Commentary, News

Last week’s Top Five on NC Policy Watch

1. Controversial plan to allow for-profit charter school takeovers of low-performing NC schools re-emerges

Achievement school districts may be reporting mixed numbers in other states, but the controversial reform model—which could effectively turn over management of low-performing public schools, including hiring and firing powers, to for-profit charter operators—seems bound for a pilot program in North Carolina.

Republican education leaders in the North Carolina House’s Select Committee on Achievement School Districts met for the first time Wednesday, with plans to convene two more meetings in February and March before making a legislative recommendation.

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2. The real test of McCrory’s commitment to helping the mentally ill

Governor Pat McCrory is garnering praise these days for the recommendations to improve mental health services being considered by a task force he created—and he deserves it. McCrory has spoken out passionately about the need for better support and treatment for people with a mental illness or addiction since he became governor in 2013.

But there’s an undercurrent to the work of the task force that McCrory appointed that is sadly familiar and threatens to undercut the progress on mental health that McCrory says publicly that North Carolina needs to make.

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3. The Right’s disingenuous propaganda about “choice”

There’s one thing you’ve got to hand to the politicians, pundits and plutocrats driving the modern American conservative movement: They are genuine champs when it comes to “branding” and pasting smiley faces on policies designed to favor the wealthy, while dividing and excluding everyone else.

In area after area, conservative advocates take hoary ideas traceable to creaky and privileged European theorists of bygone centuries and gussy them up with labels like “rights,” “liberty,” “freedom” and “choice.”

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4. McCrory makes a political decision to listen to a local government—for a change

It’s not very often that a governor issues a press release touting the benefits of a new economic development project his administration has negotiated and then two weeks later says the project is no longer viable, but that’s exactly what Gov. Pat McCrory has done.

The reversal on the proposed CSX railroad hub in Johnston County came after the county commissioners voted to oppose the project after local residents complained about plans by the company to use the power of eminent domain to force property owners to sell their land.

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5. North Carolina now unprepared for next recession

When last week’s blizzard hit, North Carolinians got another reminder that tough times are easier to handle if you’re prepared. Those who stocked up on food and made sure they had a good snow shovel fared best.

It’s the same with the economy. The preparations, of course, are different. What a state needs to weather hard times can’t be bought in stores. We depend on our elected officials to make decisions in good times that will help us get through an economic storm. And the distressing reality is that actions they’ve taken in the past few years actually leave North Carolina more vulnerable – not less.

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