News

Final appointments have been made today to a North Carolina political commission tasked with reviewing the implementation of the Common Core State Standards—well past a September 1 deadline by which the commission was required by law to hold its first meeting. The first meeting will take place Monday, September 22.

Governor Pat McCrory was one of the last state leaders to make his lone appointment to the commission, IBM executive Andre Peek.

“Andre Peek has a long history of service to our students and a track record of excellence in business,” McCrory said in a press release Tuesday afternoon. “His understanding of market-based industry needs will make him an invaluable member of North Carolina’s Academic Standards Review Commission.” Read More

News

New polling data by American Insights shows Democratic U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan with a nine point lead over Republican challenger Thom Tillis among likely voters this November. Elon University’s poll shows the race closer – with Hagan enjoying a 45 to 41 percent margin over Tillis, with nine percent of likely voters saying they would vote for someone else. (Libertarian Party candidate Sean Haugh will be on the ballot, but was not mentioned by name in the Elon poll.)

Catawba College political scientist Dr. Michael Bitzer says what’s interesting from his perspective is that the tens of millions of dollars in advertising that has flooded the airwaves has really had little impact on voters.

Bitzer joined us last weekend on News & Views with Chris Fitzsimon to discuss how Hagan and Tillis connected with voters in the most recent debate, and how undecided voters may ultimately decide how they will vote based on their impressions of the N.C. General Assembly and Congress.

What impact could Governor Pat McCrory have on the race?  Check out today’s Fitzsimon File.

To hear our full radio interview with Dr. Michael Bitzer, click below:

For an excerpt, click here:
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NC Budget and Tax Center

Economic hardship persisted at high levels in the nation and North Carolina in 2013, according to new figures released today from the Census Bureau’s Current Population Survey (CPS). The 2013 national poverty rate was 14.5 percent, down from 15 percent in 2012 but still well-above pre-recession levels four years into the official economic recovery. There were 45.3 million Americans living below the official federal poverty line, which was $11,490 for an individual and $23,550 for a family of four in 2013.

There is broad consensus that poverty rates will not drop to pre-recession levels anytime soon. And, two economic factors suggested that poverty rates would remain elevated in 2013, as the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities explains. First, the economy is growing but those gains continue to bypass middle- and lower-income families and are mostly benefitting the wealthy. Second, lawmakers enacted austerity measures in 2013 that reduced public contributions to the economy and failed to put children, families, and communities on a better path forward. Read More

Commentary

The fallout from our nation’s decades-long effort to slash taxes on wealthy individuals and profitable corporations (and the public structures those taxes once provided) continues to spread. The Washington Post reports that the growing gap between the super rich and everyone else is directly and negatively impacting state government budgets:

Income inequality is taking a toll on state governments.

The widening gap between the wealthiest Americans and everyone else has been matched by a slowdown in state tax revenue, according to a report being released Monday by Standard & Poor’s.

Even as income has accelerated for the affluent, it has barely kept pace with inflation for most other people. That trend can mean a double whammy for states: The wealthy often manage to shield much of their income from taxes. And they tend to spend less of it than others do, thereby limiting sales tax revenue….

Rising income inequality is not just a social issue,” said Gabriel Petek, the S&P credit analyst who wrote the report. “It presents a very significant set of challenges for the policymakers.”

Stagnant pay for most people has compounded the pressure on states to preserve funding for education, highways and social programs such as Medicaid. The investments in education and infrastructure also have fueled economic growth. Yet they’re at risk without a strong flow of tax revenue.

Meanwhile, this week’s most stunning visual of the nation’s mushrooming inequality comes from the U.S. Federal Reserve, courtesy of the good people at Too Much Online: Read More

Commentary

WRAL.com has a featured story this morning about the state sponsored form of child abuse known as “corporal punishment.” You know — that’s the thing the state law prohibits prisoners and animals from being subjected to, but approves for children as an a tool of “education.” The issue is in the news again these days because of the arrest of a famous football player for beating his child with a tree branch (to the point at which cuts and bruises were inflicted). The beating was apparently inflicted  because the child pushed another child away from a video game.

One encouraging aspect of the story if that so-called corporal punishment is slowly but surely dying out. As with the death penalty, opposition to same sex marriage and efforts to block Medicaid expansion in the states, the truth is wearing down the defenders of this long-discredited practice. As NC Child’s Tom Vitaglione told WRAL:

“There’s been no evidence this makes a difference in terms of behavior or academic improvement  In North Carolina, the end-of-year grades and graduation rates have been going up for the last decade. At the same time, use of corporal punishment dropped dramatically.”
As the story also notes, however, child beating remains an officially sanctioned part of our public education system in several North Carolina counties — most notably, one of the state’s poorest counties, Robeson. Now here’s perhaps the most shocking part of the story: In the  2102-2013 school year, 203 North Carolina children were subjected to state-sanctioned beatings. Of that number, 128 – fully 63% — were Native American children! According to the Census Bureau,  Native Americans make up 1.6% of North Carolina’s population.
Of course, these amazing numbers are chiefly due to the situation in Robeson — where Native Americans make up a sizable chunk of the population. Robeson County school leaders are conducting most of the beatings — nearly 70%. It’s perhaps worth noting at this point that Robeson is also the county that so readily sentenced Henry McCollum to death.There are many other disturbing numbers in the story — the fact that 21 Kindergartners were subjected to beatings and that six children were beaten for “cell phone use” stand out — but if for no other reason than the obvious racism of a system that subjects 1.6% of the children to 63% of the punishments inflicted, North Carolina leaders must step up to the plate and end this absurd violence ASAP.