Editorial: State lottery suffers the very fate that critics forecast

“We told you so.”

That’s the obvious assessment that critics of North Carolina’s “Education” Lottery can utter these days a decade and a half after its founding.

As today’s Capitol Broadcasting Company editorial on WRAL.com explains, everyone knew the notion that lottery dollars would somehow boost education funding above where it would have been and not be used to fund tax cuts was always a fiction. And now there’s proof that this is exactly what has happened.

In the most recent budget, NO lottery funds were used for additional teaching position, but $385.9 million from the lottery was spent on “non-instructional support personnel.”

…So, at a time when there’s a huge need for additional classroom space and smaller classroom sizes – to help adhere to current pandemic health needs along with providing students with more attention from teachers to make up for in-person classroom time lost – the money is going to basic operations. That is not what lottery advocates intended. That is just what lottery critics – Berger and Moore among them – predicted would happen.

A decade ago, partisan critics called the lottery “Bev’s piggybank” because of proposals during Gov. Bev Perdue’s administration to use lottery funds to shore up battered state revenues during the Great Recession.

Now, of course, everyone involved in the state budget process is participating in this same shell game.

As the editorial goes on to note in conclusion, this situation is especially outrageous when the state is under a court order to comply with the state constitution’s mandate to provide every public school student with a sound basic education.

For nearly 25 years North Carolina has been operating public schools, the highest court in the state has ruled, in an unconstitutional matter failing to meet the promise of providing a quality education to every child.

It is past time to end the lottery shift-shaft. Put the lottery money, as promised, back into enhancing education by cutting class size, providing funding to build more school facilities, expand pre-k education to all children. Stop the corporate tax giveaways and fully fund basic education needs including the Leandro action plan – a common sense roadmap to a quality education for every child.

Click here to read “Ignoring their own warnings about the N.C. lottery.”

New poll shows broad support for automatic voter registration, an end to gerrymandering

Image: NC State Board of Elections

New polling from the Democratic-affiliated research and advocacy group Carolina Forward finds strong support for a pair of progressive democracy reforms already implemented in a number of other states, but long resisted by the GOP leadership at the North Carolina General Assembly: automatic voter registration and an end to partisan gerrymandering.

This is from the news release that accompanied publication of the poll results:

The latest Carolina Forward poll shows that automatic voter registration is very popular in North Carolina. 56% of North Carolina registered voters support automatic voter registration, compared to only 40% opposed. Majorities of both Democrats (85%) and Independents (52%) support the proposal, as well as 1 in 4 Republicans (28%).

…The new poll also revealed that gerrymandering remains a top voting issue, with large majorities of every political affiliation supportive of ending the practice.

The poll found that 65% of registered voters agreed with the statement that “ending gerrymandering is an important voting issue to me” while only 11% disagreed. Just under 25% were unsure.

The polling also found continued solid support for Gov. Roy Cooper’s job performance (52%-approve, 40% disapprove) and handing of the COVID-19 pandemic (54%-positive, 44%-negative).

Click here to explore all of the polling details.

The survey was conducted March 31 to April 1 by Public Policy Polling.

The best editorial of the weekend: What wind power could do for NC (and the planet)

Photo: Getty Images

If you missed it, be sure to check out the lead weekend editorial in Raleigh’s News & Observer“Strong winds off the coast could power a clean energy economy in North Carolina.” As the authors explain, it’s long past time for us to move aggressively to make use of North Carolina’s plentiful offshore winds to create sustainable energy and good jobs.

This from the editorial:

Building offshore wind turbines would help slow climate change and would also decrease environmental damage by reducing the dirty process of extracting and transporting fossil fuels. Just last August, a pipeline breach spilled about 1.2 million gallons of gasoline near Huntersville. Duke Energy customers will be paying for years to help clean out the utility’s coal ash pits.

…Beyond its environmental benefits, wind power could also bring strong economic gains not only in construction and maintenance, but in manufacturing of turbines. The Department of Commerce report said North Carolina’s manufacturing sector could develop coastal factories to make wind turbine towers and blades that are so large they can only be transported by water.

“Wind energy means new jobs for North Carolinians,” said Machelle Sanders, North Carolina’s commerce secretary. “Just like biotechnology was for us many years ago, today clean energy represents an industry of the future and North Carolina always embraces the future.”

And happily, the Biden administrations is fully on board with such a plan. Last week, it unveiled an ambitious plan to dramatically ramp up the nation’s development of offshore wind energy.
Of course, no solution is perfect and wind energy development won’t come without foul-ups and negative impacts, it’s a vastly superior to the Trump administration’s horrific idea of filling the east coast with offshore oil platforms. Again, here’s the N&O:
There are also legitimate concerns about how building and operating the massive offshore turbines could affect the fishing industry, wildlife, military flights and tourism. These concerns should be addressed in consultation with stakeholders.
Though not yet a sure thing for North Carolina, wind power is much closer to becoming one. There’s no doubt about where the pursuit of more clean energy should go next. Go where the wind blows.
Click here to read the entire editorial.

Editorials agree: Berger and Truitt swing and miss with new phonics push

Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger

Superintendent Catherine Truitt

Spring is here and, sadly, that means it’s time for new round of cheap, “quick fix” education policy proposals from conservative politicians.

A few years back, end-of-grade testing was the big idea. Then came charter schools, private school vouchers, school uniforms, school report cards and Senate leader Phil Berger’s “read-to-achieve” program. None of these schemes has made a meaningful impact.

And now comes yet another magic solution: phonics.

State superintendent Catherine Truitt and Berger recently proposed mandating the use of something called “the science of reading” – of which phonics is a big part – in early grade reading instruction. The proposal is included in their new “Excellent Public Schools Act of 2021” proposal.

Unfortunately, dozens of education scholars reject such an approach. Phonics can be a useful tool, they say, but they also note that all children are different and warn against one-size-fits-all solutions.

As Raleigh’s News & Observer explained in a fine editorial yesterday:

There is considerable division in the education field about whether a renewed emphasis on phonics is the best way to teach reading. Gay Ivey, a University of North Carolina-Greensboro professor and highly regarded expert on literacy, said phonics is a necessary tool, but it is not a cure-all for lagging reading skills. She said the approach has been tried, particularly under the federal No Child Left Behind law.

“Doubling down on phonics alone has never worked to produce better readers,” Ivey told the Editorial Board. She said children must learn not just how to sound out words, but also how to assess the words’ meanings and how they connect. Reading instruction, she said, should not be just mechanical. It should also ignite a love of reading that comes with comprehension and the ability to imagine characters and situations.

“I worry that people have put a lot of faith in this one narrow view and, under this bill, we all will have to subscribe to it,” she said. “It’s worrisome because we’ve been down this road before.”

Of course, the real answer to what ails our schools lies not in micromanaging currcula from Washington or Raleigh, but in a sustained commitment to invest – in teachers, administrators, facilities, and children themselves.

As this morning’s Capitol Broadcasting Company editorial on WRAL.com puts it in taking Truittt to task:

The reality is that there is a far more comprehensive, well-thought out, approach to meeting the state education needs that Truitt has been all too silent about but should be at the forefront of her education agenda.

She should be in the forefront – out ahead – in pushing the legislature to adopt the comprehensive plan that has been developed by bringing together the various parties in the Leandro court case in to meet the State Constitutional right to give every child access to a quality education.

Until state leaders finally wake up to this reality that’s been staring them in the face for deacdes, the quick and easy fixes will continue to fall flat.

GOP legislative leaders should let voters have their say on proposal to end gerrymandering

Image: AdobeStock

Gerrymandering. For decades, this maddening phenomenon in which politicians rig elections by drawing legislative maps and, in effect, choosing their own voters, has had a ruinous impact on North Carolina politics and policymaking.

Now, however, thanks to the inspired work of reform advocates, all that can and should change.

House Bill 437 – the “Fair Maps Act” – would amend the state constitution to take redistricting power out of the hands of partisan legislators and establish an independent commission comprised of everyday North Carolinians to draw the state’s voting districts free from political influence.

This is from a statement issued by the good people at Common Cause of NC earlier this week:

Primary sponsors of the Fair Maps Act include Rep. Pricey Harrison (D-Guilford), Rep. Robert Reives (D-Chatham, Durham), Rep. Grier Martin (D-Wake) and Rep. Marcia Morey (D-Durham). (Click here to watch video clips of the bill sponsors discussing their support for the Fair Maps Act and ending gerrymandering in North Carolina.)

“We applaud these lawmakers for introducing the Fair Maps Act. This legislation provides lasting, nonpartisan reform that would end gerrymandering for good in North Carolina. The Fair Maps Acts would stop the practice of politicians manipulating our voting districts and it would ensure voters have a true voice in choosing their representatives,” said Bob Phillips, executive director of Common Cause NC. “While the citizens commission proposed by the Fair Maps Act would not be in place for the 2021 round of redistricting, the bill puts forward key principles that legislators should look to as new districts are drawn this year. Among those principles are the importance of meaningful public participation, rejecting partisan or racial gerrymandering and protecting communities from being needlessly divided.”

Phillips noted that the most prominent Republican leaders currently in the legislature, Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger and Speaker Tim Moore, both sponsored bills to create a citizens redistricting commission when their party was in the minority a little more than a decade ago.

“It was right for Speaker Moore and President Pro Tem Berger to support nonpartisan redistricting when their party was out of power, and it would still be the right thing to do now that their party controls the General Assembly,” Phillips said. “We urge members of both parties to end the damaging cycle of gerrymandering and put the well-being of North Carolinians above partisan politics by passing the Fair Maps Act.”

The bottom line: This is a model that’s worked well in other states and swift passage ought to be a no-brainer.

Unfortunately, as has been the case for years, Republican leadership in the General Assembly remains a huge roadblock.

All caring and thinking North Carolinians should demand that GOP leaders end their stubborn resistance to reform and let voters have their say.