Commentary, News

This week’s top five on NC Policy Watch

McCrory ASD1. Governor McCrory needs to realize that putting ideology over evidence won’t help struggling students

Legislative leaders say they care about helping struggling schools in North Carolina and the students who attend them—but they don’t act much like they do.

Imagine going to the doctor for an ear infection and the doctor tells you that she’s going to prescribe a drug that hasn’t worked very well in treating other patients with similar infections.

That in essence is what the General Assembly did this session by approving legislation to put five low-performing schools in something called an achievement school district (ASD) that may be run by an out of state for profit charter school company.

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McCrory body cams2. Missing a chance to send a message at a time of national crisis:
Governor McCrory swings and misses on the police violence issue

The phenomenon of brutality and misconduct by law enforcement officers toward average Americans (especially young African-American men) is, of course, nothing new in the United States. For a tragically high percentage of people of color, regular confrontations with police are a regular and often terrifying fact of life. In some large American cities, there are so many cases of police misconduct that some lawyers devote their entire practices to representing victims or defending police. And needless to say, the phenomenon of law officers being targeted by criminals goes back to the beginning of civilization.

In recent years, however, two developments – one negative and one positive – have elevated these issues significantly.

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k12-virtual3. Accountability for NC virtual charter operators back in the spotlight after California forces K12 Inc. to pay $168.5 million settlement

Bill Cobey, chairman of North Carolina’s State Board of Education, has heard all about K12 Inc.’s California settlement, a purported $168.5 million pact with the state’s attorney general amid long-running allegations that the for-profit virtual charter school operator inflated student test scores and attendance to drain more cash from public coffers.

It’s of import to Cobey because K12, of course, is one of two companies operating similar, publicly-funded virtual charters in North Carolina, both of which experienced soaring dropout rates this year in their first eight months of operation while taking in more than $14 million in state funds this year

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Money-eyes-4004. Is this as good as it gets for North Carolina?

Over the next year North Carolinians will find out the results of an experiment that began July 1. On that date, a new state budget took effect that is based, not on the level of public investment needed to help communities thrive, but on a formula divorced from the reality of everyday lives.to help to help communities thrive, but on a formula divorced from the reality of everyday lives. The formula is rigid, if nothing else. It says public spending growth can’t exceed the percentage growth in population and inflation. Period.

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Lead poisoning5. North Carolina is headed backwards on childhood lead poisoning  

When the NC legislature adjourned last week, they left behind some unfinished business. One bill left hanging, House Bill 1074, would have required (and paid for) lead testing in the drinking water of every school and child care center in North Carolina. We applaud Rep. Mike Hager (R-Burke) for his leadership on this issue, and sincerely hope that he will continue to push for lead testing in the 2017 session.

We absolutely support the legislature’s effort to ensure that children’s drinking water in schools and child care centers is free from toxic lead – but it’s important to keep in mind that only about 20 percent of children’s lead exposures actually come from drinking water. The vast majority come from their homes, where particles of lead from older house paint break down and become part of the house dust that is inhaled and ingested by small children, irreversibly damaging the developing brain. Soil in backyards and playgrounds can also be contaminated with lead from older sources, and that becomes part of the house dust lead mix, too.

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Also, don’t miss our next N.C. Policy Watch Crucial Conversation luncheon:

Predatory payday lenders: Is North Carolina rid of them for good or will they make a comeback?
Featuring our special guest, Tom Feltner of the Consumer Federation of America

When: Wednesday July 27 at 12 noon

Where: The Junior League of Raleigh Building, 711 Hillsborough St. (at the corner of Hillsborough and St. Mary’s streets).

Click here to learn more.

Commentary

After a brief moment of sanity, Newt Gingrich flips out again

011410_1650_NewtGingric1.jpgFormer U.S. House Speaker and perennial presidential/vice presidential candidate Newt Gingrich made some headlines the other day when he uttered some semi-sane words about the reality of being a black American and how white people fail to grasp the challenges that their fellow citizens of color face every day.

Unfortunately, Gingrich headed back over to his usual abode in Crazy Town yesterday with a new and certifiably insane series of statements about Muslim Americans. Esther Yu-Hsi Lee of Think Progress reports:

“Muslims who can’t pass a test to ensure that they are compatible with Western civilization should be deported, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich suggested following a terror attack involving a man who plowed into a crowd and killed more than 77 people in Nice, France.

‘Western civilization is in a war,’ Gingrich said on Thursday night during a Fox News interview with Sean Hannity. ‘We should frankly test every person here who is of a Muslim background, and if they believe in Sharia, they should be deported. Sharia is incompatible with Western civilization.’

In the same interview, Gingrich — who is being considered as a potential running mate for GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump — said the idea that Islam is a peaceful religion is ‘bologna.’

‘We need to be fairly relentless about defining who our enemies are,’ Gingrich added. ‘Anybody who goes on a website favoring ISIS, or Al Qaeda, or other terrorist groups, that should be a felony, and they should go to jail. Any organization which hosts such a website should be engaged in a felony. It should be closed down immediately.'”

No word yet on whether Gingrich favors a formal repeal of the Bill of Rights or would simple recommend suspending it on an ad hoc basis.

You can read the rest of the Think Progress story by clicking here.

Commentary

HB2 update: Cleveland passes transgender-friendly ordinance days before GOP convention

There’s more good news today in the slow but sure battle to win equality for all LGBT Americans and it comes, from all place, the site of the upcoming Republican National Convention. Steve Harrison of the Charlotte Observer reports:

“On the eve of the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, City Council members there have unanimously approved a new policy allowing transgender individuals to use the bathroom or locker room that corresponds with their gender identity, according to the Web site Cleveland.com.

The RNC begins Monday. The platform of the Republican Party opposes measures that would allow transgender people to use the bathroom that matches their gender identity, and the party also supports House Bill 2, the controversial N.C. law that prohibits cities and towns from passing their own ordinances for gay, lesbian and transgender protections.

Equality Ohio supported the Democratic council’s decision, saying “transgender Clevelanders and visitors have the dignity of using the restroom matching their gender identity.”

The ordinance was first introduced in 2013, according to Cleveland.com.

The Charlotte City Council expanded its nondiscrimination ordinance in February, extending legal protections to the LGBT community. But HB2, passed by the legislature a month later, nullified the city’s ordinance.”

No word yet on how the HB2-supporting North Carolina pols and delegates in attendance will manage to cope.
Commentary, News

HB2 lawsuit update: Light in the tunnel as court will consider immediate relief for transgender people on August 1

This just in from the good people at the ACLU of North Carolina:

U.S. District Court Judge Thomas Schroeder will hear arguments on Monday, August 1, on a motion for a preliminary injunction that asks the court to block the provisions of North Carolina’s House Bill 2 that target transgender people for discrimination in single-sex facilities while a legal challenge proceeds through the court system.

The American Civil Liberties Union, ACLU of North Carolina, Lambda Legal and the law firm of Jenner & Block are representing six LGBT North Carolinians and members of the ACLU of North Carolina in their federal court challenge to House Bill 2.

“Every day that House Bill 2 remains on the books, transgender North Carolinians suffer irreparable harm at work, in school, and in other public places, simply because they want to use public facilities safely just like everyone else but this hateful law prevents them from doing so,” the groups said in a joint statement. “We are glad our clients will finally have their day in court, and we hope that this discriminatory law’s days are numbered.”

WHAT: District court hearing on request to block anti-transgender provisions of North Carolina’s House Bill 2

WHEN: Monday, August 1, 2016 at 10 a.m.

WHERE: U.S. District Court, 251 N Main St, Winston-Salem, NC

The ACLU and Lambda Legal lawsuit, Carcaño v. McCrory, was filed days after the law, which also removes legal protections for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people, was passed by the North Carolina General Assembly and signed by Governor Pat McCrory.

In court documents, Governor Pat McCrory, North Carolina state legislators, and the University of North Carolina argue that House Bill 2 should remain in effect while the legal challenge proceeds.

To read more about the case: https://www.aclu.org/cases/carcano-et-al-v-mccrory-et-al

 

Commentary

Tillis: Confirming judges has “nothing to do with doing our jobs”

Thom TillisSometimes it is almost beyond belief that Thom Tillis serves on the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee. That same thought must’ve been running through the minds of a lot of his fellow senators yesterday afternoon when Tillis took to the Senate floor to block a bundle of federal court nominations who would have filled vacancies that are causing backups in the courts. Many of them passed the Judiciary Committee unanimously.

Doug Clark of the Greensboro News & Record reports:

“Tillis objected that the Senate shouldn’t be forced to do ‘things that have nothing to do with doing our jobs’ while action is needed on important matters like Zika, veterans, drug addiction and defense funding.

Which prompted Democrat Elizabeth Warren to question what part of the Constitution says that confirming judges isn’t the Senate’s job.

Warren was joined by fellow Democrats Chuck Schumer and Mazie Hirono in trying to break a logjam before the Senate goes into its long summer recess. It could adjourn as soon as tomorrow.

Click here to watch video of the exchange.

As the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights noted on Twitter, Tillis’ position is, in a word, “crazy.”

The bottom line: Tillis and his blockading conservative colleagues are simply not doing their jobs in 2016 when it comes to their constitutional duty to advise and consent on judicial nominations (including the nomination of the eminently qualified Merrick Garland to serve on the Supreme Court) and it’s simply an embarrassment. Unfortunately, Tillis is so uninformed with respect to his constitutional duties that he doesn’t even grasp how wildly off-base he has strayed.