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The Week’s Top Five on NC Policy Watch

The Week’s Top Five on NC Policy Watch:

School buses1. State releases list of 48 schools eligible for controversial charter takeover

Forty-eight schools spread across 21 districts make up those elementary schools eligible for inclusion in the first year of North Carolina’s controversial charter takeover model, according to a list released Thursday by state officials.

The program, dubbed the Innovative School District (formerly the Achievement School District), would launch with two schools in the 2018-2019 school year.

It would potentially allow for-profit, charter management organizations to assume control of low-performing schools, part of a series of controversial reforms backed by Republicans leadership in the N.C. General Assembly and school choice advocates.

The list released Thursday does not guarantee any school will be selected for the district, district Superintendent Eric Hall said, only that it may be considered further going forward. Districts were spread across the state, although districts such as Durham, Forsyth and Robeson included a number of eligible schools.[Read more…]

2. Giant pork producer asks federal court to reinterpret new and controversial NC law, nullify existing nuisance lawsuits

For Murphy-Brown, a major victory in House Bill 467 was not enough.

The world’s largest pork producer has petitioned a federal court to interpret a key part of the controversial law that could nullify 26 lawsuits brought by 541 plaintiffs against the company. While courts are often called upon to interpret laws, in this case, Murphy-Brown is asking a judge to essentially read lawmakers’ minds and divine their intent when they wrote and passed the law.

An amendment to the state’s Right to Farm Act, the controversial legislation capped the amount of money plaintiffs could recover when winning a nuisance lawsuit against industrialized hog farms. Plaintiffs could receive money equivalent to the decrease in the fair-market value of their property — already diminished because of its proximity to stench and flies — but not for odor, mental duress or the general decline in their quality of life.

Gov. Roy Cooper had vetoed the bill, but on May 11, state lawmakers overrode it. [Read more…]

3. Testing debate is front and center again as state officials wrestle with new federal education law

A draft plan for meeting the nation’s new federal education law has some on North Carolina’s top school board expressing frustration this week, particularly when it comes to measuring schools’ performance.

“To grow the elephant, you don’t weigh it, you feed it,” Lisa Godwin, teacher advisor to the State Board of Education, complained Wednesday. “I do feel like we’re weighing the elephant.”

Godwin was one of several who blasted the state’s continued emphasis on standardized testing Wednesday, one day before members of the State Board of Education were expected to take an up or down vote on a substantive plan for K-12 schooling required under the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), the nation’s overarching public education law.

North Carolina leaders hope to turn over their ESSA proposal to federal education officials in the U.S. Department of Education by September 18, after which the administration will have up to 120 days to approve or deny. [Read more…]

4. The middle class is not an accident (or inevitable)
Labor Day report offers a powerful reminder for NC workers – especially Millenials

A few years back, there was a witty and briefly popular bumper sticker that conveyed several important and frequently neglected and forgotten truths about the lot of working Americans. It read: “The Labor Movement: The Folks Who Brought You the Weekend.”

Though it seems hard to imagine for many of us today, the pithy and plucky message on those stickers was, in a very literal sense, true. At the turn of the 20th Century, life in America – especially for working people – was wildly different than it is for most of us today. Millions of Americans worked six or seven days a week and 12 or 14 hours per day or more for what amounted to little better than starvation wages. Many of the workers were pre-adolescent children. Many – adults and children – worked in horrifically dangerous conditions and utterly without any kind of insurance or safety net. Meanwhile, a small but hugely powerful class of super rich robber barons enjoyed unprecedented wealth and comfort. [Read more…]

5. Groundwater contaminated near Chemours plant; DEQ issues Notice of Violation

Thirteen of 14 monitoring wells near Chemours’s Fayetteville plant exceeded state groundwater standards for GenX and other perfluorinated compounds, prompting state environmental officials to issue a Notice of Violation to the company.

The NC Department of Environmental Quality announced the results today. The groundwater monitoring wells are not a source of drinking water.

DEQ and the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services also alerted health officials in Bladen and Cumberland counties to the preliminary test results. The state said it will perform initial testing for people who live near Chemours while requiring the company to produce a comprehensive testing and compliance plan.

The immediate area around the plant, which lies south of Fayetteville, is woods and a solar farm, but there are homes within a mile and Camp Dixie, a summer retreat for kids is within two miles. [Read more…]

***Bonus reads from the week’s news:

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Board of Governors considers major changes following contentious meeting

Update to this post: The UNC Board of Governors voted Friday to ban legal work of the UNC Center for Civil Rights.  The Raleigh News & Observer reports the Center will shut down at UNC, but continue its work elsewhere.

As the UNC Board of Governors meets today to consider banning the UNC Center for Civil Rights from litigating future cases, a lot of people will be looking at how well the board members interact with one another after a heated session Thursday.

Reporter Jane Stancill with the News & Observer described the leadership team’s meeting this way:

In a stunning and contentious session, a faction of the UNC Board of Governors took steps Thursday for substantive changes in the university system, including lowering tuition and fees at the campuses, reorganizing the staff of UNC President Margaret Spellings and moving the UNC system headquarters out of Chapel Hill.

The proposals came rapid fire in a flurry of resolutions and caught some members off guard. Some said they hadn’t heard anything about the proposals before they walked in the room.

The meeting followed a scathing letter to Spellings and Board Chair Lou Bissette that was reported by The News & Observer on Thursday. The letter, signed by 15 members, took Spellings and Bissette to task for a lack of communication to the members before they sent a letter to Gov. Roy Cooper about security and future plans for Silent Sam, the Confederate statue on the campus of UNC-Chapel Hill. Some members of the board didn’t sign the letter and said they had never seen it.

The two-hour discussion revealed a chasm among members on the overwhelmingly Republican board. Some said the proposals came out of left field and could undermine unity and Spellings’ authority as president.

Read the full article here.

You can follow Stancill’s continuing coverage of  the UNC BOG meeting at @janestancill.

 

News

Lunch & Listen: The fate of the UNC Center for Civil Rights hangs in the balance (audio)

This Friday the UNC Board of Governors is expected to take action on a proposal banning the UNC Center for Civil Rights from litigating cases and representing future clients.

Ted Shaw, the director of the Center, recently joined NC Policy Watch to discuss who is behind this proposal and why the ban is a wrongheaded move.

Click below to hear Shaw’s full interview with Chris Fitzsimon recorded in August.

Got extra time? Read this op-ed on the Center by Stephen Leonard, the immediate past chairman of the UNC system Faculty Assembly.

Commentary

Lunch & Listen: The state of work and wages this Labor Day (audio)

Whether you have this Monday off or are putting in a few hours at the office, be sure to make time to listen to our recent interview with MaryBe McMillan of the North Carolina State AFL-CIO. McMillan discusses worker misclassification, wages, and the need for more employees to be able to negotiate for better working conditions.

Click below to hear her interview with Policy Watch’s Chris Fitzsimon. McMillan also writes about the simple and basic right for paid time off over on the main Policy Watch site today.

News

As new school year begins, many teachers feel ‘shortchanged’ by legislature (audio)

Today’s the first day of classes for most schools on a traditional calendar year. And while teachers are excited to see their students again, the year starts with many funding challenges.

Mark Jewell, president of the North Carolina Association of Educators, notes that the state ranks 43rd in the nation in per-pupil expenditures and remains underfunded in textbooks and technology.

Jewell also notes that while some teachers received a pay raise in the most recent budget, healthcare costs are also going up under the state health plan, meaning educators will be bringing home less than they did a year ago.

Click below to hear Chris Fitzsimon’s full interview with Jewell as we discuss recent cuts to the Department of Public Instruction, vouchers and the looming class-size controversy: