Commentary, News

12-WB-10-12-151. This year’s dirty dozen
Twelve of the most destructive acts taken by the Governor and the 2015 General Assembly

Now that the dust from the seemingly endless 2015 session of the North Carolina legislature has finally started to settle, many people – even regular observers – may find it difficult to remember all that took place. Part of the problem, of course, was the sheer length of the session. After nine months in Raleigh, it started to feel as if lawmakers had been in session forever. Add to this the fact that this was the fifth consecutive session in which hard right conservatives dominated state policymaking and there’s no doubt that a sense of numbness had started to afflict a lot of caring and thinking people.

One of the most troubling byproducts of the past nine months is the narrative that’s emerged in some circles that 2015 wasn’t actually all that bad. Owing in part to the friendlier face offered up by House Speaker Tim Moore, who sometimes eschewed the confrontational, our-way-or-the-highway approach favored by state senate leaders and his predecessor Thom Tillis, some progressives – especially single issue advocates who may have succeeded in preserving a specific program or defeating an especially regressive proposal – have spoken in almost cheerful tones about 2015. [Continue reading...]

Taxcreditsupplies10-13-152. The telling saga of the small tax credit for teachers

One of the most revealing decisions about education made by the General Assembly in the last few sessions has nothing to do with teacher assistants or class size or charter school funding. It’s in the tax changes made in the last four years.

In the 2011-2012 legislative session when the new Republican leadership assumed control of the General Assembly, they slashed education funding across the board, cutting everything from school buses to textbooks to classroom supplies.

They also created a small tax break for teachers who bought supplies out of their own pockets. It was a startling decision, an admission that lawmakers were simply unwilling to give teachers the materials they needed to do their jobs. [Continue reading…]

Medicaid-Funding09153. Missed opportunity on Medicaid a defining issue of the legislative session

One of the biggest stories of the 2015 General Assembly is what lawmakers didn’t do and the people they didn’t help.

They again declined to follow the lead of 30 other states and the District of Columbia and expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act and provide health care coverage for as many as 500,000 low-income adults, create thousands of jobs, and help struggling rural hospitals across the state, two of which have already closed or have announced they are closing.

Lawmakers never seriously considered expanding Medicaid even though the federal government would pick up most of the cost and Governor Pat McCrory never encouraged them to, never proposing a plan like many fellow Republican governors across the country have done.

McCrory has waffled mightily on Medicaid expansion, even as officials in his own health and human services department have publicly discussed presenting him “options for expansion.” [Continue reading…]

PV-hb2974. Legislature, McCrory approve another late-session assault on reproductive freedom

While the recently-concluded session of the North Carolina General Assembly felt like it lasted forever, it was only about six months ago that a bill to make child support payments more efficient and effective passed through the House, thus meeting the legislative crossover” deadline on its way to becoming state law.

With only 65% of owed child support regularly collected in North Carolina, the state obviously has a compelling interest in assuring children are receiving the support possible from both of their parents. Single parent households are more likely to live in poverty in North Carolina, and because women are still more likely than men to be the single primary parent – and households headed by single mothers are the family-type most likely to live in poverty – the original version of House Bill 297 seemed a good step toward increasing economic security for many Tar Heel women when it was first introduced on March 19.

You may be wondering what happened to that bill. While seemingly unrelated, this summer’s release of heavily-edited anti-Planned Parenthood videos (which have now been proven to be completely fraudulent) seems to be what happened. [Continue reading…]

PV12045. Rising NC infant mortality underscores need to expand Medicaid

The word “consistency” suggests stability, predictability, normalcy. It implies that we can move on and not worry.

When the State of North Carolina announced our 2014 infant mortality data this week, the official release said “the 2014 statistics are consistent with previous years.” But for our state, consistency in the infant mortality rate is not good—stalled would be a more forthright description.

North Carolina’s infant mortality rate of 7.1 infant deaths for every 1,000 live births remains well above the national average of 5.96 and hasn’t improved since 2010. Furthermore, racial and ethnic disparities in infant mortality persist year after year.

Big problems, like North Carolina’s consistently high infant mortality rate, demand bold solutions. Closing the health insurance coverage gap for working North Carolinians, particularly women of childbearing age, would be a good start. [Continue reading…]

Commentary, News

turnoverEducation Week is the latest publication to focus on North Carolina’s struggles to keep high-quality teachers in their classrooms.

In an article published earlier this week, editor Ross Brenneman spoke with the school superintendent of Graham County, the district that has bragging rights to the lowest turnover rate in our state.

Here’s her take on what works and what doesn’t work:

“Parents support teachers here, the community engages with the teachers here,” said Angela Knight, the Graham County district’s superintendent. “We really do have a small traditional community atmosphere, and [teachers] get invested in that, and they just want to stay.”

Where there is greater attrition, Knight recommended looking to the state’s legislature as a cause. “We’re having attrition because the education profession is not supported at all by the General Assembly,” she said.

Brenneman notes pay in surrounding states may be costing North Carolina classroom teachers:

Some North Carolina school administrators told Asheville’s Citizen-Times that they’re losing teachers to surrounding states like Florida, Georgia, and South Carolina; Texas has repeatedly mined the North Carolina teaching corps with the promise of higher salaries.

According to the National Education Association, both Georgia and South Carolina offer better average teacher salaries than North Carolina; Florida is roughly equivalent.

Education Week goes on to explain how conservatives leaders are doing their best to deflect this criticism:

In a memo on its website, the state’s Republican Party says that funding issues aren’t the state’s fault. “The fact remains that our county and city governments could choose to spend more on educating our children, but they don’t,” the unauthored post says.

But more than dissatisfaction over pay, there’s frustration among educators expressed in news articles, in editorials, and in blog posts that the legislature is trying to dismantle the state’s public education system.

You can read the full Education Week article here.

Click here to learn more about NC’s teacher turnover rate.

And finally, you can read the Department of Public Instruction’s full report on teacher attrition for 2014-15 here.

Commentary, News

MedicaidWhile much has been written about how education fared in the nine-month legislative session, there’s been less in the mainstream media about the Medicaid reform plan brokered in the final weeks of the session.

Rose Hoban of North Carolina Health News recently joined Chris Fitzsimon to discuss how this reform plan came together and what privatization  would mean for Community Care of North Carolina (CCNC), the state’s award-winning nonprofit Medicaid system.

Click below to listen to Policy Watch’s full interview with Hoban:

If you’re wondering about Medicaid expansion, Hoban also discusses how reform could possibly tip the scales in its favor.

Both Medicaid expansion and privatization feature prominently in Rob Schofield’s Weekly Briefing. Be sure to check out “This year’s dirty dozen” on the main Policy Watch website.


The top story in North Carolina political circles today is not the 2016 match-up between Gov. Pat McCrory and Attorney General Roy Cooper, it’s the decision by state Treasurer Janet Cowell not to seek re-election next year.

Cowell, who was first elected treasurer in 2008, has been viewed as a strong statewide candidate and a possible  Democratic challenger against Republican U.S. Sen. Richard Burr.

But Cowell made it clear in her announcement today that she would not be leaving her post to seek a higher elected  office in 2016.

Here’s how Treasurer Cowell’s story is playing out on Twitter:

You can read Cowell’s full statement about her decision on Facebook:


Saying that he was concerned about the path North Carolina was on, Attorney General Roy Cooper officially entered the race for governor Monday evening. Cooper signaled to a crowd of supporters at Nash Community College in Rocky Mount that education funding would be a central theme in his race to unseat Republican Governor Pat McCrory.

“Our commitment to an education system that lifts incomes and provides opportunities for everyone should be unwavering and unmatched,” said Cooper.

The state Republican Party almost immediately went on the attack, tweeting that Cooper’s announcement lacked energy and vision.

To hear an excerpt of Cooper’s announcement, click below.

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