For years in North Carolina, the advocacy groups funded by arch-conservative financier and politico Art Pope have attempted to portray themselves as champions of both private and public education.
On the one hand, groups like the John Locke Foundation (and the group formerly known as the Pope-Civitas Institute that Locke recently absorbed) have never missed a chance to promote and advocate for “school choice” through things like private school vouchers and charter schools.
At the same time, however, these same groups have long held themselves out as experts on how we should run traditional public schools. Down through the years, Pope-funded groups and commentators (like former Locke boss John Hood) have produced scores of columns, reports and blog posts in which they have delved into (and held forth on) the minutiae of public school funding, curricula, building standards, testing — you name it.
And while there has almost always been ample reason to disagree with most of the takes the Locke people have espoused, one has been obliged to at least take them at their oft-repeated word (and give them some degree of credit for it) that they cared about public schools and wanted them to succeed.
This morning, Locke Foundation chief executive officer Amy O. Cooke (who likes to refer to herself as “The Right AOC” — get it?) authored this rather remarkable tweet:
School Choice Keeps Growing Thanks to Cooper and Cohen. Nearly a quarter of NC school students have escaped government run schools. “An estimated 23% of North Carolina families selected a home, private, or charter school last school year” #ncga https://t.co/K2L4lFhQKv
— Amy O. Cooke (@TheRightAOC) July 8, 2021
You got that? The head of North Carolina’s most visible conservative policy think tank just described our state’s public education system — its single most important institution — as “government run schools” from which parents and children should aspire to “escape.”
If this is what she thinks, it’s clear that no one — including, perhaps most importantly, state law and policy makers who are under a constitutional obligation to provide all the state’s public school students with access to a sound basic education — should ever again pay any attention at all to the group’s education policy prescriptions.
By making such an outrageous statement, Cooke has revealed publicly what so many have long suspected — namely, that the Pope groups have never harbored any genuine interest in supporting public education in our state, much less improving it. Their goal, quite clearly, is and has been to undermine and destroy public education and, as former GOP lawmaker Paul Stam infamously conceded, to make every school in the state a “voucher school.”
In short, heeding any advice Cooke’s group might attempt to impart going forward about improving public education in our state makes about as much sense as relying upon Donald Trump’s recommendations for improving democracy.