“Nearly 1 in 5 NC students are opting out of traditional public schools” – And It’s a Deliberate Plan

This past week, the Raleigh News & Observer printed a report entitled “Nearly 1 in 5 NC students are opting out of traditional public schools. Does it matter?” in which T. Keung Hui gave an overview of the continuing trend of more and more students leaving traditional public schools and attending private, charter, and home schools.

For the third year in a row, enrollment has fallen in North Carolina’s traditional public schools even as the number of students continues to rise in charter schools, private schools and homeschools. The percentage of the state’s 1.8 million students attending traditional public schools has dropped to 80.8 percent and is continuing to fall rapidly (http://amp.newsobserver.com/news/local/article214708040.html?__twitter_impression=true).

It is a report that should be read but it should be read in conjunction with an editorial that the N&O Board released a day afterward on Hui’s piece. It is entitled “Shrinking public schools reflects the state’s neglect.” It is spot-on.

That editorial states,

What’s happening in North Carolina is that a concerted effort by the Republican-controlled General Assembly is starving public schools of resources and encouraging the expansion of educational options that lack standards and oversight” (http://amp.newsobserver.com/opinion/article214851905.html?__twitter_impression=true).

That concerted effort is actually a three-headed attack aimed to shed an ill-favored light on public schools to help bolster more students attending non-traditional schools.

  1. Too many privatization entities outside of North Carolina are allowed to shape our education system.

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 at play in North Carolina, totally enabled by the powers-that-be in the NC General Assembly and their supportive organizations. If you want to see how all of those relationships have panned out in NC and are affecting traditional public schools, then refer to this post: Too Much Damn Privatization of Public Schools.

2. The North Carolina General Assembly is Ignoring the Factors That Hurt Public School Student Achievement.

Last fall, the venerable James Ford of the Public School Forum delivered the keynote address at the North Carolina English Teacher’s Association. It was more than exceptional as Ford highlighted that what hurts our schools are external factors that are not being dealt with such as systemic poverty.

Part of his presentation included a version of what is called the “Iceberg Effect” for education. It looks like this:

iceberg

Ford talked about (and he is not alone in this belief) how what is above the water, namely student outcomes, is what drives educational policies in our state.

Notice that he means what is visible above the water line is what drives policy. That is what the public sees in the press. That is what lawmakers and leaders hark on when discussing what to do about public education.

But look under the water level and one sees poverty, violence, inequity & inequality, and lack of support of young families and for the schools that service the children of at least 80% of those families.

And then it is hard to not think of the state refusing to expand Medicaid for our most needy. It is not hard to think about the Voter ID restriction law amendment and HB2.

Those have effects. HUGE EFFECTS!

3. The North Carolina General Assembly Has Directly Attacked the State’s Public School System.

The list of actions gets longer everyday.

  • Removal of due-process rights
  • Graduate Degree Pay Bumps Removed
  • A Puppet of a State Superintnent
  • SB599
  • Ever-Changing Teacher Evaluation Protocols
  • “Average” Raises that do not translate to verteran teachers
  • Less Money Spent per Pupil when Adjusted for Inflation
  • Removal Caps on Class Sizes
  • Unregulated Charter Schools
  • Jeb Bush School Grading System
  • Cutting 7400 Teacher Assistants in last ten years
  • Opportunity Grants That will reach almost a Billion Dollars with no Proof of Success
  • Virtual Charter Schools That Have Failed
  • Reduction of Teacher Candidates in Colleges
  • Elimination of Teaching Fellows Program and reinvention in a different entity.
  • Municipal Charter Bill

When all of the factors from these three fronts are synchronistically orchestrated by a super-majority that is aiming to continue the trend of more students leaving traditional public schools, then it becomes apparent that to preserve traditional public schools is paramount.

And that N&O editorial stated it best:

If North Carolina is going to foster school choice, it should first ensure that choosing a traditional public school anywhere in the state is an excellent choice” (http://amp.newsobserver.com/opinion/article214851905.html?__twitter_impression=true).

The NCGA is not doing that –  deliberately.

NC State Board of Education Vs. Mark Johnson and the Fight to Keep Public Schools “Public”

The North Carolina State Supreme Court has agreed to hear the lawsuit that the State Board of Education has against State Superintendent Mark Johnson.

dpi

Rather it is a lawsuit that the state board has against the certain GOP stalwarts within the NC General Assembly who view Johnson as the perfect puppet to help push through their efforts to expand charter schools and vouchers to private schools.

The State Supreme Court’s decision to hear the case means that it is considered so important that the appeals courts are being bypassed. Simply put, it might be the most important battle in the five-year fight against privatization of the public school system here in North Carolina.

It is a fight to keep the “public” in public education.

Make no mistake, Mark Johnson is a puppet – a man whose entire experience in teaching and teacher preparation is less than two calendar years and whose only foray into public education policy is an unfinished term on a local school board.

When Johnson says in the last state school board meeting, “I think what the General Assembly is looking for is accountability, accountability for the money that is sent to this department,” what he is saying is, “I work for people on West Jones Street and not the people of the state. (http://pulse.ncpolicywatch.org/2017/12/07/state-board-education-superintendent-mark-johnson-clash-dpi-funding/#sthash.hajrdpLu.hb54ZsZP.dpbs).

So limited is Johnson’s experience in education and politics and so narrow is his vision for what should be done to actually help public schools that his naivety to be used by the General Assembly to carry out their ALEC-inspired agenda has become something of an open secret.

Johnson has stated many times that the state board is standing in the way of what he was elected to do by the state’s voters. But what the lawsuit fights against is the power he was granted by the General Assembly after the election within a special session supposedly to address HB2. The general public did not vote for that.

As Kelly Hinchcliffe reported last Friday on WRAL.com, that newly seized power included, “ more flexibility in managing the state’s $10 billion education budget, more authority to dismiss senior level employees and control of the Office of Charter Schools (http://www.wral.com/nc-supreme-court-agrees-to-hear-state-board-s-lawsuit-against-superintendent/17171092/).

Add to that extra money for Johnson to hire people only loyal to him (and the General Assembly) even though it duplicates much of what others in DPI already do who have many times the experience. Add to that extra money to fight the lawsuit against the state board who is left to spend its budget to defend its constitutional right to help govern the public school system. Add to that the fact that DPI’s budget has been slashed by nearly %20 over the next two years without a fight from the person who is supposed to lead DPI.

This “lawsuit” has taken up almost an entire year – and the entirety of Johnson’s tenure as state superintendent, a tenure that has seen absolutely nothing.

An editorial from today’s News & Observer Editorial Board perfectly summed up the current job performance of one Mark Johnson. It stated,

“…Johnson, a hard-right Republican with limited experience in education (he served on a county school board) who’s now building a staff of his very own without much control of the State Board, thanks to hundreds of thousands of dollars in public money for his own use from his friends on Jones Street. And Johnson’s been none too eager to lay out his views on the state of public education very often. For someone who’s supposed to be the face of public education, he’s been a behind-the-scenes leader, taking his instructions apparently from legislative leaders (http://amp.newsobserver.com/opinion/editorials/article189061714.html).

Therefore, this court case about to be heard and decided upon by the State Supreme Court is not just the most important legal decision for the public school system in the last twenty years.

It’s the most important for the next “God knows how many” decades to come.

Mark Johnson and the Word “No” – Following the Money

“I have decided to stop taking offense at the suggestion that we are buying influence. Now I simply concede the point. They are right. We do expect something in return. We expect to foster a conservative governing philosophy consisting of limited government and respect for traditional American virtues. We expect a return on our investment.” – Betsy DeVos, 1997.

“These are things I have learned from my own experience. If I disagree with the policy, I’m not afraid to say ‘no’ to anyone who gave me money.” –Mark Johnson, 2017.

“Bulls*%$t” – Me, 2017 after I read the previous statement by Mark Johnson.

A recent article in the Raleigh News & Record has shed some more light on the power that money plays in buying influence within the now lucrative business that privatizing public education has become.

In “Here’s how much charter school backers have spent on NC campaigns,” Lynn Bonner, Jane Stancill, and David Raynor wonderfully “follow the money” that has been pouring into the coffers of lawmakers and officials who make decisions on charter school funding.

DeVos’s quote above has become rather famous since her contentious confirmation as secretary of education. And it is rather blunt and honest. But apparently Mark Johnson is in a little denial as he takes a “little offense” at the thought that his influence is being bought.

Why? Because if he was not afraid to say “no” to anyone, then we as a state would have heard many more “no’s” coming from him.

  • When DPI’s budget was cut by the very General Assembly that is extending him unchecked power over the public school system, did Mark Johnson say, “No?”

    No, he did not.

  • When he said that “local leaders know what we need” for their local schools, did Mark Johnson tell the people pushing for charter takeover with an ISD, “No?”

    No, he did not.

  • When a lobbying group like BEST NC and lawmakers covertly produced a new principal pay program that is obviously flawed and punishes veteran school administrators, did Mark Johnson say “No!” to them?

    No, he did not.

  • When promoting saying that he would curb the use of testing in the state, did Mark Johnson change the amount of testing in the state’s ESSA report or the rampant rise of the ACT in measuring student achievement by saying “No!” to lawmakers?

    No, he did not.

  • When the state released its school performance grades, did Mark Johnson challenge the use of the grades because they do nothing but report how poverty has stricken schools by saying “No!” to their use?

    No, he did not.

  • When the DACA was undercut by Trump and Sessions, di Mark Johnson defend NC’s “Dreamers” and say, “No!” to its potential effects?

    No, he did not.

  • Has there ever been a time where Mark Johnson has openly said “No!” to any of the very lawmakers whom he says he might have a disagreement with?

    No, there has not been.

  • Has Mark Johnson ever told the General Assembly “No!” to taking more money out of the budget for public schools to place in a voucher program that has not yielded a positive outcome?

    No, he has not.

  • When the state “fired” several public education officials with a wealth of experience like Martez Hill, did Mark Johnson say “No!” or even ask “Why?”

    No, he did not.

  • Has Mark Johnson ever publicly questioned the actions against teachers and the education profession by Phil Berger or Tim Moore?

    No, he has not.

In fact, in looking at all of the “special interests” represented by the very people who have made the contributions to people like Johnson, Dan Forest, and Jason Saine in promoting NC’s investment into for-profit charter schools, there has not been one time where Mark Johnson has said “No” to whatever they were seeking.

But that doesn’t mean that Mark Johnson has not said “No” to people.

When pressed for details about how he would “innovatively” change NC education, Mark Johnson did not give any. That’s like saying, “No.”

When asked by Greg Alcorn to comment on DPI’s budget cuts in a state board meeting, Mark Johnson deliberately skirted the question. He in so many words said, “No.”

When teacher advocacy groups like NCAE have asked Johnson to come and clarify his positions, he has refused. He said, “No.”

With a record of compliance and non-action that Mark Johnson has displayed in his tenure that has already lasted the equivalent of a school year, his claim that he is not afraid to say “no” to anyone who has given him money is rather weak.

In fact, if anyone asked this educator if he believes what the state superintendent says in his statement in the article in the N&O, I would say, “No.”

And I would say it publicly.

The Best Editorial Concerning Mark Johnson’s Tenure In Recent Memory

From the Sunday July 2, 2017 News & Observer Editorial Board:

NAO-logo

North Carolina Republicans continue to meddle in education

The 160 Mile Radius of HB2

160 miles.

Two and ½ hours in a car on the highway if you are barely breaking the speed limit on an interstate.

160 miles is also the radius for the strongest aftershocks for the GOP earthquake called HB2 whose epicenter lies beneath West Jones Street in Raleigh.

This past Friday the newspaper in Roanoke, VA, The Roanoke Times, wrote on their editorial page under the title “Our view: Ballot selfies and other election thoughts” the following:

“Which candidate would do the most to help our local economy? That’s easy. It’s Pat McCrory, the Republican governor of North Carolina, who’s seeking his second four-year term in the November election. We can point to specific and multiple ways he has helped the economy — our economy. North Carolina panicked and made a spectacle of itself by passing HB2, its so-called “bathroom bill.” In response, various companies and even sports leagues pulled events from the state. Three of those have wound up in Salem — the NCAA Division III men’s and women’s soccer championships, as well as the Division II Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association football championship. That’s money in the bank for us.

McCrory has given Virginia a competitive advantage in economic development, as well. When the University Economic Development Association recently held its national conference in Roanoke, the keynote speaker highlighted a North Carolina program to encourage partnerships between colleges and companies, as a way help recruit technology companies interested in research and development. The speaker hailed it as a model for other states to follow as they try to build a “knowledge economy.” Then the speaker noted that McCrory had cancelled it. The pro-business audience groaned.

On Monday, a data company picked Richmond as the site for a new office, with 730 jobs. Industry officials said it beat out Charlotte specifically because of HB2.

Feel free to argue all you want which presidential candidate would be best, but it’s clear that Virginia would be best served if North Carolina re-elected McCrory” (http://www.roanoke.com/opinion/editorials/our-view-ballot-selfies-and-other-election-thoughts/article_bb97e9ce-ff92-580e-8b8b-6d3390b921b1.html)

It was not really that satirical. It seems very sincere in some ways.

But, “Wow!”

To be endorsed because of how bad your policies are in your home state and that you are driving jobs and economic development into another state might be one of the strongest remarks ever delivered concerning HB2.

Roanoke is about 160 miles from Raleigh.

Then there was that time this past month when Gov. McCrory’s hometown newspaper The Charlotte Observer openly explained why it was not endorsing the governor for the first time in over 25 years (http://www.charlotteobserver.com/opinion/editorials/article108338327.html). It begins,

“The Charlotte Observer’s editorial board has endorsed Republican Pat McCrory in every one of his bids for office since 1991. That includes twice for City Council, seven times for mayor and twice for governor. That streak comes to an end today.

McCrory’s term as North Carolina governor is the ultimate illustration of the Peter Principle: that people are promoted based on their past performance and not the abilities needed for the new role and thus rise to the level of their incompetence. McCrory has certainly done that.”

It is a stinging piece of truth from the town that was first targeted by the “bathroom bill.”

Charlotte is about 160 miles from Raleigh.

Then there was the News & Observer on October 17th which ran full page news ad for a group called the Writers for a Progressive North Carolina who proved the McCrory that on your 60th birthday, you could have your cake and eat it too.

Facebook Cover Photo and Profile Picture Template

The News & Observer is about a 160 second drive from West Jones Street in Raleigh.

The 160 mile radius that surrounds the governor’s mansion engulfs a wide swath of the state. To feel strong aftershocks in places like Roanoke and Charlotte, there’s no telling what the people within 160 miles of Raleigh are feeling. Places like:

  • Greensboro and the rest of the Triad area.
  • Chapel Hill and Durham and the rest of the Triangle area.
  • A Large part of the Charlotte area.
  • Places affected by Hurricane Matthew.
  • Places affected by Duke Energy coal spills.
  • Places affected by bad education policies.
  • A Large part of the border with Virginia.

And to think that this area within the 160 mile radius has the largest amount of voters in the state.

Imagine the aftershock on November 8th.