Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump continues to find new ways to outdo himself. His latest controversial remarks came over the weekend in Ames, Iowa when he told an audience he did not consider Arizona Senator John McCain to be a war hero. Here’s the quote that lead to the firestorm:

“He’s not a war hero…he’s a war hero because he was captured…I like people who weren’t captured.”

McCain spent five and a half years as a prisoner of war in  North Vietnam.

Most Republican presidential candidates were quick to condemn the remarks. (Read the responses by Scott Walker, Ted Cruz, and Jeb Bush.)

McCain, who is not in the 2016 field of presidential candidates, said Trump owes an apology to the nation’s veterans for his comments.

A poll conducted less than two weeks ago by Public Policy Polling showed Donald Trump favored by 16% of North Carolina’s Republican voters — leading the rest of the pack. Jeb Bush and Scott Walker had just 12% of the vote, with Mike Huckabee coming in at 11%.

PPP’s poll was conducted after Trump called Mexican immigrants criminals and rapists in announcing his presidential bid.

It will be interesting to see if Trump’s latest remarks cause the numbers to shift in a state that prides itself on being the most-military friendly in the nation.

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Commentary, News

1. Is North Carolina next in line for New Orleans-style takeovers of failing schools?

Around the country, states and cities are trying a new way to boost success rates at low-performing schools. New efforts labeled ‘recovery school districts,’ ‘achievement school districts,’ ‘turnaround schools,’ and the like are making their way into places that include Tennessee, Louisiana, and Arkansas, to name a few — efforts that allow states to take over failing schools and relegate their management to private charter school operators that would be free to fire teachers and start from scratch.

Is North Carolina next to take up this flavor of education reform?

“I have heard rumblings around the legislative building about potential achievement zones coming to NC,” Rep. Tricia Cotham (D-Mecklenburg) told N.C. Policy Watch. [Continue Reading…]

**** Bonus read ****(with draft of Rep. Bryan’s bill): Charter school operators could takeover struggling schools, replace teachers and staff

2. Day one in the court fight over voting rights in North Carolina

The battle over sweeping election law changes adopted in North Carolina in 2013 opened on two fronts yesterday.

In a packed courtroom inside the federal courthouse in Winston-Salem, attorneys for both the challengers and the state laid out the case they planned to present to U.S. District Judge Thomas Schroeder over the next several weeks.

State lawmakers knew exactly what they were doing when they stripped away same day registration, cut early voting days and eliminated the counting of out-of-precinct provisional ballots — provisions used widely by minority voters — Penda D. Hair, an attorney for the North Carolina NAACP, said in her opening statement. [Continue Reading…]

3. The forgotten starting point for Medicaid “reform” 

One of the things holding up passage of a state budget for the next two years and the adjournment of the 2015 session of the General Assembly is Medicaid reform.

Senate leaders stuffed their version of a managed care plan for Medicaid run by out of state for profit companies into their budget bill and vowed not to leave Raleigh until some variation of it is agreed to by the House and Governor Pat McCrory.

House leaders have their own Medicaid proposal, based on accountable care organizations that give a greater role to providers in controlling costs, and it has passed in a separate bill.

The reforms are very different though both would make changes in the current way Medicaid is administered. [Continue Reading…]
4. McCrory’s education advisor leaving to help groom TFA alums into leaders 

Governor Pat McCrory’s education advisor, Eric Guckian, is leaving his job at the end of July to serve in a leadership role for a national organization dedicated to transforming Teach for America alums into leaders.

In a Tuesday afternoon press release, McCrory’s office touted education-related accomplishments it said Guckian’s guidance was key to making happen.

“During his tenure with Governor McCrory, Guckian was instrumental in helping pass one of the largest teacher raises in the state’s history which provided an average salary increase of seven percent and raised the base pay for beginning teachers,” read the statement, along with a list of other education initiatives in which Guckian played a role. [Continue Reading…]
5. A critical problem for the elderly (and all those who aspire to that status)

The desperate need to improve our treatment of caregivers

If you are a person of relatively sound mind and body, consider the following question tonight as you get ready for bed: If you needed help with that task and had no family members willing or able to fill the role, what would you consider to be a fair wage to pay someone to assist you?

Seriously, think about it. Imagine that someone had to be hired to help you with your most basic personal and physical needs like bathing, using the toilet and dressing. Now, what would you say that a person should be paid to perform such tasks?

Perhaps more to the point, what would you hope to see such a person get paid in order to attract a skilled, intelligent and reliable assistant (i.e., one who is educated, makes enough money to afford reliable transportation and who does not have to work two other jobs when he or she should be sleeping)? [Continue Reading…]

***Upcoming event this Monday, July 20th: NC Policy Watch presents a Crucial Conversation luncheon — Caring for Caregivers with Rep. Yvonne Holley  (This event is **free** of charge, but you must register this weekend.)


A new study by AARP’s Public Policy Institute offers an amazing glimpse at the valuable role family caregivers provide across North Carolina. Their research finds that family caregivers in the Tar Heel state provided 1.19 billion hours of care — worth an estimated $13.4 billion — to their parents, spouses, partners, and other adult loved ones in 2013.

Helping an adult loved one carry out activities such as bathing, dressing, or preparing meals, means that individual can remain in their home and out of costlier nursing homes.

But the study also underscores the need to for the state to do more to support these family caregivers.

AARP-North Carolina’s Charmaine Fuller Cooper says one simple thing legislators could do is to fully fund the state’s Home and Community Block Grant program.

AARP is also pressing the Senate to pass a study bill (H816) that would evaluate the needs of working family caregivers and their employers. The organization believes the bill is another step to helping control Medicaid costs, while helping caregivers balance their caregiving duties with their jobs and other family obligations.

Fuller Cooper will be our guest this weekend on News & Views with Chris Fitzsimon. For a preview of that interview, click below. You can read the full study – Valuing the Invaluable: 2015 Update –  here.

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North Carolina U.S. Senators Richard Burr and Thom Till joined 43 other Senate Republicans Tuesday in defeating an amendment aimed at reducing the bullying of LGBTQ students in the nation’s public schools.

The amendment offered by Minnesota Senator Al Franken was tacked onto to a bill updating No Child Left Behind legislation.

“You cannot learn if you dread going to school,” reasoned Franken.

Tennessee Senator Lamar Alexander worried the proposal would only spark more costly lawsuits, and Franken’s amendment failed to get the 60 votes needed to advance.

Click below to hear Sen. Franken speak on his amendment. Click here to see how the rest of the Senate voted.

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lw-driversAs lawmakers get ready to hammer out a final budget compromise, Governor Pat McCrory said he’s confident driver’s education won’t be dropped. The governor believes the issue comes down to who actually pays for the program – the state or local officials.

In a radio interview Monday with WFAE, McCrory suggested that that those enrolled in the program pay a larger share. Gov. McCrory told Charlotte Talks host Mike Collins:

“I frankly think more of the responsibility needs to be on the driver. If you can’t afford education…driver’s education, can you even afford a car or the insurance?

So I think more of that costs of driver’s education needs to be transferred to the people who are actually taking the driver’s education.”

You can listen to the governor’s hour-long appearance on Charlotte Talks here.

The Senate’s budget blueprint allocates no money for driver’s ed, and would lift a $65 cap on the program allowing schools to recover the full cost. Critics say that would mean many low-income families would likely not be able to afford the training (estimated at $300-$400) for their teen-driver.

A more generous House budget proposal allocate $26 million in 2015-16 with likely more to come for the following year.

Roughly one-third of the state’s school districts have put their driver’s ed programs on hold as they wait to see how the financial picture plays out.