Plan for charter takeover of worst public schools crafted in secret
For weeks, Republican lawmakers have been secretly discussing a plan that would be, according to some, "a fundamental change in the way public schools operate." We're only now getting a glimpse of the plan:
N.C. Rep. Rob Bryan, a Mecklenburg Republican with a leadership role in education, has been working for weeks on a bill he hopes will eventually transform public schools.
If you haven’t heard of this plan, it’s because the bill hasn’t been introduced or discussed in any public forum. There’s nothing about it in public records yet.
Instead, Bryan has been crafting his proposal behind closed doors, talking to lawmakers, educators and advocates of his choosing. In a process that has become common, he plans to substitute his bill for another one introduced in February, circumventing a spring deadline for introducing new legislation.
“This has actually been in the works for a long time. It just hasn’t been on the public radar,” Bryan said.
Chris Fitzsimon, executive director of the Raleigh-based N.C. Policy Watch, calls that process a travesty. “This is a fundamental change in the way public schools operate,” Fitzsimon said Friday. “To put this together behind the scenes, in secret, in the last few weeks of the legislative session is an outrage.”
If the bill passes and money is included in this year’s budget, the five schools targeted for takeover would be selected by Nov. 15. The handoff could take place as early as the 2016-17 school year, though the state Board of Education could choose to defer some until 2017-18 and others to 2018-19.
Mary McCray, a retired teacher and Charlotte-Mecklenburg Association of Educators leader who chairs the Charlotte-Mecklenburg school board, said recently that she was aware of the proposal and concerned about it. She did not respond to calls for comment Friday.
Fitzsimon said the complexity of the plan, as well as the challenge of evaluating results in Tennessee and New Orleans, make it essential to take time and have public discussion before voting.
“I think this has the potential to dramatically undermine public education,” he said, noting that a small pilot could easily be expanded. “I think this is a very, very scary road.”