When The John Locke Foundation Validates A Collective Voice For Teachers and Red4EdNC

In today’s online edition of The News & Observer, T. Keung Hui published a piece focusing on the Red4EdNC movement and its initiative to create a teacher congress in helping advance the momentum of May 16th’s teacher rally in Raleigh and keep pressure on the NC General Assembly to fully fund public schools (https://www.newsobserver.com/news/local/article214446374.html).

The purpose, the framework, and the goals of Red4EdNC were reported. Even it’s “Declaration of Independence” along with its introductory video were posted for all to view.

declaration

As any reporter would do, Hui asked an opinion of someone who may have an inclination to disagree with the motives of teachers taking collective action. In this case, it was Terry Stoops of the John Locke Foundation.

The teacher writing this post is proudly part of the Red4EdNC movement. And I am very aware of Dr. Stoops’s positions. Many have been discussed on this blog. But rarely does there come a time when I read Dr. Stoops’s comments and / or op-eds and feel completely validated.

Because that’s exactly what he did for me and others who may believe in what Red4EdNC is trying to accomplish.

Hui states,

The declaration calls for creation of the Teachers Congress. It also calls for actions such as increasing per-pupil spending and teacher salaries to pre-recession levels, with an adjustment for inflation, and “cessation of taxation policies which favor individuals over the corporate good.”

Then Stoops is reported as saying,

“Ironically the founders issued the Declaration of Independence to protest that taxation was too high. and Red4Ed issued their declaration to declare that taxes on people and individuals are not high enough,” said Stoops of the Locke Foundation.

Actually, it seems that Stoops missed the point of the original Declaration of Independence. What the Founding Fathers were protesting was taxation without representation. And representation is what is central to Red4EdNC’s mission.

As the “vice president of research for the John Locke Foundation, a group that’s been supportive of the Republican-led General Assembly,” Stoops has shown favoritism to a  group that has done anything but allow for representation in the recently “passed” budget.

Literally after a representative body that included nearly a fifth of the teaching force which caused almost half of the school systems in the state to close, the NCGA that Stoops supports did the very thing that the Founding Fathers would have never agreed to: pass the budget through a committee report and not through dialogue.

No debate. No amendments. No representation.

And that budget was not as helpful to public education as it should have been. Additionally, that budget is supposed to work for and be representative of the people of North Carolina. But this state has a Voter ID amendment coming to the ballot that when previously pushed as a bill was struck down in the courts because it was really voter suppression. Furthermore, the very NCGA that Stoops supports has had to redraw district lines because of gerrymandering along racial lines.

That May 16th march and rally was to make voices heard.

But while Stoops may want to spin the Founding Fathers’ intentions to make it appear that Red4EdNC wants to increase taxes, he may want to take a look at another piece that T. Keung Hui recently published from the North Carolina Influencer Series.

About the Influencer Series:

This election year, the Charlotte Observer, The News & Observer and the Durham Herald-Sun want to elevate policy discussions and make sure candidates focus on the most important issues. We’ve assembled a panel of 60 influential North Carolinians and will survey them throughout the year to get their views (https://www.charlotteobserver.com/news/politics-government/influencers/article212212939.html). 

On July 2nd, one of those “discussions” was published – “NC Influencers say state needs to give schools enough money and close achievement gap.”

It starts,

Public schools need to receive adequate funding to ensure the continued health of North Carolina, according to a new survey of some of the state’s most influential leaders.

A group of 60 North Carolina Influencers — comprised of leaders in the state’s political, business, academic and faith communities — were asked about the importance of 14 different education topics. Nearly all the Influencers listed adequate funding as being very important, saying that taking care of that issue would help solve a variety of other problems affecting the state’s K-12 education system (https://www.newsobserver.com/news/politics-government/influencers/article213909629.html). 

Further along it is reported,

After adequate funding, the 57 Influencers who responded listed closing the racial achievement gap and increasing teacher pay as their next two highest concerns. Making schools safer, creating universal pre-K, boosting vocational education and closing the rural-urban divide were also rated as very important by at least half the respondents.

One of those Influencers is Art Pope who co-founded the John Locke Foundation for which Dr. Stoops works.

I wonder how Stoops would respond to all of the Influencers who seem to want “to declare that taxes on people and individuals are not high enough.”

What the majority of the Influencers call for is exactly what those 19,000 teachers called for on May 16th – fully funding public schools in a state whose NCGA boasts of a surplus, takes federal money earmarked for Pre-K education and funnels it back into the general coffers, and passes legislation that could shift the burden of funding many public school functions to local governments through property taxes.

Red4EdNC is calling for a representative body to help influence the government to fully fund schools, A representative body just like the Founding Fathers asked for as explained in many an overused textbook in overcrowded classrooms in North Carolina.

 

 

 

About That NC State Study on NC’s Voucher Program – It’s Paid For Propaganda

A June 2nd report in the News & Observer by Ned Barnett entitled “Three out of four N.C. voucher schools fail on curriculum” highlighted the findings of the NC Chapter of the League of Women Voters on the state’s voucher program.

It states,

Fundamentalist Christian schools are receiving most of the money from North Carolina’s 4-year-old school voucher program, but they’re not providing anything close to the “sound basic education” the state Constitution promises to North Carolina’s children, according to a new report from the League of Women Voters.

The League said in announcing its findings that “77 percent of private schools receiving vouchers are using curricula that do not comply with state standards, leaving many students unprepared for college-level coursework or careers in certain fields” (http://amp.newsobserver.com/opinion/opn-columns-blogs/ned-barnett/article212352824.html?__twitter_impression=true).

That’s not flattering. Couple that with the less than flattering report done by Duke University’s Children’s Law Center called SCHOOL VOUCHERS IN NORTH CAROLINA : THE FIRST THREE YEARS. That report can be found here: https://law.duke.edu/childedlaw/School_Vouchers_NC.pdf.

Duke study

That Duke report summarized the following:

  • Approximately 93% of the vouchers have been used to pay tuition at religious schools (3).
  • Of the participating schools, less than 20% were secular schools; more than 80% were religious schools.
  • The most typical size for a participating school is between 100 and 250 students. However, 33 schools (7%) have ten or fewer students, with another 42 (9%) enrolling 20 or fewer students. Together, that means that nearly a fifth of the schools accepting vouchers have total enrollments of 20 or fewer students (8).
  • Although it is not an “apples-to-apples” comparison, the most recent data shows that comparable students who remained in public schools are scoring better than the voucher students on national tests (12).
  • In comparison to most other states, North Carolina’s general system of oversight of private schools is weak. (13).

Then today, NC State released another evaluation of the Opportunity Grants Program. It is entitled ““An Impact Analysis of North Carolina’s Opportunity Scholarship Program on Student Achievement.” A link to the report can be found on EdNC.org (https://www.ednc.org/2018/06/04/researchers-release-an-impact-analysis-of-north-carolinas-opportunity-scholarship-program-on-student-achievement/).

It states that there are “large positive impacts associated with voucher usage in North Carolina.”

Hard to put these two recent reports next to each other and not have some questions. One says that the curriculum taught by most voucher recipient schools do not even compare with the state curriculum. The other says that the vouchers have created positive impacts in student test scores.

There may be some who will argue that together these reports prove a Biblical-based curriculum is best for students and for test scores. But that is hard to fathom because there are some aspects of the NC State Study that do not hold enough weight to be scientifically sound.

When reading about the recruitment of the students to be used in the study, the researchers relied heavily on the Parents for Educational Freedom in North Carolina (PEFNC). From page 11 of the report:

ncstate1

That reads “the bulk of recruitment support was ultimately provided” by PEFNC. To say that PEFNC has an extreme bias as to needing to show a positive spin on vouchers is an understatement – a giant understatement.

Relying on PEFNC to provide a scientifically sounding random sample to use in the study is not a very sound move. Consider last summer’s report by Lindsey Wagner, then of the AJ Fletcher Foundation.

Entitled “Are publicly-funded private school vouchers helping low-income kids? We don’t know”, Wagner’s piece showcases one of the primary redundancies purposefully used by funded “school choice” advocates like PEFNC. Her article focused much on the most vocal proponent of the school choice movement in North Carolina – Darrell Allison, then the leader of PEFNC (Parents for Educational Freedom in North Carolina).

To say that he is still one of the most influential non-law maker on educational reform in the state is not a stretch; his recent appointment to the UNC Board of Governors and his ability to lobby lawmakers in Raleigh certainly gives him more clout than most pro-public school legislators on West Jones Street.

Wagner raised a rather glaring inconsistency when it comes to whether vouchers are really helping low-income students.

The leader of Parents for Educational Freedom in North Carolina, Darrell Allison, said recently that school vouchers aren’t likely to hurt children from low-income households who use them. But he couldn’t say definitively that the voucher program actually helps these children, either (http://ajf.org/publicly-funded-private-school-vouchers-helping-low-income-kids-dont-know/).

On February 15th, 2018 Darrell Allison was chosen to assume a leadership position with AFC, the Betsy DeVos – founded school choice advocacy group in Washington D.C. known as the American Federation For Children. Allison is also on the board of Achievement for All Children (AAC) which now has been hired to oversee the Innovation School District for North Carolina.

PEFNC needs this study to work for them – IN THE WORST WAY. Too much is at stake.

Go back to the original data table from the beginning of this post.

Duke study

It seems very difficult to even “quantify” the effectiveness of the NC voucher system when the oversight of it from the state level is so porous. Therefore, allowing a group like PEFNC to control what can be quantified in this study skews the results.

Yes, the study does mention that there is more to be investigated, but why publish this when that is the case? Besides the students “recruited” for this study do not even represent a random sample. Ann Doss Helms from the Charlotte Observer reported on the NC State Study. She stated,

Just over half of the voucher schools that participated in the study were Catholic, while only 10 percent of all schools receiving North Carolina vouchers are Catholic (http://amp.charlotteobserver.com/news/local/education/article211941074.html?__twitter_impression=true).

Over half of the students “recruited” by PEFNC were from a select number of schools that represent less than 10 percent of voucher schools.

That’s not random. That’s excessively controlled.

Established schools in the North Carolina diocese have been proven to be very competitive academically. But do not think that a private school does not have the ability to pretest a potential student to see if he/she can handle the rigors of a strong curriculum. Those pretests are the part of many admission requirements.

Public schools take in all students. Private schools do not. Competitive private schools that have a history of excellence do not have to accept just any student.

To allow the PEFNC to heavily facilitate the “recruitment” of students to use in the study suggests too much of a leap of faith in another biased organization’s ability to be totally objective.

It’s just not scientifically valid. But look who funded the study.

ncstate2

The Walton Family Foundation.

And the Walton Family Foundation is not financing a study unless the study says what the Walton Foundation wants it to say.

They are not alone.

ncstate3

When one adds the Walton Foundation, Art Pope, and PEFNC together, the sum is not scientific integrity and objectivity.

It’s propaganda.

The Privatization of North Carolina’s Public Schools – A Who’s Who

Remember Michelle Rhee’s visit to North Carolina last year for a “closed-door” meeting (February 7th  ,2017) with lawmakers brokered by an educational lobbying body of business leaders called BEST NC (coupled with the NC GOP’s invitation to Betsy DeVos who had just been confirmed as Trump’s secretary of education)?

It was another ominous omen of what has been and will continue to be attempted in North Carolina – the further privatization of public education in North Carolina.

This meeting with Rhee that was passed off as a session with leaders where candid questions could be asked and ideas exchanged on how to improve public education seemed to be void of the very people who know education the best – public school educators. The media did have a brief chance to meet and greet with Ms. Rhee and George Parker in a manicured and measured way, but what happened behind closed doors with people who make decisions on how to spend taxpayer money and fund public schools along with controversial educational reformers remains a mystery.

In fact, it seemed more like a special session of the NC General Assembly who used such “secret sessions” to spawn actions such as HB2, SB4, and HB17 (the latter two soon after Mark Johnson was elected as NC State Superintendent).

Despite what they claim, the intentions of BEST NC and other “reformers” to improve public education seems to have a different meaning to them than it does to those who are educators in our public schools.

That’s because there exist too many relationships between business leaders, lobbying groups, wealthy benefactors, politicians, and educational reformers to be coincidental. In fact, many in the “reform” movement that have started to dismantle the public school system are strategically linked to each other both outside of the state and inside.

Look at the graphic below:

graph1

That is a diagram of the relationships between entities that many public school advocates deem as detrimental to our public school system. It’s very busy and probably confusing. It’s supposed to be.

Consider the following national entities:

  • Teach For America
  • Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation
  • Walton Family Foundation
  • Eli Broad Foundation
  • KIPP Charter Schools
  • Democrats For Educational Reform
  • Educational Reform Now
  • StudentsFirst
  • America Succeeds
  • 50CAN
  • American Legislative Exchange Council
  • National Heritage Academies
  • Charter School USA
  • Team CFA
  • American Federation for Children

They are all linked. And the only teachers who seem to have any sustained dialogue with any of these is the Hope Street Group – and that dialogue seems mostly to have been with BEST NC (but not of late).

Somehow, someway all of the bulleted entities above have been at play in North Carolina even before that meeting with Michelle Rhee and BEST NC which took place literally days after Betsy DeVos was confirmed as secretary of education thanks to the first ever tie-breaking vote by a vice-president for a cabinet position.

They continue to be at play, more so now than ever before. And other are joining in thus making this document a work in progress.

If you are willing, simply follow the explanation below because what seems to be a simple meeting that took place in February of 2017 was just another step in the GOP-led NC General Assembly to dismantle public education and finance the privatization of schooling.

First, consider the national scene.

graph11

In 2014 a teacher/researcher named Mercedes Schneider published an informative book called A Chronicle of Echoes: Who’s Who in the Implosion of American Public Education. What Schneider did was literally research and report on all of the bodies of influence that were applying forces on the landscape of public education for the benefit of political and capitalistic gain.

The fact that she is a teacher, product of public schools from southern Louisiana, a trained researcher, a survivor of Katrina, and a residential expert of the charter takeover in New Orleans, she has a unique perspective and an educated point of view.

Chapter 17 of the book is dedicated to the Democrats For Educational Reform and the Educational Reform Now groups (DFER and ERN).

DFER supports vouchers, union busting and other reform measures that are common in other reform circles, but they are (to summarize Schneider) not “non-profit.” What makes them powerful is that they have the word “Democrat” in their name and it allows them to literally “train” democrats into accepting and advancing a protocol that actually is more conservative in nature – initiatives that align with school choice and charter movements. Schneider talks about in pages 276-279 how the DFER even promoted “mayoral control and charter favoritism.”

It may seem a little bit like conspiracy theory, but it does make sense. Why? Because DFER is non-profit and has the word “Democrat” in it and therefore does not get the big time donations from conservative donators.

Or do they?

DFER is run mostly by hedge-fund managers. One of them is Whitney Tilson, who happens to be a Teach For America alumnus and a vice-chair of New York’s KIPP charters. He also sits on the board of DFER. That alone links DFER, KIPP, and TFA (p.278).

At least in 2013, DFER had an Executive Director named Joe Williams. He just happened to “also head another reform group, this one actually is classed as a ‘nonprofit,’ and it doesn’t have the D-word in its title.”  Education Reform Now (ERN) is a “democratic” body understood to be a “sister entity” to DFER (p.279).

By 2010, ERN counted the Broad Foundation and the Walton Foundation as donors. “ERN enables hedge-fund managers to quietly donate to Democrats advancing the privatization agenda…. Looks like the big Republican money is available to DFER, after all – through its ERN back door” (p.279).

More from Schneider:

  • Remember that Whitney Tilson is also a founding member of Teach For America along with Wendy Kopp. Kopp was the mentor of Michelle Rhee. Their ventures literally share the same circulatory system.
  • Tilson sits on the KIPP board and sits on the DFER board.
  • Kopp sits on the Broad Foundation Board which feeds money to ERN who in turn feeds DFER. Kopp is also married to Richard Barth, the CEO of KIPP Foundation.
  • DFER through ERN conducts business with StudentsFirst, founded by Michelle Rhee.
  • Tilson, Kopp, and Rhee are TFA alums.

BEST NC, based in Raleigh and architects of the recent controversial principal play program in the state, is affiliated with an outfit named America Succeeds that feeds and supports various “reform” groups within certain states that bring together powerful business leaders to push “educational reform.” Look at the following article: – http://www.prwatch.org/news/2016/03/13065/how-dfer-leaders-channel-out-state-dark-money-colorado-and-beyond. The title alone alludes to the ability for DFER to channel “dark” money to out of state entities that promote anti-union, pro-charter, voucher supporting measures. It shows something interesting.

  • America Succeeds’s address in Colorado is 1390 Lawrence Street in Denver.
  • DFER’s Colorado office is located on 1390 Lawrence Street in Denver.
  • KIPP’s Denver charter schools are headquartered in Denver. At 1390 Lawrence Street.

Seems that TFA, StudentsFirst, DFER, ERN, KIPP are about as incestuously linked as a Greek god family tree and it is feeding support to groups like BEST NC who just happens to be the Carolina affiliate of America Succeeds.

Think about it. North Carolina is an ideal target. Why? Because of the following conditions:

  • Right-to-work state.
  • Elimination of due-process rights.
  • Removal of caps for number of charter schools which are not regulated.
  • GOP controlled state assembly.
  • Opportunity Grants increasing.
  • Push for merit pay.
  • The new state superintendent is a TFA alumnus – Mark Johnson.

Part of that national scene includes three charter school chains.

National Heritage Academies is based in Michigan in the same state where Betsy DeVos began her quest to privatize public education. They’ve enabled each other. National Heritage Academies has 11 schools in North Carolina. One of them is Greensboro Academy. On the board of that school is Alan Harkes who sits on the Charter School Advisory Board of North Carolina. That’s convenient.

Betsy DeVos is also the founder of a school choice advocacy group in Washington D.C. called the American Federation For Children. On February 15th, 2018 Darrell Allison who was for years the head of the Parents For Educational Freedom in North Carolina, was chosen to assume a leadership position with AFC.

Team CFA is based in Oregon. John Bryan, the founder of the Team CFA, has been donating money left and right to specific politicians and PAC’s here in North Carolina to extend the charter industry including Lt. Gov. Dan Forest (through a PAC). He spear-headed an attempt to win the contract of the ISD school in Robeson that was recently given a green light with Dr. Eric Hall as the superintendent. He would report straight to Mark Johnson under provisions of HB4. (http://amp.newsobserver.com/news/local/education/article177836091.html).

Charter Schools USA is based in Ft. Lauderdale. It is run by Jonathan Hage whose political contribution to politicians in North Carolina are rather numerous.

Now consider North Carolina.

graph3

Those numbers correspond to:

  1. North Carolina General Assembly
  2. Charter School Advisory Board and State Board of Education
  3. Civitas Institute
  4. John Locke Foundation
  5. BEST NC
  6. SAS
  7. State Supt. Mark Johnson
  8. Gov. Dan Forest
  9. Parents for Educational Freedom in North Carolina
  10. Carolina CAN
  11. Jason Saine
  12. Jerry Tillman
  13. Innovative School District
  14. Bill Rabon
  15. Trinity Christian School
  16. David Curtis

Go back to Charter Schools USA.

Below is a screen shot from followthemoney.org which tracks campaign contributions to political candidates (https://www.followthemoney.org/entity-details?eid=14298646). Here is a list of candidates who have received money from Hage in NC.

graph5

  • There’s Jerry Tillman, the former public school administrator who is a champion for opaque charter school regulation. He’s #12 on the state map.
  • And there’s Jason Saine who loves charters as well. He’s #11 on the state map.
  • There’s David Curtis, who loves charters as well. He’s #16 on the state map.
  • There’s Lt. Gov. Dan Forest, who sits on the state school board and lambasted DPI under Dr. June Atkinson for its report on charter schools that said they were disproportionally representing populations. He’s #8 on the state map. It is also worth noting that Forest is also on the state board of education and is ramping up for a run at the governor’s mansion in 2020.
  • There’s Bill Rabon, who stalled the HB13 bill in the Senate. That’s the bill that would have been a clean fix of the class size mandate that was replaced with a poison pill called HB90. He’s #14 on the state map.

Furthermore, Jason Saine has just been named the new National Chairman of ALEC and is helping to open yet another charter school called West Lake Preparatory school that is affiliated with Charter Schools USAhttps://caffeinatedrage.com/2016/12/08/open-letter-to-rep-jason-saine-youre-a-state-representative-fight-for-all-public-schools-not-a-new-charter-school/.

Brenda Berg who is the CEO of BEST NC has increasingly brokered working relationships with many entities that have targeted public schools – John Locke Foundation being one.

BEST NC’s VP is Julie Kowal, who at one time was the Executive Director of CarolinaCan, which is the NC chapter of an outfit called 50CAN, a national “advocacy group” that just a few years ago merged with another entity: StudentsFirst: https://studentsfirst.org/pages/50can-and-studentsfirst-merge-strengthen-support-local-education-leaders-across-country. StudentsFirst was started by Michelle Rhee.

Now, add to that the fact that BEST NC has had some workshops/meetings with people from the The Hope Street Group which is a group of teacher leaders who receive a stipend in exchange for gathering and communicating educational concerns with public school teachers. Hope Street Group receives funding from the Gates Foundation. Hope Street Group and other teachers were not in the meeting that Michelle Rhee attended with lawmakers that was set up by BEST NC. In fact, there has been no evidence that BEST NC had even worked with Hope Street Group in any endeavor of late meaning that BEST NC really does not reach out to any teacher-affiliated groups.

Additionally, Mark Johnson was granted a massive amount of power over public education through House Bill 17 and Senate Bill 4 (HB17 &SB4), power over charter schools, and the control of the Innovative School District and has retained the services of ex-Pat McCrory aids who possibly were enabled by other McCrory cronies, such as Art Pope who is linked to the American Legislative Exchange Council, otherwise known as ALEC. Art Pope is also part of the aforementioned John Locke Foundation.

The North Carolina General Assembly has backed Johnson with money and resources to fight the state board of education in a rather long-timed lawsuit thus showing he NCGA’s loyalty to Johnson and not the state board. Furthermore, it has reduced DPI’s budget significantly and allowed Johnson to hire people loyal to him including a former official with the Mississippi Charter Schools (#14 on national map) as a high ranking person in DPI.

And Mark Johnson is an admirer of Betsy DeVos. When interviewed by the Charlotte Observer for a Jan. 27th, 2017 feature Johnson expressed his support for the neophyte DeVos.

When asked about her, Johnson didn’t hesitate: “I support her.”

It’s not ironic that Betsy DeVos is also associated with ALEC. From sourcewatch.com it is learned that DeVos has “bankrolled the 501 (c) (4) group the American Federation for Children, the 501 (c) (3) group Alliance for School Choice and by having these groups participate in and fund the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC).”

And remember that Darrell Allison who served as president of the Parents For Educational Freedom in North Carolina for the past few years will now be a director in DeVos’s American Federation for Children. Allison still plans on being based in North Carolina.

Oh, Allison is also on the UNC Board of Governors. He will remain in that capacity. So a man who has influence over the state’s university system is employed by national school choice advocacy group founded by the current secretary of education that feeds funds to ALEC, an organization that just named a NC lawmaker (Jason Saine) as its national chairman.

All of these connections seem more than coincidence and this perfect storm of timing, state politics, gerrymandering, and people in power can’t just be by chance. Could it?

So where are the teachers in this dialogue? The schools of education in one of the best college systems in the nation and from some of the highest ranking private schools in the country?

Well many teachers have been represented by groups like NCAE (which is an association and not a union). Multiple times the NC General Assembly has tried to weaken any group like NCAE through stopping automatic dues payments and other things such as what the Civitas Institute tried to do here – luring teachers in NCAE to “buy” their membership back.

Remember this?

graph6

That website was established by the Civitas Institute, which was founded by Art Pope. It showed NCAE members how to withdraw their membership in NCAE and make $450 because that is what they would not be spending in dues.

Now look at that first map again:

graph1

Hopefully, it makes a little more sense.

The NC GOP has been very instrumental in the following actions:

  • Removal of due-process rights
  • Graduate Degree Pay Bumps Removed
  • Standard 6
  • “Average” Raises
  • Less Money Spent per Pupil
  • Remove Caps on Class Sizes
  • Jeb Bush School Grading System
  • Cutting Teacher Assistants
  • Opportunity Grants
  • Virtual Schools
  • Reduction of Teacher Candidates in Colleges
  • Elimination of Teaching Fellows Program and reinvention in a different entity.

Also look at this timeline:

  • Art Pope became McCrory’s budget director – 2013
  • Graduate Degree Pay Bumps Eliminated – 2013
  • 50Can created CarolinaCan – 2013
  • School Performance Grades – 2013
  • Due-process rights taken from new teachers – started in 2013
  • Charter school cap in NC lifted – 2014, but proposed in 2013.
  • Opportunity Grants (vouchers) – 2014

Now consider SAS, a software company whose president, James Goodnight, is married to one of the founders and current Board Member of BEST NC, Anne Goodnight. Mrs. Goodnight was also one of the founders of Cary Academy, a rather prestigious private school in the Triangle area.

In a data-driven, educational-reform era that seems to crunch and use data to position evidence that supports their claims, it would make sense to align with SAS, an “American multinational developer of analytics software based in Cary, North Carolina. SAS develops and markets a suite of analytics software, which helps access, manage, analyze and report on data to aid in decision-making” (Wikipedia).

SAS controls the EVAAS software system. It is used by the state to measure teacher effectiveness. It uses rather surreptitious methods and secret algorithms to calculate its data – https://caffeinatedrage.com/2017/11/26/why-teachers-should-be-wary-of-evaas-and-sas/.

Other lawmakers aligned with the privatizing movement here in North Carolina include Sen. Chad Barefoot who heads the powerful NC Senate Committee for Education. It is rumored that he is being considered as a possible head of the NC community college system in the next few years.

What has happened is that much of what should be “public” in the North Carolina school system is now being guided by non-public entities.

And we in NC get this:

graph4

Simply put, the privatization of the public school system.

About That Civitas Institute Post On Charter Schools – Comparing Apples to Rocks

A recent post on the Civitas Institute’s website entitled “Research: charter schools improve public schools” is worth the read because while it may have provided the writer some light ammunition to make the claim “Is there a more powerful argument for competition and choice?”, what it really does is prove that many would rather cherry pick research to fit a narrative than actually analyzing what is reality now (https://www.nccivitas.org/civitas-review/research-charter-schools-improve-public-schools/#comments).

Bob Luebke cites a study conducted by Professor Sarah Cordes of Temple University who writes,

…that the introduction of charter schools within one mile of a TPS [traditional public school] increases the performance of TPS students on the order of 0.02 standard deviations (sds) in both math and English Language Arts (ELA). As predicted by theories of competition or information transfers, these effects increase with proximity to the charter school and are largest among student in co-located schools where performance increases by 0.09 sds in math and 0.06 sds in ELA. In addition retention decreases between 20-40 percent in TPSs located within 1 mile of a charter school. School level responses that might explain these positive spillovers  included higher per PPE  [per pupil expenditure] and changes in school practices such as higher academic expectations, student engagement, and levels of respect and cleanliness at the school, as reported on parent and teacher surveys.”

Luebke also makes sure to specify,

“The research by Cordes is the first peer-reviewed study on the subject and appears in the Journal of Education Finance and Policy.  Cordes analyzed nearly 900,000 students in grades 3-5 who attended traditional public school in an attendance zone that included a charter school serving at least one of those grades between 1996 and 2010.”

To even allow for this research to explain why the charter school expansion in North Carolina is a viable action is careless because what Cordes reports actually goes against what Luebke seems to champion: school choice that is manipulated by legislation to weaken public schools in NC.

Notice that the study concentrates on the years 1996-2010. That’s seven years ago. That’s before a GOP-controlled supermajority in the NC General Assembly began its “reforms.” That’s before the following occurred, a lot of which was orchestrated by the very people (Art Pope) who fuel the Civitas Institute:

  • Teacher Pay still low on national scale
  • Removal of due-process rights
  • Graduate Degree Pay Bumps Removed
  • misplaced Bonuses
  • Last in nation in Principal Pay
  • Standard 6 and Nebulous Evaluation Tools
  • Push for Merit Pay
  • “Average” Raises
  • Health Insurance and Benefits Attacked
  • Attacks on Teacher Advocacy Groups (NCAE)
  • Revolving Door of Standardized Tests
  • Less Money Spent per Pupil
  • Remove Caps on Class Sizes
  • Jeb Bush School Grading System
  • Cutting Teacher Assistants
  • Opportunity Grants
  • Virtual Schools
  • Achievement School Districts
  • Reduction of Teacher Candidates in Colleges
  • Elimination of Teaching Fellows Program

And that’s just a small list.

For Luebke to even equate the educational topography of 2017 with the 1990’s and early 2000’s with what is being done today is asinine.

Furthermore, it is rather interesting that Cordes says this specifically:

School level responses that might explain these positive spillovers included higher per PPE  [per pupil expenditure] and changes in school practices such as higher academic expectations, student engagement, and levels of respect and cleanliness at the school, as reported on parent and teacher surveys.

Higher per pupil expenditure?

Higher levels of respect?

In NC, those very things that Cordes says occurred in public schools are the very things that the NCGA is stifling. It’s a total contradiction to what is happening in North Carolina, especially since the removal of charter school capping and the expanse of vouchers, neither of which has produced any empirical data that proves that either is helping our students the way that Luebke would want to claim they are.

In essence, he is using research from a different academic terrain to fit his narrative that cannot be validated because there is no research of what is happening in NC because the very people who want that narrative to exist are controlling the vary variables that would allow for research to provide answers.

And as far as “cleanliness” goes? When you have less resources for a growing student population, then it is hard to keep things maintained. Remember this?

EDEN — A bathroom that doesn’t have toilet paper.

A classroom lacking textbooks.

A copy machine without paper.

In some Rockingham County schools, there’s not enough money to buy these — and other things.

When that was revealed last week during a meeting of the Rockingham County Board of Education, it came as a shock to some and a surprise to others (http://www.journalnow.com/news/state_region/rockingham-county-schools-short-on-the-basics/article_61b15a34-bcfd-5407-83a4-86a2830c5ab2.html).

That’s Phil Berger’s district. His son was trying to open up a new charter school in the area at that very time.

That was in 2014 – not 1996-2010.

Leubke referenced an interview on the study by the education web site The 74. You should check out that outfit.

74 1.png

But be sure to understand that it really is not non-partisan. It was founded by Campbell Brown, one of the leading voices of the privatization movement.

And you might want to be sure to see who has funded The 74. That list alone makes the term “non-partisan” a synonym for the “current administration.” At the top of the list is Betsy DeVos.

Mercedes Schneider did some incredible research on The 74 and its funding – https://deutsch29.wordpress.com/2016/12/01/a-challenge-for-campbell-browns-the-74-publicize-your-detailed-history/).

Along with DeVos, there is the Walton and Broad Foundations. And don’t forget to see Brown’s connections with Wall Street and her convenient role on the boards of New York’s Success Charter Schools. In fact, check out this piece on Brown and her “non-partisan” ways – http://www.politico.com/tipsheets/morning-education/2016/11/campbell-brown-steps-back-from-coverage-217630.

Luebke’s celebration of Cordes’s research of a different educational terrain from years and decades ago is like a square peg that Leubke is trying to shove into a round hole that he has helped to mold and shape.

That peg does not fit and he’s trying to convince you that it does. That should automatically make you doubt whatever he might have to say about public education.

The Dramatis Personae in the Privatization of Public Schools in North Carolina – or Who is Trying to “Reform” Education Through Deformation

Michelle Rhee’s visit to North Carolina for a “closed-door” meeting (February 7th)) with lawmakers in the current climate of public education in this country and in the state should not sit well with public school advocates.

In fact, this meeting that was brokered by an educational lobbying body of business leaders called BEST NC (coupled with the NC GOP’s invitation to Betsy DeVos) should serve as an ominous omen of what will be attempted in North Carolina.

This meeting with Rhee was passed off as a session with leaders where candid questions could be asked and ideas exchanged on how to improve public education seemed to be void of the very people who know education the best – educators.

And while the media did have a chance to meet and greet with Ms. Rhee and George Parker in a manicured and measured way, what happened behind closed doors with people who make decisions on how to spend taxpayer money and fund public schools along with controversial educational reformers remains a mystery.

So much for transparency and including all stakeholders. In fact, it seemed more like a special session of the NC General Assembly who used such “secret sessions” to spawn actions such as HB2, SB4, and HB17.

Despite what they claim, the intentions of BEST NC to improve public education seems to have a different meaning to them than it does to those who are educators in our public schools.

That’s because there exist too many relationships between business leaders, lobbying groups, wealthy benefactors, politicians, and educational reformers to be coincidental. In fact, many in the “reform” movement that have started to dismantle the public school system are strategically linked to each other, including BEST NC.

Look at the graphic below:

privatizers

That is a diagram of the relationships between entities that many public school advocates deem as detrimental to our public school system. The box at the bottom represents the state of North Carolina. All of the other listed players are national.

Consider the following groups:

  • Teach For America
  • Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation
  • Walton Family Foundation
  • Eli Broad Foundation
  • KIPP Charter Schools
  • Democrats For Educational Reform
  • Educational Reform Now
  • StudentsFirst
  • America Succeeds
  • 50CAN
  • American Legislative Exchange Council
  • Civitas Institute
  • SAS Software
  • CarolinaCan
  • North Carolina General Assembly
  • BEST NC

They are all linked. And the only teachers who seem to have any sustained dialogue with any of these is the Hope Street Group – and that dialogue seems mostly to have been with BEST NC.

Somehow, someway all of the bulleted entities above were in that closed door meeting which started literally four hours after Betsy DeVos was confirmed as secretary of education thanks to the first ever tie-breaking vote by a vice-president for a cabinet position.

If you are willing, simply follow the explanation below because what seems to be a simple meeting may just be another step in the GOP-led NC General Assembly to dismantle public education and finance the privatization of schooling.

In 2014 a teacher/researcher named Mercedes Schneider published an informative book called A Chronicle of Echoes: Who’s Who in the Implosion of American Public Education. What Schneider did was literally research and report on all of the bodies of influence that were applying forces on the landscape of public education for the benefit of political and capitalistic gain.

The fact that she is a teacher, product of public schools from southern Louisiana, a trained researcher, a survivor of Katrina, and a residential expert of the charter takeover in New Orleans, she has a unique perspective and an educated point of view.

Chapter 17 of the book is dedicated to the Democrats For Educational Reform and the Educational Reform Now groups (DFER and ERN).

DFER supports vouchers, union busting and other reform measures that are common in other reform circles, but they are (to summarize Schneider) not “non-profit.” What makes them powerful is that they have the word “Democrat” in their name and it allows them to literally “train” democrats into accepting and advancing a protocol that actually is more conservative in nature – initiatives that align with school choice and charter movements. Schneider talks about in pages 276-279 how the DFER even promoted “mayoral control and charter favoritism.”

It may seem a little bit like conspiracy theory, but it does make sense. Why? Because DFER is non-profit and has the word “Democrat” in it and therefore does not get the big time donations from conservative donators.

Or do they?

DFER is run mostly by hedge-fund managers. One of them is Whitney Tilson, who happens to be a Teach For America alumnus and a vice-chair of New York’s KIPP charters. He also sits on the board of DFER. That alone links DFER, KIPP, and TFA (p.278).

At least in 2013, DFER had an Executive Director named Joe Williams. He just happened to “also head another reform group, this one actually is classed as a ‘nonprofit,’ and it doesn’t have the D-word in its title.”  Education Reform Now (ERN) is a “democratic” body understood to be a “sister entity” to DFER (p.279).

By 2010, ERN counted the Broad Foundation and the Walton Foundation as donors. “ERN enables hedge-fund managers to quietly donate to Democrats advancing the privatization agenda…. Looks like the big Republican money is available to DFER, after all – through its ERN back door” (p.279).

More from Schneider:

  • Remember that Whitney Tilson is also a founding member of Teach For America along with Wendy Kopp. Kopp was the mentor of Michelle Rhee. Their ventures literally share the same circulatory system.
  • Tilson sits on the KIPP board and sits on the DFER board.
  • Kopp sits on the Broad Foundation Board which feeds money to ERN who in turn feeds DFER. Kopp is also married to Richard Barth, the CEO of KIPP Foundation.
  • DFER through ERN conducts business with Rhee’s StudentsFirst.
  • Tilson, Kopp, and Rhee are TFA alums.

How does this link into BEST NC? Well, BEST NC is affiliated with an outfit named America Succeeds that feeds and supports various “reform” groups within certain states that bring together powerful business leaders to push “educational reform.” Look at the following article: – http://www.prwatch.org/news/2016/03/13065/how-dfer-leaders-channel-out-state-dark-money-colorado-and-beyond. The title alone alludes to the ability for DFER to channel “dark” money to out of state entities that promote anti-union, pro-charter, voucher supporting measures. It shows something interesting.

  • America Succeeds’s address in Colorado is 1390 Lawrence Street in Denver.
  • DFER’s Colorado office is located on 1390 Lawrence Street in Denver.
  • KIPP’s Denver charter schools are headquartered in Denver. At 1390 Lawrence Street.

Seems that TFA, StudentsFirst, DFER, ERN, KIPP are about as incestuously linked as a Greek god family tree and it is feeding support to groups like BEST NC who just happens to be the Carolina affiliate of America Succeeds.

Think about it. North Carolina is an ideal target. Why? Because of the following conditions:

  • Right-to-work state.
  • Elimination of due-process rights.
  • Removal of caps for number of charter schools which are not regulated.
  • GOP controlled state assembly.
  • Opportunity Grants increasing.
  • Push for merit pay.
  • The new state superintendent is a TFA alumnus – Mark Johnson.

Brenda Berg who is the CEO of BEST NC has increasingly brokered working relationships with many entities that have targeted public schools – John Locke Foundation being one.

BEST NC’s VP is Julie Kowal, who at one time was the Executive Director of CarolinaCan, which is the NC chapter of an outfit called 50CAN, a national “advocacy group” that just last year merged with another entity: StudentsFirst: https://studentsfirst.org/pages/50can-and-studentsfirst-merge-strengthen-support-local-education-leaders-across-country.

Now, add to that the fact that BEST NC has had some workshops/meetings with people from the The Hope Street Group which is a group of teacher leaders who receive a stipend in exchange for gathering and communicating educational concerns with public school teachers.

Also consider:

  • Hope Street Group receives funding from the Gates Foundation.
  • Hope Street Group and other teachers were not in the meeting that Michelle Rhee attended with lawmakers that was set up by BEST NC. That means that the dialogue between what happens at the meeting and other teachers will be brokered by BEST NC because if HOPE Street can’t go, then other teachers can’t go.

It could also mean that there might be an altered script that is read to these teachers.

And one other thing – the vice-president of BEST NC (Julie Kowal), the Director of the North Carolina Teachers Network for Hope Street Group (Katharine Correll), and the NC state superintendent (Mark Johnson) all have law degrees. Johnson practiced corporate law. Kowal and Correll worked with non-profits.

Additionally, Mark Johnson was granted a massive amount of power over public education through House Bill 17 and Senate Bill 4 (HB17 &SB4), power over charter schools, and the control of the Achievement School District and has retained the services of ex-Pat McCrory aids who possibly were enabled by other McCrory cronies, such as Art Pope who is linked to the American Legislative Exchange Council, otherwise known as ALEC. Art Pope is also part of the aforementioned John Locke Foundation.

And Mark Johnson is an admirer of Betsy DeVos. When interviewed by the Charlotte Observer for a Jan. 27th feature Johnson expressed his support for the neophyte DeVos.

When asked about her, Johnson didn’t hesitate: “I support her.”

Mark Johnson has only three to four more years (as a teacher and local school board member) of experience with public schools than DeVos, and DeVos has no experience with public schools.

It’s not ironic that Betsy DeVos, Trump’s selection for secretary of education, is also associated with ALEC. From sourcewatch.com it is learned that DeVos has “bankrolled the 501 (c) (4) group the American Federation for Children, the 501 (c) (3) group Alliance for School Choice and by having these groups participate in and fund the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC).”

All of these connections seem more than coincidence and this perfect storm of timing, state politics, gerrymandering, and people in power can’t just be by chance. Could it?

So where are the teachers in this dialogue? The schools of education in one of the best college systems in the nation and from some of the highest ranking private schools in the country?

Well many teachers have been represented by groups like NCAE (which is an association and not a union). Multiple times the NC General Assembly has tried to weaken any group like NCAE through stopping automatic dues payments and other things such as what the Civitas Institute tried to do here – luring teachers in NCAE to “buy” their membership back.

Remember this?

civitas

That website was established by the Civitas Institute, which was founded by Art Pope. It showed NCAE members how to withdraw their membership in NCAE and make $450 because that is what they would not be spending in dues.

Furthermore, on February  8th, the NC GOP which holds a supermajority in both chambers of the NC General Assembly issued a formal invitation to Betsy DeVos to come and “share ideas” according the 2/9/17 edition of the News & Observer (http://www.newsobserver.com/news/politics-government/state-politics/article131486504.html).

Now look at the graphic again:

privatizers

The NC GOP (where many of the very same lawmakers and policymakers in this Feb. 7th meeting with Rhee caucus together) were very instrumental in the following actions:

  • Removal of due-process rights
  • Graduate Degree Pay Bumps Removed
  • Standard 6
  • “Average” Raises
  • Less Money Spent per Pupil
  • Remove Caps on Class Sizes
  • Jeb Bush School Grading System
  • Cutting Teacher Assistants
  • Opportunity Grants
  • Virtual Schools
  • Reduction of Teacher Candidates in Colleges
  • Elimination of Teaching Fellows Program

Also look at the timeline in which BEST NC came into existence – 2013

  • Art Pope became McCrory’s budget director – 2013
  • Graduate Degree Pay Bumps Eliminated – 2013
  • 50Can created CarolinaCan – 2013
  • School Performance Grades – 2013
  • Due-process rights taken from new teachers – started in 2013
  • Charter school cap in NC lifted – 2014, but proposed in 2013.
  • Opportunity Grants – 2014
  • Hope Street Group in NC – 2015

And one last thing – the Feb. 7th meeting with Rhee and Harris does have a connection with SAS, a software company whose president, James Goodnight, is married to one of the founders and current Board Member of BEST NC, Anne Goodnight. Mrs. Goodnight was also one of the founders of Cary Academy, a rather prestigious private school in the Triangle area.

In a data-driven, educational-reform era that seems to crunch and use data to position evidence that supports their claims, it would make sense to align with SAS, an “American multinational developer of analytics software based in Cary, North Carolina. SAS develops and markets a suite of analytics software, which helps access, manage, analyze and report on data to aid in decision-making” (Wikipedia).

“Decision-making” is an interesting term in this discussion, because isn’t this meeting with Rhee just about asking questions?

Because it seems to have raised more questions.

But what this all really means is that public school advocates should and must hold our officials accountable and do everything they can within legal limits to counter the trends that are privatizing our public schools.

Part of that started today with the Moral March in Raleigh. The tens of thousands of people who came to show solidarity in overturning suffocating government policies is just a sampling of the strength that resides within the citizens of our state – 90% percent of whom are affiliated with the public schools either as a student, graduate, parent, or a combination.