Archives for category: North Carolina

Ever since Republicans in North Carolina took control of the General Assembly (legislature) in 2010, they have tried to diminish the state’s responsibility for the common good or to extinguish it altogether. No institution has suffered as much by their hostility as the public schools.

NC Policy Watch is an outstanding source of information about the state. It recently reported about the General Assembly’s refusal to obey a court order to rectify the unconstitutional funding of the public schools, which is grossly inequitable. The historic ruling was the Leandro case, and Republicans have offered charters and vouchers instead of equitable and adequate funding. Now they are rumbling about impeaching the judge who told them to fix the funding.

Despite multiple judicial determinations that the state’s K-12 schools are unconstitutionally deficient, the Republican politicians – including, last week, a pair of appellate court judges – say that no court can order the legislature to actually fix the problem.

According to the judges in question, state courts have “no authority to order the appropriation of monies to satisfy any execution of [the Leandro] judgment.”

In effect, they argue, 25-plus years of trials, expert witness testimony, findings, rulings, appeals and remedy planning were all just a meaningless exercise in pushing paper. When it gets right down to it, the power to decide whether to make our K-12 schools constitutional remains right where it’s always been – at the whim of state legislative leaders who are the chief authors of the current failed system.

And just in case anyone had any doubts about the complete power they claim to wield (or had any inkling to question it), GOP lawmakers are firing some unmistakable warning shots designed to intimidate naysayers.

In concert with right-wing allies, lawmakers have sent the clear and appalling message in recent days (see item #8 of the recently adopted adjournment resolution) that they are considering the extraordinary (and deeply treacherous) step of impeaching Superior Court Judge David Lee – the visionary and courageous jurist who has been seeking to enforce the Leandro ruling and make it real.

Five members of the white-nationalist “Proud Boys” showed up at the New Hanover County School Board meeting, dressed up in their organization’s colors.

They did not speak, but they gave a standing ovation to anyone who spoke against the mask mandate.

Ironically, the meeting occurred on November 10, the same date as the infamous “Wilmington Massacre” of 1898.

NPR wrote about this sordid episode in North Carolina’s history.

On Nov. 10, 1898, a mob descended on the offices of The Daily Record, a Black-owned newspaper in Wilmington, N.C. The armed men then moved into the streets and opened fire as Black men fled for their lives.

Finally, the rabble seized control of the racially mixed city government. It expelled Black aldermen, installed unelected whites belonging to the then-segregationist Democratic Party and published a “White Declaration of Independence.” Historians have called it a coup d’etat. The number of people who died ranges from about 60 to as many as 250, according to some estimates.

Will teachers in North Carolina be allowed to teach about the Wilmington Massacre, or will they be punished for teaching “critical race theory”?

Check the candidates’ bona fides carefully.

Don’t be fooled!

People in the North Carolina Chapel Hill Carrboro School District should vote for these three pro-public school candidates in this order:


1. Riza Jenkins

2. George Griffin

3. Mike Sharp

This is very important. Read why here.
https://indyweek.com/news/orange/meredith-pruitts-campaign-for-chccs-board-of-education-raises-concerns-among-local-voters-and-could-reflect-nationwide-trend/

The editorial board of the Charlotte Observer wrote about the state government’s failed search for “indoctrination” in the schools.


Charlotte Observer Editorial Board: North Carolina’s indoctrination-in-schools witchhunt was a big, embarrassing dud

North Carolina’s Lt. Governor Mark Robinson launched a witch hunt for teachers and schools “indoctrinating” students. But when  they released their report, the Charlotte Observer was less than impressed.

Lt. Gov Mark Robinson’s investigation of indoctrination in North Carolina schools landed with a loud thud Tuesday, despite the efforts of him and other N.C. Republicans. The probe, which Robinson has long promised would show “proof” of widespread indoctrination in classrooms, instead affirmed something more troubling — politicians trying to intimidate educators based on a false premise of classroom brainwashing.

Teachers will recognize what Robinson delivered Tuesday — a report with a lot of dressing and little meat. It’s the term paper of a student who didn’t do the work and didn’t have much to offer. It was a dud.

Robinson, of course, did his best to claim otherwise — as did Republicans who seemed to be half-heartedly rallying to his support. In an email to constituents, Senate leader Phil Berger couldn’t even bring himself to say that the report showed widespread indoctrination in N.C. schools, instead saying that parents and teachers disagree with Democrats who say “CRT-linked” doctrine doesn’t exist. (Note the goalpost moving going on – from early GOP claims of Critical Race Theory being taught in NC classrooms to now pointing out the mere existence of something resembling CRT in some places.)

Republicans and Robinson, however, would prefer that N.C. students aren’t exposed to topics that don’t conform with the GOP worldview. The Lt. Governor’s report is designed to provide political cover for a Republican bill that would regulate how teachers talk about race and history in classrooms. Such a bill would likely be vetoed by Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper, but it will set up a political fight Republicans appear to think will benefit them.

It’s a cynical sideshow that distracts from real issues our schools are confronting, and it’s one more way Republicans can say public schools are failing instead of truly addressing how to help them succeed. What’s going on is politics, not indoctrination, and it has had an unnecessarily chilling effect on teachers, making them self-conscious about what they say in class. That makes an already demanding job more stressful and less rewarding, and that’s not good for North Carolina’s schools or their students.

Read the full editorial here.

You can view the post at this link : https://networkforpubliceducation.org/blog-content/charlotte-observer-editorial-board-north-carolinas-indoctrination-in-schools-witchhunt-was-a-big-embarrassing-dud/

Renee Sekel is a parent and public school advocate in North Carolina. She sends her children to public schools. She remembers when she naively believed that the state’s legislators supported public schools. Then the budget cuts started coming. Then charters. Then vouchers. Now, she says, public schools are in a race against time.

She wrote:

Four years ago, both Republicans and Democrats in North Carolina at least made a show of claiming to support public education, even as the legislature slashed budgets and passed one policy after another aimed at undermining public schools. What worries me today is how that rhetoric has shifted. Our Republican leaders now openly acknowledge that they are hostile to public education and would prefer to replace public schools with a voucher system. I know that the vast majority of North Carolinians from all across the political spectrum support public schools, but increasingly it feels like we’re in a race against time, trying to get citizens to understand that our schools are under attack. If it becomes orthodoxy in the GOP that public schools are anathema, and a critical mass is convinced that the schools their children attended−that they attended−should be destroyed, there is no going back.

Republican leaders in North Carolina, who hold a majority in the General Assembly, but not the Governorship, suspect that liberal teachers are “indoctrinating” their students. Since they won control of the legislature, Republicans have passed legislation for charters and vouchers and displayed an animus for public schools and their teachers. Does it occur to them that the citizens of NC would not have elected them if they were “indoctrinated”?

The parent group Public Schools First NC summarized a recent press conference.

This week, Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson was joined by Sens. Deanna Ballard, Phil Berger & Michael Lee & State Supt Catherine Trait at his Tuesday press conference for the release of the “Indoctrination in North Carolina Public Education Report.” These leaders claim that there is widespread indoctrination occurring in public school classrooms across the state. Many public education advocates say the report does not contain substantive or reliable evidence of such assertions. HB324 was written in response to claims of indoctrination and limits what can be taught in classrooms. The bill passed in the Senate this week. All Republicans voted yes, while all Democrats voted no. The bill was then sent to the Governor’s desk. If he vetoes the bill as expected, it will be returned to the legislators who do not appear to be enough votes to overturn the Governor’s veto. Nevertheless, the narrative around the passing of HB324 has increased the strife among educators, parents, and their legislators and is not improving the many financial needs of our schools nor the need for more educators in the classroom. Its impact has been largely negative during this first week of school when larger issues need addressed. Many fear this is another way to undermine and erode our community’s support of our public schools.

According to a statement by the Public School Forum of NC, “A growing body of research demonstrates that inclusive teaching practices that connect academic concepts to the everyday lives and experiences of their students can improve students’ academic outcomes, attendance, brain processing, critical thinking, and problem-solving skills; promote feelings of safety and belonging; and can increase engagement and motivation.”

Legislation that will inhibit the teaching of important concepts including inequity and systemic oppression will not change hard history. Further, this assertion that teachers are indoctrinating their students is simply untrue. “Most educators say that CRT itself isn’t taught in K-12 public schools. Nevertheless, conservative supporters of the bill contend that CRT is at the root of efforts by some teachers to indoctrinate students with what they contend is a liberal political ideology.” See an excellent and more in depth discussion of HBO 324 here.

Teaching history from multiple viewpoints should never be a political issue. We ought to trust and respect educators and know they can hold challenging conversations in their classrooms while respecting differences of opinion. We hope you will take the time to contact your legislators and share your views on this bill.

Greg Childress of NC Policy Watch reports that a government watchdog group has lodged a complaint against one of the state’s most powerful elected officials.

Rep. John Torbett, chair of the House K-12 Education Committee and the Education Subcommittee of the Committee on Appropriations failed to acknowledge that his wife serves on the board of a state-funded charter school.

He writes:

Rep. John Torbett, chairman of the state’s influential House Education K-12 Committee, is the target of a Legislative Ethics Committee complaint alleging the Gaston County Republican failed to disclose that his wife serves on a charter school board that receives state funding.

The complaint was filed this week by Bob Hall, the retired executive director of Democracy North Carolina, a voting rights and government watchdog group.

Viddia Torbett is also her husband’s legislative assistant.

Hall contends Torbett should have disclosed on 2020 and 2021 statements of economic interest (SEI) that his wife, Viddia Torbett, is vice-chairwoman of the board of directors of Community Public Charter School in Stanley. The school is affiliated with the Community Pentecostal Center.

“The failure of Rep. [John] Torbett to disclose his wife’s position on the School’s board of directors is all the more important because Rep. [John] Torbett is now the chair of the House Committee on K-12 Education and is chair of the Education Subcommittee of the House Appropriations Committee, i.e., two positions where he has significant influence over policy and funding of charter schools and public education,” Hall said in the complaint.

Torbett was first elected to the House in 2010. He was assigned to the Education K-12 Committee and the Appropriations on Education Committee to start the current legislative session. Torbett chairs both committees.

“You’ve got a powerful legislator with a personal bias or a personal interest in the financial solvency of a charter school, so he’s got a conflict between serving the public and serving his own personal interest,” Hall said in an interview with Policy Watch. “That ought to be disclosed if not him recusing himself from involvement in the funding of charter schools.”

Anyone subject to the State Government Ethics Act must file an SEI prior to being appointed, employed or elected, by April 15 of each year. That covers roughly 6,500 people, including appointed officials and elected members of the General Assembly…

This week’s complaint against Torbett isn’t the first Hall has filed against the lawmaker.

Last October, Hall filed a complaint alleging that Torbett and Josh Dobson, a former state representative who was elected state Commissioner of Labor last November, were inappropriately collecting thousands of dollars from the General Assembly for lodging in Raleigh even though their housing was being paid for by campaign committees.

The “double-dipping,” Hall said, was a violation of the Legislative Ethics Committee’s Guideline 11, which prohibits lawmakers from collecting per diem payments from the government for lodging expenses paid by another entity.

“However, in a bizarre turnabout after it received my complaint against Rep. Torbett and another legislator,” Hall wrote to the Legislative Ethics Committee, “the Committee met in late October 2020 and voted to rescind Guideline 11 and then dismissed my complaint.”

In 2020, there were seven complaints filed with the Legislative Ethics Committee. All seven were dismissed, according to the committee’s annual report. ..

The charter school where Torbett’s wife serves on the board has drawn national criticism because it received a $250,000 Charter School Program grant intended to help disadvantaged students.

Carol Burris, executive director for the Network for Public Education, a nonprofit advocacy group that opposes charter schools, wrote about the school and others in a Washington Post column. Burris criticized them for their lack of diversity.

“During 2019, the year in which the school was awarded its Charter School Program grant of $250,000, 95 percent of the school’s students were White, compared with its integrated public school district, Gaston, where only 53 percent of the students are White,” Burris wrote.

John Torbett is also the sponsor of House Bill 324, which would limit what students could be taught about the nation’s racial past.

Conservatives have embraced the controversial bill, arguing that it would prevent teachers from indoctrinating students with liberal ideology. Progressives oppose it, saying it’s important that children learn hard truths about systemic racism, slavery and Jim Crow laws.

The Public School Forum of NC wrote this comparison of different budget proposals for K-12 spending. What jumped out at me was the Republican proposal to grant permanent status to the state’s three virtual charter schools, despite their poor performance.

Peter Greene writes about a charter school in North Carolina that had a strict dress code for female students. Parents sued to overturn the rule as a violation of Title IX. They won. But then a federal appeals court reversed the ruling. The judges reasoned that charter schools are not public schools and not subject to the same laws as public schools.

He wrote:

In North Carolina, Charter Day School back in 2016 was sued by parents who objected to a dress code requiring girls to wear skirts, jumpers, or skorts. They just won that suit, sort of, but revealed something about themselves in the winning.

This is a school whose mission involves communicating through the arts and sciences. Charter Day School is part of the network of charters operated by Roger Bacon Academy, one of the charters that focuses on a “classical curriculum” in a “safe, morally strong environment,” which meant, apparently, none of those pants-wearing girls in their school (It also supposedly means things like sentence diagramming in Kindergarten and Latin in 4th grade, but then, Baker is an electrical engineer, not an educator.)You’re in trouble now, missy.

RBA is owned and operated by Baker Mitchell, Jr., and if that name seems vaguely familiar, it’s because he is one of the titans of charter profiteering. Back in 2014, Marian Wang profiled the “politically-connected businessman who celebrates the power of the free market,” and how he perfected the business of starting nonprofit charter schools and then having those schools lease their buildings, equipment, programs, etc from for-profit companies owned and operated by Baker Mitchell, Jr. That’s where the Roger Bacon Academy, a for-profit charter management company comes in.

In 2019, a federal judge passed down the ruling that any public school in the country would have expected– a dress code requiring skirts for girls is unconstitutional. The school quietly retired the item in the dress code.

But that wasn’t the end of it. Monday (Aug 9) a federal appeals court tossed out the 2019 ruling–sort of– in a 2-1 ruling.

The two judges, both Trump appointees, ruled that contrary to the assertion of the lower court, that charter schools should not be considered state actors, and are therefore not subject to the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment. This is yet another way for the courts to work their way around to declaring that charter schools are free to discriminate in any ways they wish. But it also makes one thing perfectly clear–

Charter schools are not public schools. They are not state actors.

Isabela Dias writes in Mother Jones about attacks on a Black social studies teacher who has been labeled a teacher of critical race theory.

In the first week of classes in August, Rodney D. Pierce, a social studies teacher at Red Oak Middle School in Battleboro, North Carolina, set the stage for his 8th graders by sharing a quote from James Baldwin: “American history is longer, larger, more various, more beautiful, and more terrible than anything anyone has ever said about it.” Pierce told the students they were going to learn about both the “beautiful and the horrifying parts” of the state and country’s past. “We need to talk about all of it,” he explained “because that is American history.”

The fight over how to teach American history to children—a long battle that has frothed into a particularly acute moral panic today—often comes back to whose history is being discussed. For Pierce, a Black teacher of many Black students, it’s impossible to avoid racism. For years, he has spoken openly about this in the concrete and the local: the town names, the monuments to Confederates, the horrific lynchings. He has gone above his mandate of teaching to the test because the test did not include the explanations of events that led to the world his students inhabit. He was rewarded by earning social studies teacher of the year in 2019 and has been tasked with helping write the new standards for the state to make sure others follow his lead.

But lately, Pierce’s “speak my truth and be upfront about it” approach has been drawing more backlash than ever before. In the past year, parents have complained to school administrators about a perceived political slant in his work. When he repeated something former President Donald Trump said verbatim, they accused him of lying. Some claim he has insisted on talking about slavery—and that this has made students disenchanted. “They’re really reaching for anything they can get on me,” Pierce says. “I started feeling like a target.”

A gregarious 42-year-old father of three and self-described history buff, Pierce was born in Maryland, and raised in the rural eastern part of North Carolina by his maternal grandmother, a descendant of enslaved people. He remembers sitting in his grandmother’s living room in Roanoke Rapids as a child with an encyclopedia, questioning the accuracy of depictions of ancient Egyptians as white. As a student, Pierce admired the work of Black poets like Paul Laurence Dunbar. He was inquisitive, interpretive, and analytical. “His favorite word was why,” says Charlene Nicholson, his former 6th grade English language teacher and longtime mentor. “He would always think deeper.”

Pierce has been teaching social studies for six years; the past two at Red Oak. Located less than 30 miles west of Princeville, one of the first incorporatedAfrican American towns in the country, the school sits in an affluent and fairly conservative area of Nash County. Although still predominately white, Nash has shifted in the past decades. The Black population has grown. It has become more Democratic. Pierce says he still sees “Trump-Pence 2020” signs outside the Dollar General store across the street from the school. But Biden won there, even if just by 120 votes. More than 50 percent of his students are Black and 10 percent are Hispanic, which informs his teaching philosophy of “inspiration and empowerment” and challenges him as an educator and historian. As a Black teacher talking about racism and slavery in a racially diverse community, Pierce is both the object of admiration and disapproval. “The last thing I want to do is alienate a kid,” he explains. But if he ignores race, what would his Black students think happened?

“It always goes back to local history to me,” he says. As part of an assignment, Pierce asks the class to research the historical origins of the names of towns in the Tri-County area of Nash, Edgecombe, and Wilson, including Battleboro, which was initially established by Joseph Battle as a settlement along the Wilmington and Weldon Railroad, the longest in the world at the time and the “lifeline of the Confederacy” during the Civil War. In another, Pierce shows students news stories about Ku Klux Klan activities in nearby Rocky Mount—from a 1966 picket line outside a dry cleaner where a Black employee refused to clean the Klan robes to a 1992 rally. In another, he talks to them about the 1970 bombing of a formerly all-Black school in reaction to imminent integration. In the fall, he plans to discuss the Black rights group Concerned Citizens of Battleboro, who led the 1994 boycott of local white-owned businesses to protest law enforcement harassment. All of it, Pierce says, is about showing students their own community is part of history and making sure they are able to see themselves within the content and the curriculum.

Unfortunately, many parents don’t want their children to be taught the truth.

Dias recounts North Carolina’s history of fighting racial equity. After the Brown decision, the strategy to keep the races segregated was school choice.

Even now, the state is trying to censor discussion of the past, because it might make some students (and their families and elected officials) feel guilt and discomfort. They don’t want to revisit the past.

Dias writes:

In May, the North Carolina House voted along partisan lines to move to the Senate the “Ensuring Dignity & Nondiscrimination/Schools” bill prohibiting public schools from promoting concepts such as that an individual should feel “discomfort, guilt, anguish” or bear responsibility for actions from the past based on their race or sex; and opposing the characterization that the belief that the United States is a meritocracy is “inherently racist or sexist.” In support of the legislation, the Republican State Superintendent of Public Instruction Catherine Truitt vouched to eradicate CRT from classrooms, saying, “There is no room for divisive rhetoric that condones preferential treatment of any one group over another.” Democratic Rep. James Gailliard of Nash County called it a “don’t-hurt-my-feelings bill” that reproduces “discrimination, fanaticism, bigotry….”

There is no more glaring example of North Carolina’s ability to deliberately bury its history than the education of the Wilmington Coup. In November 1898, a mob of heavily armed white supremacists overthrew the Fusionist city government, burned down the local Black newspaper’s office, and killed and banished dozens of people. The port city, before then, was a symbol of Black achievement and hope. For years, the coup has been considered “lost history,” despite its importance in cementing “white rule for another century” in North Carolina. The current social studies standards, which outline learning goals for K-12 students, do not include it. Instead, it is ultimately up to school districts to determine what goes in the curriculum and to educators like Pierce, who wasn’t introduced to it until he was in college, to teach it.

“That kind of history is important particularly for African Americans because it lets us know there was a time when racial and domestic terror were waged on us and the state didn’t want us to know about it,” he says, pointing to a special commission established in the mid-2000s to finally set the record straight.

But please don’t tell the students.

The North Carolina General Assembly is considering legislation that ostensibly bans discrimination in the state’s classrooms. But the real purpose of the statute is to ban discussions of racism. Among other things, it prohibits teaching anything that might cause students to feel “discomfort,” and it prohibits diversity training.

The bill begins:

A BILL TO BE ENTITLED
AN ACT TO DEMONSTRATE THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY’S INTENT THAT STUDENTS,
TEACHERS, ADMINISTRATORS, AND OTHER SCHOOL EMPLOYEES RECOGNIZE THE EQUALITY AND RIGHTS OF ALL PERSONS AND TO PROHIBIT PUBLIC SCHOOL UNITS FROM PROMOTING CERTAIN CONCEPTS THAT ARE CONTRARY TO THAT INTENT.

Public school units shall not promote that:
(1) One race or sex is inherently superior to another race or sex.
(2) An individual, solely by virtue of his or her race or sex, is inherently racist,
sexist, or oppressive.
(3) An individual should be discriminated against or receive adverse treatment
solely or partly because of his or her race or sex.
(4) An individual’s moral character is necessarily determined by his or her race or
sex.
(5) An individual, solely by virtue of his or her race or sex, bears responsibility
for actions committed in the past by other members of the same race or sex.
(6) Any individual, solely by virtue of his or her race or sex, should feel
discomfort, guilt, anguish, or any other form of psychological distress.
(7) A meritocracy is inherently racist or sexist.
H324-CSBE-35
(8) The United States was created by members of a particular race or sex for the purpose of oppressing members of another race or sex.
(9) The United States government should be violently overthrown.
(10) Particular character traits, values, moral or ethical codes, privileges, or beliefs should be ascribed to a race or sex, or to an individual because of the
individual’s race or sex.
(11) The rule of law does not exist, but instead is a series of power relationships
and struggles among racial or other groups.
(12) All Americans are not created equal and are not endowed by their Creator with
certain unalienable rights, including life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. (13) Governments should deny to any person within the government’s jurisdiction
the equal protection of the law.
Public school units shall (i) notify the De

Justin Parmenter was curious about the hundreds of letters that parents wrote to the Lieutenant Governor about the need for this legislation, and he filed an open records request to gain access to them. Many were avowedly racist.

Many of the 506 complaints to Robinson’s task force come from North Carolinians who appear deeply concerned about what they perceive as a move away from a white Christian-centered system of public education.

These submissions include recommendations to cancel Black History Month, pleas to stop making white students feel guilty by teaching so much about slavery–which one individual remarked “is getting old”–and suggestions to end hiring practices aimed at increasing diversity of school staff.

They provide a helpful lens to understand the real motivation behind moves across the country to restrict classroom discussions on race and various types of oppression under the false pretense of fighting the boogeyman “critical race theory.”

While the outward tactics and messaging of this movement may be a bit more subtle than in years past, its underlying sentiment feels very familiar.