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K12May9As regular visitors to N.C. Policy Watch are well-aware, the phenomenon of so-called “virtual charter schools” is an issue of great controversy these days. Proponents say they’re the greatest thing since sliced bread , but as several stories here (especially about the troubled for-profit virtual charter  company K-12, Inc.) have documented, the bread often gets sliced pretty thin by these outfits. Not all virtual charter companies are dishonest scammers, but enough are to render the entire concept highly questionable.

A Sunday editorial in the Winston-Salem Journal does a good job of reiterating this hard truth:

“Some legislators want North Carolina to jump into business with for-profit companies that would run the online charters. But this is a decision that should not be made rashly. The [state Board of Education's] preference of a go-slow approach makes much more sense….

Virtual charters raise a great many questions about their effectiveness, their impact on traditional public schools and other charters, their availability to students of all economic backgrounds and their quality.

Many educators fear that virtual charters are a scam, nothing more than a way for a for-profit business to siphon off some of the tax money being spent on public education….

The cautious approach that allows the state to learn how virtual charters work best is the right way to go.”

Read the entire editorial by clicking here.

 

 

Photo credit: Think Progress

Photo credit: www.thinkprogress.org

As Policy Watch Reporter Sarah Ovaska has been reporting regularly of late, obtaining Food Stamps and the failure of North Carolina’s Department of Health and Human Services to process applications in a timely manner remain big problems for lots of needy people.

One way to solve this problem, of course, would be for the McCrory/Wos administration to start doing its job and get claims processed properly. Another solution, however, that might have an even greater and more beneficial impact would be to raise incomes of people currently reduced to relying on Food Stamps — people like the workers at Wal-Mart.

Click here to read an amazing story and watch a compelling two-minute video about how the giant retailer (and the place where more Food Stamps are spent than anywhere else) could lift thousands of people out of poverty and save taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars per year just by paying workers a decent wage. And the impact on Wal-Mart prices of such a shift? Just over 1%!

Medicaid efficiencyThe wonks at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities released an outstanding little report this week about America’s health insurance program for low-income people and some of the biggest myths that have been perpetuated about it.

The overarching message: Despite the far right propaganda, Medicaid remains an efficient and flexible program that dramatically improves the lives of participants, promotes work and is an outstanding deal for states that expand it under the Affordable Care Act.

Read the entire report by clicking here.

Meanwhile, if you’re looking for the  inside political scoop on the Medicaid battles and the real reason the right refuses to allow its expansion in states like North Carolina, Nobel prize-winning economist Paul Krugman had the answer in yesterday’s New York Times: Read More

Gay marriage 3It’s been less than two years since North Carolina officially enshrined discrimination in its constitution by passing the execrable Amendment One. Now, less than 24 months later, just as Speaker Thom Tillis famously/infamously predicted, the law seems fast on its way to obsolescence and, ultimately, the dustbin of history.

Yesterday, lawyers with the ACLU of North Carolina asked a federal court to block enforcement of the law on behalf of three same-sex couples seeking recognition of their marriages – a result that developments in other states makes increasingly plausible.

Now, today, new polling shows that a sizable majority of North Carolinians opposes the substance of the discrimination amendment. According to one of the nation’s most accurate polling shops, Raleigh-based Public Policy Polling, not only do 40% of voters (62% of young voters) favor total marriage equality, but:

“There is increasingly little division among voters in the state about whether gay couples should at least have some sort of legal rights in the form of civil unions. 62% support either marriage or civil unions for same sex couples to only 34% who think they should have no legal recognition at all. 68% of both Democrats and independents support at least civil unions, and even Republicans narrowly do by a 50/48 spread.”

The discrimination amendment, of course, bars even civil unions for same-sex couples. All in all, it’s hard to see how the amendment survives the decade — and maybe even the year. Stay tuned.

The lead editorial in this morning’s edition of Raleigh’s News & Observer tells it like it is with respect to the issue of unemployment insurance and North Carolina’s harshest-in-the-nation decision to cut off benefits to folks in need:

“It was one of the more shameful moments in the not-exactly-illustrious rule of Republicans in the General Assembly and the governor’s mansion. Last summer, GOP lawmakers cut state unemployment benefits knowing it would mean that jobless North Carolinians, many of them innocent victims of the Great Recession, would lose emergency federal benefits.

North Carolina was the only state to reduce unemployment benefits even though federal law required states to maintain benefit amounts to qualify for the extended federal payments. Gov. Pat McCrory and Republican lawmakers justified leaving thousands and thousands of families in the cold by saying that extended unemployment benefits discouraged people from going back to work. Read More