As lieutenant governor, Dan Forest serves as a member of the North Carolina State Board of Education. One of the responsibilities of this role is to vote on whether or not the state approves new charter schools. Forest has leveraged the position to rubber stamp approvals, often for wealthy donors who contribute to his various fundraising committees: The Committee to Elect Dan Forest, his super PAC Truth and Prosperity, and the Republican Council of State Committee, which Forest chairs. Between his various committees, Forest has collected nearly $168,000 in donations from for-profit charter operators and individuals connected to them.
John Bryan is a wealthy Oregon businessman with a libertarian bent who donates heavily to charter school proponents. Bryan founded TeamCFA, an organization that helps to set up and manage for-profit charter schools. Forest-aligned committees have collected more than $60,000 in donations from Bryan alone.
Bryan championed and took credit for legislation allowing Innovative School Districts, or ISD, where a private entity takes over underperforming public schools. The Charlotte-based Achievement for All Children (AAC), connected to TeamCFA and Bryan, won approval to take over operations of Southside Ashpole Elementary School in Robeson County, passing in a split 7-4 decision by the State Board of Education. Forest voted in favor of the takeover.
The Charlotte Observer editorial board slammed the decision to allow AAC control, suggesting that, “At the least, it’s horrible optics. At worst, it appears that North Carolina may have been scammed.”
As the editorial stated, “Hiring AAC is, simply, an embarrassment, and any school board member voting to move forward with the company is doing a disservice not only to the students of Southside Ashpole, but to the Innovative School District overall.”
The connection between Forest and wealthy for-profit school donors raises questions about whether campaign money guides the way he votes as a member of the Board of Education.