Extremist GOP candidate vying to lead NC’s diverse schools melts down over people speaking their native languages in public

If you haven’t yet gotten acquainted with North Carolina’s Republican candidate to lead all K-12 schools as our next superintendent, you are in for a rude awakening.

Michele Morrow pulled off the upset victory in this month’s Republican primary, defeating incumbent Catherine Truitt for the right to appear on November’s general election ballot. The unexpected news found a lot of people in North Carolina and across the nation scratching their heads and asking “Who is Michele Morrow?”

Morrow is a staunch critic of North Carolina’s public schools, which she calls “indoctrination centers,” and she homeschools her own children. She attended the Capitol insurrection on January 6, sharing video of herself at the event saying she was there at the request of Donald Trump “to take back America.”

Morrow regularly spouts QAnon conspiracy theories such as one that actor Jim Carrey drinks the blood of children. She calls Islam “evil” and says Muslims should be barred from holding elected office in the United States. She has publicly called for the executions of numerous Democrats including Joe Biden, Chuck Schumer, Ilhan Omar, Andrew Cuomo, Roy Cooper and Hilary Clinton. She suggested that Barack Obama be shot live on television as a money-making, pay-per-view event.

All of these positions are utterly indefensible, and it appears Morrow understands that’s the case as she recently deactivated the Twitter account she used to post her most violent and bizarre opinions.

But considering the position she is running for, it might be Morrow’s xenophobia that is the most disqualifying.

Morrow shared the video below in 2021 after a particularly traumatic visit to Dollar Tree. In the video she expresses her outrage after hearing four languages other than English while shopping at Dollar Tree, saying “I have never seen this many people that don’t speak English at one time in a Dollar Tree” and adding the unsubstantiated theory that they may have been “bused here from the border.” Morrow also throws in a little transphobia for good measure, saying there were men at the Dollar Tree who were “not dressed like men.”

She end-punctuates her rant with an oddly mismatched comment invoking “the hope of Jesus,” who I’m pretty sure didn’t speak English OR wear pants.

See for yourself:

Michele Morrow probably won’t be happy to hear this, but North Carolina’s public schools are quite diverse and becoming more so.

According to this year’s data, we have 162,778 English learners in our schools, representing an increase of 10% over last year. There are 389 languages spoken in homes across North Carolina, 267 just in Wake County where Morrow resides.

North Carolina ranks fifth in the nation for number of Dual Language Immersion programs. We also offer numerous full Language Immersion programs where children learn math, science and social studies all in another language, developing remarkable fluency in that language even before reaching middle school.

For example, students at Mecklenburg County’s K-8 South Academy of International Languages (SAIL) study French, Chinese, German or Japanese and have the option of adding Spanish in middle school. Many participate in school exchange programs with other countries where they are able to use the language skills they’ve acquired at SAIL, experience the richness of another culture, and build lifelong friendships with children on the other side of the world.

Like many North Carolinians, SAIL families recognize the ability to speak more than one language as a strength, not something to be feared or ridiculed. They embrace diversity as an opportunity to learn and better understand the perspectives of others. They understand that all of us are members of a global community.

The Department of Public Instruction, which Michele Morrow will lead if she wins the November election, currently shares that sentiment.

DPI’s official stance is that North Carolina’s language diversity “fosters mutual understanding” and provides a “rich multicultural tapestry within the state’s educational landscape.”

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Imagine how the Department of Public Instruction’s position could change with Morrow at the helm.

North Carolina’s public voucher dollars are funding Christian Nationalist indoctrination in schools

Shortly after he took over as North Carolina’s Lieutenant Governor in 2021, current Republican candidate for governor Mark Robinson launched a task force to root out indoctrination in our public schools.

Robinson claimed indoctrination was a widespread problem and set up an online portal to solicit complaints about educators from the public.  The majority of the submissions Robinson received were from people who took issue with his politically-motivated witch hunt and saw an opportunity to roast him over it.

As for the actual complaints about educators, Robinson published those online without substantiating a single one and didn’t bother to redact names of educators or worksites.  Those complaints were dominated by white racial resentment (remember, this was at the height of the fake outrage over critical race theory) and included suggestions such as canceling Black History Month and not talking so much about slavery because it’s “getting old.”

In terms of actual indoctrination unearthed, Robinson’s witch hunt was a complete nothing burger.

Fast forward a couple of years to North Carolina’s Republican-controlled General Assembly flipping a legislator, stealing a supermajority, then tripling funding for school vouchers.

With billions of dollars now on tap for North Carolina’s private schools, and 88.2% of those dollars going to religious schools, scrutiny is rising over exactly what our taxes are supporting.

Private schools are legally able to discriminate against children, and many of North Carolina’s Christian schools deny admissions to students based on religious beliefs, sexual orientation, or learning disabilities.

For example, Fayetteville Christian School, which pocketed nearly $2 million in voucher dollars this school year, expressly bans students who practice specific religions like Islam and Buddhism, and they also bar LGBTQ+ students–whom they brand “perverted”–from attending.

North Raleigh Christian Academy won’t accept children with IQs below 90 and will not serve students who require IEPs (a document which outlines how a school will provide support to children with disabilities).

If this public funding of widespread discriminatory school practices rubs you the wrong way, I have bad news for you.

It gets worse.

That harmful indoctrination Mark Robinson was howling about a couple years ago in his disingenuous attempt to generate political momentum?  Turns out it’s real.  It just isn’t happening in the traditional public schools Robinson was targeting.

The Daniel Christian Academy is a private school in Concord, NC.  This school has received public dollars through school vouchers every year since Republicans launched the controversial Opportunity Scholarship voucher program in 2014-15 for a grand total of $585,776.

Daniel Academy’s mission is to “raise the next generation of leaders who will transform the heart of our nation” by equipping students “to enter the Seven Mountains of Influence.”

The Seven Mountains of Influence (also referred to as the Seven Mountains of Dominion or the Seven Mountains Mandate) refers to seven areas of society:  religion, family, education, government, media, arts & entertainment, and business.  Dominionists who follow this doctrine believe that they are mandated by God to control all seven of society’s “mountains,” and that doing so will trigger the end times.

The Seven Mountains philosophy has been around since the 70s, but it came to prominence about ten years ago with the publication of Lance Wallnau’s book Invading Babylon:  The Seven Mountains Mandate.  Wallnau touts himself as a consultant who “inspires visions of tomorrow with the clarity of today—connecting ideas to action,” and his book teaches that dominionists must “understand [their] role in society” and “release God’s will in [their] sphere of influence.”

Wallnau does caution his followers that messaging about taking control over all seven areas of society on behalf of God might freak out non dominionists, saying in 2011 that “If you’re talking to a secular audience, you don’t talk about having dominion over them. This … language of takeover, it doesn’t actually help.”

Daniel Academy doesn’t use that kind of inflammatory rhetoric about dominionism in public, although it’s clear the Seven Mountains are behind their stated goal of raising “the next generation of leaders who will transform the heart of our nation.”

Nicole Barnes, Daniel Academy’s Dean of Administration & Spiritual Development, confirmed by email that Wallnau’s doctrine is at the center of its approach to the Seven Mountains, telling me “As a school we have taken the 7 Mountains of Influence, teaching by Lance Wallnau, and have broken it down for the students to comprehend.”

So why should North Carolinians care that their tax dollars are subsidizing this sort of indoctrination of children through private school vouchers?

I posed that question to Frederick Clarkson, a research analyst who has studied the confluence of politics and religion for more than three decades and lately has been focusing on the violent underbelly of Christian nationalists who want to achieve Christian dominion of the United States at all costs.  Here’s what Clarkson said:

North Carolina taxpayers should be concerned that they are helping to underwrite an academy for training children to become  warriors against not only the rights of others, but against democracy and its institutions.  The idea of the Seven Mountain Mandate is for Christians of the right sort to take dominion — which is to say power and influence — over the most important sectors of society. It is theocratic in orientation and its vision is forever. 

This is not something that is about liberals and conservatives . Most Christians including most evangelicals, Catholics, and mainline Protestants are deemed not just insufficiently Christian, but may be viewed as infested with demons, and standing in the way of the advancement of the Kingdom of God on Earth. And they will need to be dealt with.

Back in 2021, when Lieutenant Governor Mark Robinson released his nothing burger of a report on indoctrination in public schools, he said it was his “attempt to stop the abuse of the teaching profession by a few who are using that profession to put undue pressure on young minds,” adding that students don’t come to school to be indoctrinated and “this is about ending that.”

Robinson recently won his primary race for governor and stands a decent chance of taking over North Carolina’s office next year.  Since North Carolina voters deserve a clear understanding of what our candidates stand for, now would be a great time for Robinson to reiterate that he believes the use of public dollars to support indoctrination is wrong, and that if schools want to influence students to be warriors for God fighting to control every facet of society–possibly taking out some demon-infested folks along the way–they need to do so on their own dime.

We’re waiting, Lieutenant Governor Robinson.

Extremist Republican candidate for NC Superintendent went to Capitol on January 6 “to take back America”

If you hear her tell it, North Carolina’s extreme right wing Republican candidate for Superintendent of Public Instruction didn’t really go to the Capitol on January 6, 2021 to participate in an insurrection. Rather, Morrow, who home schools her kids, said in a candidate forum during her 2022 failed run for Wake County school board that she wanted to teach her children “a lesson about citizens’ role in a democracy.”

You know, kind of like a homeschool field trip.

But the video Morrow shot that day paints a very different picture. In it, Morrow says she’s doing this “because our president asked us to come,” adding “We are here to take back America. We are here to stop the steal. We are here to ensure President Trump gets four more years.”

Take a look for yourself:

Morrow upset Republican incumbent Catherine Truitt in Tuesday’s primary. She will face Democrat Mo Green in November’s general election to determine who’s in charge of K-12 education in North Carolina.

NC Republican voter says a woman shouldn’t be president because “she got no balls to scratch”

A North Carolina Republican voter told NBC news today that a woman should not be president of the United States because “she got no balls to scratch.”

Interviewed in the Alamance County town of Graham, Trump primary voter Emmett Martin added “All women’s good for in my book is having babies and taking care of the house.”



It’s a measure of how low our public discourse has sunk when a guy like Emmett Martin has no qualms voicing his abhorrent sexist views on national television. And there are plenty of MAGA Republican voters in NC who would applaud him for it.

In the 2020 presidential election, serial misogynist and sex predator Donald Trump won North Carolina by a margin of 49.9% to 48.6%, fewer than 75k more than Joe Biden. This year his protege Mark Robinson, himself with a long history of demeaning women, is running for North Carolina governor.

It’s going to take a whole lot of motivated people working hard to defeat them. Martin’s reprehensible comments add fuel to the fire.

NC church whose pastor says women that wear shorts invite rape has received millions in public tax dollars for school vouchers

A Union County pastor is under fire for saying from the pulpit that he would not convict a rapist if his victim were wearing shorts. And if you’re a taxpayer in North Carolina, you are funding his organization.

Bobby Leonard started Bible Tabernacle Church in Monroe, NC in 1970. This week a clip of an August 2023 sermon by Leonard was shared on Twitter by @BadSermons:

“If you dress like that and you get raped, and I’m on the jury, he’s gonna go free…I can’t help if you don’t like it, I’m right. Cause, y’know, a man’s a man. A man’s a man.”

Under the leadership of Bobby Leonard, Bible Tabernacle Church opened a private school called Tabernacle Christian School in 1972. This school receives public tax dollars via the Opportunity Scholarship school voucher program which was created by the North Carolina General Assembly in 2014.

Tabernacle Christian School has received voucher dollars every school year since 2014-15 for a grand total of $3,649,766 in public taxpayer funds (that data available here).

In the past two years alone, Bobby Leonard’s organization has received nearly $2,000,000 ($902,315 in 2023-24 and $923,328 in 2022-23).

In 2023 North Carolina’s state legislature achieved a veto-proof supermajority by flipping a legislator, then tripled funding for school vouchers, the vast majority of which to go private religious schools. By 2031 more than half a billion dollars a year in public funding will be going to these organizations.

I would venture to say that the vast majority of North Carolinians would prefer NOT to have their hard-earned tax dollars subsidizing institutions that espouse hateful and violent philosophies like Bobby Leonard’s.

Unfortunately, private schools are legally permitted to discriminate against students based on factors like religious beliefs and sexual orientation, even when they’re receiving public funding.

And discriminate they do.

This voucher-receiving school in Fayetteville, NC specifically bans “Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Muslims, non Messianic Jews, Hindus, and Buddhists” and refers to homosexuality as “deviate [sic] and perverted.”

Freedom Christian, also in Fayetteville, only takes students whose parents have a “vibrant relationship with Jesus Christ” and who demonstrate “a desire to learn.” It’s unclear whether Freedom Christian uses a rubric to objectively measure the vibrance of that relationship.

If the notion of your money ending up in the pockets of Bobby Leonard or any of these other institutions that discriminates against children makes your skin crawl, please be ready to channel that energy into electing pro-public education candidates in 2024.

That’s our only way out of this nightmare.



NC Superintendent Truitt once vowed to oppose voucher expansion, now publicly celebrates their tripling

This week was School Choice Week, a nationwide event dreamed up by a nonprofit whose stated mission is to “advance positive school choice messaging across the nation.”

Joining in North Carolina’s celebration was a jubilant Senator Phil Berger, still grinning about how his stolen supermajority this past session ensured Governor Cooper couldn’t veto terrible Republican policies. Another featured speaker at the event was State Superintendent of Public Instruction Catherine Truitt.

The party on Halifax Mall revolved around recent changes in school voucher law in North Carolina. Those changes include tripling existing funding of vouchers which primarily go to private religious schools as well as the elimination of eligibility requirements for voucher recipients.

Prior to the change in law, vouchers were only available for families who demonstrated financial need and whose children had attended public schools or were entering K, 1st or 2nd grade. The new law allows anyone to receive voucher money regardless of their family’s income and regardless of where they’ve gone to school.

That means taxpayers are now forced to subsidize private school tuition for North Carolina’s wealthiest families, even those who have never considered sending their children to traditional public schools and never would.

The private schools that NC taxpayers are supporting are legally able to discriminate against children. Many of them refuse admission to non-Christians or LGBTQ+ individuals.

A lot of the voucher-receiving schools also refuse to accept students with learning disabilities.

The massive increase in school voucher funding means that, by the year 2031, North Carolina will be diverting more than a half billion dollars a year to vouchers.

That’s funding our crumbling traditional public schools sorely need.

According to North Carolina’s Office for State Budget and Management, the changes in voucher law could drain 8% of public school funding if just half of the new vouchers go to students who currently attend public schools.

What kind of education leader would celebrate the schools that the vast majority of our students attend losing funding at a time when those schools are struggling mightly after a decade plus of Republican policies?

The answer to that question is State Superintendent Catherine Truitt.

But it didn’t used to be.

In 2020, when she was running against then-Representative Craig Horn in the primary for superintendent, Truitt promised that she would oppose any attempts by state legislators to expand funding of school vouchers.

Fast forward to the present.

Now Truitt is superintendent, running for reelection in a party whose bosses can decide whether they want to help fund her campaign.

Truitt did not utter a protest peep this summer when expansion of voucher funding was in draft form. And now she’s out there pounding metaphorical coffin nails into traditional public schools with Senator Phil Berger, the man who has ironclad control of the Republican machine in North Carolina.

North Carolina schools need a leader who will fight for our needs, not a flip flopper who cheers our demise. Not someone who celebrates discrimination against children or helps move our education system toward privatization of a human right.

In other words, in 2024 we need to elect a new State Superintendent of Public Instruction.

Alleged campaign finance crimes haunt North Carolina’s Republican gubernatorial frontrunner Mark Robinson

North Carolina’s Lieutenant Governor Mark Robinson is no stranger to financial struggles.  

Since he was elected in 2020, news has emerged about Robinson being evicted for not paying rent (his elderly landlord decided against pursuing the case, partly because he was busy caring for his wife who was ill with cancer).  

We’ve also learned that Robinson stiffed Guilford County on vehicle taxes for multiple years, only making good after WRAL called him out on it in 2022.  (Robinson’s lame response was “I’m not very good at math,” as if complex calculations are required to know that the law requires North Carolina residents to pay taxes on an annual basis.)

Part of Robinson’s appeal to voters is his down-to-earth image, and I’m sure plenty of his supporters and detractors alike can relate to the problem of more month than money.

But how many of us can relate to criminal violations of campaign finance law?

This week those allegations surfaced in the form of an open letter to Mark Robinson by veteran political watchdog Bob Hall.

The story actually goes back to a complaint Hall filed with North Carolina’s State Board of Elections about a month after Robinson was inaugurated Lieutenant Governor in 2021. 

Hall had been tipped off by a News and Observer reporter and asked to look into some odd expenses that had been filed by Robinson’s campaign.  What Hall discovered amounted to more than a half million dollars of what he termed “criminal violations” of campaign finance law.

Here are some highlights:

Illegal cash withdrawals deposited to State Employees Credit Union where separate records show Robinson had a personal loan

$4500 to Robinson’s wife Yolanda Hill for “campaign apparel”

$2375 to Lake Gaston Outfitters for “campaign clothing and accessories.”  Lake Gaston Outfitters bills itself as offering “high quality paddle, hiking & cycling gear.”  

$12,000 in illegal contributions from out of state PACs and organizations not authorized to donate in North Carolina

Illegal donations over the campaign limit of $5400 from which the excess amounts were not refunded to donors as law required

Failure to properly identify 258 donors (totalling $360,000 in donations) 

There’s more.  A lot more.

After Hall’s complaint was filed, a Robinson campaign staffer said “We are transitioning to new staff, and our team is in the process of working with the NCSBE to fix any and all mistakes, and to amend our reports to be accurate and up to date.”

Hall’s open letter notes Robinson promised the “clerical errors” would be fixed “quick, fast and in a hurry.”  Now almost three years after he assumed office, exactly zero amended reports have been filed.  The State Board of Elections investigation is presumably still moving along at a glacial pace.

And Mark Robinson is in the middle of a campaign to assume the highest office in North Carolina, our next governor.

You can read Bob Hall’s complaint filed with the State Board of Elections below:

Complaint-Mark-Robinson-SBOE

Notorious antisemite Mark Robinson feigns support for Israel in disingenuous bid to win votes

North Carolina’s most notorious antisemite is willing to do whatever it takes to become our next governor. So in the wake of last month’s Hamas attack, Lieutenant Governor Mark Robinson pulled out all the stops to show everyone just how much he loves Israel.

Robinson waited until actual NC Governor Roy Cooper left for a trip to Japan to hold an “acting governor” dress-up event where he declared North Carolina’s solidarity with Israel.

Proclamation

This week Robinson took his charade on the road, traveling to Israel with the North Carolina chapter of the Faith and Freedom Coalition, a group that Donald Trump described as “the largest faith based get out the vote organization in modern American history.”

And that’s exactly what Robinson’s actions over the last month are about–his desire to win votes and become the next governor of North Carolina.

Maya Angelou said, “When people show you who they are, believe them the first time.” Since long before he needed votes, Mark Robinson has been showing us exactly who he is.

He’s a man who has repeatedly downplayed the Holocaust, shared antisemitic tropes, and used Yiddish insults to mock Jewish politicians.

In one post, Robinson put quotation marks around the number of Jews killed during the Holocaust, implying the figure was inflated.

In another he referred to discussing Nazis as a waste of time.

And in yet another Robinson called accounts of Jews being taken to concentration camps “hogwash.”

Robinson has called opposition to Donald Trump as a “globalist” conspiracy, employing a term typically used to refer to Jews who are seen as using their elite international connections to weaken Western society–an idea that was at the core of Nazi ideology.

Robinson used antisemitic tropes in a rant against the film Black Panther, which he said was “created by an agnostic Jew and put to film by satanic marxist” before employing the well-worn racist stereotype about Jewish people’s desire for money.

At the press conference last month where he dressed up as governor, Robinson was forced to spend most of his time defending his long history of antisemitic rhetoric to deeply skeptical reporters. The Lieutenant Governor said some of his previous comments were “poorly worded” and did not “convey [his] real sentiments.”

That’s hogwash.

Mark Robinson’s real sentiments are the ones he expressed over and over and over before he needed North Carolinians’ votes.

Don’t fall for the okey doke. The last thing North Carolina needs is an antisemite in the governor’s mansion.

NC State Superintendent Catherine Truitt refuses to disclose “outside counsel” in controversial charter school decision

At the November 2 meeting of the North Carolina State Board of Education, State Superintendent Catherine Truitt was pressed on her decision to not appeal the controversial approval of American Leadership Academy Monroe.

ALA Monroe will be managed by out-of-state for-profit charter operator Charter One, and Truitt received thousands of dollars in campaign contributions in June from representatives of this corporation–shortly after changes in state law gave her authority to appeal approval or denial of charters.

The State Board of Education had previously denied ALA Monroe’s charter on two occasions, voicing concerns about conflicts of interest in the school’s governance, rapid expansion of Charter One into North Carolina without sufficient evidence of academic success, and drawbacks of giving public tax dollars to an out-of-state corporation.

State Board Vice Chair Alan Duncan asked Superintendent Truitt to explain who advised her not to appeal the decision and why she did not consult staff attorneys at the Department of Public Instruction or the State Board of Education.

Truitt refused to disclose which attorneys she had consulted.

State Board Vice Chair Alan Duncan: “…Who was the outside attorney that you apparently relied upon for providing the responses given?”

Superintendent Catherine Truitt: “Our legal counsel, as wonderful as they are, are not experts in charter school law. And I would argue that no one on this board is an expert in charter school law. And so I turned to outside counsel who are experts in charter school law, and I’m happy to have that conversation with you offline.”

You can read the entire background on the Charter One-North Carolina controversy including Lieutenant Governor Mark Robinson’s involvement here.

For-profit charter school operators grease NC politicians’ palms to ensure they get a piece of the pie

image by John deVille

Representatives of an Arizona-based for-profit charter school operator have been writing campaign checks to North Carolina elected officials who are in positions to guarantee our tax dollars keep flowing their direction.

Both Lieutenant Governor Mark Robinson and State Superintendent Catherine Truitt have received thousands from these charter operators in the past few months.

But as we all know, gifts of money often come with expectations.

***

2023 has been a particularly grueling year in North Carolina for fans of public education and democracy. 

Heading into this year’s long session, Democrats had held off a Republican supermajority in both chambers of the General Assembly by the thinnest of margins–just one seat in the House.

That all changed in April when Mecklenburg County Representative Tricia Cotham betrayed her donors, volunteers and voters by changing parties just months after being elected as a progressive Democrat.

Cotham’s betrayal guaranteed that, if the GOP voted in lockstep, Republicans could pass any law they wanted to without worrying about a gubernatorial veto.

What followed was a veritable avalanche of terrible policy.

Among many other changes which are not the focus of this article, state lawmakers stripped the State Board of Education of its authority to approve or deny charter school applications. 

This drastic move followed the board’s denial on two occasions of a charter for American Leadership Academy in Monroe, a school managed by an well-connected out-of-state company and on whose school board Lieutenant Governor Mark Robinson’s wife happens to hold a seat.

But of course in North Carolina that could never be the end of the story.

Timeline of American Leadership Academy Monroe charter shenanigans:

Spring 2022:

Arizona-based for-profit charter management company Charter One completes a “fast track” application to open a charter school called American Leadership Academy in Monroe, NC in one year rather than the standard two years it normally takes to receive approval.  

The ALA Monroe application lists Wyoming attorney Mitchell Schwab as the school’s board chair.  The board includes Yolanda Hill, wife of Lieutenant Governor and voting member of the State Board of Education Mark Robinson.  Longtime NC charter proponent Gregg Sinders is listed as a point of contact.  Unsurprisingly, Charter One is named as the school’s education management organization (EMO).

(Side note:  an application for American Leadership Academy in Garner completed the same day shows an identical board.)

Yolanda Hill explains on the application that she was specifically recruited by Charter One for participation on the board.  That raises an important question: Why would this out-of-state company want Lieutenant Governor Mark Robinson’s wife involved?  She doesn’t live in Union County where the school will be located, and she has no prior experience serving on a school board.

The ALA Monroe application is officially submitted for review in June 2022. 

Background on Charter One:

Charter One was founded by Arizona businessman Glenn Way.  Way is a native of Utah and served in that state’s legislature before resigning when his wife took out a protective order against him, alleging he had threatened her life in front of their five children.

Way then moved to Arizona where his charter management business exploded thanks to lax charter regulations and no-bid contracts, and in recent years he’s been expanding into North Carolina.

Charter One’s current North Carolina schools include Wake Preparatory Academy in Wake Forest, Bonnie Cone Leadership Academy in Huntersville, and American Leadership Academy campuses in Clayton and Wilmington.

Way’s business practices involve purchasing land, building schools on them and then selling them to the American Leadership Academy company where he served as chair.  (This very informative post explains exactly how the real estate side of Way’s business model works.)   A 2019 Arizona Republic investigation turned up numerous examples of American Leadership Academy paying millions in public dollars to companies owned by Way or his relatives, including a company his son owns that supplies athletic clothing and apparel. 

Asked whether the charter industry was an appropriate way to make money, Way responded, “It’s no different than building a Walmart.”

But back to the North Carolina timeline.

December 2022:

The North Carolina State Board of Education denies American Leadership Academy Monroe’s charter.  Board members are concerned about giving state money to a for-profit corporation (ALA Monroe would be sending 15% of its state and potentially also federal funding to Charter One).  The board is also wary of Charter One’s rapid expansion in NC without sufficient evidence of academic success, as well as ALA Monroe’s proposed governance structure.

So what’s wrong with the governance structure?

Well, it turns out that Mitchell Schwab, who you may recall is listed as the board chair on ALA Monroe’s application, is also an attorney for a law firm that is closely linked with Charter One.  Schwab’s LinkedIn page shows he’s been employed by Denali Law since May 2020, first in Arizona where Charter One is headquartered and then in Afton, Wyoming from September 2021 to present, with a specialization in charter school law listed.  Schwab is also named as the primary Charter One company official in the NC Secretary of State’s business database.

In a July 2023 interview, Schwab explained that his work for Charter One included expanding the organization into North and South Carolina “along with another attorney.”

Denali is a small firm with just three attorneys listed, including one Michael Way who happens to be Glenn Way’s son.  More on Michael later.

January 2023:

American Leadership Academy Monroe’s application for a charter is brought back in early January for reconsideration.  As few of the prior concerns have been addressed, the State Board again rejects the application at its January 5 meeting.

On January 19 the John Locke Foundation mouthpiece Carolina Journal publishes an op-ed by Michael Way decrying the State Board’s decision, painting Charter One as the victim of a political agenda and vowing to continue the fight.  Presumably Way is referring to both the fight for school choice and the fight for fat stacks of North Carolina taxpayer money.

As an interesting side note, Way’s bio on the op-ed says he, “​​along with his wife and four children, has grown deep roots and an appreciation for their home in the greater Raleigh area.”  Indeed, Wake County property records show that both Michael and his brother Jordan purchased homes in Wake Forest NC in the spring of 2021.  However, Michael’s root-measuring skills appear to be somewhat lacking as both homes were put up for sale in October 2023, and a Wake Preparatory Academy Facebook post indicates the brothers have moved back to Arizona. 

February and March 2023:

February 8: NC Lieutenant Governor Mark Robinson is keynote speaker at an “Explore School Choice” event in Arizona organized by Charter One.

Beginning that same day, Robinson receives $24,400 in campaign donations from people employed by Charter One.  Remember that in addition to serving as LG, Robinson is a voting member of the State Board of Education and GOP frontrunner to be the state’s next governor, and his wife sits on the boards of three American Leadership Academy charter schools in North Carolina.  

Here are the 2023 Charter One Robinson donations to date:

Nathan Hunsaker C1 SE VP Charter One Knightdale, NC 2/8/2023 $5000 

William Guttery, CEO Charter One Queen Creek, AZ 2/9/2023 $5000 

Robert Plowman, Finance Charter One Gilbert, AZ 2/9/2023 $5000 

Michael Way Education Charter One Wake Forest, NC  2/23/2023 $3600

Gregg Sinders, Director Charter One Holly Springs, NC 3/26/2023 $800

Jordan Way Education Charter One Wake Forest, NC  3/28/2023 $5000

You can review Mark Robinson’s 2023 campaign donations for yourself here, retrieved from the NC State Board of Elections website.

(This is not the first time Robinson has received money from Charter One folks. In 2021 he got a total of $8500, the majority of it from Gregg Sinders and $2800 from Michael Way. Coincidentally enough, that same year he headlined a ribbon cutting ceremony for American Leadership Academy Coastal in Wilmington.)

March 2023:

Union County senators Todd Johnson and David Craven file a bill that would force the State Board of Education to approve the charter application of ALA Monroe (Monroe lies in Union County). 

A spokesperson for Charter One tells WCNC that the company “worked in conjunction with the board of directors for ALA Monroe and the two lawmakers to make the bill possible.

The bill is sent to the Senate rules committee and never emerges.

April 2023:

Three days after formally switching her party registration from Democrat to Republican, Representative Tricia Cotham files HB 618, a bill which would take away the State Board of Education’s power to approve or deny charter applications and instead give that responsibility to the Charter School Review Board.  The  Charter School Review Board has 11 voting members–8 appointed by the General Assembly, 2 appointed by the State Board of Education who must be advocates for charter schools and the final member is…wait for it…the Lieutenant Governor (or his designee).

The bill also gives the State Superintendent (currently Republican Catherine Truitt who happens to be running for reelection next year) authority to appeal decisions of the Charter School Review Board within 10 days of the Review Board’s decision.

June 2023:

HB 618 passes the House and the Senate and is ratified on June 28.

Catherine Truitt receives the maximum donations allowed by law from two Charter One employees:

Gregg Sinders, Director Charter One Holly Springs, NC 6/29/2023 $6400

Glenn Way Founder Charter One Queen Creek, AZ 6/30/2023 $6400

You read that right: the big guy himself, Charter One founder Glenn Way, donated the maximum possible amount to the political campaign of our state superintendent just two days after a bill making her the only person who could appeal approval of ALA Monroe’s charter is ratified.

You can review Catherine Truitt’s 2023 campaign donations for yourself here, retrieved from the NC State Board of Elections website.

July 2023:

Governor Cooper vetoes HB 618, noting in a statement that the law appears to violate the state constitution:

“The North Carolina Constitution clearly gives the State Board of Education the oversight authority for public schools, including charter schools. This bill is a legislative power grab that turns that responsibility over to a commission of political friends and extremists appointed by Republican legislators, making it more likely that faulty or failing charter schools will be allowed to operate and shortchange their students. Oversight of charter schools should be conducted by education experts not partisan politicians.”

August 2023:  

State lawmakers override Cooper’s veto and HB 618 becomes law.  Authority in approving or denying charter applications now rests with the Charter School Review Board.

September 2023:

The State Board of Education passes a new policy requiring charter schools to demonstrate their compliance with finance law before receiving state funds. 

Under this policy, the Charter School Review Board must submit details about school funding for charter schools seeking initial approval or renewal to the State Board.  The State Board will then review those documents before disbursing funds to the schools.

Despite having recused himself from discussion and voting on the American Leadership Academy Monroe matter in December 2022 and January 2023, Mark Robinson does NOT recuse himself this time and votes against the policy.

State Board members are reminded by the chair at the outset of each meeting that “it is [their] duty to avoid conflicts of interest and the appearance of conflicts of interest as we handle the work of the Board” and “to abstain from participating in discussion on the matter and from voting on the matter.”

Voting on a policy that could make it more difficult for the schools your wife helps lead to secure funding constitutes a clear conflict of interest, especially when you’ve recently received nearly $25,000 in campaign contributions from the people who run and profit financially from those schools.

October 2023:

WBTV reports that Lieutenant Governor Robinson failed to disclose on his 2023 ethics filing that his wife now sits on the boards of the three Charter One-managed American Leadership Academy schools.  Obviously the law requires that change to be disclosed on the mandatory annual Statement of Economic Interest.

October 17:  The newly empowered Charter School Review Board approves American Leadership Academy Monroe’s charter application.

Ten days pass with no appeal from Superintendent Truitt.  She may have been too busy counting her $12,800 to file one.

***

It appears that Glenn Way is up to his old double dipping real estate tricks when it comes to American Leadership Academy Monroe.

The ALA Monroe charter application lists the landlord of the school’s “build to suit” lease as SH Monroe LLC and the individual landlord as one Scott Brand, with an email address at the domain schooldev.us.  SH seems likely to stand for “Schoolhouse,” and Glenn Way’s primary real estate development company is Arizona-based Schoolhouse Development LLC.  Schoolhouse Development’s website (schooldev.us) lists Way and Scott Brand as that company’s principals.  

SH Monroe LLC was registered in Utah in December 2018 and in North Carolina in January 2019.  The Utah listing displays only Scott Brand as agent, but the North Carolina LLC database shows that one of the company’s managers is none other than…Charter One founder Glenn Way.

Curiously, the same North Carolina LLC database which is housed on the NC Secretary of State’s website shows that Charter One Southeast, LLC had its license to transact business in the state of North Carolina revoked on February 28, 2023 for failure to file an annual report. 

It’s unclear how this company can continue to operate in our state without a license.

Unfortunately the saga above seems likely to repeat itself over and over in North Carolina. 

Republican state legislators have gerrymandered their way into a stranglehold on power for the foreseeable future.  Their policies have created a pathway for their rapacious out-of-state benefactors to sell our families a subpar product while filling their pockets with millions in North Carolina’s public tax dollars.

Contrary to what Charter One founder Glenn Way and, apparently, Mark Robinson, Catherine Truitt and all the other North Carolina elected officials who are facilitating this grift fest in our state believe, public education is not Walmart.  It is a constitutional right that can alter our students’ life trajectories and offer them wonderful opportunities if adequately funded.  

Regardless of how bleak North Carolina’s current political landscape appears, that’s something worth fighting for.