NC education candidate wants to slash charter schools, an education lifeline

NC education candidate wants to slash charter schools, an education lifeline

Baker A. Mitchell Jr.
Published 7:00 p. m. ET Sep. 16, 2020

In most professions, the more education you receive the greater your expertise.

The reverse appears true in the field of education, where additional years of schooling and advanced degrees increase the likelihood that you’ll become part of the problem rather than the solution — viewing every challenge through the distorted lens of bureaucracy, budgets, code words and fads, all of which are hallmarks of education’s bloated and ineffectual establishment.

Jen Mangrum, candidate for North Carolina State Superintendent of Public Instruction, is a case in point.

To the uninitiated, Mangrum’s resume checks all the right boxes: Daughter of two public-school teachers; bachelor’s degree, master’s and Ph.D. in education; and an associate professorship at UNC-Greensboro, where she advances Paideia instruction. 

More concerning than what she’s for is what she’s against. At the top of her list is the state’s Opportunity Scholarship Program, which provides low-income North Carolina students attending in-state private or religious schools with tuition assistance — something Mangrum considers “unconstitutional” and “a complete waste of money,” claiming at a candidate forum that the program is “starving our [public] schools.”

I know something about charter schools. The organization I founded more than 20 years ago, The Roger Bacon Academy (RBA), now operates four Title 1 charters in Brunswick, Columbus and New Hanover counties with more than 2,500 students. Our schools reflect the racial, ethnic and economic diversity of the communities in which they’re located and historically have outperformed the traditional public schools in the same areas.

More than 110,000 North Carolina students and some 3.2 million nationwide attended charter schools last year. These schools are tuition-free and open to all, regardless of race, creed, national origin, religion, ancestry or physical or intellectual ability or disability.

Yet, local school boards, district administrators, teachers’ unions, and even the universities where Mangrum was educated and now teaches are almost universally opposed to “schools of choice,” many of which, including the RBA schools, achieve better results at a lower cost.

If Mangrum wasn’t a lifetime member of this establishment she might realize that many Black and Hispanic parents and grandparents — Democratic Party stalwarts — support charter schools because they see them as lifelines for their children and grandchildren. 

The education establishment wants to slash this lifeline. And Mangrum, apparently, yearns to wield the machete.

Baker A. Mitchell Jr. is founder of The Roger Bacon Academy in Leland, which manages charter schools in Leland, Southport, Whiteville and Wilmington. He is a former member of the North Carolina Public Charter School Advisory Council, the state Charter School Advisory Board, and past chairman of the North Carolina Alliance for Public Charter Schools.