BREAKING: House committee approves controversial achievement school district bill

Rep.-Bryan-Achievement-SchoA key state House committee gave its approval Wednesday night to legislation that would allow the creation of a so-called “achievement school district” that could turn over operation, including hiring and firing powers, of some low-performing schools to for-profit, charter operators.

The controversial measure, much criticized by many public school advocates, is expected to head to the state House floor in the coming days. Its chief proponent, Mecklenburg County Republican Rob Bryan, has argued that it will provide much-needed reforms in chronically struggling schools.

Yet Wednesday’s approval—passed 18-11—came despite rumblings that some influential Republicans were questioning the cost of the program and the lackluster results of a similar program in neighboring Tennessee.

It came two days after House Speaker Tim Moore approved a handful of last-minute appointments to the House Education Committee, including the bill’s co-sponsor, Rep. John Bradford III, a Republican from Mecklenburg County, raising questions of whether the appointments were made to ensure the bill’s passage this week.

And its approval came shortly after a group of protesters chanted, “We are teachers, we say shame.” Committee Co-Chair Linda Johnson ordered the protesters removed.

Bryan’s bill would pull five of the state’s lowest-performing schools, regardless of geography, into one district for a pilot program. The district would have a superintendent chosen by the State Board of Education who could turn over management of the schools to charter operators for five-year contracts.

On Wednesday, Bryan acknowledged “mixed results” for the program in Tennessee, but argued that the district did report some gains in the third year of operations.

“We can compare it to other states, but we’re looking to create something unique for North Carolina with its own guard-rails and parameters where we’re learning from other states,” said Bryan.

Bryan pointed out the bill allows for the state to cancel the contract with the operators should the schools fail to surpass their peer schools.

“It’s always easy to wait, to keep waiting,” Bryan added. “For me, I just got to a point where every year a kid stays in one of these failing schools is a year that is lost. You can’t get them back.”

But public school leaders, including N.C. Superintendent of Public Instruction June Atkinson, have been openly critical of the idea throughout the discussion.

Atkinson told Policy Watch in January that she believes the state “would get a better return on their investments by going with a model that has proven positive results.”

Atkinson said the state’s efforts would be better spent offering additional support and funding to low-performing schools, in addition to greater flexibility in their calendar and curriculum.

Mark Jewell, president-elect of the N.C. Association of Educators, which represents teachers across the state, also urged legislators to vote down the bill Wednesday, calling it a “new layer of bureaucracy that lacks the accountability to ensure public dollars are being spent effectively.”

Yet the arguments Wednesday failed to sway lawmakers who passed the bill in a roll call vote.

Rep. Kyle Hall, a Republican representing Rockingham and Stokes counties, put forth an amendment to transfer capital facility maintenance over to the State Board of Education rather than keeping responsibility for that funding with local districts.

Hall argued that he “fears county commissioners will prioritize schools they currently operate and sort of put these on the back-burner.”

That amendment was rejected by committee members who said they believed such a move would set a precedent for state officials taking over county funding responsibilities.


  1. Michelle

    May 25, 2016 at 8:42 pm

    So wonderful! Those who left us with Common Core are now deciding to use children once again as Guinea pigs. Those same persons who are pushing our teachers to the lowest pay scale in the south.
    Maybe you should really consider hiring a real reliable person stateside who can actually work towards bettering education rather than copping to let’s just try this and see how it goes. Polititions have no place in education, period.

  2. Peter H. Hickey

    May 26, 2016 at 5:25 am

    Michelle has got it just right. The Yahoos in Raleigh need to go back to school, rather than dreaming up “solutions” to school funding problems caused by Republican determination to “starve the beast.”

  3. Baymond

    May 26, 2016 at 7:41 am

    Fundamental definition of a business? “MAXIMIZE SHAREHOLDER VALUE”. So, with a limited revenue stream (TAXPAYER DOLLARS), and the Charter’s REQUIREMENT to satisfy thirsty investors……..Do our duly elected officials truly believe that struggling CHILDREN will actually benefit by going to this model of continued pilferage?

    Dear elected officials: THE problem is much deeper and a direct result of property tax allocation and the intentional drawing of district/local school maps to keep newly housed white folks where they want to be……and the black/Hispanic folks just where they want them to be. It’s all tied together, our state’s housing boom, bigoted developers, bigoted investors, bigoted home buyers, bigoted chicken crap ARROGANT, COWARD, elected officials and all of their combined FEAR.
    (Only thing missing here is a pillow case with eye holes cut out.)

    Congrats NC – another undesirable “problem” swept under the rug, another ten + years to be wasted…..and more profits for EEEEEEEEEVERYBODY!! woooohooooo!!

  4. Shelia

    May 26, 2016 at 2:25 pm

    This is all about handing the role of educating our children over to Charter Schools. The GOPers do not believe in public education or supporting it with tax dollars. Privatization is their mantra. Future generations will pay for their lack of foresight.

  5. Mark

    May 26, 2016 at 3:16 pm

    Oh by all means, please continue to scorch the NC educational landscape. This is the political equivalent of Darwin’s Law in action. Idiocy reigns supreme in the NC House. I have to laugh when I hear the same GOP leaders accusing Obama of social engineering – this action clearly represents GOP tinkering with these kid’s futures.

  6. Martha M. Parker

    May 26, 2016 at 3:48 pm

    Get government out of the schools. Let’s go back to school districts having a say so over their own calendars!!! Plus, let the teachers teach instead of testing everyone to death!!! Let’s go back to classes being ranked as high, middle and lower achieving classes so we won’t hold anyone back and can really help the struggling!!!! No child learns the same and it’s not right to hold stron Germany students back nor to make struggling students suffer because of the pressure placed on them all!!!

  7. Kent

    May 26, 2016 at 4:12 pm

    But by passing this and other questionable education legislation, they are achieving their unstated goal of proving that public education doesn’t work, so that they can privatize the system so that those that can afford it can get educated and those who can’t won’t.

  8. Janie Free

    May 26, 2016 at 11:07 pm

    “However, operating non-profit charter schools can be very profitable for charter school executives like Eva Moskowitz. Moskowitz earns close to a half a million dollars a year ($485,000) for overseeing school programs that serve 6,700 children, which is over $72 per student. By comparison, New York State Education Commissioner is paid a salary of $212,000 to oversee programs with 2.7 million students or about 8 cents per student. In other words, Moskowitz earns about 100 times more than King for each student enrolled in a Success Academy Charter School. Carmen Farina, New York City School Chancellor is paid $212,000 a year to oversee 1.1 million students or about 19 cents per student.”
    “Even though most of the details remain hidden, we do know that privatization in education is a lucrative business….We’ve all been fed the lie that this is about equality of opportunity and civil rights. But the more the charter school industry undermines equality and civil rights, the clearer it becomes that this was never about helping children in the first place.”

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