Disingenuous Republicans want to force overworked NC public school teachers to post all lesson plans online because indoctrination

*a shorter version of this article was first published by The Charlotte Observer*

The 2024 North Carolina General Assembly session has barely begun, and already Republican legislators whose favorite reelection campaign tactic is punching down on public schools are taking aim at our state’s long-suffering teachers.

Only weeks after the Department of Public Instruction released data showing North Carolina teachers are quitting in record numbers (1 in 9 resigned last school year), and just in time for Teacher Appreciation Week, four House members have filed a bill titled “Academic Transparency” which would force all teachers to post their lesson plans online with their names attached “no later than 10 days after the lesson was given.”

HB-1023

The bill’s primary sponsors are Jake Johnson of Polk County, Union County’s David Willis, Hugh Blackwell of Burke County and Allen Chesser from Nash County.

All four of these distinguished gentlemen have histories of fanning fake culture war flames and encouraging the public to distrust public schools because they believe it may help their chances at being reelected and holding on to power.

For example, here’s Representative Jake Johnson crowing about stamping out Critical Race Theory in K-12 schools (which actually took pretty minimal effort since it wasn’t really a thing):

Johnson neglected to tell voters that he made his campaign video flexing about this bill eight months after Governor Cooper vetoed it. Whoops!

In a statement about that veto, Cooper said “The legislature should be focused on supporting teachers, helping students recover lost learning, and investing in our public schools. Instead, this bill pushes calculated, conspiracy-laden politics into public education.”

David Willis of Union County was a founding member of Lieutenant Governor Mark Robinson’s 2021 FACTS Task Force. FACTS was Robinson’s witch hunt to root out indoctrination in North Carolina’s schools by encouraging the public to file complaints about teachers online. Those complaints were then published with no substantiation or redaction.

(Side note: most of the submissions to the FACTS web portal were from people roasting Robinson over his obviously political stunt.)

When he’s not hunting witches, Willis is talking about how much he loves public school teachers, who he says “deserve our respect, our support, and need to be more highly valued.”

Know anyone who’s in a position to make that happen, Representative Willis?

Burke County Culture War Veteran Blackwell’s resume includes sponsoring a bill called “Equality in Education” last year which was crafted by ALEC and the Heritage Foundation.

House Bill 187 would restrict classroom discussions on race and sex–for example preventing any student from feeling discomfort or guilt about their race and specifically absolving them of responsibility for any actions carried out by their ancestors.

Representative Chesser’s campaign website celebrates the success of his efforts to ban indoctrination in North Carolina classrooms–which raises obvious questions about why he’s still fighting indoctrination in North Carolina classrooms (pssstt–It’s because there is no indoctrination in North Carolina classrooms, and this is simply a fake campaign issue to pitch to gullible voters).

North Carolina teachers are so used to serving as the punching bag for state Republicans like these four that this legislation doesn’t really qualify as front page news. But there are some real problems with the bill, apart from the fact that it’s driven by cynical politics rather than an actual need.

One is that it’s labor intensive. Teachers are currently so overworked due to having to cover for the extraordinary number of job vacancies (thanks, Republicans!) that this onerous requirement will be the straw that breaks the camel’s back for some. With record numbers of teachers leaving, we need our elected officials to focus on how to make the job more attractive rather than making it worse.

Secondly, many teachers spend hours developing their own supplementary materials due to the subpar curriculum they’re often saddled with. The materials they create are their intellectual property, and they deserve to have some control over who has access to it.

Another point to consider is that this burdensome requirement applies only to public schools but not to the private schools that Republicans are keen to pour billions of taxpayer voucher dollars into. Why should public schools be required to make their materials freely accessible to private schools that are already siphoning away our desperately-needed funding? Why not require private schools to do the same?

Finally, dropping a bill with “transparency” in the title at this moment is terrible timing–and I’m not talking about Teacher Appreciation Week.

Buried in last year’s budget bill was a provision that exempted state legislators from state public records law. The law gives legislators like the four who filed the Academic Transparency bill the power to determine if any documents produced while working on behalf of the people qualify as a public record and whether to retain or destroy it. This law shields them from having to post their “lesson plans” even after they’ve left office. So yeah, this bill stings a little more than the usual anti-public school legislation coming out of the North Carolina General Assembly because it’s just so damn hypocritical.

I’d bet my bottom dollar that the four House members who filed this bill don’t actually believe there is socialist indoctrination going on in North Carolina’s schools. This is nothing more than a lazy boogeyman campaign tactic by individuals who should be out there talking about the actual improvements they’re bringing to their districts in the way of things like more jobs, better health care, etc.

But for anyone who really DOES want to see what’s happening in North Carolina’s public schools, allow me to suggest that you come on down to one of them and offer to volunteer.

We could really use the help.