Courts & the Law, News, Trump Administration

The Week’s Top Five on NC Policy Watch

1. Conservative U.S. Supreme Court pick will face Democratic concern for the underrepresented, fallout over stolen seat

Conservative federal appeals court judge Neil Gorsuch was nominated Tuesday by President Donald Trump to fill the U.S. Supreme Court seat left vacant for almost a year after the death of Justice Antonin Scalia.

Trump made the announcement during prime time from the East Room of the White House. He said he made a promise to the American people during his campaign to find the very best judge for the nation’s highest court and called his selection process one of the most transparent in history.

“I promised to pick someone who respects our laws and is representative of our Constitution and who loves our Constitution,” Trump said.

He went on to praise Gorsuch’s “extraordinary resume” and academic background, noting that he “has outstanding legal skills, a brilliant mind, tremendous discipline and has earned bipartisan support.” [Read more…]

2. NC political, historical experts reflect on Trump presidency

In a tumultuous first two weeks in office, President Donald Trump has broken with norms and precedents of his office, spawned dozens of lawsuits, generated historically low public approval numbers and some of the largest protests in U.S. history.

Historians and political scientists in North Carolina agree the Trump presidency is, in many ways, without precedent. They are also expressing concern about Trump’s impact on the institution of the presidency, the functioning of the nation’s government and the standing of the U.S. in the world.


William Leuchtenburg is one of the nation’s most respected historians. A professor emeritus of history at The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, he is the author of more than a dozen books on American history – a number on U.S. presidents. The latest, 2015’s The American President: From Teddy Roosevelt to Bill Clinton, looks at the making of the modern presidency. However, Leuchtenburg said, the modern era has produced few presidents one could easily compare to Trump.[Read more…]

3. Why Burr and Tillis must reject any new Supreme Court nominee
Fundamental questions on legitimacy of Trump’s presidency must be answered first

These are extraordinary times. The President of the United States is, by every indication, a serial liar who genuinely seems incapable of distinguishing between truth and falsehood. He entered office on January 20 under a cloud of profound constitutional questions related to his fitness to serve and legitimate doubts about his loyalty to the country. His first days in office have been an unmitigated disaster and have featured repeated lies, disastrous cabinet appointees, outrageous conflicts of interest and a series of executive orders that were either horrifically destructive or absurdly and sophomorically nonsensical or both.

As the Capitol Broadcasting Company noted in a scathing and on-the-money editorial yesterday:

“It is not OK to have a president who barely has a casual relationship with the truth….[Read more…]

4. New state superintendent may find it hard to keep pledge on school testing

N.C. Superintendent of Public Instruction Mark Johnson may have signaled his intent to reduce the testing load for North Carolina public school students, but education officials, past and present, say the new superintendent is going to need some help from state and local policymakers to achieve his goals.

The Winston-Salem Republican—who has not responded to multiple Policy Watch overtures for an interview since his upset victory in November—campaigned on the promise to reduce “over-testing” in North Carolina schools, a promise he said former state Superintendent June Atkinson failed to deliver on during her 13-year tenure in the state’s top education post.

It comes after more than a decade of multiplying examinations in U.S. schools following 2001’s No Child Left Behind, the federal education law passed at the peak of the public school accountability movement. [Read more…]

***Bonus reads in Education News:

5. NC DEQ Secretary Regan: “I want to create an open and inclusive agency”

Michael Regan hugs trees.

But the presumptive secretary for the Department of Environmental Quality also shakes hands with business executives, who commonly chafe at the regulations that keep those trees standing.

“There’s nothing wrong with hugging a tree,” Regan told a crowd of 150 North Carolina Chamber members on Tuesday. “But protecting the environment and a having a strong business community are not mutually exclusive.”

The two previous –and unpopular — DEQ secretaries, John Skvarla and Donald van der Vaart, made similar comments when they began their respective reigns. What sets Regan apart is his experience with the Environmental Defense Fund. EDF is no Greenpeace; it’s known as a mainstream group that forges partnerships with major corporations: McDonald’s, Smithfield, Duke Energy and Walmart. Yet Regan’s embrace of clean energy, energy efficiency and environmental justice breaks from the business über alles approach of the last four years.[Read more…]

News, Trump Administration

Undecided no longer – Senator Tillis will support DeVos as Education Secretary

There was a point Thursday when it appeared on social media that Senator Thom Tillis was on the fence about supporting Donald Trump’s pick for U.S. Education Secretary.

But hopes to shift Tillis to a “No” vote were dashed late this afternoon when the state’s junior Senator made it clear he would support Betsy DeVos, in part because of her support for school choice.

The News & Observer reports:

“I’m for her,” Tillis said, mentioning DeVos’ stances on increasing opportunities for charter schools and school choice.

Tillis, who served as speaker of the House in North Carolina before taking office in the U.S. Senate in 2014, said school choice is working in his home state and DeVos would champion those types of programs. He noted programs like North Carolina’s opportunity scholarship for kindergarten through high school students to attend private schools with government tuition assistance.

DeVos, Tillis said Thursday, won’t pile on federal education mandates for states and local school districts if she’s confirmed by the Senate.

“She’s talking about giving states the ability to turn a trend around – which is (the trend of) failing public schools. Not all of them. There’s a lot of good ones,” Tillis said. “We owe to these kids to come up with solutions to fix it for this generation, not the next generation.”

Tillis joins North Carolina Senator Richard Burr who was adamant earlier this week in his support for DeVos, a key contributor,  to head the U.S. Education Department.

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A vote before the full Senate could come early next week.

Trump Administration

As Spellings advises DeVos, a leading charter school booster urges the Senate to reject Trump’s pick for Education Secretary

Spellings appeared on CBS this Morning.

UNC system President Margaret Spellings, former Education Secretary under President George W. Bush, says she has confidence in Betsy DeVos to lead the U.S. Department of Education.

Spellings told CBS This Morning that she has advised DeVos to travel the country and listen.

“I expect her to listen a lot. This is the era of the states and I expect she’ll be an honest broker and a great leaders for all of our schools,” said Spellings on Wednesday.

Spellings told network anchors she believes DeVos is committed to public schools.

“I think the question is where can we find the best education for students, not what is the name on the door.”

And while DeVos found support from Spellings, she found a skeptic in philanthropist and charter school advocate Eli Broad.

The LA Times reports Broad sent a letter to U.S Senators today urging them to vote against DeVos. Here’s an excerpt from his letter: Read Broad’s full letter here.

Republican Sen. Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska have said they will oppose President Trump’s nomination.

Trump Administration

NC NAACP President: Trump’s Muslim travel ban, new immigration policies “ugly” and “immoral” (Audio)

Rev. William Barber, the president of the state NAACP and head of the Moral Monday movement, is weighing in on President Donald Trump’s order to ban travel from seven Muslim-majority countries.

On Monday, Rev. Barber called the recent executive orders mean-spirited and immoral.

“We have to stand up against it…”

Barber said the Muslim ban affecting refugees and plans to build a wall between the U.S and Mexico are just some of the issues that the People’s Assembly coalition will be protesting February 11th in Raleigh at the next HKonJ demonstration.

Click below to hear Rev. Barber discuss Trump’s policies and explain the need to protect the civil rights of all people:

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Boy Scouts of America to officially accept transgender youth

The Boy Scouts of America has announced that effective immediately it will allow transgender children in its boys-only program.

Officials with the organization explained their decision this way:

“While we offer a number of programs that serve all youth, Cub Scouting and Boy Scouting are specifically designed to meet the needs of boys. For more than 100 years, the Boy Scouts of America, along with schools, youth sports and other youth organizations, have ultimately deferred to the information on an individual’s birth certificate to determine eligibility for our single-gender programs. However, that approach is no longer sufficient as communities and state laws are interpreting gender identity differently, and these laws vary widely from state to state.

Starting today, we will accept and register youth in the Cub and Boy Scout programs based on the gender identity indicated on the application.  Our organization’s local councils will help find units that can provide for the best interest of the child.

The Boy Scouts of America is committed to identifying program options that will help us truly serve the whole family, and this is an area that we will continue to thoughtfully evaluate to bring the benefits of Scouting to the greatest number of youth possible – all while remaining true to our core values, outlined in the Scout Oath and Law.”

The announcement comes as North Carolina lawmakers struggle with transgender rights and the repeal of the anti-LGBT law passed last year known as HB2.

Click below to watch Chief Scout Executive Michael Surbaugh discuss  gender identity and program eligibility.

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