Education

Company tied to rich donor recommended to take over low-performing NC school

Mike Lee, Chair of Durham's Board of Education, spoke at an Oct. 3, 2017 event against a proposal to include Durham schools in the new Innovative School District. Southside Ashpole Elementary in Robeson County was eventually chosen instead. for the program where the state is taking over low-performing schools to be run by an outside company.
Mike Lee, Chair of Durham's Board of Education, spoke at an Oct. 3, 2017 event against a proposal to include Durham schools in the new Innovative School District. Southside Ashpole Elementary in Robeson County was eventually chosen instead. for the program where the state is taking over low-performing schools to be run by an outside company. ctoth@heraldsun.com

A company tied to a wealthy libertarian donor who helped pass a state law allowing the takeover of low-performing North Carolina schools is now being recommended to run one of those schools.

Eric Hall, superintendent of the Innovative School District, told the State Board of Education on Monday that Achievement For All Children was the better choice among two groups that want to run Southside Ashpole Elementary School in Robeson County. Achievement For All Children is heavily connected to Oregon resident John Bryan, a generous contributor to political campaigns and school-choice causes in North Carolina.

Hall said in a written statement that Achievement For All Children "demonstrated a strong commitment to implementing a comprehensive system of support to serve the needs of all students at Southside Ashpole." He also said that TeamCFA, which would partner with Achievement For All Children, will "offer a rigorous and research-based curriculum."

TeamCFA is a charter school network that Bryan founded.

The State Board of Education could vote in April on the five-year contract to run Southside Ashpole Elementary.

The Innovative School District was created by Republican state lawmakers to take up to five low-performing elementary schools away from local school district control and turn them over to a group, either for-profit or nonprofit, to run. Supporters say it’s a way to help raise student achievement while critics say the model, which has been used in other states, is a way to privatize education.

The Michigan-based for-profit Romine Group and the nonprofit Achievement For All Children, based in Forest City, applied to run Southside.

Achievement For All Children was formed in February 2017 and registered by Tony Helton, the chief executive officer of TeamCFA. The board of directors for Achievement for All Children includes former Rep. Rob Bryan, a Republican from Mecklenburg County who introduced the bill creating the new district.

In a letter posted to the network’s website in April, John Bryan said his commitment of “significant economic resources” — contributions to politicians and nonprofit “social welfare” groups, and the engagement of investment advisers and others — helped win legislative approval of the North Carolina law allowing for takeover of low-performing schools.

John Bryan has contributed about $600,000 to legislative candidates in North Carolina, most of them Republicans, and GOP political committees from 2011 to 2016. Included is a $100,000 contribution to a group supporting GOP candidates for the state Supreme Court. He contributed $50,000 to a political action committee called Truth & Prosperity, set up to support Republican Lt. Gov. Dan Forest. Forest is a member of the State Board of Education.

T. Keung Hui: 919-829-4534, @nckhui
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