Tim Morgan, vice chair of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg school board, is leading a new group that hopes to give school districts a stronger voice with state lawmakers. Local boards and "public education as we know it" face "a battle for survival," according to a memo sent to school boards in August.
The N.C. School Boards Association, a nonprofit with limited ability to spend money on lobbying, created the N.C. School Boards Action Center to hire lobbyists and do public awareness campaigns to promote the association's legislative agenda. Morgan, who serves on the association's board of directors, was chosen as president of the new action center board.
"What we face today is a battle for survival, both of public education as we know it and of the model of locally elected board governance of public school system operations," says an August memo from Morgan and NCSBA President Evelyn Bulluck. "Our ability to endure in the face of these extraordinary challenges requires that we recognize and accept the changed environment in which we operate and embrace new ideas and concepts in thinking about how we advocate."
The plan calls for a $431,000 budget, with districts making contributions ranging from $2,000 to $10,000, depending on size. Morgan said CMS is paying its $10,000 share from the superintendent's budget for lobbying.
John Locke Foundation. Terry Stoops, the foundation's education director, said in a recent Carolina Journal article that local board should refuse to contribute. "Tax dollars have no business being used to further the political agenda of any organization, let alone one that operates far from the mainstream," Stoops said in the journal, which is published by the Locke Foundation.
Stoops is quoted as saying the NCSBA is trying to replace current legislators: "They decided to be bridge burners, rather than bridge builders, in their approach to the legislature."
Morgan (a Republican, like the majority in the House and Senate) says the action center's bylaws prohibit the group from endorsing candidates. "Our only function is to support and advocate for the NCSBA legislative agenda," he said.
Morgan said the action center will set up a web site soon. Specific plans, including how many lobbyists to hire and how heavily to mobilize for the limited 2014 short session, remain to be drafted. The nine-member action center board has met only once and will convene for a second time in November, he said.