Strings attached? Superintendent candidate Catherine Truitt’s campaign donations point to for-profit charter schools and EVAAS

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If you want to know what a political candidate will stand for, just look at where their support is coming from.

State superintendent candidate Catherine Truitt was happy to accept some recent high profile support from President Donald Trump in the form of a shout out at his campaign rally in Greenville:

But while rubbing elbows with a serial misogynist and pathological liar isn’t a great look for someone who wants to lead K-12 schools, it’s Truitt’s campaign donations that might give some crucial insight into what her priorities will be for North Carolina if she wins.

Interestingly, 25% of Truitt’s donations have come from out of state, while 98% of her opponent Jen Mangrum’s donations are from North Carolinians.

Truitt’s top four donors (after herself) are here:

All of them have donated the maximum allowed under law, and their donations comprise just under half of her total campaign haul.

James Goodnight is the richest person in North Carolina and CEO of SAS, the company that produces EVAAS. For the uninitiated, EVAAS is a software system which uses standardized test scores to measure “teacher effectiveness.”

SAS has a contract with North Carolina Department of Public Instruction to provide that data which state legislators have used for the controversial school report cards and to offer cash bonuses to teachers in exchange for high test scores.

EVAAS is deeply unpopular among many North Carolina teachers who believe it’s ludicrous to focus solely on standardized test scores to measure the ways a teacher adds value to a student’s learning.

Ann Goodnight is James’s wife and director of Community Relations for SAS. She serves on the board of Best NC, a pro-business education reform organization which successfully lobbied for North Carolina’s current principal pay plan.

That pay plan–which uses EVAAS data to determine compensation–was so poorly conceived that the legislature had to pass a hold harmless clause to prevent a massive exodus of North Carolina principals as salaries could have dropped up to $20,000.

Goodnight also serves on the board of Cary Academy, a private school she founded with her husband which charges tuition of more than $25,000.

Jonathan Hage is founder and CEO of Florida-based Charter Schools USA, a for-profit “education management organization” with annual revenue of $750 million.

Charter Schools USA currently operates 7 charter schools in North Carolina, and it’s safe to assume Hage would like that number to go up.

Sherry Hage is married to Jonathan Hage and, until recently, served as Chief Academic Officer for Charter Schools USA. She is now CEO of Noble Education Initiative, a charter school management company which is headquartered right down the street from Charter Schools USA in Ft. Lauderdale.

Catherine Truitt’s principal donors are individuals who embrace the philosophy that education is a commodity that can be bought and sold. Those twisted values have filled their bank accounts with riches that most of us can’t even imagine, and they apparently see Truitt as their pathway to even larger piles of money.

Truitt’s opponent, Jennifer Mangrum, is a longtime elementary school teacher and current professor of education at UNC-Greensboro. Mangrum believes that education is a human right, not a commodity. She believes in strong traditional public schools and will not be bought by charter school magnates or software billionaires.

Those are the values we need leading North Carolina’s K-12 public schools.

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