Archives for category: Education Industry

The Texas legislature refused to pass voucher legislation!

Governor Greg Abbott said that getting a voucher law was his #1 priority in this session of the legislature. Republicans have a supermajority in the legislature but rural Republicans and urban Democrats blocked the bill. He pressured every Republican to back his bill.

Once again, vouchers failed to pass!

In rural Texas, public schools are often the only school in town and the biggest employer. Public schools are the heart of the community. Parents, aunts, uncles, and cousins went to the public school. The teachers are well known and respected. Rural Republicans said no to vouchers.

The Pastors for Texas Children have worked diligently to stop vouchers in Texas. PTC issued this press release today:


No Vouchers In Texas!

The Texas House of Representatives has once again stopped a private school voucher program in Texas.

Rep. Ken King’s public education funding bill, HB 100, was saddled in the waning days of the session by Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick with a one-hundred page Senate substitute calling for universal ESA vouchers. When the House refused to concur with the substitute, the bill was sent to conference committee where it died.

Although Gov. Greg Abbott made private school vouchers his #1 priority this legislative session, the House was crystal clear in their opposition to it. Three times throughout the session, they repudiated a voucher proposal.

First, the Herrero Amendment prohibiting tax money for private school vouchers passed the Texas House of Representatives during the budget debate on an 86-52 vote. Second, the House refused to grant the Public Education Committee permission to hold an impromptu meeting to push out Senate Bill 8 calling for a universal voucher. The final straw was when the committee failed to garner the votes to pass out SB 8. The plan died in committee.

That’s when the Senate, in a last-ditch effort, attached a comprehensive voucher program to HB 100 which would have provided much-needed funds for local public schools and well-deserved teacher pay increases.

Rep. King did not mince words: “Teacher pay raises held hostage to support an ESA plan. Teachers are punished over a political fight.”

This session’s rejection of vouchers is particularly powerful because Gov. Greg Abbott made the passage of a voucher policy an “emergency item” this legislative session, conducted a statewide campaign in anti-voucher House districts, and personally lobbied House members on the chamber floor to pass it.

“Vouchers are fundamentally unjust and inequitable,” said the Rev. Charles Foster Johnson, Founder and Executive Director of Pastors for Texans Children. “It is wrong for public tax dollars to be diverted to subsidize the private education of affluent children. To pay for religious education is an especially egregious violation of both the public trust and of God’s moral law of religious freedom.”

“Gov. Abbott has tied up the entire legislature this session, at the cost of millions of tax dollars, for his own petty personal political agenda. Sadly, his stated intention is to continue calling special legislative sessions until he bullies the House into submission.”

“There is only one way to deal with a bully: a firm, patient, courageous confrontation. Precisely what our morally oak-strong caucus of pro-public education rural Republican and urban Democratic House members can provide.”

The Texas State Constitution, in Article 7, Section 1, calls for the suitable provision for “public free schools.” There is no constitutional provision for public funding diverted to private schools.

Pastors for Texas Children is grateful that the Texas House of Representatives once again stood firm, as they have throughout the 30 year voucher debate in Texas, for the true conservative value of universal education for all Texas schoolchildren, provided and protected by the public.




Pastors for Texas Children mobilizes the faith community for public education ministry and advocacy.

PO Box 471155 – Fort Worth, Texas 76147

Pro Publica investigated the case of a child at Success Academy who was disruptive and learned that at a charter school, the chain is free to write its own disciplinary rules. The public schools are governed by regulations, but Success Academy is exempt from those regulations.

ProPublica told the story of Ian, whose mother left work repeatedly to find out why Success Academy had called the police about the child. It seems clear that the school was trying to persuade her to withdraw Ian. But she kept showing up. It also seems clear that Ian’s behavior got worse because of the school’s rigid discipline.

In a panic, if she floors it, Marilyn Blanco can drive from her job at the Rikers Island jail complex to her son Ian’s school in Harlem in less than 18 minutes.

Nine times since December, Blanco has made the drive because Ian’s school — Success Academy Harlem 2 — called 911 on her 8-year-old.

Ian has been diagnosed with ADHD. When he gets frustrated, he sometimes has explosive tantrums, throwing things, running out of class and hitting and kicking anyone who comes near him. Blanco contends that, since Ian started first grade last year, Success Academy officials have been trying to push him out of the school because of his disability — an accusation similar to those made by other Success Academy parents in news stories, multiple lawsuits that resulted in settlements and a federal complaint.

When giving him detentions and suspensions didn’t stop Ian’s tantrums, Blanco said, the school started calling 911. If Blanco can’t get to Ian fast enough to intervene, a precinct officer or school safety agent from the New York Police Department will hold him until an ambulance arrives to take him to a hospital for a psychiatric evaluation — incidents the NYPD calls “child in crisis” interventions.

The experience has been devastating for Ian, Blanco said. Since the 911 calls started late last year, he’s been scared to leave his house because he thinks someone will take him away. At one ER visit, a doctor wrote in Ian’s medical file that he’d sustained emotional trauma from the calls.

Citywide, staff at the Success Academy Charter School network — which operates 49 schools, most of them serving kids under 10 years old — called 911 to respond to students in emotional distress at least 87 times between July 2016 and December 2022, according to an analysis of NYPD data by THE CITY and ProPublica.

If Success Academy were run by the city Department of Education, it would be subject to rules that explicitly limit the circumstances under which schools may call 911 on students in distress: Under a 2015 regulation, city-run schools may never send kids to hospitals as a punishment for misbehavior, and they may only involve police as a last resort, after taking mandatory steps to de-escalate a crisis first. (As THE CITY and ProPublica reported this month, the rules don’t always get followed, and city schools call 911 to respond to children in crisis thousands of times a year.)

But the regulation doesn’t apply to Success Academy, which is publicly funded but privately run and — like all of the city’s charter school networks — free to set its own discipline policies.

The consequence, according to education advocates and attorneys, is that families have nowhere to turn if school staff are using 911 calls in a way that’s so frightening or traumatic that kids have little choice but to leave.

“Sure, you can file a complaint with the Success Academy board of trustees. But it isn’t going anywhere,” said Nelson Mar, an education attorney at Legal Services NYC who represented parents in a 2013 lawsuit that led to the restrictions on city-run schools.

Success Academy did not respond to questions about the circumstances under which school staff generally call 911 or the criteria they use to determine whether to initiate child-in-crisis incidents.

Regarding Ian, Success Academy spokesperson Ann Powell wrote that school staff called EMS because Ian “has repeatedly engaged in very dangerous behavior including flipping over desks, breaking a window, biting teachers (one of whom was prescribed antibiotics to prevent infection since the bite drew blood), threatening to harm both himself and a school safety agent with scissors, hitting himself in the face, punching a pregnant paraprofessional in the stomach (stating ‘I don’t care’ when the paraprofessional reminded him that ‘there’s a baby in my belly’), punching a police officer and attempting to take his taser, and screaming ‘I wish you would die early.’”

Powell also provided documentation that included contemporaneous accounts of Ian’s behavior written by Success Academy staff, photographs of bite marks and a fractured window, an assessment by a school social worker concluding that Ian was at risk for self-harm, and a medical record from an urgent care facility corroborating the school’s account that a teacher had been prescribed antibiotics.

Blanco said that Success Academy administrators have regularly exaggerated Ian’s behaviors. When he was 6, for example, Ian pulled an assistant principal’s tie during a tantrum, and school staff described it as a choking attempt, according to an account Blanco gave to an evaluator close to the time of the incident. Each time Success Academy has sent Ian to an emergency room, doctors have sent him home, finding that he didn’t pose a safety threat to himself or others, medical records show. (Success Academy did not respond to questions about the assertion that staffers have exaggerated Ian’s behaviors.)

Blanco knows that Ian is struggling. No one is more concerned about his well-being than she is, she said. But villainizing her 8-year-old only makes the situation worse.

“It’s like they want to tarnish him,” Blanco said. “He’s just a child, a child who needs help and support.”

Blanco chose Success Academy because she wanted Ian to have better education that what’s available in his neighborhood public school.

Success Academy, which has avid support from many parents and is led by former New York City Councilmember Eva Moskowitz, promotes itself as an antidote to educational inequality, offering rigorous charter school options to kids who might not have other good choices. On its website, the network advertises its students’ standardized test scores (pass rates for Black and Latino students are “double and even triple” those at city-run schools) and its educational outcomes: 100% of high school graduates are accepted to college, the network says.

Success Academy administrators say that strict and consistent discipline policies are essential to kids’ learning. Students are required to follow a precise dress code and to sit still and quietly, with hands folded in their laps or on their desks. When students break the rules, the school issues a progressive series of consequences, including letters home, detentions and suspensions.

Once students are accepted through the Success Academy lottery, the network is required to serve them until they graduate or turn 21, unless they withdraw or are formally expelled…

In Harlem, Ian started struggling at Success Academy just a few weeks into first grade. He’d never been aggressive before he started school, Blanco said. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, he’d attended kindergarten online. When schools went back to in-person instruction, he was a high-energy 6-year-old who couldn’t follow Success Academy’s strict rules requiring him to sit still and stay quiet. By the end of first grade, he’d been suspended nearly 20 times.

The more Ian got in trouble, the worse he felt about himself and the worse his behavior became, Blanco said. He started falling behind because he missed so much class time during his suspensions, according to his education records. At home and at school, he said that teachers disciplined him because he was a “bad kid.”

At first, Blanco worked hard to cooperate with the school, she said. She was worried by the change in Ian’s behavior, and she thought that school staff had his best interests at heart. But then an assistant principal called her into an office and told her that Success Academy wasn’t a “good fit” for Ian, Blanco said to THE CITY and ProPublica, as well as in a written complaint she sent to Success Academy at around that time. (Success Academy’s board of trustees investigated the complaint and did not find evidence of discrimination against Ian, according to a September 2022 letter to Blanco from a board member.)

“That didn’t sit right,” said Blanco, who is an investigator at Rikers Island and is accustomed to gathering paper trails. She asked the assistant principal to put the statement in writing, but he told her she had misunderstood, she said. (Success Academy did not respond to questions about this incident.)

Several times, when the school called Blanco to pick Ian up early, staff told her to take him to a psychiatric emergency room for an evaluation. But the visits didn’t help, Blanco said. “You could be sitting there for six, seven, eight hours,” waiting to talk to a psychologist. Because Ian never presented as an immediate threat to himself or others, hospital staff couldn’t do much but refer him to outpatient care and send him home, according to hospital discharge records.

Eventually, Blanco found an outpatient clinic that would accept her insurance to evaluate Ian for neurological and behavioral disorders. She said she begged school staff to stop disciplining Ian while she worked to get him treatment, but the suspensions were relentless. Once, he missed 15 straight days of school.

At the beginning of Ian’s second grade year, Blanco reached out to Legal Services NYC, where Mar, the education attorney, took her on as a client.

The school twice reported Blanco to child welfare services as a negligent mother. An investigator came to her home to interview her and Ian. She said she was humiliated.

One month after the child welfare visit, things got even worse. Blanco was in Queens, heading to work to pick up some overtime, when the school called to say that Ian had had another tantrum. This time, she was too late to bring Ian home herself. He was in an ambulance, on his way to Harlem Hospital….

Two weeks ago, Success Academy sent Blanco an email informing her that they requested a hearing to have Ian removed from school for up to 45 school days because he “is substantially likely to cause injury to himself and others while in the Success Academy community.”

Ian would be barred from Success Academy immediately, the email said, even though it could take up to 20 days to schedule the hearing, which will be held at the special education division of the city’s Office of Administrative Trials and Hearings. If the hearing officer agrees with Success Academy, Ian will miss the rest of the school year..

To Blanco, the hearing seems like just another way for the school to get rid of her son. She thinks about pulling Ian out of Success Academy all the time, she said, but it feels like there’s no good alternative. She doesn’t want to give up on the idea of him getting a better shot than the one she got at a failing neighborhood school.

“I want him to get free of this cycle of disadvantage,” Blanco said. “I want to fight for my son’s rights and let them know that you’re not going to treat my child this way. I’ve made it my mission. You don’t get to pick and choose who you give an education to.”


In several cities, charters get space by moving into a public school building and “co-locating” with the existing public school. The existing public school never likes giving up classrooms, but they are not allowed to say no. The deal is done by the school board or the mayor or some other authority.

The two schools in the same building are typically separate. The students do not have shared activities. The new charter gets spruced-up classrooms and the best of everything. The students in the public school lose space and get no improvements. The two schools are separate and unequal.

Recently, a teacher wrote to describe what happened to her/his school in Harlem after the richly-funded Success Academy co-located into the building:

in 2012 Success Academy was allowed to co-locate in a landmark Harlem building amidst protests from NAACP and several political figures. Over ten years later, the same public school has lost an entire floor of classrooms including a radio broadcasting space, cafeteria space, and auditorium usage. While the traditional public school (that serves every student who enrolls) continues to struggle with attendance, credit matriculation, and graduation rates etc. the charter is allowed to “thrive” by cherry-picking students and choosing to not backfill seats in the younger grades. Charter/public co-locations are separate and unequal treatment of students and are extremely detrimental to our traditional public school community that has originally occupied the building for over 100 years.

Three literacy experts—David Reinking, Peter Smagorinsky, and David B. Yaden—wrote in opposition to the current “science of reading” frenzy. Unfortunately, their article does not mention the journalist Emily Hanford, who has zealously promoted the idea that American students don’t learn to read because their teachers do not utilize the “science of reading.” Google her name and you will find numerous articles repeating this claim. I wish I had been as successful in alerting the public and the media to the dangers of privatization as she has been in building a public campaign for phonics-as-silver-bullet. She is truly the Rudolf Flesch of our day (he published the best-selling Why Johnny Can’t Read in 1955.)

As I have often written here, I strongly support phonics. I was persuaded long ago by Jeanne Chall in her book Learning to Read: The Great Debate that students need to learn the sounds of letters and letter-combinations so they can decode unfamiliar words without thinking about it. But I am not a believer in “the science of reading.” Different children learn different ways. Phonics adherents cite the report of the National Reading Panel (2000), which consisted of university-based scholars and only one practitioner, Joanne Yatvin, who wrote a dissent. The phonics cheerleaders ignore the ignominious fate of NCLB’s Reading First program, which doled out nearly $6 billion to promote the recommendations of the National Reading Panel but failed to achieve anything.

There is no “science of reading.” There is no “science of teaching math” or any other academic skill or study. If someone can identify a district where every single student reads at a proficient level on state tests, I will change my view. I await the evidence.

This post by Reinking, Smagorinsky, and Yaden appeared on Valerie Strauss’s Washington Post blog, “The Answer Sheet.”

Strauss introduced their article:

The “reading wars” have been around for longer than you might think. In the 1800s, Horace Mann, the “father of public education” who was the first state education secretary in the country (in Massachusetts), advocated that children learn to read whole words and learn to read for meaning before they are taught the explicit sounds of each letter. Noah Webster, the textbook pioneer whose “blue-back speller” taught children how to spell and read for generations, supported phonics. So it started.

In the last century and now again, we have gone in and out of debates about the best way to teach reading — as if there was a single best way for all children — with the arguments focusing on phonics, whole language and balanced literacy. We’re in another cycle: Just this week, New York City, the largest school district in the country, announced it would require all elementary schools to employ phonics programs in reading instruction.

This post — written by David Reinking, Peter Smagorinsky, and David B. Yaden — looks at the debate on phonics in a different way than is most often voiced these days. It notes, among other things, that the National Reading Panel report of 2000, which is often cited in arguments for putting phonics front and center in school reading curriculum, says many things about the importance of systematic phonics instruction but it also says this: “Phonics should not become the dominant component in a reading program, neither in the amount of time devoted to it nor in the significance attached.”

Reinking is a professor of education emeritus at Clemson University, a former editor of Reading Research Quarterly and the Journal of Literacy Research, a former president of the Literacy Research Association and an elected member of the Reading Hall of Fame.

Smagorinsky is a research professor emeritus at the University of Georgia, a visiting scholar at the University of Guadalajara, a former editor of the journal Research in the Teaching of English, and an elected member of the National Academy of Education.

Yaden is a literacy professor in the College of Education at the University of Arizona, a former editor of the Journal of Literacy Research, and a past president of the Literacy Research Association.

Reinking, Smagorinsky and

Reinking, Smagorinsky, and Yaden wrote:

Two of the nation’s most trustworthy news sources, the New York Times and The Washington Post, recently ran opinion pieces asserting that there is a national reading crisis and a single solution: more phonics instruction. The Times followed with a news article about how a “science of reading” movement is sweeping the United States in support of more phonics instruction.

These claims have clearly impressed many politicians, journalists, educational leaders and parents. Phonics has become political fodder with copycat legislation in state after state mandating more of it. There is now a firmly rooted popular narrative of a national crisis in reading achievement supposedly linked to inadequate phonics instruction and unequivocally supported by a science of reading. Those who question it and ask for more evidence are portrayed as unenlightened or even as science deniers, including many experienced, dedicated and successful teachers who contend daily with the complex, multifaceted challenges of teaching children how to read.

As researchers and teacher educators, we, like many of our colleagues, shake our heads in resigned frustration. We believe phonics plays an important role in teaching children to read. But, we see no justifiable support for its overwhelming dominance within the current narrative, nor reason to regard phonics as a panacea for improving reading achievement.

Specifically, we do not see convincing evidence for a reading crisis, and certainly none that points to phonics as the single cause or a solution. We are skeptical of any narrowly defined science that authoritatively dictates exactly how reading should be taught in every case. Most of all, we are concerned that ill-advised legislation will unnecessarily constrain teachers’ options for effective reading instruction.

As for a crisis (always useful for promoting favored causes), the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) has been tracking reading achievement in the United States since 1972. Until the coronavirus pandemic began in 2020, the scores were mostly flat for decades, even trending slightly upward before covid-19 shut down schools. The decline since the pandemic is a clear example of how societal factors influence reading achievement. Given the nation’s increasing linguistic and cultural diversity and widening economic disparities, that upward trend might even suggest encouraging progress.

Less absurd, but no less arbitrary, is using NAEP scores to argue that two-thirds of students are not proficient in reading. Diane Ravitch, a former member of the NAEP governing board, has equated scores at the proficient level with a solid A. Peggy Carr, commissioner of the National Center for Education Statistics, which administers NAEP, has said that basic level is generally seen as grade-level achievement. Adding students who achieve at a Basic level (interpreted as a B) or above, two-thirds of students have solid reading skills. In other words, the argument only holds if we expect every student to get an A. We can always do better, but there is neither no convincing evidence of a crisis nor magic that eliminates inevitable variation in achievement.

But crisis or not, is there evidence that more phonics instruction is the elixir guaranteed to induce higher reading achievement? The answer isn’t just no. There are decades of empirical evidence that it hasn’t and won’t.

In the mid-1960s, the federal government funded two landmark national studies of early reading instruction in the United States at 23 sites (districts or regions) carefully chosen to represent a cross section of the nation’s students. One purpose was to determine which of several approaches to teaching reading was most effective, including a strict phonics approach.

The conclusion? All approaches worked well at some sites and less so in others. Phonics worked best when it was integrated with other approaches and is most effective with beginning readers. The researchers leading these multiple studies concluded “that future research should focus on teacher and learning situation characteristics rather than method and materials.”

In the 1980s, Dolores Durkin, an iconic reading researcher, found that phonics lessons dominated reading instruction and that the problem is not phonics-or-not, but ineffective instruction that, as she concluded, “turns phonics instruction into an end in itself but also deprives children of the opportunity to experience the value of phonics.”

The subsequent National Reading Panel report of 2000, much cited today for its support of phonics instruction, actually reported that teaching phonics had only moderate effects, limited to first grade. The report also advocated for balanced reading instruction in which phonics was only one of many components. In Chapter 2, page 97, the report stated unequivocally, “Phonics should not become the dominant component in a reading program, neither in the amount of time devoted to it nor in the significance attached.” And it says this: “Finally, it is important to emphasize that systematic phonics instruction should be integrated with other reading instruction to create a balanced reading program. Phonics instruction is never a total reading program.”

In the early 2000s, there was the evaluation of the massive Reading First program implemented across six years in grades 1 through 3 in more than 5,000 schools across all 50 states and implemented with federal funding north of $5 billion. Teachers were carefully trained to deliver “scientific” reading instruction that included a numbing 1.5 to 3 hours of phonics instruction each day. Yet, students receiving this extensive phonics instruction scored no better on tests of reading comprehension than did students in schools providing more conventional instruction.

These findings do not mean that phonics is unnecessary or unimportant. They simply suggest that there is no basis for the conclusions that the absence of phonics is the cause for a reading crisis and that the sole solution to reading difficulties is intensive phonics instruction for all readers. Nor is there a reason to believe that more phonics is the linchpin to raising reading achievement.

Rather, the lack of evidence supporting an increase in phonics may indicate that there is already enough phonics being taught in schools. Despite nebulous claims that there is widespread neglect of phonics in classrooms, no recent data substantiate those claims. But, beyond phonics, what other factors might inhibit greater reading achievement — factors that could be addressed more appropriately through legislation? There are possibilities, grounded in data, that are at least as reliable and convincing as increasing phonics.

Here are a few examples. There is hard evidence that in schools with a good library and librarians, reading scores are relatively high. Unfortunately, in a growing number of states, libraries are defunded, sometimes for ideological reasons. The number of school nurses has declined during the ongoing assault on school budgets, which we know increases absenteeism, which in turn, decreases achievement. Kids can’t learn phonics or any other academic skill if they are not in school.

What about poverty and hunger? We know that kids who do poorly on standardized reading tests tend to come from the nation’s least affluent homes. And, there is considerable evidence that educational reforms focused only on classrooms and not broader social factors like poverty often fail. What does help is the availability of free meals, which are associated with enhanced academic performance, including reading and math test scores.

So, to boost reading achievement, why not legislate more funding for libraries, school nurses and programs to feed hungry children? The evidence that such legislation would increase achievement is no less, and arguably more, than increasing phonics. The recent declines in NAEP scores during the pandemic, which raise concerns, sharpen the point. Possible explanations include lack of internet connections, distractions inherent to home learning, and untrained and overworked teachers, not phonics.

When pressed on these points, inveterate phonics advocates play a final trump card: the science of reading. They cash in on the scientific cachet of esoteric cognitive and neurological research, often collectively referred to as “brain science.”

There are several reasons to discount that response. Many brain researchers concede that their work is in its infancy using marginally reliable methods with small samples, leading to debatable interpretations that are difficult to translate into classroom practice. They are only beginning to investigate how social factors influence brain activity.

Further, as our colleague Timothy Shanahan has argued, there is a difference between a basic science of reading and a science of how to teach reading. The two are not entirely in sync. He cites several examples of empirical research validating effective reading instruction that is inconsistent with brain studies. Just as hummingbirds fly, even when aeronautical science concludes they can’t, brain research doesn’t negate the reality of instructional practice that works.

But, like the snark, the nonexistent creature in Alice in Wonderland, the narrative about phonics persists, because enough people say so, over and over. For at least 70 years, demanding more phonics has become a shibboleth among those who see, or want to see, reading as essentially a readily taught technical skill. We’ve been fiddling with phonics ever since, while more consequential societal factors burn brightly in the background.

John Thompson, historian and retired teacher, brings us up to date on the latest twists in the bizarro world of Oklahoma politics, where the most bizarro of all is the State Superintendent Ryan Walters (I think I could use that headline again and again, just changing the name of the state). John talks to Republicans in the legislature, and he finds that there are moderates who don’t agree with their leadership but keep a low profile and rein them in whenever they get too whacky.

He writes:

The 2023 Oklahoma legislative session, combined with the rightwing extremism of Gov. Kevin Stitt and State Superintendent Ryan Walters, began as possibly the worst threat to public education in our state’s history. Following more than a decade of teach-to-test mandates and increased segregation by choice, the Covid pandemic, and a history of underfunding schools, education faced a combination of existential threats.

But, rightly or wrongly, my history of working Republicans tempered my pessimism; so I’ve been struggling to listen and evaluate whether the victories that came out of the final education bills were mostly band aids or whether the resistance to Gov. Stitt and Superintendent Walters could lead to a turning point.

Yes, the total increase for education came to $785 million, but one can only guess how much of those expenditures will be beneficial to students, and how much damage will be done. Worse, Oklahoma is likely to see an economic downturn, as $2 billion in federal Covid money runs out. Moreover, it seems unlikely that pro-education legislators will gain the power to reverse policies that fail. For instance, what happens (which seems increasingly likely) if $250 million per year in “tax credits” (vouchers) are institutionalized? And worse of all, what will be the longterm costs if the cruelty and lies by extremists are institutionalized?

Only five years ago, the Teacher Walkout led to an important increase in educators’ salaries in 2018 and 2019. And Republican leaders invested $150,000 to purge their party’s craziest haters. (But then, it would have been hard for me to believe that the xenophobic, Muslim-hating Sen. John Bennett would survive and become the Republican Party Chair.) And after listening to thousands of educators, Sen. Adam Pugh (R) started this year with bills proposing $541 million in new spending. They would raise average teacher pay to the middle of the pack of neighboring states, even though starting teacher pay would remain below $40,000. Pugh would fund maternal leave, and his bills didn’t even mention vouchers.

Previously, rural Oklahomans were so firmly opposed to school vouchers that it seemed impossible that local candidates would listen to “astro-turf” think tanks, funded by rightwing Billionaires Boys Clubs which insisted that candidates running for state office would have to support vouchers, marketed as “tax credits.” But, then, Republicans gained an overwhelming super-majority, where individual legislators’ had to obey each and every one of the leaderships’ orders.

The strangest of 2023’s non-negotiable demands were made by House Speaker Charles McCall who, almost certainly, was driven by his desire to be elected governor. He switched from opposing vouchers to demanding complete loyalty to “tax credits” for private schools. Almost certainly, his mandates backfired, unleashing chaos which allowed the more reasonable Senate Republicans to fight back and to win some victories.

Even so, McCall misleadingly claimed, “the Legislature will have invested more funding into public education in the past five years than in the previous 27 years combined.”  Moreover, Shawn Hime, executive director of the Oklahoma State School Boards Association, agreed that the bill is “really game changing for public education.”  He added, “Over the past six years, state leaders have put an additional $1.5 billion into funding public schools, a 59% increase.”

A more accurate evaluation was provided by Rep. John Waldron who twittered, “My initial assessment of the budget process this year: ‘Never has so much money been argued over for so long to benefit so few.’” And Senate Minority Leader Kay Floyd, D-Oklahoma City said, “It is important to remember that we are talking about $600 million over three years that will not serve 95% of Oklahoma students,”

Actually, McCall and Hime inadvertently pointed to an historical fact that is essential to understanding why Oklahoma schools have gone from one crisis to the next. In the early 1990s, a comprehensive increase in school funding, HB 1017, “used a $560 million tax increase over five years to reduce class sizes, boost minimum teacher salaries, and fund statewide curriculum standards, testing, and early childhood programs.”

HB1017 launched a decade of progress, but it also produced a backlash, passing State Question 640, which required a super-majority to raise taxes. So, during the 21at century it’s been virtually impossible to maintain funding for salaries and other needs. Yes, we occasionally found the votes for a pay raise, but then real wages would stagnate. Worse, as a Republican legislator recently explained to me, we had no plan for fixing schools.

I would add that the only comprehensive plan that I recall was the first step towards full implementation of test-driven, choice-driven corporate reforms. They sought to use reward-and-punish mandates, and testing to provide the ammunition for charter-driven competition to undermine neighborhood schools and teachers’ autonomy. They used segregation by choice to supposedly recover from generations of Jim Crow. And during and after the Covid pandemic ordeal, anti-public education leaders like Gov. Stitt and Superintendent Walters’ sowed falsehoods and bitterness, while censoring class discussions regarding LGBTQ and Trans students’ rights; Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI); and honest History lessons.

Even after increasing average wages to below average in the region, and wages of new teachers to almost $40,000 per year, (as assaults on teaching have spun out of control) we can only guess whether such increases will improve teacher retention and morale. For instance, how much bigger of a paycheck would it take to get educators to forget Walters’ charges that teacher unions are “terrorist organizations;” schools are “a breeding ground for liberal indoctrination,” and spreading pornography; and claiming:

The far left wants to turn kids against their families,  … They want to convince them that America has a racist, socialist history. Instead of allowing your kids to see the fundamental principles that guide this country. … What they want is your kids to hate America.

Similarly, on the financial side, the costs of these policies haven’t been fully estimated. As mentioned earlier, the costs of vouchers start out at $150 million per year, increasing to $250 million. On one hand, some hope that, real world, only the affluent who already send their kids to private schools will widely benefit from “tax credits,” thus keeping the price tag down. But what if we see a surge of lower cost, low- quality private schools that attract families making less than $75,000 per year, undermining the stability of large numbers of public schools?

Yes, one of the worst parts of the bill, the attempt to undermine the state’s funding formula, was defeated. The House’s bill would have only increased per student funding in urban schools by about $60- $70, when rural per capita spending increased by up to $750 (or more). Now, about $500 million will be distributed by Oklahoma’s much more fair funding formula, meaning that per student funding will be $1000 (which is far short of what our students need.)  Moreover, the demand for merit pay was beaten back. But, will the new $125 million Redbud Fund, combined with the successful voucher campaign, open the door to more survival-of-the-fittest attacks on urban and poor students?

Finally, during this year’s chaos, a “longtime education grant writer,” Terri Grissom, testified that Walters “lies” to legislators. Grissom said:

“He (Walters) said, ‘We have applied for millions and millions of grants since I took office.’ We have not applied for one single grant. That was a blatant lie,” she said. “When legislators said, ‘We want a list of those,’ he gave them a list of everything I did under (former Superintendent Joy Hofmeister’s) leadership. Nothing was new.

“The new leadership team is not moving on anything. They won’t approve anything. They won’t sign contracts. No work is actually happening. When work shuts down, everything is in jeopardy.”

Some legislators are investigating the total costs of competitive grants that Walters hasn’t filed and/or mishandled. For instance the whistle-blower explained that Ryan Walters hasn’t spent “between $35 and $40 million of grant money,” and “the state could be on the hook to repay.”

Also, the legislature is now operating in a “concurrent session,” in order the override Stitt’s 20 vetoes, especially his effort to defund the Oklahoma Educational Television Authority (OETA), in order to punish legislators who didn’t support his education plan. 

Due to the lack of transparency, we can only guestimate the benefits and costs of the education bills. I intentionally avoided reaching conclusions until the end of the process. My best judgement is that I wish the adult Republicans had been more open in expressing concerns about the bills, but I acknowledge that that was probably impossible. We must not underestimate the value of their efforts to strip the most destructive parts from the process. Their wage and other funding increases may not be enough to reduce the damage to public education but, without them, its future would be worse. It’s unlikely that one year’s resistance could provide more than band aids. What matters is whether pro- or anti- public education advocates win the battles of the next few years.  

Since this post was submitted, a bill which gives grounds for optimism was passed. The Tulsa World reports:

“The State Department of Education shall not decline, refuse participation in, or choose not to apply for any federal grant funding that had been received by the Department prior to FY2023 without joint approval from the President Pro Tempore of the Oklahoma State Senate and the Speaker of the Oklahoma House of Representatives,” states Senate Bill 36x, which was approved 20-0 on the Senate side and 34-0 in the House.

Carol Burris is the Executive Director of the Network for Public Education. She watched Secretary Cardona testify before various committees and was chagrined to see how ill-informed he was. She called to tell me what he said, and I was appalled by how poorly informed he was.

Why does he know so little about the defects of vouchers? Why has no one in the Department told him that most students who take vouchers are already enrolled in private and religious schools? Why has no one told him about the dismal academic performance of students who leave public schools to use a voucher? I suggest that his chief of staff invite Joshua Cowen of Michigan State University to brief the Secretary; clearly, no one in the Department has.

Why is he so ill-informed about the meaning of NAEP scores? How can he not know that “proficient” on NAEP is not grade level? Why does he not know that NAEP proficient represents solid academic performance? Why has no one told him that he is using fake data?

Why is he not speaking out loud and clear against vouchers, armed with facts and data? Why is he not speaking out against privatization of public schools? Why is he not speaking out against censorship? Why is he not speaking out against the Dark Money-funded astroturf groups like “Moms for Liberty,” whose main goal is smearing public schools? Why is the Federal Charter Schools Program still funding charter chains that are subsidized by billionaires?

He is a mild-mannered man, to be sure, but now is not the time to play nice when the enemies of public schools are using scorched earth tactics and lies. Now is the time for a well-informed, fearless voice to speak up for students, teachers, principals, and public schools. Now is the time to defend the nation’s public schools against the nefarious conspiracy to defame and defund them. Not with timidity, but with facts, accuracy, bold words, and actions.

Carol Burris writes:

Secretary of Education Cardona is a sincere and good man who cares about children and public education. However, his appearances before Congress to defend the Biden education budget have been serious disappointments. The Republican Party is now clearly on a mission to destroy public education. He must recognize the threat and lead with courage and facts. Unfortunately, he seems more interested in deflecting arguments and placating voucher proponents than facing the assault on public education head-on. 

During the April 18 budget hearing, the Republicans, who now control the committee, had four objectives: to slash education funding, to score political points at the expense of transgender students, to support vouchers, and to complain that student loan forgiveness was unfair. 

Although the Secretary pushed back on all four, his arguments were at times disappointingly uninformed. Whenever asked about proposed policies regarding including transgender students in sports, his responses were evasive and robotic. He objected to vouchers because they reduced funding for public schools but never mentioned that vouchers result in publicly funded discrimination. Overall, he missed valuable opportunities to seize the opportunity to lead with moral courage in defense of children, democracy, and public education.

Shortly into the discussion, the Secretary argued the case against budget cuts by disparaging the performance of our public schools and their students. He called NAEP reading levels “appalling” and “unacceptable,” falsely claiming that only 33% of students are reading at “grade level.”

As Diane explained in her blog on April 19, Secretary Cardona is flat-out wrong. As described on the website of the National Center for Education Statistics:

“It should be noted that the NAEP Proficient achievement level does not represent grade level proficiency as determined by other assessment standards (e.g., state or district assessments).”

He could have made far better (and more honest) arguments for why the budget should not be cut. A wealth of research shows the connection between funding and student performance. He could have explained how Title I funds help close the gap between resource-rich and resource-poor districts. He could have argued how important a well-educated citizenry is in preserving our democracy. Instead, he kept repeating that a “tsunami of jobs” was coming as though the only purpose of schooling was job training. 

Later on, Secretary Cardona defended the budget by citing the teacher shortage. However, he pivoted and argued that we did not have a teacher shortage problem but rather a “teacher respect problem,” with no explanation regarding how his budget would address that. 

I cringed when he said, “Research shows that the most influential factor in a child’s success is the teacher in front of the classroom.” No, Mr. Secretary, that is not what research shows. Research consistently shows that out-of-school factors like poverty far more influence variations in children’s academic outcomes than in-school factors. This is not to say that teacher quality does not matter—it is the most important in-school factor, but outside factors are more influential.

Sadly, Secretary Cardona’s incorrect assertion harkens back to Race to the Top thinking, resulting in ineffective and unpopular policies such as evaluating teachers by student test scores.  Much like his inaccurate remarks about NAEP scores, he used an argument from the Republican playbook–public schools and teachers are failing America’s students.

When he was recently grilled by the Education and Workforce committee on whether he favors vouchers, he still would not confront the issue head-on, repeating that he used school choice to go to a vocational high school. When pressed, he responded, “What I’m not in favor of, sir, is using dollars intended to elevate or raise the bar, as we call it, public school programming, so that the money goes to private school vouchers. What happens is, we’re already having a teacher shortage; if you start taking dollars away from the local public school, those schools are going to be worse.”

Vouchers indeed drain funding from public schools, but there are far more compelling reasons to oppose them, beginning with their ability to discriminate in admissions. A 2010 study published by his own department showed that 22% of students who got a SOAR voucher never used it. The top reasons included: no room in the private school, the school could not accommodate the child’s special needs, and the child did not pass the admissions test or did not want to be “left back.” Schools choose—an aspect of school choice that voucher proponents ignore. 

And he allowed Aaron Bean of Florida to cite 2011 SOAR graduation statistics from the American Heritage Foundation about the DC voucher program without challenging him with the findings of a 2019 Department of Education study of SOAR that showed voucher student declines in math scores and no improvement in reading when they move to a private school. The overwhelming majority of voucher students use them in the early years, making graduation rate comparisons a less meaningful statistic. Interestingly, the 2010 study found that students often left the SOAR system because there was no room for them in high schools. More than half of all voucher students who take a voucher do not continue in the SOAR voucher system. 

Was the Secretary poorly briefed? Or did he believe he would win over Republican committee members by using their arguments when defending the President’s budget?

Either way, one can only hope that when he meets with the Senate, he is better prepared and dares to say that public money belongs in public schools that educate every child.  We need a Secretary of Education that is willing to stand up, push back and use facts to dispute the Republican narrative that American education is broken, not a Secretary who reinforces it.

Nebraska was one of the few states that managed to resist privatization. But it is a well-known fact that the privatization industry cannot tolerate any state that devotes its resources to public schools open to all students. Nebraska had no charter schools, no vouchers, no Common Core, and no grounds for dissatisfaction: its scores on NAEP are strong.

But Nebraska is a red state, and the billionaires could not leave it be.The legislature passed a voucher bill, and Nebraska’s Stand for Children will fight to get it on a state referendum, as they are confident that Nebraskans will reject vouchers. That’s a good bet, as vouchers have never won a state referendum.


We have some very bad news to share with you, and there’s no way to sugarcoat it: Our legislature has passed Nebraska’s first school privatization bill.

Just a while ago, 33 senators voted to pass LB 753. But we aren’t deterred; we’re determined. Over 300,000 students attend a public school in Nebraska. And there are hundreds of thousands of Nebraskans who, like us, support public schools and will stand up for what’s right.

If you’re one of those Nebraskans (and we think you are), please support our work today for Give To Lincoln Day. A gift of $20 or more will send the school privatizers a strong message: NOT IN NEBRASKA.

Give Now

Right now, somewhere not in Nebraska, DeVos and other billionaires who backed this bill are undoubtedly celebrating. Our state was one of the last to fall for their privatization schemes.

And fall we will, if Governor Pillen signs LB 753 into law. The conventional notion that public dollars should be invested in the common good and in common schools will, at that point, only be true in North Dakota, where the governor recently vetoed an eerily similar piece of legislation.

While the mega-donors like DeVos break open their champagne, our team at Stand For Schools is still hard at work – fighting to advance public education in Nebraska for ALL and getting fired up for the Support Our Schools Nebraska effort.

Please support our work today with a gift of $20 or more for Give To Lincoln Day. We can honestly say we’ve never needed your help more than we do today. Our team is ready to win this fight – whether it’s in a courtroom or at the ballot box – but we can’t do it without you.

Help Us Fight Back

PS: You can read our organization’s full statement about the the Nebraska Legislature passing LB 753 here.

Copyright © 2023 Stand For Schools, All Rights Reserved

Mailing Address:
P.O. Box 95166
Lincoln, NE 68509

Here is Stand for Schools statement, released today:

Today’s passage of LB 753 marks a dark new era for schooling in Nebraska.

The Legislature’s Education Committee considered proposals this year to make school lunches free, broadly prohibit discrimination, include student voices in curriculum decisions, and increase the poverty allowance in TEEOSA. But instead of improving the schools that serve 9 out of 10 children in our state, instead of addressing the needs of over300,000 students attending Nebraska public schools, 33 senators chose todayto prioritize giving tax breaks to the wealthy and corporations by sending tax dollars to unaccountable private schools.

They did so despite overwhelming and constantly mounting evidence that the implementation of tax-credit voucher schemes does not improve access to private schools or academic outcomes but rather marks the beginning of a devastating dismantling and defunding of public education, as it has in dozens of other states.

Policymakers who voted to pass LB 753 made the wrong choice. Statewide polling consistently shows a strong majority of Nebraskans firmly oppose school privatization measures. From Omaha to Ogallala, and Spencer to Sidney, Nebraskans take pride in our public schools because we know they are the head and heart of our urban and rural communities.

Like our fellow Nebraskans, Stand For Schools remains committed to a vision of public education that is welcoming to all students regardless of their race, religion, gender, or ability. Realizing that vision is neither easy nor politically expedient. It is, for instance, far easier to lean on out-of-state bill mills and think tanks than it is to grow our own nonpartisan solutions to nonpartisan Nebraska problems. It is far easier to demonize the education professionals who work hard in our public schools every day than it is to address crisis-level staff shortages by recruiting and retaining the qualified teachers and school psychologists our students need. It is far easier to restrict the ability of school districts to raise revenue than to finally, fully fund our K-12 public education system. And it is far easier to offload the duties of educating the next generation of Nebraskans to unaccountable private schools than to do the hard work of providing a free, fair, equitable, and excellent public school system that works for all.

Today, 33 senators chose what was easy over what was right. The consequences of their decision will be far-reaching and long-lasting. The hours the Legislature spent debating LB 735 will not compare to the years it will take to undo the damage done to public schools and the harm caused to students, their families, and their communities.

Thankfully, there are hundreds of thousands of Nebraskans who aren’t afraid of hard work, who are undeterred by today’s decision and determined to make it right. Stand For Schools is proud to join them. Together with the Support Our Schools Nebraska coalition, we will work to put LB 753 on the 2024 ballot and ensure voters’ voices are heard: Not in Nebraska.

Indiana blogger Steve Hinnefeld reports on the gains of the billionaire-funded school choice industry in the last session of the Indiana legislature. The Republican dominated state is all in for enriching both charters and vouchers, without any proof of success.

Hinnefeld writes:

Indiana’s private school voucher system was the big winner in the 2023 legislative session, but charter schools came in a close second. They secured sizeable increases in state funding to pay for facilities and transportation, along with – for the first time – a share of local property taxes.

As Amelia Pak-Harvey of Chalkbeat Indiana explains, the success followed an all-out lobbying and PR effort in which charter supporters teamed with voucher proponents. Advocates insist charter schools are public schools, and private schools certainly aren’t. But the joint effort was effective.

The Republican supermajority in the General Assembly rewarded charter schools with:

  • An increase to $1,400 from $1,250 per pupil in “charter and innovation network school grants,” intended to make up for the fact that charter schools haven’t been able to levy property taxes.
  • A new law that says school districts in four counties, Lake, Marion, St. Joseph and Vanderburgh, must share increases in their local property-tax revenue with charter schools.
  • A requirement that districts in the same four counties share with charter schools if their voters pass a referendum to raise property taxes to pay for operating expenses.
  • $25 million in fiscal year 2024 for facilities grants for charter schools. That’s in addition to the “charter and innovation school network grants” listed above.

All told, the budget and student funding formula will provide about $671 million in state funds over the next two years for brick-and-mortar charter schools and another $112 million for virtual charter schools. That doesn’t include the local property tax funding that charter schools in four counties will receive.

House Speaker Todd Huston, R-Fishers, said at the start of the session that expanding school choice would be a priority. Growing the voucher program was on the table from the start, but it wasn’t until the last day of the session that charter school funding bills took their final shape.

As Chalkbeat reported, a $500,000 campaign by charter supporters, including catchy TV and Facebook ads attributed to the Indiana Student Funding Alliance, certainly helped. The Institute for Quality Education, an Indianapolis organization that promotes vouchers and charter schools, helped pay for the ads. Its political action committee, Hoosiers for Quality Education, gave over $1.3 million to Republican campaigns in 2020-22. Another pro-charter group, Hoosiers for Great Public Schools, gave over $1 million. Arguably no other special interest did more to keep the Statehouse in solid GOP control.

Both PACs are largely funded by out-of-state billionaires: the Walton family of Arkansas for Hoosiers for Quality Education and Netflix CEO Reed Hastings for Hoosiers for Great Public Schools.

The Student Funding Alliance campaign initially focused on getting a share of a planned property-tax operating referendum for Indianapolis Public Schools. IPS dropped plans for the referendum, and the call for “parity” in school funding shifted to the legislature, where it had a ready audience.

Charter schools get about the same per-pupil state funding as district schools. They get more federal money. But they haven’t been able to raise money with property taxes. That will now change for charter schools in the four designated counties, and that’s two-thirds of the charters in the state. By my count, 56 of Indiana’s nearly 100 brick-and-mortar charter schools are in Indianapolis (Marion County) and nine are in Lake County.

In almost every other instance, government entities that levy property taxes – school districts, cities, counties, townships, etc. – can be held accountable via elections. If you don’t like how the school district is spending your tax dollars, you can vote out the school board. That won’t be the case with charter schools, which are privately operated nonprofits with appointed boards.

Expanding school choice was a key part of GOP legislators’ education program, but it wasn’t the only part. The supermajority also passed what the ACLU referred to as a “slate of hate”: laws to ban gender-affirming care for trans youth, set the stage for banning books and prosecuting school librarians, ban teaching about sex in early grades, and force schools to out trans kids to their parents.

NPR reported on a warning issued by the nation’s oldest civil rights organization, the NAACP. Travelers should avoid Florida, where there is a pervasive air of bigotry and easy access to guns. The warning nearly coincided with Ron DeSantis’ declaration of his campaign, on a media platform with billionaire Elon Musk. DeSantis will tout his record of stern opposition to migrants, gays, drag queens, transgender people, Black history, and his unwavering support for censorship and guns.

ORLANDO, Fla. — The NAACP over the weekend issued a travel advisory for Florida, joining two other civil rights groups in warning potential tourists that recent laws and policies championed by Gov. Ron DeSantis and Florida lawmakers are “openly hostile toward African Americans, people of color and LGBTQ+ individuals.”

The NAACP, long an advocate for Black Americans, joined the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC), a Latino civil rights organization, and Equality Florida, a gay rights advocacy group, in issuing travel advisories for the Sunshine State, where tourism is one of the state’s largest job sectors.

The warning approved Saturday by the NAACP’s board of directors tells tourists that, before traveling to Florida, they should understand the state of Florida “devalues and marginalizes the contributions of, and the challenges faced by African Americans and other communities of color.”

Critics say Florida aims to rewrite history by rejecting African American studies

An email was sent Sunday morning to DeSantis’ office seeking comment. The Republican governor is expected to announce a run for the GOP presidential nomination this week.

Florida is one of the most popular states in the U.S. for tourists, and tourism is one of its biggest industries. More than 137.5 million tourists visited Florida last year, marking a return to pre-pandemic levels, according to Visit Florida, the state’s tourism promotion agency. Tourism supports 1.6 million full-time and part-time jobs, and visitors spent $98.8 billion in Florida in 2019, the last year figures are available.

DeSantis’s efforts to exclude migrants may hurt Florida more than the boycott. Will the tourism industry have the staff it needs for hotels and restaurants? Will the agricultural industry have enough laborers to pick crops?

DeSantis’s war on teaching accurate, factual history about American history, his demands for book banning, and his support for vouchers for every student in the state, even those already in private schools, degrades education and intelligence in Florida.

DeSantis is running on a platform of hate, bigotry, and disunity. Let’s see how that plays.

North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper declared a state of emergency for the state’s public schools after the General Assembly passed a universal voucher bill.

Universal vouchers provide a public subsidy to every student in the state, no matter what their family income or where they go to school. In other states, most voucher recipients already are enrolled in private and religious schools. North Carolina adopted a plan that ensures public money for rich kids in private and religious schools.

Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper declared Monday that “public education in North Carolina is facing a state of emergency” in the face of “extreme legislation” being promoted by Republican state lawmakers.

In a video posted online Monday, Cooper said GOP lawmakers will “starve public education” and “drops an atomic bomb on public education” with plans to further cut taxes and increase funding for private school vouchers.

He said the public needs to speak out against the changes before they’re adopted in the state budget. “It’s clear that the Republican legislature is aiming to choke the life out of public education,” Cooper said. “I am declaring this state of emergency because you need to know what’s happening.

“If you care about public schools in North Carolina, it’s time to take immediate action and tell them to stop the damage that will set back our schools for a generation.”

Cooper’s speech comes as Republican legislative leaders are negotiating a state budget deal for the next two years. The GOP has a legislative supermajority, so it can adopt a spending plan and other legislation without needing Cooper’s support.

The governor will hold public events across the state in the days ahead to call on parents, educators and business leaders to speak against the GOP proposals, the Associated Press reported.

Read more at:

Here’s another version of the story that is not behind a paywall:

Cooper said extreme GOP legislation could cost the state’s public schools hundreds of millions of dollars, exacerbate a stubborn teacher shortage and bring political culture wars to classrooms.

He lashed out Senate Bill 406, a bill to expand the state’s school voucher program. Under the proposal, even the state’s wealthiest families would qualify for what are known as “opportunity scholarships” to help pay for private schools. The voucher program was created a decade ago to help low-income families escape low-performing districts and schools.

“Their private school voucher scheme will pour your tax money into private schools that are unaccountable to the public and can decide which students they won’t to keep out,” Cooper said. “They want to expand private school so that anyone, even a millionaire, can get taxpayer money for their children’s private academy tuition.”

Voucher critics complain that the private schools that receive taxpayer money engage in religious indoctrination and exclusion, discriminate against LGBTQ students and parents, and are not held accountable for academic outcomes the way charter schools and traditional public school are.

They also contend that vouchers divert money and other resources from already underfunded public schools. Under the proposed legislation, annual spending on private school vouchers would steadily increase until it reaches $500 million by the 2031-32 school year.

The voucher legislation was defended by turncoat legislator Tricia Cotham, who switched parties to give the hard-right Republicans a super-majority in both houses of the General Assembly:

Meanwhile, voucher supporters such as Rep. Tricia Cotham, a Republican from Mecklenburg County, contend that expanding the voucher program will help families that decide that public schools aren’t the best fit for their children. Cotham, a former Democrat who switched parties in March, co-sponsored a House bill with the same language.

On Monday, Cotham tweeted that Cooper is “advocating for systems rather than students themselves…”

Cooper also took aim at the Senate’s teacher pay raise proposal, which he said will only increase veteran teachers’ salaries $250 over two years. There are currently 5,000 teaching vacancies, he said.

“Two hundred and fifty bucks,” Cooper said. “That’s a slap in the face and it will make the teacher shortage worse.”

The Senate recently released a budget calling for a 4.5% average teacher pay raise over two years. The budget would bump starting teacher pay to $39,000 annually. First year teachers currently earn $37,000 a year.

Cooper’s budget includes an 18% teacher raise over the biennium. The budget approved by the House in April called for raises of 10.2% over the two-year budget cycle. Teachers would receive a 5.5% pay increase the first year, with the remainder coming in year two.

Cooper also said Republican lawmakers want to accelerate tax cuts that are projected to cut North Carolina’s state budget by almost 20%, which will hamstringing the state’s ability to pay for public education.