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Sen. Jerry Tillman with Wake Forest filmmakers

Yesterday, during a meeting of the NC Educator Effectiveness and Compensation Task Force, Sen. Jerry Tillman and
sergeant-at-arms Mr. Philip King approached the press section of room 544 of the Legislative Office Building to speak with two documentary filmmakers from Wake Forest University.

Monica Berra, co-director of a film that will look at the sweeping changes brought to North Carolina’s education system thanks to recent legislative actions, told NC Policy Watch that first, sergeant-at-arms King, and then Sen. Tillman, told her and her colleague, Tom Green, that they could not film the meeting without prior approval.

“Are you members of the press? Did you check in with someone,” prodded King. Read More

Education blogger Valerie Strauss of The Washington Post has highlighted a new story by the Center for Public Integrity that reveals how ed reform groups, which are by and large funded by wealthy philanthropists, are pouring money into mostly conservative candidates’ races for office across the country.

How powerful are organizations such as  Michelle Rhee’s StudentsFirst and other like-minded groups that support charter schools, voucher programs and the weakening of teachers unions.?

The Center for Public Integrity, a nonpartisan, nonprofit investigative news organization that works to reveal abuses of power, corruption and betrayal of public trust by public and private institutions, takes a look at this issue in a new post on its Web site, ”Education groups battle teachers unions in state races.” It reveals the growing power of the purse of “education reform” organizations that are funded by wealthy philanthropists and that are spending big bucks to support mostly conservative candidates running for local and state offices around the country.

And get this: Federal tax rules allow them to operate without revealing from whom they get their money, meaning the public doesn’t know who is funding many candidates running for public office.

Read the entire story here, which chronicles how some of the biggest spenders — the American Federation for Children, 50CAN, Stand for Children and Democrats for Education Reform as well as the Walton Family and Broad —  have poured loads of money into local and state elections, with the end goal of promoting school privatization.

Some of that money has made its way into North Carolina — for more about that, click here and here.

Diane RavitchThe nation’s most visible defender of public education has a worth-your-time column at The Huffington Post this morning entitled: “Understanding the Propaganda Campaign Against Public Education.”

According to Diane Ravitch, privatization advocates are fomenting fear, uncertainty and doubt (“FUD”) in order to advance their cause:

“FUD was pioneered decades ago. Now public education is the target, and privatizing it is the goal. I hope Professor Proctor [who has studied the propaganda strategy] turns his attention to this issue, where a well-funded propaganda campaign seeks to spread enough doubt to destroy an essential Democratic institution.

There is no evidence from any other nation that replacing a public system with a privatized choice system produces anything but social, economic, and racial segregation.”

Read Ravitch’s entire column by clicking here. You can follow her on Twitter by clicking here and check out her website and new book by clicking here.

 

 

Members of the North Carolina Charter School Advisory Board made a recommendation to the State Board of Education yesterday to give fellow advisory board member Baker Mitchell’s Wilmington charter school, Douglass Academy, a temporary waiver that would allow the K-2 school to avoid complying with state law that requires charter schools to enroll at least 65 students.

Last month, the Office of Charter Schools sent a warning to newly opened Douglass Academy, placing it on Governance Cautionary Status for failing to bring its enrollment numbers up to the statutory minimum of 65. At the time that the Office of Charter Schools visited the school, only 35 students were in attendance. Currently the school’s student enrollment stands at 33.

Members of Douglass Academy’s Board of Trustees, as well as its headmaster, Barbra Jones, were asked to come to Raleigh yesterday to explain its low enrollment numbers to the Charter School Advisory Board.

Douglass officials said that their low student numbers were attributable to the fact that they had to change the school’s location and deal with last-minute renovations, prompting confusion and doubt among what they referred to as their “target market.” Read More

More than 94 percent of respondents to a survey conducted by researchers at UNC-Wilmington said that they felt public education in North Carolina is headed in the wrong direction and overwhelmingly trusted teachers and administrators — not lawmakers — to make educational decisions for the state’s public schools.

Residents of North Carolina, 80 percent of which were parents with children in public schools, were surveyed about the quality and direction of education in the state and asked to react to recent legislative decisions passed by the General Assembly, including the removal of additional funding for teachers who earn advanced degrees, implementation of a voucher program, removal of class size limits, and the abolishment of tenure, among others.

  • More than 85 percent of respondents disagreed with the state’s decision to provide low-income families with private school vouchers.
  • Ninety-six percent of participants disagreed with the removal of additional pay for teachers earning a master’s degree in education.
  • More than 76 percent of respondents disagreed with the elimination of teacher tenure. 
  • Ninety-six percent of participants disagreed with the removal of class size caps.
  • Ninety-five percent of respondents disagreed with the decision to not increase teacher salaries in 2013 for the fourth time in five years.

Participants were also given the chance to respond to the survey in their own words. Below are a few of those comments:

“These laws will not improve NC education, but destroy it!”

“I am just very disappointed in the direction NC education is headed. I hope to find work in another state that values children and education. NC is no longer that state.”

“I am shocked, angered and saddened by the direction of education in this state, all at the hands of the current legislature and governor. Because of these devastating changes, and in spite of a strong desire to teach again, I will not likely re-enter the profession.”

“My family is very concerned about the direction in which the 2013 NC State Legislature seems to be taking our public education system. We have two children enrolled in public schools now, and have witnessed firsthand the exodus of quality teachers and the swelling of class sizes. At all levels, we will be paying attention to candidates’ attitudes, statements, and actions regarding this issue and will vote accordingly.”