News

Vigils planned statewide in aftermath of police shootings

Vigils will be held across the state this weekend to mark the recent fatal shootings of Philando Castile in St. Paul,  Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge, and five police officers in Dallas.

This is by no means a comprehensive list, and we hope you will contribute to this post as other events are scheduled:

In Raleigh:

In Winston Salem:

  • A #BlackLivesMatter march is planned for Saturday @ 3:30 p.m. in Downtown Winston-Salem. Find more information here.

In Charlotte:

According to the Charlotte Observer, multiple events are planned across the Queen City:

  • A “Peaceful Protest” is planned for this evening at 6:00 p.m. at Romare Bearden Park, 300 S. Church St.
  • A Candlelight Vigil is planned for 7:30 p.m. this evening at the New Outreach Christian Center, 3900 Gossett Ave.
  • On Sunday, a healing Service is planned for 11:00 a.m. at Statesville Avenue Presbyterian Church, 3535 Nevin Road.
    “We will pray together for the racial climate in our country, the families who are mourning and angry, law enforcement officers, black men, gay, straight, trans and people in the power seat.”
  • Sunday evening at 8:00 p.m. a candlelight vigil will be held at Myers Park United Methodist Church, 1501 Queens Road. The gathering will include a reading of the names of those killed in recent days in Dallas, Baton Rouge (La.) and suburban St. Paul (Minn.). The church bells will toll, and there will be Scripture reading, silence and prayer.  Find more information on the interfaith service here.
Commentary, News

WSJ Editorial: Legislation shielding police footage from public a “deplorable decision”

The Winston Salem Journal is joining the  American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of North Carolina in urging Gov. Pat McCrory to veto House Bill 972. The legislation titled Law Enforcement Recordings/No Public Record would bar police dash-cam video and body camera footage from being made public, unless of course there is a  court order.

The editorial board explains:

pvcam-120B-331x219As Journal editorial page editor John Railey wrote recently about House Bill 972, “Over the last several years, law-enforcement agencies nationwide have paid out billions of taxpayer dollars for cameras for their officers to wear on their bodies or carry on the dashboards of their cars to record interactions with the public and, it was hoped, promptly provide an objective record when questionable incidents erupt. Now, in a perversion of the principle behind spending all that taxpayer money, some law-enforcement leaders want to severely restrict the public’s right to footage made by those cameras. In our state, House Bill 972, making its way through the legislature, says that police chiefs and sheriffs could only release such footage to people whose images are recorded on it, and even those people could be denied. Everyone else, including the press, would have to appeal to judges for such footage. This is public record. But the bill says it’s not …

“Body-cam footage, when released, has often proved invaluable in getting at the truth in cases nationwide of suspects injured or killed while in police custody … Now that the technology is here, it’s frustrating that its products face the threat of being withheld. … As techies make advances that could make our criminal-justice system more fair, some law-enforcement leaders would keep us in the bad old days when they decide what their employers — we taxpayers — can see and what we can’t.”

We believe that the vast majority of Winston-Salem police and Forsyth deputies are good officers. We know they do a crucial and dangerous job for modest pay. We know that their default position is privacy, for various reasons. But privacy is never a good stance for people paid by taxpayers. And, as we saw with a Winston-Salem case, body-cam footage can vindicate good officers.

In December, a local man died in the custody of Winston-Salem police. Body-cam footage revealed the officers did nothing wrong. Yet it took several months, while the officers were the subject of countless rumors, for officials to finally release the footage. It took that long for the release of video that was helpful to police.

It’s only harder to access footage that’s detrimental to police. Now, we the public won’t see hardly any of it. We’re paying for footage we’ll never see, footage that belongs to us.

Gov. Pat McCrory should stand up to the legislature and veto this bill.

Read the full editorial on HB 972 here. Read the ACLU’s take on the bill here.

News

Long-lasting expansion of private school vouchers earns ‘one big thumbs down’ (video)

The Charlotte Observer joins the list of those criticizing the the General Assembly’s decision to  dramatically expand private school vouchers in the recently concluded short session.

The editorial board notes with little understanding of how well current students receiving the vouchers are performing, legislators have allocated $10 million to the program next year, plus an additional $10 million per year until the state is spending nearly $145 million annually on private school tuition.

Matt Ellinwood, the director of the NC Justice Center’s Education & Law project, tells NC Policy Watch the voucher proposal remains unaccountable, while siphoning millions more from NC’s public schools:

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The Observer concludes:

The expansion was too dramatic even for Rep. Craig Horn, a Republican from Union County who co-chairs the House Education Appropriations Committee. Horn reasonably pointed out that it’s impossible to know what the demand for the vouchers will be 10 years from now.

We do know other things about vouchers, though, such as:

* The state imposes little accountability on the private schools that receive the money. There are few or no requirements around student performance or curriculum. They don’t have to hire teachers with the same qualifications as public schools. They can admit whom they please, discriminating, for example, against LGBT students if they choose.

* The private schools are often religiously affiliated, and funding faith-based curricula and activities with taxpayer money is generally a bad idea.

* Studies from other states have shown that students receiving vouchers do not perform better than their public-school peers. Some research has shown that they actually fare worse.

* Vouchers divert money from public schools, which 90 percent of U.S. children attend.

Private school vouchers are a bad idea. Increasing their annual funding six-fold is a worse one.

Read the full editorial here.

Listen to the full podcast with Matt Ellinwood below:

Commentary, News

For all the talk of repeal, damaging HB2 remains intact

RickGlazier-with-bannerStatement from Rick Glazier, Executive Director of the NC Justice Center:

House Bill 2, one of the most damaging, dangerous, and discriminatory bills ever passed by the North Carolina legislature, sadly and shockingly remains all but intact.

The damage it has had on the state’s reputation, individuals, and businesses will now continue unabated. For all of the talk by the Governor and legislative leaders about dialogue, repeal, and repair of damage — none of that occurred and we will all suffer for this executive and legislative impotence for generations to come.

There was a time North Carolina was the progressive face of the New South, a globally competitive state with an increasing devotion to a more inclusive society. No more. For the rest of the nation and the world, we are now nothing but the face of the Old South, a global pariah devoted only to hanging onto the status quo and swimming against the tide of history.

HB 2 made it clear that we love only some of our neighbors; this legislative short session solidified in stone that image. In the end, the legislature could not even restore the full right to sue for religious, sex, and race discrimination that had existed for decades in our state – the right and time to do so are now severely restricted. So today, ironically on the same day President Johnson signed into law the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the civil rights of all North Carolinians are diminished, just like our reputation.

Commentary, News

This week’s Top Five on NC Policy Watch

wb-downward1. Just when you thought things couldn’t get any worse

The NC Senate pushes a bevy of last minute constitutional amendments to lock in the state’s decline

The conservative revolution in North Carolina: It’s been such a whirlwind for so long now that it’s easy to lose track of how far and fast we’ve fallen and how extensive the damage has really been. Fortunately, if your stomach and psyche can handle it, there are some useful resources out there to refresh your memory. Last fall, NC Policy Watch published a special, one-of-a-kind report entitled Altered State: How 5 years of conservative rule have transformed North Carolina. And for those looking for pithier summations, it would be hard to do better than Professor Gene Nichol’s essay in this past Sunday’s edition of Raleigh’s News & Observer, “Making the case that lawmakers are destroying North Carolina.”

As Nichol observed darkly in the introduction to the piece: [Continue reading…]

budgetdeal2. The far-right crusade continues despite the election-year headlines

House and Senate leaders gathered behind the podium in the press conference room in the Legislative Building early Monday night to talk to the assembled media about the agreement they had reached on a final budget for the 2016-2017 year.

There were no copies of the budget available for reporters to read and ask questions about.  Instead legislative leaders held forth, boasting about the size of the raise for teachers, how much they put in the state savings account and the importance of the latest round of tax cuts in the spending plan.

It wasn’t an accident that the news conference came five hours before the actual budget was released just before midnight.  Giving reporters the details beforehand would allow them to ask tougher questions. [Continue reading…]

xgr_sen_chamber3. The Senate’s disastrous plan to permanently cap the income tax must be stopped

Sorry for the sugar-coating, but the state Senate’s attempt to enshrine its preferred tax policies in North Carolina’s constitution is arrogant, presumptuous, wrongheaded and profoundly undemocratic.

Who will be penalized if the attempt succeeds? Not the high-end earners basking in the certainty that from 2020 onward, their income tax rate will be capped at 5.5 percent – no matter what situations or emergencies the state may face. That’s a lower top rate than prevailed a few short years ago, when additional income tax revenue, along with spending cuts, proved essential to balancing the recession-wracked state budget.

No, the pain will be felt mainly by people with modest incomes. [Continue reading…]

BB-HB2-6294. Stalled: NC school districts avoid immediate changes to policies for transgender students

Seeking to avoid political spotlight, many address transgender students on a “case by case” basis

When leaders in Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools (CMS) issued new rules on transgender students last week, advocates say the system installed the broadest set of school protections yet for North Carolina students, including guarantees that children would be able to use the names, restrooms and locker rooms matching their gender identity.

The policy followed an April ruling by the U.S. 4th Circuit Court of Appeals that ordered a transgender student must be allowed to use the bathroom corresponding with his gender identity, a direct contradiction of North Carolina’s mega-controversial House Bill 2, which would require students use the bathroom matching their birth certificate. [Continue reading…]

sb867-Backgroundcheck5. In session’s final hours, teacher background check bill advancing in N.C. General Assembly

With the N.C. General Assembly winding down its short session, lawmakers are hoping to speed though the final bills on their agenda Friday, one of which sets a new statewide background check standard for teacher licensure.

Friday morning, the House Finance Committee gave its approval for Senate Bill 867, setting the stage for its likely passage in the final hours of the session.

The bill would create one statewide standard for fingerprint background checks, requiring that all teachers seeking licensure by the N.C. State Board of Education submit to the checks. It will also require fingerprint checks for all new charter school employees.

It’s a bill that’s gained mostly bipartisan support after a USA Today feature in February dished out an “F” grade for North Carolina’s teacher background check system. [Continue reading…]