Commentary

Judge blocks UNC from enforcing HB2 while trial proceeds

Here’s the statement from the ACLU of NC on Judge Thomas Schroeder’s ruling this afternoon enjoining the University of North Carolina from enforcing HB2:

A federal court today granted a request to stop the University of North Carolina from enforcing H.B. 2, the state law that bans many transgender people from restrooms that match their gender identity, against three transgender individuals who are challenging the law in court. In granting the preliminary injunction, the court found that the challengers are likely to succeed in their argument that the law violates Title IX.

The groups that brought the motion seeking preliminary relief, American Civil Liberties Union, the ACLU of North Carolina, Lambda Legal, and the law firm of Jenner & Block are challenging the law on behalf of several LGBT North Carolinians and members of the ACLU of North Carolina. They filed the motion for preliminary injunction while the case proceeds through the court system.

“Today is a great day for me and hopefully this is the start to chipping away at the injustice of H.B. 2 that is harming thousands of other transgender people who call North Carolina home. Today, the tightness that I have felt in my chest every day since H.B. 2 passed has eased. But the fight is not over: we won’t rest until this discriminatory law is defeated,” said Joaquín Carcaño, lead plaintiff in the case.

“We are thrilled that the court put a temporary stop to some of the grave harm H.B. 2 imposes on our transgender clients,” said Tara Borelli, Lambda Legal senior attorney. “This ruling is an important first step to make sure that thousands of LGBT people who call North Carolina home – particularly transgender people – get the privacy, respect, and protections afforded others in the state. As we prepare for trial, we are more determined than ever to ensure equal justice for all North Carolinians.”

The full trial in the groups’ challenge to H.B. 2 is scheduled to begin on November 14. During the trial, the court will also consider challenges to sections of H.B. 2 that prohibit local municipalities from extending nondiscrimination protections to LGBT people.

“We’re thrilled that the court ruled on the right side for our clients today and that our clients are one step closer to being free from the discrimination that this harmful law imposes on them simply because they are transgender,” said Chris Brook, legal director of the ACLU of North Carolina. “We’re confident justice will prevail in the larger case after the judge hears all the evidence at trial this fall so that all gay and transgender North Carolinians will be free from the harm of H.B. 2.”

The ACLU and Lambda Legal lawsuit, Carcaño v. McCrory, was filed days after H.B. 2 was passed by the North Carolina General Assembly and signed by Governor Pat McCrory. In the lawsuit, the groups argue that through the law, North Carolina sends a purposeful message that LGBT people are second-class citizens who are undeserving of the privacy, respect, and protections afforded others in the state.

The complaint argues that H.B. 2 violates Title IX by discriminating against students and school employees on the basis of sex.  It also argues the law is unconstitutional because it violates the Equal Protection and Due Process Clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment by discriminating on the basis of sex and sexual orientation and violates the privacy and medical decision making rights of transgender people.

To read more about the case: https://www.aclu.org/cases/carcano-et-al-v-mccrory-et-al.

No word yet if Governor McCrory, Senator Phil Berger and House Speaker Tim Moore will decry the ruling as the work of an unelected Republican judge.

News

State Board of Education to discuss timeline for charter takeovers next week

Rep. Rob Bryan, R-Mecklenburg, was the chief backer of achievement school districts in the legislature.

Rep. Rob Bryan, R-Mecklenburg, was the chief backer of achievement school districts in the legislature.

State Board of Education members next week will discuss a timeline for phasing in “achievement school districts,” charter takeovers of a few low-performing schools in the state.

State lawmakers approved the new district model in late June, and given the bill’s prescribed timeline, state board members have indicated they intend to move quickly to fulfill its requirements, including the selection of a district superintendent and qualifying schools.

That said, as state officials are expected to explain next week, the approved bill, House Bill 1080, does offer some flexibility on the board’s timeline.

From the board’s agenda:

In the discretion of the State Board of Education (i) the ASD Superintendent may not be required during the 2016-17 school year to recommend qualifying schools for inclusion in the ASD for the 2017-18 school year and (ii) the time line for selection of achievement schools for the 2017-18 school year provided in G.S. 115C-75.7 may be varied, but in no event may the local board of education’s decision occur later than April 1, 2017.  The State Board of Education may select up to five qualifying schools to transfer to the ASD beginning with the 2017-18 school year but shall select at least two qualifying schools to transfer to the ASD no later than the 2018-19 school year and shall have selected five qualifying schools for transfer to the ASD no later than the 2019-20 school year.

In other words, state board members will have some limited control over how quickly the controversial model begins in North Carolina.

Supporters say the achievement school district will provide a boost to chronically low-performing schools, but critics point to the reform’s middling results and troubled finances in other states as reason for concern.

Board members are also expected to take up charter funding, school performance grades and virtual charters in next week’s regular monthly meeting, which begins via conference call at 9 a.m. Wednesday.

 

Commentary, News

This Week’s Top Five on NC Policy Watch

charters_MarcusB1. Former state legislator adds fuel to the fire over how charter schools are funded

When North Carolina lawmakers heard proposals in June to dramatically revamp how charters are funded, public school advocates pleaded for more time.

The bill before the chamber, a state Senate draft authored by a staunch charter supporter would have bound traditional K-12 schools to grant charters access to more pots of public funding. Lawmakers, concerned about the precedent of authorizing such a major change in funding during the chamber’s short session, deferred until next year.

Some said the additional time meant a better chance of compromise in North Carolina’s annual tilting match between traditional schools and charter supporters, who claim that publicly-funded charters are being short-changed by their traditional school counterparts. [Continue reading…]

FF-TeachingFellows-4002. Successful Teaching Fellows program is back…in Indiana?

State lawmakers have finally taken a bold step toward addressing the looming teacher shortage in public schools. The Republican supermajorities in the House and Senate worked with Democrats to create a scholarship program to encourage bright high school students to enter the teaching profession.

Students in the top 20 percent of their high school class can apply for a scholarship of up to $7,500 a year for their four years in college if they agree to spend at least five years after graduation in the classroom as a teacher.

The bill passed the House and Senate nearly unanimously and was signed by the conservative Republican governor with great fanfare at a ceremony in April surrounded by students, teachers, and lawmakers.

The program will gear up this year with the first scholarships awarded for the 2017-2018 academic year.

But there’s a problem. [Continue reading...]


Current land use near polluted Holtrachem site3. In Columbus County, mercury, PCBs and a long-overdue Superfund cleanup point to a larger problem: accountability

The air smells acrid in Riegelwood, where a faint breeze scours your sinuses with the scent of sulfur coming from the International Paper plant. All day long, dozens of semi-trucks, loaded with logs, pull onto John Riegel Road headed for the factory. Here, the wood will be chemically boiled and bleached to make fluff pulp, a material used in disposable diapers.

What you can’t see or smell is nested within International Paper’s property: one of the most contaminated areas in North Carolina. A facility formerly owned by Holtrachem is a hotbed of mercury and cancer-causing PCBs, dioxins and furans. For decades, toxic chemicals from these 24 acres have intermittently drained, at times, even gushed into the nearby Cape Fear River, which runs through Columbus County on its way to the Atlantic Ocean. Mercury has poisoned workers and fish. PCBs, so dangerous their manufacture was banned in the U.S. in 1983, still stain the soil.

Now, after 14 years of being on the National Priorities List — an ignoble register of polluted places known as Superfund sites — Holtrachem is scheduled to be cleaned up. Not pristine, but to the point at which some day, federal and state regulators hope, the land might be safe for industrial use.[Continue reading…]

Timeline: The Holtrachem Superfund site: A long, dirty legacy in Riegelwood

TANF-40024. A major failure for conservative policymaking

Nation’s 20-year experiment with “welfare reform” simply hasn’t worked

One of the greatest strengths of President Franklin Roosevelt – especially in the early days of his first administration when he was conducting what amounted to lifesaving CPR on the American economy (and maybe even preserving the nation’s experiment with democratic government itself) was his candid willingness to try new things. Though he is often castigated by conservatives and lionized by liberals for having birthed the New Deal and the idea that the federal government has a duty to combat poverty, FDR was, at heart, a genuine pragmatist. His ultimate objective was always less about vindicating a particular ideology, and much more about championing action and unleashing what Lincoln called “the better angels of our nature.”

Roosevelt wasn’t against capitalism; heck, his family fortune was a byproduct of it. What he was against was slavery to an ideology that elevated the pronouncements of musty old Englishmen in powdered wigs and knee britches over the real world experiences of average people trying to survive in modern society. He saw the horrific suffering that his predecessor’s unwillingness to tackle the Great Depression had wrought and vowed to keep trying new things until conditions improved. [Continue reading…]

Great Tax Shift5. They cut taxes on the top 1% by how much?!!

Sometimes, the brazenness of conservative politicians in crafting public policy to benefit themselves and their rich patrons is just too much to be believed. Take, for instance, Gov. Pat McCrory and the North Carolina General Assembly. A new brief from the fiscal policy wonks at the N.C. Budget and Tax Center paints a truly remarkable portrait of what can only be described as “government of, by and for the top 1%.”

According to the latest BTC calculations, the tax cuts enacted between 2013 and 2016 in North Carolina will produce, among many other travesties, this remarkable result:

Say you had seven North Carolinians in one room representing the following income groups: [Continue reading…]

NC Budget and Tax Center, TANF 20 Years Later

Redesigning TANF to lift more families out of poverty

The 1996 welfare law that created Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) has many shortcomings, as we’ve detailed in a blog series over the past week. Primarily, TANF fails to adequately support families with children who are poor through cash assistance and meaningful work activities—despite the law’s two core missions of providing a basic safety net and promoting work. The result has been grim, including a shocking spike in the number of destitute families living in crisis despite doing their best to get by.

Some folks ignore poor families’ lived experience over the past two decades and have declared that TANF has been a success overall. They often point to the impressive employment gains—often in low-wage jobs—among single mothers in the immediate years following the law’s implementation. Yet, they ignore the booming economy and the pro-work incentives built into an EITC expansion. Those benefits eroded in the aftermath of the 2007 economic downturn, which resulted in fewer jobs, deeper levels of poverty, and a sharp drop in TANF cash assistance. Economic context is key, and the uneven and weak economy has exposed the fault lines in the TANF design.

Overall, there is broad bi-partisan consensus that Congress needs to redesign the 1996 welfare law to strengthen TANF and support pathways to work that allow families to afford the basics. Big picture reforms should include ensuring that North Carolina and other states (1) serve a minimum level of families and children living in poverty and (2) set minimum levels for cash benefits. These floors would help prevent the drops in TANF’s reach that we experienced over the past 20 years, and, if set at a decent level, would restore some of the purchasing power that has since been lost. Congress should also require states to use more of their TANF dollars on core activities — work, work supports, and basic cash assistance. This reform would ensure that states use TANF to serve truly needy families, rather than supplant state funding and pay for tax cuts. Read more

News

Greensboro Police Chief attends White House discussion on “21st Century Policing”

Last week Greensboro Police Chief Wayne Scott and two staffers attended a White House briefing and discussion on “21st Century Policing.”

Scott told the News & Record the Aug. 16 seminar was “an opportunity for us to broaden our horizons.”

You may remember that the Greensboro Police Department, the center of a number of controversies over the years, was featured in a New York Greensboro Police Chief Wayne ScottTimes piece on racial disparities in policing last year.

According to a Times analysis, black drivers in Greensboro were more likely to be pulled over for routine traffic violations.

They were also more than twice as likely to be searched when pulled over, despite white drivers being found to have contraband more often during searches.

Black drivers also were also found to be four times more likely to be charged with resisting, delaying or obstructing an officer — a charge so ubiquitous that some police departments discourage its use unless an incident involves other, more serious crimes.

The analysis also showed black drivers were five times more likely to be charged for possession of small amounts of marijuana, despite studies showing marijuana use is virtually the same among black and white people.

The Times story led the Greensboro police department to take a number of steps that decreased the racial disparities in traffic stops in just a month.

The city has also been struggling with how to use police body cameras – and what to do with the footage they capture.