Commentary

Teacher offers Bible lesson to pro-discrimination voucher school

Vouchers14N.C. Policy Watch friend and contributor Stuart Egan, who teaches in the Forsyth County public schools, has a fine new post that provides the people who run Bible Baptist Christian School in Matthews with a brief, but powerful (and amusing) Bible lesson.

Egan was moved to action by yesterday’s Fitzsimon File in which Chris highlighted the school’s overtly discriminatory policies toward LGBT people — this, despite the fact that the school is receiving more than $100,000 in public voucher funds this year. As Chris noted, the school bases its stance on its reading of a chapter in the Book of Leviticus.

Here’s Stuart Egan:

If Bible Baptist Christian School chooses to use the Old Testament Book of Leviticus, one of the books of the Torah, as a basis for admission criteria and student conduct, then it cannot just adhere to just one of the verses and its commands, but all of them. And breaking any of these should be grounds for having to refund the public school system with the very money taken with a voucher to pay for tuition at the private, religious school.

No Red Lobster!

Lev. 11: 9-12 says,

  1. “These shall ye eat of all that are in the waters: whatsoever hath fins and scales in the waters, in the seas, and in the rivers, them shall ye eat.
  2. And all that have not fins and scales in the seas, and in the rivers, of all that move in the waters, and of any living thing which is in the waters, they shall be an abomination unto you:
  3. They shall be even an abomination unto you; ye shall not eat of their flesh, but ye shall have their carcases in abomination.
  4. Whatsoever hath no fins nor scales in the waters, that shall be an abomination unto you.”

One cannot be caught eating at the Red Lobster or other seafood restaurant that serves certain prepared aquatic delicacies. Even if a student is not eating one of the forbidden menu items, watching others do so and not acting to stop it is just as much a sin.

No polyester / cotton blended t-shirts!

Lev. 19:19 says,

  1. Ye shall keep my statutes. Thou shalt not let thy cattle gender with a diverse kind: thou shalt not sow thy field with mingled seed: neither shall a garment mingled of linen and woollen come upon thee.

It doesn’t matter if the t-shirt has the school’s name and a picture of a cross; it breaks the law!

The post goes on to refer to several other rather amusing prohibitive verses, but you get the idea. The absurdity of the school’s policy just gets more and more obvious as the list goes on. Happily, Egan doesn’t leave the matter there. He concludes his post with another Bible verse from the Book of Matthew that one might have thought a “Christian” school would have wanted to rely on a little more explicitly: Read more

Commentary

Post highlights “worrisome” trends in NC’s support for higher ed

Gov. Pat McCrory is out today with a rather surprising news release in which he lauds five of the state’s HBCU’s for new national recognition that they received. According to the Guv, the schools “are an important part of our state’s longstanding commitment to excellence in higher education.”

What a pleasant change of pace! For years, of course, the Guv and his fellow conservatives have been badmouthing and under-funding HBCU’s (indeed, our entire system of higher education). Staffers over at the Pope Center for Higher Education — founded by McCrory’s old budget director — regularly call for downsizing the UNC system and almost always start their discussions with HBCU’s. Then of course, there was the recent attempt by conservatives at the General Assembly to include multiple HBCU’s in their half-baked plan to slash tuition at several UNC system campuses without a solid proposal for how to replace the lost revenue.

Ultimately, of course, all of this is part and parcel of the Right’s ongoing effort in North Carolina to gradually undermine and privatize higher ed. As the good people at Higher Education Works note in a new blog post, though things here remain better than in a lot of states, the trends are not encouraging. The post notes that:

“The flagship campus at UNC Chapel Hill has built resources to limit the debt of its graduates, when adjusted for inflation, to the same level it was 15 years ago – a remarkable achievement in an era of rapidly escalating student debt.

But that’s not the case across the rest of our public universities.  Paralleling the increases in tuition, the average debt for graduates of North Carolina’s 16 state universities has climbed and approached the national average.”

The post concludes this way:

“College graduates benefit all of North Carolina, whether through higher wages, better health, engaged citizenship or reduced government dependence.  But debt can keep them from sharing their economic energy with the rest of the state.

So by several key measures, the support North Carolina shows for its public universities distinguishes it from other states – we should be proud of that and sustain it.  That support benefits both individual students and the state itself.

But some trend lines are worrisome, and we must be vigilant to protect North Carolina’s advantage.”

Unfortunately, right now, that vigilance frequently involves resisting the efforts of the state’s current elected leaders.

Commentary

Army vet skewers attempts to use military as excuse to derail wind energy

AmazonWindFarmToday’s “must read” opinion piece for those who care about North Carolina state government and the future of clean, sustainable energy is Steve Harrison’s outstanding op-ed in this morning’s edition of Raleigh’s News & Observer. In it, Harrison, and army vet and one of the main driving forces behind the website Blue NC, does a masterful job of debunking the efforts of state Senate Majority Leader Harry Brown and others to do the bidding of the fossil fuel industry by attempting to use the military as an excuse to torpedo wind energy in eastern North Carolina.

After explaining Brown’s contention that wind farms would interfere with the flight paths of military aircraft, Harrison says the following:

“What Brown failed to tell his colleagues in the N.C. Senate is: The FAA is the primary ‘decider’ of what constitutes an obstruction to flight paths in the entirety of U.S. air space. ….The FAA has an entire division dedicated to potential obstructions, including a section that deals specifically with wind turbines. An FAA permit is required before you can even break ground on a wind energy project, and each turbine is assessed individually, not just the whole project. In other words, the implication that state government needed to step in and solve this problem is categorically untrue.

What’s also untrue is Brown’s statement that the Military Affairs Committee has been contemplating this issue for years. While the committee might have been created out of 2013 legislation, it’s really only been formally active for less than a year. And as recently as February, flight path obstructions didn’t make its list of priorities.

By May the issue was included in its long list of priorities, and it had developed a map of flight paths with which it was concerned. But that initial committee map had only three colors (red, yellow, green) designating potential flight paths. These corridors were already large enough; encompassing close to half of eastern North Carolina’s geographical footprint.

But that wasn’t enough for Harry Brown. The map that emerged from the General Assembly had magically sprouted two more colors (orange, dark grey), effectively blocking wind farms in about 85 percent of eastern North Carolina.

While you’re contemplating politicians who would use the military to further other agendas, like the destruction of the clean energy sector, contemplate this also: I am not anti-military. Not only do I support our bases in North Carolina, I’ve trained at most of them. I was stationed at Ft. Bragg for several years, and I’ve made 69 jumps out of both fixed-wing and rotary-wing aircraft. I lost a couple of very good friends in North Africa when their helicopter got tangled in some power lines.

I know, probably a lot better than Harry Brown, just what’s at stake on this issue. There is room for both military operations and renewable energy, including wind turbines, in the future of our great state.”

Thanks Steve, for all you do for our state. Great job as usual.

Commentary

National expert: Ten easy-to-understand reasons why Medicaid works

Greater Drop in Uninsured Rate Among Adults in Medicaid Expansion StatesEdwin Park of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities has a fabulous post on the group’s Off the Charts blog today about the amazing successes of Medicaid. The post — “Medicaid Works: 10 Key Facts” — lays out “ten key facts about how Medicaid helps millions of Americans live healthier, more secure lives” and thereby debunks decades of conservative mythology about this vital public public structure. The post also helps make clear once more why the decisions of states like North Carolina not to expand the program under the terms off the Affordable Care Act have been such a disaster. Here are the first five:

“1. Medicaid provided quality health coverage for 97 million low-income Americans over the course of 2015.  In any given month, Medicaid served 33 million children, 27 million adults (mostly in low-income working families), 6 million seniors, and 10 million persons with disabilities, according to Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimates.

2. Medicaid has cut dramatically the number of Americans without health insurance.  Since the implementation of health reform’s major coverage expansions in 2014, Medicaid and the new health marketplaces have helped cut the number of uninsured Americans from 45 million to 29 million, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates.  States that expanded Medicaid have had significantly greater reductions in the share of residents who were uninsured than non-expansion states (see chart).  By 2020, an estimated 13 million more adults will have enrolled in Medicaid and gained access to affordable health coverage due to health reform.

3. Medicaid participation is high.  Some 65.6 percent of low-income adults with children who are eligible for Medicaid are enrolled, according to the Urban Institute, a relatively strong participation rate compared to some other programs.  And evidence so far among states adopting health reform’s Medicaid expansion shows substantial increases in overall Medicaid enrollment, which indicates robust participation among expansion-eligible individuals.  In addition, 88.3 percent of eligible children participate in Medicaid or the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), according to the Urban Institute.

4. Medicaid has improved access to care for millions, including those with chronic conditions.  A landmark study of Oregon’s Medicaid program found that beneficiaries were 40 percent less likely to have suffered a decline in their health in the last six months than similar people without health insurance coverage.  They were also likelier to use preventive care (such as cholesterol screenings), to have a regular clinic where they could receive primary care, and to receive a diagnosis of and treatment for depression and diabetes.

5. Medicaid provides significant financial support to low-income beneficiaries.  Medicaid lifted 2.6 million people out of poverty in 2010, equating to a 0.7 percentage-point drop in the poverty rate.  The program cut poverty most among adults with disabilities, children, seniors, African Americans, and Hispanics.  Research from Oregon’s Medicaid program also shows that beneficiaries were 40 percent less likely to go into medical debt or leave other bills unpaid in order to cover medical expenses, and that Medicaid coverage nearly eliminated catastrophic out-of-pocket medical costs.”

Click here to read the other five.

News

Gov. McCrory signs off on charter takeover of low-performing schools

McCrory ASDAs expected, Gov. Pat McCrory has signed House Bill 1080, controversial legislation that will allow for-profit charter takeovers of several low-performing schools in North Carolina.

McCrory’s office announced the signing Tuesday, although the news was buried in a press release about the governor’s signing of legislation intended to help state officials keep track of veterans.

It’s unclear when the governor gave his seal to the bill. On Tuesday, staff at McCrory’s press office did not respond to Policy Watch’s inquiries about the signing.

The bill, which was opposed by most Democrats and public school backers in the state legislature, creates a statewide “achievement school district” for five low-performing schools.

Lt. Gov. Dan Forest, a Republican school-choice supporter who also sits on the State Board of Education, will chair and appoint an advisory committee to choose a superintendent for the special district. That superintendent would tap the schools by Nov. 15, and the State Board of Education is expected to approve those choices by Jan. 15.

Given the short time frame, members of the State Board of Education said in a conference call earlier this month that they intended to move quickly implementing the achievement school district.

Supporters, including a right-wing, ALEC-affiliated group out of Oklahoma that purchased a full-page ad in a June News & Observer, described the measure as an “innovative” approach to reforming chronically low-performing schools, but critics points out similar reform efforts have produced mixed results in other states such as Tennessee. 

We’ll stay tuned as state leaders roll out the achievement school district.