Commentary

As reported in this space on Tuesday, the UNC Board of Governors took action recently to eliminate or consolidate 46 degree programs across the system. The authors of an editorial in this morning’s edition of the Wilmington Star News smell an ideological agenda and are rightfully critical of the move:

“What’s notable, though, is the pattern of the cuts. Music, art and theater programs took big hits, as did programs in African-American studies, women’s studies and Hispanic studies. Programs to train foreign language teachers in French and German were axed at ECU, and math education and Latin were eliminated at UNC-Greensboro.

In some cases, the argument was that many of these programs had few students enrolled, so continuing to offer them wasted money. More generally, though, the Governors appear to be following the lead of Gov. Pat McCrory and his pal Art Pope – slashing back on classes that aren’t directly training students for a career.

McCrory, after all, famously remarked that anyone who wants to study gender issues should do so at a private university (and, incidentally, hope their daddies can pay the tuition).

The ultimate object of this seems to be to retract the UNC system into a network of pre-professional trade schools, supporting values that the Pope Center for Higher Education Policy (funded by Art Pope’s family) identifies as ‘the morality of capitalism’ and ‘limits on government.’

That’s simply wrong. “Liberal education” doesn’t mean studying the collected works of Nancy Pelosi or Rachel Maddow; it refers to teaching students to think independently. That requires exposure to the fine arts, to alien points of view and to foreign cultures.

Cutting funds to train a future generation of high school foreign-language teachers is especially wrongheaded, at a time when we’re told we have to compete in a “global” economy. How can we do that if we don’t understand what the other person is saying?

Click here to read the entire editorial.

News

The state Senate is one step away from passing legislation that would require women in North Carolina to wait 72 hours before getting an abortion. The bill entitled the ‘Women and Children’s Protection Act of 2015‘ would also require any abortion provider have board  certification in obstetrics or gynecology.

House Bill 465 won tentative approval on Thursday with the Republican-controlled chamber turning back three amendments by Democrats, including one that would exempt domestic violence victims from the 72 hour waiting period.

Durham County Senator Floyd McKissick chastised Republicans pushing the restrictive bill:

“I guess if this body could overturn Roe v. Wade that they would. But they are unable to do so, so the next thing to do is to put one hurdle after another, after another.”

Supporters of the bill say the intent is to give young, pregnant women more time to consider all their options.

A final vote comes Monday after which the latest version of HB 465 returns to the House where a conference committee will work out the differences.

To read the latest version of the bill click here. To hear Sen. McKissick speak on the bill, click below:

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Commentary

Good for Gov. Pat McCrory. He announced this afternoon that he would veto the bill passed by the House today that would allow magistrates to opt out of their duty to officiate at marriages due to their “religious beliefs.”

Now, the question is: Can he make a veto stick or will he just get rolled over by state lawmakers as he usually does? A first look at the veto override math leads to the conclusion that he will have his work cut out for him.

The Senate seems likely to be a lost cause since only 30 votes are necessary to override and the bill passed with 32. There were also two excused absences — at least one of whom is a sure thing to support an override.

The House is where the drama will be. Assuming all members are present, 72 votes are necessary for an override. Since the bill passed by votes of 65-45 and 67-43, there would appear to be some hope. Note however, that there were 10 people who failed to participate in both votes. Add to this that at least two members voted for the measure on third reading who did not do so on second reading (Democrat Charles Graham went from “not voting” to “yes” and Republican David Lewis went from “no” to “yes”) and you can see how this could quickly get very messy.

The bottom line: Stay tuned as we’re about to find out a lot about McCrory and the future of North Carolina.

News

A registered sex offender who worked at a Fayetteville private Christian school that has received more than $100,000 in publicly-funded school vouchers is now facing criminal charges—and the head of the school that hired him has taken a leave of absence, WRAL reports.

Paul Conner, 50, of Mosswood Lane in Fayetteville, is charged with three counts of violating the sex offender registry guidelines and one count of conspiracy, according to the Cumberland County Sheriff’s Office.

The school’s [Freedom Christian Academy] principal, Joan Dayton, submitted a leave of absence to school officials Friday amid an investigation into claims that she allowed Conner to work at the school and that administrators changed student grades.

Dayton has not been charged, but is named in Conner’s arrest warrant as a co-conspirator.

Last week, the Cumberland County Sheriff’s Office executed a search warrant to determine if Dayton, who employed Conner to do handyman work at Freedom Christian Academy, knew beforehand that he was a registered sex offender.

The detective working on the investigation concluded that there was probable cause that Dayton knew of Conner’s status thanks to emails she sent and interviews with teachers, staff and parents.

Dayton has not been charged, but she was named ‘co-conspirator’ in Conner’s arrest warrant, according to WRAL.

The investigation is also looking into allegations that school officials changed the grades of favored students and athletes.

Freedom Christian Academy has received $108,254 in public school voucher funds to date—the state’s fifth largest voucher recipient. Twenty-six of its 500+ students have each been able to use up to $4,200 in public funds to pay for tuition at the private religious school.

—>For more background: Private Christian school receiving $100,000+ in publicly funded school vouchers accused of knowingly hiring registered sex offender

Parents have posted multiple comments on Freedom Christian Academy’s Facebook asking for more answers.

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Stay tuned for further developments.

 

NC Budget and Tax Center

Last week, the North Carolina House of Representatives approved a $22.2 billion state budget plan, which is overall a modest step towards building an economy that works for all North Carolinians. The budget represents a 5-percent increase over current year spending and the highest level of investments since the official economic recovery began in 2009.Yet, the plan still falls short of pre-recession levels of investments, fails to replace years of harmful cuts, and does not reflect all that’s needed to foster inclusive economic growth.

Unfortunately it is now clear—based on newly released spending targets—that the Senate is poised to severely limit spending rather than follow the House’s lead on making modest improvements. Low spending targets may be linked to the Senate leadership’s desire to “significantly” cut income taxes even further—a move that would hinder reinvestment in programs and fail to generate promised economic returns.

The Senate’s low spending targets make plain the shortsightedness of such an approach. For example, investments in public schools would only increase by .013 percent after accounting for enrollment growth. School systems and students would have to go without essentials that support academic achievement and completion, hindering the long-term growth potential of the state.

As the Senate moves forward in the budget process, budget writers should keep and build upon the House’s planned investments in the things that build a more inclusive economy so the state can better position itself to be competitive. Further deep tax cuts hinder lawmakers’ ability to achieve this goal. Below is a list of ten examples of economy-boosting investments and policy changes that the House included in its budget plan. Read More