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The week’s top stories on Policy Watch

  1. Teachers and their supporters flood downtown Raleigh for second consecutive year

Downtown Raleigh came alive Wednesday with thousands of North Carolina educators filling the streets to demand lawmakers increase funding for public schools.

Educators and their supporters began to gather at the N.C. Association of Educators (NCAE) headquarters near the Duke Energy Center before 8 a.m.

By mid-morning, they were marching to the state legislature, chanting slogans and flashing signs, many of which highlighted educators’ five demands to the Republican-led General Assembly.[Read more…]

Bonus links:

 

2. Superintendent Johnson uses new website to gaslight educators

Under North Carolina’s Standard Course of Study, 6th graders are expected to understand the difference between the average and median of a distribution of numbers. So the Superintendent of Public Instruction, Mark Johnson, is certainly aware that you should never compare the median of one data set to the average of another data set. Yet that – along with a score of additional statistical no-no’s – is exactly what Johnson did in rolling out the NC School Finances website last week.

The website gathers a plethora of information on school funding and expenditures. While almost all of the information has been readily available on other sections of DPI’s website for years, this new central repository could be useful for education policymakers, practitioners and advocates (personally, I find the site slow and very user unfriendly).[Read more…]

 

3. Gerrymandering lawsuit stunner: Daughter of deceased GOP mapmaker turns over his documents to Common Cause

The daughter of late GOP mapmaker Thomas Hofeller – the man responsible for some of North Carolina’s most infamous gerrymanders – turned over four of his external hard drives and 18 thumb drives after his death to the plaintiffs suing North Carolina lawmakers.

Stephanie Hofeller Lizon gave the documents to attorneys in March, a month after she was issued a subpoena in the state partisan gerrymandering case Common Cause v. Lewis. No one objected to the subpoena initially, but Phil Strach, who represents the lawmakers in the case, is objecting to the plaintiffs’ decision to refrain from opening Hofeller’s sensitive tax and medical documents and to withhold them from the other parties to the litigation. [Read more…]

Bonus link:

4. House proposes a budget $13 million less than last year’s enacted budget

Late on Monday, the North Carolina House of Representatives released their proposed budget for the next two years. Our budget is a reflection of our state’s values, and this vision falls flat. There is no effort to fix our state’s upside-down tax code, and it falls in line with the decades-long trend of decreasing investments in North Carolina as a share of our economy.

Even as our population continues to grow and public services like education need greater investment, our lawmakers proposed a budget that is $13 million lower than the budget they approved for Fiscal Year 2018-19.

And yet leaders in the General Assembly are obfuscating that decrease by appearing to use the percent increase over the entire biennium of the budget to suggest that they would increase spending by 3 percent from prior years. [Read more…]

5. A testy Senate passes controversial ratemaking bill that would favor Duke Energy

The name “Duke Energy” is so contentious that Sen. Dan Blue asked his fellow lawmakers to forget it. At least for the purposes of passing a bill that would be a ratemaking coup for the nation’s largest utility.

“Move away from the name,” said Blue, a Democrat and one of the primary bill sponsors, on the Senate floor Thursday, “and bring in 21st century practices.”

These practices, enshrined in Senate Bill 559, would allow Duke to petition the utilities commission for a multi-year rate plan, instead of having to request a rate hike hearing more often. “This is very simple enabling legislation,” said Sen. Paul Newton, a former Duke Energy executive. “It simply allows the utilities commission to consider alternative ratemaking.” [Read more…]

6. Saving us from ourselves: PW special report is a reminder that dramatically tougher environmental regulation is essential for human survival

It’s easy enough to understand the kind of thinking that goes into ignoring the dire environmental crises that currently afflict our state, nation and planet. Most, if not all, of us fall prey to it every day when we leave our empty homes with the heat and or air conditioning churning away and fire up our fossil fuel burning vehicles in order to idle in a fast food drive-through line to buy a sandwich that features meat produced in a polluting industrial farm.

Out of sight, out of mind; It’s just natural for humans to be drawn to behaviors and products that make their day-to-day lives easier and more comfortable – especially if the negative impacts of those behaviors and products are seemingly far off, indirect and/or years away. [Read more…]

Bonus link:

Weekly Editorial Cartoon:

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