Moore County Schools ends contract with Panorama; get refund

RALEIGH — Moore County Public Schools has dropped its survey platform contract with Panorama Education, a company that produces “Social and Emotional Learning” data analysis, surveys, and related materials. 

Moore County School Board member David Hensley posted a graphic on his official Facebook page describing efforts he and board members Robert Levy and Philip Holmes had taken, resulting in an apparent refund of $122,280.

In Spring 2021, the Moore County School Board voted 4-3 to sign and fund a three-year contract with Panorama. Hensley, Levy, and Holmes voted against it. Sometime in the months after that vote, the district’s superintendent and an attorney with Tharrington and Smith apparently agreed and suspended all future surveys even though some of the funding had already been issued.

“Although I don’t know the mechanics, whether we paid for all three years and got a refund, or they just canceled unpaid out years, either way, Panorama isn’t charging us for the last two years,” Hensley told North State Journal. 

In the past year, Panorama has also been criticized for the use of Critical Race Theory, a claim Panorama disputes.

At some point in 2021, Panorama did offer a free online workshop called “SEL as Social Justice: Dismantling White Supremacy Within Systems and Self.” 

While the offering was scrubbed from the Panorama website, The Washington Examiner documented resources for the workshop, including an article called “How White Supremacy Lives in Our Schools,” which characterized rallies held by former President Donald Trump as being symbols of “white supremacy.”

The company also drew scrutiny after US Attorney General Merrick Garland issued a memorandum directing the FBI to investigate parents protesting at school board meetings across the country, and it was subsequently learned that Garland’s son-in-law Alexander ‘Xan’ Tanner, son-in-law of is a co-founder, board member, and former president of Panorama.

Panorama Education had claimed that its products support “13 million students in 23,000 schools and 1,500 districts across 50 states.”  The company has apparently made millions from contracts with school districts across the country since its founding, according to the watchdog, Open The Books.

According to Open The Books’ compilation of contracts spanning the years 2017-2020, there were over $1 million in contracts between Panorama Education and school districts in North Carolina.

Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) initially referred to aiding students in developing personal skills like self-awareness, goal setting, and empathy.

Materials and surveys involving SEL, in particular the shift to the use of “Transformative SEL” which incorporates subjective gender identity and race-based ideologies, have seen increased criticism from parents and the public at school board meetings nationwide.

Similar complaints about invasive surveys were raised in North Carolina about surveys given in schools that invade student and family privacy were captured among the submissions to the F.A.C.T.S. task force set up by Lieutenant Governor Mark Robinson in 2021.

By A.P. Dillon

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