According to North Carolina Department of Public Instruction 2022-2023 assessment data, there is not a single assessed subject in which even 40% of North Carolina’s students with disabilities scored “Grade Level Proficient” or above. Stated another way, in 2022-2023, 84.3% of North Carolina’s students with disabilities could not read proficiently in grades 3 through 8, as measured by the North Carolina End of Grade Assessment.

As a father to two sons with disabilities, this is alarming for many personal reasons. As a former public, charter, private, and homeschooling educator with over 30 years experience, who now advocates for all students, but especially students with disabilities, these statistics represent a gross failure of North Carolina public schools to provide students with disabilities a free, appropriate, public education.

Unfortunately, looking at the rhetoric of “Mo” Green and Michele Morrow, the two nominees for North Carolina superintendent of public instruction, it looks like the major political parties have ensured that once again the true needs of North Carolina’s students with disabilities will be forgotten in political theater.

“Mo” Green appears to be the establishment’s candidate. He has locked up many big name endorsements. The usual progressive advocates have already started campaigning en masse for Mr. Green. Yet, a casual look through all of their campaign rhetoric in his favor reveals their campaign is more about the politics of taking a coveted seat on the North Carolina Council of State away from Republicans. I didn’t spot a word about how Mr. Green plans to improve student outcomes, especially the outcomes of students with disabilities.

Michele Morrow, the underdog in the race, defeated incumbent Catherine Truitt in a surprise upset. Mrs. Morrow brings with her the backing of MAGA activists from around the state. But, more important to our students with disabilities, Mrs. Morrow’s inexperience brings with it a lack of understanding of North Carolina’s obligations toward students with disabilities, as spelled out in the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act and North Carolina equivalents. She also has a seeming unwillingness to seek the counsel of anyone with any real knowledge of how to meet the needs of students with disabilities.

Mr. Green’s position seems to fall in line with that of his endorsers. For him, nothing is wrong with North Carolina’s public schools that more money in the hands of the system and adult employees of public schools can’t solve. Let us not forget that Mr. Green is against even the existence of Opportunity Scholarships and Education Savings Accounts+ for students with disabilities.

Mrs. Morrow’s positions are equally as troubling. She seems to believe that nothing is wrong with North Carolina’s public schools that waging culture wars on key, hot-button issues won’t solve. But for advocates of students with disabilities, most troubling are comments she made during her bid for a seat on Wake County Public Schools’ Board of Education.

“I think when you’re combining everyone into the same exact academic classes for every classroom, I think those special-ed students are never going to be able to compete with the gifted and talented students,” she said.

She seems to go on to advocate separating students with disabilities from their general education peers — a move which, without determination of extreme need, is in violation of IDEA and North Carolina equivalents.

“Mo” Green’s position of giving North Carolina’s Department of Public Instruction and North Carolina’s public school districts more money and let the system do the rest doesn’t work. Michele Morrow wanting a position for which she needs far more career training than that which she is getting from her campaign spokeswoman is equally as troubling.

Once again, the needs of North Carolina’s students with disabilities are forgotten due to political extremism.