Commentary, News

This week’s top stories on NC Policy Watch

1. PW special report: Our wetlands and streams are worth saving. But it’s incredibly hard to do.

The noonday sun is pounding the crowns of our heads as we hopscotch over cow patties and hurdle an electric fence. We make a beeline for a shady copse of sweetgum trees, whose seed pods look like asterisks scattered on the ground. On one side of a small dam, a pond where cattle drink and excrete is the color and consistency of split pea soup. On the other side, invasive bamboo has created an impenetrable thicket, elbowing out native plants.

The Odell Edwards Farm, near the border of Wake and Johnston Counties, was once one of the largest tobacco-growing operations in eastern North Carolina. But as tobacco fell out of favor, the family turned to other crops and livestock. Many neighboring farms did the same, while others sold their family land to developers.

Now here in this patch between Wendell and Clayton, the Odell Edwards family and other long-time family farmers are allowing the state’s Division of Mitigation Services and the engineering firm Water & Land Solutions to install environmental projects to help save their land and the ecosystem. [Read more…]

**BONUS READ: Environmental test results are in for controversial Aberdeen Elementary School site in Moore County

2. UNC trustees signal they could revisit issue of buildings named for white supremacists

A year ago this month, students and activists toppled “Silent Sam,” the Confederate statue that stood on the campus of UNC-Chapel Hill for more than a century.

Now community members and students of North Carolina’s flagship university are taking aim at what they call another historical eyesore: campus buildings named for slave owners and avowed white supremacists.

The school currently has a self-imposed moratorium on renaming buildings, but this week, university and UNC system leaders suggested that it is possible, and even likely, that the issue will be revisited. [Read more…]

3. New school year brings the Right’s war on public education into sharp focus

There was a time in the United States not that many years ago in which K-12 public education was taken as a given – something as fundamental to the health and wellbeing of society as drinking water and law enforcement and public roads.

It may not have always lived up to this ideal (particularly in places where the great evil of racial discrimination and segregation held sway), but it’s fair to say that the American public school classroom was widely understood to be the glue that brought our broadly middle class society together and moved it into the future, the unifying institution that inculcated the fundamental civic values of democracy, and the place where society combated ignorance and superstition and prepared members of the next generation to build a better world.

Tragically, this began to change in the latter part of the 20th Century. [Read more…]

**BONUS READ: It’s time to hit the reset button on the privatization of public education

4. Future, past of NC death penalty in focus at state Supreme Court

Death row inmates ask justices for life in prison after racial bias infected their trials

Six North Carolina death row inmates are fighting to to spend the rest of their lives in prison without any possibility of parole and to escape an early death at the hands of an execution team.

Four of them were previously freed from death row after they showed that racial bias played a significant factor in the original imposition of the death penalty in their cases. That reprieve, however, only lasted about three years before Republican lawmakers put them “back in the queue” for execution by retroactively repealing the law that had made their claims possible – the Racial Justice Act (RJA). [Read more…]

**BONUS READ: 1940’s Mississippi? No, this happened in 21st Century North Carolina

5. Controversial school takeover program looks to reboot in 2019-’20

In one-on-one interview, new Innovative School District principal admits shortcomings of Year One, expresses confidence going forward

Southside-Ashpole Elementary School in the Robeson County town of Rowland opened last August as the state’s first and only school in the new Innovative School District (ISD).

Lawmakers created the ISD in 2016 with the stated objective of helping to improve academic achievement in the state’s lowest-performing elementary schools, but the plan has sparked great controversy and met significant opposition from parents, teachers and school district leaders (most notably in Durham and Wayne Counties) that strongly and successfully resisted proposed takeovers in their areas.

It is not known yet whether Southside-Ashpole students’ performance on state tests has improved… [Read more…]

6. Legislature’s budgets (mini or otherwise) fail to approach school needs

The General Assembly’s inability to craft a budget generating the requisite support of the Governor or three-fifths of legislators has spurred a new approach: the “mini-budget.” The General Assembly’s latest plan is to forego a comprehensive budget bill and instead pass a series of piecemeal bills to address some of the state’s most politically sensitive needs, such as pay increases and other technical adjustments.

Stop me if you’ve heard this before, but this strategy – while better than nothing – will once again fail to reverse a decade of neglect in providing our schools the resources necessary to succeed. [Read more]

**BONUS READS:

7. Weekly radio commentaries and interviews with Rob Schofield:

 

 

8. Weekly Editorial Cartoon:

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