Commentary

Live in a county where the polls are open today? You still have time to do your civic duty.

It’s easy to focus on Washington politics and often forget about the impact local offices have on our daily lives — but that would be a mistake.

More than two dozen counties have local elections today and the polls are open until 7:30pm.

In November 2015, researchers from Democracy NC identified 69 cities in our state where the mayor or a town council member won their election by five or fewer votes.

In other words, your vote really does matter.

Need more motivation? Read today’s editorial from Capitol Broadcasting Company.

There are 110 local elections being held today in 24 counties around North Carolina. In Fayetteville, Chapel Hill, Durham, Raleigh and Cary, voters will be picking mayors and city council members. They’ll be doing the same from Elizabeth City in Pasquotank County in the east to Flat Rock and Fletcher in Henderson County in the west.

Candidates have been working to rouse interest. The last few days there’s hardly a mailbox in cities holding elections that haven’t been filled with vote-for-me post cards and candidate solicitations.

If you haven’t had a candidate or campaign worker knock on your door, it’s because you haven’t been home. And it’s likely you’ve been greeted by a candidate at some community event or shopping venue.

Still, voters were hardly breaking the doors down at early voting sites in the Triangle: 18,039 in Wake County; 6,484 in Durham County and 6,387 in Orange County.

But that need not be a predictor of final turnout. Polls are open today from 6:30 a.m. until 7:30 p.m.

Voters who don’t make it to the polls are telling the rest of us who do: “Go ahead, we’ll trust you to make choices for us. We’ll be happy with the decisions you make and promise not to complain a bit if local governments do things we don’t like.”

We may like our neighbors – but do we really trust ALL of them with our votes?

Want to know where to vote? Just click HERE and you can look it up.

Do you need a photo ID to vote? No – that law doesn’t go into effect until 2020. Got other questions? You can reach the State Board of Elections at 866-522-4723. There’s also information available at the State Board’s website.

There’s no better way for citizens to get a message to public officials than by voting.

Do it today. It’s your right, and obligation.

Commentary, Education

Teacher identifies 10 “reforms” that have damaged NC’s public schools

In case you missed it, veteran Forsyth County schoolteacher and regular Policy Watch contributor Stuart Egan has a fine new post on his blog Caffeinated Rage entitled “These Ten Educational ‘Reforms’ In North Carolina Have Intentionally Hurt Our Public Schools.” Here are his first five:

1. Opportunity Grants (Vouchers) –

There has never been any empirical evidence that the vouchers actually work. Maybe voucher proponents would like to point to NC State’s study last year, but that study ultimately did not make conclusions on the veracity of the vouchers. In fact, it said that the Opportunity Grants need much more research as it is hard to assess the program.

Or they might point to “satisfaction surveys” like Joel Ford of PEFNC did in an op-ed on EdNC.org. If that is the only variable by which they can measure the effectiveness of the grants, then that is absolutely weak.

And it has been shown that Opportunity Grants have heavily been used in nontransparent religious private schools. Furthermore, not even half of the funds for the vouchers have been awarded, yet the NCGA keeps putting more money into this reform.

From Public School First NC.org:

In the 2017-18 school year, 7001 students attended 405 private schools at a cost of $20.3 million. The largest cohort of Opportunity Scholarship recipients attended a single religious school in Fayetteville, with those 201 students making up more than half of its student population. The largest dollar amount, $451,442, went to Liberty Christian Academy in Richlands, NC where 122 of the 145 students are voucher recipients. The 2018-2019 Budget Adjustments bill increased funding for the Opportunity Scholarship program from $45 to $55 million.

voucheroverfunded2

2. Innovative School District –

North Carolina’s ISD is run by an out-of-state for-profit charter chain. To date it has only  school and it just got its third superintendent and its second principal – after only one full year in operation.

It is not a success by any stretch of the imagination.

Here is the most recent growth rates and grades for subsets for that ISD school.

reforms4

Southside Ashpole Elementary:

  • 4 – F’s
  • Everything else is an “I” which stands for “Insufficient Data.”
  • 1 – Not Met’s
  • 2 – Met

The current ISD here in NC has been in existence for over three years. It has not worked.

At all.

3. Charter School Cap Removed –

This past January, Kris Nordstrom published an article that openly showed this data.

The cap was removed beginning in 2012-2013.

And there is substantial evidence that charter schools are more segregated than traditional public schools.

The Excel spreadsheet in the previous post lined to above is a list of every charter school that exists now in this state that had a school performance grade attached to it for the 2018-2019 school year. It is cross-referenced to the last full school report card it has on record from the 2017-2018 school year.

According to that data table in that post which includes 173 charter schools,

  • 81 of them had a student population that was at least 65% white.
  • 40 of them had a student population that was at least 80%  white.
  • 100 of them had at least 50% of the students classified as white.
  • 31 of them had a student population that was at least 65%  black.
  • 17 of them had a student population that was at least 80% black.
  • 43 of them had at least 50% of the students classified as black.

To put in perspective, that means:

  • Over 110 of the 173 charter schools had a student population that was at least 65% one race/ethnic group.
  • 150 of the 173 charter schools had a student population that was at least 50% one race/ethnic group.
  • Over 50 of the 173 charter schools had a student population that was at least 80% one race/ethnic group.
  • 132 of the 173 schools listed had a 2017-2018 student population that was lower than  40% Economically Disadvantaged.

4. School Performance Grades –

16 states

NC is the only state that puts more emphasis on proficiency than growth and counts proficiency for 80% for a school performance grade. NC weighs proficiency at least 30% more than the next ranking state.

And North Carolina’s school performance grades are a confirmation that student poverty levels have so much to do with how schools perform.

graph

5. Virtual Charter Schools –

There are two virtual charter schools that have not very well in the past, but were renewed by the state for another four years and championed by Mark Johnson.

Here are their grades and growth by subset groups.

reforms3reforms2

reforms1

NC Virtual Academy:

1 – F
6 – D’s
2- C’s
5 – Not Met’s
1- Met

NC Cyber Academy:

4 – F’s
4 – D’s
1- B
6 – Not Met’s
0- Met

Click here to see the other five.

Commentary, immigration, Trump Administration

Trump’s destructive war on immigrants is taking a deadly toll

Journalist James Garcia authored a powerful essay recently in the Arizona Mirror that does a good job of summarizing the destructive impact of the Trump administration’s policies toward immigrants. His assessment: we won’t be able to call ourselves a nation of immigrants much longer if Trump’s relentless and bigoted policies aren’t halted soon.

This is from Garcia’s roundup of what’s happening on the immigration front:

The Trump administration wants to slash the number of refugees allowed to resettle here to 18,000 next year. That’s about 20 percent of the target set by President Obama in 2016, and the lowest government cap since 1980.

Refugees are also being affected by a policy change that dramatically expands the government’s practice of returning asylum seekers who arrive at our border to Mexico to await court hearing dates. It used to be if you made a credible claim for asylum, you could be released to a sponsor – usually a family member in the U.S. – until your case wound its way through the system, a process that often takes years.

Already about 45,000 asylum seekers have been returned to Mexico under the policy. Unless an appeals court rules otherwise, tens of thousands more asylum applicants could be sent to Mexico to live in conditions that are substandard, if not outright dangerous.

Reports have shown “that migrants sent back to Mexico under the policy have been robbed, kidnapped for ransom, raped, tortured and killed,” according to Vox.

Meanwhile, U.S. officials have penned so called “safe third country” agreements with Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala that require migrants to seek asylum first there if they pass through one those countries on their way to the U.S. 

The plan is almost as heartless as it is absurd. Many of the 800,000 migrants who have been arrested at our border in the past year came from those three violence-ridden nations in the first place. Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala are all on the top ten list of countries with the world’s highest murder rates.

Legal immigration is also under assault. Read more

Commentary, News, Trump Administration

Updated and corrected: Conspiracy rant was not by UNCW professor

[Editor’s note: This post originally identified UNC Wilmington criminology professor Mike Adams as the individual who appeared last week on the disgraced and widely banished “Infowars” show hosted by the deeply troubled Alex Jones. This was in error. Though Prof. Adams is an outspoken conservative who bears a physical resemblance to the Mike Adams identified in an article entitled “Mike Adams via Infowars: Impeachment Inquiry against Trump Part of Plan to Genocide Human Race,” on the website Right Wing Watch, they are two different individuals. We deeply regret the error.]

The following is from the article about the Mike Adams who actually appeared on the show.

On yesterday’s [October 2] episode of Jones’ program, Adams was an in-studio guest, assisting Jones in providing commentary on a press conference at the White House with Trump and President Sauli Niinisto of Finland. But before the press conference started, Adams launched into a rant about his frustrations that humanity was “failing right now to get angry enough” about a supposed “globalist” plot to kill all humans.

“There’s a soft kill of humanity, and there’s a soft coup of Trump right now. Both of these are going to go to the hot phase. Both of these are going to go to hard kill and hard coup. This is what’s crucial to understand. They’re happening in parallel. They are the exact same globalists—they are, and they are linked. If they destroy Trump, they also succeed in destroying humanity because Trump represents the last hope for humanity to have a free nation on this planet,” Adams said.

Jones burst in, saying, “And that’s what’s so crazy is he really is for real and then people aren’t going, ‘This is wonderful!’ They’re like, ‘No! We don’t want it!’”

“Well, right. And humanity is going to be overrun here. Humanity is going to be absolutely destroyed if we don’t turn this around and wake people up enough,” Adams said. He insisted “there should be a million people swarming Washington, D.C., peacefully and lawfully right now” to put pressure on the nation’s leaders, presumably to stop the apocalyptic plan Adams believes is taking place. Jones agreed, urging what viewers he still has to track down their elected officials and “get in their face” and intimidate them.

In an unexpected twist, Read more

Commentary

The best editorial of the weekend: Superintendent Mark Johnson’s monarch complex

DPI Superintendent Mark Johnson

In case you missed it, the Saturday editorial in Raleigh’s News & Observer does a fine job of summing up the mostly dreadful performance of state schools superintendent Mark Johnson over the last nearly three years.

The latest nonsense to come from Johnson, of course, surrounds the iPads that he bought under questionable circumstances last year. Now, with many of them still sitting in a warehouse, Johnson is dispensing them like the infamous plutocrat John D. Rockefeller handed out nickels and dimes on the street a century ago.

In response to an inquiry from the Board of Education as to the criteria he’s using to hand them out, Johnson made plain that there really are none. Here’s the N&O:

“How do we respond when the question is, ‘Well, what criteria is used to make these awards and how does my school get into the queue to be considered for these awards?’” [Board chair Eric] Davis asked.

“They can email me,” Johnson said.“That’s the criteria?” Davis said.

Apparently, yes. Educators across the state winced at the exchange, while Johnson wondered why he couldn’t just do what wanted. It’s an ongoing pattern with a state superintendent who too often operates without regard to process or protocol — or even the reasons there are processes and protocols. In this case of the extra iPads, such reasons are elementary: Resources are scarce in N.C. schools. Educators should have an equal opportunity to make a case for them, and they shouldn’t be used as props for superintendent photo-ops. At the least, the distribution of resources should be part of larger plans and policies developed together by the state superintendent and state school board.

The editorial goes on to not that Johnson’s lil’ dictator shtick is the byproduct of an ill-conceived GOP pustch in which Johnson’s patrons at the General Assembly passed a law transferring power from the Board of Education to the superintendent. Here’s the conclusion to the editorial:

That left our state’s schools under the unchecked control of an inexperienced schools chief, not a state school board that brings a thoughtful approach and decades of education experience to the challenges our public schools face. A parade of embarrassments have followed, as well as some notable setbacks in programs like the Innovative School District.

Republicans can and should repair the damage they’ve done. They should restore the checks and balances HB 17 removed from public school system leadership, and they should signal to Johnson that his combative, go-it-alone style doesn’t serve North Carolina’s children. Our schools need a leader, not a czar.

Exactly.

Click here to read the entire editorial.