Archives for category: North Carolina

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:
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Policy and Outreach Director
Education Law Center
60 Park Place, Suite 300
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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.

Educator Jen Mangrum won the Democratic primary for State Superintendent of Education. She had the support of the state’s biggest teacher associations, and she won the endorsement of the Network for Public Education Action.

Jen is a native of North Carolina whose parents were public school teachers. After graduating college, she taught second and third graders and specialized in early childhood education for 15 years. She earned graduate degrees and became a teacher educator.

Distraught with the General Assembly’s disrespect for the state’s teachers, she launched a long shot campaign against the most powerful politician in the state in 2018. She didn’t win but she persisted in fighting to restore respect and dignity to the state’s educators. North Carolina has moreNational Board Certified teachers proportionally than any other state.

Her Republican opponent, Catherine Truitt, was an advisor to Governor McCrory, who led the attacks on teachers and introduced charters and vouchers. She is now leader of an online university.

NPE Action is proud to have endorsed Jen and wish her well in her November race. We hope every public school parent and teacher will help her. She can lead the charge to revive the Tarheel State’s reputation for educational leadership.

Thanks to a provision in the tax law, called the EB-5 program, wealthy foreign investors can buy green cards by investing in charter schools.

Craig Harris, award-winning investigative reporter for the Arizona Republic, took a close look at this provision in the law that allows foreign citizens to buy visas in exchange for funding charter schools.

He visited schools in Arizona and other states.

This story was published in December.

CORNELIUS, N.C. – When Lakeside Charter Academy opened five years ago in this boating community outside Charlotte, it faced the same challenge that confronts many new charter schools.

It had governmental approval to operate and the tax dollars that come with it to pay for teacher salaries, supplies and other expenses. But it had no money to build a school or lease classrooms.

Like most of the 45 states with charter schools — taxpayer-funded campuses operated largely by private businesses — North Carolina provides no money to new operators for start-up or capital costs.

So Lakeside struck a devil’s bargain of sorts. It entered an agreement with an Arizona company to renovate a former church building, funded, in part, by a federal program that allows private companies to raise money by essentially selling green cards to wealthy foreign nationals.

Arizona-based Education Fund of America secured the foreign financing and its business partner, American Charter Development, of Utah, would raise the rest of the cash, build the campus and then lease the space back to Lakeside. Lakeside put no money down.

Peter Mojica, a North Carolina businessman and founding school board member, said Lakeside had few options as parents worked to get the school built around 2012. 

“A charter school has no credit and can’t get the money unless they have a crazy endowment from a rich benefactor,” said Mojica, who still has a son at Lakeside. “So you have Chinese investors buying visas.”

Twenty-seven other campuses in eight states, mostly small charter schools, have struck similar deals with Education Fund of America since 2013, according to its website.

Those deals have put some of the schools in financial jeopardy, according an Arizona Republic investigation.

Two Florida schools closed after one year. Four others, including three Arizona charter schools, are in imminent danger of shutting their doors, records obtained by The Arizona Republic show. More than half of the schools who entered the deals are running budget deficits. And at least 10 have turned to high-interest loans to stay afloat. The majority have average to failing academic scores.

The Republic visited seven states to investigate charter schools and what ongoing shifts in the industry might mean for Arizona, the state with the largest share of charter school students in the nation.

Almost three decades after the first U.S. charter schools opened their doors promising to innovate and compete with traditional public schools, funding remains a daunting barrier for all but the biggest operators. The result, experts say, is small, entrepreneurial operators who were the backbone of the early charter movement are increasingly squeezed out or forced to take big financial risks.

The number of mom-and-pop charter operators is declining. Between 2014 and 2018, 61% of charter schools approved to operate nationwide were affiliated with a nonprofit or for-profit chain, according to the National Association of Charter School Authorizers.

The officials who grant charters to would-be school operators are more inclined to favor big chains with proven track records than independent startups, said Greg Richmond, who until recently was chief executive of the National Association of Charter School Authorizers. 

“The charter school field has become a little more risk-adverse,” he said.

‘MAKING A PROFIT OFF OF OUR CHILDREN’

Lakeside Charter Academy turned to Education Fund of America only after parents struck out trying to get private investors, including hedge funds, Mojica said.

The school has paid escalating rent to American Charter Development for a campus that is far from luxurious, according to interviews and records obtained by The Republic.

Lakeside has no gymnasium or lunch room and only a small playground. At the end of last school year, a parking lot that doubles as a basketball court was rendered unusable by a large sinkhole. Its roughly 300-square-foot library is mostly filled with donated books.

As of July, the school was more than $1.7 million in debt — most of it for unpaid rent — and enrollment had plummeted to 100 students, from a high of 400. The state gave it a “C” academic rating.

“All I wanted was a good school for my sons,” said Alyson Ford, whose boys attended Lakeside until she moved them over disgust with Lakeside’s finances and governing board.

“As taxpayers, we are not happy about this situation,” she said, citing companies “making a profit off of our children.”

She questions Education Fund’s claim that the school was built for $5.1 million, using $3 million in Chinese investment through the federal Employment-Based Fifth Preference Immigrant Investor Program — or EB-5 visa program. County assessor records value the property at $3.3 million….

The nation’s 7,000 charter schools educate more than 3 million children, according to the U.S. Department of Education. The share of public school students attending charter schools nationwide has risen from 1% in 2000 to 6% today.

Despite that growth, starting a charter school remains daunting.

Just seven states and the District of Columbia offer charter school facility grants, and nine have loan programs, according to the Charter School Facilities Center.

The Charter School Facilities Center, a Washington, D.C., group tied to the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, found in a June research paper that one of the biggest challenges to the expansion of charter schools is state laws that place the burden of funding facilities on school operators who struggle to find affordable facilities.

Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey created a charter school construction lending program in 2016 that was billed as a way to help the “best public schools” expand by providing lower-cost financing with help from the state. It mostly assisted Basis Charter Schools Inc. and Great Hearts Academies — large, successful charter chains with close ties to the governor. After only one charter school received financing through the program in 2018, three Arizona charter schools used it this fall.

The federal government since 1994 has helped fund startup costs for charter schools through competitive grants and credit programs. But only a fraction of the projected $500 million this year is set aside for smaller charter schools, with most going to the large nonprofit companies that dominate the charter school industry.

The U.S. Department of Education last year distributed 32 multi-year grants to individual charter schools. The largest was for $1.25 million, far less than what is needed to build a comprehensive campus. Meanwhile, a single chain, Texas-based IDEA Public Schools, received nearly $117 million.

Operators who succeed in opening a school have a high failure rate, suggesting additional difficulty in finding long-term financing. Since 2000, at least 2,927 U.S. charter schools, or nearly 30%, have closed, federal records show.

The failure rate in Arizona, 41%, is even higher despite the Legislature providing charters with additional per-pupil funding to help with capital costs.

In 2018, The Republic found 1 in 4 Arizona charter schools had significant financial red flags, and that when compared to district schools, charters spend about twice as much or more on administrative costs than in the classroom.

In January 2018, Discovery Creemos, a Goodyear charter school, made headlines when it closed because of financial troubles. The ex-chief executive later admitted to defrauding the state and federal government of at least $2.2 million by inflating enrollment by hundreds of students

The Grand Canyon Institute, a private, nonpartisan think tank, found Arizona charter schools primarily fund buildings and classrooms using high-interest “junk bonds” guaranteed by schools’ projected enrollment growth. If the growth doesn’t materialize, mortgage payments will consume a greater share of the schools’ shrinking revenue, leaving less for the classroom.

Bill Honig, a researcher and California educator who runs the Building Better Schools website, found through his research that charter school closures have disrupted the instruction of at least 288,000 school kids since 2000.

Those closures take a largely overlooked toll on students.

Stanford University’s Center for Research on Education Outcomes examined school closures in 26 states over eight years, and found that fewer than 50% of students displaced by a closure ended up at a better school.

A UC Santa Barbara study, considered the definitive look at the subject, found students who changed schools between the eighth and 12th grades for any reason other than being promoted to a higher grade, were twice as likely to drop out…

Wing launched Education Fund eight years ago to help address the lack of charter school start-up funding. 

“Charter schools have a massive financial disadvantage,” he said.

As a U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services regional center for EB-5 visas, Wing’s Education Fund essentially sells green cards to wealthy foreign nationals in exchange for an investment in U.S. charter schools.

Among its first projects was to provide $2 million in foreign investment for the Learning Foundation and Performing Arts charter school, which opened in Gilbert in 2013.

Education Fund’s website shows smiling students, 28 “EB-5 financed charter schools,” and a breakdown of foreign capital and other investments.

There are about 880 regional centers. But Education Fund, which is approved to operate in 11 states, claims to be the first to raise foreign investment for charter schools.

Its work has gone largely unnoticed, even within the charter school industry. Assistant U.S. Secretary of Education Jim Blew, one of the country’s top charter school advocates, told The Republic he was unaware charter schools have been funded through the EB-5 program.

The foreign investments must create or maintain at least 10 U.S. jobs within two years. When Lakeside Academy signed on with Education Fund, investors could get a visa with a $500,000 investment provided it was for a project in a rural or high-unemployment area.

Wing declined to say how many visas Education Fund’s investors have obtained. Nationwide, about 10,000 such visas are issued annually, but not without controversy and allegations of fraud.

Reports to Congress by U.S. Government Accountability Office in 2015 and 2016 found a lack of federal oversight of the program resulted in fraud.

Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa and then-chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, in 2017 raised questions about an EB-5 scheme that created no jobs while allowing operators to pocket $50 million from Chinese investors.

 

Justin Parmenter is a National Board Certified Teacher in North Carolina.

In this essay, he documents the decade-long effort by Republicans to destroy public education in North Carolina and demoralize teachers. 

He writes:

Out of all the states that have struggled to provide a quality public education over the past decade, perhaps none have seen as precipitous a decline as North Carolina. Once seen as a regional model of progressive education policy, a succession of unfortunate occurrences has severely damaged our public education system. Activists now fight against difficult odds for the change students need most.

Shift of Political Power to Republicans and Impact on North Carolina Education Policy

Like many states, North Carolina was hit hard by the Great Recession and saw funding cuts that greatly impacted our schools. However, the nightmare for our public schools began in earnest in November 2010 when the Republican Party won control of both the Senate and the House of Representatives (Mildwurf & Browder, 2010) in North Carolina’s state legislature. The following year, Republicans gerrymandered electoral districts (Ballotpedia, n.d.a) to ensure they’d be able to hold onto power for the next decade and then set their veto-proof majority to work passing regressive education policies with no opposition.

The policies included significant de-professionalization of the teaching profession in North Carolina through revoking career status protection (Public Schools First NC, 2017) for teachers, terminating advanced degree compensation (Kiley, 2013), and eliminating retiree health care benefits (Bonner, 2017). The GOP majority lifted the cap (Leslie, 2011) on charter schools, worsening economic and racial segregation across the state given that charters serve an increasingly white population (Nordstrom, 2018). The legislature directed a billion dollars (Wagner, 2019) over a decade to voucher programs, despite the fact that the the schools participating in the program were not required to report on student achievement (Public Schools First NC, 2019). Additionally, the legislature cut thousands of teacher assistants (Campbell & Bonner, 2015) and created a school report card system, in which school ratings were highly correlated with levels of poverty (Henkel, 2016). Finally, state legislators passed a K–3 reading initiative (North Carolina Department of Public Instruction, n.d.), which promised to improve results through increasing assessment volume and threatening our most vulnerable students with grade retention. And when K–3 reading achievement got worse, legislators added financial pay- for-performance incentives (Clark, 2016) based on questionable value-added data.
Many of these harmful initiatives were passed in budget bills rather than being moved through deliberative committee processes, eliminating the debate and public input so essential to the creation of effective policy. In addition to promoting a neoliberal education reform agenda, North Carolina’s lawmakers passed massive tax cuts favoring corporations and wealthy individuals, which have taken $3.6 billion in potential annual revenue (Sirota, 2019) off the table, all but ensuring schools will struggle for adequate resources for the foreseeable future.

In North Carolina’s 2016 general election, Republican Mark Johnson eked out a 1% victory (Ballotpedia, n.d.b) for the state superintendency—the first time in more than 100 years the office had been won by a Republican. State legislators immediately moved to transfer power away from newly elected Democratic Governor Roy Cooper and the State Board of Education and give Superintendent Johnson unprecedented control of North Carolina’s public school system (North Carolina General Assembly, 2016).

As State Superintendent, Johnson has been a disaster. Having only two years as a TFA teacher, he was over his head. His inept leadership outraged teachers and provoked mass walkouts.

Parmenter says that teacher activism is exhausting but worth it.

This year there is an election for state superintendent. The Network for Public Education has endorsed educator Jen Mangrum for the post. There is a chance to revive public education in North Carolina.