News

As the Wilmington Star News reports this morning, the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction has told Baker Mitchell’s Charter Day School, Inc. to turn over required salary information of face the possibility of sanctions. This is from a letter from DPI chief financial officer Phillip Price:

We have reviewed your submission in response to my August 13, 2014, request for specific salary information for your EMO/CMO employees reassigned to work directly with a charter school. The provided information was incomplete and does not contain the requested details outlined by my letter.

Our request is for the actual individual salary detail for all EMO/CMO employees assigned to work at the charter school. As outlined in my letter and in Paragraph 12.1 of your charter document, compliance to this request is required based on enacted legislation and the chartering documents for operation of charter schools. Failure to comply with these requirements is considered a violation of the Uniform Education Reporting System (UERS) and will result in financial non-compliance per State Board of Education policy TCS-U-006. Failure to comply is also a violation of the provisions of your charter.

The letter goes on to say that if the information is not received by next Wednesday, the noncompliance will be reported to the State Board of Education for possible sanctions.

As has been reported by NC Policy Watch here and on several other occasions and, more recently, by the national nonprofit news service ProPublica, Baker Mitchell is a controversial conservative activist and businessman whose “nonprofit” charter schools are run completely by a for-profit company he controls.

Click here to read the DPI letter.

News

North Carolina’s new economic development partnership– a quasi-public group funded largely with public money – started up in earnest last week,  a significant move that privatized how employers are recruited to the state.

The Economic Development Partnership of North Carolina has received $500,000 so far in private donations and $17.5 million in public dollars.

Partnership leaders have not yet identified the donors, as was reported this article published yesterday.The new group is subject to public record laws, as well as various reporting requirements.

John Lassiter, a Charlotte attorney appointed by Gov. Pat McCrory to chair the partnership’s interim board, spoke with N.C. Policy Watch Wednesday after the piece was published.

He reiterated that the group will likely release the identities of donors before the end of the month – but may not specify how much each person or company gives.

That’s because enabling legislation requires the group to keep a list of donors and an “aggregate amount” of donations, he said.

He said he viewed releasing some of the donor information now, instead of at the end of  the year, will be going beyond the transparency requirements.

“Let’s strive to exceed what’s required in statutes,” he said.

Commentary
Senator Richard Burr

Senator Richard Burr

In case you missed it, it’s worth noting that Senator Richard Burr uttered some eminently reasonable words yesterday when pressed for a comment on the judge who struck down North Carolina’s  unconstitutional ban on same-sex marriage, U.S. District Court Judge Max Cogburn of the state Western District. Burr, of course, voted for Cogburn’s confirmation which was unanimously approved.

You can watch the WNCN.com video by clicking here, but here is a transcript:

“We try to put the most qualified individuals on the bench. I have no questions that Max Cogburn met that qualification threshold for me. And…uh…I think it’s once again proof that you can’t…uh..envision every decision that a judge is gonna’ make and that’s why putting folks that have the right experience on the bench is absolutely crucial.”

Dan Forest

Lt. Gov. Dan Forest

In other words, those spewing absurd and incendiary comments like North Carolina’s Lieutentant Governor (who called Cogburn’s simple and rational decision applying the precedents dictated by the courts above him “the judicial fiat of one unelected man”) would do well to clam up and take a civics lesson.

Now, if Burr would just apply his own words by: a) halting his ridiculous and completely unexplained, one-man blockade of President Obama’s appointment of federal prosecutor Jennifer May-Parker to serve as the first African-American judge in the history of North Carolina’s Eastern District and b) condemning Forest for his ridiculous and inflammatory pandering, we might just get somewhere.

Commentary

School-vouchersICYMI, be sure to check out education reporter Lindsay Wagner’s story this morning over on the main Policy Watch site: “School vouchers: A second look at fraud and abuse.”

As Wagner reports, the disturbing stories from Arizona, Wisconsin and Louisiana — where standards for vouchers are actually tougher in many instances than North Carolina’s — are all-too-common.

For instance:

Arizona implemented a private school tuition tax credit program in 1997. That program was designed to aid low-income families to take advantage of private schools.

A report by the national advocacy group People for the American Way found that over a three-year period, the Arizona scheme has cost the state more than $55 million in funds that have gone largely to subsidize private and religious education for middle- and upper-income families.

And then there’s this:

An investigation by the Wisconsin State Journal has found that Wisconsin’s taxpayers have lost $139 million dollars over the past ten years to private schools that have received funds from the state’s voucher program but were ultimately excluded from participating, thanks to their failure to meet standards relating to finances, accreditation, student safety and auditing.

Read the entire story by clicking here.

News

While same-sex couples finally won the right to marry last week in North Carolina, a Catawba County school decided to cancel a student theater club’s production of the romantic comedy Almost, Maine, which has a scene in which two male characters fall in love.

Principal Rob Bliss of Maiden High School issued a statement on the matter. From WSOC:

“Our faculty and staff are still in review of potential performances to be conducted by our students this fall. At this time, no final decision has been made regarding whether and what drama performances are to be presented this fall. In regards to the request for students to perform the play “Almost Maine,” careful review and consideration was given to the contents of this play. The play contained sexually-explicit overtones and multiple sexual innuendos that are not aligned with our mission and educational objectives.

“As principal of Maiden High School, I have an obligation to ensure that all material, including drama performances is appropriate and educationally sound for students of all ages.”

However, Conner Baker, a junior and the student director for Main Street Players, the school’s theater club, told ThinkProgess that both Bliss and Catawba County Schools Superintendent Dan Brigman had previously given permission for the production. ThinkProgress reports:

Baker told ThinkProgress that the Players had sought approval for Almost, Maine earlier in the school year, receiving it from both Principal Bliss and Catawba County Schools Superintendent Dan Brigman. Brigman and Bliss stipulated, however, that every student wishing to audition or assist with the production must receive parental permission to do so. The club then spent over $300 to reserve the rights and rent the scripts for the show, and followed through on this requirement. Only one student was prevented from auditioning by the permission-slip process. Baker said that the show had already been cast and was beginning rehearsals when the production was canceled last Thursday. She did not personally know who in the community objected to the play’s content.

An online petition started by the students in hopes of convincing the school to let the show go on has already garnered over 1000 signatures.

Is the scene involving the two male characters falling in love inappropriate? Here’s a clip from youtube of the play performed by a school in Florida: