“This Is Not an Attack on Educators”

Thurs., Aug. 26: One way to prove you’re not on a witch-hunt is to stalk teachers’ social media + unspent rent help + DTR’s rebound and Raleigh’s missing-middle debate

Department of Corrections: In yesterday’s email, I, being braindead, said North Carolina’s congressional delegation was split 9–4. It’s actually 8 Republicans, 5 Democrats.


1. Not a Witch-hunt

I don’t want to beat coverage of Mark Robinson’s indoctrination task force into the ground. But Renee Sekel, founder of the group Save Our Schools NC, raised a point on Twitter that warranted discussion:

Robinson did say that during Tuesday’s press conference:

  • “This is not an attack on educators or education. This is an attempt to stop the abuse of the teaching profession by a few who are using that profession to put undue pressure on young minds to accept their way of thinking. 

  • Catherine Truitt, the state superintendent, echoed: “I don’t want this report to be about chasing down teachers and issuing reprimands, and I don’t think that’s what the lieutenant governor has in mind.”

And the task force did stalk teachers’ personal social media accounts for “evidence” of their biases.

Let us turn in our hymnals to page 232, the section titled “Tweets and Article” [sic]. The report explains:

  • “This section of the document displays significant social media posts and articles discovered by the Office of Lieutenant Governor Robinson. These tweets and articles are significant due to the blatant use of indoctrination in the classroom by numerous counties, educators, education groups and superintendents across North Carolina. Numerous educators, and support systems for educators, relay that they support including indoctrination materials in the classroom.”

  • That, or they oppose anti–critical race theory legislation, as the first example shows.

  • Figure 2 is a meme about teaching through an antiracist lens.

  • Figure 3 is a meme opposing CRT bills.

  • Figure 4 is a Facebook post linking to a story about building “student-centered math lessons.”

  • Figure 5 is a Facebook post from a government teacher who is wondering how he should respond to a student who asked whether the “We the people” clause in the Preamble really means everyone or if answering truthfully would make him guilty of indoctrination under HB 324.

  • Figure 6 is a 2020 Twitter statement from the Governor’s Teacher Advisory Committee praising Governor Cooper’s commitment to dismantling white supremacy (which is … bad?)

  • Figure 7 is a Facebook post sharing a video on how to help students understand white privilege.

  • Figure 8 is a Facebook repost about books to help you understand your own prejudice and how young people of color experience life (it says nothing about teaching them).

  • Figure 9 is a Facebook post from an adjunct at Wake Tech linking to an article on how white faculty can be allies to colleagues of color.

  • Figure 10 is an NCAE Facebook post about dismantling white supremacy.

  • Figure 11 is a Facebook post from a Buncombe school counselor promoting an event on dismantling white supremacy in the classroom.

  • Figure 12 is a Facebook post by a Charlotte teacher saying that conservatives created the CRT “dog whistle to generate opposition to the teaching of actual facts.”

  • Figure 13 is a meme about ending systemic racism in schools.

  • Figure 14 consists of excerpts of an article shared by a TA that says that education has traditionally been a white woman’s space, which has made it hard for “Black and brown leaders who come to schools without the networks that their white colleagues lean into.” (Honest to goodness, I have no idea what is controversial about that.)

  • Figure 15 is a link to a story called “The weaponization of whiteness in schools.”

  • Figure 16 is a tweet by a State Board of Education member.

Three things here:

  • None of these posts, as best I can tell, supports “including indoctrination materials in the classroom,” to use the report’s wording. I see teachers voicing political opinions about proposed legislation or educating themselves about being more culturally responsive to their students.

  • By using the resources of the LG’s office to track down and include the individual posts of random teachers’ personal accounts—even though the teachers’ names don’t appear, and whether this was the intent or not—Robinson is sending a message that they’re watching.

  • As I noted yesterday, the same constitutional principle that protects conservative teachers from retaliation for voicing their political opinions applies here. Teachers have the right to publicly oppose legislation that affects them, and it seems inappropriate for Robinson to make them implicit targets for doing so.

RELATED: The Senate will vote today on HB 324, Senator Berger’s critical race theory legislation. The question isn’t whether it passes but whether any Dems cross party lines.

ALSO RELATED: The Senate also passed HB 805, which—depending on whom you ask—is either a commonsense approach to reining in riots or a draconian crackdown on protests. It goes back to the House, and I’ll wade into it more later.

2. Where’s the Money?

In the very near future, the Supreme Court will almost certainly strike down President Biden’s eviction moratorium, leaving 1.2 million tenants facing a likely eviction in the next two months.

In theory, the $46.5 billion in rent relief Congress allocated in two pandemic bills would have helped. But in practice, only 11% of that money has actually been distributed.

Housing advocates blame the slow rollout partly on the Treasury Department under President Donald Trump, which they say was slow to explain how the money could be spent. The criteria, while clearer under the Biden administration, was still criticized for a burdensome process that seemed more focused on preventing fraud than helping tenants. (AP/WRAL)

According to the New York Times:

  • “Of the roughly 2.8 million households that have applied for aid, only about 500,000 reported receiving assistance — another 1.5 million are waiting for approvals, while nearly 700,000 have been rejected, according to the estimates.”

  • “And those are just the tenants who have tried to get access to the program: Over 60 percent of vulnerable renters have not even applied.”

  • “To speed things up, Treasury announced another round of changes to the program, including a directive to local officials that they allow tenants to use self-reported financial information on aid applications as a first, rather than a last, resort, while granting permission for states to send out bulk payments to landlords and utility companies in anticipation of federal payouts to tenants.”

Some states have done better than others.

Several states, including Texas, have been particularly effective in ramping up their aid distribution systems, officials said. But many others — especially New York, Florida, Tennessee, Ohio and South Carolina — have been sluggish, making tenants especially vulnerable to displacement once the moratorium is lifted, they said.

So far, New York has spent only about 0.3 percent of its allotted funds, the worst performance of any state, followed by South Carolina at 0.9 percent, Wyoming at 1.2 percent and Florida at 1.8 percent, according to an analysis of the spending by the National Low Income Housing Coalition, a national tenant advocacy group.

North Carolina and its local governments received just over $1.3 billion in rental assistance.

  • So far, the state’s HOPE program, which covers the 88 smallest counties, has doled out about $180 million in rental assistance from its first batch of funding.

  • The remaining 12 counties, which manage their own programs, have about $300 million to spend between them.

3. Downtown Raleigh Bounces Back

This probably isn’t surprising, since there was no place to go but up, but it’s good news regardless:

After more than a year of the pandemic and last summer’s violent protests, downtown Raleigh has seen an upward economic trend over the start of the summer this year, a quarterly report from the Downtown Raleigh Alliance shows.

More new businesses opened than closed and more square feet of office space was rented than vacated in 2021’s second quarter of April through June, the report said. (N&O)

Specifically, the DRA’s Q2 report says:

  • 37 new businesses opened since January

  • DTR has 95.9% residential occupancy

  • There was a 56% increase in food and beverage sales over Q1

  • There was a 35% increase in pedestrian traffic over Q1

  • There are 322 residential units currently under construction

  • There’s also $2 billion-plus in the development pipeline

RELATED: Speaking of Raleigh development, earlier this week, former Raleigh city council member Russ Stephenson—who lost in 2019 as part of a slate of anti-development candidates—wrote an op-ed in The News & Observer arguing that the current council “missed the point” of missing-middle housing.

Rapid growth is making Raleigh’s affordable housing crisis even worse. In response, the City Council recently adopted new rules to allow “missing middle housing” within existing single-family neighborhoods.

When done right, missing middle housing types are infill units such as duplexes and the like, that, by virtue of their smaller unit size and shared walls, are more affordable in price and compatible in size with their neighbors. Unfortunately, Raleigh’s new rules make almost every mistake that experts say missing middle housing rules must avoid.

Daniel Parolek is the housing expert who defined missing middle housing concepts 20 years ago and literally wrote the book on the subject. When done right, he says it is a way to add neighborhood infill dwellings that are smaller, more affordable and that fit in with their neighbors. When done wrong, by simply allowing more density, he says the market will respond by building units that are instead larger, more expensive and more tightly packed.

Livable Raleigh—the Stephenson-allied group leading a recall of Mayor Mary-Ann Baldwin—picked up the thread, pointing to a YouTube video Parolek made of the 5 mistakes municipalities make when enacting missing-middle housing.

In a Twitter thread, development wonk Jenn Truman hit back on Stephenson’s claims.

  • “Raleigh already has rules and protections in place that address the 5 mistakes that Dan Parolek mentions,” she writes. “Despite his recent @newsobserver article @RussForRaleigh KNOWS this because many of those protections were put in place while HE WAS ON COUNCIL. Thanks for those rules.”

  • “Mistake 1 from @DanielParolek is about not allowing forms such as Slot Homes / perpendicular townhomes and Multiple Single Family Homes on one lot. Guess what? Raleigh doesn't allow those.”

  • “Mistake 2 from @DanielParolek is about equating dwelling units per lot and building type definitions. Guess what? Raleigh defines allowed number of units and building type separately in our form-based UDO.”

  • “Mistake 3 from @DanielParolek is about limiting the number of units per lot rather than regulating form. Guess what? Raleigh has a form-based code already.”

  • “Mistake 4 from @DanielParolek is about not regulating ‘house scale’ with width, depth and height. Guess what? Raleigh does this for infill projects.”

  • Mistake 5 from @DanielParolek is about not simultaneously addressing parking requirements as a barrier. Guess what? Raleigh has a text change currently in draft stage (TC-11-21) to reduce parking minimums.”

I won’t pretend that I’ve studied Raleigh’s UDO enough to judge this back-and-forth. But I found it interesting that Parolek weighed in.

4. Why Is Kamala Harris So Unpopular?

NBC’s recent favorable/unfavorable poll is … not kind to the veep.

I’m not here to raise a flag for Harris. But she’s been—to my mind—a rather secondary figure in the Biden administration. In other words, she hasn’t done much of anything high-profile. And yet …

  • Occam’s razor is that she’s a woman of color.

  • I didn’t think she was a particularly strong presidential candidate. But usually politicians have to do something to be hated.

  • What am I missing?

5. On the Precipice of Nuclear Fusion

I’ll end on hopeful news. The National Ignition Facility in California is really close to making nuclear fusion happen.

A US science institute is on the verge of achieving a longstanding goal in nuclear fusion research.

The National Ignition Facility uses a powerful laser to heat and compress hydrogen fuel, initiating fusion.

An experiment suggests the goal of "ignition", where the energy released by fusion exceeds that delivered by the laser, is now within touching distance.

Harnessing fusion, the process that powers the Sun, could provide a limitless, clean energy source. (BBC)

Really close probably means decades, not months or years, but if we figure it out, this is carbon zero.