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To the surprise of some of its own members, a legislative task force studying alternative ways to compensate teachers in the state put forth a report today asking the General Assembly to consider a short-term goal of significantly increasing the salaries of entering teachers and those teachers who are most likely to leave–which would be teachers with less than ten years of experience.

That recommendation mirrors Gov. Pat McCrory’s recent teacher pay proposal that would reward only beginning teachers in the state with significant pay raises, bringing their salaries up from $30,800 to $35,000 by 2015.

But task force members who were not lawmakers — teachers, principals, and other education stakeholders – were taken aback  by the report that bears their names, indicating their feedback wasn’t taken into account during the report’s development.

“Why were we brought here? I don’t sense the education professionals on this panel had much input in the report,” said Timothy Barnsback, President of the Professional Educators of North Carolina (PENC). Read More

Screen Shot 2014-04-14 at 4.17.51 PMThe Congressional Budget Office (CBO) released the fourth year report on projections of the cost of the Affordable Care Act.  The news is good and consistent with the trend over the previous four years: CBO now projects $104 billion less in costs under the Act than it did last year.  The reduction in costs is due to a variety of factors but two big ones stand out.  First, plans being offered under the health exchanges have significantly lower premiums that were originally anticipated, largely a result of narrower networks of providers and tighter management of health care in the plans – a trade-off that has resulted in big savings.  Second, all health costs – both in government programs like Medicare and Medicaid and in the private sector – are projected to grow  more slowly than just last year.  The CBO points out that this is becoming a trend:

A notable influence is the substantial downward revision to projected health care costs both for the federal government and for the private sector. For example, since early 2010, CBO and JCT have revised downward their projections of insurance premiums for policies purchased through the exchanges in 2016 by roughly 15 percent, and CBO has revised downward its projection of total Medicaid spending per beneficiary in 2016 by roughly half that percentage.

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ff-8292013It’s depressing as hell, but everyone who cares about North Carolina public policy should make this new report by the N.C. Budget and Tax Center’s Cedric Johnson: “Who Pays in 2014″ a part of their Tax Day reading list.

As Johnson reports:

“Changes are coming to who pays taxes in North Carolina, and the news is not good for middle- and low-income taxpayers. This tax season marks the final year taxpayers will file their income taxes under the state’s old tax code and by next year it will be apparent to many taxpayers that the tax plan has not just reduced available dollars for investing in core public services, but also has increased the tax load for many. Read More

Mitigation costs for 450 ppm

Global mitigation costs for stabilization at a level “likely” to stay below 2°C (3.6°F). Source: IPCC 2014 and www.thinkprogress.org

There’s more compelling evidence today — both around the world and here in North Carolina — of the urgent need to move to world economy off of its addiction to the heroin of fossil fuels. Moreover, as this story from the good people at Think Progress reports, such a shift can occur with only a minor economic hit if we act now.

“The U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has just issued its third of four planned reports. This one is on ‘mitigation’ — ‘human intervention to reduce the sources or enhance the sinks of greenhouse gases.’ Read More

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.