Archives for category: North Carolina

You may wonder, What’s a libertarian school? Good question. It’s not Summerhill. Read Mitchell Robinson’s post about Thales Academy in Apex, North Carolina, which is a voucher school.

It’s a low-cost, low-quality Private school that’s designed to standardize students and protect them from creative or critical thinking. It’s yet another entrant in DeVos’ “Cabinet of Horrors.” More of this and we will slip back into primordial slime.

Parents in North Carolina filed a lawsuit against the state’s voucher program on grounds that it discriminates against them because of their religious beliefs. Through the voucher program, the state sends public funds to religious schools that do not accept the children of these plaintiffs because of their religious beliefs. Therefore the plaintiffs argue that the voucher program encourages religious discrimination.

The lawsuit challenges the constitutionality of the private school voucher known as the “Opportunity Scholarship Program” established in 2013 by the North Carolina General Assembly.

Major tenets of the lawsuit are:

“The Program sends millions of taxpayer dollars to private schools without imposing any meaningful educational requirements. As implemented, many of the Program’s funds are directed to schools that divide communities on religious lines, disparage many North Carolinians’ faiths and identities, and coerce families into living under religious dictates and The Program as implemented funds discrimination on the basis of religion. Families’ ability to participate in the Program is limited by their religious beliefs and their willingness to cede control of their faith to a religious school,” The Program as implemented funds discrimination on the basis of religion. Families’ ability to participate in the Program is limited by their religious beliefs and their willingness to cede control of their faith to a religious school.

This is an interesting approach. Typically, litigants claim that they are denied access to public funds because of their religious beliefs. In this lawsuit, the litigants say they are denied access to publicly funded religious schools because of their religious faith and that the voucher program should be held unconstitutional because it discriminates against them and their children on religious grounds.

NBCT Teacher Justin Parmenter and microbiologist Dr. Nan Fulcher write here about North Carolina’s reliance on limited studies to justify reopening schools.

 

A Warning for Governor Cooper: the burden of COVID-19 in NC is far higher than in countries that struggled with school outbreaks after reopening

On Tuesday Governor Roy Cooper announced that North Carolina students will return to school for in-person instruction in August. Schools will be expected to follow distancing protocols and symptoms screenings will be done as students and staff enter school buildings. Also on Tuesday, North Carolina set new records for single day death totals and COVID hospitalizations.

On Saturday we wrote about the COVID-19 data that North Carolina school officials are mulling over. In analyzing the specific points presented by the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services (NCDHHS) to the NC State Board of Education, we noted the scarcity of information on COVID-19 spread in schools, and the potential for misinterpreting the few studies that do exist.

In our article, we only addressed the studies cited by the NCDHHS that supported the statement “schools do not appear to have played a major role in COVID-19 transmission.”

We did not address the fact that the NCDHHS failed to include other data in their report — information about countries that had already reopened their schools prior to the end of the 2019-2020 school year.

To shed more light on reopened schools, we now highlight a recent New York Times (NYT) article, which was published the same day as our last blog article.

The NYT outlines critical considerations for reopening U.S. schools, citing much of the same research we analyzed — and identifying the same flaws.

In addition, the authors discuss what happened when countries reopened their schools following initial closure due to the first COVID-19 cases. Information about reopened schools was absent from the NCDHHS’s literature review. This data could have greatly helped to inform discussion about North Carolina’s plan for the upcoming school year.

The NYT article cites the report entitled “Summary of School Re-Opening Models and Implementation Approaches During the COVID 19 Pandemic, which was distributed by the University of Washington Department of Global Health (updated 7-6-2020).

To set the stage for analyzing the UW report, we generated some values that reflect the COVID-19 burden in each country at the time they reopened their schools. Because the studies had different methods for determining transmission rates, direct comparison of each country’s infection data was not possible.

Therefore, to illustrate the prevalence of COVID-19 in each country, we determined the number of new daily cases expressed as a fraction of the country’s total population. (For example, Denmark had 198 new reported cases the day schools reopened; that value divided by the total population of 5.8 million equals 0.34 cases/10,000 people)

Table 1. COVID-19 infection data from six countries on the date that schools reopened.

New daily cases on reopen date per 10,000 people

Denmark 0.22
France 0.01
Germany. 0.15
Israel. 0.1
Norway. 0.07
S. Korea. 0.01

In the UW report, the authors considered Denmark and Norway to be among the European countries with low community transmission, while Germany was considered to be “higher”. This conclusion doesn’t track with our calculations, but high variability among the number of new daily case reports at the time could account for the discrepancy.

As for the outcome of reopening schools, the UW report presented the following results: [*NOTE: each country employed different mitigation measures and different strategies for grouping students and determining which ages returned to school.]

Denmark and Norway – These two countries reopened schools gradually, starting with preschool and then all students six weeks later. This approach did not result in an increased rate of growth of COVID-19 cases in either country.

Germany – The return of older students later in the reopening process was accompanied by increased transmission among students; staff infection rates were equivalent to that of the general population. Individual schools were closed for quarantine as outbreaks occurred. Recently, Germany closed a small number of schools preemptively in response to local community outbreaks.

Israel – Schools adopted fewer social distancing measures due to crowding. After reopening schools, over 300 children and staff were infected within a month, with over 130 cases at a single school. Around 200 schools out of 5,200 were closed for quarantine during June, others remaining open through the end of the month.

South Korea – Soon after reopening, schools near a warehouse facility outbreak were closed and other schools postponed reopening. Other closings have occurred in response to other small community clusters. No reports of school-related infections have been reported to date.

France – There were no publications on the outcome, but news accounts indicate that, despite a small number of cases (70 per 1.2 million students) after gradual opening in mid-May, cases have subsided and schools have fully reopened with no additional outbreaks.

The overall conclusion from UW was that reopening schools in countries where community transmission was low did not increase overall spread, but opening schools in countries where community transmission was higher correlated with school outbreaks and subsequent school closures.

To consider how reopening U.S. schools will compare to the other countries’ experiences, we looked at the current data for new daily cases for the entire country and for North Carolina (Table 2).

Table 2. Current COVID-19 infection data (7-11-2020) for the United States and North Carolina.

New daily cases per 10,000 people, 7-12-20

United States 1.87
North Carolina 2.35

It’s clear that none of the countries that reopened schools in late spring had anywhere near the extent of COVID-19 that’s present in the U.S.

Further, the value for new daily cases from each country that reopened schools (with the exception of Israel) continued to decline after school was back in session.

With transmission rates continuing to rise in the U.S. and in North Carolina, the number of daily new cases in both places could double by the time school starts on August 17th.

If the experience of other countries holds true — that COVID-19 spread in reopened schools reflects the prevalence of the infection in the community — reopening schools where the number of active cases is high would present an enormous risk for students and staff in those areas.

Even if children don’t pass along SARS-CoV-2 as easily as adults, there could still be a significant increase in spread among students and their families in communities hardest hit by COVID-19.

NC school officials urgently need to consider the lessons from other countries’ school reopening experiences, and look at the pace at which the virus is spreading right now … and where it’s predicted to be this fall and beyond.

Nan Fulcher earned her Ph.D. in Microbiology and Immunology from the University of North Carolina, specializing in infectious disease research. She’s involved in science and outdoor education programming for children and does freelance graphic design.

 

Do you remember General Tata?

After a career in the military, retired Brigadier General Anthony Tata entered the Broad Academy in 2009, launching a new career. He was soon hired as Chief Operating Officer of the District of Columbia Public Schools, when Michelle Rhee was chancellor. Then on to become Superintendent of Schools in Wake County, North Carolina, where a new school board hired him to dismantle one of the nation’s most successfully integrated districts. He managed to alienate and offend enough people so that the board that hired him was soon swept out by voters.

Mike Klonsky picks up the story of General Tata’s career post-education. As a noted Islamophobe and Trumper, he soon caught the eye of Trump recruiters and is in line for a powerful position in the Defense Department.

Klonsky writes:

FAST FORWARD…So quite naturally, who should pop up yesterday as Trump’s proposed appointee to the third-highest post in the Pentagon? None other than Brig. Gen. Tata himself. The job includes managing policy decisions on everything from Afghanistan and the Middle East to China, North Korea, and Russia, as well as artificial intelligence, hypersonic weapons, and more.

Tata would succeed John Rood, who was ousted as undersecretary for policy in February after being viewed as insufficiently loyal to Trump. He could even be next in the line if the secretary of defense and the deputy resigned or were removed.

Only this time, the recommendation caused the shit to hit the fan.

Among his notorious remarks: He called President Obama “a terrorist leader.”

Another notable citizen-rightwing nut job for this itinerant administration.

Please join Jen Mangrum in her important campaign for state superintendent of education in North Carolina, a post that has been held by an ineffectual Republican supporter of charters, vouchers, and other Tea Party policies for the past four years.

Jen is an experienced educator and a woman with guts. She ran against state Senator Phil Berger, the most powerful politician in the state in the last election, which she lost. But she has a good shot at winning the race for state chief. She has the support of teachers and parent groups.

Jen is holding a campaign event on June 25. I will join her, virtually.

Please join us and help her restore integrity and leadership in public education in North Carolina.

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Jane R. Wettach of Duke Law School has written a study of North Carolina’s voucher program. It is expensive, having cost the state thus far nearly $160 million. It diverts money from the public schools. Most of the voucher schools are religious schools. Voucher schools do not participate in the state’s accountability program so the academic progress—or lack thereof—cannot be assessed.

Some of the author’s conclusions:

The overarching assessment of the initial review of the voucher program from our previous report remains true: The North Carolina voucher program is well designed to promote parental choice, especially for parents who prefer religious education for their children. It is poorly designed, however, to promote better academic outcomes for children and is unlikely to do so over time.

 The public has no information on whether the students with vouchers have made academic progress or have fallen behind. No data about the academic achievement of voucher students are available to the public, not even the data that are identified as a public record in the law. The State Education Assistance Authority (SEAA), which administers the program, concluded that the reporting of tests scores in aggregated form, as required by the legislature, produces no meaningful information. Therefore, the SEAA has discontinued requiring schools to produce the data and it no longer publishes any reports on test scores.

 The number of children receiving vouchers has increased ten-fold since it began: from approximately 1,200 in the first year to 12,300 in 2019-20. Although the program has attracted additional students each year, the rate of growth has been less than the General Assembly anticipated and not all of the appropriation has been spent.

The program is designed to 3xpsnd but it seems likely that most of the available slots will not be used.

92% of vouchers are used in religious schools.

This is a program designed to have no accountability for results of any kind:

Other potential accountability measures for North Carolina private schools receiving vouchers do not exist. Unlike private schools in most states with similar voucher programs, North Carolina private schools accepting voucher money need not be accredited, adhere to state curricular or graduation standards, employ licensed teachers, or administer state End-of-Grade tests.

The program is nothing more than a pass-through of public money to parents who want their children to have a religious schooling, without regard to quality.

The amount of the voucher is small, about $4,200, not enough for a high-quality education, but just right for an inferior religious school without certified teachers. This is what the NC General Assembly wants.

Civil rights groups are suing to block the use of charter schools to desegregate public schools in North Carolina.

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May 18, 2020

LAWSUIT CHALLENGES NORTH CAROLINA LAW ALLOWING BREAKAWAY, SEGREGATED CHARTER SCHOOLS

By Wendy Lecker

Parents and civil rights groups in North Carolina have sued the State challenging a law passed in 2018 authorizing predominately white, wealthy towns in the Charlotte-Mecklenburg school district to break away and form town-run, separate charter school districts that could exclude non-town residents. In the lawsuit filed in Wake County Superior Court on April 30, plaintiffs charge that the law violates North Carolina’s state constitutional guarantees of a uniform public school system and equal protection and will exacerbate persistent racial and socio-economic segregation in the county district.

The plaintiffs in the case, North Carolina State Conference of the NAACP v. State, are the North Carolina State Conference of the NAACP, the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Branch of the NAACP and two parents with children in Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools. They are represented by Mark Dorosin, Elizabeth Haddix and Genevieve Bondaies Torres of the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law and the law firm of Tin, Fulton, Walker and Owen, P.L.L.C.

History of School Segregation in Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools

Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools (CMS) has a long history of school segregation. The district was the subject of a major desegregation case in the 1960’s, Swann v. Charlotte–Mecklenburg Board of Education. In that case, in 1971, the U.S. Supreme Court placed CMS under federal supervision to ensure school desegregation. In 1999, white parents succeeded in ending the desegregation order, and CMS was removed from federal court oversight.

CMS then implemented a voluntary, “neighborhood” school assignment plan which, over time, resulted in school resegregation within the district. By 2010, CMS was almost as de facto segregated as it was before Swann was filed to end de jure segregation.

In 2016, the CMS school board developed a plan to increase diversity and reduce the number of schools with high concentrations of poor students. The plan met with strong opposition by elected officials and parents in the mostly white and affluent towns of Cornelius, Huntersville, Matthews, and Mint Hill – all towns within the CMS district.

The Charter Breakaway Law

Desegregation opponents pushed the introduction of HB 514 in 2017 in the North Carolina legislature. The bill would allow the towns of Matthews and Mint Hill to establish municipal, and predominately white, charter schools with admissions preferences that would authorize by law the exclusion of non-resident, low-income students and students of color.

In an effort to appease legislators supporting the bill, the CMS board drastically scaled back its desegregation plan, limiting its effect to only 5% of the district’s students.

At the same time HB 514 was introduced, a State legislative committee studied the viability of breaking up large school districts in the state. That report concluded, in 2018, that breaking up large districts would exacerbate disparities in resources between high- and low-wealth schools and would provide no educational benefit.

In reaction, desegregation opponents dug in their heels and amended the municipal charter legislation to include the CMS towns of Cornelius and Huntersville. The bill passed in June 2018, and because it was considered local legislation, it did not require the governor’s signature under North Carolina law. In vetoing companion legislation to allow teachers in the new charter school district to participate in the state retirement and insurance programs, Governor Roy Cooper made clear that “municipal charter schools set a dangerous precedent that could lead to taxpayer funded resegregation.”

A companion funding bill was passed to facilitate the municipal charters under HB 514 by allowing towns to spend local property taxes to fund charter schools without requiring a voter referendum, as previously required by North Carolina law.

The plaintiffs in the current lawsuit charge that these new laws will drain resources from CMS, increase segregation in CMS, create segregated town charter schools, and deny low-income, non-white students equal access to higher-funded schools.

The Role of Charter Schools in School Segregation

This lawsuit is the latest in an emerging trend of litigation under education guarantees in state constitutions challenging states’ use of charter schools to foster segregation. In 2018, the Minnesota Supreme Court allowed a challenge to school segregation in Minneapolis-St. Paul to proceed to trial, noting that segregated schools cannot be “uniform” under that state’s constitution. Plaintiffs in that case charge that the formation of segregated charter schools in those cities and their exemption from desegregation plans play a major role in school segregation.

In February 2020, the New Jersey Supreme Court granted Education Law Center’s petition to review the Commissioner of Education’s approval of the expansion of charter schools in Newark without evaluating the charters’ segregative impact on the district or their negative impact on the educational resources available to students in Newark district schools.

Given the growing body of research documenting the lasting negative effects of segregation on the academic and life outcomes of public school students and a history of lax or almost no regulation by states over their charter school programs, these lawsuits seek to hold states accountable to ensure charter schools authorized by their laws do not undermine or jeopardize students’ rights to education under state constitutions.

Wendy Lecker is a Senior Attorney at Education Law Center

Press Contact:
Sharon Krengel
Policy and Outreach Director
Education Law Center
60 Park Place, Suite 300
Newark, NJ 07102
973-624-1815, ext. 24
skrengel@edlawcenter.org

In this powerful post, NBCT teacher Stuart Egan describes the calculated attack on democracy and social justice in North Carolina.

The state was once considered one of the most enlightened in the South. It is now one of the most regressive, taken down by the Tea Party, by a legislature dominated by ALEC, and by politicians determined to destroy opportunity for people of color and poor people.

Egan provides a timeline of North Carolina’s descent, which accelerated after the Tea Party capture of the General Assembly in 2010. Behind the scenes, big money pushed ALEC bills.

Egan writes:

That timeline is filled with actions that are calculated, highly crafted, delicately executed, and driven by dogma deliberately done to hurt public education and communities that rely on public schools. Each occurred before the May 16th, 2018 march in Raleigh.

Citizens United, you may remember, allowed for corporations and other entities to donate to political candidates. It gave rise to PACs and SUPERPACs. It’s why you now see an incredible amount of money in political races donated by people who have a vested interest in a race or candidate but cannot vote in that race.

HB17 was the legislation produced in a special session in December of 2016 right before Roy Cooper took office. It was a power grab that granted the incoming state superintendent, Mark Johnson, the most power any state super had ever had. Johnson might be the most unqualified person to ever hold the job. What ensued was a lawsuit between Johnson and the State Board of Education that lasted for 18 months. Ultimately, it cemented Johnson’s role as a puppet and led to DPI’s reorganization and reduction of personnel.

The Innovative School District is an educational reform that allows the state to select “poor” performing schools to be taken over by an out-of-state entity. In three years, it has only one school under its umbrella, but has gone through multiple leaders.

And then there was the Voter ID law, racially driven gerrymandered political maps, and the abolishment of automatically paycheck deductions for groups like NCAE. (Yes, the Voter ID law and the gerrymandered districting has been overruled, but we still as a state have not had an election cycle since both were overturned.)

It used to not be this way, but after the Great Recession of 2008 and the rise of a new wing of the Republican Party, a noticeable shift occurred in North Carolina politics. Decades ago, public education was championed by both Democrats and Republicans alike. Think of governors like Holshousher and Martin and you will see a commitment to funding public education like NC saw with Sanford, Hunt, and Easley. The governor’s office and the General Assembly were often in different hands politically speaking, but on the issue of public education, they stood much more united than it is today.

That unification is not there anymore. And it wasn’t caused by public education or its advocates. It was planted, fed, fostered, and championed by those who came to power after the Great Recession. These are not Eisenhower Republicans or Reagan Republicans; they are ALEC Republicans whose sole purpose is to politicize all things and try and privatize as many public goods as possible. And on a state level, nothing is more of a public good than public schools.

They have been very adept at combining racial and social issues with public education to make it hard not only to compartmentalize each through legislation, but easy to exploit how much social and racial issues are tied to public education without people thinking they are interlinked. Laws and mandates like HB2, the Voter ID Law, the gerrymandered districts, and the attempted judicial system overhaul have as much to do with the health of public schools as any other factor.

When you keep people from being able to vote, you affect public education. When you keep people below the poverty line, you affect public education. When you gerrymander districts along racial lines, you affect public education. You cannot separate them exclusively. And we have lawmakers in power who know that very well. It’s why when you advocate for public schools, you must be aware of social and racial issues and be willing to fight along those lines.

Public school advocacy that was “successful” before 2008 will not work as effectively in 2020. No ALEC aligned politician who is in a right to work state that outlaws collective bargaining is going to “work with” advocacy groups like NCAE.

For NCAE and other groups to truly advocate for public schools, they must fight for issues outside of school rooms that affect the very students, teachers, and staff who come into those school rooms.

By every measure, North Carolina has regressed and opposed equity and democracy.

For example, “Now name the only state in the country with the lowest legal minimum wage, no collective bargaining rights, no Medicaid expansion, loosely regulated voucher and charter school expansion, and a school performance grading system that measures achievement over growth. North Carolina.“

The legislators who have passed regressive laws are not interested in dialogue or reason. They knew exactly what they were doing. They don’t negotiate. They don’t listen. They must be voted out of office.

Stuart Egan, an NBCT high school teacher in North Carolina, reminds us of why teachers protested last year and how the elected officials responded (mostly with silence).

Fortunately, the people of North Carolina have a chance to change the state’s direction by electing a genuine and experience advocate for public education as state superintendent: Jen Mangrum won the Democratic nomination and she will campaign vigorously to restore the state’s once-esteemed public schools as great places for students and teachers and communities.

If you live in North Carolina and you are tired of politicians tearing down the public schools and shifting public money to entrepreneurs and religious schools, vote for Jen Mangrum in November.

Governor Roy Cooper has closed all schools starting Monday for at least two weeks. Now is time for common sense and caution, to protect the health of children, families, staff, and communities. Limit the spread of the virus.

Here is the official notification from the state.

RALEIGH (WTVD) — Governor Roy Cooper on Saturday afternoon issued an executive order to stop mass gatherings of more than 100 people and close all K-12 public schools across the state of North Carolina as new cases of coronavirus continue to pop up.

The closures will start on Monday, March 16 for at least 2 weeks.

THE LATEST NORTH CAROLINA CORONAVIRUS COVERAGE

“I do not make this decision lightly,” Gov. Cooper said at a news conference. “We know that it will be difficult on many parents and students. These measures will hurt people whose incomes are affected by the prohibition of mass gatherings, particularly the people who are paid by the hour.”

Governor Cooper announced he has appointed an Education and Nutrition Working Group to develop a plan to ensure that children and families are supported while schools are closed.

“I am standing up this new working group to ensure that children have enough food to eat, families have care in safe places for their young children, and student learning continues,” Governor Cooper said.

His announcement came just an hour after Wake County Public Schools announced that it would close schools beginning on Monday, March 16 through at least Friday, March 27.