Commentary, News

Session limits1. Don’t limit democracy by limiting sessions
It is not a surprise that proposals to limit the length of legislative sessions are making the rounds in Raleigh these days. A lot of people are still reeling from the contentious and grueling eight-and-half-month long session that ended September 30 and don’t want to go through that again.

Rep. Gary Pendleton wants to put a bipartisan commission together to build support for a constitutional amendment limiting legislative sessions to 90 days in odd numbered years when lawmakers pass a biennial budget and 45 days in even years when budget adjustments are made.  [Continue Reading…]

spellings-400c2. Changes ahead for UNC system with Margaret Spellings as new president
Things will be different in 2016 for the state’s public higher education system, now that a new president for the University of North Carolina system has been named and the beleaguered chair of its governing board is gone.

But what changes are coming are far from known, with plenty of uncertainty for the 17-campus system about what priorities the governing board and former U.S. Education Secretary Margaret Spellings will have when she starts in March.

Spellings, who spent much of her career working for former President George W. Bush, will become the head of the UNC system with little background in higher education itself. But, she’s also spent decades in Texas and Washington immersed in both public education policy and Republican politics.  [Continue Reading…]

School vouchers3. School vouchers: We need accountability before further expansion

The subject of school vouchers remains a controversial and divisive matter in North Carolina. To many opponents, they pose an existential threat to the future of public education. To many proponents, they are a potential cure for all that is broken or imperfect in K-12 schools.
Whatever one’s position on vouchers, however, one idea ought to unify all sides – that the voucher system ought to be driven by data and sound policy principles rather than ideology and intuition.

Unfortunately, the new 2016 state budget recently enacted by the legislature more than doubles North Carolina’s funding for the voucher program from $11 million to $27 million over the next two years in spite of a complete lack of evidence of how the program worked in its first year of operation.  [Continue Reading…]

Trans pacific4. A little well-founded paranoia about a loss of U.S. sovereignty

There are a lot of good reasons to be skeptical about the claims of those who issue regular rants about “world government” and supposedly diabolical plots to subvert U.S. sovereignty. If you ever venture out into the political blogosphere or the world of social media (or just check your “junk mail” file), you know how these claims tend to go.

Usually, the allegation is that liberal elites led by our power mad, socialist President are on the verge of ceding all powers of the United States government to the United Nations. Sometimes the reference is to something called “Agenda 21.” At others, the claim is that a move is afoot to merge all of North America into one large new country that will be flooded with dark-skinned immigrants bent on overrunning Anglo Saxon culture.

The rants are, in a word, mad and deserving of all the derision that sane people can pour on them.  [Continue Reading…]

Virtual charter schools5. Another virtually ignored accountability problem in the education privatization crusade

The crusade to privatize public education in North Carolina has become a hallmark of the folks currently in charge in Raleigh.
There’s the sketchy school voucher scheme that diverts public money to almost completely unaccountable private schools and religious academies that even some prominent Republicans say shouldn’t receive taxpayer funds.

There’s the explosion of for-profit charter school companies that run what are supposed to be public schools that serve students and communities not out of state corporations and their shareholders.

And there’s the least discussed of the privatization tactics, two virtual charter schools that opened in the state this fall operated by two different for-profit companies, one of which has a scandal-plagued record in other states.  [Continue Reading…]


K12, Inc.It may be 10 days before Christmas, but there are still a lot of worrisome/controversial policy decisions taking shape in the halls of state government this week. As noted in this morning’s Weekly Briefing, a state legislative committee will meet this Friday to recommend rolling back some important consumer protections in the mortgage lending industry.

Now, comes word that a special committee appointed by the State Board of Education will be meeting tomorrow to interview two private, for-profit companies seeking to run virtual charter schools in North Carolina — at least one of which (K12, Inc.) has been shown on numerous occasions to be a predatory failure. As Bloomberg Business Week reported last month:

“K12 Inc. (LRN) was heralded as the next revolution in schooling. Billionaire Michael Milken backed it, and former Florida governor Jeb Bush praised it. Now the online education pioneer is failing to live up to its promise.

Plagued by subpar test scores, the largest operator of online public schools in the U.S. has lost management contracts or been threatened with school shutdowns in five states this year. The National Collegiate Athletic Association ruled in April that students can no longer count credits from 24 K12 high schools toward athletic scholarships.”

Of course, K12, Inc. isn’t an unknown to the State Board of Ed. To its credit, the Board has been holding the troubled company and its whole scam at bay for years. Unfortunately, K12, Inc. lobbyists prevailed upon the privatizers at the General Assembly to slip a provision into the state budget bill this past summer which directs the Board to approve two virtual charters as part of a “pilot” program. Now, low and behold, there are only two applicants for those slots.

Whether this means that the State Board will roll over and approve K-12, Inc. or show some backbone and tell the company and its buddies in the legislature to stuff it remains to be seen. Let’s hope for the latter eventuality.

Lest you have any doubts about the appropriateness of such a response, Read More


This morning’s Charlotte Observer editorial gets it just about right in its take on K12, Inc. — the big for-profit cyber-schools company. The editorial comes as a follow-up to a recent study by the National Education Policy Center which found that K12 has a generally abysmal record in educating kids:

“Online learning does have great value and popularity. The state’s N.C. Virtual Public School program offers courses to high school students across the state – often courses that don’t have high demand but ones that students in various parts of the state need or desire, and courses that students have flunked which can be recovered without students having to go back through a whole semester.

But the K12 Inc. managed school would be different. It would operate as a standalone school, completely online, taking in students from anywhere in the state.

Whether that’s a good idea is worth debating. But K12 Inc.’s involvement is another matter. The report from the National Center for Education Policy should prompt a thorough investigation before K12 Inc.’s application goes forward.”

Of course,  like so many other sharks looking to cash in on the privatization of our schools and other essential public structures, K12 is already employing a virtual fleet of high-powered lobbyists to represent it in the General Assembly. So, whatever the continued fallout from the NEPC repport, don’r expect the company to leave North Carolina alone anytime soon..


The Winston-Salem Journal has a story this morning about the new national report (reported here last week by Sarah Ovaska) that slams the student outcomes produced by K12 Inc., the for-profit corporation that is lobbying hard to run charter schools in North Carolina — including a so-called “virtual charter” in Cabarrus County. (The group currently employs seven registered lobbyists in North Carolina).

“A report released last week shows that students enrolled at K12 Inc., an online school company linked to a nonprofit group in Cabarrus County, are falling behind in reading and math scores compared with students in traditional brick-and-mortar schools. Read More


Cross-posted from the blog of State Government Radio commentator Barlow Herget:

See if the pig is in the bag
By Barlow Herget

The idea of the Internet as the next big thing in education is an appealing vision.  There are ways now being tried in some schools in which computer programs and the Internet are designed to aid teachers in developing custom learning plans for individual students.

But the virtual schools that for-profit companies are pedaling to financially strapped North Carolina school boards are pigs in a poke.  The State Board of Education and its chairman Bill Harrison are correct to ask for a detailed review of such questionable sales.

The issue surfaced after the Cabarrus School Board was casting about to save money in these tight budget times.  Under the guise of a charter school, a North Carolina non-profit, NC Learns, sold the Cabarrus board a virtual school program operated by a for-profit company called K12.

The charter school expects to get over $18 million in public school funds, most of which will be paid to K12.  The N.C. Virtual Academy as it’s called, offers to teach 2,700 students from across the state.

Now, stop and think.

Does an on-line K through 12 school pass the common sense test?  Hardly. Read More