There have been lots of excellent critiques of Lt. Gov. Dan Forest’s recent Soviet-style demands for a rewrite of a report on the not-so-impressive performance of North Carolina’s charter schools. My colleague Chris Fitzsimon authored one of the best last Friday when he rightfully blasted Forest for trying to rewrite history to abet his ideological objective of privatizing and dismantling public education:
“Forest delayed the report, saying it was too negative toward charters and called it the fuel the media uses to criticize what Republicans are doing.
In other words, the facts show that charter schools are less diverse than traditional public schools and Forest is worried about that the public will think when the media reports it.
Maybe the answer is to be more thoughtful about expanding charter schools without enough accountability and Forest wouldn’t have anything to hide.
Ironically, Forest’s refusal to accept the publicly presented report probably gave it more attention than it would have received in the media had he not objected.
And facts are not fuel. They are facts whether Forest likes them or not.
He can disagree with the report if he wants, maybe try to make up his own facts, but the report is the report and charter schools are less diverse than traditional public schools.”
Here, however, is another less publicized, but equally troubling aspect of Forest’s actions: the loud and clear message it sends to honest, hardworking employees in all parts of government that they had better toe the ideological line.
Think about what happened: Some dedicated public employees generated a “just the facts” report on charter schools. Unfortunately for them, the facts weren’t what a prominent and ambitious state politician wanted to hear about. Now, they are being hounded into producing a new report with “additional findings.”
As Charlotte Observer education reporter Ann Doss Helms reported this morning:
“If you want people to notice a data report, try having a public official object to it.
That’s one lesson from last week’s decision by the N.C. Board of Education to send a charter school report back for revisions after Lt. Gov. Dan Forest complained that it wasn’t positive enough….
He and other state officials stood by the numbers. But Levinson said he’ll look for ways to highlight successes by the independently-run charter schools, such as adding a list of awards and accolades they’ve won.”
This is a dreadful example of politically and ideologically motivated interference in the kind of straightforward, non-ideological, non-political fact finding that citizens should demand and have a right to expect from their public servants. And while, such an occurrence is hardly unprecedented, the blatancy of this incident is so egregious that it will clearly have a chilling effect throughout state government going forward.
What’s more, don’t think for a moment that Forest and his ideological allies aren’t fully aware of this reality.