Uncategorized

HB2, the tourism industry, and the “more progressive state of South Carolina”

While Gov. Pat McCrory continues to attack opponents of HB2 and blame the media for how it is covering the damage caused by his anti-LGBT law, leaders in the tourism industry in North Carolina have a clear message for McCrory and the General Assembly—repeal the law that is hurting their businesses.

The Lumina News reports that Mary Baggett, owner of the Blockade Runner Beach Resort in Wrightsville Beach, didn’t mince any words at a recent meeting of the N.C. Tourism & Travel Coalition in Wilmington.

At an industry event Monday, Mary Baggett, owner of Wrightsville Beach’s Blockade Runner Beach Resort, said the state’s legislature needed to take immediate action to repeal the bill and that the NC State Tourism Coalition should be lobbying that message to state’s General Assembly that is currently in session.

“We fought hard to become a destination state. Now it’s all undone,” Baggett said. “I hope your organization comes forth to rally us.”

Baggett also shared a recent story about an interaction with a potential tourist that includes a line that many North Carolinians never thought they would hear.

Baggett described an email she received from a family from Massachusetts traveling through the region who had planned a stay at the Blockade Runner. The family will be staying in the “more progressive state of South Carolina”, said Baggett referencing the email cancelling the four-night booking, because they would “rather go to a state that’s not judgmental” of people’s lifestyles.

The more progressive state of South Carolina? It is hard to believe where McCrory and his pals in the General Assembly have taken us.

Uncategorized

Major education nonprofit, North Carolina New Schools, to close, WRAL reports

school-busespng-91b35e2c325e0b5bSurprising news from WRAL today about a theoretically well-funded education nonprofit that is shutting its doors. 

The news station reports that North Carolina New Schools, a group that helps to train teachers and administrators across the state, will be closing, although no reason was provided.

From WRAL:

A spokeswoman for the group said it is a “difficult day” and that more information would be released this afternoon after conversations with staff.

On Thursday morning, NC New Schools’ President Tony Habit sent an email announcing that he resigned Wednesday after nearly 13 years as the organization’s founding president. WRAL News reached out to Habit, as well as other employees with the organization, but they have not responded.

NC New Schools is based in Research Triangle Park and has received millions of dollars in donations and federal grants since it began in 2003, including nearly $26 million from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, a $20 million grant in 2014 and a $15 million grant in 2011 from the U.S. Department of Education.

Policy Watch has reached out to some supporters of the program, which is generally well thought of in the state. We’ll let you know when we learn more.

Read more

Uncategorized

Virtual charter leaders dispute state’s attendance, testing data

virt-chartLeaders with North Carolina’s pilot virtual charter schools are disputing a report presented Wednesday to the N.C. State Board of Education that marked soaring dropout numbers and lower-than-expecting testing in the new programs.

Wednesday’s report counted withdrawal rates at both N.C. Connections Academy and N.C. Virtual Academy at about 26 percent, an increase on the programs’ already troubled numbers we reported in January.

This week’s report also includes data that would seem to show the schools are not meeting state accountability standards either, at least as far as third-grade testing is concerned.

Tammy Howard, director of the N.C. Department of Public Instruction’s (DPI) accountability division, reported both schools have a target this year of administering the Beginning of Grade 3 test to 95 percent of their students.

But Howard said N.C. Connections Academy tested just 105 of 140 students, about 75 percent, and N.C. Virtual Academy tested 134 of 147 students, or about 91 percent.

Both schools moved quickly to dispute the data, blaming incomplete calculations by the state, discrepancies between the school and the state’s enrollment records, and rapid fluctuations in enrollment for the problems.

Read more

NC Budget and Tax Center, Uncategorized

NCGA reminded that many “business climate” rankings paint an overly rosy picture

Last Thursday, members of the Economic Development and Global Engagement Oversight Committee saw evidence that many “business climate” rankings overstate how well North Carolina is actually doing.Abernathy Slide - Rankings and Econ Performance

Respected economic expert Ted Abernathy, formerly the Executive Director of the Southern Growth Policies board and now with Economic Leadership, an economic development and analysis consultancy, briefed the committee on a range of economic dynamics from growing wage gaps between urban and rural North Carolina to factors that influence our competitiveness on the global market.

Abernathy also examined how North Carolina’s economic performance compared with how we fared in several business interest group and media publications. This analysis shows that North Carolina’s economic performance has fallen short of its stature in many of the rankings. As can be seen in the graph, North Carolina is in the top 20% in performance (“Statistical Ranking”), but is a top 5 state in the “Best States” rankings. Our economy is doing better than many states, but not nearly as well as many state rankings would imply. Read more

News, Uncategorized

Atkinson: “We have used the facts” about charter schools

N.C. Superintendent of Public Instruction June Atkinson

N.C. Superintendent of Public Instruction June Atkinson

Expect very little to change in the state’s controversial demographic assessment of North Carolina’s burgeoning charter school population if N.C. Superintendent of Public Instruction June Atkinson has her way.

Atkinson told Policy Watch Friday that, despite Lt. Gov. Dan Forest’s objections this week to a report on the increasingly white charter population, her office has a responsibility to avoid massaging the data.

“I don’t see how (the report) could be different,” said Atkinson. “We have used the facts.”

During this week’s monthly State Board of Education meeting, Forest pulled a draft of an annual report on charter schools due for the N.C. General Assembly that included population statistics he deemed overly “negative.”

Included in the report, authored by DPI’s Office of Charter Schools, state staff noted that, while the charter student population is relatively similar to traditional public schools, they differ in a few major ways.

Most importantly, while traditional schools are becoming increasingly more diverse, charters are bucking the trend in North Carolina. More than 57 percent of the students in the state’s 158 charters are white, the report states, compared to more than 49 percent in traditional schools.

Additionally, only about 8 percent of charter students are Hispanic, about half the percentage reported in traditional schools.

Also, over the last 15 years, North Carolina charters’ share of minority students has declined. In traditional schools, it’s the opposite, the report said.

This week, Adam Levinson, interim director of the state’s Office of Charter Schools, attempted to assure state board members that the report is purely data-driven, but Forest, a charter advocate, worried aloud that the media and charter critics would use the numbers to fuel opposition.

Atkinson, however, tells Policy Watch that the report used data pulled from the system’s accountability statistics, numbers used to report students’ academic growth rate and proficiency.

So what should we expect from a Forest-approved version of the charter report? Atkinson says she’s not sure.

She says Forest has yet to relay any information to her office about what he would like to see changed. However, she pointed out, state board member Becky Taylor, chairwoman of the board’s Education Innovation and Charter Schools Committee, has asked each board member to send her their revisions for review next week, something certainly worth following.

Atkinson said she may suggest adding copies of the school systems’ accountability forms to the report in order to provide further confirmation of the data.

“We go the second mile of asking our schools to affirm that the information is true to the best of their knowledge,” said Atkinson. “That’s the way it is. In the report our goal was actually to not have much of a narrative other than stating the facts. There are no policy recommendations.”

One other interesting point from the state report. Since the state lifted its 100-school cap on charters in 2011, North Carolina has added another 58 operating charters, including two hotly-debated virtual charters, which seem to be facing a troubling dropout problem.

DPI staff expect to have a rewrite of their annual charter report prepared for the state board in February.