Archives for category: North Carolina

Previously, the North Carolina state board of education rejected online virtual schools, which are eager to open up the “market” in that state. Now that the board is business-friendly, it appears that it may allow both K12, Inc. (launched by the Milken brothers and listed on the New York Stock Exchange) and Connections Education (owned by Pearson) to open. The issue will be decided at the next board meeting. 

 

These corporations receive full tuition, while giving students a “free” computer and instructional materials. Their parents are their coaches. It is a profitable business since the “school” has no facilities, no custodians, no playgrounds, etc. Online teachers monitor large numbers of screens and are low-paid. Essentially, the state is paying for home schooling. Online virtual charters typically have high attrition rates, low test scores, and low graduation rates.

We recently learned that the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction has proposed to adopt a civics course designed by the Bill of Rights Institute, which is funded by the highly political, very conservative billionaires, the Koch brothers. Fortunately, Bill Bigelow of “Rethinking Schools” has researched the materials produced by the Bill of Rights Institute. Bigelow says that the Koch brothers have donated millions of dollars to the Bill of Rights Institute, which promotes free-market libertarianism and above all, respect for property rights. The BRI was “launched in 1999 and funded by the Charles Koch Foundation, the Fred and Mary Koch Foundation, and David Koch. The BRI directors include Mark Humphrey, Koch Industries senior vice president; Ryan Stowers, director of higher education programs at the Charles Koch Foundation; and Todd Zywicki, a senior scholar of the Mercatus Center at George Mason University, funded with corporate donations from the likes of Koch and ExxonMobil. Until 2013, the Bill of Rights Institute president was the Koch operative Tony Woodlief, who headed the Market-Based Management Institute in the Kochs’ hometown of Wichita, Kansas, and served as president of the Mercatus Center….”

 

“In its materials for teachers and students, the Bill of Rights Institute cherry-picks the Constitution, history, and current events to hammer home its libertarian message that the owners of private property should be free to manage their wealth as they see fit. billofrightsinstitute_libertarianmssgAs one Bill of Rights lesson insists, “The Founders considered industry and property rights critical to the happiness of society.” This message that individual owners of property are the source of social good, their property sacred, and government the source of danger weaves through the entire Koch curriculum, sometimes with sophistication, other times in caricature. For example, in one “click-and-explore” activity at the BRI website, showing the many ways that government can oppress individuals—”Life Without the Bill of Rights?”—a cartoon character pops up with a dialogue bubble reading, “The gov’t took my home!” An illustration shows his home demolished.

 

“Educator resources for “Documents of Freedom” at the BRI site underscore this business-good/government-bad message: “When government officials can make any laws they please—and hold themselves above the law—there is less economic growth, less creativity, and less happiness. Entrepreneurs won’t be willing to risk time and money starting businesses. Writers and speakers will restrain their words. Everyone will worry that his freedoms can be destroyed at the whim of a powerful government agent….”

 

“Focusing narrowly on property rights to the exclusion of racism and issues of social inequality are not limited to history lessons in the BRI materials. One section on the website is “Teaching with Current Events,” and includes a lesson, “Stand Your Ground and Castle Doctrine Laws.” It offers quiet cover for Trayvon Martin’s killer, George Zimmerman, mentioned in the lesson’s introduction. Here’s the lesson’s first discussion question: “Florida’s ‘Stand-Your-Ground’ law states ‘A person who is not engaged in an unlawful activity and who is attacked in any other place where he or she has a right to be has no duty to retreat and has the right to stand his or her ground and meet force with force, including deadly force if he or she reasonably believes it is necessary to do so to prevent death or great bodily harm to himself or herself or another or to prevent the commission of a forcible felony.’ How would you put this law in your own words?”

 

“A follow-up question asks students to search the Constitution and Bill of Rights to support this law. But nothing in the lesson encourages students to search their own lives or to view Stand-Your-Ground from the standpoint of people who might be victimized by someone like George Zimmerman. The sanctity of an individual’s property is paramount—here and everywhere in the BRI materials.

 

“This lesson is especially disingenuous given that Florida’s “Stand-Your-Ground” law was a product of ALEC, the American Legislative Exchange Council—a Koch-funded outfit that promotes “model” conservative legislation. The Kochs not only pay for laws to be written and passed, they now pay for them to be legitimated in the school curriculum as well.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

North Carolina’s Department of Public Instruction plans to adopt a high school course to teach the founding principles of American government, which was developed by an institute funded by the notorious Koch Brothers.

 

State high school social studies teachers would be encouraged to use curriculum materials prepared by an institute funded by the conservative Koch family, under a proposal the Department of Public Instruction presented Wednesday.

The Bill of Rights Institute, based in Virginia, had a $100,000, sole-source contract with the state to help develop materials for teachers to use in a course on founding principles that the state requires students to take. The institute was founded in 1999 and receives grants from David H. Koch, the Charles Koch Foundation, and the Fred and Mary Koch Foundation, according to a website on Koch family philanthropies.

The state Department of Public Instruction decision to “highly recommend” that school districts use the Bill of Rights Institute material comes as the state is embroiled in a controversy over teaching history – whether schools have students study the founding principles as the law requires, whether AP U.S. History meets those requirements and whether the college-level course developed by the College Board has a liberal bias.

The 390-page founding principles curriculum includes readings, activities, questions students should discuss and references to online resources for the 10 principles described in a 2011 law inspired by proposed legislation promoted by the American Legislative Exchange Council, a conservative group backed by major corporations….

 

June Atkinson, state school superintendent and a Democrat, said the state looked for groups that could help write the founding principles curriculum but found only the Bill of Rights Institute. The institute did not return phone calls.

 

The institute collaborated with state educators, Atkinson said, and they requested feedback from teachers, who reviewed the work and suggested changes.

 

“It wasn’t a carte blanche, we’ll take what you have,” she said. “We wanted a balanced approach.”

 

But history teachers said in interviews Wednesday that they already have a wealth of resources available for teaching the founding principles. Some said it was not appropriate for a Koch-connected group to write public school course materials, and none knew that the state had hired the institute to develop a curriculum.

 

Charles and David Koch are active in conservative politics and finance an expansive political network.

 

People whose “principal concern is profit-making” should not develop curriculum, said Bryan Proffitt, a history teacher at Hillside High School in Durham. Curriculum should be developed “in a democratic fashion” by people closest to the classroom, he said.

 

 

Read more here: http://www.newsobserver.com/2014/12/03/4374397_state-education-department-used.html?sp=/99/100/&rh=1#storylink=cp.

Here is Mercedes Schneider with a brilliant post about the Obama U.S. Department of Education. She writes brief sketches of eight key appointees, each of whom is tied to the privatization movement.

 

When the President wonders why his party was so badly beaten at the polls earlier this month, he might think about the millions of educators who work in public schools and the millions of parents whose children attend good public schools; they are disgusted by Race to the Top, non-stop testing, test-based teacher evaluation, the Department’s preference for charter schools over public schools, and the millions of public dollars directed to TFA and charter schools. Educators were at one time a key part of the base of the Democratic party. As states like Michigan, Wisconsin, Indiana, Ohio, Louisiana, North Carolina, and Tennessee lashed out at teachers, no protest was heard from Arne Duncan. As billions were cut from school budgets in Michigan and Pennsylvania, the Obama administration was silent (Duncan wrote a letter to Governor Corbett of Pennsylvania about the defunding of Philadelphia, but it was a faint protest, not like actually showing up). At present, educators and parents feel abandoned by both parties.

The Daily Tarheel published an editorial advising students at the University of North Carolina to think twice before joining Teach for America.

The writers noted that the state pays $3,000 per year for each of 500 TFA, most of whom will leave after two years in the classroom. At the same time the legislature set aside money for TFA temps, it eliminated the successful North Carolina Teaching Fellows program, whose graduates pledge to stay as teachers in the NC public schools for at least four years.

“More often, TFA’s shortcomings are symptomatic of broader failings in American education rather than of its own malfeasance. As of 2013, less than 1 percent of N.C. teachers were TFA employees. If the state wants better teachers, it should pay them more and restore the N.C. Teaching Fellows program, which required a four-year commitment to teach in the state’s public schools. And policymakers should recommit to tackling the crippling poverty that inhibits the educational advancement of all children nationally.

“Meanwhile, students and current TFA employees should continue pushing the program to reform itself. At the very least, TFA ought to consider increasing the length of its required commitment.

“This board holds a litany of other concerns with TFA, including the often insufficient emotional support it provides its young teachers and the particular effect it has on unions and teachers of color. Students, teachers, TFA alumni and current employees, we want to hear from you.”

John Merrow says that Baker Mitchell of North Carolina could teach Jesse James a few tricks about making money.

Lesson one: Open charter schools.

Lesson two: become the sole supplier of most of the things they must purchase.

Lesson three: Keep your books closed because your for-profit corporation is private.

Lesson Four: remember to say you are doing it for the kids.

Lesson Five: Go to the bank: “Even though none of his publicly-funded schools is set up to run ‘for profit,’ about $19,000,000 of the $55,000,000 he has received in public funds has gone to his own for-profit businesses, which manage many aspects of the schools.”

Merrow writes:

“Mr. Mitchell seems to have experienced a learning curve. At first he billed his own charter schools for only two line items: ‘Building and equipment rental’ and ‘Management fees,’ for a total of just $2,600,878 in FY2008 and $2,325,881 in FY2009.

But apparently he was learning how the system works. In FY 2010 he added an innocuous sounding line item, “Allocated costs,” for which he billed $739,893, cracking the $3,000,000 barrier.

In FY2011 he added more line items:

Staff development & supervision: $549,626
Back office & support: $169,357
Building rent-classrooms: $965,740
Building rent-administration offices: $82,740, and
Miscellaneous equipment rent: $317,898.

The grand total for FY2011 was $3,712,946.

Jesse James was shot by a member of his own gang; if he were alive today, he might be dying from envy.

Mr. Mitchell broke the $4,000,000 barrier in FY2012, when the same line items totaled $4,137,382.

According to the audited financial statements for FY2013, Mr. Mitchell’s companies received $6,313,924, as follows:

16% management fee: $2,047,873
Administrative support: $2,796,943
Building and equipment rental: $1,474,108

“Dig into the audited statements (here and here) and you get some idea of where the $6,313,924 did not go. For example, the schools spent only $16,319 on staff development [4], which works out to less than three-tenths of one percent. They report spending just $28,060 on computers and technology, which is also about three-tenths of one percent.”

It’s all for the kids.

For many years, North Carolina had a national reputation as the most progressive state in the South. Its leaders worked across party lines to increase educational opportunity and improve the schools. Now, however, the Governor and the Legislature are in a race to the bottom. Teachers’ salaries are near the bottom of the nation. The exodus of experienced teachers is at a historic high. The legislature has funded charters and vouchers, in an effort to defund and harm public schools.

Matt Caggia, a social studies teacher in Wake County, describes this bizarre situation, in which the legislature puts corporations first and students last.

For a comprehensive summary of the damage done to public education in North Carolina by its elected officials, read this article by Duke University economist Helen Ladd and her husband Edward Fiske, former education editor of the Néw York Times.

Stuart Egan, a teacher of English at West Forsyth High School in North Carolina, here reviews the Republicans’ desperate attempt to portray themselves as friends of public education after four years of attacking teachers and public schools. The Republican legislature has enacted charters and vouchers and done whatever they could think up to demoralize teachers and privatize public dollars. The crucial race in the state is between U.S. Senator Kay Hagan and State Rep. Thom Tillis, one of the architects of the new budget that strangles public education. Will teachers, parents, and friends of public education remember in November?

 

 

Egan writes:

“The current General Assembly is very scared of public school teachers and their supporters. And they should be: What had originally looked like an election year centering on economic growth has morphed into a debate about how our state government should better serve citizens. This GOP-controlled General Assembly has unintentionally but successfully turned the focus of November’s elections to the vitality of communities and the right to a quality public education (explicitly defined by Section 15, Article 1 of the N.C. constitution).

 

“North Carolina has 100 counties, each with a public school system, in addition to several city systems. According to the Labor and Economic Analysis Division of the N.C. Department of Commerce, the public schools are at least the second-largest employers in nearly 90 of the counties — and the largest employer, period, in 66. That means teachers represent a base for most communities, the public school system. And they are strong in numbers.

 

“Those running for the General Assembly in November knew that two years ago; they just didn’t seem to care. They knew it when they attempted to buy teachers’ rights to due process for $500 million after their attempt to eliminate it was declared unconstitutional. They knew it when they froze pay scales more than six years ago. They knew it when they abolished the Teaching Fellows Program. They knew it when they allowed unregulated charter schools to take money earmarked for public schools — which, by the way, also was declared unconstitutional.

 

“That is why the GOP powers passed a secretly crafted budget that included a “7 percent average raise for teachers.” But this budget is a pure political farce. It was really just a reallocation of money and a calculated way to give the public the illusion that the General Assembly is a champion for public education.”

 

‘N.C. Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger said, “Now by providing the largest teacher pay raise in state history, we’ll be able to recruit and retain the best educators to prepare our children for the future.” He’s wrong. N.C. House Speaker Thom Tillis is airing a campaign ad about his leadership in strengthening public education. He’s misleading you. That historic raise is funded in part by eliminating teachers’ longevity pay. Similar to an annual bonus, this is something that all state employees — except, now, for teachers — gain as a reward for continued service. The budget rolled that money into teachers’ salaries and labeled it as a raise. That’s like me stealing money out of your wallet and then presenting it to you as a gift.
‘Also, the bulk of the pay raise comes in the lower rungs of the pay scale. The more experience a teacher has, the less of a raise he or she sees, down to less than one percent for many teachers with more than 30 years’ experience and advanced certification. And new teachers who start graduate work will never be rewarded for becoming better at what they do. In fact, this current budget ensures that no teacher who begins a career in North Carolina will actually finish that career here. No matter the qualifications or experience a teacher possesses, he or she will never receive a competitive salary like other states offer.
If public education matters to you at all, then please understand the damage this General Assembly has done to our public schools and communities. The number of teachers leaving the state or the profession is staggering. It is has given rise to a new state slogan: North Carolina – First in Teacher Flight. Do some homework and see which candidates for school board supported vouchers or which state legislatures voted to eliminate teacher assistants in public schools.

 

“Under this legislature, teachers and public education in North Carolina have been under siege.

 

“If public education matters to you at all, then please understand the damage this General Assembly has done to our public schools and communities. The number of teachers leaving the state or the profession is staggering. It is has given rise to a new state slogan: North Carolina – First in Teacher Flight. Do some homework and see which candidates for school board supported vouchers or which state legislatures voted to eliminate teacher assistants in public schools.

 

“If our communities are to recover and thrive, then this trend must stop. Educate yourself, then please vote.”

Lindsay Wagner writes in NC Policy Watch that 90% of the students using the state’s new vouchers are attending religious schools. The institution receiving the largest number of vouchers is the Greensboro Islamic Academy.

The vouchers are given the euphemism “opportunity scholarships,” in an effort to disguise the fact that they are vouchers, which voters never approved.

North Carolina legislators are proving that our Founders were far wiser than legislators today. The Founders wanted no establishment of religion, and they did not foresee the subsidy of religious schools by the state. It was Thomas Jefferson who wrote about separation of church and state in 1802, aware of centuries of religious strife in Europe. For years, the U.S. Supreme Court tried to maintain such a wall, allowing some subsidy for religious schools to perform state-required activities, subsidizing textbooks and testing, even transportation, but not tuition in religious schools.

Wagner writes:

“Religious private schools account for 90 percent of those receiving the state’s new taxpayer-funded school vouchers—a disproportionately high amount given that only 66.4 percent of the state’s 715 private schools are religious institutions.

“According to data released by the N.C. State Educational Assistance Authority, 98 out of the 109 private schools that have received vouchers (formally known as Opportunity Scholarships) from the state so far are religious institutions. Ninety-four of those schools identify as Christian, and four other schools identify as Islamic. To date, the state has disbursed just over $1 million to the religious schools.

“The largest recipient of school voucher dollars thus far is Greensboro Islamic Academy. The school has received more than $90,000 from taxpayers while information has surfaced indicating that the school is in financial trouble and has inflated its tuition rates to reap as many publicly-funded vouchers as possible to stay afloat.

“The Opportunity Scholarship Program, which lawmakers enacted last year, siphons approximately $10.8 million dollars out of the public school system to allow students to attend private and religious schools instead. Each voucher is worth a maximum of $4,200 per student, per year.

“Proponents of the program say the voucher program is a way to give low-income students better choices when it comes to their education; critics say it siphons badly needed funds away from public education and funnels them into unaccountable, religious private schools that are not obligated to hold themselves to high quality teaching standards.

“In August, a Superior Court judge found that the program violates the state’s constitutional mandate to use public funds only for public schools – but thanks to a Court of Appeals ruling last month, the state must disburse school vouchers that have already been awarded while the case winds its way through the state appellate courts.”

- See more at: http://pulse.ncpolicywatch.org/2014/10/09/ninety-percent-of-private-schools-receiving-taxpayer-funded-vouchers-are-religious-institutions/#sthash.N9RY1dr4.dpuf

Lindsay Wagner of NC Policy Watch reports that the school that received the largest number of vouchers in North Carolina—the Greensboro Islamic Academy–is in financial trouble.

She writes:

A private religious school receiving by far the largest payout from the state’s new school voucher program was in financial trouble during the last school year, pleading for help from the public online to fund its $150,000 shortfall so the school could complete the 2013-14 school year.

“The Greensboro Islamic Academy is suffering from a scarcity of funds,” said Eesaa Wood, a leader at the school’s parent organization, the Islamic Center of Greensboro, in a YouTube video posted online last January. The school has run a deficit of $150,000 every year, according to the fundraising pitch.

“For over a decade, the Muslim community of Greensboro has paid for this shortfall,” said Wood. “For that we are grateful to Allah…but we can no longer rely exclusively on this system.”

The school is the biggest recipient of all those participating in the state’s new Opportunity Scholarship Program, having already received 43 school vouchers totaling more than $90,000 dollars in public funds.

But as taxpayer money flows into Greensboro Islamic Academy’s coffers, questions arise: will the school be able to sustain itself going forward given the financial difficulties it faces? And if not, what happens to funds that taxpayers have already spent on private, religious education?

Lawmakers enacted a school voucher program last year that pulls approximately $10.8 million dollars away from the public school system to allow students to attend private and religious schools instead.

Proponents of the program say the voucher program is a way to give students better choices when it comes to their education; critics say it siphons badly needed funds away from public education and funnels them into unaccountable, religious private schools that are not obligated to hold themselves to high quality teaching standards.

The state received 170 applications earlier this year from students wishing to attend Greensboro Islamic Academy (GIA) this fall with a school voucher – by far the most popular school chosen among voucher applicants and a very large number considering that the school only accommodated 130 students the previous year.

Since then, a high-profile court battle ensued, resulting in a Superior Court judge finding that the program violates the state’s constitutional mandate to use public funds only for public schools – but thanks to a Court of Appeals ruling last month, the state must disburse school vouchers that have already been awarded while the case winds its way through the state appellate courts.

In September, the N.C. State Educational Assistance Authority awarded 43 vouchers to students attending Greensboro Islamic Academy, totaling more than $90,000 tax dollars– nearly 8 percent of the $1 million+ in school vouchers that were disbursed to 109 private schools so far across the state. The next largest recipient of school voucher funds was Word of God Christian Academy in Raleigh, which received 26 vouchers totaling $54,600, followed by Trinity Christian School in Fayetteville, which received 18 vouchers totaling $37,800.

More voucher funds will be disbursed in the coming weeks, although it’s not clear how much more money, if any, GIA will receive.

According to its fundraising video, Greensboro Islamic Academy is the only full-time Pre-K through 8th grade Islamic private school in the Triad area – and it has struggled with financial obstacles since its inception in 2003.

“Because GIA never turns down any student because of financial need, this has resulted in a $150,000 deficit ever year,” said Islamic Center of Greensboro leader Eesaa Wood in his fundraising plea.

A link on the school’s YouTube fundraising video brings the viewer to a fundraising page that says the school raised only $374 of its $150k goal. Numerous calls and emails to school officials seeking more information about the financial status of Greensboro Islamic Academy, as well as calls to the Islamic Center of Greensboro, the parent organization of GIA, have gone unanswered. Efforts to reach out to the video’s narrator, Eesaa Wood, have also been unsuccessful.

Reached by telephone, GIA school board president Dr. Hatim Mahmoud, a physician practicing in Danville, VA, said he wouldn’t talk about the school with N.C. Policy Watch, despite the fact it now receives taxpayer dollars.

“We don’t talk to reporters. We don’t wanna talk to nobody. Goodbye,” said Mahmoud.

NC Policy Watch is a project of the North Carolina Justice Center.
© 2014 NC Policy Watch | 224 S. Dawson Street, Raleigh, NC 27601

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