It’s high time to connect the dots regarding certain “non-profit” voices that seem to always come out supporting the Wake County School Board or the Wake affiliate of the NC Association of Educators (NCAE).
I’m talking about Public Schools First NC, Great Schools in Wake and the Wake Ed Partnership.
I apologize for the length of this article, as it is both too long and yet not long enough to cover the hidden ground game that has gone on in Wake County for too long. Like many in Wake County, I’ve watched for a decade now while these three outfits have to steered and, at times, manipulated public opinion to the benefit of whatever agenda item has been put on the table by their friends on the Wake County Public School Board.
They have been the unofficial public relations office of WCPSS’ board and are currently working in concert to dismantle school choice in Wake County. But it’s not enough to hobble education in one county, these groups are campaigning to put a statewide moratorium on charter schools and are enlisting politicians to carry this message:
Killing School Choice by Choosing For you
These groups, along with the NC Justice Center, are also running a publicity campaign in support of the school board’s future plan to socially engineer all schools in Wake County by reassigning students using a “socioeconomic index” as a proxy for race.
To be clear, this score will mean shuffling kids all over the district indefinitely for the foreseeable future in order to achieve what the school board deems as the right “socioeconomic score” for a given school. This plan is a rehash of 2015, for those keeping track.
I outlined this “socioeconomic index” plan in August (see #3). In short, this plan will put a score on all students and then tallying that to give a score to each school. This is similar to that attempted by The College Board with the “adversity score” which they were forced to abandon after public outcry.
WCPSS’ board wants to attach a socioeconomic imbalance score of every school using the Wake County Economic Health Index. That index includes the following criteria:
- Median Household Income: The median household income in the past 12 months
- Food Stamps: Measured as a percentage of households in each block group
- Rent as greater than 30% of Income: Gross rent as a percentage of household income
- Home Mortgage as greater than 30% of Income: Mortgage status by owner cost as a percentage of household income
- Persons living between 100%–200% of Federal Poverty Level: Ratio of income to poverty level for whom poverty status is determined between 100 and 200 percent.
According to the WCPSS staff presentation in August, the schools below are out of their proposed index goals and will need to be “adjusted.”
- 30 (26%) of elementary schools
- 14 (37%) of middle schools,
- 12 (42%) of high schools
To look at it another way, 74% of elementary schools, 63% of middle schools and 58% of high schools currently are just fine by the Board’s “socioeconomic index score.” Keep in mind, there are many more elementary and middle schools than there are high schools in the district.
The WCPSS staff putting this data suggested that elementary schools should have a goal to maintain an Economic Health Index within 20 percentile points of the County average and Middle and High schools would have a goal of 15 points.
These goals are in motion to be part of a five-year plan and should be met by the 2024-25 school year. That goal will never be met, however, because enrollment will be a constantly moving target.
What does this all mean?
It means the house you bought in that neighborhood with the school nearby that you liked is a wasted investment.
It means that under the board’s reassignment plan, your kid might not go to that school at all. They might be sent instead to a school down the road or one halfway across the county in order to balance the “socioeconomic index” of a particular school.
If anyone out there reading this is a realtor, you saw your bottom line being turned into mincemeat and your head likely exploded.
Public Schools First NC: a PR machine
Yevonne Brannon started Public Schools First NC (PS1NC) in 2014 and still runs it for all intents and purposes. The PS1NC website is registered to Brannon and she is also listed on PS1NC’s creation documentation.
PS1NC’s 990 filings are found at ProPublica. Their 2018 filing has the group sitting on gross receipts of over $181,000. The principal officer of record on their filings is Yevonne Brannon.
PS1NC is a non-profit and started as a project of another Brannon entity called ‘WakeUp Wake County‘. Brannon was Chair of WakeUp Wake County and up until a few years ago still sat on their board. The IRS 990 filings for Wake Up Wake County can also be viewed at ProPublica.
Brannon and her WCPSS Board Pals
Brannon, Susan Evans, Christine Kushner, and Jim Martin all go way back.
Brannon is a progressive political activist first and foremost attending protests from Moral Monday and Planned Parenthood to the antisemitic Women’s March.
Caption for the photo above reads: Yvonne Brannon, chairwoman of Great Schools in Wake Coalition sings with NAACP President Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II at Martin Street Baptist Church. More than 500 opponents of the Wake School Board’s proposal to end busing for socioeconomic diversity gathered at the church for a candlelight vigil.
It’s worth noting that at that time Brannon and Barber were leading protests against the WCPSS Board, Susan Evans was involved.
Evans was elected to the school board not long after and now sits on the Wake County Board of Commissioners. Evans can be seen to the far right in the adjacent photo, was one of the protesters alongside Rev. Barber when he was arrested for disrupting a WCPSS board meeting in 2010.
At the time Barber led his protests against the Wake School Board, Evans was a leader of Great Schools in Wake and was actively coordinating her group with Barber’s.
In addition to Evans, current WCPSS board members Christine Kushner and Jim Martin were also members of GSIW.
PS1NC claims to be nonpartisan, yet all evidence points to the contrary.
During the first year or two of PS1NC’s existence, former NC Democratic Party Chairwoman Patsy Keever was on the board. PS1NC claims to be bipartisan, but their activities mirror that of the NC Democratic Party. The group was also connected to the false Teacher ad that Kay Hagan’s campaign put out when she ran for Senate.
PS1NC has often been a vehicle for the NCAE and their litany of politicking in our schools.
Scroll down mid-way in this 2014 article on the 2014 school “Walk-In” protests that were staged around Wake County. PS1NC helped to organize many of these walk-ins in conjunction with NC Justice Center and the Wake County arm of the NCAE.
Great Schools In Wake Coalition & NC Justice Center
Great Schools in Wake Coalition (GSIW) also tracks back to Yevonne Brannon and, like PS1NC, is a project of Wake Up Wake County.
IndyWeek romanticized its formation in a 2012 article, but the truth known by those of us on the ground at that time is that GSIW formed directly to counter the election of Republicans to the Wake County School Board in 2009.
IndyWeek does manage to pepper in a few tidbits of truth, like the fact the core group who formed it were loyal followers of Rev. Barber and also “a little heavy on magnet-school moms.” Those magnet moms included Brannon and Christine Kushner.
The fact is, GSIW launched a campaign to brand the Republican board members as racists for favoring neighborhood schools over forced busing for diversity. The second part of that campaign was to get their own people elected, which they did.
GSIW isn’t a political organization; nor does it endorse candidates, even in school board elections. It isn’t a formal organization: Rather, it operates on a shoestring budget of about $30,000 last year as a “special project” under the umbrella of the nonprofit group WakeUp Wake County, itself a Citizen Award winner in 2008.
That said, when the 2011 elections in Wake County resulted in a stunning defeat for the Republicans, with all five school board seats on the ballot won by pro-diversity candidates, GSIW was the major factor in the outcome.
Susan Evans scored the critical victory. A coalition leader, she upset Republican Board Chair Ron Margiotta in District 8 (Southwest Wake), widely viewed as in the bag for the GOP. The four other winners also aligned with GSIW goals.
The article then quotes Brannon as saying “We pulled ourselves back from the cliff of re-segregated schools. The community said ‘no, that’s not who we are.’ So we have a chance, and I think we have the right people in place at the right time to move us forward.”
GSIW ties to NC Justice Center are highlighted on the awards page, showing awards given out to Brannon, who served as GSIW’s chair in 2011, and those given out to GSIW by NC Justice Center and Blueprint NC.
NCJC also houses Policy Watch, a left-leaning blog that almost exclusively promotes progressive ideologies, agendas and political and educational wish list items.
NCJS also employs Kris Nordstrom as an education policy analyst who is well known for being virulently anti-school choice.
Nordstrom was part of a PS1NC event in the Fall of 2019 that universally bashed school choice as ‘segregationist’.
He’s also popular on Twitter.
Another “education non-profit,” but this one has all kinds of businesses among its members – most notably, SAS Institute. I profiled WakeEd Partnership in 2015, but some of the players have changed. Also that year, WakeEd Partnership tried to rebrand itself as just WakeEd, but it didn’t really take.
Wake County Public Schools, NC media outlets, and WakeEd Partnership (WEP) have the kind of revolving door relationship usually only seen among lobbyists in Washington, D.C.
WCPSS’s current Communications Director Tim Simmons was a former WEP employee. He was hired in 2014 by the district.
It’s current 2019-2020 leadership includes WCPSS Board members Christine Kushner and Jim Martin, as well as former school member, turned County Commissioner Susan Evans and the newly elected Wake County Commissioner chair, Greg Ford.
In 2015, WCPSS former Supt. Jim Merrill sat on their board. Right now, three past WCPSS principals of the year and the current one, Ruth Steidinger, sit on the WEP board. Heading up the board as chair is John Hummel, who is the General Manager for WLFL/WRDC in the Raleigh.
WEP’s 990 filings can be viewed at ProPublica.
The 990 filings for 2018 show gross receipts of $815, 797. President Steve Parrot and WEP’s financial adviser were the only paid staffers in the 2018 filing, but the overall salaries listed total over $340k. Grants paid out came in at only just a little over $160k and nearly $234k went to “other expenses.”
2018’s income was considerably less than 2017’s total revenue of $3,063,785.
For comparison, 2012 was a typical year and WEP took in over $652k but spent $529k of that on salaries and less than $70k went to their much-promoted “teacher grants” that year.
Just to recap, Yevonne Brannon is at the root of WakeUP Wake County, which has two project groups under it called Public Schools First NC and Great Schools In Wake Coalition. These two groups have served as a de facto public relations firm for their chosen members of the Wake County School Board for the better part of the last 10 years.
In addition to Public Schools First NC, activist groups like WakeEd Partnership, Save Our Schools, the NC Justice Center, the NCAE and NC NAACP are part of the coalition in Wake County.
WakeEd Partnership also has historically had an employee revolving door with Wake County Schools.
These are the same entities who:
- promoted Common Core and silenced parents who dissented.
- have labeled parents choosing alternatives to public schools as ‘segregationists’.
- are trying to shut down charter schools and end scholarships for low-income kids.
- are pushing for people to vote for candidates in favor of stomping out school choice.
- past and current members of the WCPSS board are in bed with all of these entities.
Now they are promoting WCPSS’s proposed experiment of assigning your child and their school a “socioeconomic score” that could potentially ship your child away from their current school while at the same time devaluing your homes.
2020 is an election year for all nine Wake County School Board seats. The filing period opens in June. What starts with parents changes everything.