Commentary

charterschoolsIt’s funny and sad how humans have to constantly relearn basic lessons of history. The latest exhibit here in North Carolina comes from the world of education where, once again, we’ve been reminded of just why it is that our forebears established a uniform system of public education.

It’s not that children didn’t receive education prior to the construction of a statewide public system that featured uniform rules, standards and oversight. The “genius of the market” assured that some kids did very well.

The problem, of course, is that “market failures” and parental “choice” also assured that huge numbers of children got very little education. To make matters worse, no one was ultimately responsible for the failure and, not surprisingly, North Carolina was a poor and backward state with a handful of “haves” and boatload of “have nots.”

We were reminded of these simple truths about the past again this morning by this story on the Charlotte Observer documenting the latest outrage from the world of barely-regulated charter schools. As the Observer reports: Read More

News

VoteLate yesterday, the state Board of Elections completed the recount of votes cast in the Supreme Court race between sitting Justice Cheri Beasley and her challenger, Winston-Salem attorney Mike Robinson, with Beasley coming out ahead by more than 5,400 votes.

When Robinson initially requested the recount, the tally showed Beasley ahead by 5,427 votes.  Final recount totals gave Beasley a 5,410 vote margin.

The Beasley win moves the balance on the court a little more to the center, with four Republicans  (Chief Justice Mark Martin and Justices Robert Edmunds Jr., Paul Newby and Barbara Jackson) and three Democrats (Justices Robin Hudson, Beasley and Sam Ervin IV).

Justice Beasley had the incumbent advantage after having been appointed to the court in late 2012 by outgoing Gov. Bev Perdue, but Robinson had the backing of well-heeled conservative donors pushing for Republican dominance on the court.  He also got a last-minute boost from the Washington, D.C.-based Republican State Leadership Committee, which threw in $400,ooo in October to blitz the “I Like Mike”  jingle on television during the last week of the campaign.

According to state Board of Elections public information officer Josh Lawson, state law gives Robinson the option of demanding a second recount in a sample of precincts, which would be conducted by the hand-to-eye recount method.  He has 24 hours from the completion of the first recount to ask for that, making his deadline today at 7:48 p.m.

UPDATE:  Per NPR’s Jorge Valencia, Robinson has conceded the race to Justice Beasley. See below:

npr

And as now confirmed by the SBOE, per below, Beasley has won the race.

SBOE

 

Click here to see the final recount numbers.

NC Budget and Tax Center

Coverage of the latest labor market release on Friday has focused on the fact that the state has replaced all the jobs lost in the Great Recession, a milestone achieved after nearly seven years since that recession started.  There is still much progress to be made to achieve a full recovery in the labor market.

BTC - Missing Workers October 2014The latest calculation of the number of missing workers in North Carolina, those who would be looking for work if employment opportunities were stronger, makes clear the challenges that persist.  There are nearly 290,000 workers missing from North Carolina’s labor market.  If these workers were included in the unemployment rate, that rate would be 12.5 percent, nearly twice the official unemployment rate.

News

mccroryThere’s a hard-hitting report out today from the Center for Public Integrity peeling back the layers behind the Outer Continental Shelf Governors Coalition, a group of primarily Republican governors pushing to allow off-shore drilling in Atlantic waters.

The coalition is chaired by Gov. Pat McCrory, and the Center for Public Integrity report (also published in Time magazine) details how a private firmed backed by oil and energy industry representatives are providing research and information to the group of governors. (Click here to read the entire article.)

From the report:

While the message from the governors that morning [a February meeting with U.S. Interior Secretary Sally Jewell] would have come as no surprise to Jewell, less clear, perhaps, was that the governors were drawing on the research and resources of an energy lobbying firm acting on behalf of an oil industry-funded advocacy group.

Indeed, the background materials handed to the governors for the meeting, right down to those specific “asks,” were provided by Natalie Joubert, vice president for policy at the Houston- and Washington D.C.-based HBW Resources. Joubert helps manage the Consumer Energy Alliance, or CEA, a broad-based industry coalition that HBW Resources has been hired to run. The appeal for regulatory certainty, for example, came with a note to the governors that Shell, a CEA member, “felt some of the rules of exploration changed” after it began drilling operations in the Arctic.

McCrory, a former Duke Energy executive, does not come off looking very good, with a mention of his spokesman contacting the private industry-backed firm to ask how to answer a reporter’s questions about the group led by McCrory.

Read More

NC Budget and Tax Center

As I wrote about last week, it is increasingly urgent that emphasis be put on facts as the foundation of policymaking. And there are some great data tools out there to support identification of the issues facing North Carolina’s communities and the most effective solutions.

One such tool is the USDA Food Atlas which provides local data on various measures of food access, security and production. Food insecurity is increasingly considered in this season where so many will focus on preparing holiday meals and too many will continue to struggle to put food on the table.

The Food Atlas provides a comprehensive look at the various dimensions that contribute to food insecurity and nutrition from the location of grocery stores to fast food restaurants to the production of food and access to fresh, local produce.

Here are a few to ponder as we head into the Thanksgiving holiday. Read More