Archives for category: North Carolina

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.

 

North Carolina has critical needs that the state’s General Assembly has made worse. A court decision—called Leandro—requires the state to improve its schools. One of its recommendations is to:

provide a qualified and well-prepared, and diverse teaching staff in every school. Working conditions and staffing structures should enable all staff members to do their job effectively and grow professionally while supporting the academic, personal and social growth of all their students.

 

Highlights of Findings

#1 Teacher supply is shrinking and shortages are widespread. Budget cuts have reduced the total number of teachers employed in North Carolina by 5% from 2009 to 2018 even as student enrollments increased by 2% during that same time period.

#3 Experienced, licensed teachers have the lowest annual attrition rates. Teach for America teachers, on the other hand, had the highest attrition rates. National trends show that teachers without prior preparation leave the profession at two to three times the rate of those who are comprehensively prepared.

#4 Teacher demand is growing, and attrition increases the need for hiring. The total number of openings, including those for teachers who will need to be replaced, is expected to be 72,452 by 2026….

Recommendations:
1.Increase pipeline of diverse, well-prepared teachers who enter through high-retention pathways and meet the needs of the state’s public schools.

2. Expand the NC Teaching Fellows program. [The General Assembly cut the funding of the NC Teaching Fellows program to prepare career teachers and transferred its funding to TFA.]

3. Support high-quality teacher residency programs in high-need rural and urban districts through a state matching grants program that leverages ESSA title II funding.

4. Provide funding for Grow-Your-Own and 2+2 programs that help recruit teachers in high-poverty communities.

5. Significantly increase the racial-ethnic diversity of the North Carolina teacher workforce and ensure all teachers employ culturally responsive practices.

6. Provide high-quality comprehensive mentoring and induction support for novice teachers in their first 3 years of teaching.

7. Implement differentiated staffing models that include advanced teaching roles and
additional compensation to retain and extend the reach of high-performing teachers.

8. Develop a system to ensure that all North Carolina teachers have the opportunities they
need for continued professional learning to improve and update their knowledge and practices.

9. Increase teacher compensation and enable low-wealth districts to offer salaries and other
compensation to make them competitive with more advantaged districts.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Supporting public schools through information,

education, and engagement. 

       
Teacher Pipeline

North Carolina’s teachers are dedicated and hardworking, and their professionalism has made our public school system a jewel among Southern states. North Carolina leads the nation in number of teachers who have earned certification from the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards. Disappointingly, we do not compensate our educators accordingly. The average teacher salary was $53,975 for 2018-19, according to the NEA, $7,755 less than the national average of $61,730.

 

It is also critical to remember that this average includes the salaries of veteran teachers who receive longevity and master’s pay, which newer teachers do not. With reduced job security, low pay and no incentive to get advanced degrees, the appeal of a teaching job has been significantly reduced in North Carolina.

 

Enrollment in undergraduate education programs across the UNC system is down, negatively impacting our once vibrant teacher pipeline. There are 15 UNC system schools with teacher preparation programs, and all are reporting declines in enrollment in their degree and licensure programs. The severe shortage of math and science teachers and middle school teachers for all subjects is a critical and growing problem.

 

As the WestEd report shows, we must work to provide a qualified and well-prepared, and diverse teaching staff in every school. For our students living in poverty, with little access to educational opportunities, an effective, experienced and qualified teacher is critical to their educational success. We must all work together to make this a reality.

 

We know that teachers and students depend on and benefit from our school support staff. These hardworking, valuable, dedicated individuals have been left out of pay increases for far too long. It is imperative we press lawmakers to pay them a living wage and start showing them the respect they deserve!

 

Leandro: A Recap

If you’re just tuning in, here’s a brief summary of Leandro and the recently released WestEd report. You can find more information on our website.

 

In 1994, in Leandro v. State, parents, students and school districts in low-wealth, rural counties filed a lawsuit alleging that students in these counties were denied their right to a sound basic education under the NC constitution.

 

The case affirmed that inequitable and inadequate school funding bars access to a sound and basic public education. In 2002, the court found that there was a violation of students’ rights to a sound, basic education and ordered the State to remedy this violation.

 

On December 10, 2019, the WestEd report was finally released confirming what educators and public school advocates believe: our public school system does not meet the educational needs of all children. High poverty, high needs school districts bear the brunt of these inequities.

 

The report estimates the state will need to spendnearly $7 Billion to properly address education funding. The report detailed the following critical needs. Over the next several weeks, we will be taking a deeper dive into each one.

 

1. Revise the state funding model to provide adequate, efficient, and equitable resources.

 

2. Provide a qualified, well-prepared, and diverse teaching staff in every school.

 

3. Provide a qualified and well-prepared principal in every school.

 

4. Provide all at-risk students with the opportunity to attend high-quality early childhood programs.

 

5. Direct resources, opportunities, and initiatives to economically disadvantaged students.

 

6. Revise the student assessment system and school accountability system, and statewide system of support for the improvement of low-performing and high-poverty schools.

 

7. Build an effective regional and statewide system of support for the improvement of low-performing and high-poverty schools

 

8. Convene an expert panel to assist the Court in monitoring state policies, plans, programs, and progress.

 

What happens next? Public education advocates are waiting to see if: 1) Judge Lee will order the NCGA to fund WestEd recommendations and/or 2) Will the NCGA take action on their own to fund the recommendations? Stay tuned!

ICYMI

Highlights From Recent Education News ​

The State Board of Education is considering changes to how it approves contracts after North Carolina Superintendent Mark Johnson signed a $928,000 contract late Tuesday night without the board’s knowledge.

 

Lawmakers return Tuesday. Will they finally vote on a budget?

 

On the education front, NC can invest in early childhood education and “commit to North Carolina’s constitutional responsibility to deliver a sound, basic education.”
A Charlotte voucher school announced it would not open for the second semester, leaving 145 students in limbo. The school is a former charter school that closed and reopened as a private school.

 

State Superintendent Mark Johnson charged Wednesday that thousands of third-grade grade students have been improperly promoted to the fourth grade when they aren’t proficient in their reading skills.

 

In the 2020-21 school year, high school freshmen will be required to take an economics and personal finance course before they graduate. To accommodate this class, the State Board of Education adopted new graduation requirements Thursday that say high school students will take one U.S. history course, instead of two.

Impact of Charter Schools Webinar

Sun, Jan 19, 2020 7:00 PM – 8:00 PM EST​

Join us for an in-depth look at the impact of charter schools on the Northeast school districts in Wake County. Our panelists are the Wake Board of Education representatives for Northeast Wake County: Roxie Cash and Heather Scott. They will share data on Northeast Wake Schools and participate in a conversation about how to best balance school choice in public education without damaging the economic vitality of traditional public schools in the same geographic area.

 

REGISTRATION REQUIRED

 

Budget News

The House and Senate are scheduled to reconvene January 14. Will they finally vote on a budget?

Leandro #2nd Recommendation:  Teachers Critical to Student Success

Before winter break, WestEd released their report  on the Leandro case. The report outlined 8 critical needs the state must address in order to fulfill its constitutional obligation to deliver a sound, basic education to all children.

 

The second critical need identified by the WestEd report is to provide a qualified and well-prepared, and diverse teaching staff in every school. Working conditions and staffing structures should enable all staff members to do their job effectively and grow professionally while supporting the academic, personal and social growth of all their students.

 

Highlights of Findings

#1 Teacher supply is shrinking and shortages are widespread. Budget cuts have reduced the total number of teachers employed in North Carolina by 5% from 2009 to 2018 even as student enrollments increased by 2% during that same time period.

#3 Experienced, licensed teachers have the lowest annual attrition rates. Teach for America teachers, on the other hand, had the highest attrition rates. National trends show that teachers without prior preparation leave the profession at two to three times the rate of those who are comprehensively prepared.

 

#4 Teacher demand is growing, and attrition increases the need for hiring. The total number of openings, including those for teachers who will need to be replaced, is expected to be 72,452 by 2026.

 

#5 Salaries and working conditions influence both retention and school effectiveness.
Teacher attrition is typically predicted by the following 4 factors:

  • The extent of preparation to teach
  • Extent of mentoring and support for novices
  • The adequacy of compensation
  • Teaching and learning conditions on the job

The report explained that teacher pay, after climbing for many years, began falling in 2008. Findings also show that the amount of the local supplement paid to teachers does influence retention.

 

#6 Although there has been an increase in the number of teachers of color in teacher enrollments, the overall current teacher workforce does not reflect the student population. Many teachers of color enter through alternative routes, which have higher rates of attrition than more comprehensive paths. Additionally, teacher education enrollments dropped by more than 60% between 2011 and 2016 in minority-serving institutions.​

 

#7 Disadvantaged students in North Carolina have less access to effective and experienced teachers.

For students who come from under served populations, an effective, experienced and qualified teacher is even more critical to their educational success.

 

Recommendations:
1.Increase pipeline of diverse, well-prepared teachers who enter through high-retention pathways and meet the needs of the state’s public schools.

2.Expand the NC Teaching Fellows program.

3.Support high-quality teacher residency programs in high-need rural and urban districts through a state matching grants program that leverages ESSA title II funding.

4. Provide funding for Grow-Your-Own and 2+2 programs that help recruit teachers in high-poverty communities.

5.Significantly increase the racial-ethnic diversity of the North Carolina teacher workforce and ensure all teachers employ culturally responsive practices.

6. Provide high-quality comprehensive mentoring and induction support for novice teachers in their first 3 years of teaching.

7. Implement differentiated staffing models that include advanced teaching roles and
additional compensation to retain and extend the reach of high-performing teachers.

8. Develop a system to ensure that all North Carolina teachers have the opportunities they
need for continued professional learning to improve and update their knowledge and practices.

9. Increase teacher compensation and enable low-wealth districts to offer salaries and other
compensation to make them competitive with more advantaged districts.

 

It is anticipated the recommended actions would result in:

  • Increased number (5,000 annually) of in-state trained and credentialed teachers
  • Increase in teachers of color in the teacher workforce to better reflect the student population (from 20% to 40%)
  • Comprehensive mentoring and induction support provided for all first-, second-, and third-year teachers (approximately 15,500)
  • Competitive teaching salaries in all North Carolina LEAs
  • Teacher attrition statewide at 7% or lower
  • Increased number (annually 1,500) of Teaching Fellows awards
  • Increase in experienced, effective, and certified teachers in high-poverty schools
  • Improved teacher retention in high-poverty schools
  • Improved capacity in districts and schools to provide high-quality, job-embedded professional learning
  • Increased student achievement.

 

Read the full report here.

 

We must restore our teacher pipeline and make teaching a viable, attractive option for students considering career paths. The state must work to restore adequate teacher pay and support. It is also crucial that our teachers reflect the diversity of their classrooms. It will require lawmakers to work together to prioritize adequate funding public education.

 

This is where you can help. Talk to your community about the importance of this report! Tell your representatives in the NCGA how important it is to fully fund schools for all children. Stay tuned for more advocacy ideas from us and our partners in education advocacy!

Teacher Diversity

There has been a great deal of research in the past few years showing the many benefits of a diverse educator workforce. The benefits are both academic and socioemotional and prepare students for the world they will be working and living in.

 

An article from the New York Times states “The homogeneity of teachers is probably one of the contributors, the research suggests, to the stubborn gender and race gaps in student achievement: Over all, girls outperform boys, and white students outperform those who are black and Hispanic.”

 

Researchers from Johns Hopkins University and American University​ found black students who’d had just one black teacher by third grade were 13 percent more likely to enroll in college—and those who had two were 32 percent more likely.

 

There are increasing numbers of students of color in our public schools, but the teaching force is still comprised of mostly white women. It is crucial that our state work to make teaching an attractive, tenable option once again and work towards diversifying our teaching staff.

Early Childhood Grant

The preschool years of a young child’s life are a crucial time in their social, emotional and cognitive development. A high-quality early education program sets up children for academic success. ​

 

On January 9, Governor Roy Cooper announced that North Carolina will receive $56 million in federal funding over the next seven years to support children’s health and well-being, improve access to high-quality early learning for families across the state and invest in the state’s early childhood workforce.

 

The PDG grant invests in the people who shape young children’s healthy development – parents and early childhood professionals. It will help early childhood teachers build the skills needed to support children’s optimal development without having to leave the classroom. By providing job-embedded professional development and coaching, the grant removes barriers that make it difficult for teachers to pursue higher education.

 

In addition, the grant funds a partnership with the Smart Start network to expand access to Family Connects, a nurse home visiting program for parents of newborns; support for families as their children transition into kindergarten; and expanded access to high-quality child care for infants and toddlers. This is the state’s second PDG grant. In 2018, the NCDHHS was awarded a one-year $4.48 million PDG planning grant.

 

Read the full press release here and view the North Carolina Early Childhood Action Plan here.

Candidate Forum

Public Schools First NC, the NC Parent Teacher Association, ​the Public School Forum of North Carolina, and the NC League of Women Voters are pleased to co-sponsor a candidate’s forum for the March primary for NC Superintendent of Public Instruction. This live screening will be held on February 6th, 2020 from 7 PM – 9 PM.

 

David Crabtree, WRAL anchor/reporter, will moderate the forum. The Republican primary candidates will be presented from 7pm-8pm and the Democratic primary candidates will be presented from 8pm-9pm.

 

We will be streaming the forum LIVE (provided by WRAL). You will find the link at wral.comcloser to the event. Please note that this a livestreaming event only, NO TICKETS available to the public.

 

We look forward to a stimulating exchange of ideas about the issues facing public education and hope you’ll join us.

Webinar- Legislative Update

 

Missed our webinar? Click here to listen

 

The NC General Assembly will reconvene on January 14, 2020. In the meantime, we have an update on the public education bills that passed this session and those bills still under consideration.

 

Legislators also provided an overview of funding so far for Pre-K to 12th grade education.

 

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I am happy to give my personal endorsement to Dr. Jennifer (Jen) Mangrum, who is running for State Superintendent of Public Instruction in North Carolina.

Jen has already been endorsed by the Network for Public Education, which concluded that she is far and away the most qualified candidate in the race.

Jen is a career educator who understands the importance of restoring the integrity of public education in what was once the premier state in the South.

She knows that the state’s General Assembly and its current superintendent have not supported public schools or their teachers.

The General Assembly has passed law after law intended to demoralize teachers and harm public schools.

In a  previous election, Jen had the courage to run against the most powerful politician in the state, the one who has led the effort to destroy public schools in the state.

She has proven that she has the knowledge, the experience, the spine and the spirit to run a spirited campaign and to fight for the children, teachers, and public schools of North Carolina.

She has been a classroom teacher and a teacher of teachers. She knows what is needed to lead the state’s school system.

Jen Mangrum understands the importance of attracting and retaining dedicated teachers, and she is committed to improving the public schools of North Carolina.

Her election would be a welcome change from years of toxic policy and state mis-leadership.

I have no doubt that Jen Mangrum would lead the change towards positive policies that is so desperately needed in North Carolina.

Please turn the tide in North Carolina against the politicians who have attacked public schools and their teachers and opened the schools up for profiteers and privatizers.

My many friends in the state support Jen Mangrum for State Superintendent of Public Instruction.

I add my endorsement to that of North Carolina Teachers United, which has nearly 40,000 teacher-members.

Early voting starts February 13; the deadline to register to vote is February 7.

Please register and vote.

Please vote for Jen Mangrum.

 

 

NCTU Announces Recommended Candidate for North Carolina State Superintendent

Press Release: 

Mr. Bishay Elshoukarey, Director, Melissa Marie, Communications Manager, with Operation Managers Kristy Elshoukarey and Katherine Harter of  North Carolina Teachers United (NCTU) announced that Dr. Jen Mangrum has been selected as the recommended candidate for North Carolina State Superintendent of Public Instruction.  A committee of educators, who are members of NCTU, convened and after carefully reviewing each of the questionnaires selected Dr. Mangrum from a field of seven candidates.

 

Dr. Jen Mangrum, an educator for more than 30 years is currently employed by UNC-G in the School of Education as Clinical Associate Professor in Education.  Since she has been at UNC-G, Jen co-founded the STEM Teacher Leader collaborative.  Prior to taking the position at UNC-G, she completed her PhD in Curriculum and Instruction and worked NC State University creating the Elementary Education program and department, where she led it for two years.

 

Both of Mangrum’s parents were educators and she followed in their footsteps.  For twelve years, she served as an elementary teacher in two different North Carolina school districts.  She then became a literacy facilitator where she modeled and coached effective literacy instruction.  During this time she began consulting with the National Paideia Center, which advocates that all learners practice the critical thinking, communication skills, and attitudes necessary to earn a living, be an active citizen, and pursue a meaningful life.

 

“Jen Mangrum is the leader we need as State Superintendent as she is an advocate for teachers, students, and families,” said Melissa Easley. 

 

“It is clear that Dr. Mangrum is totally qualified and the best candidate to be the State Superintendent.  She wants to change the current climate of respect for public education that is prevalent in the current leadership of both the NC Senate and NC House,” added Bishay Elshoukarey. 

 

Dr. Mangum indicated on her questionnaire that she is running to be the State Superintendent because she wants to reverse the current trend to dismantle public education.  She also said, “I want to make our state better for our children and future generations.”

 

The North Carolina Primary Election is March 3, 2020 with early voting beginning on February 13, 2020 and lasting until February 29, 2020.  Voter registration deadline is Friday, February 7, 2020. 

Peter Greene writes that state officials in North Carolina keep getting embarrassed by the facts about their charter schools.

In 2016, when the first report came out, the state sent it back to have the data massaged because it turned out that charters were effectively resegregating the students in the state.

This year, a similar problem arose when it was time to release the annual report.

The charters are highly segregated, and their grades reflect which students enroll in them. (Surprise!)

It is a well-known fact that the demographics of a school predict its test scores.

Charter officials don’t like those facts. They want different facts. They are still trying to find a way to hide the reality of charters.

Greene writes:

North Carolina’s 2020 Annual Charter Schools Report has caused some consternation among members of the state’s Charter Schools Advisory Board (CSAB). They’ve seen the first draft and requested a rewrite, because, well, members of the public might become confused by the information that suggests Bad Things about North Carolina’s charter industry.

This is not the first time the issue has come up. Back in 2016 the Lt. Governor called the report “too negative” and pushed to have it made “more fair.” The report was not substantially changed– just more data added. But in 2016 it still showed that North Carolina’s charter schools mostly serve whiter, wealthier student bodies. This prompted a remarkable explanation:

Darrell Allison, president of Parents for Educational Freedom in North Carolina, said that fact is simply a reflection of which families are applying to charters.

Well, yes. Education reform in North Carolina has been about crushing the teachers’ unions and teachers themselves,while also being aimed at enabling white flight and accelerating segregation. One might be inclined to deduce that they hope to set up a spiffy private system for whiter, wealthier folks (including a corporate reserve-your-own-seats policy) along with vouchers, while simultaneously cutting the public system to the bone so that wealthy taxpayers don’t have to spend so much educating Those People’s Children. North Carolina has done plenty to earn a spot in the education policy hall of shame, enabled by some of the worst gerrymandering in the country.

But while NC legislators don’t seem to experience much shame over what they do, they sometimes worry about how they look (remember the great bathroom bill boycott of 2017). So now the charter report is going to be carefully whitewashed.

For instance, the report included a section about the racial impact of charter schools. But amid concerns that it might contain “misleading” wording that could be “blown out of proportion,” that section will apparently be removed. Regarding the report, ” I think it doesn’t actually represent what I believe to be true,” said Alex Quigley, chairman of the CSAB. “And given the choice between facts and the stuff I choose to believe, well, my beliefs and our charter marketing should come first.” Okay, I made up the last part, but that first part he totally said.

What data said is that 75% of charter schools have a white student enrollment that is more than 10% “off” from the surrounding district. Well over 50% of charters were off by more than 10% on black enrollment numbers. State law says that charters have to “reasonably reflect” the makeup of the district’s where they are located…

 

 

During the Clinton administration, Congress enacted a program called EB-5, which promised green cards to foreign investors who put their money into job-creating projects. One of those designated projects for foreign investors was charter schools. Give a lot of money, invest in charter school construction, get a green card.

The middle-men quickly figured out how to make this exchange pay off in profits.

Example: a charter school in North Carolina that won $3 million from foreign investors (six green cards), but has accumulated staggering debt.

The Center for Immigration Studies tells this sordid tale:

We have suggested in the past that the combination of the loosely run charter school movement with the loosely managed EB-5 immigrant investor program shows every sign of being a disaster for everyone involved(students, teachers, and taxpayers) — except for the middlemen.

They usually do just fine, thank you.

We have been following, among others, the case of one specific charter school in the suburbs of Charlotte, N.C., where until recently the state government has been, at the very least, more lax than most states in its supervision of charter schools.

This is a school in which six (probably Chinese) aliens have invested $500,000 each in the hopes of getting a family-sized set of green cards through the Homeland Security-managed EB-5 program. It is the Lakeside Preparatory Academy in Cornelius, N.C., sometimes known as the Lakeside Charter Academy, and as Thunderbird Preparatory Academy, Inc.

Financial Background. The struggling school opened a few years ago with four financial handicaps:

  • As we recorded in some detail, the campus had been sold, and resold and resold, apparently never at arms’ length, among Utah-based firms, some with the same postal address, so that several middlemen made major profits as its paper value moved up from $1.3 million to $9.5 million — despite a real estate assessment, for tax purposes, of $3.3 million (there was also a couple of million dollars worth of remodeling done during this time);
  • Somewhere along the way, the campus’ landlords collected $3 million from the alien investors which helped underwrite the aforementioned profits;
  • There was a falling-out among the middlemen that resulted in the school accepting a $450,000 judgment against it, a sum it had to borrow; and
  • Much of this debt remains, and is subject to a 20 percent interest rate (public school debt rarely exceeds 2 percent or 3 percent).

Bear in mind that the campus is owned by a for-profit entity in Utah, which had the advantage of the EB-5 funding; the school itself, though apparently controlled by the landlord, is a non-profit entity, and receives tax moneys for the education it provides.

In this dismal setting, a recent audit found that the school lost $103,875 in the 2017-2018 school year, and then a loss of $292,463 in the more recent 2018-2019 school year. The most recent loss occurred while the school reported a gross income of $983,091, down from a gross of $1,252,807 the prior year. So the gross was falling and the loss rising. At the end of the last school year, the cumulative loss was $363,471.

The Prospect of Bankruptcy. If one reads the audit carefully — what follows is not stressed anywhere — one finds that during the most recent school year the school paid the Utah landlords only some $23,000 in rent, and that in its current year it is obligated to pay 25 percent of its gross or, if the experience of the most recent year is to continue, $246,522, or about $223,000 more in rent than the previous year, which, if income and expenses remain the same, would suggest a loss in the current year of well over $500,000.

This would mean that the school went from about $100,000 in losses, to about $300,000 in losses the most recent school year, to more than $500,000 in losses for the current year.

Given those prospects, how in the world will the EB-5 investors get their money back?

The True Numbers. What we have reported above reflects the most recent audit by Rives & Associates, a North Carolina CPA firm. Local critics of the audit say that even these grim numbers do not reflect the dire state of the school.

We have a copy of an invoice, for example, that shows that the non-profit school owed the for-profit landlord (Lakeside Charter Holdings LLC) $1,720,503 at the end of the 2018-2019 school year; the date that debt is due is not shown, this debt is about double the school’s entire income for that year, and it apparently is not recorded in this audit. What we do see, on p. 14 of the audit is this, perhaps Delphic, statement: “Some liabilities, including bonds payable and accrued interest, are not due and payable in the current period and therefore are not reported in the funds.”

So, discounting a bit of auditing sleight of hand, the true debt of the school — with about 100 pupils — is well over $2 million!

It may well be in the interest of the landlord, and of the EB-5 middlemen, to seek to hide the true level of the school’s debt.

With all this in mind, EB-5 investors should look carefully at the proposed investments, and they should look at least twice if a charter school is involved.

The EB-5 program calls for 10 new jobs to be created by each $500,000 investment; since charter schools do not create jobs (they just take them away from the public schools), it is hard to agree with the underlying DHS decision to accept any charter school investment as appropriate in the EB-5 program.

One can only hope that the taxpayers will not be forced to bail out this little school.

The Legacy Prep School in Charlotte, North Carolina, closed its doors at the end of the holidays, leaving parents and students on their own to find a school.

Legacy Prep was a private school that relied on vouchers from the state.

Parents were stunned.

Yes, 100% caught off-guard,” said Jackie Davis, whose son attends Legacy Prep. 

On Friday, she and other parents whose children were enjoying holiday break, received an email from Stacey Rose, the school’s principal, that told them the school would not re-open on January 7th due to funding issues. 

It is with a heavy heart that I must inform you that Legacy Preparatory will have to close its doors and cease all operations immediately.  As such, we will not reopen for classes on January 7th (or any time thereafter) as originally planned,” Rose wrote in-part.

“It’s a burden,” Davis said. “I’m thinking I’m in a nightmare, in a dream, and I haven’t woke up from it.”

She now has just days to go through the headache of finding her son a new school to attend so he can stay on track. 

“It’s a shock,” she said. “First thing that crossed my mind was what about I going to do with my son.”

The letter that was sent to parents noted that the school could not stay open due to a lack of funding. 

Our main school investor did not deliver on his promise to provide the additional finances needed to accompany the scholarship funds that are required to run the school through June,” Rose wrote in-part. 

Davis said the private school charges $4,200 per student for the year, the cheapest she could find in the Charlotte-area when she looked for schools to send her son. 

She said she doesn’t want to send her son to CMS because she wants to ensure her son gets the one-on-one attention he needs to succeed. 

The principal offered to place them in an online cybercharter, which provides no personal contact at all.

Keung Hui, a reporter for the “News Observer’ tweeted:

Legacy Prep, which abruptly closed Friday, got $283,500 this year from NC for 135 voucher students. The private school is in same building & led by same principal when Charlotte Learning Academy was there before charter was not renewed in spring. #nced

The school was a charter that was not renewed, then a voucher school that failed.

Thats the market: Instability is a feature, not a bug.

 

Stuart Egan is an National Board Certified Teacher in North Carolina. He writes here about the horrible policies imposed on public schools in North Carolina since Tea Party Republicans took over the state’s General Assembly.

North Carolina was once considered the most progressive state in the South, for its dedication to improving public schools and honoring fine teachers. It had the highest proportion of National Board Certified teachers in the nation.

But then the Tea Party arrived in 2010 with an ALEC agenda of disruption and destruction.

Egan writes:

When the GOP won control of both houses in the North Carolina General Assembly in the elections of 2010, it was the first time that the Republicans had that sort of power since 1896. Add to that the election of Pat McCrory as governor in 2012, and the GOP has been able to run through multiple pieces of legislation that have literally changed a once progressive state into one of regression. From the Voter ID law to HB2 to fast tracking fracking to neglecting coal ash pools, the powers that-now-be have furthered an agenda that has simply been exclusionary, discriminatory, and narrow-minded.

And nowhere is that more evident than the treatment of public education.

Make no mistake. The GOP-led General Assembly has been using a deliberate playbook that other states have seen implemented in various ways. Look at Ohio and New Orleans and their for-profit charter school implementation. Look at New York State and the Opt-Out Movement against standardized testing.  Look at Florida and its Jeb Bush school grading system. In fact, look anywhere in the country and you will see a variety of “reform” movements that are not really meant to “reform” public schools, but rather re-form public schools in an image of a profit making enterprise that excludes the very students, teachers, and communities that rely on the public schools to help as the Rev. William Barber would say “create the public.”

North Carolina’s situation may be no different than what other states are experiencing, but how our politicians have proceeded in their attempt to dismantle public education is worth exploring.

Specifically, the last nine-year period in North Carolina has been a calculated attempt at undermining public schools with over twenty different actions that have been deliberately crafted and executed along three different fronts: actions against teachers, actions against public schools, and actions to deceive the public.

Read on to learn about the calculated and vicious attack on public schools and their teachers. This is a record of shame that undermines the public good.

High school teacher Stuart Egan notes that teachers across the state of North Carolina received a letter from Lt. Governor Dan Forest boasting about his education record.

Forest is running for governor against Democratic Governor Roy Cooper.

Egan warns teachers not to be fooled.

He writes that this is the real record of Dan Forest, and it should not be forgotten at election time:

So why did Forest send this letter? He’s hoping that teachers will forget what this current NCGA that he is aligning himself with has actually done since 2011. Here’s a list.

  • Removed due process rights for new teachers to keep them from advocating loudly for students and schools.
  • Removed graduate degree pay bumps for teachers entering the profession.
  • Instituted a Value Added Measurement system which are amorphous and unproven way to measure teacher effectiveness.
  • Pushed for merit pay when no evidence exists that it works.
  • Attacks on teacher advocacy groups like NCAE.
  • Created a revolving door of standardized tests that do not measure student growth.
  • Lowered the amount of money spent per pupil in the state when adjusted for inflation.
  • Removed class size caps.
  • Instituted a Jeb Bush style school grading system that is unfair and does nothing more than show how poverty affects public schools.
  • Created an uncontrolled and unregulated system of vouchers called Opportunity Grants.
  • Fostered charter school growth that has not improved the educational landscape and siphons money from the public school system.
  • Created failing virtual schools outsourced to private industry.
  • Allowed for an Innovation School District to be constructed.
  • Eliminated the Teaching Fellows Program and brought it back as a former shell of itself.
  • Created an atmosphere of disrespect for teachers that teaching candidate numbers in colleges and universities have dropped over 30%.

It is rather entertaining to see the Lt. Gov. run for the office of governor by touting the record of an eight-year NCGA leadership which has crafted the very policies he is “owning” in an example of transference. Those are the same policies that have brought thousands of the very people he addressed in this letter to the streets of Raleigh to protest.

 

A report on a 25-year-old court case in North Carolina was released yesterday. The long-anticipated report rebukes the past decade of education policy in the state, led and directed by the Republican majority in the state’s General Assembly. The powers that be don’t like to spend money on education.

The report lays out

…an important new roadmap for ensuring that our public schools provide every child with the education they deserve.

The report – a collaborative effort from some of the nation’s leading education experts – is a comprehensive examination of North Carolina’s public school system. The report’s recommendations have the potential to fundamentally change the direction of our state by unleashing the potential of all children to become flourishing adults, ready to contribute to a healthier, happier, and more prosperous North Carolina.

What is Leandro?

Leandro is a 25-year long court case. Throughout the case, the courts have consistently found that North Carolina has been failing to meet its most fundamental obligation under our State Constitution: providing every child a meaningful opportunity to receive a sound basic education, backed by adequate funding and resources in every public school. Additional background on the case can be found here.

Where did this report come from?

In 2017, parties to the case (the state defendants and the Leandro plaintiffs) agreed that North Carolina had been failing its children for far too long, and that the state needed a clear, comprehensive roadmap to providing a sound basic education that benefits all children. The court-appointed consultants (WestEd, in collaboration with the Learning Policy Institute and NC State’s Friday Institute) initially submitted the report to the court in June of 2019. The report was confidential until its release today.

What does the report say?

The report confirms what North Carolinians have been saying for years: The state has consistently failed to give every child in this state access to the education they deserve. Specifically:

  • A new approach is needed: While North Carolina was once making progress towards meeting its constitutional responsibilities, the past decade’s actions have left our state “further away from meeting its constitutional obligation to provide every child with the opportunity for a sound basic education than it was when the Supreme Court of North Carolina issued the Leandro decision more than 20 years ago.”
  • Providing children with what they are owed requires significant new investment: Current levels of school funding (North Carolina ranks 48th in terms of school funding effort) are inadequate to ensure all students are achieving at grade level.
  • We must direct resources where they’re needed most: Our funding formulas need to do a better job of prioritizing higher-need students and under-resourced communities.
  • More needs to be done to put qualified, well-prepared and diverse teachers and principals in every school: Educators need competitive pay, early-career support programs, professional development, and opportunities to collaborate and lead.
  • Scarcity of early-learning opportunities is leaving too many students unprepared to start school: Both Smart Start and NC Pre-K are effective programs, but funding must be restored and expanded to ensure all students enter kindergarten ready to learn.
  • High-poverty schools lack the resources to help students overcome out-of-school conditions that create barriers to learning: High-poverty schools should be provided the resources necessary to expand learning opportunities and implement community school models providing health and social services, youth and community development, and community engagement. Struggling schools need state-level support similar to the District and School Support teams eliminated by the General Assembly in recent years.
  • Our testing and accountability system needlessly stigmatizes high-poverty schools, rather than providing useful information about educational effectiveness: Our accountability system should instead measure schools’ progress in providing each child a sound basic education by rewarding growth in student performance and highlighting school climate and equality of resources and learning opportunities.

The report contains significantly more detail. While the report’s recommendations may appear ambitious, it’s important to remember that these steps represent the bare minimum of what it takes to for the state to provide students with the education they deserve.

What happens next?

The judge overseeing the case might order the legislature to act.

The legislature might fail to act.