NC teacher pens open letter to Burr re: Trump nominee for Education Secretary

NC Policy Watch friend and occasional contributor, Forsyth County public schoolteacher Stuart Egan, has authored another one of his fine open letters to a powerful politician about our public schools. The latest is a passionate plea directed to Senator Richard Burr regarding Donald Trump’s troubling plan to nominate Michigan Amway queen Betsy Devos as Secretary of the U.S. Department of Education.

Senator Burr,

As the senior senator of our state embarking on your third term in office, your voice in the national arena carries both weight and experienced perspective. And while you and I share many differing opinions on issues that affect our country, I do believe that we share a passion to make sure that all students have access to a great public education.

In preparing to cast my vote this past election, I did review your website to glean your perspective on some issues that seemed to become lost in the national debate with what might be one of the more bombastic presidential elections in history. On your website, you posted on op-ed you wrote for the Fayetteville Observer entitled “Giving our children a better future.”

In it you made statements such as:

“Our children are the future of North Carolina, and they represent the best of us. I am proud to be an avid defender of North Carolina students in the Senate.”

“As a part of my commitment to defending North Carolina students, I was proud to offer an amendment to fix a long-standing inequality in education funding that has shortchanged North Carolina’s teachers, schools and low-income students for over 15 years.”

“My amendment makes sure that federal education funding meant for schools that serve kids from low-income families actually goes to those very schools.”

“This means that with more education dollars coming to North Carolina, we will have more teachers in North Carolina helping our students get a great education.”

“We have made great strides this Congress to deliver control of K-12 education back to local communities, while making sure limited federal education funding is going to the communities that need it the most. But making sure that our children are getting the best education possible is going to be an ongoing fight for North Carolina families in Washington. I’m pledging to continue fighting for North Carolina’s schools, teachers and students, because a brighter future for North Carolina students means a brighter future for North Carolina.”

What I sense in these words is a commitment to our public schools.

In fact, you are the son of a former public school teacher and a graduate of R.J. Reynolds High School in Winston-Salem. I teach at another school in Reynolds’s district, West Forsyth High School, and am proud to report that Reynolds still holds an incredible reputation as a historically effective institution and I know many of the fantastic teachers who work there.

However, we are experiencing in North Carolina a decline in teacher candidates. Why? Because public education is under attack. And when public education is under attack by “re-forming” efforts like vouchers and unregulated charter school growth then communities suffer. Your wife is a leading realtor in the Triad area. I feel very confident that she could tell you the effect that the public school system has on the “value” of property in our communities.

I say all of this because President-elect Trump has appointed a candidate to lead the nation’s public schools who very well may be the most unqualified individual to ever be considered for the position.

And you have the power to help keep that from happening.

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Commentary, News

Uber drivers, airport workers join Fight for $15’s national day of strikes, action today

fight-fo-15As national political events continue their dramatic and troubling shift in a reactionary direction (click here to read about one particularly disturbing possible Labor Secretary in a Trump administration), one gets the sense that today’s national Fight for $15 “day of disruption” may be a harbinger of things to come.

This is from a story by Nadia Prupis for the website Common Dreams:

A nationwide day of action and disruption is set to take place on Tuesday, as workers from around the country and across industries are set to take part in strikes to show their refusal to back down in the face of an incoming right-wing political agenda.

The actions, organized by the Fight for $15 collective, will see airport baggage handlers, Uber drivers, fast-food cooks, cashiers, hospital workers, and others strike to disrupt the U.S. service economy. It marks the first time that Uber drivers will be joining in a Fight for $15 action, showing that the labor collective is growing, with gig workers protesting side by side with more traditional labor.

Protests are scheduled at 20 major airports and outside McDonald’s franchises throughout the country to “underscore that any efforts to block wage increases, gut workers’ rights or healthcare, deport immigrants, or support racism or racist policies, will be met with unrelenting opposition by workers in the Fight for $15,” the organization said Monday.

In addition to showing solidarity with immigrants, people of color, and workers nationwide, the actions will also take on Uber, a central figure in critiques of the U.S. “gig economy”—which many say exploits workers under the guise of offering them flexibility and autonomy.

The movement expects hundreds of events to take place around the country. Here in North Carolina, events will be taking place in Charlotte and Durham this morning, while a larger statewide rally is planned for Durham this afternoon at 5:00 p.m. That event will take place at 2220 N. Roxboro St. (corner of Club and Roxboro). It will be be led by low wage workers and feature an appearance by Rev.  William Barber of the state NAACP.

Click here for more information.


The best editorial of the weekend

If you missed it, be sure to check out the lead editorial in Sunday’s edition of Raleigh’s News & Observer. As it rightfully highlights, the state’s conservative powers that be are up to no good again (and a remarkable degree of hypocrisy) when it comes to voting and election laws.

Not only are they wrongfully attempting to cast doubt on a number of legitimate voters in what the N&O describes as Pat McCrory’s “increasingly futile” effort to overturn his defeat in the gubernatorial election, they’re now telegraphing that they’ll attempt to use their bogus claims as grounds for once again pushing voter suppression laws in 2017 of the kind struck down by the federal courts earlier this year.

The editorial accurately terms this a “transparent” effort to suppress the votes of  groups with which the leaders tend to disagree — the young, the elderly, the poor and people of color. Here’s the excellent concluding sentence:

“It is an insult to democracy and a waste of the public’s money.”

Tragically, that sentence could be used to describe a large proportion of the laws enacted by the state’s right-wing leaders during the last five years. Click here to read the entire editorial.


Editorial: McCrory campaign the biggest threat to election integrity

Pat McCrory’s hometown newspaper is out with its latest scathing take on the actions of the man it once endorsed for governor. As the Charlotte Observer notes this morning, if there’s are threats to election integrity in our state, it’s McCrory who is the most visible and dangerous. After the lauding the state elections board for being mostly prudent in handling of election challenges thus far, it puts it this way:

If only we saw the same coming from the governor’s campaign and its supporters.

Instead, McCrory’s campaign – led by spokesman Ricky Diaz – seemed intent last week on creating the impression that the election has been tainted by widespread voter fraud. “With each passing day, we discover more and more cases of voting fraud and irregularities,” Diaz said in a statement last week. He neglected to mention the Republican-led election boards that have rejected McCrory’s protests in several counties thus far.

McCrory campaign manager Russell Peck went even further, saying that “We may also have uncovered the real reason Roy Cooper fought so hard against efforts to prevent voter fraud as attorney general.” Peck, of course, had no evidence to back up such a charge.

On Sunday, state budget director Andrew Heath tried a different approach, suggesting on Twitter that something sinister might be happening in Durham County: “Heard that Durham Co, US Census, & NCSBE #s show Durham 18+ pop= 231k but Durham registered voters= 232k. Can someone explain?”

People quickly did, clarifying Heath’s numbers, but it’s troubling that a state budget director wouldn’t do his own research before making such an incendiary public statement.

Even Republican State Board of Elections member Rhonda Amoroso got in on the eyebrow-raising Sunday. “To me, it appears, and it may appear to folks in the public that we have a systemic issue of voter fraud,” she said.

Perhaps Amoroso, along with the McCrory campaign, can help clear things up by answering these two questions: How many cases of actual, intentional voter fraud have been documented thus far? How many total votes would be affected by the election protests that are still to be investigated?

Thus far, neither number approaches Cooper’s lead in the race….

We also expect the General Assembly to resist meddling in this election. Because up to this point, the biggest threat to the intregity of the governor’s race – and to the credibility of democracy in North Carolina – is the campaign that’s losing.”

Click here to read the entire editorial.


Government watchdog: McCrory wrongfully casting doubt on legitimacy of the election

The nonpartisan, good government advocates at Democracy North Carolina (i.e. the people who helped bring down former Democratic House Speaker Jim Black) have launched a petition drive to urge Gov. Pat McCrory to “move on.” Here’s what it says:

“North Carolina’s Gov. Pat McCrory lost his bid for re-election on Nov. 8. But weeks later, McCrory still refuses to concede. Instead McCrory’s team has launched a misinformation campaign centered around lodging frivolous complaints against handfuls of voters in more than half of North Carolina counties — all to cast doubt on the election results.

The reason is simple: McCrory is trying to cast doubt on the legitimacy of the election. He and his team want to delay and deligitimize the election process to the point where it triggers a scenario which could repudiate the will of the voters and instead put the governor’s race in the hands of Republican lawmakers.

However, the reality is, in most cases:

  • Republican-led county boards of elections are dismissing McCrory’s baseless protests.
  • Innocent people are being falsely accused of casting ballots as felons.
  • Citizens who cast ballots during early voting and then died before Election Day are being inaccurately described as fraudulent voters.
  • Voters are being accused of casting ballots in two states, where minimal research reveals these charges of interstate voting are completely without merit.

Pat McCrory is attempting to defame our democracy for political gain. It’s time to tell McCrory to move on. 

Gov. Pat McCrory: Your campaign to keep your office is out of control.

You’ve filed protests all across the state, trying to whip up hysteria about fraud and spread suspicion about the accuracy of the elections results.

But the reality is:

** County boards of elections are denying your protests — and these are all three-member county boards with a Republican majority.
** Innocent people are being falsely accused of serving felony sentences and casting ballots as felons. Their names are confused with other people, or they are voters who have served their full sentence.
** Citizens who cast ballots during early voting and then died before Election Day are being described as fraudulent voters or dead voters, which is a complete lie.
** People are being accused of voting in two states, but a small amount of research reveals most of these are false charges.
** African-American outreach groups across the state are all being accused of illegally helping residents cast absentee ballots — all based on the actions of one group that itself received incorrect information and advice from an employee with the State Board of Elections.

The plan seems to be to cast so much doubt and suspicion that you can continue to protest and appeal and endlessly drag this election out. But in the process you’re disenfranchising voters for political gain. How you handle defeat is your final legacy, Gov. McCrory. It’s time to move on.”

Click here for more information.