For those who missed last week’s Crucial Conversation luncheon, “The problem of race-based policing: Can we finally overcome it?”, be sure to check out the video below. In it, you’ll hear the latest (mostly damning) data on the subject from Prof. Frank Baumgartner of UNC Chapel Hill, some hopeful news from the city of Fayetteville where police chief Harold Medlock has made enormous progress in transforming the culture of that city’s police department and a higher-altitude overview of the subject, including where things stand and where we’re headed, from Chatham and Orange County Public Defender, James Williams. It’s definitely worth a little of your time if you couldn’t be there in person.

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One of this weekend’s “must read” editorials appeared in the Sunday edition of the Winston-Salem Journal under the headline “Low-performing schools: Local system right to stand up to legislature.”

The subject was last week’s over-the-top interrogation at a General Assembly oversight committee during which Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger and his lieutenants lined up to bash and harass some hardworking local school officials from Winston-Salem. The subject was Berger’s ill-conceived and destructive school grading system which, as Senator Bob Rucho admitted in a Freudian moment, is “designed to to show that the (public school) system has failed.”

Here’s the Journal:

“Earlier this year, the legislature changed the definition of ‘low-performing schools’ in a way that greatly expanded their number. The legislature then called for special reports on such schools, and threatened school principals whose schools were defined as ‘low performing” for more than two years. As a result, the number of schools in Forsyth County — and throughout the state — that meet the definition have increased significantly, undermining schools that were showing progress and threatening them with dire consequences.

Our school board pushed back with two resolutions, stating that the system would apply the same standards to all its schools and that the system would not take action against any of the principals at the schools in question, calling the requirement to do so ‘arbitrary and capricious.’

So the legislative leaders, who have never shown much love for public education, called our educators on the carpet.

While there, [Winston-Salem/Forsyth County School Superintendent Beverly] Emory and [school board Chairwoman Dana] Jones tried to discuss the issues, but the legislature was more interested in making sure that our school system would comply with their dictates….

Unfortunately, the senators weren’t about to listen. As the editorial noted:

“Emory said at one point: ‘Do we intend to comply? Absolutely. Are there differences in opinion here? Yes.’

Ultimately, our system will have to follow the legislature’s dictates or risk even more funding cuts as long as the current crowd is in power.

But it’s beyond frustrating that these legislators don’t take our local officials’ well-thought-out concerns seriously. We know that our local officials are dedicated to better educational outcomes for all their students.

This current slate of legislators has repeatedly shown that it has nothing but disdain for public education. It has continually cut resources for public schools. Its treatment of North Carolina teachers has sent scores either to other states or out of the profession altogether. It has insisted on transferring tax money from public schools to charter and private schools with a scarcity of oversight.”

Commentary, News

McCrory 2008 20151. What would the Pat McCrory of 2008 think about the current culture of corruption in Raleigh?
A couple of weeks before the 2008 gubernatorial election, then candidate Pat McCrory released what his campaign described as a detailed reform plan to end the “culture of corruption” he said was a major problem under the previous Democratic administrations in Raleigh.
The plan included a five-section-long executive order that he would issue if was elected and a seven-part legislative agenda. The introduction to the specific policy proposals included this promise.

“In North Carolina, ‘it’s time for a change’ is not just a campaign slogan…it’s a necessity. As governor, I will shake up state government by establishing a culture of honesty, integrity and transparency. Corruption and fraud will not be tolerated. Public service will be conducted ethically and without undue favor.”

[Continue Reading…]

For-profit colleges2. In the wake of for-profit college collapses, a long road to student loan debt relief
State and federal regulators announced a string of court victories and settlements involving predatory for-profit colleges in recent weeks, and while at first glance the numbers are big and the recognition of widespread deception precedential, the impact on student borrowers laden with loan debt might not be so direct.

In late October, a federal judge entered a $531 million judgment against Corinthian Colleges — one of the largest for-profit college chains in the country, with more than 100 campuses and approximately 74,000 students — finding that the schools had deceived student borrowers about costs and career opportunities. The company had already ceased operations and shut down all its campuses in late April and filed for bankruptcy in May.

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McCrory UI3. The McCrory administration’s “ketchup is a vegetable” unemployment insurance system
Thirty-four years ago, the administration of President Ronald Reagan stirred up one of the great domestic policy P.R. controversies of the early 1980’s with its laughably ill-conceived plan to consider tomato paste (and, thereby, its salty-sweet sibling, ketchup) as a “vegetable” in the national school lunch program. The purpose of the proposal, of course, was to save money in a supposedly overly-generous “welfare” program that was draining public coffers.

By the end of 1981, the ridiculous cost-cutting proposal had been quickly repudiated and consigned to the monologues of late night comedians. In the decades since, “ketchup is a vegetable” has rightly served as a shorthanded putdown for clumsy and mean-spirited proposals of all kinds that seek to slash essential public service programs in the name of cost-cutting, all while attempting to maintain a veneer of compassion and decency. If there is any justice in the world, the “ketchup is a vegetable” moniker will soon be widely applied to another, more recent and cold-hearted assault on an essential safety net structure – North Carolina’s unemployment insurance system.

[Continue Reading…]

Western Governors U4. Out-of-state online college favored by legislature halts NC enrollment while waiting for approval
An online college granted money in the last state budget is facing snags enrolling North Carolina students.

Western Governors University stopped accepting students from North Carolina this fall because it hasn’t yet gotten the required approval from the state university system.

The online college had been enrolling students previously, despite warnings from the UNC system in 2014 to stop until the state system had vetted the online college’s offerings.

Caught in limbo were nearly 700 teaching and nursing students, who needed to spend time observing classrooms or in clinical medical settings before being able to go out into the workforce.

[Continue Reading…]

Wages5. New report: Raising public employee wages helps balance budgets and boost the economy
Raising wages for municipal and county employees lets workers afford the basics, boosts the economy, and helps local governments balance their budgets, a new report finds. That’s why dozens of states and local communities across the nation have recognized that the federal minimum wage simply doesn’t pay enough for families to cover their everyday needs and have acted to establish better wages by enacting living wage policies.

Municipal and county governments in North Carolina have already seized the opportunity to join this national movement and take positive action to raise wages for workers living in their communities. Local governments in Greensboro, Greenville, Asheville, Durham, and Wake County have all enacted living wage increases for their own public employees, while a dozen other municipal and county governments have wage floors well above the national minimum wage of $7.25.

[Continue Reading…]

Lonise BiasAnd be sure to RSVP for a very special upcoming Crucial Conversation luncheon:

Closing the health coverage gap for North Carolinians living with substance use disorders:
Featuring Dr. Lonise Bias of the Len and Jay Bias Association and Jeff Matkins of Insight Human Services
Monday, November 30, at noon

Space is limited – pre-registration required.
Click here for more information


Dear Roy,

I don’t want to leave you out of the party. I kind of counted on you staying out, more fool me. Sigh. What’s with you talking smack about Syrians? Don’t you even read this blog?!

I have to ask, how could you? I notice that you sent your cockamamie statement on Syrian refugees from your campaign, not from your “Top Law Enforcement Officer” (TLEO) office, so at least we’re all clear on what you’re really about with the giant foam middle finger you’re waving at these desperate and downtrodden people. Who are mostly children.

I hate to break it to you, Roysie, but when you send a get tough message (however nonsensical), you don’t look tough if you’re just piling on. Too bad you waited so long to see which way the wind was blowing. Think how Dirty Harry it could’ve been if you’d opened up Saturday morning! Oooh, talk about a mastermind! If you’d known right away to start pounding on the rootless women and children trying desperately to find peace and real homes, you could’ve been so boss. So Walking Tall even – the Joe Don Baker version, obviously, not the one with The Rock – but riding the coattails of a guy who actually thinks every checkpoint is named Charlie is just kinda sad. Seriously, you heard the guv on Diane Rehm and thought, “He is so cool, I gotta get me some of that”? I guess I didn’t know you were a McCrory fanboy. You’re going to be so conflicted during this campaign, buddy! Read More


As this week’s edition of The Weekly Briefing made plain, state leaders remain absurdly out of touch with the economic reality on the ground in North Carolina. The following announcement from colleagues at the N.C. Justice Center highlights this problem once more

Jobless workers struggle even as Division of Employment Security announces $600 million in tax cuts to employers
Employment remains more than 4 percentage points below pre-recession levels, according to October data 

Jobless workers continue to struggle with an economy that fails to provide enough jobs and an unemployment insurance system that is ill-equipped to deliver partial wage replacement to stabilize the economy, even as North Carolina’s Division of Employment Security announced $600 million in tax cuts to employers.

Employment levels as a share of the population remains more than 4 percentage points below pre-recession levels, according to today’s announcement on labor market conditions for October 2015.

Last month’s state employment rate was 5.7 percent, the same level as one year ago. However, the number of unemployed North Carolinians has increased over that period by 11,591 jobless workers. The national unemployment rate was 5.0 percent in October, dropping by 0.7 percentage points over the year.

“North Carolina should not be issuing tax cuts for employers when we have failed to reach what are generally agreed to be safe levels for our state’s Unemployment Insurance Trust Fund,” said Alexandra Forter Sirota, Director of the Budget & Tax Center, a project of the North Carolina Justice Center. “Instead, our state policymakers need to re-balance their approach to ensure the system can deliver partial wage replacement to jobless workers and in so doing serve as a stabilizing force in the economy.”

Important trends in the October data also include:

  • The percent of North Carolinians employed is still near historic lows, and below the nation. October numbers showed 57.5 percent of North Carolinians were employed, leaving the state well below employment levels commonplace before the Great Recession. In the mid-2000s, employment levels reached a peak of about 63 percent. The percent of North Carolinians with a job remains below the national average, as it has been since the Great Recession.
  • There are still more North Carolinians out of work than before the Great Recession. There were more than 270,000 North Carolinians looking for work in October, almost 50,000 more than before the Great Recession.
  • North Carolina’s unemployment insurance system only provided temporary wage replacement to 22,545 North Carolinians. The number of jobless North Carolinians receiving unemployment insurance has dropped precipitously since 2013, ranking us 49th in the country on this measure and hindering the ability of the program to serve as a stabilizing force in the economy.

“North Carolina’s labor market is still too weak to ensure jobs are available for all those who seek employment,” Sirota said. “This affects all of us, as wages are falling short of the growth needed to boost the economy in the immediate and long-term.”

For more context on the economic choices facing North Carolina, check out the Budget & Tax Center’s weekly Prosperity Watch platform.