News

Wake County school board member Bill Fletcher wants the General Assembly to understand one thing: teaching assistants are critical to the classroom.

Fletcher, the lone registered Republican on the school board, spoke out at Tuesday evening’s board meeting clearly frustrated the state budget, now seven weeks overdue, could force the county to cut hundreds of TAs.

“These aren’t paper pushers. They are qualified professionals, helping children learn and teachers teach,” explained Fletcher.

“Legislature, listen please. These are valuable people. They contribute mightily to the success of our children and our schools, and we need them.”

Fletcher’s remarks came as the school board made the difficult decision to suspend its driver’s education program until they know whether the program will be funded in the final state budget.

About 12,000 of Wake County’s teenage drivers go through the school system’s drivers ed program annually.

Click below to hear board member Bill Fletcher in his own words:

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Commentary, News

Senate President Phil Berger and House Speaker Tim Moore have agreed to a $21.735 billion budget for the current fiscal year.

Governor Pat McCrory announced lawmakers settled on the amount this morning during a meeting at the Executive Mansion:

“This agreement is the result of ongoing dialogue during the last several weeks. We remain committed to working with the House and Senate to find common sense solutions that create jobs, strengthen education and fund critical infrastructure in North Carolina,” said Governor McCrory in a statement to the press.

With a gentlemen’s agreement on the spending limit set, house and Senate budget conferees must now decide on the finer points – how much to allocate for K-12, health care, public safety, as well as teacher and state employee raises.

Both chambers and the Governor have been feeling the heat to finalize a state budget, now 49 days overdue with a continuing resolution keeping state government operating through August 31st.

Once a deal is in place, the question remains whether legislators will have the desire to stay in Raleigh and continue working on other controversial issues like the Taxpayer Protection Action.

Amber Moodie-Dyer with the NC Budget & Tax Center spoke over the weekend with NC Policy Watch about the disastrous impact a constitutional amendment like SB 607 (TABOR) would have on North Carolina, giving lawmakers limited flexibility in future investments and for future state budgets.

Click below to hear an excerpt from that radio interview where Moodie-Dyer discusses how TABOR adversely affected Colorado, the only state to ever take this approach to capping state spending.  (A podcast of the full radio interview is available here on the main Policy Watch website.)

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Commentary, News

LW-813-4001. Out of state money behind secret plan to fund charter takeover of NC’s worst performing schools
Extensive behind-the-scenes work to develop proposal

Rep. Rob Bryan (R-Mecklenburg) may be the face of a plan to allow charter school operators to take over North Carolina’s worst performing schools, but he’s not the only Bryan with fingerprints on the proposal.

Enter John D. Bryan, an Oregon-based retired business executive—and multimillionaire—who has long standing ties to the school privatization movement developing in the Tar Heel state and is a backer of conservative causes and political campaigns across the country.

John Bryan has underwritten the creation of ten charter schools across North Carolina, and now thanks to his political efforts, he’s also behind a secret plan modeled after similar controversial initiatives in Tennessee, New Orleans and elsewhere to allow charter operators to fire an entire school’s staff and start from scratch in an attempt to catapult a public school into the top 25 percent of the state.[Continue Reading…]

Rep.-Bryan-Achievement-Scho2. Even more dangerous than vouchers?
Latest House education proposal would dramatically hasten public school privatization

As the 2015 session of the North Carolina General Assembly stumbles along through its eighth calendar month with no real end yet in sight, you’d think state lawmakers might be looking for ways to find common ground, bring things to a responsible conclusion and, well, you know, govern.

Amazingly, however, completely new and radical proposals just keep emerging out of thin air.

Last Thursday, the Senate unveiled and rammed three ALEC-inspired constitutional amendments through committee on a single voice vote. The amendments are scheduled for a floor vote today. If made the law of the land next year, as the Senate proposes, the amendments would decimate North Carolina’s fiscal health for decades to come and alter the very nature of state government. [Continue Reading…]

pv-812-open-4003. Frustrated NC teacher pens open letter to lawmaker
Blasts plan to turn struggling public schools over to charter operators

[Editor’s note: The following is from an open letter sent to State Rep. Rob Bryan yesterday in response to news reports of the lawmaker’s plan to unveil new legislation in the waning days of the 2015 legislative session on the subject of low-performing public schools. It has been edited for length.]

Rep. Bryan,

After reading a recent report by the McClatchy Regional News printed in the Winston-Salem Journal on August 10th entitled “Plan being crafted for charter takeover of worst schools”, I am saddened that you would consider pawning off our “failing schools” to an entity that has not really produced discernible results when examined carefully.

It is egregious that a leading legislator has to “craft a proposal behind closed doors” by “talking to lawmakers, educators and advocates of his choosing.” Oftentimes when one secretly meets with others of his choosing, then those “others” tend to have likeminded views. Rather than having a public debate about how to best help our “failing” schools with our own proven resources, you choose to surreptitiously strategize and plan a takeover of schools that need your help, not your ignorance.[Continue Reading…]

FF-813-44. Enough is enough at the General Assembly

Senator Tom Apodaca was partially right Wednesday afternoon when he lamented the inability of legislative leaders to reach a final agreement on a state budget six weeks after it was due and just days before schools start across North Carolina with funding for teachers and teacher assistants still up in the air.

“Enough is enough,” Apodaca bellowed on the Senate floor.

But then he urged his colleagues to vote against a resolution to keep government operating for another two weeks while negotiators try to come up with a final version of a spending plan for the next two years.

Apodaca apparently was ready to shut down state government out of frustration with House leaders, but that’s no solution and only a handful of his fellow Senators agreed with him. The continuing budget resolution passed and lawmakers have two more weeks to pass a budget. [Continue Reading…]

CMTS_I0WoAAbtsS5. McCrory: Let local schools decide if they want teacher assistants

As House and Senate lawmakers continue to fight over whether or not to fully fund early grade classroom teacher assistants for the upcoming school year, Governor Pat McCrory told education advocates and members of the business community at a NC Chamber of Commerce conference on Thursday that he wants to get the entire debate out of Raleigh.

“What I refuse to do is to get into the debate on the state making the decision for each school,” McCrory said of the need for teacher assistants, which he believes should be in every first, second and third grade classroom.

“What I think we ought to do in the budget,” said McCrory, who added that he expressed his views strongly to legislative leadership Thursday morning, “is that I think we ought to give the same set amount of money with the necessary increases due to the increase in students in North Carolina and let the schools decide if you want [teacher] assistants, if you want more teachers, or if you want a combination of both.” [Continue Reading…]

 

News

The NC House is one step away from passing a bill that would require unemployed workers to make five job inquiries a week (up from two) in order to receive jobless benefits.

Rep. Julia Howard told House members Thursday the legislation was intended to get jobless individuals “in the habit” of looking for employment.

But Rep. Yvonne Holley questioned whether Senate Bill 15 would have the unintended consequence of job seekers flooding employers with resumes, whether they were qualified or not, just to meet the higher standard.

Rep. Marilyn Avila suggested that the five job inquiry per week quota was certainly within reason for those truly looking to find work:

“If it’s an undue burden for somebody to make contact five days a week to find a job, is it going to be an undue burden five days a week to go to work?”

The state House could pass SB 15 on third reading Tuesday. Any changes to the legislation would need to be worked out with the Senate, which passed its version of the bill back in February.

Click below to watch a portion of Thursday’s floor debate:

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News

The Senate gave final approval Wednesday to a proposed constitutional budget amendment that could sharply restrict state spending in future years, if the measure passes the state House and wins approval by the voters next year.

Senate Bill 607, which passed on 3rd reading 31-14, would cap the state’s personal income tax rate at 5 percent and would limit state spending growth to inflation plus population growth. Yet another provision would establish a rainy day fund requiring a two-thirds majority to tap into the emergency account.

Supporters contend the initiative will force future legislatures to spend sensibly.

But Senator Jeff Jackson says only Colorado has tried a similar approach, where the impact on education spending proved to be “swift and severe.”

Jackson says he’s troubled the public did not have a chance to weigh in on the proposal before his chamber advanced the legislation.

The bill now moves to the NC House, where members may give heed to State Treasurer Janet Cowell’s recent warning.

Sen. Jeff Jackson joins Policy Watch this weekend on News & Views with Chris Fitzsimon to discuss SB 607 and the impact of the delayed state budget on local school districts. Click below for a preview of that radio interview.

To see how your own state senator voted on SB 607, click here.

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