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Connect the right-wing dots

The new Gang of Five Majority on the Wake County Board of Education that wants to resegregate the schools continues to claim it is carrying out the wishes of the majority of parents in Wake County.

Never mind the 94.5 percent of parents who said in a recent survey that they were satisfied with their child’s school.

The Gang of Five is really speaking for a small right-wing ideological sliver of the county led by folks like Art Pope and Bob Luddy whose goal is to dismantle and privatize public education with vouchers and tax credits.

The decision by the Gang of Five to hire the right-wing Civitas Institute to conduct board trainings ought to remove any doubt about who is pulling the strings of the new majority.

According to the group’s latest nonprofit tax return, Pope contributed $1.62 million of the $1.66 million that Civitas raised in 2008.

The staff members of Civitas are unabashed supporters of vouchers and tax credits. They fight efforts to reduce class size, oppose funding for early childhood programs for at-risk kids, and routinely call for less support for teachers and school administrators.

The chair of the Civitas Board is conservative businessman Bob Luddy, who just happens to have been the largest single  indivdual contributor to the campaigns of the four members of the Gang of Five elected this fall.

Luddy is also a strong proponent of vouchers and runs both a charter school and a private school, the Thales Academy, with campuses in Apex and Wake Forest.

Gang of Fiver and Wake Board Chair Ron Margiotta is on the board of Thales Academy. 

The Director of the Pope Civitas Institute is Frances De Luca, who used to run the North Carolina chapter of Americans for Prosperity (AFP), the group that staged a rally in support of the new board majority before a December meeting.

Pope is not only a big contributor to AFP, he serves on the national board.

The AFP rally was led by staff member Chris Farr, the ex-wife of Republican lawyer Thomas Farr, recently hired by the Gang of Five to audit the school board’s legal expenses and provide other legal advice.

Emails from Margiotta’s Wake County account show he was actively seeking guidance from the Pope/Luddy axis right after the election.

Lindalyn Kakadelis copied Margiotta on an email she sent to Bob Luebke of the Civitas Institute and Terry Stoops of the Locke Foundation on November 12 in which she said she talked to Margiotta and he said he wanted her to meet with the newly elected school board.

Kakadelis is the director of the N.C. Education Alliance, a project of the Locke Foundation. Stoops replied that he knew Civitas wanted to do a school board training.

Now it appears that Civitas will be hired to “train” the new board even though the group has never before conducted school board trainings.

Maybe the first lesson can be to explain how all the parts of the Pope/Luddy axis fits together in its drive to destroy public education as we know it.

14 Comments

  1. Steve Harrison

    March 1, 2010 at 5:08 pm

    If I were a gambling man, I would bet that these “trainings” will focus on enriching the board members with bent statistics on student performance to reinforce their anti-diversity position and provide them with talking points.

    Great dot-connecting, Chris.

  2. Gordon

    March 1, 2010 at 9:30 pm

    This organization presented a program at a civic club I’m a member of and presented a very distorted picture of our local school system. It was apparent that presenter, Luebke, was unable to disseminate data from the state statistical profle and make a factual presentation regarding funding, test, and employee data. The aim was to discredit the local public school district and direct attention to charters, vouchers, etc.

    Glad others can see through the smoke screen.

  3. Cat Warren

    March 1, 2010 at 10:01 pm

    Nice work, Chris.

  4. Jeff

    March 2, 2010 at 7:58 am

    We can look at the numbers from both sides of the issue and we’ll still not know the truth of the situation. From what I’ve seen in the real world from recent high school grads and even some of the college students is that they lack the ability to think critically. If all they understand is regurgitation of information then we’re lost. We have a problem in our school system that is fundemental to its core. We need to allow failure to be an option again and competition in the classroom as well as school systems is the only way to fix this mess now.

  5. Marvin E. Rouse

    March 2, 2010 at 9:26 am

    Now is the time for Black and White parents who oppose the intended actions of the School Board to be smart and to prepare themselves for a long fight.
    Now is the time to decide to file a discrimination lawsuit alleged that a Black student has been denied an opportunity for equal education.
    Please note that support for this may cause some of the White parents some heartburn but such action may force County Commissioners and State/Federal authorities to review School Board as major funding may be at risk.

  6. Jeff

    March 2, 2010 at 10:08 am

    Mr. Rouse says, … “Now is the time to decide to file a discrimination lawsuit alleged that a Black student has been denied an opportunity for equal education.”

    If your going to alledge such activities, show the proof of your allegation.

    I have no doubt that students in NC have been denied an education of substance by our local school boards and the state and federal education departments. But in their defense thay have been equally dumbed down across the spectrum of race and economics. Those individual students with the slightest drive and desire excel in spite of any diversity lable placed on them. The rest just wait for their herd to move one way or the other.

  7. Joe Ciulla

    March 2, 2010 at 11:42 am

    Marvin,
    You’re a little late with your lawsuit. Have you read the EVAAS report issued by SAS Institute? Wake County Schools have been systematically discriminating against poor and black students for years when it comes to promotions to higher-level math. Read the report. Given two equally-qualified students, one white and one black, today’s WCPSS system tends to promote the white student. I would hope that the school board takes action on this soon and issues some kind of edict to stop this practice. FWIW, I don’t know what other training institutions are out there, but I think it was poor judgment to choose Civitas. I don’t think it is part of a conspiracy, but it sure does feed the conspiracy theories.

  8. Marvin E. Rouse

    March 2, 2010 at 2:07 pm

    Yes, the WCPSS has problems but is the current attempt to decide school attendance based on income/race (neighborhood schools) a way to solve the WCPSS problems. I think not but as usual, we see that practical ideas to solve problems are not wanted in favor of a prefect solution.
    The potential lawsuit offers the best opportunity to have an independent review with teeth to really look at the issues impacting WCPSS.Under NC law, a school board majority can make any decision it wants as long as they do not discriminate based on race.
    If the WCPSS decides to resegrate its schools(neighborhood schools),how can the Board argue that race/income were not factors in its decision.

  9. Joe Ciulla

    March 2, 2010 at 2:57 pm

    Marvin,

    You dismiss the outright discrimination we have today as “Yes, the WCPSS has problems…?” That’s like a defense attorney saying “Sure, my client has beaten up a few people, but there are worse people out there.”

    What about the 31% of schools which already violate the board’s own policy against high-poverty schools over 40% F&R? Where was the lawsuit over that.

    What about the 54% graduation rate for ED students, where was the lawsuit over that one? Or, was it ok for these students to fail as long as they were in a “diverse” environment? Seems like many people who are criticizing the new direction of our school system stood by utterly silent while many of our at-risk students were put in the pipeline to prison.

  10. MELONIE

    March 2, 2010 at 3:48 pm

    No, we who support diversity did not stand silently by and allow our at-risk students to go to prison. This issue is complex and we will not solve it here. Many hours and heartfelt ideas have been spent by teachers trying to help solve these problems. It is HARD to do. This current school board is going to find that just coming up with neighborhood schools will not solve this problem. It will make it worse. We hear from some members of the board that more money will be spent in these poor socioeconomic schools to help with graduation rates, test scores, and advance course selections. I believe that the old saying,”just throwing money at the problem” is not going to work. PLUS WE’RE LOOKING AT CUTTING THE BUDGET. It takes cooperation from everyone: educators, teachers, administrators, families, and the community to even make a dent in these problems. It takes years and years to undo what history has done over many years. There is so much to do, but shelving diversity and resegregating our schools is not the solution. Working together will help, but I’m seeing little coming together right now. It’s sad.

  11. Joe Ciulla

    March 2, 2010 at 6:40 pm

    “No, we who support diversity did not stand silently by and allow our at-risk students to go to prison”

    Sounds good, but the facts say otherwise. Billy Barber NEVER came before the school board to complain about how we are failing black and ED students.

    Wake Ed Partnership, with their million-dollar a year budget, has done nothing but promote our school system and repackage data any way they needed to make us look good.

    Please, prove me wrong. Tell me how Jim Goodmon has been putting his money into something constructive, not just WEP. Tell me where the Friend of Diversity (now Greatest Schools in Wake County) have been for the past five years. What happened to the Friends of Wake County? They advertised a strong commitment to education, then vaporized the day after the bond passed.

  12. Jim Stegall

    March 3, 2010 at 9:57 am

    Folks, if you have any concerns about the training being conducted by Civitas, why don’t you go to their website and check it out? The agenda is there, and I don’t see anything nefarious about it at all. They will have presentations by a former school board member from Char-Meck, a couple of eduation lawyers, and Philip Price from DPI. Anyone can register (it’s only $50 bucks) and attend. It’s on March 5th.

  13. [...] for this Friday. It will feature, among others, Pope employee Lindalyn Kakadelis – who as Chris Fitzsimon noted on Monday of this week, was emailing Papa Ron Margiotta back in November about the [...]

  14. [...] William Pope Foundation. The following post by Chris Fitzsimon at NC Policy Watch called. “Connect the rightwing dots” had this to say on the issue, The staff members of Civitas are unabashed supporters of [...]