An attempt by the Charlotte Mecklenburg Moms for Liberty chair to have five books banned from the Ardrey Kell High School media center has failed.
The school’s School Media Advisory Committee determined that all five books will be retained in the media center, and the objecting parent is free to restrict their own child’s access to those titles as permitted by district policy.
Students in Charlotte Mecklenburg Schools were not allowed to check out books for the first two weeks of school while the district waited to hear objections. The library pause came in response to Republicans in the North Carolina General Assembly passing a “Parents Bill of Rights” law which, among many other things, requires superintendents to create a process for objections and provide parents with access to student library records.
After two weeks with more than 140,000 students at 181 schools having no access to media centers, only five objections were lodged.
According to WSOC, all the objections were filed at one school (Ardrey Kell High School) by the same parent. Unsurprisingly, she also happens to be the chair of the local Moms for Liberty chapter, Brooke Weiss. (Moms for Liberty has embarked on a nation-wide crusade to ban books from school libraries.)
Committee meeting notes requested by Weiss and posted to the CMS public records request page show that, after thoughtful consideration and robust discussion, the committee decided to retain all five books in the Ardrey Kell media center. The committee noted that the objecting parent “may use policy to restrict access for their student by request.”
It’s good to see efforts to restrict other people’s children from having access to high-quality, diverse reading materials fail.
You can read the Ardrey Kell School Media Advisory Committee notes below:
His cardinal sin? Asking Wake County’s district attorney to investigate House Speaker Tim Moore for possible violations of state laws related to an extramarital affair.
In June, Wake County resident Scott Lassiter sued Speaker Moore for alienation of affection. The lawsuit alleged that the infamously randy Speaker Moore had engaged in an extramarital affair with Lassiter’s wife which ultimately led to the end of their marriage.
Lassiter also claimed his wife had told him that others had had group sex with Moore in pursuit of political favors from the powerful Cleveland County lawmaker.
According to the suit, Mr. Lassiter and Speaker Moore met at a Biscuitville to discuss the matter four days later.
At the Biscuitville Summit, Moore allegedly admitted the affair and asked Lassiter if there was anything [Moore] could do for Lassiter, “implying that he could use the power he held as Speaker in some way to benefit Plaintiff.”
Last month Representative Everitt sent a letter to Wake County District Attorney Lorin Freeman pointing out that Jamie Lassiter had received salary raises of more than 50% in her state job while she was having the affair with Moore, increases which far exceeded the average raises received by state employees who didn’t have affairs with Moore.
Everitt’s letter noted Moore’s alleged use of the people’s money for personal sexual gratification and asked Freeman to investigate for possible criminal violations including bribery, embezzlement, and misconduct in public office.
Freeman declined to open an investigation, but Biscuitville Moore had to have the last laugh.
So while Everitt waited in the House chamber to vote on a terrible budget guaranteed passage by the General Assembly’s stolen supermajority, his belongings were boxed and moved to a janitorial supply closet in the basement of the legislature. For added inconvenience, his legislative assistant’s office was kept on a separate floor.
Moore then sent Everitt this taunting letter explaining the change:
Moore’s letter uses a disagreement Everitt had with a fellow Democrat as pretext for the punitive office move. It’s a missive that sounds as if it were written by an unusually articulate junior high bully, filled with not-so-subtle references to what Moore appears to perceive as Everitt’s lack of manliness.
While Moore’s lack of professionalism and basic maturity might surprise outsiders, few North Caroliians would expect anything else from the House Speaker.
Educators returning to work in Union County Public Schools for the 2023-24 school year are being required to agree to a handful of specific policies including one stating that they won’t cause any student to feel “discomfort” during discussions about race or gender while at school.
Union County Public Schools’ efforts to ensure staff are adhering to mandated restrictions on discussions of race and gender comes just months after a student flying a Confederate flag at Porter Ridge High School led one parent to lament “We just want to make sure that our children are safe. Nobody wants to go to school and feel unsafe. I’m not even at the school and it makes me feel unsafe.”
(In contrast with reality, a district spokesperson said the flag didn’t cause a disruption or safety concerns. The spokesperson added that no policies prohibit the flying of flags on school property. On a related note, Union County’s school board banned pride flags from classrooms this past May.)
To be clear, if there’s any county that could benefit from honest conversations about race and systemic oppression it’s Union County, North Carolina.
UC is the proud home of former US Senator Jesse Helms, who once said in a campaign ad “White people, wake up before it is too late. Do you want Negroes working beside you, your wife and your daughters, in your mills and factories?”
Yet the right-wing school board’s policy which employees are being forced to swear allegiance to is all about ensuring that white people don’t feel bad about racism and that honest conversations about our history of racial oppression and how current systems still disproportionately benefit white people are less likely to happen in schools.
Union County’s policy is all about whitewashing our students’ education and perpetuating a harmful status quo, and it amounts to indoctrination.
The same year Union County’s school board passed its white comfort policy, North Carolina’s controversial Lieutenant Governor Mark Robinson launched his “F.A.C.T.S. task force” to collect evidence of what Robinson said was rampant indoctrination by the state’s educators.
Robinson’s F.A.C.T.S. site asks for examples of “…indoctrination according to a political agenda or ideology, whether through assigned work, teacher comments, or a hostile classroom environment.”
North Carolina’s most polarizing politician may be attempting something of an image reboot as he sets his sights on the governor’s mansion.
Lieutenant Governor Mark Robinson has been both reviled by those on the left and celebrated by fringe elements on the right for his extreme views, including regular doses of anti-LGBTQ and antisemitic rhetoric.
Now that Robinson has declared his candidacy for governor in the 2024 election, there are signs that the firebrand who once referred to homosexuality as “filth” may be trying to soften his public image in an effort to attract more mainstream votes.
Over the past week Robinson’s Twitter account has been doing its damndest to portray future-governor Mark Robinson as a reasonable, regular guy who just wants to bake some nice cookies and do great things for North Carolina.
Last week news also broke that Robinson would not be attending August’s ReAwaken America event in Las Vegas.
ReAwaken America is a traveling conspiracy theory exposition and political rally led by Donald Trump’s former national security advisor General Michael Flynn and an Oklahoma podcaster named Clay Clark who is currently facing a defamation suit over claims he made about Dominion Voting Systems and the 2020 presidential election.
Clark and Flynn have been traveling around the country (since shortly after Trump pardoned Flynn for lying to the FBI) providing space for QAnon conspiracy theorists and antivaxxers such as Alex Jones and Robert F Kennedy, Jr to infect people with their bonkers ideas.
Last month Clark breathlessly tweeted that Mark Robinson would be attending ReAwaken America in August in Las Vegas.
A poster for the event featured Mark Robinson’s smiling face front and center.
But recently the poster was updated to say that Robinson had merely been invited, and Robinson’s communications director explained he would no longer be attending the event.
No doubt Mark Robinson would like for voters to believe that he’s not a guy who belongs on stage with the likes of Alex Jones. But the two actually have a lot in common.
Jones recently declared bankruptcy after being ordered to pay almost $1.5 billion in damages to the families of the victims of the Sandy Hook massacre. Jones had falsely and repeatedly claimed on his InfoWars website and talk show that the 2012 murders of 20 children and 6 adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School did not actually occur.
Robinson knows a thing or two about denying school shootings and disparaging shooting victims.
In 2018 Robinson posted an image of Parkland shooting survivor David Hogg with the words “Media Hogg” and a series of laughing emojis. In comments on the post Robinson indicated he thought Hogg was an actor.
Mark Robinson would love to hoodwink North Carolina voters into thinking he’s a reasonable, moderate politician who will do great things for our state.
Sunday’s New York Times deep dive into Mecklenburg County Representative Tricia Cotham’s shocking decision to switch parties and give North Carolina Republicans a veto-proof supermajority in the state legislature contained few bombshells on the now-infamous legislator’s controversial move.
For the most part, the Times rehashed details many North Carolinians already know:
➢ That Cotham was recruited by Republicans to run for a second stint in the legislature after several years away
➢ That Cotham spent the years between her first and second stretches as an elected official working as a education-focused lobbyist, developing close relationships with Republicans and a passion for school privatization
➢ That when Cotham filed to run in 2022 it surprised many Democrats–and her silent treatment of others in the caucus and of organizations like Planned Parenthood raised concerns before the election
➢ That Cotham was angry that Democrats “treated her as a newcomer when she returned to the House, inviting her to freshman orientation and offering her a mentor”
➢ That no evidence has surfaced to support Cotham’s contention that she was a victim of bullying by fellow Democratic legislators
➢ That the legislator was envious of attention that other Democrats received from the party and upset that she “did not get the gratitude or spotlight that she felt she deserved”
However, some details about Cotham’s political fundraising stood out to me.
Cotham was elected to a very blue seat, knocking off her Republican opponent by almost 20%. Interestingly, the New York Times identifies some of the biggest donors to her campaign for the Democratic House seat as having given almost exclusively to Republicans.
The Times also noted at least one donor, Ann Newman, as having requested and received a refund for a $250 contribution she made to Cotham’s 2022 campaign.
According to transparencyusa.org, Cotham took in nearly $82,000 in contributions for the 2022 general election. While there were apparently some Republicans donating to what they hoped would be a Trojan Horse candidate, the majority of those donors were local Democrats who expected that Cotham would represent their interests after they helped her win her seat.
That’s what a representative is supposed to do, right?
Not only did Cotham NOT represent those interests, her decision to switch parties singlehandedly gifted a veto-proof supermajority to North Carolina Republicans, meaning Governor Cooper can no longer stop terrible policy from becoming law.
Cotham has also gone out of her way to lend support to efforts to restrict women’s health care and divert funding for public schools to private schools and charters.
Assuming no major changes to voucher bills filed earlier this session, the legislation will triple funding for school vouchers as well as eliminating income eligibility requirements so that any student in the state–regardless of financial need–may use public money to attend private schools.
In effect, that means North Carolinians will now be forced to subsidize the tuition of wealthy students who already attend private school. Republican State Superintendent of Public Instruction Catherine Truitt recently acknowledged that fact, saying the Department of Public Instruction expects most vouchers to be taken by families whose children do not currently attend public schools.
(Side note: Thus far Superintendent Truitt has NOT lived up to her campaign promise to oppose voucher expansion if elected)
Opportunity Scholarship was first implemented in school year 2014-15 and doled out a mere $4.6 million in taxpayer funds that year. School year 2022-23 saw nearly $134 million distributed, the vast majority to private schools. The new legislation would take that figure north of a half a billion dollars a year by school year 2032-33.
You’d think the self-styled party of fiscal responsibility would want to ensure that taxpayers are getting a good return on an investment of more than a half a billion dollars a year.
You’d be wrong.
Republican legislators have created the country’s least accountable voucher system in North Carolina. Not only do voucher-accepting schools have no requirements for teacher licenses, accreditation or standard curriculum, but these schools have no requirement to participate in the state’s end of year testing program. That means we have no way of knowing whether any student who has left a traditional public school for a voucher school is getting better academic outcomes or not.
Republicans’ anything-goes approach to voucher management means abundant opportunities for fraud by unscrupulous, profit-driven actors, and the school privatization space is filled with them.
In addition to problems with lack of accountability and potential for fraud, expansion of vouchers means less available funding for the traditional public schools that serve the vast majority of the state’s students. Hundreds of millions of dollars a year is a lot of money to divert away from public schools at a time when those schools are struggling to staff up and to provide students with the resources they need to learn.
The North Carolina Office of State Budget and Management estimates the changes will directly deprive public schools of more than $200 million per year by school year 2026-27. Those cuts will be felt most deeply by the state’s rural districts:
It’s anyone’s guess when the state budget will be presented to the public, although some signs point to next month. That leaves time for you to contact your legislators and express your views on voucher expansion or any other legislative matter that concerns you.
You can find contact information for members of the General Assembly below:
NC House Speaker Tim Moore has some explaining to do.
Moore leads Republicans in North Carolina’s House of Representatives and is second only to Senate Pro Tempore Phil Berger when it comes to political muscle in the state.
WRAL just broke the news that Moore and an unidentified “John Doe” are being sued in Wake County Superior Court over Moore’s alleged extramarital relationship with the wife of a Wake County Public Schools assistant principal.
Scott Lassiter serves as an administrator at Connections Academy Middle School and was on Apex’s Town Council from 2011-2015.
Lassiter’s lawsuit alleges that his wife Jamie Liles Lassiter, who serves as Executive Director of the North Carolina Conference of Clerks of Superior Court, engaged in an extramarital affair with Moore which ultimately led to the end of the Lassiter’s marriage.
The suit claims that when confronted by her husband,
“Mrs. Lassiter tearfully confessed that she had been involved in an extramarital affair with Defendant Tim Moore for more than three years, that she had engaged in sexual activity with Defendant Tim Moore (including group sex with other individuals seeking Defendant Tim Moore’s political favor), and that she feared ending the relationship with Defendant Tim Moore would result in losing her job.”
According to the lawsuit, Mr. Lassiter and Speaker Moore met at a Biscuitville to discuss the matter four days later.
At the Biscuitville meeting, Moore allegedly admitted the affair and asked Lassiter if there was anything [Moore] could do for Lassiter, “implying that he could use the power he held as Speaker in some way to benefit Plaintiff.”
The lawsuit also claims that earlier this month an unidentified man (“John Doe” in the court filing) secretly installed a camera in a tree in Lassiter’s yard pointing at Lassiter’s house “to capture photos and video recordings of Plaintiff without Plaintiff’s consent.”
For his part, Speaker Moore claims the allegations are “baseless” and says he intends to “vigorously defend this action.”
With North Carolina’s Republican state legislators poised to massively expand public funding for school vouchers, a new analysis of school enrollment vs. current voucher spending finds that private schools may be fraudulently claiming millions of dollars in vouchers for students they don’t have.
Charlotte-area Representative Tricia Cotham’s recent betrayal of her constituents by switching parties just months after being elected handed a supermajority to the NC GOP and effectively ended Governor Cooper’s ability to veto bad legislation.
Cotham and her school-privatizing colleagues then filed a bill which will increase funding for vouchers by hundreds of millions of dollars a year as well as eliminating income eligibility requirements, meaning taxpayers will now subsidize the private school tuition of wealthy families whose children already attend private schools.
You’d think that North Carolina’s Republican leadership would want taxpayers to know whether they’re getting a good return on investment for all those billions of dollars that will now be flowing into private schools instead of public schools. After all, we’re talking about the self-styled party of fiscal responsibility, right?
But NC’s “Opportunity Scholarship” voucher system is the least accountable in the nation, requiring no tests to measure student learning outcomes. We have no way of knowing whether all that money is actually helping children.
Nordstrom compared enrollment numbers with voucher claims and found multiple cases where private schools claimed more vouchers than they had students, and even some cases where private schools accepted voucher payments from the state after the schools had closed.
Credit: Kris Nordstrom, NC Justice Center
The data shows at least $2.3 million in fraudulent payments, but it’s possible the real number is much higher. That’s because hundreds of vouchers have been paid out to schools that don’t even report enrollment.
Our General Assembly needs to pump the brakes on voucher expansion and focus on improving Opportunity Scholarship’s accountability–both in tracking how taxpayer money is doled out and in objectively measuring the impact of vouchers on student learning outcomes. North Carolina deserves nothing less.
Legislation filed in the North Carolina General Assembly last week would authorize Beaufort County Public Schools to ignore the state’s standard course of study and instead teach a controversial social studies curriculum developed by a conservative Michigan college with close ties to former President Donald Trump.
The bill was filed by Rep. Keith Kidwell, who represents Beaufort, Dare, Pamlico and Hyde counties.
Scroll to page 2 of the pdf below to see the relevant portion of Kidwell’s bill.
The curriculum Kidwell is proposing be used in Beaufort County’s public schools was created by Michigan-based Hillsdale College after white fragility over Nikole Hannah-Jones’s 1619 Project prompted former president Donald Trump to issue an executive order setting up what he called a “patriotic education” commission.
Trump said at the time that the commission was intended to counter “hateful lies” being taught to children in American schools which he said constituted “a form of child abuse.”
The commission’s report, published on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day in January 2021, was widely criticized by actual historians as a whitewashed take on American history for its downplaying of Founding Fathers’ support for slavery and quoting Dr. Martin Luther King out of context in order to create a falsely rosy view of race in the United States, among other reasons.
Hillsdale College released the “1776 curriculum” in July 2021. In its “Note to Teachers,” the curriculum reminds anyone who will be using the curriculum to teach children that “America is an exceptionally good country” and ends with the exhortation to “Learn it, wonder at it, love it, and teach so your students will, too.”
Kidwell’s bill comes just days after Representative Tricia Cotham’s party switch handed North Carolina Republicans a veto-proof supermajority in the legislature. That means there’s a good chance this Trump-inspired, whitewashed version of American history will end up on desks in Beaufort County, and there’s no reason to think other counties won’t follow suit.
According to DPI’s Statistical Profile, more than half of Beaufort County’s 5,821 public school students are students of color. Those students deserve to have their stories and their ancestors’ stories told. Those students and all students deserve to learn real American history, warts and all, not a watered-down, Donald Trump-conceived version designed to make white people feel comfortable.
You can review the entire Hillsdale curriculum below:
The contract was brought to the State Board of Education for approval in January 2022. At the meeting, board member Amy White indicated she’d received an email complaining that the training amounted to critical race theory. (You can listen to the board’s discussion here)
White did not share the source of the complaint, but the ultra right wing group Education First Alliance made some noise about this issue around that same time.
The next day the board voted 7-4 to approve the contract with board members White, Olivia Oxendine, Treasurer Dale Folwell and Lt. Governor Mark Robinson opposing. Superintendent Truitt does not have a vote on the board.
The following week, Truitt indicated on her official Twitter account that she would not carry out the board’s wishes on this matter.
In a January 25, 2022 letter to the institute’s director, Truitt complained about guidance on how teachers should discuss racial identity, saying “DPI leadership does not agree with some of the strategies the ELN [Early Learning Network] includes in its efforts to teach teachers about equity and cultural responsiveness.”
Truitt then chose to defy the state board’s authority and unilaterally cancel the contract.
When asked by the Raleigh News and Observer about this matter, State Board Chair Eric Davis said, “After we approved it, she switched gears. It did not sit well with us.” Davis indicated that the state board had passed new rules clarifying that the superintendent must act on the direction of the board.
Sec. 4. State Board of Education. … (2) Superintendent of Public Instruction. The Superintendent of Public Instruction shall be the secretary and chief administrative officer of the State Board of Education.
Sec. 5. Powers and duties of Board. The State Board of Education shall supervise and administer the free public school system and the educational funds provided for its support, except the funds mentioned in Section 7 of this Article, and shall make all needed rules and regulations in relation thereto, subject to laws enacted by the General Assembly.