Virtual charter schools advance in North Carolina – One of the first decisions the State Board of Education may make in 2015 is whether to allow two virtual charter schools to operate in North Carolina. Sarah Ovaska has a great run down of the players in her story this week: Virtual charter schools on path to opening in North Carolina.

A kid, a keyboard, and a closer look at virtual charters –  So what concerns could there be from plopping your child down in front of your home computer and expecting them to master their course work?

Matt Ellinwood, policy analyst with NC Justice Center’s Education & Law Project, recently joined us on NC Policy Watch’s weekly radio show to answer that question. Click below to hear the full interview with Ellinwood.

NC New Schools – Coming-up this weekend on the radio show, Chris Fitzsimon sits down with Tony Habit, President at NC New Schools. The program recently was awarded a $20 million federal grant by the U.S. Department of Education.

Habit explains how NC New Schools is transforming rural high schools by expanding the reach of early college strategies in North Carolina and four other states.  You can catch a preview of that studio interview below.

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The value of homework – Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools are rethinking the role of homework, and whether students should be penalized for failing to bring pens, papers and other materials needed to be prepared for class. Here’s an excerpt from the Charlotte Observer:

“Does a teacher have to give homework every day to have an effective class? Absolutely not,” said Stanford senior lecturer Denise Pope. “There’s no magical difference to doing work at home versus doing work in class.”

Charles Smith, president of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Association of Educators, said sometimes teachers feel like they have to assign homework. Sometimes, he said, that’s because the principal has told them to. Other times teachers just feel they are expected to.

Read more about the proposed policy change here.

College Rankings – Finally, the Obama administration is rolling out its “draft framework” of college ratings today – assessing colleges on access, affordability and outcomes for the students. Learn more about the objectives here.


saludaThe Southern Environmental Law Center on Thursday announced an agreement in principle with Duke Energy for the utility to remove all of the coal ash at its W.S. Lee facility from the banks of the Saluda River near Greenville and Anderson, South Carolina, to safer dry, lined storage away from the river.

“With this announcement, our advocacy and litigation have obtained commitments from all public utilities in South Carolina to clean up leaking coal ash lagoons on South Carolina’s rivers,” said Frank Holleman, senior attorney at the Southern Environmental Law Center.  “This is a historic accomplishment for South Carolina’s rivers and clean water.”

Based on the agreement Duke Energy has committed to moving  3.2 million tons of ash in pits along the Saluda River to dry, lined storage away from waterway, including the ash in two leaking lagoons and in an ash storage area near the lagoons.

The W.S. Lee Steam Station, which was retired in November, was Duke Energy’s last remaining coal-fired plant in South Carolina.

In North Carolina, Duke is required (under the Coal Ash Management Act) to clean-up  just four of the 14 coal ash storage sites in the state.  The state’s Coal Ash Management Commission will assess the other ten sites and set timetables for their clean-up.

The Coal Ash Management Commission is scheduled to meet again on January 14th in Raleigh.

  • Common Core – The state commission charged with reviewing and replacing the Common CommonCore_NC1Core State Standards meets again on Monday afternoon. You may recall at its last meeting, the Academic Standards Review Commission voiced concerns that without a dedicated budget it would be near impossible to bring in experts and accurately assess what benchmarks students should master in place of the Common Core Standards. We’ll see if at Monday’s meeting Senator Jerry Tillman was able to find the group operating funds.
  • Sea Level Rise – The N.C. Coastal Resources Commission’s Science Panel will meet Monday in New Bern to continue work on an update of the panel’s sea-level rise study report. Members are tasked with looking at sea-level rise over the next 30 years. Here’s their first crack at the sea-level rise report, dating back to 2010.
  • Off-roading on the coast – The House Select Committee on the Use of Off-Road Vehicles on Cape Lookout National Seashore will hold a public hearing Tuesday from 1:00 to 4:00 p. m., in the auditorium at the Roanoke Island Campus of the College of the Albemarle in Manteo. The meeting will consist of presentations related to economic impacts that may result from the National Park Service’s (NPS) Draft Off-Road Vehicle Management Plan/Environmental 5-27-14-NCPW-CARTOONImpact Statement (Plan) for the Cape Lookout National Seashore. Find more information here:
  • Fracking rules – This month’s Rules Review Commission meeting will begin at 9:00 a.m. Wednesday as members review the 124 proposed fracking rules filed by the Mining and Energy Commission. An agenda for the meeting can be found here:
  • Abortion clinic rules – Friday will be the first public hearing on new rules put forth by the Department of Health and Human Services to increase the accountability at abortion clinics. Planned Parenthood in NC, NARAL Pro-Choice NC, ACLU-NC, NC Women United, NC NOW, and NC Women Matter will be present at Friday’s 9:00 a.m. hearing on the Dorothea Dix Campus.

The U.S. House approved on Thursday a $1.1 trillion funding bill keeping most of the government operating through September of 2015.

Congressman David Price (NC-04) was among nine members of the state delegation to support the bill that had become known as “CROmnibus” – though Price said this was not an easy decision:

PriceThe bill has serious flaws, however, and I worked hard all week to include the 12th bill — Homeland Security, from the Subcommittee I lead — in the omnibus bill rather than in a 3-month continuing resolution.

I also sought leverage to get two particularly objectionable amendments, which removed some Dodd-Frank financial protections and greatly increased limits for contributions to political parties, dropped from the bill.

It eventually became clear that Republican leaders, dealing with numerous far-right members and interest-group pressures, could or would not remove these objectionable provisions and might instead give up on the omnibus bill and bring us to the brink of another government shutdown.

At that point I supported the most responsible alternative available, the omnibus appropriations bill, as recommended by President Obama and Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson. It was not an easy choice for me and many other members, and the effort leaves me determined to push for a fresh start in the 114th Congress: to avoid right-wing efforts to promote shutdowns and crises and to find ways to cooperate for the good of the country.

Democratic Representatives G.K. Butterfield, Mike McIntyre, Alma Adams and Republican Rep. Walter Jones voted against the measure.

The U.S. Senate will vote on the spending bill this weekend.

Here’s how the rest of North Carolina’s U.S. House delegation voted:

Rep. Renee Ellmers – 2nd District
Rep. David Price – 4th District
Rep. Virginia Foxx – 5th District
Rep. Howard Coble – 6th District
Rep. Richard Hudson – 8th District
Rep. Robert Pittenger – 9th District
Rep. Patrick McHenry – 10th District
Rep. Mark Meadows – 11th District
Rep. George Holding – 13th District

Rep. G.K. Butterfield – 1st District
Rep. Walter Jones – 3rd District
Rep. Mike McIntyre – 7th District
Rep. Alma Adams – 12th district


North Carolina’s General Assembly reconvenes five weeks from now and it’s becoming clear that House and Senate Republicans are divided on the best approach for Medicaid reform.

At Tuesday’s meeting of the  Joint Legislative Oversight Committee of Health and Human Services, House members backed away from a Senate’s plan that would allow out-of-state, managed-care companies (or MCOs) to participate in the reform efforts.

Health and Human Services Secretary Aldona Wos appealed to legislators to give the administration time to move forward with its plan to have accountable care organizations (or ACOs) handle the Medicaid system. Dr. Wos stressed the ACO model would work, but participating doctors would need more time and flexibility.

Wake County Representative Marilyn Avila likened the reform effort to finding the best recipe for a stew:

“One part of it may be ACOs, one part may be MCOs, one part may be just leaving it the heck alone, explained Rep. Avila. “But until we evaluate the stew that we got, against the stew that we want, we don’t know how to make the changes. Starting from scratch with a wholesale overhaul is probably the worst way to go about this.”

Look for things to get more heated in this kitchen when the legislature convenes January 14th. To hear part of Tuesday’s debate, click below.

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