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A lot of people are justifiably outraged at the House budget provision that gives $1 million (and delegates public duties) to the conservative school privatization lobby group, Parents for Educational Freedom of North Carolina (PEFNC). As Rep. Rick Glazier — who tried to amend the budget to shift the money to fund teacher assistants — said yesterday (as reported by Raleigh’s News & Observer):

“This is the first time that I believe in the history of the legislature that we’ve done what this is asking. We’re giving $1 million of taxpayers’ money to an entity to then choose the charter schools to fund. … It is not our job to take away public funds and give them to a private entity to make public decisions.”

In addition to the idea of giving public money to a right-wing lobby group, however, the whole thing is rendered even more remarkable by the circumstances that surround PEFNC’s employment of its executive director, Darrell Allison. Mr Allison, who, according to his group’s website, directs a staff of five, including himself, brings home quite a handsome — even stunning — salary. As Lindsay Wagner reported in January in 2014:

“In 2010, Allison received $107,889 for his work running the non-profit; in 2012, Allison reported an income of $156,582—a 45 percent pay increase in just two years.”
A check of the PEFNC Form 990 tax return for 2013 reveals that his compensation for that year was $167,085. The 2014 report is not yet available. By way of comparison, Gov. Pat McCrory’s salary is $142,265 and State Superintendent of Public Instruction June Atkinson’s is $125,676.
Commentary

Dix campusYesterday’s once-and-for-all, final approval of the Dorothea Dix campus land sale to the city of Raleigh ought to remind progressives of a couple of important facts about the state of modern politics.

First is that there’s still lots of room for intentional public action in shaping the society we want to inhabit. Sure, the Dix property could have been sold off for condos as so many folks on Right Wing Avenue would have liked. The “market” could have had its way with the property and life in the capital city would have gone on, albeit in a diminished state. But, now, thanks to the vision of some inspired people and the loud and repeated demands of thousands of average citizens, the entire community will benefit for decades (maybe even centuries) to come as a result of a modest and collective upfront sacrifice.

If ever there was a classic example of how “the people” banning together can lift up the common good and public solutions and thereby triumph over the forces of greed and privatization, this is one. The Dix deal isn’t perfect (the state continues to do far too little for people with mental illness and disabilities) but it is clearly far superior to what we would have gotten had the decision been left to the market fundamentalists.

That said, the second lesson is this: Though they were dragged kicking and screaming to the deal, the folks on the right wing remain unrepentant. Even as Raleigh moves toward the creation of a major public “destination park,” the privatizers and conservative ideologues continue to push to dismantle all thing public — including institutions like parks, zoos and aquariums that ought to be forever public. Don’t think for a second that yesterday’s  success will stop that effort — either in North Carolina or around the country.

The bottom line: Let’s hope the Dix victory reminds progressives of two things: 1) the power they have when people band together for the common good and 2) the need to redouble their efforts going forward in the battle with those who would sell off our government.

Commentary

School-vouchersIf you still harbor any doubts about what the American far right has in mind when it comes to the future of public education, there’s a helpful reminder in Texas right now where ideologues are seriously advancing a new proposal to commence the process of doing away with it. As public schools champion Diane Ravitch points out his morning on her blog, the latest voucher proposal under consideration in the Lone Star state appears to be a truly a frightening mess.

Ravitch points readers to a recent and critical op-ed in the Houston Chronicle by Republican politico Chris Ladd (a fellow who, rather remarkably, writes under the moniker “GOP Lifer”) in which he describes the proposal that would both allow vouchers and a new and parallel funding scheme whereby some taxpayers could simply earmark their taxes to fund private schools. Here’s Ladd:

“These two bills would not merely privatize schools. They would privatize the school funding system as well, creating an entire parallel world free from the liberal horrors of a real education infrastructure. Taxpayers could simply exit the existing public school funding system in favor of their own private school funding entities which they control entirely…. Read More

Commentary

It should be quite a session when the House Judiciary I Committee gathers this morning at 8:30 in the state Legislative Building. Among the four bills on the agenda for the one-hour meeting:

  • A proposal (sponsored by Rep. Jacqueline Schaffer — the sponsor of last week’s anti-abortion legislation) that would further relax the state’s already minimal gun laws to repeal handgun background checks, force private businesses to allow guns in parking lots, allow concealed carry permits for misdemeanants, and allow guns at the State Fair (click here for more info), and
  • A proposal to speed up executions in the state.

Meanwhile, just to add a little icing to the cake, the committee is also scheduled to take up a bill that would facilitate the hiring of private companies to provide police services in counties and municipalities.

Got it? More guns, more executions and more for-proft police. In other words, the nation’s gradual transformation into a banana republic on steroids continues apace.

Commentary

voucher-chartMillions of private dollars have made their way to North Carolina in an effort to encourage lawmakers to push a school privatization agenda.

Those funds have resulted in the removal of the cap on charter schools and a new voucher program that takes money away from the public school system in order to fund unregulated and unaccountable private education in the name of school choice.

To connect the dots between the national players in school privatization efforts and local lawmakers that have pushed for the expansion of charters and vouchers, the Institute for Southern Studies (ISS) published an essay and infographic Friday that details how Reps. Stam, Yarborough, Jones and others have benefited from the privatizers’ offerings and the resulting legislation they are seeking to enact.

According to ISS (as well as information I’ve previously reported), Parents for Educational Freedom in NC (PEFNC), headed by Darrell Allison, is the key facilitator behind the school privatization movement. Between PEFNC and political action committees (PACs) closely aligned with Allison, nearly $1.5 million has been funneled through these organizations to local lawmakers, originating  from the Walton Family Foundation and the American Federation for Children — both organizations well known for promoting school privatization initiatives.

Click here to read the full report by ISS.