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Lenoir County has joined a growing number of school districts that have signed on to be plaintiffs in a lawsuit filed by the North Carolina School Boards Association (NCSBA) challenging the recently-enacted school voucher law.

Last week, Lenoir’s school board voted unanimously to join the suit, which calls into question the constitutionality of providing families with $4,200 annual taxpayer-funded scholarships to use at private schools.

As of today, 16 school districts have signed on to be plaintiffs in the lawsuit.

  1. Asheboro City
  2. Catawba County
  3. Chapel Hill-Carrboro City
  4. Durham County
  5. Edenton-Chowan
  6. Hyde County
  7. Lenoir County
  8. Macon County
  9. Mount Airy City
  10. Onslow County
  11. Person County
  12. Pitt County
  13. Rutherford County
  14. Stanly County
  15. Surry County
  16. Yancey County

More districts are expected to follow–Vance County will vote this evening on whether to join the lawsuit.

*This post was updated to include seven more school districts that have signed on to be plaintiffs in the voucher lawsuit, per NCSBA.

Yesterday, the State Board of Education approved 26 new charter schools to open this fall – including South Brunswick Charter School, the fourth charter school to open under the management of Baker A. Mitchell, Jr.

Mitchell has collected in the neighborhood of $16 million in taxpayer funds over the past five years for managing three other charter schools in southeastern N.C. Brunswick County Schools Superintendent Dr. Edward Pruden is locked in a battle with Mitchell, hoping to convince State Board of Ed members to scrutinize his management practices and hold off awarding him more charters to open up schools.

Pressley Baird of the Star News reports that two of Mitchell’s charter schools are under investigation by the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Inspector General.

Charter Day School in Leland and Columbus Charter School in Whiteville, operated by Mitchell’s Roger Bacon Academy, are both under investigation–but the USDOE would not provide details at this time.

Pruden theorizes that the investigation has to do with improper enrollment practices. Boosting enrollment numbers would direct more state funding to Mitchell’s charter schools.

“According to information Brunswick County Schools received, the basis of the alleged investigation was that Charter Day School … used improper means to encourage homeschooled and private school students to enroll during the first few days of school to increase the average daily membership,” Pruden wrote in a letter he sent to the State Board of Education.

Mitchell says he has no knowledge of an investigation.

Read Baird’s full story here.

The News & Observer’s T. Keung Hui reports that Wake County school board members don’t sound very happy with the new teacher contract system, which would give the top 25 percent of teachers small raises in exchange for giving up tenure, beginning with the next school year.

Wake County school board members heard more details last night about how administrators are trying to comply with the General Assembly’s mandate to offer teachers $500 pay bumps over four years as long as they relinquish tenure, which affords teachers due process rights in the event they are demoted or dismissed.

School board members railed against the new contracts, saying the process will hurt school morale and damage efforts to recruit teachers.

“This is a bad way for rewarding teachers,” said school board member Jim Martin. “This is a bad way for just about everything.”

Will Wake County join Pitt and New Hanover schools in opting out of the teacher contract system? Those local school boards have said they’ll give the money back that’s earmarked for the pay bumps (not clear is if they’re actually authorized to do this) and have asked state lawmakers to figure out a more equitable and sustainable compensation plan for teachers.

Members of the Pitt County school board voted 9-1 Monday night to join a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the state’s new school voucher program—the sixth local school board to do so since the complaint was filed in mid-December. The school board also passed a resolution indicating their district would not participate in the new teacher contract system.

The North Carolina School Boards Association filed a complaint against the state on December 16, calling into question the General Assembly’s decision to provide $4,200 annual taxpayer-funded school vouchers for student attendance at private schools, alleging that the legislation violates the state constitution.

“There are serious legal and constitutional issues that surround this [voucher] program,” said attorney and former NC Supreme Court Justice Bob Orr, who is working on behalf of the NC School Boards Association in the voucher litigation. “The declaratory judgment action says we have a responsibility under the constitution to provide a sound basic education to every child in the state and we need the court to answer this question.” Read More

One 32-year veteran teacher writes,

It has been many years now since a “principal” asked my professional opinion about a purchase. They do the buying without our information. The results have been disastrous. They cut the book-buying budget in half since we earned School of Distinction. They buy canned reading programs for millions of dollars that are little more than nonsense words printed on card stock. Teachers are told to follow the canned scripts with fidelity. “Spell the word with your finger in the air. Now spell it backwards.” It is so absurd to have a young teacher with a masters degree in reading, following a ridiculous script: Ask a 5-year-old child who does not understand English to spell a nonsense word and then do it backwards!

When the child goes “in the red” on assessments of nonsense word fluency, a parent meeting is called. I have to translate the message “your child is failing nonsense word fluency.” What is going on here?

People who have never taught a child to read are making decisions about reading curriculum.

Some people are making a lot of money. Kids are not learning. Teachers are demoralized.

This is Readicide.

Read the full story, and many more, over at Your Soapbox.