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Sunday, May 30, 2010

Gov. Bev Perdue Fiddles with "Charter-like Schools" as NC's Educational Rome Burns

The equation is so simple: Lift the cap on charter schools = Qualify for Race to the Top funding. Yet the NC education establishment (school boards, school superintendents, and teacher "union") will NOT agree to support that. And our governor and most of the Democrats in the state legislature continue to kowtow to those directly responsible for the horrendous graduation rates in our state, making sure that they maintain their incompetent monopoly on children's lives. Meanwhile, our next-door neighbor, Tennessee, received $400 million in the U.S. Department of Education's Race to the Top first round of competition. (You read that correctly: TENNESSEE.)

Instead, according to the Raleigh News & Observer, the North Carolina Senate approved a bill to allow local school boards to convert 135 low-performing schools into "charter-like" schools. The bill does not raise the statewide cap of 100 charter schools. Every Republican present in the Senate voted against the bill because the new schools would be under the control of the same local school boards that allowed them to fail in the first place.

This maneuver by Perdue, State Superintendent of Public Instruction June Atkinson, and the Democrats in the state House and Senate is nothing more than smoke and mirrors. There was NOTHING preventing school districts from already doing everything in the "charter-like" schools legislation. This "compromise" is designed to pacify the school boards, superintendents, and the NC Association of Educators, all of whom oppose charter schools. When a charter school opens, the children who enroll in it are removed from the local school district monopoly. The BOE and superintendent have zero control over the school's mission, vision, hiring practices, and, most importantly, funding. A secondary reason for the legislation is to try to position NC to qualify for Race to the Top. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and the U.S. Department of Education have already passed over NC because of its historical hostility to charter schools and, one might reasonably speculate, the state government's close relationship with NCAE, the School Boards Association, and the NC Association of School Administrators.

Gov. Perdue, a former teacher and a Democrat, supported the Senate bill, which the House had already passed. “This is about doing what's right for our kids," Perdue said in a statement. "It will strengthen North Carolina's goal for making all schools successful and making sure all students receive a quality education." This is a lie, pure and simple. What this bill is actually designed to do is lock up the education establishment's support for Perdue's re-election bid.

Perdue is in the pocket of the school boards and school superintendents associations. "Charter-like" = local BOE and superintendents retain the money and the control. This is not true reform, but an effort to perpetuate the failing public school district monopoly. The BOEs and the superintendents are the very people who are responsible for the horrendous graduation rates in school districts with low student achievement outcomes. How on earth can a logical person say with a straight face that giving those snarling foxes the only key to the public school henhouse is "reform"?

John Hood of the John Locke Foundation says it best: Perdue's statement would be true "if [the education lobbies'] true goals were to satisfy parental preferences, increase student achievement, and boost the state’s woeful graduation rate. Because their goal was really to protect the powers and jobs of the education establishment, however, then adopting the pretense rather than the reality of reform was required."

North Carolina has more National Board Certified Teachers than all the rest of the U.S. states combined. We invented the term "education governor" when we elected James B. Hunt, Jr. Yet we did not qualify for the first round of Race to the Top funding. We sat on our thumbs and lied to the interview committee from the U.S. Department of Education. Both Gov. Perdue and State Supt. Atkinson answered "Yes" when asked if NC treats charter schools equally to district schools, even as the state Attorney General's office drags its feet on issuing funding that charter schools had to sue for.

This Democrat for Education Reform will NEVER cast a vote for Bev Perdue! Lift the cap on charter schools, and lift it now. Get our public schools' neck out from under the boot of the school boards, superintendents, and NCAE.

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