News

Former NC House member: I regret my vote for vouchers, time for the General Assembly to “correct course”

If you missed it this week, take time today to read Charles Jeter’s op-ed in The Charlotte Observer reflecting on his vote for school vouchers in the General Assembly.

Jeter, a former member of the NC House who is now a government relations coordinator for Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools, details the findings of a new study on the effectiveness of opportunity scholarships and writes:

In 2013 the North Carolina General Assembly passed the Opportunity Scholarship Act that created the voucher program for our state. (In full disclosure, I was a member of the General Assembly at that time and did vote in favor of the legislation.) Opportunity Scholarships were pitched as a way to ensure better educational outcomes for those children who may not be thriving in public schools. At the time the legislation was passed, there were little data on the effectiveness of these programs and many legislators were encouraged by the anecdotal evidence that was available.

So beginning with the 2014-2015 school year, North Carolina allocated $10 million for these vouchers. That amount has increased every school year since, and for the 2017-2018 school year, North Carolina will spend some $44.84 million for vouchers. What’s more concerning is that the amount allocated to vouchers increases each year by $10 million. That means for the 2027-2028 school year, North Carolina is scheduled to spend $144.84 million on vouchers. That’s a lot of money that North Carolina will spend supporting a voucher system that every major study has shown fails at these programs’ core purpose: providing better educational outcomes for our children. All of these studies show that vouchers have, in fact, created worse educational outcomes.

Look, I truly believe that everyone wants to make sure that our students have an exceptional educational system and positive educational outcomes. I know that when the General Assembly created the voucher program, members believed it would help create better educational outcomes. The problem is, now we have clear data that show, beyond any doubt, that these vouchers programs not only don’t help our students, they actually have worse outcomes. North Carolina is scheduled to spend over $1 billion in the next 10 years for a voucher system that simply doesn’t work. It’s time for the General Assembly to recognize this and correct course so that we can reinvest that billion dollars in public schools.

Read Charles Jeter’s full opinion piece here in The Charlotte Observer.

HB2, Trump Administration

Immigrants, refugees will have a prime seat for Trump’s first address to Congress

Democrats are doing more than just voicing opposition to President Trump’s recent executive orders targeting refugees and undocumented immigrants.

Rep. Alma Adams

Several members of Congress will have immigrants as their guests this evening when Trump delivers his first address to the joint Congress.

Congresswoman Alma Adams (NC-12) will host Sil Ganzo, Executive Director of Charlotte based non-profit ourBRIDGE, as her guest at the State of the Union Address.

“This administration’s hateful rhetoric and unconstitutional actions attack refugees and immigrants. Tomorrow, I’ll continue to stand in solidarity with these communities as I welcome local immigrant and refugee advocate Sil Ganzo as my guest for the State of the Union address,” said Congresswoman Adams. “Ganzo, an immigrant herself, is a respected advocate for Charlotte’s refugee and immigrant communities. Her presence in the chamber will send a clear message that we will not tolerate bigotry and hate.”

Since its creation in 2014, ourBridge has provided after-school academic support, at no cost, to refugee and immigrant students and their families in Charlotte.

ICYMI:

David Schanzer

And if you missed it over the weekend, be sure to listen to Chris Fitzsimon’s radio interview with David Schanzer of the Sanford School of Public Policy and the Triangle Center on Terrorism and Homeland Security.

Schanzer discusses why President Trump’s crackdown on immigrants and ban of refugees from seven Muslim countries is hurting our relationship with allies and failing to make our country any safer.

Click below to hear the full interview:

 

 

News, Trump Administration

This Week’s Top Five on NC Policy Watch

1. Republicans target non-surgical abortions in latest move to restrict reproductive rights

North Carolina Republican legislators appear to have found a new way to interfere with women’s reproductive rights – this time potentially eliminating the option of a non-invasive abortion for women during the first trimester of pregnancy.

House Bill 62 would require doctors to tell women seeking a non-invasive medical abortion that they could reverse the process halfway through – advice that is medically unproven.

The bill is even more restrictive than legislation in other states by requiring medical proof of fetal death before a woman can continue the second step of a non-surgical abortion. [Read more…]

2. Bills seek to end permits for concealed handguns

Two new North Carolina House bills aim to do away with permits for carrying concealed handguns and eliminate the state’s ability to regulate concealed weapons.

The moves, which have failed to get traction in previous sessions, have been denounced as dangerous by leaders in law enforcement and gun control advocates. But groups and lawmakers supporting the bill say it’s the next step in North Carolina’s recent history of gun deregulation.

Under House Bill 69 – the “Constitutional Carry Act” – any U.S. citizen 18 years or older would be able to carry a concealed handgun, unless otherwise disallowed by state or federal law. [Read more…]

3. Unofficial DPI spokesman raises questions of accountability, transparency

When Jonathan Felts speaks for North Carolina’s superintendent of public instruction, he insists it’s a labor of love.

Felts, a former George W. Bush White House staffer, professional GOP consultant and senior advisor to former Gov. Pat McCrory, says he’s taking no pay for his work in the office of new Superintendent Mark Johnson.

That includes providing updates and statements to the press on behalf of Johnson’s state office and offering scheduling details for the superintendent as he embarks on a statewide listening tour. Felts emphasizes his official title is transition chairman for Johnson, nearly two months into the new superintendent’s tenure in Raleigh.

“I’m just a parent of a young child who’s been blessed with a lot of unique opportunities,” says Felts.[Read more…]

4. The Atlantic Coast Pipeline will forever change forests, wetlands and rivers in North Carolina

It’s nearly spring and the Neuse River Waterdogs are on the prowl, searching for mates. About 6 to 9 inches long, slimy and the color of mud, the salamanders are homely, yet lovable. They have dark spots, like a Dalmatian, and their neck sports two frilly gills the shade of magenta, which, when waterdogs want attention, rise like an Elizabethan collar.

In all of the world, Neuse River Waterdogs are found only in North Carolina, in the bio-diverse Neuse and Tar-Pamlico river basins, where they spend their life under water. Sensitive to pollution and habitat disruption from development, they have been listed as a species of concern since 1990. Because of that designation, they can’t be captured or killed without a special permit from the NC Wildlife Resources Commission.

But almost certainly some Neuse River Waterdogs would be caught or die as a consequence of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline. [Read more…]

5. About that economic “mess” Trump claims to have inherited
The data show that the President’s alternative facts about the economy are flat wrong

One month into the presidency of Donald Trump, it’s already common, even global, knowledge that the American commander-in-chief is a man who maintains only a passing familiarity with the truth. Hour after hour and day after day, the “alternative facts” emanating from the White House are so blatant and plentiful that it’s become difficult to keep track.

Here’s Trump, for example, speaking at a press conference last week on the state of the economy:

“To be honest, I inherited a mess. It’s a mess. At home and abroad, a mess. Jobs are pouring out of the country; you see what’s going on with all of the companies leaving our country, going to Mexico and other places, low pay, low wages, mass instability overseas, no matter where you look.”

The truth of the matter, of course, is that such a blanket characterization is utter nonsense. [Read more…]

*** This week’s bonus video clips:

HB2, News

ICYMI: Rep. Meyer: It’s imperative legislators fully repeal HB2 before it’s too late

If you missed it over the weekend, be sure to check out our interview with state Rep. Graig Meyer, who discusses the need to fully repeal HB2 before it’s too late and what legislative leaders might do with this year’s state surplus.

A growing number of local elected officials are also appealing to the General Assembly for repeal.

On Monday, Durham Mayor Bill Bell joined the call to find a compromise on HB2. Under Bell’s proposed compromise, he would have the legislature repeal the controversial law and impose a six-month moratorium on municipalities from passing any future anti-discrimination ordinances, unless of course the U.S. Supreme Court rules on this issue sooner.  Read more about Mayor Bell’s proposal here.

Commentary, News

This Week’s Top Five on NC Policy Watch

1. Hopeful lessons from Saturday’s Moral March (and one important way in which progressives are screwing up)

This past Saturday’s 11th annual HKonJ-Moral March on Raleigh was by any estimation, a rousing success. At a point in time in which caring and thinking people are being inundated with multiple calls to action on a daily – if not hourly – basis, tens of thousands of people found the time and energy to make their way to downtown Raleigh to denounce Trumpism and the destructive actions of the North Carolina legislature and promote a vastly different vision of American society.

What’s more, in addition to the marvelous esprit de corps that the event helped to promote and infuse in those who marched and watched online, one couldn’t help but sense that there was a new level of power, efficiency and effectiveness in the movement spearheaded by Rev. William Barber, President of the North Carolina NAACP. [Read more…]

2. Berger rejects Cooper’s efforts to remove the dark stain of HB2
Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger and other Republican leaders have spent the last few days desperately distorting the facts and rewriting history to try to blame Governor Roy Cooper for the disaster of HB2 that was passed by the GOP supermajority in the House and Senate and signed into law by former Governor Pat McCrory last March.

There is a good reason for their renewed desperation to shift the blame away from themselves for the discriminatory law that has already cost the state hundreds of millions of dollars and tens of thousands of jobs, not to mention demonized a group of people in the state.

The NCAA, which has already pulled several major sporting events out of the state because of HB2, is currently deciding where hundreds of championship events will be held in the next five years.  [Read more…]

*** Bonus Read:  Cooper tries again to broker a deal to repeal HB2

***Bonus video:
Rep. Meyer: It’s imperative legislators fully repeal HB2 in the next couple weeks (Rep. Meyer appears this weekend on News & Views with Chris Fitzsimon.)

3. Conservative NC legislators eye national constitutional convention

The flurry of bills in the current session of the North Carolina General Assembly include some real political firestorm issues – guns, abortion, public education.

But several new bills deal with something that is, at once, a much more esoteric issue and a growing national controversy: the movement to amend the U.S. constitution.

House Joint Resolution 44 (Senate Joint Resolution 36) proposes an application to the U.S. Congress for a convention of the states under Article V of the U.S. Constitution for the purposes of proposing constitutional amendments. [Read more…]

4. Opponents of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline: “Nobody is saying what’s happening to the little people”

Belinda Joyner rode shotgun and stared out the window at the fertile farm fields ripening with cotton. She pointed to the tidy brick ranch houses and modest modular homes that flanked U.S. 301 north of Garysburg: “African-American. African-American. African-American.”

We headed north about five miles to Pleasant Hill, near the Virginia border. Past the State Line Lottery and the Georgia-Pacific wood products plant, we crossed the railroad and pull onto Forest Road. Soon it turned to dirt. “Somewhere back there,” Joyner said, sweeping her hand toward a thicket of trees. “That’s where they’ll put it.”

The Atlantic Coast Pipeline would begin the final leg of its 600-mile journey here, in North Carolina. If approved by federal regulators, the $5 billion project, co-owned by Dominion Energy and Duke Energy, would start at a fracking operation in West Virginia. The ACP would then transport natural gas across rugged terrain and federal lands in Virginia.[Read more…]

5. Fix to school funding crunch advances through N.C. House
North Carolina House lawmakers unanimously backed draft legislation intended to allay an imminent K-3 class size dilemma for public schools Thursday, despite criticism from both Democrats and Republicans.

House Bill 13 will offer local school districts flexibility over their average and maximum classroom sizes in the early grades, weeks before public school leaders say a GOP-led state budget provision could have forced districts to choose between axing arts and physical education classes or asking for major funding increases from local governments.

State officials say the the implications could be modest in smaller districts, but significant in some of North Carolina’s largest school districts. [Read more...]

***Bonus multimedia stories: