Commentary, News

This Week’s Top Five on NC Policy Watch

ff-609b1. The increasingly intense effort to dismantle public education

Long after this session of the General Assembly has adjourned it will be remembered for more than just the specter of discrimination that hung over the proceedings thanks to the sweeping anti-LGBT law HB2 that was signed into law by Gov. Pat McCrory a month before the session began, creating a backlash across the country against North Carolina.

It is likely to also go down in history as the year that the push to dismantle traditional public schools reached dangerous new levels as anti-public education ideologues and privatization profiteers worked in tandem again to divert more resources from public education to out of state companies and completely unaccountable private schools and religious academies.

The House recently passed legislation that would allow low-performing schools to be put in something called an achievement school district that could be turned over to an out-of-state for profit charter school company to manage.

The controversial plan has failed in other states, most notably Tennessee, but that didn’t stop the House from approving it after heavy lobbying from a right-wing education group based in Oklahoma and anti-public school forces inside North Carolina. [Read more…]

bathroom_mc400hb22. The obvious way to begin to repair the damage to North Carolina from HB2

It has now been two and a half months since Gov. Pat McCrory signed HB2, the sweeping anti-LGBT law passed by the General Assembly that has cost North Carolina thousands of jobs and damaged the state’s reputation around the world.

Rumors persist that legislative leaders are working behind the scenes on some sort of compromise, modifications to the law that will lessen its damaging impact on the state.

There’s talk of a special bipartisan commission headed by former State Budget Director and GOP benefactor Art Pope and former Lt. Gov. Dennis Wicker, a Democrat, that will seek to find common ground on the issues raised by HB2.

A few weeks ago, the Charlotte City Council rightly refused to repeal its ordinance that protected LGBT people from discrimination, scuttling what was reportedly a “compromise” that involved the General Assembly making unspecified changes to HB2 if Charlotte wiped out its ordinance that the statewide law overruled.

Many supporters of HB2 continue to claim that Charlotte needs to repeal its ordinance first as some sort of symbolic show of good faith that state lawmakers and Gov. Pat McCrory will respond to. [Read more…]

Berger_DPI3. As legislative leaders tout teacher raises, educators highlight major shortcomings in the House and Senate budgets

Partway through last week’s unveiling of the state Senate budget, Sen. Phil Berger was asked by reporters if there were any major cuts to speak of in the $22.2 billion spending plan.

Berger, a Republican from Rockingham County with a historically antagonistic relationship with North Carolina’s public education system, indicated that he couldn’t think of any.

The highlight, it seemed, was a dramatically more aggressive teacher pay plan than either proposed by Gov. Pat McCrory or leaders in the state House that would boost teachers’ average pay, with local supplements, to more than $54,000 over the next two years.

The proposal would make North Carolina the top-paying state for teachers in the southeast, Berger and Senate Majority Leader Harry Brown promised, all while adding about $394 million for public education to the budget plan.[Read more…]

gun-sculpture4. Encouraging signs of life in the movement for sane gun laws

The gun lobby still rules, but its decline is increasingly easy to envision

For the millions of Americans who spend their days online or monitoring their smart devices, the arrival of news alerts regarding “active shooters” or “multiple victims reported shot” have become so commonplace in recent years that they sometimes produce scarcely a raised eyebrow. That is unless, of course, the alert recipient has some reason to feel a connection to the venue of the shooting or the people impacted.

As someone who spent his college years at the University of California, Los Angeles, and who knows people on campus in the present day, I had one of those moments last week when the familiar alerts started scrolling across my screen. Within minutes, an exchange of texts with my college roommate of many decades ago ensued.

“Roomie: Ugh, shooting incident at our alma mater.

Me: Yeah watching now.

Roomie: Is it still active?

Me: Looks like it. [A friend’s son] is in grad school there. Apparently, the shooting’s in Boelter Hall, which I barely remember.

Roomie: Yeah, saw that and couldn’t remember if that was the name then. I remember the engineering school. Name is coming back to me now.

Me: [Expletive] guns. [Read more…]

pv-608b5. “Women’s privacy,” huh? Most HB2 defenders sang a very different tune in 2015

On March 23 of this year, House Bill 2, the “Public Facilities Privacy & Security Act”, was introduced in the North Carolina General Assembly, passed in the House and Senate, and signed into law by Governor McCrory.

According to its defenders, the new law is principally about “protecting women and children.” A campaign in favor of the law, “Keep NC Safe,” is well known for producing rally signs that read “Keep Women Safe,” “Keep Children Safe,” and “No Men in Women’s Bathrooms,” thus further perpetuating the false idea that trans people are predatory and dangerous. I have even heard first-hand during meetings with legislators the sincerely-expressed belief that without HB2, voyeurs may feel emboldened to take photos of women while they are using the restroom.

Governor McCrory embraced this argument on April 12 when he announced a follow-up Executive Order to HB2 (which actually did nothing to change the law itself) affirming “the state’s commitment to privacy and equality.”

Now flash back a year to June 5, 2015. On that date, McCrory signed into law House Bill 465, an extreme piece of anti-abortion legislation deceptively entitled the “Women and Children’s Protection Act of 2015” that had passed both chambers of the General Assembly just days earlier. Among other things, HB 465 imposed a 72-hour waiting period for people attempting to access abortion care and, remarkably, required abortion providers to send ultrasound images to the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services of any abortions performed after sixteen weeks. [Read more…]

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