Archives for category: North Carolina

The sheriff of Madison County, North Carolina, reacted to the massacre of students in Uvalde, Texas, by putting an AR15 in every one of the six schools in the district. The guns will be locked in a safe, and breaching tools will be nearby. So don’t come into one of those schools to kill little children!

Imagine the scenario. A gunman with an AR15 shoots his way into the school, as the deranged killer at the Sandy Hook school did a decade ago. He blasts through the door, kills everyone he sees. Meanwhile, the designated defender goes to the safe, breaks it open with the breaching tool, and takes out the AR15.

By that time, the killer has had enough time to mow down the children in at least two classrooms.

The problem in Uvalde wasn’t the lack of weapons. Dozens of heavily armed officers hung out in the corridor outside the classrooms for over an hour. They had guns. What they lacked was courage, brains, and leadership.

In North Carolina, charter operator Baker Mitchell plans to go to the U.S. Supreme Court to appeal a court decision barring him from requiring girls to wear skirts to school.

The nonpartisan organization “In the Public Interest” reports:

A charter school which lost a case in federal court recently over its mandatory rule that girls wear skirts is going to take the case to the U.S. Supreme Court. Baker Mitchell, the owner of the school, “said the ruling could change the landscape of charter schools. He said in the newsletter he believes it undermines the foundation charter schools were created on, taking away parental right to choose the education their children receive. Mitchell said he believes the ruling is creating a slippery slope, and in the future courts could allow states to govern what is taught in charter schools and how.” But “experts say dress codes can and do discriminate based on sex, and this ruling proves that. Wendy Murphy, an attorney and adjunct professor at New England Law Boston, said even though parents can choose whether to send students to charter schools, that’s not the point of the ruling: regardless, if a school receives federal funding, it cannot discriminate based on sex. ‘The statute itself is very simple,’ Murphy said. ‘You cannot discriminate on the basis of sex, period.’”

In 2014, Baker Mitchell’s for-profit charter chain was investigated by the U.S. Departnent of Education for financial issues. Mitchell, who is not an educator, won a fourth charter. “Mitchell has collected in the neighborhood of $16 million in taxpayer funds over the past five years for managing three other charter schools in southeastern N.C. Brunswick County Schools Superintendent Dr. Edward Pruden is locked in a battle with Mitchell, hoping to convince State Board of Ed members to scrutinize his management practices and hold off awarding him more charters to open up schools.”

North Carolina teacher-blogger Stuart Egan called out Baker Mitchell in 2019 after Mitchell wrote a defense of charters in the Wall Street Journal. Egan pointed out that Mitchell’s Roger Bacon Academies are highly segregated and do not outperform public schools.

ProPublica wrote a report about Baker Mitchell and his charter school profiteering.

Mitchell is a member of the board of the libertarian John Locke Foundation and sat on the state charter school advisory board.

Best of all the Baker Mitchell is the pledge that students recite daily, as reported by Charlotte Magazine:

“Try to forget for a minute the outrage of wealthy businessman Baker Mitchell using North Carolina’s nascent charter school system to funnel millions of public dollars through four Wilmington-area charter schools he runs to private companies he controls, as detailed in an outstanding piece of reporting by ProPublica this week.

“Set aside the obvious conflict of interest in that arrangement, and Mitchell’s none-of-your-damn-business attitude about it: “It’s so silly. Undue influence, blah blah blah.” (He actually said that.)

“Look past his service with Art Pope on the John Locke Foundation board, and the world of symbolism in this paragraph:

To Mitchell, his schools are simply an example of the triumph of the free market. “People here think it’s unholy if you make a profit” from schools, he said in July, while attending a country-club luncheon to celebrate the legacy of free-market sage Milton Friedman.

“Turn your attention to the pledge that students, faculty, and staff at his schools are required to recite every morning just after the Pledge of Allegiance. The pledge contains these lines:

I pledge to be truthful in all my works,

guarding against the stains of falsehood from

the fascination with experts,

the temptation of vanity,

the comfort of popular opinion and custom,

the ease of equivocation and compromise, and

from over-reliance on rational argument …

I pledge to be obedient and loyal to those in authority,

in my family,

in my school, and

in my community and country,

So long as I shall live.

“The stains of falsehood … from over-reliance on rational argument”? What? The philosophical basis for this bizarre statement—which, again, adults and children are required to recite every day—is the example of Roger Bacon, the medieval scholar and Franciscan friar who lends his name to the company that manages Mitchell’s charter schools.

“You can read here about Bacon’s extensive study of the science of alchemy, and here about his view of the relationship between insight and science: “Of all kinds of experience, the best, he thought, was interior illumination, which teaches many things about Nature which the external senses could never discover, such as the transubstantiation of bread.”

“Students are being taught this superstitious garbage, with taxpayer money, which then lines the pocket of the provider. What the hell have we let happen to education in this state?”

Former Governor Jim Hunt, a Democrat, is one of the most respected figures in North Carolina on the subject of education. As teacher Justin Parmenter explains in this post, Governor Hunt was a true education reformer who cared about students, teachers, and public schools.

Parmenter writes:

Among others, those initiatives include beginning the Smart Start Pre-K program, putting a full-time teaching assistant in every grade 1-3 classroom, establishing the North Carolina School of Science and Mathematics, and creating the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards (as a personal aside I’d like to add that I am grateful and proud to have been a National Board Certified Teacher since 2006).

Under Hunt’s leadership, teacher pay in North Carolina rose to 19th nationwide, coming within about $2000 of the national average during the 2001-02 school year. The state currently ranks 39th.

Since 2010, North Carolina has been controlled by Tea Party zealots in the legislature, who devoutly believe in charters and vouchers.

Many educators were surprised when Governor Hunt agreed to join a panel that was planning to change the compensation of teachers and tie it to test scores. Perhaps Governor Hunt thought he could steer the group towards sensible solutions, like raising teacher pay to the national average.

But he announced he was quitting the coalition. He must have realized that the state commissioner and her minions were wedded to merit pay.

Parmenter writes:

Governor Jim Hunt has withdrawn as honorary co-chair of the UpliftEd Coalition, a group which will promote a controversial plan to do away with experience-based teacher compensation and replace it with a system of merit pay.

The Pathways to Excellence proposal, currently being worked on by the Professional Educator Preparation and Standards Commission (PEPSC), has proven deeply unpopular with North Carolina educators since it became public earlier this year.

Governor Hunt called on the coalition to draw upon the knowledge of teachers and listen to them.

That’s a novel idea! They are probably listening to the business community, which always complains that teachers are overpaid.

I would recommend that they read my book Reign of Error, in which I thoroughly debunk merit pay. It has been tried again and again for a century, and it has never worked. It’s one of those zombie ideas that never works and never dies.

North Carolina has a problem. The public consistently chooses to put its children in public schools, but the Tea Party-dominated General Assembly (legislature) favors privatization. No matter how poorly the charter schools and voucher schools perform, the General Assembly wants more of them. I wonder why? Is is campaign contributions or just hostility to anything public?

Tripster Travels

June 18, 2022

Time to Reconsider Virtual 

Charter Schools? 

After strong criticism of remote learning during the pandemic by the NC General Assembly and repeated legislative efforts to encourage districts to return to in-class instruction, it would be natural to think that the NC virtual charter schools, which are 100% remote, should come under increased scrutiny. 

Instead, the opposite happened. Last week, SB671, Edition 3 (Virtual Educ./Remote Acad./Virtual Charters) was introduced, which if passed into law, would allow NC’s two virtual charter schools to be upgraded to full charter status with NO REVIEW. The bill passed through the House with little discussion. As part of SB671, the “two pilot virtual charter schools…shall be deemed to be approved as charter schools by the State Board of Education.” In addition, they are allowed to increase enrollment by 20% each year based on their 2021-22 enrollment for the next five years, when their charter may be renewed for 10 more years.

In the 2017-18 SY, two virtual charter schools, North Carolina Cyber Academy (formerly NC Connections Academy) and NC Virtual Academy opened as pilot projects. Because similar virtual charter schools had seen poor outcomes in other states, NC did not want to grant full charter status until the schools had proven themselves. The experiment has not gone well. In the years for which there is performance data (see NC School Report Cards), neither school achieved above a D performance grade or higher than 55 in growth. The NC Cyber Academy earned the lowest possible growth score (50) all four years. 

In addition, both schools currently serve a lower percentage of economically disadvantaged students than the state overall and have much lower four-year graduation rates.

2020-21 Economically Disadvantaged Students

  • State: 38.9% 
  • NC Cyber Academy: 31.5%
  • NC Virtual Academy: 32.4%

2020-21 Four-Year Graduation Rate

  • State: 87.0%
  • NC Cyber Academy: 54.9%
  • NC Virtual Academy: 77.5%

In a classic example of the privatization of public education, The NC Virtual Academy is powered by Stride K-12, an online learning company traded on the NY stock exchange. While the company’s investors may be getting good returns on their investment, the NC taxpayers are not. 

SB671 also introduces an option for public school districts to apply to the State Board of Education for approval to operate small virtual academies enrolling no more than 15% of their students. The bill lists seven required elements for a district’s plan including (#3) Hardware, software, and learning mgmt. platforms that support online learning, (#5) The professional development that will be provided to those teaching in the remote academy related to the pedagogy of providing remote instruction, and (#6) The identified characteristics for successful remote learning…. In addition, clear evaluation guidelines are set out to ensure that the remote academies do not provide a sub-standard education. These and other elements of SB671 are steps that could allow public schools flexibility to meet the needs of their students.

When SB671 went to the Senate for a vote this week, members found too many differences between their original version of SB671 – Edition 2 (Changes to the K-12 Scholarship Programs) and the House’s Edition 3. On a vote of 0-42, members sent the bill to a Conference Committee to iron out the differences. This delay provides an opportunity for NC citizens to reach out to committee members to voice their opinion on the various elements of the bill and what to keep or remove. House members have not yet been identified. The Senate members are 

The past few years have given NC educators, students, and parents plenty of opportunities to see the positive and negative aspects of virtual instruction. Implementing lessons learned and evaluating results as we move forward are critical next steps. SB671 does the NC virtual charter schools a disservice by excluding them from an evaluation of their pilot stage performance

A federal court in North Carolina ruled against a charter school that required girls to wear dresses.

The charter school claimed it was not subject to federal laws against discrimination because it is not a “state actor.” Charter schools frequently claim they are not “state actors” when they violate civil rights laws or labor laws, but simultaneously say they are public schools.

An en banc federal appeals court ruled Tuesday that a public charter school in North Carolina violated the equal protection clause when it required girls to wear skirts.

The full 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals at Richmond, Virginia, ruled against Charter Day School Inc. in a June 14 decision. Judge Barbara Milano Keenan wrote the majority opinion.

The Charter Day School required girls to wear skirts, jumpers or skorts based on the view that girls are “fragile vessels” deserving of gentle treatment by boys, the appeals court said.

The school had argued that the school is not a state actor subject to the Constitution, and that the federal law banning discrimination on the basis of sex in education programs did not apply to dress codes.

The appeals court ruled against the school on both arguments.

The 4th Circuit decision is the first by a federal appeals court to recognize that charter schools receiving public funds must abide by the same constitutional safeguards as traditional public schools, according to a press release by the American Civil Liberties Union.

The en banc court and a prior 4th Circuit panel agreed that sex-specific dress codes may violate Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972. But the en banc court went further than the panel when it ruled that the charter school violated the equal protection clause

The school founder had said skirts embody “traditional values” and preserve “chivalry” and respect. Chivalry, the school founder said, is a code of conduct in which women are “regarded as a fragile vessel that men are supposed to take care of and honor.” School board members agreed with those objectives, including the goal of fostering “traditional roles” for children.

“It is difficult to imagine a clearer example of a rationale based on impermissible gender stereotypes,” the appeals court said.

Nine judges agreed with the opinion. Six dissented, in whole or in part, on the grounds that charter schools are not state actors.

Many people have pointed out—since the brutal massacre of little children and their teachers in Uvalde—the absurdity of the anti-critical race theory campaign and of the efforts to frighten parents about “pedophile teachers” grooming children to be transgender. These are phony propaganda ploys meant to undermine public schools, where dedicated teachers are doing their best to educate children every day. Someone is paying to frighten parents, and we can guess who.

Just when you thought that the attack on public schools couldn’t get more bizarre and extreme, along comes rightwing provocateur Glenn Beck with an outrageous slander against the public schools of North Carolina.

In this linked video, Beck asserts that public schools are “grooming” little children to become transgender. You will see him present “documents,” but the pieces of paper do not identify any school or district. They supposedly ask children as young as kindergarten to identify their gender and to check which gender they were assigned at birth.

Leaving aside the inconvenient fact that most children in kindergarten could not read the “documents,” they appear to be a fraud.

I contacted a friend in North Carolina who is a statewide parent leader and asked her if she knew of any district that used such a survey. She had never seen it before, never heard of it, but said that Glen Beck’s video is being distributed widely among concerned parents.

If you are a parent in North Carolina, ask for evidence. Speak to your child’s teacher. Speak to the principal. Determine whether this video is true or a hoax. Given the source, I’ll bet it’s a hoax.

“Public Schools First NC” is a parent-led advocacy group that supports that state’s public schools. It reports that Democratic Governor Roy Cooper has proposed significant increases in funding for the public schools. This may be a struggle because the state’s legislature, the General Assembly, is controlled by conservative Republicans who take every opportunity to hurt public schools and help charters and vouchers.

On Wednesday (5/11) Governor Cooper released his recommended budget for 2022-23, Building on Success.

With the legislative short session starting on May 18, Governor Cooper’s budget sets out his priorities for spending updates for the upcoming 2022-2023 budget. He is recommending adjustments to the two-year budget passed last fall to help remedy many of the shortfalls left by the previous budget. These recommendations show a commitment to investing in our children, our educators, and our communities at a level that will truly benefit all North Carolinians.

In the previous budget, much of the education spending was non-recurring. Governor Cooper’s new budget recommendations address this problem clearly: “The constitutional mandate to provide a sound basic education requires stable, recurring funding. The Governor’s FY 2022-23 Recommended Budget uses General Fund and lottery receipts to fully-fund Year Three of the Comprehensive Remedial Plan and the nonrecurring Year Two items not funded in SL 2021-180.”

NC is in a good financial position, with an expected $4.2 billion more in revenue this year and an additional $2 billion more next year than projected. The proposed budget allocates a portion of the surplus but leaves more than $1.5 billion unallocated, which will likely satisfy even the most fiscally conservative legislators.

Included in the new spending are dollars for teachers, teacher preparation, early childhood education, low-performing schools, and pathways to college and career. Here are the details:

  • $33.1 M: Develops a skilled educator pipeline and builds educator and principal capacity.
  • $370.1M: Provides fair and equitable distribution of financial resources.
  • $19.9 M: Supports low-performing schools and districts.
  • $89.7 M: Expands access to high-quality early childhood education for children from birth to age five.
  • $13 M: Creates a guided pathway from high school to postsecondary education and career opportunities.

Investments in these priorities are expected to have the following impacts:

  • Ensure all teachers receive at least a 7.5% raise over the biennium.
  • Support up to 535 additional Teaching Fellows with forgivable loans.
  • Provide up to 97,500 students with no co-pay, free school meals.
  • Increase NC Pre-K reimbursement rates by 19%, and administrative reimbursement rates from 6% to 10%.
  • Expand Smart Start services statewide and strengthen the Early Intervention program with increased staffing and professional development.
  • Expand the Child Care WAGE$ program statewide to improve pay for early childhood educators.

In the upcoming legislative session, the General Assembly will decide whether or not to adopt Governor Cooper’s budget. We urge you to contact your legislator to express support for this much-needed budget adjustment. NC has the funds; there’s no good reason not to invest in our state’s future.

Don’t Miss This Event!

Thursday, May 19 at 7:00 PM

Donald Cohen, author of The Privatization of Everything: How the Plunder of Public Goods Transformed America and How We Can Fight Back, & Timothy Tyson, author of The Blood of Emmet Till & Blood Done Signed My Namediscuss

Make a tax-deductible donation of $50 to support our work (we really appreciate your help!) and we will include a copy of Cohen’s book. Books can be mailed to your home or picked up & signed at the event: Donate Here

Hunt LibraryNCSU, Partners Way – Raleigh, NC 27606

Free event but registration is required.

Get your tickets here.

The NC Pulse reports that another charter school in North Carolina bit the dust under a cloud of financial improprieties.

Office of the State Auditor found that Bridges Academy in Wilkes County falsified student enrollment records, misused charter school money to support a preschool and failed to submit required tax forms in 2019.

State Auditor Beth Wood released the audit of the K-8 school on Wednesday. The school relinquished its charter last summer amid allegations of financial irregularities and what its own board of directors described as “insurmountable financial challenges.”

The state auditor will turn her office’s findings over to the District Attorney’s Office in Prosecutorial District 34. The district includes all of Alleghany, Ashe, Wilkes and Yadkin counties. The findings will also be shared with the Internal Revenue Service and the North Carolina Department of Revenue.

The audit shows that for the 2020-21 school year, Bridges Academy’s director and finance officer falsified student enrollment records by reporting 72 students who were not enrolled in the schools.

The two admitted that they began inflating enrollment eight years earlier, mainly in early grades to avoid detection. Students in grades K-2 aren’t required to take state tests and don’t show up on testing rosters…

Bridges Academy was also found to have used $78,576 in state money intended for the charter school to support the operations of a preschool, despite charging tuition for children to attend the preschool.

“The charter school funding provided by DPI was intended for the education of kindergarten through eighth grade students,” the audit said. “However, at least $78,576 of the funding was used for the operation of the preschool to close the gap between the revenues and expenses.”

In 2019 and 2020, Bridges also failed to report nearly $500,000 in payments to the director, instructional and support staff, the audit found.

That means the IRS likely collected fewer taxes from the organization than was owed

Here are key recommendations made by the Office of the State Auditor:

  • DPI should seek repayment of $404,971 from Bridges Academy, or the Receiver, for the state funds received as a result of the falsified student enrollment records.
  • DPI should consider reviewing the enrollment history of Bridges Academy and determine if the school received funding for falsified students in previous years.
  • DPI should seek repayment of $78,576 from Bridges Academy, or the Receiver, for state charter school funds that were utilized to support the preschool.

Kris Nordstrom of the NC Policy Watch notes the loud whining by charter advocates who are outraged by the common sense reforms proposed b6 the Biden administration’s Department of Education. They are whining, writes Nordstrom, because they are guilty of every malpractice that the reforms aim to cure.

Nordstrom begins:

Advocates for charter schools have long justified the existence of charters by claiming they serve as laboratories of innovation for traditional schools. They have claimed that operational flexibility and exemption from regulation allows them to operate more efficiently than traditional public schools. And they have claimed that they are not only willing – but better suited – to serve students from families with low incomes.

These premises have been disproven over the course of North Carolina’s nearly 30-year-long experiment with charter schools. There are no examples of charter school innovations that have offered new approaches for traditional schools (after all, traditional schools can’t follow the example of “successful” charters that garner high test scores by pushing out struggling students). Nor have charters delivered efficiency gains. Charters spend substantially more on administration than their traditional school counterparts. Most North Carolina charters outspend their neighboring traditional schools while serving a more advantaged student population and delivering weaker academic outcomes. Meanwhile, North Carolina charters continue to exacerbate racial segregation and raise costs for traditional inclusive public schools.

Charter advocates have long disputed the overwhelming evidence of their ineffectiveness. But now, they are making the case themselves.

At issue are recent changes to the terms of the federal Charter School Program (CSP) grant programs. The CSP provides money to states to run grant programs, “to open and prepare for the operation of new charter schools and to replicate and expand high-quality charter schools.” North Carolina was awarded these federal grant funds specifically to support charters, “focused on meeting the needs of educationally disadvantaged students.”

Unfortunately, the program run by North Carolina’s Department of Public Instruction has failed to meet these goals. Much of the federal funding has been awarded to schools with a history of serving as white flight charter schools and that enroll substantially fewer students from families with low incomes than nearby inclusive public schools. Incredibly, Torchlight Academy was awarded a $500,000 grant in 2020. Just two years later, this school has had its charter revoked for rampant corruption and poor student results

Are high-quality charters unwilling to operate if they can no longer divert as much money as possible into the pockets of corporations? Are charters unwilling to serve as laboratories for innovation that work with traditional public schools to expand promising practices? Are charters unable to craft community impact statements because they are unable to demonstrate community benefits? Are they unwilling to commit to greater school integration efforts because they’d rather effectively pick and choose who their students are?

By opposing the CSP rule changes, charter supporters are implicitly answering the above questions in the affirmative. Their protests affirm the arguments made by charter critics that such schools are overly focused on profit-hoarding, unable to serve as collaborative partners in developing and scaling instructional innovation, exacerbate budget challenges, and contribute to segregation.

The proposed CSP rule changes do not in any way undermine charter schools. They simply ask charters seeking supplemental federal funds to try to live up to the promises made by charter advocates. The protests of charter advocates indicate that – as many of us have been arguing for years – charter schools are largely unable to live up to these promises.

And if charters are – as they now admit – unable to meet these promises, then policymakers should question not just whether they deserve supplemental federal funding through the CSP…but whether such schools are deserving of public funding at all.

This report comes from the Center for Educational Equity at Teachers College, Columbia University. The Leandro case ordered equitable funding for the state’s public schools, but the funding has not been delivered due to the Tea Party Republican control of the legislature (General Assembly). Republicans have chosen to focus on charters and vouchers, not equitable funding.

Seeking to end the long-pending Leandro/Hoke litigation, Superior Court Judge David Lee last June approved a comprehensive, 8-year plan that aims to ensure all students in the state the opportunity for a sound basic education guaranteed by the state constitution. When the legislature failed to approve the initial funding to support the plan, in November, the Judge ordered the state of North Carolina to transfer $1.7 billion from its reserves to fund the first phase of the plan. At the end of November, the North Carolina Court of Appeals overruled Judge Lee’s order, holding that although the lower court was correct in saying that the state must fund the plan, it is not within its power to order money be appropriated.

Late last month, North Carolina Supreme Court Chief Justice Paul Newby, a registered Republican, suddenly replaced Judge Lee, a registered Democrat, as the presiding trial court judge for the case, without any advance notice. Justice Newby then ordered special Superior Court Judge Michael Robinson, a registered republican, to take over the case. Judge Robinson is required to determine how much of the $1.7 billion that is necessary to fund a comprehensive remedial school improvement plan was included in the current state budget. Judge Robinson must present his findings to the state Supreme Court by April 20.