The Follies

The Follies


Dan Forest and facts and fuel and charters

Lt. Gov. Dan Forest would apparently rather the public not know that the population of charter schools in North Carolina is wealthier and has a higher percentage of white students than traditional public schools.

Too bad. We know.

A report mandated by the General Assembly and written by the staff at the Department of Public Instruction about the demographics of charters was on the agenda of the State Board of Education meeting for approval this week.

Forest delayed the report, saying it was too negative toward charters and called it the fuel the media uses to criticize what Republicans are doing.

In other words, the facts show that charter schools are less diverse than traditional public schools and Forest is worried about that the public will think when the media reports it.

Maybe the answer is to be more thoughtful about expanding charter schools without enough accountability and Forest wouldn’t have anything to hide.

Ironically, Forest’s refusal to accept the publicly presented report probably gave it more attention than it would have received in the media had he not objected.

And facts are not fuel. They are facts whether Forest likes them or not.

He can disagree with the report if he wants, maybe try to make up his own facts, but the report is the report and charter schools are less diverse than traditional public schools.

Meanwhile, the News & Observer reported Thursday that the head of the N.C. Public Charter Schools Association referred to the report as garbage, saying that since every charter doesn’t provide free or reduced lunch to low-income students, the data the schools sent to the state is probably not correct.

There’s an easy solution to that of course, simply require all charters to provide lunch to low-income students like every other public school.

That would not only make it easier to report accurate demographic data, it would actually allow low-income kids to apply to charter schools—which their tax dollars support after all.

Many charter advocates have opposed proposals to require the schools to provide lunch and transportation to make them accessible to all students.

There’s some fuel for Forest to consider.

A shaky start for the for-profit virtual charter scheme

Speaking of unaccountable charter schools, the state’s experiment with virtual charters appears to be off to a rocky start. A report from education officials finds that 20 percent of the students enrolled in the state’s two online charters run by for profit corporations withdrew from the schools in the first semester of the year.

That’s certainly worth more investigation but not surprising. For-profit virtual charters have struggled across the country, particularly ones run by K12, Inc. one of the companies operating an online school in North Carolina.

Recent reports about online charters have found high dropout rates and low academic achievement. A Stanford study reported that the performance of math students in virtual charters was so poor it was as if the students had not been in school at all.

No wonder so many students are dropping out.

Somebody needs to ask how much the companies are making for the education they are apparently not providing.

Two more exits from the McCrory Administration

Governor Pat McCrory announced another shakeup in his cabinet this week. Revenue Secretary Lyons Gray is leaving his post for a seat on the Utilities Commission and will be replaced by the current chief operating officer of the Department of Revenue Jeff Epstein.

State Budget Director Lee Roberts also leaving after just 16 months on the job to take a position in the private sector. Roberts will be replaced by Andrew Heath, the current Chair of the Industrial Commission.

On their own, the announcements don’t seem all that unusual as administrations normally have some turnover.

But McCrory has only been in office three years and has done through quite a few staff changes.

He has already replaced the Secretary of Public Safety, the Secretary of Health and Human Services, the Secretary of Transportation, the Secretary of Revenue, the Secretary of Commerce, the Secretary of Environment and Natural Resources now known as the Department of Environmental Quality, and two budget directors— there’s still a year left in McCrory’s term.

It does make you wonder what’s going on over there.