Commentary, News

This Week’s Top Five on NC Policy Watch

This Week’s Top Five on NC Policy Watch:

Education-top101. A list to counter the election-year spin on education
If you want to cut through the election-year spin about what the folks currently in charge in Raleigh have done to public education in the state in the last few years, a publication released this week by the Public School Forum of North Carolina is a good place to start.

It is the group’s Top Ten Education Issues for 2016, a thoughtful and common sense list of what the Forum hopes the General Assembly and other state policymakers will do this year for public schools.

The recommendations themselves are straightforward and include making more investments—like raising teacher pay to the national average—more accountability for charter schools and schools that receive vouchers, expanding early childhood programs, reforming the stigmatizing A-F school grading system, and addressing the role that race plays in our public education system.

There’s nothing radical here, just a return to the days when public schools were a priority of state leaders, not something funded after taxes were slashed on corporations and the wealthy. [Continue reading…]

virt-chart2. North Carolina’s virtual charters off to a rocky start
Double-digit withdrawal rates raise questions about state funding

North Carolina’s fledgling virtual charter schools are recording staggeringly high withdrawal rates in their opening months. Now public education advocates are asking what happens to the public funding diverted from local school districts to bankroll the controversial pilot program?

According to Alexis Schauss, director of the Division of School Business in the N.C. Department of Public Instruction (DPI), the money stays right where it is.

DPI officials presented sobering reports to the N.C. State Board of Education this month that detailed high withdrawal rates at North Carolina’s two virtual charters, both of which are run by for-profit companies dogged by allegations of lagging student performance in other states.

At N.C. Connections Academy, owned by the British multinational corporation Pearson PLC, the school reported a total of 351 students dropping out of the online school program in the first three months, or almost 20 percent of total enrollment in the school during that time period.
[Continue reading…]

sm12063. Wrapping up the election law cases
The challenge to the state’s voter photo ID law heads to trial in Winston-Salem federal court on Monday, bringing to a close the first chapter of the lawsuits challenging the state’s radical revision of its election laws in 2013.

Here’s a look at what to expect in the months ahead.

Tipping his hand

It’s been nearly six months since the court wrapped up the trial concerning most of the challenged provisions of the so-called “monster voting law” — same day registration, early voting, out-of-precinct provisional ballots – but U.S. District Judge Thomas Schroeder has yet hand down his ruling.

And with the March primaries less than a month away, it’s looking increasingly unlikely that the decision to come will change voting laws as they currently stand.

In part that’s because courts are reluctant to change voting laws when elections are looming. But it’s also because Judge Schroeder may have just tipped his hand late last week as to where he was heading overall in the case when he denied the NC-NAACP’s request for an order blocking implementation of the voter ID requirement for the March primaries. [Continue reading…]


wb-119c4. If the NRA was in charge of climate change policy
The McCrory administration’s irrational “no way, no how” obstruction of the Clean Power Plan
One of the most striking things about America’s climate change deniers is the absolute, near-messianic certainty that they bring to the debate. It’s almost as if they have adopted the zero-gray-area Second Amendment fundamentalism of the National Rifle Association and are aggressively applying it to the question of how we best secure the long-term health and wellbeing of the human species.

Perhaps it’s a mental health self-defense mechanism. After all, if you were NRA boss Wayne LaPierre or the CEO of a company that makes assault weapons for the distribution in the U.S. “market,” how else would you sleep at night unless you’d convinced yourself that your mission was akin to a holy crusade?

So it must be, one presumes, for the climate change deniers in the McCrory administration and the Koch Brother-funded think tanks that propagandize incessantly about the “myth” of global warming and deride environmental advocates as “climate change alarmists.” No amount of mere greed and cynicism could possibly suffice to explain such behavior. If one of the key missions in your professional life is to prevent the adoption and enforcement of policies that an overwhelming majority of scientists believe are critical to preserving something akin to life on Earth as we know it, you must be pretty darned sure of yourself. [Continue reading…]

wb-unemployment-benefits1095. National media site publishes inaccurate claims about unemployment insurance changes in NC

A recent opinion piece in Forbes Magazine wrongly claims that steps North Carolina took to reduce how much its unemployment insurance program provides to jobless men and women (and make benefits harder to collect) are somehow helping North Carolina’s economy.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

The article, written by North Carolina’s rightwing Civitas Institute and one of its business partners, heralds the tax cut bonanza that employers have reaped via as a result of the cuts as driving workers into employment and employers to create jobs.

In reality, North Carolina’s overhaul of unemployment insurance devastated a system meant to protect the economy from lower consumer demand that occurs when job losses mount through no fault of workers.

As policymakers sought to pay down the debt incurred because of historic job loss during the Great Recession and an insufficient Unemployment Trust Fund resulting from years of tax cuts, they pursued a lopsided approach. They called on jobless workers to pay far more through cuts to their unemployment insurance payments, reducing the number of weeks they could collect benefits, making the system harder to access and limiting job training and workforce development opportunities.  [Continue reading…]

jensen***Upcoming event: Crucial Conversation on Wednesday, January 27th — A conversation with Tom Jensen of Public Policy Polling.

Click here to register

With the 2016 election campaign already well underway and early voting for the March 15 North Carolina primary scheduled to commence March 3, this is an excellent time to get fully up to speed on where things stand and what’s likely to happen. Please join us as we discuss these issues and more with one of America’s premier pollsters, Tom Jensen of Raleigh-based Public Policy Polling.

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