AIM HIGHER NC Refuses To Name Backers

A website containing a letter urging people to sign a petition to raise teacher pay was pushed yesterday in Charlotte. The website is for a nonprofit group called Aim Higher NC. Ann Helms of the Your Schools blog on the Charlotte Observer notes there isn’t much information as to who this group is or who funds them:

So who is Aim Higher?  The web site provides no clue,  saying only that it is  “paid for by Aim Higher NC.”
Mecklenburg teachers Andrew Shimko and Jasmine Newsom,  Union County teacher Dawn Moretz and Union County parent Jill Carilli are listed as speakers.  (Carilli’s own teacher-pay petition on has logged almost 22,000 signatures.  She seems to have moved to the area from Arizona last summer.)
I asked Rob Black,  who sent the news release about the Charlotte event,  to explain more about the group.  Black said he’s employed by Aim Higher,  which is made up of teachers,  parents and others,  but he declined to say who’s footing the bills.
“Our funders have asked to remain anonymous,”  he said.  “You see what happens when people speak out.  They often end up targeted for retribution.”


There isn’t much out there on any of the speakers, but I did find a rather theatrical testimony from Dawn Moretz to the Union County School Board. You can view it here.

Helms is right. The website is a one pager with next to no information on it. A WHOIS shows it’s registration is protected. The petition, as Helms notes, was put up by self-described political operative and former Teamster, Rob Black, but noting else. The only tip-off seems to be that it claims to be nonprofit. Helms has an update at the bottom which mentions who filed the application for incorporation.  I did the same thing.

The search of the NC Secretary of State turned up a placeholder to reserve the name. It was filed by an attorney named Sabra Faires of the Bailey Dixon law firm in Raleigh. Faires profile says she deals mainly in tax work, so why is she being used to file incorporation paperwork for a group refusing to identify who backs them?  The letter references Jim Hunt a lot. Faires was appointed by Hunt to the tax commission. Maybe that’s the common link, who knows at this point.

Prior to joining Bailey Dixon, Faires was the former chief of staff to House co-speaker to Rep. Morgan . In fact, she was Morgan’s chief of staff during the whole Jim Black-Meredith Norris scandal. For a quick refresher on part of it, read: Lobbyist Calls Legislator “Nutcase”.

*This section was updated to correctly reflect Faires was Morgan’s chief of staff.

Aim Higher NC Social Media & Websites

The group has the usual Facebook  (created January 7th) and Twitter account too. Per Facebook, they seem to be fans of Senator Stein. I asked them via Twitter for comment on who funds them:

@AimHigherNC No comment on who funds your group? #Ncpol #NCed

— LL1885 – A.P. Dillon (@LadyLiberty1885) January 31, 2014

No answer yet, if they do I’ll update. Unsurprisingly, Progress NC Action’s Twitter feed is littered with retweets of Aim Higher NC. Wouldn’t be shocking if they were behind it somewhere.

A quick search pulls up 3 groups that have posted this Aim Higher petition letter on their sites. I have them arranged by date posted:

NCAE? Not surprising, but we might be getting warmer as to who Aim Higher NC is. A familiar name hit me in an article about Aim Higher at the News and Record; emphasis added:

Spanish teacher Todd Warren can’t support his family of four on his salary alone.

So, he and his wife work. They keep the heat low or off whenever possible. Both drive cars that are 10 to 15 years old and hope they don’t break down.

“Yes, we’re middle class, but we’re part of that disappearing middle class that is just one disaster away from poverty,” said Warren, who teaches at Guilford Elementary.

He and other teachers shared similar stories Wednesday at a news conference organized by the nonprofit group Aim Higher North Carolina. They called on state lawmakers to raise their salaries to the national average or better.

Todd Warren. The same one who is clearly an administrator for the Organize2020 Facebook page. What are the odds of that? Warren even added fellow Aim Higher NC protester, Dawn Moretz, to the group a few months ago:

Hey, Remember Organize2020?

That article mentioning Todd Warren prompted me to check on how our Union desiring “member led wing” of NCAE was doing. If you recall, the NCAE tried to downplay their ties to Organize2020 during the Walk-IN? The media, like WRAL, helped them avoid that quite a bit.

Well, now that the noise from the Walk-in protest flyer than came home in little kids backpacks has died down and no one is paying attention anymore, that’s totally changed. Organize2020 is being made an official caucus of the NCAE according to their events page on their website and on Facebook:

Relevant sections from the website:

  1. On Saturday, February 15th, join us at 700 South Salisbury Street in Raleigh for a one-day activist training co-hosted by the NCAE and Organize 2020. Register here (limit 200 registrants, deadline is February 7 at 5pm.
    • Learn how to organize and mobilize educators around public education.
    • Gain confidence in leading conversations around public education issues by better understanding current political climate.
    • Leave with tools to you organize your building and build capacity for change. Register now!
  2. On Saturday, March 8th, join us in Greensboro for Organize 2020’s second organizing conference where, in addition to turning school workers into activists by enhancing their understanding of how to fight against the attacks on NC public schools, we will celebrate Organize 2020′s official recognition as a caucus of the NCAE.

So, anyone still questioning that Organize2020 is basically the NCAE’s arm for protesting?

They also plan to participate in the Moral Monday NC NAACP’s HK on J rally. Also, don’t miss Organize2020’s  latest action item, Decline to Sign. Organize2020 and the NCAE are doing this one hand in hand. Likely a lesson learned from the petition the NCAE claimed they had little to nothing to do with, yet had Wake NCAE President Larry Nilles as the return mailing address at the bottom.

“Send those completed petitions to Larry Nilles, c/o Wake NCAE, 3900 Merton Drive, Suite 100, Raleigh, NC 27609

What I find interesting is that in all of these protests and complaints about teacher pay, I have yet to see the NCAE or any teacher group complain or question Common Core or it’s looming estimated $642 million in implementation costs coming to the NC taxpayers in the near future. NC’s Race To The Top grant expires this year and the state did not win any new funds. Watch for DPI to ask the legislature for more money. Either something in the current budgets will get squeezed, the legislature will have to hike taxes or both will happen in order to pay for Common Core.

Given Aim Higher NC’s touting of Jim Hunt, who is flooding NC with Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation money to push Common Core, it seems likely they won’t be mentioning it. That’s a shame, because Common Core costs will likely hamstring budgets for teacher raises and supplements across the state at some point.

I’ve heard directly from teachers who say Common Core was dumped on them, that they are more like data entry technicians than teachers and that the testing and age appropriateness of it is horrific. Yet their major advocate, the NCAE is silent.

What exactly do you pay dues to the NCAE for, teachers?

About A.P. Dillon

A.P. Dillon is a freelance journalist and is currently writing at The North State Journal. She resides in the Triangle area of North Carolina. Find her on Twitter: @APDillon_
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