Rick Glazier: NCGA’s “never mind” budget lacking — fails, hurts North Carolina

Rick Glazier, Executive director of the North Carolina Justice Center, wrote an editorial that appeared in the News and Observer yesterday saying the budget from N.C. legislators falls short of not only meeting the needs of the state but also departs from a history of commitment to public investments like the state’s university system and neglects foundations for a strong future. (Note: N.C. Justice Center is the parent organization of N.C. Policy Watch.)

From the News and Observer:

The state is about to adopt a budget for the coming year based not on what our state needs and what it will reasonably take to meet those needs but on a number lawmakers pretty much picked out of thin air.

Instead of considering how to help communities thrive, give all kids a top-flight education or invest in a strong future, they opted to let a formula take the place of reasoned deliberation. Judgment is giving way to rigid numbers. For no common-sense reason, they decided the state’s public investments over the next year couldn’t exceed the percentage growth in the state’s population plus inflation.

Why? That’s what happens when you so deplete public resources through a string of tax cuts that benefit mostly the wealthiest that you lack the revenue to meet actual needs. That’s what happens when you try to permanently cap the income tax at 5.5 percent to further limit resources.

Never mind that the number of North Carolina children and elderly will likely grow faster than the population as a whole.

Never mind that some important expenses — like health care — often grow by far more than the relatively low inflation rate these days.

Never mind that many dedicated public workers have gone a long time without real salary increases, leaving them to struggle to meet rising costs for the basics.

Never mind that some students in North Carolina are trying to learn from frayed, out-of-date text books.

Never mind that our courts are stretched and can no longer ensure all have access to representation or that the delivery of justice is efficient.

You could say North Carolina is about to adopt a “never mind” budget. And that’s a shame.
[Read more here]


Research shows negative effects of school vouchers on student performance

Mark Dynarski of the Brookings Institution pointed to recent research of voucher programs in Louisiana and Indiana suggesting that students with vouchers to attend private schools perform worse on math and reading tests than their peers in public schools. Lack of adequate accountability may be one factor. Excerpt and link to full report below.

Recent research on statewide voucher programs in Louisiana and Indiana has found that public school students that received vouchers to attend private schools subsequently scored lower on reading and math tests compared to similar students that remained in public schools. The magnitudes of the negative impacts were large. These studies used rigorous research designs that allow for strong causal conclusions. And they showed that the results were not explained by the particular tests that were used or the possibility that students receiving vouchers transferred out of above-average public schools.

Another explanation is that our historical understanding of the superior performance of private schools is no longer accurate. Since the nineties, public schools have been under heavy pressure to improve test scores. Private schools were exempt from these accountability requirements. A recent study showed that public schools closed the score gap with private schools. That study did not look specifically at Louisiana and Indiana, but trends in scores on the National Assessment of Educational Progress for public school students in those states are similar to national trends.

In education as in medicine, ‘first, do no harm’ is a powerful guiding principle. A case to use taxpayer funds to send children of low-income parents to private schools is based on an expectation that the outcome will be positive. These recent findings point in the other direction. More needs to be known about long-term outcomes from these recently implemented voucher programs to make the case that they are a good investment of public funds. As well, we need to know if private schools would up their game in a scenario in which their performance with voucher students is reported publicly and subject to both regulatory and market accountability.

[Read more here]


Coal ash cleanup bill delayed in NC Senate, possible vote Tuesday

The state Senate voted 47-0 today to not concur with the version of SB71 that passed the House yesterday. The bill would establish a new coal ash management commission, replacing the commission that was disbanded following a lawsuit from Gov. McCrory.

The bill now goes to conference committee with a likely vote on Tuesday. WRAL has more on the details of the last minute changes here.

Environmental groups express concerns over the bill, which they say fails to hold Duke Energy accountable in exposing North Carolina residents to coal ash.

The North Carolina League of Conservation says:

By passing this bill, DEQ’s classifications will not be final, which will give Duke Energy the opportunity to avoid accountability for the harm it is inflicting on North Carolina residents through exposure to coal ash.

S71 further delays the time in which Duke Energy needs to take action to clean up coal ash ponds. This further jeopardizes North Carolinians’ health and water quality.

While the bill does require that Duke Energy provide clean water lines to residents whose water supply has been affected by coal ash, it does not specify whether this cost will be passed on to ratepayers. Additionally, Duke Energy has publicly announced that this is a measure the company had already planned to take, making the inclusion of this language in the bill most likely posturing by the legislature.

S71 is a clear attempt by Duke Energy and its friends in the legislature to skirt responsibility for the toxic coal ash ponds in North Carolina. It is time to stop delaying the actions needed to protect the health and well-being of North Carolina residents. Do not let Duke Energy continue to avoid taking responsibility for its actions.

[Read more here]


UNC Board of Governors to hold public comment session tomorrow

The UNC Board of Governors will hold its first public comment session Friday in response to months of protests from students since Margaret Spellings assumed office as UNC President. Spellings introduced the idea, along with livestreaming board meetings, as an effort at transparency.

As the News and Observer reported on Monday:

After months of protests at its meetings, the UNC Board of Governors will host regular sessions for public comment starting this week.

Public comment periods will be held following board meetings for about an hour. As many as 15 speakers will be allowed to speak to the board on any relevant university matter for up to three minutes. A panel of Board of Governors members – about five – will attend.

The first session will be held Friday at the UNC Center for School Leadership Development in Chapel Hill. Anyone who wants to speak must sign up about 20 minutes before the session.

The opportunity for public input was suggested by UNC President Margaret Spellings, who has faced opposition from groups of student protesters since she started in March. Spellings also launched an effort to live streamboard meetings.

“Hosting these sessions will be an ongoing part of our effort to operate more transparently,” Spellings said Monday during a conference call with reporters.

[Read more here]

The public comment session will be held in Room 128 of the UNC Center for School Leadership Development, 140 Friday Center Dirve, Chapel Hill, at 1:00 p.m. or 30 minutes after the meeting adjourns. In-person registration at the sign-in table prior to the public comment session is required to speak to the Board.

More information on the UNC Board of Governors meeting and the public comment session here.


Half of NC voters want to see #HB2 repealed, poll finds

A new poll form Public Policy Polling finds HB2 continue to be unpopular among North Carolina voters. Fifty percent of these voters want to see the law repealed, while only 38 percent are in favor of it remaining in effect.

From the PPP website:

The reason for voters wanting HB2 repealed are pretty straightforward- they think it’s hurting the state both economically and in terms of its national reputation. Overall only 29% of voters believe HB2 is helping North Carolina, t0 56% who think it’s hurting. That includes a 29/53 spread with independents. Specifically on the issue of the economy, only 12% think it’s having a positive impact on the state to 50% who think it’s hurting. Even among Republicans 14% more think it’s negatively affecting the state’s economy than positively. And just 24% of voters think HB2 is helping the state’s national reputation, to 53% who think it’s hurting.

One final reason for HB2’s unpopularity is that voters don’t believe it’s achieving its stated purpose of making the state safer. Only 36% think it’s made North Carolina safer to 47% who don’t think it has. And among women, who the bill purportedly protects from men in their bathrooms, just 28% think it’s made the state safer to 53% who think it has not. On the whole 2 months after HB2’s passage it’s not getting any more popular.

More from the survey here.