Next Stop on the “Listening Tour” – NC State Superintendent Mark Johnson vs. The NC State Board of Education

It appears that there may be more bickering in the backrooms of Raleigh than many have been hearing in the other parts of North Carolina.

At least that is what some people claim to be hearing on their own “listening tours.”

Lynn Bonner’s recent April 13th report in the Raleigh News & Observer entitled “NC Republicans fighting among themselves over education, court papers show” opened with the following:

The State Board of Education and the Superintendent of Public Instruction Mark Johnson are on opposite sides of a legal battle over who controls public education.

Lawyers for both sides filed court documents in the case this week, asking a three-judge panel to decide the case in their favor.

The state education board is suing the state over a law passed in December that transfers some of its powers to Johnson, who is serving his first term. Johnson has entered the suit on the state’s side. Republicans run both the legislature and the state education board, and Johnson is a Republican (http://www.newsobserver.com/news/local/education/article144469134.html#storylink=cpy).

This is actually humorously confusing and quite telling when it comes to the gridlock that power can create.

DPI

So, let me get this straight. Mark Johnson is a republican who was elected in a wave of republican sentiment to take over a job that was held for years by a democrat and then given a lot more power as a state superintendent by a republican super-majority in a special session of the NC General Assembly that was meeting to really address a republican-driven HB2 law that was responsible for a republican losing the governor’s mansion when another republican long shot won the presidency the same night and the first republican mentioned in this chain of thought is now being sued by the republican controlled State Board of Education who claim that the new republican heading DPI is overstepping his authority.

Yep. That’s right. A republican is being sued by republicans after republicans gave him powers in a special session that republicans called to “help repeal” a law passed by republicans that actually cost republicans the governor’s race.

The fact that the State Board of Education is suing to keep powers that it has always had is the right thing to do, but Bonner’s report does highlight a huge disconnect that Mark Johnson has with politics and education.

Bonner states,

Lawyers for the state board said the law is unconstitutional, while Johnson said he should be able to do the job voters elected him to do

Actually, Johnson is wrong there. The “law” was passed after Johnson was elected. Voters did nor elect him to do something that a special session supposedly gave him power to do after November’s election day.

More from Bonner:

Johnson said in an affidavit that the system the state board has for hiring people who report both to him and the board doesn’t work.

Actually, it has worked. It just doesn’t work well enough for those who are wanting to control Johnson as the state superintendent. That’s why there was a special session at the end of the calendar year under the auspices of repealing a damaging HB2 law to grant his office more power than it has ever known when the office is being held by a gentleman who has just as much experience running for office than he does in education itself.

The least experienced person to ever hold the job was to have the most power the job ever had.

Johnson’s quote toward the end of the article is rather telling as well.

“Having both the State Board and the Superintendent of Public Instruction – up to 14 individuals in total – involved in the day-to-day management of DPI slows decision making to a crawl and makes it difficult to implement any changes or be responsive to the needs of the education community.”

What decisions is Mr. Johnson referring to?

What changes are needed to be done for the education community?

And those are not rhetorical questions. Johnson came into the office with really no new ideas to present, just overarching “goals” about less testing and more local control which is ironic with the HB13 debacle going on in the very chamber that gave Johnson so much power in that special session last calendar year.

When Johnson took office in 2017, he announced he was going on a “listening tour” and then release his “legislative agenda” this summer – months after he took office. That means he did not really have any “changes” in mind when he got into office.

Is it not ironic that Johnson has held most of his listening tour behind closed doors and that most of the actions he has been most public in regards to his brief tenure is about how he is trying to establish a form of transparent leadership in the Department of Public Instruction?

Does it not sound like a teacher who walks into a class and wants to just observe the students for a few months while claiming to be gathering information to best instruct those students, but spends most of his time arguing with the administration about what supplies he thinks he should have in his desk?

Maybe, just maybe, the “listening tour” should be more public and also include stops within Raleigh inside DPI.

Mark Johnson did once say on January 5th in the State Board of Education meeting (and his first week in office),

“Every day that we don’t take bold actions for our students is a day that our students lose. Every day that we don’t take bold actions for our teachers is a day that our teachers lose.”

It’s been over three months and the school year is rapidly coming to an end.

Yet what is happening right now is not bold and it is certainly nor benefiting students or teachers.

Open Letter to Sen. Chad Barefoot Concerning His Words on HB13

Dear Sen. Barefoot,

Your recent comments concerning the stalled House Bill 13 that would help local school districts navigate a stubborn legislative obstacle is yet another example of why so many people who advocate for the constitutionally protected public school system view you as hypocritical and piously partisan.

While Guilford County has already served notice to many teacher assistants about their possible non-renewal, systems such as the one I work for (Winston-Salem / Forsyth County) are waiting to see if waivers will be given by DPI.

As reported by WRAL on April 6th,

Sen. Chad Barefoot, R-Wake, co-chair of the Senate Education/Higher Education committee, says lowering class size is a priority.

“For years, the General Assembly has been sending tens of millions of dollars to districts for new classroom teachers for the purpose of lowering classroom sizes,” he said. “The question we keep asking over and over again is, ‘What did they do with the money?'”

Lawmakers requested financial data from school districts in the state and are analyzing it to try to get that answer.

“The data that we have received from the districts varies, and some districts did not fully respond to our information request,” Barefoot said. “What some of the data has shown is that there are districts that did not reduce class sizes with the funding we sent them. Why are they holding art and PE teachers’ jobs hostage for their misallocation of classroom teacher funds?” (http://www.wral.com/law-reducing-class-size-has-music-art-pe-teachers-anxious-about-future-/16628678/).

First, did you remember that teachers of classes for vital subjects such as art, music, and physical education are not dictated by a particular state allotment and ,therefore, do not count into student-teacher ratios for core subjects in the early grades?

Also, how will help these schools build more physical facilities to house the vast numbers of new classrooms that will be needed?

But more importantly, can you explain how your comments are not duplicitous when taken as a part of a bigger conversation?

You mentioned “tens of millions of dollars” over a period of “years.” Or at least, that is your assumption. The truth is that over the last several years we have seen a lower per-pupil expenditure for our students and an average teacher salary that still ranks in the last tier within the nation all while this state has experienced a boom in population.

But you talk about “tens of millions of dollars” that need to be accounted for so thoroughly that you are willing to hold LEA’s hostage.

If you want to look at how money is being spent (or not spent) with a fine-tooth comb, then maybe look at the Opportunity Grants program.

Just this past summer, you introduced a bill to further increase vouchers in NC under a system that many in the nation have found to be one of the most opaque in the country. Adam Lawson from the Lincoln Times News reported in May of 2016,

Senate Bill 862, filed by Republican state Sens. David Curtis (Lincoln, Iredell, Gaston), Chad Barefoot (Franklin, Wake) and Trudy Wade (Guilford) calls for 2,000 additional Opportunity Scholarship Grants to be available each school year beginning in 2017-18.

That comes with a $10 million annual rise in cost, from $34,840,000 in 2017-18 until 2027-28, when taxpayers would begin paying nearly $135 million for vouchers on a yearly basis. According to the Charlotte Observer, the state has spent just $12 million on the program this school year, 93 percent of which has gone to faith-based schools.

Actually, legislation that you championed will funnel nearly one BILLION dollars into North Carolina’s voucher program within the next ten years. And what results has the state seen from that venture so far?

I would invite you to look at the Duke Law School of Law’s Children’s Law Center’s recent March 2017 report called SCHOOL VOUCHERS IN NORTH CAROLINA: THE FIRST THREE YEARS.

Duke study

The entire report can be found here:  https://law.duke.edu/childedlaw/School_Vouchers_NC.pdf.

But just to give you a flavor of what the Opportunity Grants have done according to one of the more respected research universities in the nation, consider the following excerpted observations:

  • Approximately 93% of the vouchers have been used to pay tuition at religious schools (p.3).
  • Based on limited and early data, more than half the students using vouchers are performing below average on nationally-standardized reading, language, and math tests. (p.3).
  • It is poorly designed, however, to promote better academic outcomes for children and is unlikely to do so (p.3).
  • 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 (p.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 (p.12).
  • In comparison to most other states, North Carolina’s general system of oversight of private schools is weak. No accreditation is required of private schools (p.13).
  • Unlike some laws, the law creating the Opportunity Scholarship Grant Program does not set out its purpose (p.15).
  • In fact, there is no requirement that the participating private schools meet any threshold of academic quality. (p.15-16).
  • THE LEGISLATIVE DECISION TO EXEMPT VOUCHER STUDENTS FROM PARTICIPATING IN THE STANDARD STATE END-OF-GRADE TESTS MEANS THAT NO RESEARCHER WILL EVER BE ABLE TO MAKE AN “APPLES-TO-APPLES” COMPARISON BETWEEN PUBLIC SCHOOL AND VOUCHER STUDENTS (p.18).
  • The North Carolina program allows for participation in the program by children who are not in failing schools and by private schools that do not offer a more academically promising education (p.19).

If you are analyzing the data from districts that have spent these “tens of millions” of dollars you mentioned earlier, are you analyzing the data from this report that spends this much taxpayer money?

Are you also analyzing recent improprieties of the use of monies in schools that use vouchers like Trinity Christian in Fayetteville? (http://ajf.org/employee-states-largest-recipient-school-voucher-funds-accused-embezzling-nearly-400000-public-tax-dollars/). The financial reports that were sent by Trinity were also incomplete (https://www.ednc.org/2017/04/07/serious-questions-arise-states-largest-voucher-school/) . It would be interesting to see if the financial reports from the suspected systems that you have focused on in your recent investigation, but you will not identify them.

And if analysis is so important to you to ascertain how money is being spent, then would you also not question analysis that talks about how your own actions have cost our state much more than “tens of millions of dollars?”

Your zealous defense of HB2 has according to many outlets cost the state of North Carolina hundreds of millions of dollars. A recent AP report even put that figure at over 3.5 BILLION (http://abc11.com/news/ap-hb2-estimated-to-cost-north-carolina-$376b/1819978/).

While lawmakers such as Lt. Gov. Dan Forest and possibly yourself may question the validity of the AP’s report, they were very transparent in their findings. And that does not even account for what may have been invested in North Carolina but never made it into public record.

Even if half of that number is correct, the loss to our state is tremendous.

Yet you remain steadfast in helping stall a bill that would greatly aid public school systems and greatly help students.

But in light of the actions you have taken and the comments that you have made that are simply rooted in biased politics, I am more prone to believe in the transparent analysis of Duke University or the Associate Press or even the unanimous passing of a bill in the highly divided North Carolina General Assembly House of Representatives (HB13) than your words.

For Once I May Have Liked What Lt. Gov. Dan Forest Said – But Not For the Reasons He Would Like

Rural Center county classifications

Lt. Gov. Dan Forest’s recent comments concerning “bridging the digital divide” at the “Advocacy Day for Making Rural School Districts a Priority” event were actually very heartening to hear – for more than one reason.

If you have followed the North Carolina public school funding discussion, disparities between affluent metropolitan areas and economically depressed rural areas are hard to ignore, especially when it comes to getting local funds to help subsidize teacher salary supplements and resources. It might be one of the reasons that charter schools and voucher advocates have has so much traction in the rural parts of the Tarheel state.

But Lt. Gov. Forest said something that was very encouraging. Refer to Alex Granados’s article in EdNC.org entitled “State leaders speak out on education at rural advocacy day” (https://www.ednc.org/2017/03/30/state-leaders-speak-education-rural-advocacy-day/).

He said that five years ago, before he was in his current position, he thought the state could lead the nation in high speed broadband access to classrooms. Now, North Carolina is on the verge of achieving that goal. That will help “students in poor rural North Carolina have the same hope and opportunity for an excellent education as students in wealthier parts of our state that have had for years,” he said.  

He also decried the fact that even with all the technological advances, the education field still is not level. 

“Shame on us in this day and age that we still have schools that are not at par with one another across our state,” he said. 

There are two operative words here: “poor” and “shame.” However, the reasons for the propagation of poverty in North Carolina and our need to feel shame for that is more than a single post could ever handle. But it is something that the Lt. Gov. could do a much better job of addressing on West Jones Street. Instead of using poverty and shame as fuel for privatizing education, he should listen to what he said very closely and then read this op-ed that appeared in The New York Times this past Sunday entitled “Who Needs Charters When You Have Public Schools Like These?” by David Kirp (https://www.nytimes.com/2017/04/01/opinion/sunday/who-needs-charters-when-you-have-public-schools-like-these.html).

Kirp is a professor at UC-Berkley which is considered by many to be the finest public university in the nation. California’s public university system is also a leading world-class system. Ironically, so is North Carolina’s, despite what the current administration in the General Assembly and the past administration in the governor’s mansion have done to weaken it.

Lt. Gov. Dan Forest has been a part of both of both of those.

In this op-ed, Kirp talks about the use of technology in poor rural areas for public schools that are helping students bridge achievement gaps that people have been touting charter schools and vouchers as being the solutions for –people like Lt. Dan Forest and another recent visitor to North Carolina, Betsy DeVos.

The same technology that Kirp talks about in his op-ed is easily facilitated in the scenario that Forest claims North Carolina has put into place, so much that we as a state are “on the verge” of “lead(ing) the nation in high speed broadband access to classrooms.”

Here are some of Professor Kirp’s observations:

“Ms. DeVos, the new secretary of education, dismisses public schools as too slow-moving and difficult to reform. She’s calling for the expansion of supposedly nimbler charters and vouchers that enable parents to send their children to private or parochial schools. But Union shows what can be achieved when a public school system takes the time to invest in a culture of high expectations, recruit top-flight professionals and develop ties between schools and the community.”

Investment? Recruitment of high-quality teachers? Retaining those teachers? Allow for ties between schools and communities? Wow! Novel ideas.

But lawmakers like Lt. Dan Forest seem to be too busy protecting us from nonexistent transgender sexual assaults in school locker rooms, clouding up any transparency for charter school growth, and funneling untold amounts of money into a voucher system that is inappropriately named “Opportunity Grants.”

Kirp further discusses,

“The school district also realized, as Ms. Burden put it, that “focusing entirely on academics wasn’t enough, especially for poor kids.” Beginning in 2004, Union started revamping its schools into what are generally known as community schools. These schools open early, so parents can drop off their kids on their way to work, and stay open late and during summers. They offer students the cornucopia of activities — art, music, science, sports, tutoring — that middle-class families routinely provide. They operate as neighborhood hubs, providing families with access to a health care clinic in the school or nearby; connecting parents to job-training opportunities; delivering clothing, food, furniture and bikes; and enabling teenage mothers to graduate by offering day care for their infants.”

Again, wow!

Supporting the arts and a holistic approach to curriculum? Health care clinics? Job training?

But lawmakers like Lt. Dan Forest have been too busy in the last few years suffocating public school systems to the point where they have to meet demands for class sizes that force them to sacrifice these very same programs. And health care? Just look at the hardened reluctance to expand Medicaid for these “poor” rural people.

That’s real “shame.”

Kirp concludes his op-ed,

“Under the radar, from Union City, N.J., and Montgomery County, Md., to Long Beach and Gardena, Calif., school systems with sizable numbers of students from poor families are doing great work. These ordinary districts took the time they needed to lay the groundwork for extraordinary results.

Will Ms. DeVos and her education department appreciate the value of investing in high-quality public education and spread the word about school systems like Union? Or will the choice-and-vouchers ideology upstage the evidence?”

Ironically, you would only have to substitute LT. Dan Forest’s name in that op-ed for Betsy DeVos as Forest is an avid supporter of DeVos’s policies. He was one of 70 leaders and organizations to sign an open letter of support for DeVos during her contentious confirmation process (http://www.excelined.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/01/2017.01.27-OpenLetterEndorsementforBetsyDeVos-FINAL.pdf?utm_source=ExcelinEd&utm_campaign=50bf72e4fa-EMAIL_CAMPAIGN_2017_01_27&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_0473a80b81-50bf72e4fa-).

“Betsy DeVos is an undisputed champion of families and students. For nearly 30 years she has devoted time and resources to improving education options for our nation’s children. Yet millions still languish in failing schools in an education system more than a century old. It’s time for a new vision.

Betsy DeVos provides that vision. She embraces innovation, endorses accountability and—most especially—trusts parents to choose what is in their unique child’s best interests. She also believes in providing every parent with the resources and choices to pursue those decisions.

On this week, National School Choice Week, we the undersigned endorse this champion of choice and the education reforms needed to improve the future of every child in America. And we strongly advocate for her confirmation as our next U.S. Secretary of Education. “

Remember that last year, Forest admonished DPI for its report on charter schools because it was not “positive” enough. He also is one of the most ardent supporters of HB2 because of his strident cause of protecting women and children from a nonexistent threat. And in a recent visit to Texas during their push for a bathroom law, he was keen to point out that there has been no economic fallout from HB2 in North Carolina contrary to multiple reports including a recent one from the Associated Press.

He called it “another attempt to mislead and confuse the public through a bogus headline.” The he added, “Our economy is doing well. Don’t be fooled by the media.”

But that internet thing and getting the rural areas connected? He’s totally right about that.

Taking Dolorous Umbrage at Betsy DeVos With No Apologies to Dolores Umbridge, But I Miss Alan Rickman

When you teach a number of years coupled with the fact that social media has become such a mainstay in our culture, you have the opportunity to stay connected with former students much more easily.

It is rather a humbling that these younger people (younger than I) would want to tell you about how their lives are progressing: their victories, their obstacles, their journeys.

And they also share with you their observations of the world and its changes.

And then there are the memes. One of my more outgoing former students who happens to be a fantastic dramatist as well sent me the following meme in response to Betsy DeVos’s recent appointment and hearing in front of the HELP committee.

It’s rather brilliant.

decree-0

(Credit:?)

And funny. I do not know who the credit should go to, but if you find out, then let me know.

Here are two women who have no real experience with public education (or the education of wizards) and no IDEA of what growth is versus proficiency. Entitled with the power of a ministry, both women have a certain agenda to force into schools that seems more in line with their own personal ideologies rather than the public benefit.

And then there are the standards that each strives to put in place within the schools.

For Dolores Umbridge it was the use of Educational Decrees. Defined by the Harry Potter Wiki website (http://harrypotter.wikia.com/wiki/Educational_Decree), these decrees are,

“The Educational Decrees are laws created by the Ministry of Magic to set or modify standards at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.

…the Ministry (spearheaded by Dolores Umbridge) created new educational decrees to suppress and outlaw behaviour of which the Ministry did not approve, some of which would outright expel the students found to be in transgression of. In truth, however, is just an excuse to strip Albus Dumbledore of his headship of the school and give it to Umbridge.”

decree1

In the book the Educational Decrees were as follows (thanks to Harry Potter Neoseeker – http://harrypotter.neoseeker.com/wiki/Educational_Decrees).

  • Educational Decree Number Twenty-four: All Student Organizations, Societies, Teams, Groups, and Clubs are henceforth disbanded. An Organization, Society, Team, Group, or Club is hereby defined as a regular meeting of three or more students. Permission to re-form may be sought from the High Inquisitor (Professor Umbridge). No Student Organization, Society, Team, Group, or Club may exist without the knowledge and approval of the High Inquisitor. Any student found to have formed, or to belong to, an Organization, Society, Team Group, or Club that has not been approved by the High Inquisitor will be expelled.
  • Educational Decree Number Twenty-five: The High Inquisitor will henceforth have supreme authority over all punishments, sanctions and removal of privileges pertaining to the students of Hogwarts, and the power to alter such punishments, sanctions and removals of privileges as may have been placed by other staff members.
  • Educational Decree Number Twenty-six: Teachers are hereby banned from giving students any information that is not strictly related to the subjects they are paid to teach.
  • Educational Decree Number Twenty-seven: Any student found in possession of the magazine The Quibbler will be expelled.
  • Educational Decree Number Twenty-eight: Dolores Jane Umbridge (High Inquisitor) has replaced Albus Dumbledore as the Head of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.

And in the movie where so many got to meet Dolores Umbridge in a more personal way, these decrees were more numerous and amended somewhat. (Again, thanks to Harry Potter Neoseeker – http://harrypotter.neoseeker.com/wiki/Educational_Decrees).

  • Educational Decree Number 22 – In the event of the current Headmaster being unable to provide a candidate for a teaching post, the Ministry should select an appropriate person.
  • Educational Decree Number 23 – Dolores Jane Umbridge has been appointed to the post of Hogwarts High Inquisitor.
  • Educational Decree Number 24 – NO MUSIC IS TO BE PLAYED DURING Study Hours.
  • Educational Decree Number 25 – The High Inquisitor will henceforth have supreme authority over all punishments, sanctions and removal of privileges pertaining to the students of Hogwarts, and the power to alter such punishments, sanctions and removals of privileges as may have been placed by other staff members.
  • Educational Decree Number 26 – Teachers are hereby banned from giving students any information that is not strictly related to the subjects they are paid to teach.
  • Educational Decree Number 27 – Any student found in possession of the magazine The Quibbler will be expelled.
  • Educational Decree Number 29 – Although never actually passed, it was mentioned by Argus Filch, and would have presumably allowed Filch to torture the students as a punishment.
  • Educational Decree Number 30 – ALL WEASLEY PRODUCTS WILL BE BANNED IMMEDIATELY.
  • Educational Decree Number 45 – PROPER DRESS & DECORUM IS TO BE maintained AT ALL TIMES.
  • Educational Decree Number 68 – All Student Organizations, Societies, Teams, Groups, and Clubs are henceforth disbanded. An Organization, Society, Team, Group, or Club is hereby defined as a regular meeting of three or more students. Permission to re-form may be sought from the High Inquisitor (Professor Umbridge). No Student Organization, Society, Team, Group, or Club may exist without the knowledge and approval of the High Inquisitor. Any student found to have formed, or to belong to, an Organization, Society, Team, Group, or Club that has not been approved by the High Inquisitor will be expelled.
  • Educational Decree Number 82 – ALL STUDENTS WILL SUBMIT TO QUESTIONING ABOUT Suspected ILLICIT Activities.
  • Educational Decree Number 98 – THOSE WISHING TO JOIN THE INQUISITORIAL SQUAD for Extra Credit May sign up in the High Inquisitor’s OFFICE.

decree5decree2

While I cannot confirm if DeVos has an affinity for cats or for the color pink or office décor centered on putting plates on the wall, it is this adherence to the wishes of the “ministry” where she and Umbridge have a magical connection.

Since Cornelius Fudge is the Minister For Magic who places Umbridge in her educational post, he directs what Hogwarts can and cannot do in the classrooms. In fact, Umbridge on many occasions simply talks about herself as an extension of Fudge within Hogwarts.

“I am sorry, dear, but to question my practices is to question the Ministry, and by extension, the Minister himself. I am a tolerant woman, but the one thing I will not stand for is disloyalty.”

“Your previous instruction in this subject has been disturbingly uneven. But you will be pleased to know from now on, you will be following a carefully structured, Ministry-approved course of defensive magic. Yes?”

“It is the view of the Ministry that a theoretical knowledge will be sufficient to get you through your examinations, which after all, is what school is all about.”

Now that’s loyalty.

Betsy DeVos in her confirmation hearing stated her allegiance with her own Cornelius Fudge, Donald Trump, as she would back up his policies, especially when she was pressed in her conversation about guns at schools.

And when you talk about advancing the wishes of a “ministry,” then DeVos certainly is a proud disciple of that. The Mother Jones magazine article (yep, it’s liberal) entitled “Betsy DeVos Wants to Use America’s Schools to Build ‘God’s Kingdom’” is rather eye-opening and it includes some rather zealous statements about DeVos’s devotion to another cause that may be rather cloudy according to the separation of church and state (http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2017/01/betsy-devos-christian-schools-vouchers-charter-education-secretary).

Asked whether Christian schools should continue to rely on philanthropic dollars—rather than pushing for taxpayer money through vouchers—Betsy DeVos replied, “There are not enough philanthropic dollars in America to fund what is currently the need in education…[versus] what is currently being spent every year on education in this country…Our desire is to confront the culture in ways that will continue to advance God’s kingdom.”

From 1999 to 2014, the Dick and Betsy DeVos Family Foundation gave out $2.4 million to the Grand Rapids Christian High School Association, $652,000 to the Ada Christian School, and $458,000 to Holland Christian Schools. All told, their foundation contributed $8.6 million to private religious schools—a reflection of the DeVoses’ lifelong dedication to building “God’s kingdom” through education.

Makes the word “ministry” take an even more celestial meaning.

Imagine the new guidelines for finding effective teachers after DeVos’s Common Core issues are finally politically cemented and then implemented (if she is confirmed). Umbridge went after many of Hogwarts’s most established professors with the acumen of an educational novice, but with the authority derived from being granted undeserved powers by a man bent on profit, there’s no telling how DeVos will measure effectiveness or growth or proficiency once she looks those words up in her dictionary.

In the books, during a round of standardized testing, Fred and George Weasley literally “drop out,” probably hum some Pink Floyd quietly and make a rather stunning display of civil disobedience that ends with Umbridge being “swallowed” by a dragon-shaped firework. And dragons are appropriate for this because – well, just read this post – “Teachers, Winter Is Coming, So Get Your Dragons!” – https://caffeinatedrage.com/2017/01/07/teachers-winter-is-coming-so-get-your-dragons/.

decree3

So the meme that puts both Umbridge and DeVos together is quite appropriate and shows that the magical world and the real world might not be that far apart.

At least in some people’s minds.

However, the meme does say that “we needed centaurs to get rid of” Umbridge.

Well considering that DeVos and her family have given heavily to organizations that are blatantly anti-LGBT, centaurs may not be the best choice of helping us rid ourselves of the “deforms” of Betsy DeVos.

So I suggest,

decree4

And after they are done taking away DeVos, they can go to Raleigh and get rid of HB2.

But, just in case DeVos is confirmed it might be time to go ahead and put Defense Against the Dark Arts on the registration list.

In fact, it should be a prerequisite.

decree6

 

For Alan Rickman – “Always”

FrankenMoore and BergerStein – Uncle Victor Was Telling You Something

“Nothing is so painful to the human mind as a great and sudden change.”

And nothing is so detrimental to the health of a great commonwealth as a great and sudden misuse of law.

The preceding quote comes from Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, the first great dark romantic / Gothic novel. It was written at the ripe age of twenty from an idea born of a scary story-telling contest with her soon-to-be husband, Percy Bysshe, and his friend, the very famous George Gordon, Lord Byron. Also present was whomever Byron was dating that hour.

frankenstein

Rumor has it that on this same fateful weekend Byron concocted one of the first vampire stories, which is appropriate considering his own voracious appetites. But Mary won the contest with a story of a man so bent on obtaining knowledge and pursuing the idea of recalling life that he created something so unnatural that he defied the laws of nature.

Now to even call what Sen. Phil Berger and Rep. Tim Moore have done to be even subpar to what Mary Shelley had Victor do in her novel would be a disgrace to Mrs. Shelley’s brilliance, and even Victor’s, who is not even a real person. For that matter, it would be an insult to the fictitious monster who never gets a name but shows so much more logic (and at times regard for human life) than what many in our North Carolina General Assembly have displayed within the last few years.

That does not mean that FrankenMoore and BergerStein have not spent a few nights in special sessions behind closed doors concocting experiments with the law and the state constitution to create what has become a monster of a political landscape here in North Carolina. But unlike Victor who recognizes the effects of his actions and hubris, the leaders of the NCGA GOP have not yet understood that they have created a monster themselves that is hurting our citizens.

If you have never read the classic novel, it actually is one of the most well-framed books of all time. There are three narrators – Captain Walton, Victor Frankenstein, and the Monster.

Captain Walton is leading a foolhardy quest to the North Pole. He has been writing letters to his sister and then by chance encounters Victor.

Victor relates to him his own story of hubris-filled questing in rather painful detail and even narrates what the monster relates to him within his own story.

You got it – a man tells the story of a man who tells his story and includes what his creation told him in his story that the first man is telling to his sister in a series of letters.

And since we have already established that Berger and Moore could not be Frankenstein or the monster, they must be more aligned with Capt. Walton.

And they are. Because they are on the cusp of a tipping point with their own monster.

Early in the novel Capt. Walton makes this statement to his sister,

“One man’s life or death were but a small price to pay for the acquirement of the knowledge which I sought, for the dominion I should acquire and transmit over the elemental foes of our race” (Letter 4).

Substitute the words “political Power” for “knowledge” and “government” for “race” and you pretty much have the exact image of what has happened in North Carolina these last few years.

  • Consider the special sessions that gave North Carolina the blemish of HB2.
  • Consider the Voter ID Law.
  • Consider the Gerrymandering.
  • Consider the attack on the Public Schools.
  • Consider the special session that brought SB4.

Recently Jonathan Katz in Politico Magazine wrote an expose on North Carolina entitled, “In North Carolina, Some Democrats See Their Grim Future.” While it is not the type of reading one wants to have for the holidays, it did prove eye-opening considering that it specifically points out the “monster” that people like Phil Berger have created and now are having a hard time containing.

The first two paragraphs read,

“In the end, even Phil Berger, the powerful Republican leader of North Carolina’s Senate, couldn’t stop the debacle. A state law that effectively banned legal protections for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people—a law he’d pushed through the statehouse less than a year before—had become such a national embarrassment that even he wanted to see it repealed. But the far-right members of his caucus, happily ensconced in ultra-safe Republican districts he’d help draw, saw no reason to back a full repeal, and what was supposed to be a last-minute deal with the incoming Democratic governor fell apart.

“I cannot believe this,” Berger said, throwing down his microphone and slumping back into his leather chair at the front of the senate chamber, as the last session of the year came to a close, the stain still indelibly affixed to his state’s reputation, and his own (http://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2016/12/in-north-carolina-some-democrats-see-the-future-214553).

That is no stain. That is a full-fledged monster.

Fortunately for Capt. Walton, Victor’s story does help convince him that his quest for fame and power is ill-fated and will do more harm than good. Victor lived the experience that Walton would learn from to spare him and his crew a life doomed to death and despair.

And while there has been no Victor Frankenstein that has appeared out of the tundra of North Carolina to teach Moore and Berger their lessons, there have been instances where some sort of Ancient Mariner has come to halt them in their baseless quests: the courts.

  • They did it with the Voter ID Law.
  • They did it with the gerrymandered districts.
  • They have intervened with due-process rights for veteran teachers.
  • They will have a say on HB2.
  • And now they have placed a temporary hold in Wake County on the effects of SB2.

What 2017 holds for this state may actually be a blueprint for how other states may begin to proceed with their own political voyages.

However, it may also be the beginning of an end because if the citizens of North Carolina are tired of being passengers on an ill-fated expedition, then those voices may begin to get louder and ironically, we have election day again in 2017 because of the courts, at least for a few districts.

Probably one of the most haunting quotes in Shelley’s novel occurs in Chapter 20 when the monster, mad at Victor for destroying a would-be companion, warns Victor,

“It is well. I go; but remember, I shall be with you on your wedding-night.”

Maybe in this instance, it will come back on election night.

The Shriveled-Up Sour Grapes of Pat McCrory

Gov. Pat McCrory’s legacy was just sealed with his signing of the bill called House Bill 17 into law.

pat-mccrory-x750

It literally strips a lot of power from his successor, Democrat Roy Cooper.

  • This from a man who only vetoed his own General Assembly five times in his only term.
  • This from a man who defended HB2 as common sense after signing it into law minutes after it was passed in a special session of the NCGA.
  • This from a man who when he did challenge his own party it was over it trying to take power away from the governor’s office on a smaller scale than he is allowing now.
  • This from a man who challenged the voters in over 50 counties because he could not believe that he actually lost an election in a year that Trump carried North Carolina.

And earlier today he called another special session for December 21st for the “repeal” of HB2.

McCrory’s office, always in its emasculated political voice, issued this statement just hours before signing HB17.

“Governor McCrory has always publicly advocated a repeal of the overreaching Charlotte ordinance. But those efforts were always blocked by Jennifer Roberts, Roy Cooper and other Democratic activists,” said McCrory spokesman Graham Wilson. “This sudden reversal with little notice after the gubernatorial election sadly proves this entire issue originated by the political left was all about politics and winning the governor’s race at the expense of Charlotte and our entire state. As promised, Governor McCrory will call a special session.”

Such a statement marks a remarkable turnaround from the explanation for HB2 given during the Chuck Todd interview on Meet the Press last March.

And remember the “Common Sense” ad from the campaign? Here it is – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hniBMPPN3hM. So he will call a special session to repeal a law that was to protect our children statewide from an ordinance that was passed in one city against the discrimination of the LGBT community?

I guess?

Amber Phillips’s Dec. 19th column “North Carolina’s outgoing GOP governor just stuck it to his Democratic successor” for The Washington Post’s political blog The Fix does a great job of showing how both the calling of a special session to repeal HB2 and the signing of the HB17 bill may have one common denominator – to throw mud at Roy Cooper (https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-fix/wp/2016/12/19/north-carolinas-outgoing-gop-governor-just-stuck-it-to-his-democratic-successor/?utm_term=.209cba33427a) .

“So, are the two related — Cooper’s loud proclamation the bathroom bill would be repealed, and McCrory’s decision to sign legislation to limit Cooper’s power? It’s unclear.

But until Monday evening, it wasn’t even clear whether McCrory would sign this last-minute bill that limits his successor’s power.

He kept his head down last week while his party in the state legislature rushed through two bills aimed at reducing the governor’s influence in state government, the judicial branch, the education system and elections oversight, all while strengthening the GOP-dominated legislature’s influence in all those areas. In McCrory’s statement, he pushed back against some proposals to limit the governor’s power even further, like by moving major departments out of the governor’s authority and court-packing the state Supreme Court.

But he wasn’t opposed to it all. On Friday, McCrory signed legislation that would effectively give Republicans control of the state Board of Elections during election years. (The bill also contained a provision approving his chief of staff’s wife to the Industrial Commission.)

McCrory said nothing on the other, more controversial proposal until he announced Monday he decided to sign it, releasing one statement publicly — and sending another, unspoken message to his successor.”

They are related. To those outside of North Carolina, the idea that Charlotte and/or Roy Cooper is responsible for all of this is ludicrous, but to the McCrory camp it is a comforting slippery slope that rivals any Direct TV commercial from their ad campaign from a couple of years ago.

  1. Charlotte passes a local ordinance that extends protections to the LGBT community in the city limits of Charlotte.
  2. The North Carolina General Assembly calls a special session and passes HB2 which also takes away rights for people to sue in state court for wrongful termination and also prohibits local municipalities from establishing their own minimum wages. Of course those last two provisions are directly related to bathrooms.
  3. North Carolina loses face in the country and the world for the HB2 law and companies, entertainment, and sporting venues boycott, hurting us economically.
  4. Roy Cooper as Attorney General says HB2 should not be defended because as legal counsel it cannot be in court. That’s what good lawyers do.
  5. Pat McCrory runs on a platform that embraces HB2.
  6. Pat McCrory becomes the first sitting governor to not win reelection. Over 60,000 voters who chose Donald Trump did not vote for Pat McCrory, presumably over HB2.
  7. Under the auspices of helping victims of Hurricane Matthew and the wildfires in the mountains, the General Assembly calls another special session to remove power from incoming governor Roy Cooper through HB17.
  8. Pat McCrory signs bill and blames Cooper for HB2.

It defies logic. It defies reason, but it sounds like a sore loser who blames others for his misfortune. And now Roy Cooper has something that McCrory does not have anymore because McCrory did not do a good job.

Actually, those are sour grapes.

Shrivelled up sour grapes.

A pair of them.

Dried up.

Into raisins.

You know where.

 

Open Letter to Our Governor and General Assembly – Keep the Special Session About Those Affected By Matthew

Dear Gov. McCrory, House Speaker Tim Moore, Senate Pro-Tem Phil Berger, and other members of the North Carolina General Assembly,

Last March, many of you called for and orchestrated a “special session” of the North Carolina General Assembly in order to respond to so-called “government overreach” by the city of Charlotte and their decision to place protections for its LGBT citizens into local statutes. Yet what may have started as a “special session” quickly morphed into a covert operation to seize even more partisan control over a supposedly democratically-run commonwealth.

What convened on that eventful day has not only defined how the rest of the country (and some of the world) views us as a state, but it has damaged us economically, socially, and created a divide between us and the rest of the country. It was the one issue that distinctly had the largest impact on state-wide elections for governor, Attorney General, and state Supreme Court.

Not only was HB2 an egregious bill that negatively impacts our state, but the surreptitious provisional statutes that were added to the bill which now frame how we as citizens of North Carolina have come to see your “special sessions.”

Over sixty thousand North Carolinians who voted for Donald Trump as POTUS did not cast a vote for either Pat McCrory or Buck Newton, who was a primary sponsor of the “special sessions” landmark bill, HB2. To deny that the shadow of your actions on that fateful March day would be laughable. To deny that many North Carolinians are looking at this next “special session” with a tad bit of skepticism would be senseless. To think that many of us are not looking for the same shady political dealings to occur on December 13th is simply foolish.

Hurricane Matthew was a catastrophe for many of our fellow North Carolinians. I truly hope that you as a governing body put into place measures that will help them rebuild. In fact, if it meant that I had to pay more in a special tax for disaster funds, then so be it.

Their children go to schools like mine do; their citizens work to support the local and state economy; their tax dollars help to build roads that I drive on each day.

However, there is talk, rumor, and conjecture that there might be measures taken by the GOP supermajority and the governor to appoint more justices to the state supreme court in an effort to “pack the court” and make it lean conservatively again although the voters have spoken. There is even talk that you might even introduce measures to limit gubernatorial powers in response to Roy Cooper’s election.

When asked about these possibilities, people like Sen. Berger and Rep. Moore have been rather silent. There has been no denial from their lips that this will happen. Considering that there is so much still at stake, it seems that a silent non-answer on such matters would create even more cause for concern.

Elected lawmakers should be forthcoming on such matters, and they should be willing to abide by the will of the people who have voted in a democracy, even one that has been tainted by measures of voter suppression by this current administration.

Consider that you as lawmakers have taught us how to perceive you and treat you. Consider how history will treat you if you overstep your obligations and place personalities before principles.

I urge you to keep the events of the special session focused on relief from Hurricane Matthew for our fellow citizens. To couple that with brazen acts of political partisanship would be antithetical to your mission and would constitute an act contrary to your duty as elected servants.

You are supposed to help people, not further agendas.

Sincerely,

Stuart Egan

Welcome to Betsy DeVos’s BLACKWATER CHARTER SCHOOL, Home of the “Mercenaries” and Pioneers of the Pyramid Scheme Curriculum

Welcome to Blackwater Charter School, Home of the Mercenaries and pioneers of the “Pyramid Scheme Curriculum.”

Considering that the new Secretary of Education appointee is married to the heir of the Amway fortune, a pyramid selling scheme, and sister of the founder of Blackwater, Erik Prince , the idea of such a school is not that far-fetched.

If you do not remember what Blackwater was (as it is defunct), you can see that it is still on the radar of many in the federal government. Just take a look at this –

“Mr. Prince, who founded Blackwater — since renamed Academi — in 1997, gained notoriety when security contractors employed by his company killed 17 Iraqi civilians during a 2007 assault in Baghdad. Four of his guards were later convicted in U.S. court of either murder or manslaughter charges as a result of that incident.

More recently, Mr. Prince has “sought to secretly rebuild his private CIA and special operations enterprise by setting up foreign shell companies and offering paramilitary services,” The Intercept reported http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2016/mar/24/erik-prince-former-blackwater-chief-under-investig/.”

Academi? How appropriate is it now that his sister is about to become the mother of public schools?

But think about it. Blackwater Charter School just might be the perfect school for pro-charter GOP legislators to establish in North Carolina. Why?

Well,

  1. It would be supported on a federal level by DeVos. That wouldn’t hurt.
  2. It would be funded by tax payer money. Even Blackwater was funded with taxpayer money during the Iraq War.
  3. There would be no need to contract security from local police officials. The school would have Academi. It might be the safest place in the state. But don’t worry, their bill will be footed by the taxpayers.
  4. It would have a hidden curriculum and a grade distribution system that would mimic the pyramid selling scheme that is manifested in Amway which means that…
  5. All health and beauty supplies needed by the school already have a supplier – Amway. In fact, when the taxpayers buy the products for the school to use, then it actually is pocketing money for people like DeVos because she is at the top of the Amway Pyramid.
  6. Considering that North Carolina has in place HB2, a piece of legislation that discriminates against the LGBTQ community, it makes since to have a charter school crafted in DeVos’s image as she is considered one of the more anti-LGBT individuals in the country with her contributions to organizations that oppose LGBT rights and same-sex marriage.
  7. As a devout conservative Christian she surely would agree with the religious freedom bills that many in the NC General Assembly so religiously embrace.
  8. And as seen with schools that use public money through the Opportunity Grants, the Blackwater Charter School could also maintain an admission standard that allows it to exclude a number of potential students whose religious backgrounds and sexual orientations might come in conflict with the school’s vision.
  9. With HB2 and the ability to funnel money into a strong security presence, Blackwater Charter will also have a person at the door of all bathrooms to check birth certificates to assure that HB2 is being followed,

And just imagine the athletic teams all decked out in desert-camo uniforms with black trim. Even the mascot, the Mercenaries, would strike fear in any opposing teams.

Excuse Me, Elected Officials? It’s Okay to Listen to Others

It’s OK to listen to others.

On November 8th North Carolina elected/reelected to serve in the NCGA, and while I may bemoan the fact that there still exists a supermajority in the General Assembly for the GOP, I hope that the actions seen in other states’ races and ballot items might allow for some perspective as to how our representatives might handle our public education system.

The first comes out of Massachusetts. On election night, over sixty percent of voters cast their votes to not allow for the removal of the charter school cap that would have permitted for more charter schools to be created. Many of the parents interviewed (according to various reports) about “Question #2” simply said that they did not want public money to help fund charter schools.

And Massachusetts has a good public school system – like North Carolina once did before all of this “reformation.”

Our neighbors to the south in Georgia voted against Amendment 1, which would have allowed the state to take over low-performing schools and in essence allow them to become privately managed charter schools. In essence, they defeated a bill that would have allowed the state to create its own version of the Achievement School District.

And Georgia is a “redder” state than North Carolina. Much redder. Even the clay there is red. I know. I grew up there.

However, North Carolina removed the cap on the number of charter schools and even created its own version of the Achievement School District without either being on a ballot to allow for the very people who finance such measures with tax dollars to have any say in those matters.

Why?

That is not a rhetorical question. It deserves an explanation.

When my home county (Forsyth) overwhelmingly voted for bond measures to finance projects for the public school system and the local community college, they made a big statement on the importance of traditional public schools. These citizens were willing to spend money and resources on improving their schools, and every precinct in the county voted in favor of the bonds. The support for the public schools spanned all socio-economic boundaries.

And when the NCGA decided to remove the cap on charter school creation that takes siphon money and resources traditional schools did they not think to put it to a public vote?

When the NCGA decided to create an ASD district, did they not take into account that the citizens might want to have a say in how their money should be spent?

Again, these are not rhetorical questions. They deserve answers.

Considering that the same people who passed HB2 and the Voter ID bill through fairly surreptitious and opaque methods championed these very educational “initiatives,” it is not surprising to see that none of these was put to a public vote.

HB2 is being reviewed in the higher courts because it is being challenged, as it should be. The Voter ID law was overturned by the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals. The fact that the constitutionality of measures like these were already in question shows the shortsightedness of those who pushed these laws through. Now, tax payer money has had to finance the feeble defense for these laws.

And when you ask for the input of the citizens and ultimately receive it, heed it. THAT’S DEMOCRACY.

If rumor serves true, the governor and members of the General Assembly are considering a rather rare and highly partisan action of appointing two additional state Supreme Court justices to help flip the partisan affiliation of the state’s highest judicial body back to the GOP. This would be after the citizens of North Carolina elected Michael Morgan, a registered democrat over incumbent Robert Edmunds, a registered republican.

When representatives were elected, they took an oath to represent people and respect their opinions. They were not elected to alter policy to fit a political script that benefits a few.

When representatives were elected, they took an oath to communicate with your constituents, especially those who needed the most help from government. They were not elected to skirt questions and not ask for feedback.

And when representatives were elected, they were to not just hear the concerns of the people you serve, they are to listen to them and take them into account.

 

Why Pat McCrory Has Already “Lost” This Election

If the current numbers pan out, Pat McCrory will be a one-term governor. But more glaringly apparent is that his defeat came in a year of another GOP wave of victory in the nation.

If the numbers are correct, over 60,000 people in North Carolina who voted for Donald Trump as POTUS DID NOT CAST A VOTE for Pat McCrory.

Currently, Roy Cooper is approximately five thousand votes ahead before canvasing and provisionary vote counts establish a clear winner. Even if by a stroke of demonic luck the results are overturned, Pat McCrory has already been dealt a stunning blow to his credibility.

To not be reelected as a republican governor in a state that sided with Trump and Burr with relative ease is stunning, but McCrory’s reelection bid was actually doomed way before the fiasco of HB2 ever started.

McCrory actually began to get unelected from day one of his administration as he became a rubber stamp for the GOP majority. The former moderate republican mayor of Charlotte who was elected to four terms by the Queen City morphed overnight into a cheerleader for ultra-conservative movements and eventually a scapegoat for policies established by leaders from rural counties.

Simply put, Pat McCrory alienated people. He was a metaphorical parent who did not love each child best.

That, and he lacked the ability to communicate effectively. In fact, he lacked the ability to unite while taking a back seat and allowing others to further drive our populace apart.

Look at the miniscule number of vetoes that he issued in his term. Even as a means of stalling legislation to give an opportunity for clarity and debate, McCrory rushed to agreement on policies that he as a mayor of Charlotte would have never championed. That alone shows a lack of strength, a lack of standing up for people, a lack of standing up to others.

Look at his compliance with the Voter ID law. The entire country was witness to its reversal as it was described as one of the most alienating pieces of legislature by the court system. That alienated poor rural voters, especially African-Americans.

Look at his bragging about a “Carolina Comeback” when almost a quarter of our public school students still live in poverty. That alienates those who really needed a comeback.

Look at his appointment of Margaret Spellings as president of the UNC system. That alienated younger students who will be leaders of tomorrow’s citizenry.

Look at his treatment of teachers and traditional public schools. Using electioneering tactics to tout his “pro-education” agenda, McCrory in truth alienated public school teachers and staff, parents of students in underfunded schools, and advocates for the public school system because he was not helping to curb the privatization movement.

Look at his giving cookies to protesters as a passive aggressive means of not acknowledging grievances against state actions. That alienated those who were peacefully looking for ways to create discourse and debate.

And now look at his inability to talk to his own hometown about toll roads and holding special sessions to overturn local ordinances.

And in a last stroke of self-defeating genius, McCrory alienated those who simply asked for an explanation.

Look at all of the times he skirted questions from the media about HB2. Look at all of the times that he had a “town-hall” meeting only to field softball questions pre-prepared to be non-confrontational. House Bill 2 is egregious. It is discriminatory. It is indefensible. It is unenforceable. And he did not confront his own lack of an explanation.

Look at all of the times that he went to Charlotte to explain why he defends HB2. Actually, there were no times.

In truth, McCrory showed no spine. No backbone. No foundation. And without a spine, one becomes floppy and easily managed.

Below is a map of the y counties voted in the 2016 gubernatorial race.

gov-2016-map

Now look at a map where all of the UNC campuses reside.

gov-2016-map-2

The only university campus that is not in a blue county is UNC-Pembroke, which was surrounded by three blue counties.

For a governor who has claimed to make it easier for students to go to college, this information is an indictment of sorts. The very people McCrory has claimed to help, he really didn’t. And on top of that, he never really communicated with them. He didn’t acknowledge them.

If anything is to be learned by Pat McCrory from Nov. 8th’s results it is that actions speak, but lack of action speaks loudly.

And silence screams.

That’s why McCrory is losing this election.