After heated debate, state House approves achievement school district bill

Rep. Cecil Brockman, D-Guilford, a co-sponsor of the bill.

Rep. Cecil Brockman, D-Guilford, a co-sponsor of the bill.

Following a bristling debate on the N.C. House of Representatives floor Thursday morning, House lawmakers have approved a controversial bill for a pilot program that could allow for-profit charter operators to assume control over low-performing schools.

House Bill 1080, which has sparked criticism from many public education advocates, was approved on its second reading by a 60-49 vote and cleared the House on a voice vote for its third reading. It’s now bound for the state Senate.

The bill’s co-sponsor, Guilford County Democrat Cecil Brockman, argued on the floor Thursday that the state’s public schools have failed African-American children, pointing out that roughly two-thirds of African-American students in the state are not achieving on grade level.

“If the majority of all children, if two-thirds, was failing in this state, it would be an outright crisis,” said Brockman. “We would be using every tool in the toolbox to fix this problem.”

Brockman also riled some public school advocates when he rebuffed another lawmaker’s compliments about teachers’ efforts in the schools.

“It’s not about teachers,” he said. “If they don’t like it, good. This is about the kids. Who cares about the teachers? We should care about the kids. If (teachers) don’t like it, maybe that’s a good thing.”

Brockman later apologized if his quotes seemed offensive to educators. “I was being provocative,” he added. “But my point was: We should care more about our kids.”

Supporters have long claimed that the bill is intended to assure badly-needed reforms in chronically low-performing schools in the state. The legislation pulls five of the state’s lowest-performing schools into one district, regardless of geography, and allows state leaders to contract out management, including staffing, at the schools to a for-profit, charter.

Policy Watch has reported extensively on the issue, pointing out support for the bill last year was being led by an Oregon businessman with a national network of charter schools, including schools in North Carolina.

We also reported Wednesday that advertising backing the legislation was being rolled out in North Carolina media outlets by a conservative, Oklahoma group with ties to the American Legislative Exchange Council, better known as ALEC, a national group behind scores of right-wing bills filed in U.S. states in recent decades.

House Bill 1080—sponsored by Brockman and two Charlotte-area Republicans, Rep. Rob Bryan and Rep. John Bradford III—earned fierce criticism on the House floor from mostly Democrats, although at least one Republican, Rep. James Langdon Jr., a retired educator from Johnston County, chimed in to question supporting a method with mixed results.

We’ve reported data from a Vanderbilt University professor that tracks mixed results from a similar achievement school district program in Tennessee, although Bryan pointed out Thursday that North Carolina’s program is different in that it requires prospective charter operators to show a track record of success in North Carolina or in low-performing schools.

Bryan added Thursday that the legislation, which includes a program for schools to opt in to charter-like flexibility, would cost the state between $400,000 and $1 million to phase in, although that number does not count the local school funding that would be diverted to charter operators to run the low-performing schools.

Rep. Rosa Gill, a retired high school teacher from Wake County, was one of the 49 who voted against the bill Thursday, arguing that the state should focus instead on its own transformation efforts through the N.C. Department of Public Instruction.

A DPI administrator told lawmakers in January that the state transformation office has seen results in the 79 districts where it had intervened, although the office was without sufficient funding for transformation in the 500-plus low performing schools in the state.

“Why are we investing in a program that has been proven to be less effective in improving performance than what we’re already doing?” said Gill.

More on this to come at Policy Watch.


  1. B murray

    June 2, 2016 at 3:55 pm

    Really? What about the parents of the low performing students? What do you think will happen if there is no change in these students’ home lives and how engaged their parents are or, as in many cases, are not engaged!

  2. Johnny

    June 2, 2016 at 6:26 pm

    If these idiots in office would come to the schools, try to teach for a week, they would see what teachers try to do everyday. These so called tests are not real evaluators of what any of these children have learned all year. It’s a mockery and I challenge each of these fools to take a 5th grade EOG for the three subjects tested to see if they could even score a 3,I bet my job 2/3 of them wouldn’t score higher than a 2!

  3. Karen

    June 2, 2016 at 6:46 pm

    “Brockman later apologized if his quotes seemed offensive to educators. ‘I was being provocative,’ he added. ‘But my point was: We should care more about our kids.'”

    I beg your pardon? I daresay that there is only one reason that the vast majority of North Carolina teachers even put up with what we do: We care about our students more than any pencil-pushing, money-grubbing legislator can imagine. Do they tear up when they see students who’ve never known anything but failure pull off a level 4 on an EOG? Or when they realize that that one student they just knew would finally pass just couldn’t make it to that level 3 mark? Do they go home and cry when they think about the fact that the encouragement they give a student at school is likely the ONLY encouragement they ever receive? Do they do a literal happy dance when they see a student come out of his shell a bit and manage to actually look someone in the eye for a couple of seconds? Do they go home and worry whether a student will eat over the weekend or if they will hear anyone say “I love you” at home? I doubt it.

    I challenge Cecil Brockman and the rest of our “representatives” to spend a month working closely with our public school students and teachers. Experience the joys and struggles. Get a new perspective on what it’s like to have your life’s work examined under the microscope of the mighty EOG assessment program when you can’t even get parents to make sure students attend school, much less do any homework. See what it’s like to have your performance evaluated based on multiple factors that are out of your control– poverty, bad home lives, lack of discipline, child physical and sexual abuse, zero student accountability, zero parent accountability, so on and so forth. I dare you.

    Who am I kidding? Representative Brockman and most of his colleagues WANT to see public schools fail. There’s a lot of money to be made in privatizing education. Get out of Pearson’s pocket, and then we’ll talk about how teachers need to care more about our kids.

  4. Anonymous

    June 2, 2016 at 7:42 pm

    The schools are not failing African-American children…. THE STATE IS!!! The primary reason these students are not performing at grade level is because they live in poverty stricken areas and poor home environments. There are few to no resources for the families or the teachers who teach them. The teachers spend a tremendous amount of time feeding and clothing these children as well as taking care of their other basic needs. To the teachers who teach these low income children, their basic needs are a priority. The state is not funding the public schools properly. The supplies, food, clothes, bandaids, baby wipes (because that’s the closest thing we have to a bath), toothbrushes, and toothpaste are most often provided by the teachers. The problem does not lie in the schools but rather the unimaginable conditions these children live in. How can a student pass a test if they didn’t have a bed to sleep in the night before? How can a student be on grade level when they have been absent for 80 plus days because the parents are too high or drunk to get them to school. Or even worse (real life) they can’t pass a test because someone was using them as payment for their drugs. This is the real life that these representatives need to look at. Get off your high horse and quit blaming the schools and the teachers. If the problem lies in the schools, then invest time and money into the schools instead of taking it away and redistributing it to charter and private schools.

  5. Jennifer Corby

    June 2, 2016 at 10:06 pm

    I challenge your WHOLE GROUP to take the 6th-grade EOG- to be graded upon.

  6. Jennifer Corby

    June 2, 2016 at 10:08 pm

    I challenge all of the House to take the 6th grade, 7th grade, and 8th grade Reading and Math EOGs, to be graded afterward! I don’t know how we’d keep it legal.

  7. Jennifer Corby

    June 2, 2016 at 10:11 pm

    Awaiting moderation? Really? When we teachers wait for months and months to find out how our scores fair????

  8. Jennifer Corby

    June 2, 2016 at 10:13 pm

    Sorry, “fare”?

  9. L. R.

    June 2, 2016 at 11:13 pm

    From a superior teacher in a low performing school,

    I’m in a Title 1, Priority school. My students grow 2 or more grade levels every year, but they don’t make proficient because they come to me reading at a 3rd, 4th, or 5th grade level. ( I teach 8th grade ELA.)

    Most of my students have never been out of the state, or even to the mountains or the coast. Many of their parents don’t speak or read English.

    When assessing the released versions of 8th grade reading EOG’S, they measure at lexile levels above 1180. That is 11th grade reading level according to most other state standards. NC makes the test much more difficult than it needs to be for 8th graders. Do they want our minority students to achieve? Do they want to sell out all minority laden public schools to for profit charters? If yes, why? Is the state government mandating forced Jim Crowe type rules for our minority students? Racism is apparently loud in clear in the NC legislature.

    Don’t think selling out to charters will help. Any educated educator can tell you why many high minority schools are failing, and it won’t be corrected by charter schools.

    Many if not most title1 students live in poverty. Poverty keeps them hungry, tired, isolated, stressed to measures beyond that of the average adult. These conditions prohibit the brain from making clear connections, retaining new information, paying attention, or even caring.

    Our school is reaching our Title1 students, but not the way the government measures educational success. NC subjects our students to EOG’S levels above what is really grade appropriate. These Reading EOG’S use antiquated texts with words I doubt the politicians making the rules can pronounce. Then they ask vague questions with trick answers. Additionally, NC spent thousands of dollars teaching me how to teach my students strategies for success with test taking. I teach them these, which they use with success in class. They include underlining, annotating, and color coded highlighting. The students can’t use these strategies because NC has forced them to take the tests online.

    Here’s a real suggestion for every politician before they pass another education bill. Every politician should spend 4 hours a day for a week taking the 8 levels of Reading EOG’S. Yes, 4 hours every day until they are done. No food, no built in bathroom breaks. And… no paper tests. They must use the poorly designed testing delivery system that will not adjust text size, adjust color, or allow note taking. They can highlight using their finger on a track pad which resembles a chicken using a yellow crayon. After testing, perhaps you will have better insights into how the “student achievement measurement” is attained.

    Most middle class or better white students will always be proficient. Even a bad teacher or two will not keep them from scoring the way NC has in mind. Their access to educational materials at home, books, computers, tutors, parental assistance and lack of the stresses of poverty ensures consistent success. They are not better off because of their schools; they are better off because of their privilege. Their schools are better off because of them.

    NC, please consider talking to front line fighters/teachers in “failing schools”. Find out what we need. You wouldn’t insist on changing rules about fighting a fire without the insight of trained fire fighters. Why do do it with the future of our country. We are your front lines with the future troops that will work and vote. Why do you insist on following a regime that almost assures the failure of poor minorities. What benefit is it to you to have a majority of poor minorities as future adults? One might think NC secretly wants only rich white kids to be successful. How many years until NC embraces and encourages equality for all people.

    I grew up rich and white in NC. I’m ashamed that my state is one of the most close minded, bigoted, ignorant states in the Union. All of you politicians should feel the same.

    Respectfully devoted to my students and excellence in my profession,


  10. Progressive

    June 3, 2016 at 8:41 am

    I hear a bunch of lame excuses on here. Point blank period there is a wide descrepency. Brockman is right all of you would be singing a different tone if it was white kids that were 37%. Its time for white progressives to stop being so blindly ignorant to this problem. The teachers union and org. like them has brain washed you to ignore the core principles of being a progressive. If you think it is progressive to continue policies that has black studenets are 3x more likely to get kicked out- its not progressive, if you think its ok for black kids to drop out 3x higher than their peers i am here to tell you that its not ok. If you think its progressive for 2/3 of black kids are not proficient. Save me your b.s. on why, if the white kids are at 80% proficient in the same system and same test you are brainwashed to believe that it just is that way for black kids and we are doing the best we can. Thats hog wash, and as a true black progressive, I applaud Rep. Brockman for making a stand so half our kids will stop going to prison due to lack of education. The truth hurts sometimes. I challenge white progressives to start dealing with the truth and start dialogues with solutions instead of 40 years of talking points that has protected the status quo with no accoutability, and black kids continue to fail decade after decade.

  11. Kelly

    June 3, 2016 at 3:50 pm

    Cecil Brockman, people like you sicken me. Why don’t you step up and step into a low performing school and help. As an educator who happens to be black, I am sick and tired of the plight of black children being blamed on the schools, teachers, police officers and everyone one else. The real blame lies with the parents who consistently fail their children. Most of our children are born to single mothers (this needs to stop) and we need to stop supporting it. Priorities and values are usually misplaced or missing all together. I am tired of these same students walking into a classroom with high dollar name brand clothing and the latest cell I-phones but the parents can’t pay for lunch or pay for tutoring because they think it is our responsibility to provide it for their children. I am tired of dealing with the constant disrespect and aggressive behavior I have seen in these children because their parents put their priority in the streets and not in their homes. and by the way, this is why you cannot staff the schools filled with these children. If I offend you, too bad. Get over it, and get real.

  12. Janet Doub

    June 3, 2016 at 7:59 pm

    There is no end to what these greedy tyrants will do to destroy public education. They are obviously getting money from these groups wanting to take over the schools and make money. They have cut the resources, demeaned educators and failed to fund early child hood programs. Then they have the audacity to say the schools are failing! Yes, let’s cut off the arms and legs of educators and tell them they are failing to swim! I am livid about all of the damage that has been done. I spent 40 years as an educator and watched as we fought for many improvements. It has only taken a few short years to destroy the progress. Listen to the gurgling sound as public education circles the drain. Can we possibly change this direction at the ballot box in November? Or is it too late?

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