Roy Cooper’s Education Commission: Unelected, Partisan Shadow Group

Back in July, North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper announced the formation an education commission entitled, the Governor’s Commission on Access to Sound Basic Education.

Cooper created the commission via Executive Order number 10. The purpose, as stated in the Governor’s press release, is to help the state “meet its duties under the state constitution as underscored by the landmark rulings in Leandro v. North Carolina and Hoke County Board of Education v. North Carolina.”

Appointees to Education Commission and Blueprint NC

Partisan Pencils - Education CommissionThe new commission will have 17 people appointed to it, ranging from various levels of educators and educrats from around the state to a “501(c)3 non-profit representative.” Two members have direct ties to Blueprint NC as I’ll explain further in.

Much like every education-related panel or commission over the last decade in the state, what is glaringly missing is a parent representative.

Academic-related commission members include:

Fernando Solano Valverde – Teacher representative.
– English as a Second Language Kindergarten Teacher at South Lexington School.
– 2016-17 Lexington City Schools Teacher of the Year.
– Earned his masters and bachelors degrees from the University of Costa Rica.
– No voter registration was found for Valverde.

Melody Chalmers – Principal representative.
– Principal at E.E. Smith High School in Cumberland County
– 2016-2017 NC Principal of the Year.
– Chalmers is a registered Democrat.

Dr. Patrick Miller – Superintendent representative.
– Superintendent of Greene County Schools (9 years).
– Former choral music and theater arts teacher and elementary school principal in Greene County.
– 2014-15 NC Central Regional Superintendent of the Year.
– Miller is a registered Democrat.

Leigh Kokenes – School psychologist representative.
– School psychologist with the Wake County Public School System (WCPSS).
– Named the 2016 WCPSS School Psychologist of the Year.
– Kokenes is a registered Democrat.

Henrietta Zalkind – Early childhood education representative.
– Founding Executive Director of the Down East Partnership for Children since 1994.
– Zalkind is a registered Democrat.

Alan Duncan – School board representative.
– Chair of the Guilford County Schools Board of Education.
– Attorney with Mullins Duncan Harrell & Russell PLLC.
– Duncan is a registered Democrat.

Dr. Fouad Abd-El-Khalick – University representative.
– Professor and Dean of the School of Education at the University of North Carolina at Chapel.
– Abd-El-Khalick is registered as Unaffiliated.

Dr. Stelfanie Williams – Community college representative.
– President of Vance-Granville Community College (VGCC).
– Served as faculty and in several administrative roles, including director, dean, and vice president, at other community colleges.
– Adjunct faculty member for the North Carolina State University College of Education.
– Williams is a registered Democrat.

Dr. Helen F. Ladd – Education researcher representative.
– Susan B. King Professor Emerita of Public Policy and Economics at Duke University’s Sanford School of Public Policy.
– Ladd is known in school choice circles for a paper she co-authored at Duke University. The paper, in a nutshell, attacked charter school enrollment by white parents as being ‘segregationist’. She co-authored that paper with Charles Clotfelter, a Z. Smith Reynolds Professor of Public Policy Studies.
– Ladd is a registered Democrat.

Business, At-Large, and other members:

Charles Becton – Judicial representative.
– North Carolina Court of Appeals judge for nine years.
– Becton is a registered Democrat.

Jim Deal – Business Community representative.
– Lawyer with Deal, Moseley & Smith, LLP.
– Former Chair of the Watauga County Board of Education.
– Former Watauga County Board of Commissioners.
– Appalachian State University Board of Trustees.
– Former member of University of North Carolina Board of Governors.
– Deal is a registered Democrat.

Brad Wilson, Healthcare representative and Chair.
– CEO, BCBS of NC.
– Past Chair of the UNC Board of Governors.
– Former General Counsel to former Democrat Governor Jim Hunt.
– Board member of Education NC.
– Included in Governor Cooper’s press release on the HB2 compromise bill.
– Wilson is registered Democrat.

Mark Jewell – At-large representative.
– President of the NC Association of Educators (NCAE).
– Jewell is a registered Democrat.

James Moore – Public safety representative.
– Rocky Mount Chief of Police. Recently announced retirement.
– Moore is registered as Unaffiliated.

Mark Richardson – County commissioner representative.
– Chairman of the Rockingham County Board of Commissioners.
– Retired colonel with the US Air Force.
– Former middle and high school teacher and principal.
– Member of the NC Association of County Commissioners.
– Richardson is registered as Republican.

Michael Williams – Workforce board representative.
– Executive Director of the Turning Point Workforce Development Board.
– Williams is a registered Democrat.

Education Shouldn’t Be Partisan

Given that 14 out of 17 of Governor Cooper’s picks for this commission are Democrats, it’s not stretch to call this commission partisan.

What’s more than a little shocking is that not one, but two of Cooper’s commission picks (Glazier and Winner) have direct ties to Blueprint NC – the far left, hyper-partisan organization whose mission is to “cripple, slam and eviscerate” Republicans in the state.

Rick Glazier –  Non-profit representative.
– Executive Director of the NC Justice Center, parent organization to Blueprint NC.
– Former Democrat NC state representative.
– Past Chairman of the Cumberland County Schools Board of Education.
– Member of the NC Commission on Racial and Ethnic Disparities (NC-CRED).

An investigation of NC-CRED by American Lens revealed the organization to have questionable dark money ties and a connection to the NC Advocates for Justice PAC, which is named in a campaign finance ethics complaint filed against Governor Roy Cooper.

Leslie Winner – At-large representative.
– Former Executive Director of Blueprint NC’s largest financial backer to date, the Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation.
– Former Democrat NC state senator.
– Board member of NC Justice Center.
– Lillian’s List – Statewide Trailblazer.
– Former Vice President and General Counsel to the University of North Carolina.
– Former General Counsel to the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Board of Education.

Between 2011 and 2015, Z. Smith Reynolds gave Blueprint NC $1,975,000 for “operating expenses.”

Cooper’s Education Commission Is Redundant

Requirements in the Leandro rulings include a competent, well-trained teachers in every classroom, a competent, well-trained principal in every school and adequate resources to ensure every child has an equal opportunity for education.

The “duties” of Cooper’s education commission are identical to that of Leandro.  Also, Cooper’s education commission duties list working with the independent consultant on these areas, yet the court ruling stated Cooper’s commission and this consultant were supposed to be independent of each other.

Fulfilling and staying on top of the Leandro requirements is the role of the State Board of Education and the Department of Public Instruction.

So what is the point of Cooper’s unelected and arguably partisan education commission?

At best, it’s redundant. At worst, it’s a shadow education group with no authority; one that will likely be used first and foremost to dismantle school choice, but also to launch ideological and partisan attacks on every education decision made by the NC State Board of Education, the legislature or by Supt. Mark Johnson.

*This article originally appeared at American Lens News.

About A.P. Dillon

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