The Office of The NC State Superintendent – Where Doughnuts Are More Important Than Public Schools

If Mark Johnson is willing to run for doughnuts, is he willing to walk with teachers on May 16 in a day for advocacy in support of public schools?

Unfortunately, most teachers in this state already know the answer to that question.

ncae rally

Of all the issues that have surrounded NC and the General Assembly’s assault on the public schools of this state, one would be hard-pressed to find where our state superintendent has made a stand on behalf of the public schools. Consider:

  • per pupil expenditures
  • vouchers
  • unregulated charter schools
  • principal pay plan
  • merit pay
  • removal of due-process rights and graduate school pay
  • revolving door of standardized tests
  • need for more support staff
  • class size chaos

That is just a sampling. Oh, and Johnson and the state school board are still in a court battle concerning a power struggle over public schools. He’s using taxpayer money to fund his legal costs.

Yet with all of the lack of action on behalf of Johnson on really pressing issues, he has spent quite an amount of energy on … doughnuts.

This is the last missive teachers have received from the state superintendent in our inboxes this past week. It has been the subject of the last few communications between Johnson and public school teachers.

Educators:
I wanted to send you a wrap-up message about the 2018 Teachers Working Conditions Survey. Thank you to the nearly 110,000 school-based educators across the state who completed the survey. That gives us a final completion rate of 90.54 percent – the highest ever for North Carolina!
The results of the survey should be available about five weeks from now. We’ll send you a link when it’s up.
……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………
Now, the last piece of business we have is my wager with you that if we reached 95 percent completion, I would complete the Krispy Kreme Challenge – 2.5 miles, 12 doughnuts, 2.5 miles. We didn’t quite make it, although we did come within 0.41 percent of beating Kentucky’s mark for best-ever completion rate. But I am very proud that 109,449 of you took the time to take the survey. That is an amazing number and a true testament to your dedication to your profession.
So I’ll call it a split decision: I’ll run the race. As to how many doughnuts I’ll eat in the middle of the race, we’ll see…
Thanks again, and as always, know that we appreciate everything you do for North Carolina’s students.

That questionnaire really does nothing to address the very issues that plague North Carolina’s public schools because of the treatment by those in the NCGA. You can reference that questionnaire and an explanation of what it does not do here: https://caffeinatedrage.com/2018/04/03/somethings-wrong-with-the-north-carolina-dpis-teacher-working-conditions-survey/.

It is rather ironic that Johnson wants to have beaten a state in its “response to a questionnaire” that actually saw its teachers rally in great numbers on its state capital.

But what is most ironic is that the man who is supposed to be the educational leader wants to talk about what he will eat in a race next year rather than advocate for the students and schools he is supposed to support.

 

Why the Hell Is Mark Johnson Hiring More Public Relations Personnel?

Over fifteen months into office, State Superintendent Mark Johnson is hiring more people loyal to him while in the midst of a lawsuit over the constitutionality of a power grab that happened the month before he took an oath to advocate for public schools.

North Carolina Superintendent of Public Instruction Mark Johnson has created two new positions in his office to provide extra help with public relations and public records requests.

They mark the fourth and fifth positions Johnson has created from a $700,000 fund of taxpayer money lawmakers granted him last year. The money allows Johnson to add up to 10 full-time positions and hire staff without approval of the State Board of Education, a key provision lawmakers gave him as he battles the state board in court over control of the public school system (http://www.wral.com/nc-superintendent-creates-two-new-jobs-to-help-with-public-relations-public-records/17482124/).

To be specific those two jobs are:

  • Community relations specialist, paying $50,000, to manage public records requests and help with media inquiries and other communications.
  • Deputy community outreach coordinator, a part-time position paying $36,173, to help “develop key messages” the superintendent wants to get out to the public, as well as community outreach and media relations duties.

Help with media inquiries, community outreach, media relations, and other communications?

That makes absolutely no sense when one looks at the current organization of the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction. Below is the chart published last September (http://www.ncpublicschools.org/docs/organization/orgchart/orgchart.pdf).

chart1

That’s a fairly big chart for an organization that already reports to the state superintendent.

Look closely and you see that there is already a whole division that does the job of what Johnson is hiring for.

It’s called the COMMUNICATIONS Department.

chart2

What makes this more interesting is that Johnson has already hired people to help with this “communications” thing (from the WRAL report cited earlier).

chart3

Graham Wilson has been operating as a sort of spokesperson for Johnson for a few months already.

Why would Johnson keep hiring people to do the job of others who are already in the position to do the prescribed task?

That’s not rhetorical. It seems odd that someone can make the salary that a new teacher might obtain after two decades on the job just so that Johnson does not have to speak for himself.

It also seems unfair that someone could have a part-time job to “speak” for Johnson and that person make more than a new teacher with a doctoral degree teaching in a low-income school.

Over a year in the job and a “listening” tour under his belt and an unfulfilled promise to bring to the table a host of new innovations because we are in a “state of urgency” and the state superintendent needs to find more people to communicate what he may be trying to say?

Can I as a teacher have someone to “help ‘develop key messages'” that I might want to get across to students and parents, as well as “community outreach” with the surrounding community?

Don’t think so.

Mark Johnson ran on a platform of having been an educator. Educators have to be good at communicating and developing key messages themselves. And those messages are direct.

But the timing of this seems odd. And the purpose of it seems more self-serving as the fund from which Johnson will pay said people comes from the NC General Assembly that controls and enables him.

Would be nice if Johnson stated the reason for such hiring. It would remove all the doubt of whether this is just another part of a plan to get ready to run for another office in 2020.

 

 

 

 

Something’s Wrong With the North Carolina DPI’s Teacher Working Conditions Survey

Teachers in North Carolina have an extended deadline to complete the NC Teacher Working Conditions Survey for the Department of Public Instruction. Currently we are at 90% of teachers completing it. State Superintendent Mark Johnson wants at least 95%.

It would be a badge of honor for him.

The survey happens once every two years, yet this is the first one with Mark Johnson as the state superintendent. It has become such a crusade for him to get every teacher to participate in this survey that he has issued a “sweet” incentive: if we as a state get %95 of teachers to complete the survey and are the top state as far as participation percentages are concerned, Mark Johnson said he would compete in the Krispy Kreme Challenge in Raleigh next year.

Mark Johnson will run that race and eat doughnuts for us. He will literally throw up, yak, hurl, puke, upchuck, heave, vomit, and blow chunks for us.

But I have one big (among smaller ones) complaint about the survey: it should ask teachers views not only of their school, but MORE of their perceptions of the county / LEA leadership and state leadership.

You can see the questions that were administered on the 2016 version here: NC_TWC_2016_State_Detailed_Results_North_Carolina_Department_of_Public_Instruction. Those questions have not really changed.

The results from that 2016 version did nothing more than demonstrate the disconnect between those who work in schools and those who want to re-form schools; they displayed that what really drives the success of a school are the people – from the students to the teachers to the administration to the support staff and the community at large.

It is hard to take a survey seriously from DPI when the questions never get beyond a teacher’s actual school. There is never any way to convey in this survey from the state what teachers think about the state’s role in education or how standardized testing is affecting working conditions.

It should ask teachers views not only of their school, but MORE of their perceptions of the county / LEA leadership and state leadership.

Below are the main questions (there are subsets) asked on the survey that actual teachers answer.

  • Please rate how strongly you agree or disagree with the following statements about the use of time in your school.
  • Please rate how strongly you agree or disagree with the following statements about your school facilities and resources.
  • Please rate how strongly you agree or disagree with the following statements about community support and involvement in your school.
  • Please rate how strongly you agree or disagree with the following statements about managing student conduct in your school.
  • Please rate how strongly you agree or disagree with the following statements about teacher leadership in your school.
  • Please indicate the role teachers have in each of the following areas in your school.
  • Please rate how strongly you agree or disagree with statements about leadership in your school.
  • Please rate how strongly you agree or disagree with statements about professional development in your school.
  • Please rate how strongly you agree or disagree with the following statements about instructional practices and support in your school.

There is nothing about how teachers feel about the state’s role in how public schools operate. If Johnson was really keen on “listening” to teachers concerning their views about working in NC public schools, then the questions should also go beyond the “School” and explore the “state.”

Imagine if we as teachers got to answer questions such as:

  • Please rate how strongly you agree or disagree with the following statements about ho the state helps schools with facilities and resources.
  • Please rate how strongly you agree or disagree with the following statements about the state’s support and involvement in your school.
  • Please rate how strongly you agree or disagree with the following statements about state leadership at the Department of Public Instruction.
  • Please rate how strongly you agree or disagree with statements about state leadership.
  • Please rate how strongly you agree or disagree with statements about professional development sponsored by the state.
  • Please rate how strongly you agree or disagree with the following statements about  support for schools from the state.

When NC public schools receive a majority of their funds, mandates, stipulations, guidelines, and marching orders from the state, then should not the NC Teacher Working Condition Survey include teacher perceptions on the role of the state and its influence?

Yes.

But the results of those questions on the survey would tell a much more pointed story, one that Mark Johnson may not really want to know or have published. It may make him actually throw up those doughnuts before he even eats them.

We need more pointed questions.

Mark Johnson prided himself on conducting a “Listening Tour” when he assumed office. A more “genuine” Teacher Working Conditions Survey would give him a lot to consider.

But until the survey is changed, his lack of leadership and the privatizing elements on West Jones Street will have a survey that instantly absolves them of blame. No wonder Johnson so wants us to fill out the survey.

Johnson1

And there’s that hashtag, #BeatKY. Kentucky holds the record for response rate.

Interesting about Kentucky and their teachers. Just this week they “answered” some questions about their own working conditions.

In person.

At the state capital.

kentucky teachers

How many doughnuts is that participation worth?

Dear State Supt. Johnson, $200 Per Teacher? How About Fight For More Per Student? Much More.

News last week that DPI is allocating almost $5 million to early grade literacy seems most welcome.

As reported by Liz Bell of EdNC.org:

The Department of Public Instruction is distributing a total of $4.8 million from funds allocated by the state in 2016 as part of its Read to Achieve initiative for “literacy support” in early grades. Johnson, in his time as superintendent, has emphasized the importance of reading proficiency and early literacy education (https://www.ednc.org/2018/03/09/superintendent-johnson-continues-push-early-literacy-announces-200-k-3-reading-teacher/).

Yes, this is good news. But it seems rather little when looking at the bigger picture. And it seems a little empty in the bigger conversation.

That money was part of funds originally provided in 2016, yet its allocation in 2018 is something that Johnson seems to want to get credit for.

In an op-ed on EdNC.org entitled “Doing more to help young students read across North Carolina,” Johnson totally accepts that credit.

He wrote:

In 2012, the General Assembly passed the Read to Achieve initiative, which provides funds – an additional $66 million in 2017-2018 alone – focused on early childhood literacy. Through this investment, schools obtained new reading tools and resources, and school districts now provide free summer camps for students who need extra literacy support. Unbelievably, though, not all the Read to Achieve funds meant to support our students and classrooms made it out of Raleigh.  

That is where my team in the office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction came in. 

Dr. June Atkinson shed some light on this last December. It might be worth reading this report from NC Policy Watch – “Mark Johnson accused of misleading the public regarding literacy program spending.”

Johnson never responded to that report.

So now, a program (Read to Achieve) that was originally started by Dr. June Atkinson’s administration but hamstrung by the GOP dominated NC General Assembly now gets “saved” by the very person who allowed for DPI’s budget to be cut by 20% without a fight because he is the NC General Assembly’s puppet?

On the surface – yes. And this is where the overall picture needs to be investigated.

Almost $5 million dollars seems like a lot, but in the scope of things it is a little dent. Take a look at this:

funding

That %7.9 percent change in funding per student will not be dented by $4.8 million dollars. Johnson needs to fight for so much more.

So much more.

Do not get me wrong. This money that is going to each K-3 reading teacher will be used well if teachers are allowed to use it to their discretion.

But this “grant” is not for every teacher. Literacy is taught by all teachers across the entire curriculum. In reality, this is adding maybe at most $4-5 dollars extra to per pupil expenditure for K-3 students.

Johnson needs to fight for so much more.

So much more.

And he needs to do it without making it a public relations activity.

Oh. by the way of the ten states listed above, one just had a massive teachers’ strike. Two others are building their own movements to affect change.

 

 

 

 

 

 

I Agree With the State Superintendent on This, But…

In the wake of the Douglas High School shootings last week, those in the position to affect changes in our public schools and how those schools can be more prepared to combat potential problems need to show leadership and take a stand – for public schools.

It is heartening to see State Supt. Mark Johnson issue a statement about arming teachers with firearms that says stands in agreement with almost every teacher I have heard from.

johnson guns

Yes, it is imperative to find ways to keep students and teachers safe.

But I hope some of the conversations that the state superintendent has as he works with the General Assembly include arguing for stricter gun laws so that military-style guns do not get in the hands of someone so easily.

I hope it involves asking for more resources to help our ratios of nurses, guidance counselors, and school psychiatrists currently in public schools.

I hope it involves giving teachers more time and money for professional development that teachers and students help create and lead and have time to actually utilize.

I hope it involves making sure that teachers have the time and flexibility to work more with students individually by funding more teacher positions and teacher assistants without the General Assembly making i a political game.

I hope that it includes state lawmakers actually having to visit public schools to get a better sense of what happens in the very places they claim they know so much about.

I hope Mark Johnson does follow through with what he says.

And I hope he is not afraid to actually listen to the very teachers AND STUDENTS he supposedly is going to help relieve the “burdens” of.

 

North Carolina Should Not Allow the ACT to Have This Much Power Over Our Schools

A little over two years ago, an extended editorial appeared in newspapers across North Carolina concerning public education. I happened to read it in the Winston-Salem Journal.

It was written by Walter McDowell, a board member of BEST NC. McDowell, a former executive with Wachovia, talked of the dire need to transform education in North Carolina. You can read that op-ed here:  http://www.journalnow.com/opinion/columnists/walter-mcdowell-n-c-budget-a-missed-opportunity-to-transform/article_38dd2903-b54c-57aa-a47f-fa82aea992b7.html.

In short, McDowell told the state it had a huge problem and that his consortium, BEST NC, was mapping a way for our transformation. He called it “Excellence: North Carolina’s Education Vision.”

“Recently, Excellence: North Carolina’s Education Vision was launched. It was developed with input and collaboration from education, business and policy leaders from across the state. Excellence outlines a shared vision to make North Carolina’s education system the best in the nation by 2030.

Inspired by this vision and the important work of our educators, the 115 business leaders who compose BEST NC will continue to work with the education community, the governor and the General Assembly on high-yield investments and systemic strategies that will dramatically improve students’ educational experiences in our state. It is our hope that our elected leaders see from this report that elevating educators must be at the top of the list in those discussions.”

It is always nice to think that we educators are being “lifted” in the eyes of the public, but McDowell used as one of the measures to qualify our state’s dire circumstances the state’s average ACT scores.

He said,

“Then, shortly before the budget passed, North Carolina received news that we are still last in the nation in college and career readiness as measured by the ACT exam. There could be no greater urgency in North Carolina than solving this education crisis.”

I responded to McDowell’s argument with a rebuttal. It was published in the 10/17/15 edition of the Winston-Salem Journal. Specifically, I responded to the use of the ACT as the barometer of the entire health of the NC education system. I argued,

“North Carolina is one of only 13 states (in 2015) that requires all students (EC, LEP, etc.) to take that exam, which has no impact on their transcripts, provides no feedback in its scores on how to improve student achievement and is administered on a school day on which other activities and classes take place. Most states only have paying students take the ACT on a Saturday; those students have an investment in the results, hence higher scores” (http://www.journalnow.com/opinion/columnists/stuart-egan-judging-schools-by-an-unfair-standard/article_0aa55234-8b82-5713-8114-65bc43e80eb1.html).

But now in this school coming year, the ACT is about to become the most “important test” that will be given in all of North Carolina high schools. That is thanks to CCRGAP, or the Career and College Ready Graduate Alignment Partnership.

It cannot be helped that taking out a “C” and the “G” from the acronym gives us “CRAP” was not noticed.

According to Section 10.13 of S.L. 2015-241 (and a presentation found created by the NC Community Colleges),

ACT1

What this is saying is that if any high school junior does not make a certain score on the ACT (or its particular subject areas), then they must go through remediation during their senior year using a curriculum chosen/designed by a local community college but delivered by the high school teachers within already prescribed core courses.

In short, teachers would have to take time in their already crowded and time-constrained classes to deliver more curriculum.  No extra time will be given. Curriculum standards for the actual classes still have to be met. Why? Because there will be a test for them.

Debate over what scores will be the threshold for whether a student must be remediated maybe just starting. What was reported to this teacher in a professional development workshop was the following:

GPA of 2.75 -or- 18 on English and 22 on Reading (tentative)

If you don’t know how an ACT score is broken down, then:

ACT

You can access that chart here: https://www.princetonreview.com/college-advice/act-score-chart.

What CCGRAP (as told to my school system’s English teachers) is saying is that all students must get at least 40 or 41 of 75 questions on the English section correct and 26 of 40 questions correct on the language portion to avoid remediation.

I have not even mentioned what happens with math.

That’s a high bar for all students. I repeat, a high bar. If you do not think so, then take the test yourself in a controlled situation. For students in North Carolina public schools, that administration will happen on a school day when they have other classes. Of course, many will succeed, but we are talking ALL students.

However, according to some sources, students can escape remediation if they have a high enough GPA. But some administrators have reported being told that it is not an “OR” but an “AND” when it pertains to ACT scores and GPA requirements.

The ACT just got a lot of power over our students.

Interestingly enough, State Superintendent Mark Johnson delivered an interview with EdNC.org and WRAL. In it he talked about “teaching high school students that college is not the only path to success” (https://www.ednc.org/2017/09/27/fighting-status-quo-inside-combative-world-ncs-new-public-schools-chief/).

But we’re about to let the ACT, a college-ready testing tool, determine the lot of all students during their junior year.

Yes, the ACT is considered a test of knowledge and how much a student has learned. But many studies do show that the ACT is as flawed in being concretely certain in a student’s ability to do well in college as the SAT. In fact, many studies show that grades and GPA are a better indicator than standardized tests. Here is some fodder on that: http://www.pbs.org/newshour/rundown/nail-biting-standardized-testing-may-miss-mark-college-students/.

Also, ACT scores seem to have a greater correlation to students’ household income levels. Consider the following:

ACT3

That’s from a Huffington Post report. Yes, it’s a left-leaning publication, but it is using only data points here that are really hard to refute (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/07/18/act-score-family-income_n_5600065.html).

We have in NC another rather good indicator of the effect of poverty in public schools. It’s called the School Performance Grade. The correlation between schools that scored “D” or “F” and high poverty levels is astounding.

The state of North Carolina pays for the administration of the ACT to all high school juniors during valuable class time on a regular school day. That’s a lot of money going to ACT. Furthermore, classroom teachers are having to administer the ACT as well as play “catch-up” with students because of the missed class time.

Let’s go further than that. If a student does not get a high enough score, that student will then have to be remediated with a curriculum designed by someone else by that a teacher who possibly gave the ACT and lost class time because of it who still has to teach the already prescribed curriculum to a large number of students in the same class period and classroom.

Oh, and DPI had their budget slashed by the General Assembly.

Oh, and we have lower per-pupil expenditures now than we did in the past when adjusted for inflation.

  • So, what does our State Superintendent Mark Johnson say about this in regards to his platform of less standardized testing?
  • Is this what Walter McDowell and BEST NC had in mind?
  • Is this really what we want for our students and schools?

Those are not rhetorical questions.

Keeping It Partisan – Our State Superintendent

And some of those tasked with making schools better are more focused on preserving tired partisan wedges rather than looking for innovative ways to provide more and better opportunities in rural communities.” – Mark Johnson, February 7th in an op-ed he wrote entitled “What I meant about $35K teacher pay” in the News & Observer (http://www.newsobserver.com/opinion/op-ed/article198795214.html).

And from the “Official Twitter of NC Superintendent Mark Johnson” on February 16th:

johnson2johnson1

If you are unaware, Jason Saine is probably one of the more “partisan” lawmakers we have in NC. He is a champion of charter schools.

AND HE IS NOW THE NATIONAL CHAIRMAN OF THE AMERICAN LEGISLATIVE EXCHANGE COUNCIL (ALEC).

So much for not being partisan.

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
  17. Hope Street Group

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.

“Snowbirding” on the Court of the Class Size Fix

When a player on a basketball court refuses to go and play defense and only wants easy passes for wide open shots to pad their stat sheet, that player is “snowbirding.”

Rather than doing the heavy lifting, playing hard to make a stop and secure the rebound, this player raises his hands, yells for the long pass, and celebrates making an uncontested shot (if he can actually shoot the ball) while never doing any of the very work that made the shot possible.

Metaphorically speaking, when it comes to the supposed victory in the “fix” to the unfunded class size mandate, State Superintendent Mark Johnson had the audacity to take credit for “work” done to help put off the class size mandate for a while longer with a bill laced with other harmful legislation concerning the environment and election boards for the coming elections.

snowbird1

He used that possessive plural personal pronoun called “our.” He tweeted,

Happy to report that our work to be a voice for parents, students and educators has paid off. Students will benefit from smaller class sizes, pre-K programs, and our school districts will benefit from dedicated enhancement teacher funding and a longer implementation.

Forgive me if I am mistaken in any way, but when was Mark Johnson a voice for parents, students, and educators for this class size fix? While many parents, teachers, and advocates were doing all of the hard work in rallying, speaking, galvanizing, canvasing, and talking to politicians, Mark Johnson was a no-show, a no-voice, but a smile on a television camera that he chose not to share with anyone who would challenge his actions (that’s a reference to declining an invitation to debate Mark Jewell of NCAE in television about comments he himself made).

He was “snowbirding,” waiting for the issue to be resolved, screaming for the microphone, and gladly taking credit for something that he had no part in.

That video referenced in the tweet is worth the watch if just to see someone whose very job is to advocate for public schools but rather takes credit for something that so many others worked for despite his inactivity.

If anyone needed any more evidence that our state superintendent is nothing more than a puppet for the NC General Assembly powers who put together the poison-laced class-size fix called HB90, then nothing will convince you.

Players who “snowbird” are not really team players.

In fact, they almost work for the other side.

HB90 Shows That NC’s Public School Children Are Political Pawns

News today that a “fix” for the class size mandate was “agreed” upon by both chambers of the North Carolina General Assembly should seem like a welcome outcome.

On the surface, it is a victory for parents, advocates, and schools in that the mandate will be pushed back for a while and some extra funding for “specials” teachers is being given.

But during that press-conference in which Sen. Chad Barefoot announced with carefully prepared and partisan comments the “fix,” he negated to tell North Carolinians what else was attached to the bill that NC democrats were never privy to (http://www.newsobserver.com/news/politics-government/state-politics/article199207129.html).

That link not only gives you a video of Barefoot’s press conference; it also links to Lynn Bonner’s report that further explores HB90’s reach.

Long-sought help for schools struggling to lower class sizes is now tied up with a controversial Atlantic Coast Pipeline fund and a power struggle over control of elections boards.

A bill proposed Thursday would take $58 million that energy companies building a pipeline through Eastern North Carolina are expected to give state government as part of a deal Gov. Roy Cooper negotiated, and distribute it to school districts in eight counties the pipeline would run through. Cooper calls it a mitigation fund to offset environmental effects of the pipeline, but Republicans repeatedly called it a “slush fund.”

House Bill 90 also makes changes to the state elections board. The changes are the response to Republicans’ recent loss in the state Supreme Court in a ruling that said their earlier attempt to reconstitute the board was unconstitutional. In the latest iteration, the elections board would have nine members, including one member not affiliated with a political party.

But to Barefoot and other GOP members of the NCGA, the day was really about bragging about a class-size fix.

Throughout most of the last calendar year people like Barefoot, Berger, and Moore have been yelling that the class size mandate has been funded in the past, yet there was absolutely no proof of that. One only has to read the work of Kris Nordstrom and see that those claims were not only baseless, but now are revealed to be the very smokescreen for today’s announcement.

What happened today was that the GOP education reformers took credit for a solution to a problem that they purposefully used to position themselves to pass partisan legislature to help them remain in power despite the gerrymandering and doublespeak.

And yes, it is politics. But public school kids were the pawns. They made it look like they were listening to the public, but it seems more than orchestrated.

Think of Craig Horn’s statements earlier in the year that a “fix” was coming only to be rebuffed by Berger. That is until more came out about the ruling of the state supreme court on the state elections board. They needed that time to figure out how to allow a fix that they have been holding in their back pocket to a problem they originally created could be used to offset their political loss.

And again, the kids were the pawns.

They have been all along.

Gov. Cooper’s office did respond with a press release and it is correct.

cooper

But the statements that came to mind were from Mark Johnson’s “less than stellar” op-ed from yesterday’s News & Observer (http://amp.newsobserver.com/opinion/op-ed/article198795214.html?__twitter_impression=true).

And some of those tasked with making schools better are more focused on preserving tired partisan wedges….

Nothing was more partisan than what the people who empower and enable Johnson  (who never has really said anything about the class size mandate) did today.

And today also shows us why we need to vote so many people out of office come November.