Commentary

Busting Tim Moore’s myths about public schools

N.C. House Speaker Tim Moore

Be sure to check out the lead editorial on WRAL.com this morning, in which North Carolina House Speaker Tim Moore is taken to task for his mythologizing about public education in a recent opinion column.

In Moore’s column, he makes the following claims in the second sentence:

“Changes already in effect include four consecutive teacher pay raises, an improved approach to state education funding, a successful Read to Achieve literacy program and expanded school choice for low-income families.”

Now here’s the editorial (“Speaker Moore’s boasting about education doesn’t add up”) in response:

“Let’s start with four contentions in the second sentence of his column:

  • ‘Four consecutive teacher pay raises.’ FACT: Teacher pay has increased for those with the least experience while it has stagnated or been cut for those with more experience. Additionally, pay cuts for longevity and advanced degrees coupled with increased costs of benefits drive out the best and most experienced in our classrooms.  North Carolina average teacher pay remains $9,000 behind the national average.
  • ‘Improved approach to state education funding.’ FACT: Education funding in North Carolina is in an unresolved crisis of the legislature’s making. An unfunded demand to cut class size continues to leave local school systems in budget-planning chaos that threatens art, music, language arts and physical-ed instruction in our schools.
  • ‘Successful ‘Read to Achieve’ literacy program.’ FACT: Surveys of North Carolina teachers indicate barely a quarter say the program has had a positive impact and 40 percent say it’s been negative.
  • ‘Expanded school choice for low-income families.’ FACT: The lack of demonstrable educational achievement, accountability and transparency in the “opportunity scholarship” private school voucher program is an irresistible invitation to fraud, waste, abuse and corruption. There are already signals of that a plenty. Look at what’s happening at the Fayetteville private school that is the single-greatest recipient of voucher funds. Its basketball coach pleaded guilty to embezzling hundreds of thousands of state tax withholding dollars.

Now, that’s just Speaker Moore’s second sentence.

Moore shouldn’t claim advances in education when, in too many cases, the reality is that it’s been two steps backward followed by a single step forward. That means we’re still behind.”

After detailing several statistics demonstrating the lackluster support conservative lawmakers have provided to public education, the editorial closes this way:

“The reality is that Moore and his ideological soulmates in the General Assembly are more intent on cutting taxes for big corporations and the wealthy than providing the needed funding for properly paid teachers and quality public schools.

When it comes to doing more for education in North Carolina, Moore’s boasting is no more than school-yard trash talk. All platitudes, with little to back it up.”

Exactly.

Environment

DEQ will revoke Chemours’s discharge permit, citing several violations; criminal probe begins

DEQ tried using the carrot to convince Chemours to stop contaminating the drinking water …

For state environmental officials, the latest spill by Chemours was the last straw. The NC Department of Environmental Quality had tried cajoling, cooperating, dangling the carrot instead of brandishing a big stick. But after Chemours covered up an Oct. 6 chemical spill at its Fayetteville Works plant, DEQ announced today that it is moving to permanently revoke the company’s wastewater discharge permit. The reasons, the agency said, were the failure to comply with the permit and to report the spill.

According to a news release issued at 4:20 p.m., DEQ officials also notified Chemours it will suspend its permit to discharge process wastewater from the company’s manufacturing area including the areas where GenX and other fluorinated compounds are produced. The suspension will take effect Nov. 30. Chemours is still required by the state to divert wastewater containing GenX and transport it out-of-state for disposal.

 

… but had to use the stick

The revocation of Chemours’ permit will take effect after the required 60-day notice to Chemours and public participation in the permit process, which will include a comment period and a hearing.

DEQ is referring its probe of the Oct. 6 spill to the State Bureau of Investigation to determine if there is evidence of criminal violations for not reporting the spill as required by law. That spill, which released chemicals that are precursors to GenX, occurred during planned maintenance. State and federal officials learned of the spill only after the EPA’s routine sampling results show a huge spike — a nearly 100-fold increase — in contamination in the plant’s wastewater.

DEQ learned of the results on Nov. 1.

In addition, the company is legally required to notify DEQ within 24 hours of any spill that could compromise human health or the environment. Chemours failed to do so on Oct. 6, a Wednesday.

On Sept. 5, DEQ had sent a letter to Chemours about its previous illegal discharges. That correspondence teed up a partial consent order issued by a Bladen County judge in which DEQ agreed not to suspend the permit for a 60-day review period in exchange for Chemours’s compliance with all requirements, including halting all discharges of perfluorinated chemicals.

But Chemours, Linda Culpepper, DEQ’s interim director of the Division of Water Resources, pointed out in today’s letter, “misrepresentations and inadequate disclosures” have continued during the review period.

“It is unacceptable that Chemours has failed to disclose information required by law, information we need in order to protect the public,” said Michael S. Regan, secretary of the N.C. Department of Environmental Quality “We’re taking action to suspend Chemours’ wastewater permit and moving to permanently revoke it because the company has repeatedly failed to follow the law.”

DEQ will continue to collect and test water samples from the Cape Fear River including at the Chemours outfall.

Two other nearby companies, Kuraray and DuPont, are permitted to treat and discharge wastewater via Chemours’s system. The revocation does not apply to those companies.

Environmental advocates immediately released statements applauding the decision.

“People who are personally affected by the GenX crisis will be relieved to know that North Carolina’s environmental regulators will hold polluters accountable for their actions,” said Erin Carey, the NC Sierra Club’s Coastal Programs Coordinator.

Brian Buzby, executive director of the North Carolina Conservation Network, called for additional funding for DEQ to monitor the state’s waterways, while agreeing the company’s permit must be suspended. “This is the right approach: no polluter is above the law, and dischargers have an obligation not to abuse the waters that support all of us.”

 

Letter November 11-16-17 by Anonymous B0mRtPKjko on Scribd

News

New Elon Poll looks at NC views on opioid crisis

If you’ve followed NC Policy Watch’s ongoing coverage of the opioid epidemic and the state’s reaction to it, you’ll want to check out the results of the latest Elon University Poll.

Among its findings: about one in three North Carolinians surveyed have been personally affected by opioid dependence or has a close relationship with someone who has.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, most of those polled viewed prescription drugs as more of a problem than illicit street drugs like heroin. That lines up with the opinions of experts who study the problem.

Most respondents also believe their community does not have the proper resources to deal with the problem.

That shouldn’t come as a shock to those who have been following the state response to the problem.

The state budget passed over the summer improved funding for the state’s Controlled Substances Reporting System and funneled $10 million in federal grants to treatment services.

But it was well under what the governor called for in his suggested budget and only about half of what was called for in the bi-partisan Strengthen Opioid Misuse Prevention (STOP) Act.

A small pilot program to treat opiate overdoses was funded in Wilmington, one of the worst places in the country for opioid abuse.

What may be a surprise is the divide over how best to handle the problem.

From the poll:

Political party affiliation produced little variation in the responses across many of the questions related to the opioid crisis in this survey, but not when it comes to opinions about the best way to address the issue — the criminal justice system vs. the health care system.

Overall, 56 percent of respondents said the health care system is the best way to deal with the problem, with 61 percent of Democrats and 57 percent of independents holding that view compared to 48 percent of Republicans. As for favoring the criminal justice system, 31 percent of Republicans held that view compared to 18 percent of Democrats and 18 percent of independents. Overall, 21 percent favored the criminal justice system.

The poll – a live-caller, dual-frame (landline and cell phone) survey of 771 registered voters in North Carolina – was conducted Nov. 6-9 and has a margin of error +/-3.5 percent.

Commentary, News

Must read: Did Trump’s federal court nominee for NC lie to the Senate?

Thomas Farr

Be sure to check out a story in Durham’s Indy Week by reporters Tommy Goldsmith and Erica Hellerstein about Raleigh lawyer Thomas Farr — Donald Trump’s controversial nominee to fill the decade-old vacancy on the federal district court in North Carolina’s Eastern District.

This is from the story “Did Former Helms Lawyer Thomas Farr Lie to the Senate Judiciary Committee? It Sure Looks That Way.”:

Raleigh lawyer Thomas Farr, a nominee for a federal judgeship, knew well in advance about a controversial 1990 postcard campaign designed by Republicans to intimidate blacks who wanted to vote, according to a former Department of Justice investigator.

The statements made this week by Gerald Hebert, a federal attorney in 1990, directly contradict Farr’s sworn testimony in September before the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee that he only heard about it after a Justice Department letter responding to the plan….

Hebert told the INDY Wednesday that he learned about the role Farr played planning the postcards when responding to complaints to the Justice Department about the 1990 senatorial campaign of the late North Carolina Senator Jesse Helms.

A meeting planning “ballot security” efforts—including the intimidating postcards—included Farr and took place in mid-October before the November election between Helms, who won, and then-Charlotte Mayor Harvey Gantt, Hebert says, referring to contemporaneous handwritten notes.

“We talked to Farr, and he confirmed a lot of what we’d heard,” Hebert told the INDY Wednesday. “I don’t think he can really claim that the first he heard of it from a Justice Department letter.”

Yet that’s exactly what he did.

The Justice Department eventually charged the state Republican Party and the Helms campaign, for which Farr was lead counsel, with violating African-American voters’ rights by sending more than one hundred thousand postcards, mostly to black neighborhoods, suggesting that recipients were ineligible to vote and could be prosecuted if they tried.

“He was certainly involved in the scheme as it was being developed,” Hebert told this reporter for a 2009 News & Observer story….

Nan Aron, the president of the Alliance for Justice, an association of public interest and civil rights organizations formed in 1979, says Hebert’s account of Farr’s early involvement makes sense given what she called Farr’s long record of voter suppression efforts.

“There’s certainly a clear discrepancy between what Mr. Farr testified to under oath to the committee and what has and will be reported about his activities with Helms regarding voter suppression,” Aron says. “A key qualification for a judge is impeccable honesty. This raises a whole slew of questions.”

Though Farr was approved in a narrow and partisan 11-9 vote by the Senate Judiciary Committee, his nomination has yet to be taken up by the full Senate. Click here to read the rest of this damning story.

NC Budget and Tax Center

Senate tax plan would eliminate health insurance coverage for millions to pay for tax cuts for richest Americans

The Senate tax bill released last week follows the same framework proposed by the U.S. House and the Trump Administration: delivering large tax cuts to the richest Americans while paving the way for cuts to schools, health care and the infrastructure that helps communities thrive.

Now, in what is perhaps the most disturbing recent development, Senate leaders have added a more explicit attack on the health care of at least 13 million Americans by placing a proposed repeal the individual mandate in the tax bill.

This is from the Center on Budget & Policy Priorities:

“The savings from eliminating the mandate would come entirely from reducing health coverage. For example, the federal government would spend less on premium tax credits because fewer people would sign up for marketplace coverage, less on Medicaid because fewer people would enroll, and less on the tax exclusion for employer-sponsored health insurance because fewer employees would enroll in job-based coverage.

These savings are what let Senate leaders make their full corporate rate cut permanent. Without repeal of the individual mandate, the long-term costs of the corporate rate cut ($171 billion in 2027 alone) would have exceeded the savings from the bill’s offsetting revenue raisers, even after Senate Republicans modified their bill to have its individual income tax cuts expire after 2025. This math problem seems to have been a key part of the motivation for adding individual mandate repeal to the bill. With savings of $53 billion in 2027, the provision pays for making about one-third (about 4.7 percentage points) of the corporate rate cut permanent. Other provisions in the bill would cover the rest of the cost.”

Late yesterday, the national AARP issued the following statement:

“The amendment to repeal the individual health coverage requirement will leave millions of Americans uninsured, destabilize the health insurance market, and lead to spikes in the cost of premiums.

The Congressional Budget Office recently confirmed that repealing the individual health coverage requirement would lead to 13 million Americans losing their health coverage, including 2 million Americans who would lose employer-sponsored coverage.

AARP urges Congress to reject this amendment, which also undermines the bipartisan health bill offered last month by Senators Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and Patty Murray (D-WA) that is intended to reduce premium spikes and stabilize the individual health insurance market.”

This is a developing story — stay tuned for updates.