Mark Johnson flips the State Ethics Commission the bird on the way out the door

When former Superintendent Mark Johnson rolled out his Common Core campaign stunt last February, it was not the first time he’d used his position for self promotion.  

Johnson had already earned countless educator eye rolls for the luxurious, colorful flyers with pictures of himself he was fond of blanketing school mailboxes with, and his use of the now-defunct ncsuperintendent.com website for official purposes was the frequent subject of scorn.

But when Johnson came out swinging against the Common Core State Standards for the first time ever–a full three years into his term as superintendent and just three weeks before he was due to run in the March 2020 Republican primary for Lieutenant Governor–it was just so obvious and shameless.  

A crowded Republican field.  The need to distinguish himself.  The choice of a favorite conservative boogeyman.

What was different this time was how Johnson chose to disseminate his campaign message.  The superintendent sent a message which said “NC Superintendent Johnson wants to remove Common Core from NC schools. Do you?” with a link to a survey filled with anti-Common Core language to 800,000 email addresses and 540,000 cell phone numbers of educators and public school parents and guardians.  

Johnson had sent mass emails before, but it was the first time he’d sent a mass text message, and it led many to question how the superintendent had gotten their personal cell phone numbers without their consent.  There was really only one logical explanation of the source:  local school contact information databases which contain email addresses and telephone numbers collected from employees and families of enrolled students.

The State Ethics Act clearly forbids elected and appointed officials from using their public position for private gain, so in mid-February I filed an official complaint with the North Carolina State Ethics Commission regarding Superintendent Mark Johnson using the resources of the office of state superintendent for his personal political campaign purposes.

parmenter-ethics-complaint

In mid-March I received word from the Commission that the investigation would be proceeding.  Then there was a protracted period of silence.  During summer I spoke briefly with the Commission’s Investigations Counsel Jameson Marks, expressing my concern about the pace of the investigation given the limited time Superintendent Johnson had remaining in office.   Mr. Marks said he was unable to discuss a pending investigation and could only confirm that it was moving forward.

The next communication I received about the investigation into my complaint came on December 31, Mark Johnson’s last day in office as state superintendent.  The Commission provided me a summary of its work and let me know that it was suspending the investigation because, as a private citizen, Johnson no longer fell under its jurisdiction.

Initially I was inclined to blame the slow pace of work on the part of the Ethics Commission.  After all, the law requires the commission to “conduct an inquiry into all complaints…in a timely manner.”  But as I read the Commission’s report on the matter, it became clear that the Commission had done everything it could under the law to carry out the investigation.

The problem, according to the Commission’s report, is that it had been met with “significant resistance” to information requests, “incomplete responses requiring frequent follow-up” and refusal on the part of Superintendent Johnson to be interviewed by Commission staff.  

The Commission noted that willful failure to cooperate with an investigation as required by law is considered malfeasance and can be cause for impeachment.  However, it also concluded that because Johnson had “declined to fully cooperate in the Commission’s investigation, the Panel is unable to determine whether there is probably cause to conclude that Respondent’s actions violated the Ethics Act.”

The Commission did add that, although the investigation had to be suspended when Johnson left office for jurisdictional reasons, if he is elected to an office covered by the Ethics Act in the future the investigation will resume and failure to cooperate will be addressed at that time.

It’s understandable that the Ethics Act, which exists to “ensure that elected and appointed State agency officials exercise their authority honestly and fairly, free from impropriety, threats, favoritism, and undue influence” can not apply to private citizens, and the jurisdiction of the Ethics Commission ends when the individual under investigation is no longer considered a “covered person.”  But what’s really troubling about how all this played out is how easy it was for Mark Johnson to simply run out the clock for nearly a year and avoid accountability for his possible misuse of state resources.

A law that requires the Ethics Commission to conduct inquiries in a timely manner needs to include some sort of enforcement mechanism to enable them to do that.  There is powerful disincentive for unethical elected officials to comply with an investigation that may end with their removal from office, and Johnson’s playbook sends a clear message to others that cooperation is optional.

Mark Johnson seems likely to run for office in the future.  He said in a December mass email to educators, “My time in office concludes, for now, at the end of this month.”  There is no statute of limitations on ethics complaints in North Carolina, and if Johnson takes office again there are plenty of people with long memories who will ensure that he is held accountable.  In the meantime, this toothless ethics law needs to be fixed to make it less likely that our current leaders abuse their power as they serve North Carolinians.

You can read the Ethics Commission’s report in its entirety below:

Mark-Johnson-Ethic-Commission-Notice-of-Investigation-Suspension

Education advocates face increasingly ugly attacks

I hesitated to make this public, for reasons which I think will be obvious. But as attacks on vocal educators veer into uglier territory, I think it’s important for that ugliness to be exposed and called out when it crosses lines.

This week I went to the school building to package up some books to mail to my students. This letter from someone I don’t know in Texas was waiting in my mailbox:

It’s not the first time I’ve faced harassment for speaking up about education issues (although it’s the first I recall anyone crossing the Mom Line).

During this pandemic I’ve been accused of being personally responsible for the eighteenth largest school district in the country being closed for in-person instruction–not COVID, me–and have had people publicly call for my stalking.

After I pointed to a connection between white privilege and advocacy strategy by those pushing for a return to in-person learning, my comments were spotlighted by a local board of education member, leading to a torrent of harassment via social media and email. From there those comments gained the attention of a right wing North Carolina blogger and later a fringe national publication, both of whom misrepresented what I had said and stirred up a giant nest of extremely ugly hornets. Presumably that’s how this creepy guy in Grand Prairie, TX, even knows I exist.

From frequent contact with colleagues around the state who are active in advocacy efforts, I know I am not the only one who is facing personal attacks at a time when speaking up about safety and social justice has never been more important.

Let me say this as clearly as I can:

The goal of this harassment is to intimidate educators into silence.

In the case of issues of social justice and white privilege–topics that seem to provoke the most abhorrent reaction–the aim is to preserve a harmful status quo. Attacks around COVID safety issues are intended to force school employees to accept unsafe working conditions in silence.

We can’t allow those strategies to succeed. There is too much at stake.

We have to recognize this behavior for what it is, call it out when needed, and continue with the work of shining lights where they need to be shined.

2021 reset: Here’s what’s happening with Charlotte Mecklenburg Schools and COVID

statewide positivity rate as of 1/3 (source: NCDHHS)

As Charlotte Mecklenburg Schools emerges from a two week winter break and students prepare to return to class, this is a good time to review where we’ve been, where we are, and where we’re headed in terms of school and the COVID pandemic.

At its December 8 meeting, the CMS Board of Education voted 6-3 to approve Superintendent Winston’s recommendation to move most students back to remote learning until January 19.

In explaining his recommendation, Mr. Winston cited growing community COVID spread and the potential for further increases in the weeks ahead. Exceptions to the move included EC and Pre-K students.

Mecklenburg County metrics at the time of this vote:

• 474 infections per day
• 11% positivity
• 242 acute care hospitalizations

At its December 22 emergency meeting, the CMS Board voted 8-1 to approve Superintendent Winston’s recommendation–supported by Mecklenburg County Health Director Gibbie Harris–to move EC and Pre-K students to remote learning as well.

Mr. Winston again referred to worsening COVID metrics as well as the potential for infections to continue to rise following winter break, citing the impact of Thanksgiving on community spread as a recent example.

Mecklenburg County metrics at the time of this vote:

• 680 infections per day
• 12% positivity
• 340 acute care hospitalizations

The December 22 vote in favor of Superintendent Winston’s recommendation included two members who have recently opposed moves to remote learning. One of them was District 5 representative Margaret Marshall, who said, “We are in a rough time and I think most people in our community understand that. When our positivity rates are down and our cases per 100,000 are down, we are certainly able to deliver education better, and I had voted when all those numbers were in a more yellow and green area that we proceed with speed to that…but I do think that right now is a pretty clear time to pause that.”

District 1 representative Rhonda Cheek’s support of the move also came as a surprise to many, although the primary reason she cited for her vote was “the level of vitriol and hostility in our community” between those with disparate views on in-person vs. remote learning. Mrs. Cheek referred to the two weeks of additional remote learning for EC and Pre-K students as “a chance to cool off”–not for COVID infections but rather for stakeholders’ emotions–and added “Do not come to me a few days before the 19th and tell me you still can’t get this figured out to be safe…I’m not going to be on the yes side if we vote before the 19th to extend it further.”

The lone vote opposing the December 22 motion came from District 6 representative Sean Strain. Following the meeting Mr. Strain notified the public via Twitter that he intended to seek remedy from Senator Thom Tillis, although he didn’t explain what authority Tillis had over local school board decisions:

Mr. Strain has also been active in using Facebook to organize parents who oppose remote learning, calling on them to take action to pressure policymakers toward returning students for face-to-face instruction:

As CMS begins the second semester January 5, the impact of holiday travel on our community’s COVID infection rates is not yet known. The district’s data dashboard has not been updated since before the break, and Mecklenburg County’s data releases are also on pause due to the holiday. Both should be updated this week.

What we do know from the state level is that North Carolina set another record for highest number of new daily COVID cases with more than 9500 on New Year’s Day, and as of Sunday morning statewide positivity rate stood at 15.5%.

The current plan is for students of all grade levels whose families have not opted into Full Remote Academy to return for in-person instruction under Plan B (rotation with social distancing and masks) on January 19.

The Charlotte Mecklenburg Board of Education’s next regularly scheduled meeting is Tuesday, January 12 at 6 pm. That meeting will include an opportunity for public comments.



It’s time for an honest conversation about race, COVID and school in Charlotte-Mecklenburg

As Mecklenburg County’s COVID metrics continue to spike, so do emotions around the debate over how public education should be handled during the pandemic. Some are concerned about the risk of holding classes in person at this time while others claim those safety concerns are misguided and outweighed by the harm of having students learn from home.

One common talking point used by those pushing for our schools to open for in-person instruction is that students of color are being disproportionately harmed by remote learning.

A lawsuit filed by five white plaintiffs against the Charlotte Mecklenburg Board of Education and the North Carolina Association of Educators seeks to have the courts force CMS to “reestablish Active Instruction to the fullest extent permitted by the Governor of the State of North Carolina.”

The suit refers to the “unduly harsh effects” that remote instruction have on “minorities and socioeconomically disadvantaged Students who have less access to technology, are provided less effective distance-learning, and are more heavily impacted by the lack of Active Instruction.”

It’s a line of reasoning that has been repeated over and over by individuals, the majority of them white, who have pressed our Board of Education to return CMS students to in-person instruction.

There is no question that we need to take a close look at the impact this pandemic is having on academic outcomes and how that is playing out along demographic lines. But it’s also important that our conversations about race and in-person vs. remote instruction are informed by actual data.

According to CMS’s beginning of the year School Diversity Report, total enrollment in Charlotte Mecklenburg Schools breaks down thusly for the following groups:

African American and Hispanic: 63.9%
White: 25.8%

Here’s how enrollment in the Full Remote Academy looks for those same groups as of December 17:

African American and Hispanic: 70.8%
White: 15.3%

(*Please note that although I’m including numbers for only the three largest subgroups here, links for both reports above contain data for all subgroups)

Why is it that families of color might be opting for remote learning in relatively higher numbers than white families?

One reason is likely the disproportionate impact that COVID is having on communities of color.

Figures from the Center for Disease Control show that Latino and African American residents are three times as likely as white people to become infected with COVID-19 and twice as likely to die from it.

Systemic inequities that have been around since long before anyone had even heard of COVID-19 have placed those communities at increased risk of contracting the virus.

People of color are more likely to work in service and production jobs that can’t be done remotely. They are also less likely to have health insurance, and while insurance policies can be purchased on the open marketplace by those who don’t qualify for Medicaid, those policies come with huge deductibles and copays that effectively discourage people from seeking treatment when they need it.

Medical facilities that serve mostly lower-income patients are less likely to have the resources for effective COVID treatment, because their profit margins are small and they have to write off unpaid bills as charity.

All of these factors and more combine to make exposure to COVID a more threatening prospect for families of color than it is for white people. As we continue to engage in dialogue about how to educate our children during this pandemic, we need to keep that fact in mind.

Republican state legislators slam educators working virtually, calling 2020-21 “a wasted year” and “a disaster”

Rep. Craig Horn (l) and Sen. Rick Horner (r)

Two powerful–and outgoing–Republican state legislators slammed the work North Carolina educators are doing to keep learning going during a pandemic at a Tuesday meeting of the General Assembly’s Joint Legislative Education Oversight Committee.

Representative Craig Horn, chair of the House K-12 Education Committee and the Education Appropriations Committee, referred to the pandemic as “a disaster for education.” Senator Rick Horner, chair of the Senate Education Committee and member of the Senate Education Appropriations Committee, called 2020-21 “a wasted year.”

The comments are not sitting well with many North Carolina educators who are working tirelessly to provide students with an engaging learning experience during the most challenging time of their careers.

Michael Landers, a teacher in Cabarrus County, said, “Let’s temper the rhetoric and start something helpful for students and teachers. No one asked to be in this situation and no one chooses to educate in this way; but to have leaders, community members, and parents keep pushing this notion – it continues to undercut the valiant efforts of thousands of teachers each and every day.”

Craig Horn and Rick Horner are both on their way out after years of public service. Horn departs after a failed run for state superintendent, and Horner did not seek reelection after two terms in the Senate.

Both men served in the General Assembly during the Republican supermajority years which were, without question, a disaster for education. Both of them voted time and again for corporate and individual tax cuts which deprived public schools of billions of dollars in sorely-needed revenue. Both of them voted to eliminate retiree health benefits for all state employees hired beginning next month, making it harder to recruit teachers to North Carolina. Both of them have dutifully followed party leadership’s approach of thumbing noses at the Leandro ruling and recent WestEd report which outlined the many ways state legislators have failed to provide the education that is our students’ constitutional right.

Their concern about the state of public education in North Carolina has to be viewed through that lens.

In the case of Craig Horn, who has served a full decade in the House, it’s particularly ironic to hear criticism of online education efforts.

Last year, rather than using his leadership position to call on the General Assembly to commit resources to removing barriers to in-person Pre-K attendance, Horn championed the shockingly bad idea of having 4 year-old children of poverty attend virtual Pre-K. Keep in mind, that was before anyone had even heard of COVID-19.

Nobody asked for a pandemic to disrupt our normal education routines. Nobody is arguing that our students are better served through virtual learning. But the problem is the drumbeat about learning loss and wasted years is being used in an attempt to sway public opinion toward relaxing our guard against COVID at exactly the wrong time–when viral spread is frighteningly high and a vaccine is on the horizon.

North Carolina’s thousands of educators are doing the best they can to teach their students and stay alive right now. They deserve our respect and support.

To Representative Horn and Senator Horner, I say on behalf of those educators:

Don’t let the door hit ya where the good Lord split ya.

American Academy of Pediatrics: Child COVID cases have jumped 28% over the last two weeks

According to an American Academy of Pediatrics report released Monday, more than 144,000 new cases of children infected with COVID-19 were reported in the United States last week.

That number constitutes “by far the highest increase since this pandemic began.”

The report notes that as of November 19, nearly 1.2 million children (age 17 and under) have tested positive for the virus in the United States. Those cases represent 11.8% of all cases in the country.

In terms of current trends, AAP found that during the two weeks between November 5 and 19, there was a 28% increase in child COVID-19 cases, with 256,091 new cases during that period.

The report points out that, while severe illness is rare among children, “there is an urgent need to collect more data on longer-term impacts on children, including ways the virus may harm the long-term physical health of infected children, as well as its emotional and mental health effects.”

You can read the report in its entirety below:

AAP-and-CHA-Children-and-COVID-19-State-Data-Report-11.19.20-FINAL

Can we stop blaming educators for getting COVID?

image by Nan Fulcher

*this article was first published in the Charlotte Observer

As COVID rates skyrocket in North Carolina and more educators lose their lives to the virus, an unmistakable trend is starting to emerge:  school districts falling all over themselves to claim the infected employee didn’t get coronavirus at work.

When Stanly County teacher Julie Davis died last month, superintendent Vicki Calvert quickly issued a statement saying, “there is no information from the local health department indicating Mrs. Davis contracted the COVID-19 virus from any staff member or student on campus.”  

Davis’s family spoke of her extreme vigilance in avoiding situations where infections could occur, wearing a mask whenever out of the house and doing all of her shopping by curbside and drive-through.  She was apprehensive about returning to school because of the increased risk but did so anyway.  

Julie Davis got sick at the end of September and passed away on October 4.  Her brother said Davis was convinced she got the virus at school.  A student who attended the school (not one of hers) had tested positive, and she was unaware of any other time she would have been in the same space with someone who had COVID.

Just a week after Davis passed away, Stanly County Schools was forced to close to in-person instruction due to out-of-control COVID infections in the community and in the schools.

Last Friday a 51 year-old elementary art teacher at a Fayetteville charter school died of COVID.  Her name was Mary Ward.

The school’s superintendent said school officials didn’t believe Ward contracted the virus at work.  However, her daughter said, “We don’t really know [where she got the virus] because she never really went out. She definitely wore her mask, she definitely hand sanitized. She did everything the CDC told us to.”

On Monday, Winston-Salem teacher assistant Teresa Gaither passed away after serving students at Easton Elementary for 23 years.  A school spokesman wouldn’t confirm the cause but was eager to explain that she didn’t get it at work, saying, “At this time, the Forsyth County Department of Public Health has given WS/FCS no indication that Ms. Gaither’s cause of death was related to her employment.”  Her colleagues confirmed that Gaither died of COVID.

In Charlotte-Mecklenburg, where the district has just begun reporting COVID infections by school, a WBTV report this week said school officials “do not believe students and staff are testing positive because they are back inside the classroom.  They say students are staff and getting sick from circumstances outside of the school.” (typos not mine)

Here’s what public relations-minded school districts are implying when they claim that a COVID infection had nothing to do with school:  Somewhere, somehow that individual made a careless error which led to their illness.  It had nothing to do with insufficient safety protocols, asymptomatic carriers, or a lack of resources.  

There’s nothing to see here, folks.  Mask up and wash your hands, everyone.  Just lean in and we’ll be fine.

Could we please have the decency to admit that, in many of these cases, we have no idea where they got it?  While it is possible these educators contracted the virus outside of school, it’s just as likely that they didn’t.  We simply don’t know.

What we do know about this virus is that the only way to truly stay safe from it is to avoid crowded public places, perform regular disinfection and ensure proper ventilation and clean air flow when we must share space with others.  Those conditions are hard to come by in a public school.

These educators who have lost their lives during the pandemic have been forced to choose between increasing their risk of infection by returning to in-person instruction and not being able to feed their kids or pay their mortgage.

Many of our educators have been vocal in calling for a return to school only when we can be reasonably certain it’s safe, with maximum social distancing, effective contact tracing, safe HVAC systems and sufficient staff.  In far too many cases they’ve been forced back to the classrooms they love with none of those things.

In light of their dedication to serving our children despite a raging pandemic, it’s the least we can do to stop blaming our educators for getting COVID

You can’t be neutral on a moving train–an educator’s thoughts on North Carolina’s election

Watching Tuesday night’s election results roll in real time was an excruciating experience for North Carolina educators.

After a long, pandemic-style campaign season where education advocates worked so hard to influence outcomes on behalf of public schools, we were filled with hope that we were on the brink of big change. Some of us believed that we were about to take back one or both chambers of the General Assembly and the superintendency. I entertained the notion that I would wake up on Wednesday to a new reality with people in key positions of power who share the view that strong public schools are the foundation of a democratic society, people who want to partner with teachers to create policies that lead to better outcomes for our kids.

Early votes showed up first and gave cause for optimism. Then in-person votes began to be tallied, and the long, slow, inevitable burn that we’ve become so accustomed to in North Carolina set in. That feeling that the tide is coming and there’s nothing you can do to stop it.

By the end of the night here’s what the political landscape looked like for public education:

*Our next state superintendent will be Catherine Truitt, an individual with a clear pro-charter and privatization agenda who has a history of disparaging education advocates and throwing stones at NCAE.

*Our lieutenant governor is going to be Mark Robinson, a homophobic conspiracy theorist who doesn’t believe systemic racism exists and who makes Dan Forest look almost reasonable.

*Dan Folwell stays on as treasurer. He’s got a history of playing reckless games with state employee health care and a troubling lack of empathy.

*Republicans will retain their majorities in both the House and Senate, and it’s likely that Phil Berger will stay as the leader of the Senate and continue to unilaterally block any real progress on education policy issues.

I’m going to be honest–my initial reaction on Wednesday morning was to question all the time and effort we put into this election. The endless hours of researching and writing, phone banking and working the polls, just to end up at the same point where we were started.

Then I started my teaching day, and I was immediately reminded of my “why.”

I looked into the faces of my students and thought about their many needs which are going largely unmet by a system that cares more about stuffing money into the pockets of corporations than giving them the high quality education their constitution demands.

The truth is, we do have some things to be grateful for. We re-elected Roy Cooper and not Dan Forest, who had vowed to immediately lift mask requirements and push everyone back into school at a time when COVID infections are dangerously high. Republicans didn’t take back the super majority, which means Cooper still holds veto power over troublesome legislation. It’s not the disaster we were experiencing five years ago in this state when Pat McCrory was governor and legislators could do whatever they wanted.

Howard Zinn famously remarked “You can’t be neutral on a moving train.” And as we enter the next chapter of North Carolina’s history with Phil Berger still wearing the conductor’s hat, those of us who have dedicated our lives to serving children in public school have a choice. We can just sit down in exhaustion and defeat and let it play out.

Or we can lean on each other, roll up our sleeves, and continue to fight for the schools we all deserve.

NC superintendent candidate Catherine Truitt gets max donation from millionaire who calls educators “criminals…who feed poison to students”

As the race for NC state superintendent enters its final week, Republican Catherine Truitt has just received the maximum donation from a source that is sure to raise eyebrows among supporters of traditional public schools:

Robert Luddy is a North Carolina millionaire who has founded a string of private and charter schools in the state.

His charter school Franklin Academy made news a couple of years back when complaints were lodged over language in its student handbook that read “promotion, affirmation or discussion of behaviors associated with the terms, ‘sexual orientation’ or ‘gender identity,’ including homosexuality, bisexuality and transgenderism, are expressly prohibited.”

Luddy has been quoted as saying that public schools are failing, and in a piece he wrote for the conservative publication American Spectator last month he said the problem is that “the U.S. education system has been coopted by Marxists who hate America”:

The last 20 years have ushered in a new America, which is moving away from God and traditional American values and replaced by an ever-growing government at all levels, squeezing out private initiative, a core strength of our country. Worse, the U.S. education system has been coopted by Marxists who hate America. They teach our children that America is an evil country based on racism and white supremacy. The New York Times’ 1619 Project, a shameful work of historical revisionism that insists that America was built on slavery, is now taught in schools across the country.

To paraphase G. K. Chesterton: the greatest criminals are educators who feed poison to students.

I have a feeling the thousands of North Carolina educators who have dedicated their lives to lifting our children up and providing them with opportunities would disagree with that characterization.

You know, the people that Truitt wants to lead.

Voters can help move NC out of the education Dark Ages

Tim Moore and Phil Berger, chief architects of the current NC public schools Dark Age

*note: this piece was originally published in the Charlotte Observer

When Tea Party Republicans took over state government in 2010, their veto-proof majority in both chambers of our General Assembly began an education policy Dark Age, churning out bill after bill that harmed our schools.

Legislators removed the cap on charter schools, and their number has since doubled.  These schools siphon money away from traditional public schools and increase racial and economic segregation, and they have failed to provide better alternatives for students who need the most help.

They cut master’s pay, making North Carolina the first state in the country to revoke advanced degree salary increases.

They slashed funding for teachers assistants.  We’ve lost 7,500 since the peak a decade ago.

Legislators created the Opportunity Scholarship voucher program, sending tens of millions of dollars each year to unaccountable schools which are legally able to discriminate based on factors like religion and sexual orientation.

They defunded the North Carolina Teaching Fellows program, a high-quality source of committed, homegrown teachers.  

Lawmakers have blocked school construction bonds from ballots, despite favorable financial conditions and a documented $8+ billion in infrastructure needs.

They passed the Read to Achieve law, expanding testing and threatening 3rd graders with retention in an ill-advised attempt at addressing reading deficiencies.  When that didn’t work, legislators added bonuses for test scores which harm morale by ignoring the contributions many members of the team have to a child’s success.  Unsurprisingly, reading outcomes have not improved.

They stripped retiree health benefits starting January 2021, making it harder to recruit and retain good teachers in North Carolina at a time when enrollment in our state’s teacher preparation programs has plummeted 35% since 2013.

But arguably the most impactful change of all has been Republican tax policy.  

Over the past decade, state legislators have passed 6 corporate tax cuts and repeatedly cut income taxes in a manner that disproportionately benefits the wealthiest among us.  According to the NC Budget and Tax Center’s Alexandra Sirota, the estimated cumulative revenue loss during that time is $12 billion.  Those are dollars which could have hired teaching assistants or repaired leaky gym roofs.

Throughout the course of this Dark Age, one of the biggest overall failures of the Republican majority has been its approach to the process of governing.  Many of the aforementioned laws were passed in budget bills, meaning they didn’t go through a deliberative committee process but rather were written behind closed doors and then passed without any opportunity for meaningful conversations.  That’s not how effective policy is written, and it’s not the kind of government the people of North Carolina deserve.

When Governor Cooper was elected in 2016 and then the legislative supermajority was broken in 2018, I held out some naive hope that things might change and that there could be a new willingness on the part of House and Senate Republicans to work across the aisle because of the governor’s veto power.

Unfortunately it hasn’t worked out that way at all.  The fact that we’re still operating on the 2018 budget is clear evidence:  the toxic culture that developed under the supermajority, one in which loyalty to party trumps any desire for meaningful collaboration on behalf of North Carolinians, has continued unabated.  

A full decade of backwards priorities and terrible leadership has led to this crucial election at a time when our schools are desperate for change.  We need people in power who see public education as a human right and not a commodity.  We need leaders who truly believe that our children deserve the opportunities that a high quality public education can provide.  

Breaking the majorities in the House and the Senate will allow pro-public education legislators to end North Carolina’s education Dark Age and get to work building the K-12 education system we need.