February 18, 2016

Senate Leader Phil Berger caught June Atkinson’s NCDPI finagling how to avoid a mandatory 5% cut in school agency bureaucracy by raiding $2 million in new funding to improve early grade reading.

Now Superintendent Atkinson has more explaining to do. USA Today gives our state an F for screening the background of teachers.

The story says a Georgia teacher who had to resign for propositioning a student soon found a job in a Charlotte public school. And NCDPI has known about lax background checks for years.

USA Today reports “In reviewing states, the USA TODAY NETWORK handed North Carolina an F, ranking it among the worst states in the country for screening teachers.

The Citizen-Times found education officials throughout the state – including in Asheville and Buncombe County – have long recognized the system for screening prospective teachers is antiquated and should be streamlined, but flaws have not been addressed to better protect students.

The North Carolina Department of Public Instruction years ago assembled a statewide task force to address the issue, but failed to push its concerns to state lawmakers, who were needed to pass legislation on some measures.

To better ensure the safety of students, the task force recommended that prospective teachers be subject to fingerprint background checks at the state level – a common practice in most states – and investigators dedicated to teacher misconduct cases should be funded within the Department of Public Instruction.

On the national level, and particularly among Southeastern states, North Carolina is known as a “cesspool,” welcoming questionable educators other states have rejected, said Bob McGrattan, former assistant superintendent of human resources for Asheville City Schools.

Shortly before his retirement, McGrattan headed the task force, and in 2010, the group’s two dozen members issued a report with 15 recommendations to strengthen the system and bring it in line with best practices in other states.

Many of the recommendations called for centralizing oversight at the state level, rather than across North Carolina’s 115 school districts, which are now charged with backgrounding teacher candidates.

None of the recommendations were implemented.”

Sad to say but Superintendent Atkinson seems willing to rob the reading program and ignore safety so long as her bureaucracy is fed.