Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Perdue elevates Harrison, again

Gov.Bev Perdue, rebuffed by the state's courts last year in her attempt to make former Cumberland County schools superintendent Bill Harrison the CEO of North Carolina's schools, has again elevated Harrison to a job that makes him one of the governor's most influential advisors and one of the state's most important policymakers on education.

Perdue said Wednesday that Harrison would not only oversee the state's handling of up to $400 million in federal "Race to the Top" funds to improves schools, but that he would also be chairman of a new Governor's Education Transformation Commission and that he will have a $90,000 salary paid for with the federal funds. The commission he chairs will provide guidance to the state's Career and College - Ready, Set, Go! program, her office said in a news release.

“Both Dr. Harrison and the commission will play an integral role in achieving the goal I have set for all schools in NC: That every child must graduate high school with what it really takes to succeed in a career, in college or in technical training,” said Perdue. “That’s the mission of the Ready, Set, Go! program.”

Last year Perdue hired Harrison with some fanfare to be head of the state's public schools, recommending him as chairman of the State Board of Education and giving him a handsome salary. But Superintendent of Public Instruction June Atkinson -- who had appeared on the podium with Perdue and Harrison when his elevation was first announced -- sued on constitutional grounds, arguing that Perdue did not have the authority to put Harrison in charge of schools. Atkinson's office is one of 10 N.C. Council of State offices whose occupants are elected statewide. Perdue has sought to put Harrison in charge despite, renewing an old debate in this state about who's in charge of schools.  She won that case, but Harrison remained as chairman of the State Board of Education.

But the case really didn't answer a long-lingering question of who ought to be in charge of public schools -- and thus who ought to be accountable to the public.  Atkinson as Superintendent of Public Instruction at least nominally has that authority, but the legislature also regularly makes education policy by what it chooses to emphasize. And as Perdue proved in her appointment of Harrison to handle the "Race to the Top" money, it's the governor who commands public attention on education. 


Anonymous said...

"That every child must graduate high school with what it really takes to succeed in a career, in college or in technical training..." This is an admirable goal, as we know that a high school diploma means little these days without further training. The reality is that 70% of our students graduate and are still in need of remedial education, provided primarily through our community colleges. One would assume then that community colleges are very important, but the lack of funding given to them, whereas they cannot even afford to pay full-time instructors, simply sets up another obstacle in the path to success. Part-time instructors in our state's community colleges are paid so little that one must question whether they can be fully committed to their jobs. If an instructor cannot afford decent clothes, or health insurance, or a trip to the dentist, morale will suffer. Moreover, if a better opportunity presents itself, like a full-time job, instructors who are concerned about their own health and well-being, will leave, sometimes in the middle of the semester. When 75% of all classes at community colleges are taught by lowly-paid part-time instructors, one must question whether we truly value education for all. The opposing viewpoint provided by well-paid community college administrators, that part-time instructors bring valuable experience and knowledge from industry, is, for the most part, specious, disingenuous, and just outright BS. With thousands of classes in English, History, and remedial academic subjects being taught by part-timers who have no industry connections other than academia, we in the community college system are simply providing a sub-par education for those who have already been failed by an irrelevant and outdated public school system.

Anonymous said...

While working in the education system for the last 18 years, I have seen many changes, and heard many promises. The "Education Lottery" was to help elevate our North Carolina Schools and schools continue to struggle while the state uses the money to balance the state budget. Now Governor Perdue has again placed Bill Harrison in a position that pays him a $90,000 salary out of federal funds that were granted for education. What is the mission of the "Race to the Top" funding, paying Administrators, or Educating the next generation? How can we claim to be advancing educatin to a higher level if a students benifit is only more administration?

Anonymous said...

I've always admired Jack's writing, and have been suprised at the lack of comments he gets. But, then I make a comment, and it doesn't get posted. Maybe that's the problem.

Anonymous said...

What IS it about Harrison that Perdue has to keep him around? :-(