Updated: Jan 27
DPI's Director of Government Affairs is married to an education lobbyist for companies using Critical Race Theory-themed curriculums. The advocacy group claims they were publicly targeted by the Superintendent and her Director because of a conflict of interest.
RALEIGH, NC –– Today, Education First Alliance (EFA) called for the State Ethics Commission to investigate whether the Director of Government Affairs for the Department of Instruction (DPI), James "Jamey" Falkenbury, abused his position to influence the outcomes of public funding requests in favor of his wife. The latter is a registered education lobbyist in the state.
EFA President Sloan Rachmuth said, "For months from his government perch, Jamey Falkenbury has tried to thwart our parent groups' efforts to stop Critical Race Theory (CRT), and now we want to know if he has done so to protect his wife's clients who provide educational content based in CRT paid for with our tax dollars. Falkenbury's actions go far beyond typical constituent service and likely violates Ethics rules."
On June 1, 2021, Falkenbury sent an email to North Carolina legislators, Republican Party officers, journalists, and conservative activists in the state defending the DPI's practices and slamming EFA. From the email:
"As you receive any other information from this fringe group, please do not hesitate to reach out to our team directly if something doesn't sound right. Knowing these people personally that are behind these emails, their purpose is to fundraise first and then market themselves to lift up their profiles second. If they were not receiving donations for these purposes, they would be muckraking something else to make a buck. They are using fear and misinformation to stay relevant and confuse the general public and elected officials."
According to EFA's complaint, Falkenbury was unhappy that EFA had its members call for legislators to defund programs based on Critical Race Theory and Social Emotional Learning - like the programs his wife lobbies for in the North Carolina Legislature- because of the financial damages that might hit his household. In his email, Falkenbury claimed he was writing at the behest of the State School Superintendent. However, the press secretary for DPI has denied that Catherine Truitt authorized him to communicate to the general community according to EFA. Furthermore, Falkenbury's communicating from his personal email while using his official title and with the imprimatur of the DPI would undermine his potential claims of acting in his official government role, the claim states.
"It appears that Jamey Falkenbury has regularly abused his position as DPI's Director of Government Affairs to advance his wife's interests," Rachmuth continued. "Both he and the Superintendent have tried to discredit and deplatform our members at every turn, and now we think we know why."
As a supplement to EFA's Ethics filing, the group posted three disclosure documents that Falkenbury apparently filed with the State Ethic's Commission in the Spring of 2021: One dated February 1, 2021; the second dated February 24, 2021, and the third one dated April 15, 2021.
"In filings, Falkenbury seems to hide the fact that his wife's clients get state funding for pre-school and charter school programs, said Rachmuth. "From what I see, Falkenbury also omits that Superintendent Truitt placed him on the Charter School Advisory Board, so the State Ethics Commission should immediately investigate his actions."
2:30PM UPDATE Superintendent's Truitt press secretary wrote to EFA's President:
Sloan – seeing your story and perhaps I’m misunderstanding but there is a line in there that the press secretary “denied that Catherine Truitt authorized him to communication to the community.”
It should say, the press secretary “confirmed that Catherine Truitt authorized him to communicate to the community.”
Rachmuth responded, in part:
"You did NOT confirm that Falkenbury was authorized to communicate with the community when I asked you and you were presented an email circulated to GOP officials. However you DID respond that Falkenbury was authorized to email the General Assembly only. It was your office that narrowed Truitt’s approval to members of the General Assembly when I gave you the opportunity to have Truitt say she authorized all groups to receive his June 1 email."
"What I will do now is report that after seeing our ethics complaint, our press release, and Falkenbury’s three SEI filings, the Superintendent has changed her answer to our question. I will also amend our Ethics complaint to reflect the various stories coming out of your office."
We have added the word "general" to the phrase "general community" to clarify the Superintendent's intended response to our questions related to Falkenbury's June 1 email.
Read the historical email chain below.
Education First Alliance is a nonpartisan, nonprofit advocacy group fighting for student achievement, moral development, and appreciation for America's unique heritage and government in public school policies and curriculum.