When the Academic Standards Review Commission meets Friday afternoon members will review how North Carolina students fared on the 2015 NAEP tests. The so-called Nation’s Report Card measures the proficiency of 4th and 8th graders in reading and math.

The discussion about students’ ability to perform at or above a proficient level comes as commission members decide whether to scrap the Common Core State Standards.

Steve Parrott, president at Wake Ed Partnership, is among those advocating to keep Common Core.

Parrott appeared last week on NC Policy Watch’s News & Views with Chris Fitzsimon. Click below to hear an excerpt from that interview:

An agenda for this afternoon’s meeting can be found here.

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If you missed it over the weekend, check out NC Policy Watch’s interview with Sarah Preston, Acting Executive Director for the American Civil Liberties Union of North Carolina.

Preston discusses how the 2015 legislative session resulted in a major setback for civil liberties and shares the ACLU-NC’s latest legislative scorecard.

Click below to hear Preston discuss how the Protect North Carolina Workers Act (HB318) encourages discrimination and makes it harder for law enforcement officers to do their job.

Listen to Preston’s full radio interview with Chris Fitzsimon here as she weighs on reproductive rights, the magistrates recusal bill, and an 11th hour push to strip local governments of their ability to pass anti-discrimination ordinances.

You can find the organization’s complete scorecard online.

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Commentary, News

ff-11031. A pay-to-play story about the McCrory Administration from inside the McCrory Administration

One of the most striking things about the latest scandal involving Governor Pat McCrory and his administration uncovered by the Raleigh News & Observer and the Charlotte Observer is that it has no partisan overtones at all.

Not one Democrat played a role in the stories about a meeting McCrory arranged between a donor, Graeme Keith, Sr., and officials in the Department of Public Safety about Keith’s multi-million dollar prison maintenance contract that was about to expire.

No allegedly liberal public interest group was making the connections between campaign donations and McCrory’s relationship with Keith and his insistence that his state contract be renewed.

It all came from McCrory’s own people. [Continue reading…]

Berger_TAs2. Berger’s six misleading minutes about TAs, teachers, and public schools

Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger sure knows how to improve the morale of the folks working hard every day to help students and teachers across North Carolina.

Berger recently told a meeting of the education group BEST NC that the 15,000 state-funded and low-paid teacher assistants who are now helping kids learn to read, driving school buses, serving on emergency response teams, giving insulin shots, and doing a dozen other things to help teachers and children and schools are essentially as useless as manual typewriters.

That will come as a surprise to the teachers and students and parents who rely on them. [Continue reading…]

Bonus video: Senate President Phil Berger on teacher prep and TAs

wb-hb5623. Silent but deadly

Watered down” gun law is still full of dangerous provisions

Three weeks ago in this space, the Weekly Briefing looked at “Twelve of the most destructive acts taken by the Governor and the 2015 General Assembly.” As was noted, despite the somewhat kinder and gentler face placed on things at times, 2015 has been another dreadful year for public policy in North Carolina:

Though state leaders did not completely privatize the public schools, repeal the state corporate and personal income taxes or abolish all environmental protection laws, they took large new steps in those directions. Moreover, these were just a few of the numerous regressive new laws that will continue to make North Carolina a drabber, shabbier and more divided state going forward.”

The column went on to list a dozen important areas in which state leaders have enacted regressive new laws (or failed to enact progressive ones) – from taxes to education to environmental protection.

Today, however, we concede that the list was actually flawed. It turns out that it should have listed 13 areas rather than 12. [Continue reading…]

windfarm-4004. Setting up a straw man to fight the Clean Power Plan

Officials from the state Division of Air Quality are set to meet this afternoon and tomorrow with the Environmental Management Commission to seek expedited approval of its plan to address power plant carbon emission reductions required under the federal Clean Power Plan.

By all accounts, the division will present a proposal that misses the 32 percent reduction target set by the Environmental Protection Agency and is headed for rejection at the federal level. Nonetheless, the division will ask the commission to waive a required 30-day review period and instead approve the plan, less than a day after it discloses the details.

Officials are rushing the plan through, not because of any hard-and-fast deadlines nor out of a good-faith commitment to meet federal greenhouse gas reduction targets but because they’re trying to tee up a battle in the courts against the EPA. [Continue reading…]

pv1104b5. A modest proposal: UNC chancellors, return those pay raises!

Something surprising has happened in Raleigh: Republicans have suddenly become spendthrifts. And they’re even spending money on education, to boot.

Of course, there is a catch: the money in question is going overwhelmingly to the wealthy. When it comes to education, the Republicans are following their national playbook: they’re showering the rich with gold, while keeping the middle class and the poor in a rut.

So maybe what happened on Friday in Raleigh isn’t so that surprising after all. As Jane Stancill of Raleigh’s News & Observer reported, last Friday, the University of North Carolina’s Board of Governors (all 32 members of which were appointed by the Republican legislature) voted to approve salary increases ranging from 8% to 19% for twelve of the system’s chancellors (who run individual campuses). [Continue reading…]

***  Upcoming Event: Crucial Conversation on November 17th — The problem of race-based policing: Can we finally overcome it?

Featuring Professor Frank Baumgartner of UNC Chapel Hill, Orange and Chatham County Public Defender James Williams and Fayetteville Police Chief Harold Medlock.

Click here to register.


hOWARD cOBLEFormer Congressman Howard Coble, who had the distinction of being the longest-serving Republican congressman from North Carolina, died overnight in Greensboro. He was 84.

Coble, who served North Carolina’s 6th Congressional district, spoke to NC Policy Watch last year about his 30 years on the Hill.

Coble was proud of his ability to reach across the aisle, and called the amount of money injected into today’s political campaigns “obscene.”

Click below to hear Chris Fitzsimon’s November 2014 interview with Coble, in which he shares what he was most proud of, his biggest regret, and his favorite president:

How are others remembering him?

“The remarkable thing about Howard was how naturally and generously he returned our respect and admiration.  Whether he was asking after the well-being of family members or chatting with staff about their hometowns and high schools, he always made the extra effort to get to know those with whom he worked, regardless of their title or party affiliation.

“Howard was also an effective legislator and a tireless advocate for the Sixth District, especially in the areas of agriculture and transportation, and he took on complicated and difficult issues in his leadership role on the Judiciary Committee.  I was fortunate to partner with him on a number of bipartisan initiatives over the years, from textile research to funding for his beloved Coast Guard.

“In an era where our politics are too often characterized by excessive partisanship and animosity, Howard’s camaraderie, good humor, and generosity of spirit reflected the best of what this institution can be.”Rep. David Price (NC-04)

“Howard Coble was a friend, colleague and a mentor. He was a true statesman and represented his constituents with passion and effectiveness. Howard will be missed but never forgotten by all who called him friend. It’s a sad day for North Carolina but it is a joyous occasion that Howard is once again with his parents he loved so much.”Senator Richard Burr (R-NC)

“Howard Coble was a dedicated public servant and a champion for his constituents. He never backed down from a challenge to do what was right for NC & always pushed Washington to work better for those he represented. ”Rep. Virginia Foxx (NC-05)

“With the passing of Howard Coble, North Carolina not only lost a wonderful public servant and congressmen, but our state also lost a friend and mentor to so many, including myself. He was a friend who was genuine, hardworking, sincere and honest. We will all miss our friend, but we’ll never forget him and the good things he did for our country, our state and so many of us individually. Ann and I will keep the Coble family in our prayers during this difficult time.”Governor Pat McCrory

Commentary, News

To understand why North Carolina environmental groups were so up in arms about this year’s Regulatory Reform Act, look no further than the latest problems plaguing Volkswagen.

The German automaker has been accused of cheating for a second time on emission tests. The EPA charged Monday that “defeat device” software was used on higher-end cars allowing thousands of vehicles to fool emissions checks.

Under House Bill 765,  a corporate polluter could “self-report” an incident just before it was revealed publicly and avoid any penalty.

David Kelly, a senior analyst with the Environmental Defense Fund, talked about the self-reporting requirement of HB 765 over the weekend on News & Views with Chris Fitzsimon.

Click below to hear Kelly explain how the bill the governor signed October 23rd creates a situation in which companies that cheat or cut corners can gain an advantage over competitors that are careful to comply with environmental laws. The full interview can be downloaded here.

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