up? Now more than ever we have to make sure we teach histories that are inclusive representative of various cultures.

    Email any and all of the state board members listed below with your responses! The quick action template (also below) may help as a starting point.
  2. Please share your solidarity with us on social mediawith one sentence from your emailed correspondenceusinghashtags:



Please join us!

We hope these resources prove beneficial.

In solidarity,

Freedom Hill Coalition

There is a template for a letter.

And a list of email addresses for all state board members.

Again – here is the link.

Dan Forest’s Education Platform: Puritanically Privatizing NC’s Public School System With Vouchers

Last November, Lt. Gov. Dan Forest released his plan for expanded school choice as part of his platform in running for governor.

Actually, Forest has been running for governor for years as most of his actions as the state’s “second in command” has been focused on campaigning against the current governor, Roy Cooper.

While Forest’s complete education platform revolves around 4 main cogs, he chose to mostly reveal his wish to provide any family in NC a chance to use a voucher to go to a private school – in other words, expand the Opportunity Grant Program for all NC students.

The News & Observer reported,

Lt. Gov. Dan Forest wants to let every North Carolina family, regardless of their income, be able to receive a state-funded voucher to attend a private school.

Forest made school choice the central piece of his education plan that he released Thursday morning in his campaign to win the Republican nomination for governor in 2020. Forest said he’d continue to give priority for low-income families to receive the vouchers through a weighted selection lottery but would expand the eligibility criteria “to allow every family in North Carolina the chance to choose a school that works for them.”

“Parents should have a choice in education,” Forest said in one of a series of videos released Thursday to accompany his education platform. “They should have a choice where their students actually attend school.”

Simply put, Forest wants taxpayers to “foot the bill” to send any student to a private school in North Carolina.

Many public school advocates, especially the teacher who writes this blog, have argued that the Opportunity Grants are a detriment to public schools in that it takes public money meant for public schools and gives it to private, unregulated entities which can practice admission standards that would never be allowed in public schools and can offer curricula that is not aligned with preparing students for 21st success.

In fact, most all of the vouchers in NC are used to attend religious schools.

93% of vouchers used in NC when a 2017 Duke study was published went to entities that are affiliated with churches and are possibly housed within churches that do not have to give tax dollars due to religious exemptions.

And don’t forget that we as a state are already expanding vouchers by $10 million year until the year 2026-2027.

Under Forest’s plan, that total will probably go up.

Furthermore, the voucher system that Forest is championing is considered the least transparent in the entire country.

Duke study

There has been no valid method developed to show how effective vouchers have been in raising student achievement. Even the now famous NC State Study that many like PEFNC have pointed to in order to validate a shallow narrative concluded that the Opportunity Grants were intentionally nontransparent.

From  WUNC :


That sample they used? Over half were from established Catholic schools in NC which represent in reality a very small percentage of the voucher recipient pool. In fact, that study has been attacked so much from non-academics and academics alike that it begs to ask why it was done in the first place. That’s how many holes it has.

But Forest wants to give every student in NC a voucher to attend a private school. And as a member of the State Board of Education and a champion of school choice in NC for years, he knows damn well that most vouchers go to religious schools.

The quote below was spoken by the presumptive gubernatorial nominee for the Republican Party in NC’s 2020 election cycle at a church service over the summer. And just like others have done in the recent past, the use of a pulpit to campaign in even the most veiled of ways is not beyond Lt. Gov. Dan Forest. He has not been shy about his faith, and he has not been shy about mixing it with politics.

“No other nation, my friends, has ever survived the diversity and multiculturalism that America faces today, because of a lack of assimilation, because of this division, and because of this identity politics. But no other nation has ever been founded on the principles of Jesus Christ, that begin the redemption and reconciliation through the atoning blood of our savior.” – Lt. Gov. Dan Forest

Look at that word choice.

  • “Surviving diversity?”
  • “Surviving multiculturalism?”
  • “Lack of assimilation?”
  • “Identity politics?”

And look at the video.

How can that not be taken as an “us/ them” statement that screams opposition and “otherness?” How can that not be taken as a denouncement of our diverse society? How can that not be taken as an attack on those who are not white and Christian?

It’s rather appropriate that our “founding fathers” made sure in the Constitution to separate church and state and literally in the same breath established the freedom of the press.

And Forest should not forget that those people who founded the nation were hell-bent on not even approaching the slavery issue. In fact, it was agreed by the “founding fathers” that the issue of slavery was not to be dealt with for years to come.

The fact that Dan Forest wants to extend a program that has almost been used exclusively to send students to nontransparent religious schools to every student in the state can not simply be summed up as school choice.

It’s mixing church and state on a large scale using tax payer dollars of which none come from churches as they are already tax-exempt.

Reminds this English teacher of a time when there was no separation of church and state.

Image result for the crucible

Wonder if Forest has ever read this play.

Phil Berger & Co. Want To Fully Open Schools on August 17th, BUT…

Senator Phil Berger has made it no secret that he wants schools to open up to all students on August 17th.

Forget that he is no scientist or epidemiologist. Forget that he wants to maintain political power in this election year. Forget what states like Texas and Florida are going through for opening up the their economies too quickly. Forget that hospitalizations are still rising and positive test percentages are still high.

Forget that he still refuses to expand Medicaid when just yesterday the overwhelmingly “red” state of Oklahoma passed expansion with a state-wide vote.

And forget that most North Carolinians do not want to fully open schools this fall period.

From today’s News & Observer:

Specifically it reported:

The option of sending students back part-time drew the most support in the Elon poll at 38%, followed by 34% for returning full time and 29% for staying at home for school. The poll of 1,410 North Carolina adults was conducted June 24-25 and has a credibility interval of plus or minus 3.1 percentage points.

Forget all of that. Berger wants schools to be fully open.

Damn the science and damn what most North Carolinians think.

So, what is Berger going to do about even making that fantasy possible? Because no matter what plan Governor Cooper outlines in his “soon-to-be-announced-plans,” it will require funds and resources to make any of them happen.

Each LEA has to figure out a way to make whatever plan(s) are put into place work for the next school year’s opening. And just anticipating what might happen is taxing communities. For instance, this report from the Winston-Salem Journal about a school board meeting to discuss options and their price tags shows that any plan will need funding and resources.

It included this tidbit:

“Though not required, the state is recommending COVID-19 coordinators in each school, which will cost an estimated $5.1 million.”

This is the same state that won’t even finance a nurse in each school or enough support personnel for the vast numbers of students served in public schools each day.

If Berger & Com. want to recommend what plan (A, B, or C) should be enacted, then the NCGA needs to come up with a funding protocol that it is willing to follow to make sure that any of those plans can be enacted. And since Berger wants to go back in full on the 17th, he is suggesting that what might be the option that needs the most support.

So, what will Berger and his cohorts offer other than hot air and electioneering rhetoric to help any of the plans for reopening schools happen?

Probably not much.

Remember, this is the same NCGA leadership that stayed in session for a veto override opportunity for four months but adjourned before we have a plan in place for schools and a need to get resources to them.

Oklahoma Just Did Something That The NCGA Doesn’t Have The Guts To Try

Below is how the state of North Carolina has voted in past presidential elections.

Below is how the state of Oklahoma has voted in past presidential elections.

Oklahoma is not a swing state; North Carolina is. In fact, North Carolina might be one of the actual true “purple” states in the country.

Yet, Oklahoma just did this:

They expanded Medicaid. A red state that is easily considered a safe state for Trump in 2020 expanded Medicaid. They put it on a ballot for people to vote and it passed.

Just another example of the gutless, soulless, and maniacal partisanship displayed by people like Phil Berger and Tim Moore.

Because they know if it was put on a ballot here in North Carolina, it would pass by a much larger margin than it passed in Oklahoma.

Mark Johnson – Still Working For iStation? Look Who Made (And Didn’t) The Approved Vendor List

There will be a State Board of Education Meeting today. One of the items on the agenda concerns the 2020-2021 K-3 reading diagnostic tools that can be used by LEAs.

Mark Johnson will be leading that discussion.

On the list of possible vendors are the following:

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is image-16.png

The only ones that made the “approved list are iStation, i-Ready, MAP, Imagine Learning, and STAR Reading. And as the education reporter from the N&O points out, mClass is not on that list.

Of course, Johnson made sure to include an explanation as to why mClass was not approved.

It seems odd how Johnson goes out of his way to clarify this, but it begs some questions.

Who put together the criteria for this list and what was the “selection” process for the vendors. Johnson’s history with procurement on reading diagnostic programs is really not he best in the world?

Why is mClass not any longer on the list when it was one of the two “finalists” in the last procurement cycle? Did the “criteria” all of a sudden change? Who then made those changes?

And why is this on the agenda? We don’t even know how schools are going to open this coming year and if we are really going to administer standardized tests this next school year.

There are other much more important issues to take care of for the 2020-2021 school year.

But it is interesting to see how Mark Johnson and iStation keep coming up in the same conversations.

Some Eye-Opening Numbers About Reopening Schools In NC

This morning’s “Monday’s Numbers” segment in NC Policy Watch put together by Clayton Henkel is a collection of some rather sobering numbers from polls and estimates concerning how COVID-19 has affected schools and those who work and learn there.

Below are the “categories” for which numbers and percentages are given. Please click this link to see what those actual values are.

  • Percentage of North Carolinians who say the state should lift all restrictions on schools, businesses, and restaurants (Source: Public Policy Polling, June 22-23)
  • Percentage of North Carolinians who believe the state should continue to move slowly and lift restrictions in stages in order to protect vulnerable populations (Ibid.)
  • Percentage of educators polled by EdWeek’s Research Center in late May who said they would prefer that schools remain closed to slow the spread of COVID-19 (Source: EdWeek)
  • Percentage of teachers who said the ongoing pandemic may prompt them to leave the profession early (Ibid.)
  • Percentage of teachers, principals and school district leaders who identified as having a health condition that would place them at higher risk in suffering adverse effects from the novel coronavirus (Ibid.)
  • Percentage of gains students could have lost in reading from the prior year due to the COVID slide (Source: NWEA/
  • Percentage of the gains lost in mathematics from the previous year (Ibid.)
  • Percentage increase in the educational achievement gap  for Black, Hispanic, and low-income students (Harvard School of Public Health)
  • Estimated months of educational loss for a student, assuming in-classroom instruction resumes this fall (McKinsey & Company)
  • Estimated months educational loss for a student, assuming in-classroom instruction resumes by January 2021. (Ibid.)
  • Estimated percentage of high schools students who could drop out because of the coronavirus (Ibid.) If that proves true, here’s how those percentages would play out:
  • Estimated average number of high school dropouts nationwide resulting from the extended disruption in learning  caused by COVID-19 (Ibid.)
  • Estimated average number of Black high school dropouts resulting from the extended disruption in learning  (Ibid.)
  • Estimated average number of Latinx high school dropouts  resulting from the extended disruption in learning  (Ibid.)
  • Estimated loss in lifetime earnings (in 2020 dollars) based as a result of COVID-19 learning losses (Ibid.)
  • The number of new COVID-19 cases reported in North Carolina on Sunday, June 28
  • The total number of laboratory-confirmed cases of COVID-19 as of June 28
  • Number of days until North Carolina reveals its school reopening plan.

For Every NC Lawmaker Who Wants To Open Up Schools In August…

… and does not offer the resources for every educator to protect him or herself from the spread of the virus,

… does not offer each bus driver, support staff, or anyone who comes into contact with students the proper equipment to keep safe,

… does not fight like hell to get the funding to safely open schools and still allow for teachers to instruct students,

… does not ask (and listen to then act on) educators and local administrators explicitly what they would need to allow students to be engaged with school work,

… explains that it is for the sake of the economy that schools be open,

… does not support the wearing of masks to help curb the spread of the virus,

… does not fully consider the what the science says, and is running for reelection on a platform that talks about how much he/she values public education,

I dare you to teach some classes for the first few days.

The Hypocrisy Of Promoting STEM Education In NC

Remember when the North Carolina General Assembly eliminated the Teaching Fellows Program a few years back?

They then “recreated” it to develop more STEM-related subject teachers in our schools because of the emphasis on STEM curriculum. From

The North Carolina Department of Public Instruction even has a program to promote STEM education.

Even the Burroughs Wellcome Fund which finances the Tacher of the Year program in the state talks about the need to promote STEM education.

“In a rapidly changing world, the need for effective, high-quality STEM education has never been greater.

As we rush to keep up with a changing energy and employment landscape, and the growing influence of robotics and A.I.,a practical knowledge of STEM concepts will become critical for everyone in the developed world. Systems analysts, software developers, biomedical scientists and engineers—these are the roles of the tech-driven future.

Over the next decade, an estimated 80% of jobs will require STEM skills of some kind. In North Carolina alone, there are currently over 400,000 STEM-related jobs, and an estimated 70,000 more will appear by 2020. At both the state and national level, STEM education is the underpinning of our health, our economy, and our democracy. From vaccines and obesity, to energy production and environmental policy, issues related to STEM pervade our country, and our world.Governments, industries, and heroic educators are working hard to meet the challenge. Top-down and bottom-up initiatives have done much to help students across North Carolina, and countrywide. But there is still much work to be done. Unfortunately, more than 20% of U.S. high schools fail to offer the full range of science and math courses. In North Carolina, as elsewhere, geography, race and socioeconomic status still determine access to STEM learning, to an unacceptable extent.

Yet, the majority party in the North Carolina General Assembly seems to not acknowlege the actual science that talks about the COVID-19 outbreak and its rapid spread.

Some of the very same people who have championed funding and programs in the NCGA that promote STEM curriculum and the teaching of science, math, and technology are adverse to actually listening to what findings in those fields actually say.

In fact, it would be very hard to see someone like a Phil Berger, or a Tim Moore, or a Dan Forest putting this information on one of their social media accounts.

They are too busy trying to win elections than saving people.

Yet Another Example Of Why Mark Johnson Was The Wrong Person For The Job

Millions of dollars for iPads – many of which ended up in a warehouse.

Then there was that thing with ClassWallet.

And we are still trying to get over the whole iStation contract debacle.

Don’t forget the million dollar price tag to “audit” DPI to determine how many more cuts should be made in the department. (The findings? DPI was underfunded.)

And then there were all those glossy flyers, emails using large databases, a construction of a personal website to conduct “superintendent” duties, and that elongated law suit against the state board that used taxpayer money to litigate.

So how fitting that this week Mark Johnson tries to score some sort of egotistical political points with this:

Here’s the entire complaint sent by Johnson to Beth Wood, the state auditor.

It’s about almost $31,000 dollars.

Compared the millions of dollars in questionable expenses by Johnson over his term.

But it’s rather interesting that Johnson call on Beth Wood to investigate the state board chairman for an expense when Johnson received this particular report about his own “spending habits” for just this fiscal year.

From Beth Wood.

And it talks about mishandling much more than $31,000.

From that report:

A. The Department did not recognize the financial reporting implications of a major hurricane on the Public School Insurance Fund’s (PSIF) financial statements. Specifically, the Department:

  • Did not report a $7.1 million accounting estimate for hurricane-related claims expected from insured entities, but not formally filed, until prompted by the audit.
  • Did not report amounts recoverable for paid and unpaid hurricane-related claims of $5.3 million and $32.1 million, respectively.

B. The Department’s year-end accruals were not prepared or not prepared correctly. Specifically, the Department:

  • Did not recognize a liability for civil penalty and forfeiture funds3 being held for school districts.
  • Failed to recognize a liability for federal revenues that were unearned because they were requested and received in advance of the related disbursement.
  • Incorrectly calculated and recorded the change in fair market value for pooled investments.
  • Did not record payables for goods and services received but unpaid during the year.

C. The Department made other significant errors in the process of compiling financial statements, note disclosures, and required supplementary information, including:

  • The fiscal year 2019 Statement of Cash Flows (Exhibit B-3) presented fiscal year 2018 amounts and did not reflect other corrections made as a result of the audit. Cash Flow Statement errors ranged from $1.9 million to $22.8 million.
  • Budgetary Comparison Schedule transposed Original Budget and Final Budget amounts as defined by the Governmental Accounting Standards Board (GASB)4 and did not agree to the underlying accounting records. The most significant errors ranged from $123.8 million to $695.4 million.

Alex Granados of talked with Wood this week about the audit and its findings. A transcript of that can be found here.

Good News For NC Public Schools – Sen. Jerry Tillman Is Resigning

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 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,  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 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:


That’s delusional.

And Sen. Tillman co-chaired the Education Appropriations Committee for the NC General Assembly.

This man was not the legislator public schools deserved.