Back to School Series

This is part of a Back to School blog series that highlights various issues to be aware of as the 2014-15 school year kicks off. (See Parts 1, 2, and 3).

Schools opened their doors this week to the state’s more than 1.5 million children for the beginning of a new school year, but there are children who will miss vital days of school as their families attempt to navigate the maze of paperwork that can be required to register for school in North Carolina. Each of the state’s 115 school districts has its own unique registration process and documentation requirements.

It is extremely difficult to catch up after missing a significant number of school days at the beginning of the year, particularly with the lack of funding available for remediation and other educational interventions. Fortunately, there are resources available to help families register their children for school as quickly as possible and avoid falling behind.

The North Carolina Justice Center has a guide posted on its website for parents looking for help registering their children for school. Students are eligible to register for school in a given district:

  • If they have reached the age of 5 on or before August 31
  • If they are under the age of 21, have not been removed from school for cause, and have not obtained a high school diploma
  • If the student’s parent, legal guardian,  legal custodian or caregiver adult resides in the school district’s attendance area.

The United States Department of Justice and United States Department of Education jointly issued new guidance over the summer regarding the types of documents that school districts may require in order to prove they meet the above requirements for students to enroll in school. School districts can request proof of residency within the school district, proof of age, and immunization records. However, they should accept a variety of documents for proof of residency and proof of age so students do not miss school while their families track down required documentation.  Schools also may not prevent or discourage your child from enrolling in school because he or she lacks a birth certificate or has a birth certificate indicating a foreign place of birth.  Under the McKinney-Vento Homeless Education Assistance Act, homeless children who lack any or all documentation must be enrolled in school immediately.

North Carolina public schools are the cornerstone of communities across the state and represent the first point of contact for newcomers and kindergartners embarking on their educational careers. Please help them welcome new students to school and start children off well-prepared for the start of a great year.

News

Just weeks after passage of a bill that allows publicly-funded charter schools to hide the salaries of their for-profit education management companies’ employees, State Board of Education chair Bill Cobey requested all charter school boards to disclose the salaries of their for-profit operators by September 30, or face the possibility of being shut down.

In a letter requested by Cobey to all charter school boards dated August 13, N.C. DPI’s CFO Philip Price explains that the new legislation, SB 793 or “Charter School Modifications,” does not change the fact that charter schools must abide by North Carolina’s Public Records Act as well as requirements set forth in their charters that demand them to disclose all employees’ salaries associated with the operation of their schools – whether they be employed by for-profit companies or not.

“After we looked at the law with lawyers, they ensured me it was our [the State Board of Education] authority to ask all charter schools, even for-profit education management organizations, to send all the salary info to us,” said Cobey.

Read More

News

U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) doesn’t want to spend much time focused on all the speculation about whether he’ll make a run for the White House in 2016.  As we approach Labor Day, the 72-year-old wants to talk about the jobs deficit and stagnant wages.

The longest-serving Independent in Congressional history was in Raleigh this week for a town hall forum at Pullen Memorial Baptist Church.

In an interview with N.C. Policy Watch, Sanders spoke about the need for Congress (and individual states) to do more to help America’s shrinking middle class:

“The very bad news is that many of the new jobs that are being created are low wage jobs, part-time jobs. Median family income today is $5,000 less than it was in 1999. Our goal is obviously job creation, but it is also creating jobs that pay people a livable wage.”

As for conservative lawmakers who have suggested that it may be time to scrap minimum wage laws altogether, Sanders offers this assessment:

“Their belief is that we should abolish the concept of the minimum wage. And that means if you are in a high unemployment area, and you are desperate enough, yup, you’re going to have to work for three or four bucks an hour. That is a step toward feudalism,” explained Sanders. “It’s not just the minimum wage, it’s safety on the job, all types of child labor laws…these guys believe that ‘freedom’ means abolishing all of these laws and leaving working people at the mercy of whatever an employer wants to pay them, or how that employer will treat them.”

Sanders, who joins us this weekend on News & Views with Chris Fitzsimon, also shares his thoughts on dark money in politics, the need for campaign finance reform, and new efforts to improve  veterans’ health care.

For a preview of that radio interview, click below. For more on North Carolina’s Living Income Standard, click here.
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Commentary

Farmworkers 2If you missed it this morning, be sure to take a few minutes to read this morning’s lead story over on the main Policy Watch site: “Twenty-first Century children, Nineteenth Century laws.” The article features a powerful interview with a young woman who describes the pain and hardship she endured for years as a child laborer in 21st Century America — something that, as remarkable as it may seem, remains perfectly legal more than a century after our country supposedly addressed it. Here is an excerpt:

Q. When and why did you start working? Was it your choice?

A. At the age of 8 years old I started working in cotton fields in Arkansas. When I was12-years old I started working in blueberry fields in Michigan, as well as working in the processing plant and various nurseries. I come from a family of migrant farmworkers; we were all expected to work at some point. I am not entirely sure why I started at a much younger age. But growing up I learned that we worked to help pay for bills, school clothes and supplies and also to learn a lesson. Both my parents met in the fields, they both knew how hard the life of a migrant farmworker was and didn’t want for that life to be their children’s. They made us work to show us exactly what was out there without a proper education and to motivate us to stay in school.

Q. What was your typical job and what would be a typical workday? Read More

Commentary

FrackingThe folks in the right-wing think tanks seem to be getting less and less circumspect when it comes to blatantly repackaging the  propaganda and poll-tested talking points of polluters and other corporate scofflaws as “research.” Take for instance the report distributed by the Locke Foundation this morning in a press release headlined:  “Fracking fluid consists almost entirely of water, sand.” The “key facts” from the report makes the whole fracking process sound about as dangerous as a school custodian hosing down the driveway next to the cafeteria dumpster. Consider the following claims:

-Chemicals used in fracking are about 99 percent water and sand.
-The rest is a blend of chemical additives used to condition the water, prevent well casing corrosion, control the fluid pH levels, kill bacteria, etc.
-Most of the chemicals used for fracking are also found in typical household products, including soaps, makeup, and other personal care products. That means they are chemicals people already willingly encounter daily and safely.
-They are also used in consumer products for homes, pets, and yards.

In other words, “Chill out people; what’s all the hubbub about?”

Well, here are just a few things: Not to nitpick, but most of the fluid surrounding the Fukushima nuclear facility is probably water and sand too. Obviously, it doesn’t take a lot of poison to render a fluid dangerous to living things. For some poisons the measurements are made in parts per million or even parts per billion.

Moreover, even if added chemicals really do only make up 1%  of fracking fluid, it’s important to understand that a typical well can take two-to-four million gallons to frack. One-percent of four million is 40,000 gallons. Read More