Berger_Jr.-and-Sr.There’s a degree of irony in the “surrender of charter” letter submitted recently by the charter school started by former Rockingham County D.A., failed congressional candidate, new Administrative Law Judge and son of State Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger, Phil Berger, Jr.

In the letter, the school’s current chairman, David Whicker, complains that “the lack of availability and/or provisioning of fiscal resources and assistance from the NC Board of Education and/or Office of Charter Schools, other than training courses, seemed only to multiply the challenges we already faced.”

In other words, it’s the same story heard so often in the murky world of school privatization: A group of folks who railed against “government schools” and who demand “choice” and the right to be unshackled from all those burdensome rules (like having to serve anyone who comes in the door — whatever their level of preparedness — and  providing free transportation and free meals to a large proportion of their students) finds out that running a successful school without a lot of bureaucratic support ain’t as easy as it looks.

Like demanding children, these folks want complete freedom to do as they please and the right to have Mom and Dad bail them out when they discover that the grown up world isn’t as easy to negotiate as they thought.

The sad thing about all this, of course, is that it’s actual children — the ones whose parents get sold a bill of goods by charter operators who are actually in over their heads — who end up suffering. Them, plus the traditional schools, of course, who will, as always, have to take in the kids left out in the cold.

Happily, in this case, Berger Jr.’s charter never really got up and running and the damage will apparently be minimal. Unfortunately, this has frequently not been the case — both here in North Carolina and around the country — for the scores of charters that have crashed and burned in the middle of school years.

The takeaway: The “genius of the market” is great when things are going good, but not so hot when things turn sour. And therein lies one of the biggest problems with charters and school privatization.


(Updated – See comment #1 below)The stories are coming so thick and fast that it’s getting harder and harder to shock caring and thinking North Carolinians with tales of laugh-out-loud malfeasance and the elevation of political operatives to positions of power and influence in North Carolina’s far-right state government.  

Francis De LucaStill, it’s fair to say that a lot of eyebrows had to have been raised in Raleigh yesterday with the appointment by state Senate Leader Phil Berger of Francis De Luca, the head of one of the state’s most aggressive conservative advocacy groups, the Pope-Civitas Institute, to, of all things, the Board of the State Ethics Commission. After all, as director of Pope-Civitas — a group funded almost exclusively by the family foundation of state Budget Director Art Pope — De Luca is paid to be a fire-breathing crusader for a very specific political agenda. What’s more, he also heads a 501(c)(4) political group — Civitas Action — that is dedicated to, among other things, producing slick (and in some cases, downright malicious) attack ads against disfavored political candidates. Click here to see some the group’s handiwork from 2010 and 2011. (To add to the irony of the whole thing, De Luca was appointed to take the place of another former Pope group employee, Les Merritt, who resigned because of a potential conflict of interest posed by his current $312,000 per year job in the McCrory administration).   

In addition to raising eyebrows, the appointment ought to raise legal questions as well. According to the State Government Ethics Act, Section 138A-7 (d)(3), Read More