Commentary, News

This Week’s Top Five on NC Policy Watch

Stan_Riggs4001. Leading coastal scientist resigns from key state panel in protest

It wasn’t just the political controversy over sea-level rise. Or the Coastal Resources Commission’s defense of a sea-level rise report.

Or state environmental officials, who are allowing 21 eight-bedroom houses to be built on ecologically sensitive and flood-prone land on Sunset Beach.

No, “it was really a slow drip drip” of politically driven decisions, Dr. Stan Riggs said, that ultimately drove the renowned marine geologist away.

A distinguished professor of geology at East Carolina University, Riggs resigned from the CRC’s science panel on July 25 over political conflicts about development and growth on the coast. He co-founded the panel in 1996.

“I believe the once highly respected and effective science panel has been subtly defrocked and is now an ineffective body,” Riggs wrote in his two-page letter.

Riggs also sent his letter to Braxton Davis, director of the N.C. Division of Coastal Management. Davis has not returned message seeking comment.

At stake in the state’s policy decisions are the millions of people who live, work and visit the coast, as well as sensitive marine habitats already jeopardized by development. [Continue reading…]

vouchers-62. More taxpayer funding for voucher schools that openly discriminate against LGBT students and parents

Bible Baptist Christian School in Matthews is one of 336 religious schools and private academies that receive taxpayer funding under the voucher program created by the General Assembly in 2013 and signed into law by Gov. Pat McCrory.

The school collected more than $100,000 in public support for the 2015-2016 school year to pay for the education of 26 students who signed up for a voucher.

But not all taxpayers have access to the school.  Gay students and students with gay parents are banned from attending Bible Baptist Christian School even though their tax dollars support it.

That’s not an unwritten policy quietly enforced by the admissions office.  It is quite explicit that gay students and students with gay parents are not welcome.

Page 76 of the student handbook of the school includes a “Homosexual Conduct Policy” that makes it clear. [Continue reading…]

NC Poverty Research Fund3. “Radicalized concentrated poverty”
Disturbing new report on NC’s largest city is a must read for those who care about our state and its future

The city of Charlotte – bustling with activity, rapid growth and construction cranes and soon to be within shouting distance of a million residents – may seem an odd place to feature in a new report on poverty. The authors of “Economic Hardship, Radicalized Concentrated Poverty and the Challenges of Low Wage Work: Charlotte, North Carolina” acknowledge this truth right up front in their just-released study.

As Professor Gene Nichol and researcher Heather Hunt of the University of North Carolina School of Law and the N.C. Poverty Research Fund note in the opening paragraphs of their report, the city of Charlotte and its home county of Mecklenburg have a long and impressive list of things going for them – a fast-growing population, gleaming office towers filled with the employees of major corporations, giant medical centers, top flight universities, big league sports teams and an outsized share of the state’s wealth and economic output. [Continue reading…]

McCrory ASD4. Gov. McCrory signs off on charter takeover of low-performing schools

As expected, Gov. Pat McCrory has signed House Bill 1080, controversial legislation that will allow for-profit charter takeovers of several low-performing schools in North Carolina.

McCrory’s office announced the signing Tuesday, although the news was buried in a press release about the governor’s signing of legislation intended to help state officials keep track of veterans.

It’s unclear when the governor gave his seal to the bill. On Tuesday, staff at McCrory’s press office did not respond to Policy Watch’s inquiries about the signing.

The bill, which was opposed by most Democrats and public school backers in the state legislature, creates a statewide “achievement school district” for five low-performing schools. [Continue reading…]

604-chart5. Failing charter schools: Inadequate screening and oversight causing big problems for many NC families

Erinn Rochelle says she beat herself up for months after her sons’ charter school unexpectedly shut down during its first year of operation.

“Not only did I put my kids there, I recommended that school to my friends,” said Rochelle, whose children entered the brand new StudentFirst Academy in Charlotte in 2013. “Four or five of them decided to enroll their children there too, and it just makes me feel really bad. My name is tarnished.”

In spring 2014 with about a month left in the school year, StudentFirst was in debt by more than $600,000 and shut its doors, giving only a week’s notice. Rochelle scrambled to get her children into a public magnet school operated by the Charlotte-Mecklenburg school district. [Continue reading…]

Bonus read:

BREAKING: Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals strikes down NC’s Monster Voting law (Updated)

There are 83 pages to wade through — click here to do it yourself — but one thing is clear from the ruling today issued by the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals: North Carolina’s “monster” voter suppression law has been struck down. These are the final two paragraphs of the court’s opinion: [Continue reading…]

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