Commentary, News

virtualschool21. New policy eliminates daily student attendance reporting requirements for state’s new virtual charter schools

The North Carolina State Board of Education quietly approved a policy last month that could allow the state’s two brand new virtual charter schools to avoid recording and reporting daily student attendance, and stipulates that the virtual schools would only lose their state funding for a student if he or she fails to show any “student activity,” —as defined by the for-profit charter operators—for at least ten consecutive days.

“The kids don’t physically show up [to school], so we needed a different way to account for how students are learning,” said State Board of Education chair Bill Cobey on Tuesday of the new policy. “The virtual charter schools still have to show that students are regularly attending school.” [Continue reading…]

PerformanceD2. Another round of stigmatizing grades for low-income schools

State education officials released the results of the second year of the troubling A-F school grading system Wednesday morning and just like the results last year, they are more of a statement about poverty than a meaningful measurement of how well students are doing at school.

Just over 98 percent of the schools that received an F grade have more than 50 percent of their students eligible for free and reduced lunch while 94 percent of schools that earned a D had a majority of students who qualify for the federal lunch program.

Eighty percent of the calculation of the letter grades is based on student test scores while only 20 percent is based on much the scores improve from year to year. That means no matter how much students at a low income school improve, it’s very difficult for poor schools to receive a higher letter grade. [Continue reading…]

Earls8313. Race, not politics, drove 2011 redistricting, plan challengers tell the state’s high court

Attorneys in the cases challenging the state’s 2011 redistricting plan were back before the state Supreme Court Monday morning, arguing whether certain of the districts survive constitutional scrutiny under the U.S. Supreme Court’s recent decision in Alabama Legislative Black Caucus v. Alabama.

A majority of the justices here had upheld the challenged districts in a December 2014 decision, which had since been pending at the nation’s highest court until the justices there vacated the decision and remanded it back for further review.

Like their counterparts in Alabama, state lawmakers here drew voting maps based upon statistical formulas they claimed were necessary to avoid Voting Rights Act liability, with little regard to what had been happening on the ground in terms of minority political control. [Continue reading…]

wb-90120154. Will workplace fraud reforms be stopped just short of the goal line?
Despite overwhelming bipartisan support, legislation to crack down on cheating employers has mysteriously stalled

It may sound surprising coming from one of the North Carolina General Assembly’s most frequent critics, but in a legislative session marked by ideologically-driven moves to:

  •     further undermine public education,
  •     deny health insurance to hundreds of thousands,
  •     advance a far right social agenda and
  •     cripple state government revenues now and in the future,

there have actually been some bright and important areas of common ground and bipartisanship. One of the most notable and potentially far reaching involves efforts to clamp down on outlaw businesses that cheat their workers, taxpayers and competitors by not following basic norms of employment law. [Continue reading…]

pv-ccnc5. Lawmakers target successful, homegrown program for at-risk babies and mothers for elimination

This is a true story. It’s about a smart, homegrown program embedded in our state’s communities that has made tremendous progress in ensuring North Carolina mothers-to-be have healthy babies who grow up in healthy families. Unfortunately, this story may not have a happy ending, because state lawmakers are seriously considering dismantling the program this year.

It starts not long ago, in a Piedmont county in North Carolina, when a pregnant woman without health insurance went into labor, went to a hospital and delivered her child. It had been an unintended pregnancy, and her abusive domestic partner would not let her see a doctor for prenatal care before the birth. [Continue reading…]


This weekend on News & Views with Chris Fitzsimon, we sit down with MaryBe McMillan of the North Carolina AFL-CIO to talk about the employment outlook and efforts to raise the state’s minimum wage.

According to the North Carolina Justice Center, nearly 6 out of every 10 new jobs created since the end of the Great Recession are in industries that pay poverty-level wages.

Raising the minimum wage to $10 an hour would benefit  approximately one million workers in North Carolina, pumping more money into local communities.

McMillan says that she has been encouraged this year by  campaigns to ensure that local government employees receive a living wage.

Click below for a preview of McMillan’s radio interview with Policy Watch. For more on the impact of raising North Carolina’s minimum wage, check out this fact sheet by the Workers’ Rights project.

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The State Board of Education released the second annual school performance report cards Wednesday showing that over 72 percent  of the state’s traditional public schools earned a letter grade of “C” or better.

The A-F grading scale is based 80 percent on the school’s achievement score and 20 percent on students’ academic growth.

Almost 28 percent of the schools received a D or F on the latest report card, though it’s worth noting that those are schools where more than 50 percent of the students come from economically disadvantaged backgrounds.

“We know that students who come from poor circumstances often make significant academic growth each year, but they often begin school behind their more affluent peers and have many obstacles to overcome,” explained State Superintendent Atkinson. “Many of our children living in poverty do not have access to preschool education – a well-researched strategy for improving student achievement.”

State Board of Education Chairman Bill Cobey believes the letter grades “provide a springboard” for parents to learn more about a schools’ performance in reading, math and science.

Critics of the A-F school letter grades contend they simply show where poor children go to school without providing a deeper understanding of how well schools are educating students.

Here’s a snapshot of how all schools performed:

Performance grades for all schools

Source: NCDPI


The new data from the state Department of Public Instruction also shows a clear correlation between D and F schools and the level of poor and disadvantaged students attending those schools:

Grade Shools Povery Percentages

Source: NCDPI

How did your child’s school fare? Click here to find out.


Dr. Scott Ralls, who has led North Carolina’s Community College system for the past seven years, departs this week to take over the helm of Northern Virginia Community College.

Ralls spoke with Chris Fitzsimon over the weekend on NC Policy Watch’s radio show about what he’s achieved during his presidency and the challenges that lie ahead for North Carolina’s 58 community colleges.

Click below to hear Dr. Ralls discuss the struggle to attract and retain high-quality faculty, and the need for the state to continue to keep its community colleges as affordable as possible.

The entire interview is available as a podcast here on the main NC Policy Watch website.

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Arguments over North Carolina’s 2011 redistricting maps will be back before the state Supreme Court this week. At the same time, America’s Journey for Justice will be making its presence known with several public events focused on voting rights.

This evening in Raleigh, the NC NAACP will hold a voting rights teach-in on the current fight against voter suppression. The teach-in begins at 7:00 p.m. at Pullen Memorial Baptist Church, 1801 Hillsborough St. Raleigh.

On Tuesday, participants will hold simultaneous press conferences and letter deliveries in 17 cities across our state, urging elected representatives to support legislation before Congress to restore the Voting Rights Act.

“We’re asking them to put out a public statement of where they are,” explained NC NAACP President William Barber in a press conference.

“Own where you are. If you’re not for the Voting Rights Act, say it. If you’re for it, say it.”

Coming up Thursday, marchers will descend on Bicentennial Mall (16 W. Jones St. Raleigh) at 5:00 p.m for a massive voting rights rally.

Click below to watch North Carolina NAACP President Rev. William Barber discuss Tuesday’s actions. Click here to learn more about this week’s activities associated with America’s Journey for Justice.

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