Education

Retired teachers can return to work in ‘high-needs’ schools without financial penalty

Gov. Roy Cooper signed into law this week Senate Bill 399, which allows retired teachers to return to work in “high needs” schools without financial penalty.

Educators can now earn $35,000 to $41,000 a year and continue to collect state pensions if reemployed to teach at a Title I school or one that has received a school performance grade of “D” or “F.”

The salaries will likely increase after Cooper and GOP lawmakers reach agreement on a state budget that includes pay raises for teachers.

Teachers who return to the classroom will be paid on the first step of the teacher salary scheduled.

If they teach Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (S.T.E.M.) and special education courses, they would be paid on the sixth step of the salary schedule.

The bill had bipartisan support. Its primary sponsors included Sen. Rick Horner, (R-Nash), Sen. Jay Chaudhuri, (D-Wake County) and Senate leader Phil Berger, (R-Rockingham County).

 

 

Commentary, News

This week’s top stories on NC Policy Watch

1. The budget chess match: Cooper offers compromise; Berger, Moore offer pork to woo Dems for veto override

Gov. Roy Cooper released a proposed budget compromise Tuesday as Republican legislative leaders continued to search for the votes to overturn his veto.

The proposal offers compromises on areas of disagreement from teacher raises and State Capital and Infrastructure Fund money to tax cuts and school vouchers. But on the conflict’s central issue – the expansion of Medicaid for as many as 600,000 North Carolinians without work requirements or premiums – Cooper is holding fast.

House Speaker Tim Moore and Senator President Pro Tem Phil Berger both declined Cooper’s invitation to meet Tuesday along with Democratic leaders, but took differing stances on Medicaid. [Read more…]

Bonus read: Governor Cooper’s budget compromise is a reasonable way forward

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2. Cooper offers revised teacher pay raises, hybrid approach to funding school infrastructure needs

Senate leader slams proposed budget compromise, appears to reject further negotiation

North Carolina teachers would see an average 8.5 percent pay raise by the second year of the biennium under a compromise budget proposal offered by Gov. Roy Cooper on Monday.

Cooper’s compromise would replace the 9.1 percent average increase he proposed in his initial spending plan released in March. His offer also tops the 3.8 percent average increase proposed in the conference budget passed by both legislative chambers. [Read more…]

Bonus reads:

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3. Latest GOP trial balloons confirm Cooper has been right to keep pushing for Medicaid expansion

It’s going to happen eventually. It may not be right away and it may not look exactly like it ought to look at first, but at some point in the not-too-distant future, North Carolina is going to expand its Medicaid program.

The momentum to move forward is too strong and the arguments against doing so are just too weak. Consider the following:

  • A growing and overwhelming majority of states – including many dominated by Republicans – have already taken the step and enjoyed extremely positive results. [Read more…]

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4. North Carolina partisan gerrymandering trial could provide roadmap for other states

All eyes will be on North Carolina next week as partisan gerrymandering takes center stage, once again.

The trial in the case of  Common Cause v. Lewis – the state constitutional partisan gerrymandering challenge – will begin at 10 a.m. Monday and could take up to two weeks to conclude. It’s the last chance before the 2020 redistricting cycle that partisan considerations in the mapmaking process can be reined in.

“Now that the U.S. Supreme Court has slammed the door on federal partisan gerrymandering cases, the battleground moves to the states,” said David Daley, the author of Ratf**ked: Why Your Vote Doesn’t Count. “North Carolina will be the very first test of whether a state-by-state strategy focused on state supreme courts might help curb this scourge on our democracy.” [Read more…]

Bonus read: Author: 2021 will bring ‘unfettered festival of partisan gerrymandering’ after SCOTUS ruling

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5. Environmentalists scoff as Burr joins conservation club

WASHINGTON — U.S. Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.) on Wednesday joined his GOP colleagues on Capitol Hill in announcing the formation of a new conservation caucus.

The kickoff of the Roosevelt Conservation Caucus comes after President Trump gave a speech this week touting his administration’s environmental record and as Republican lawmakers appear increasingly eager to herald their green credentials.

But environmentalists are accusing Burr and others in the group of attempting to “greenwash” their records. [Read more…]

Bonus read: PW exclusive: Neither Burr nor Tillis is calling for Acosta resignation

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6. Under pressure, superintendent agrees to second enviro study at Moore County school site

More than 10 pollution sources, including two Superfund sites, are within a mile of the new Aberdeen Elementary School

Moore County Schools Superintendent Robert Grimesey has ordered a Phase II environmental assessment of the new Aberdeen Elementary School site, but insists the area is safe.

“My decision to proceed is based solely on persistent and unsubstantiated assertions by some critics that the school board and its administration have failed to ensure the groundwater and soil composition meet standards that are safe for students and staff,” Grimesey said.

Grimesey announced his decision and offered the comments during his superintendent’s report at a public school board meeting July 8. [Read more…]

Bonus reads:

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7. Listen to our latest radio interviews and commentaries with Policy Watch’s Rob Schofield


 

Click here to listen

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8. Weekly editorial cartoon:

 

News

Fayetteville State University has new interim chancellor

Dr. Peggy Valentine will be the new interim chancellor of Fayetteville State University.

Dr. Peggy Valentine will serve as the interim chancellor at Fayetteville State University.

UNC System Interim President Bill Roper announced the appointment, effective, August 7, in a prepared statement Friday.

“I am proud to announce the appointment of Dr. Valentine, someone in whom I am confident in and who has demonstrated great leadership capabilities during her tenure as a dean at Winston-Salem State,” Roper said in the prepared statement.

“While at WSSU, she has transformed the School of Health Sciences into a widely-respected and popular program, leading its continued growth and success,” Roper said. “I know she will bring her remarkable attributes and skills to this new interim role at Fayetteville State. I wish to thank her for agreeing to take on this new challenge.”

Valentine currently serves as dean of the School of Health Sciences at Winston-Salem State University, where she oversees programs in clinical laboratory science, exercise physiology, health care management, nursing, rehabilitation counseling and physical and occupational therapy. She has a doctorate in education from Virginia Tech University and a master of arts and a bachelor of science degrees from Howard University.

Valentine’s area of research specialization is homeless and minority health issues. She is the founding editor-in-chief for the Journal of Best Practices in Health Professions Diversity.

Her interest in increasing diversity in the health professions has led to her overseeing the development of early assurance agreements that guarantee admission into high-demand graduate programs for WSSU undergraduates who meet certain requirements. The school expanded its work toward eliminating health disparities among the residents of Winston-Salem under her leadership.

“I am honored to be asked to serve in this role at Fayetteville State University,” Dr. Valentine said in a prepared statement. “I look forward to working with the Board of Trustees, administration, and faculty to move FSU forward during this time of transition. FSU has a proud tradition of excellence and is one of the most diverse universities in the country. With nationally-ranked academic programs, growing research capacity, and strong military partnerships, FSU is a major economic engine for the entire Fayetteville and Cumberland County region.”

Commentary, News

Marijuana reform legislation gaining bipartisan support in Congress

Getty Images photo

Our States Newsroom colleagues at the Florida Phoenix  are reporting that the U.S. House Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism and Homeland Security advanced the cause of bipartisan marijuana law reform this week. The story highlighted the fact that conservative Trump Republicans are, increasingly, joining with progressive Democrats to support marijuana decriminalization and legalization efforts. This is from reporter Allison Turner’s story:

Six U.S. Reps from Florida – Democrats Charlie Crist, Al Lawson, Darren Soto and Ted Deutch, along with Republicans Matt Gaetz and Greg Steube – have signed on to bipartisan legislation to overhaul federal marijuana laws.

The U.S. House Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism and Homeland Security held a congressional hearing on the issue this week. The hearing, which marijuana legalization advocates called historic, focused on racial disparities in marijuana laws.

Gaetz, who represents the Pensacola area,  urged his fellow lawmakers to view reform as a multistep process, starting with the Strengthening the Tenth Amendment through Entrusting States (STATES) Act, which would protect states’ rights to enact their own marijuana policies without federal interference.

Gaetz and Florida U.S. Reps. Steube and Crist are original co-sponsors of the legislation, and Lawson, Soto and Deutch have also signed on to the bill.

The STATES Act legislation has been introduced in both the House and the Senate in each of the last two sessions of Congress. Last year, the only North Carolina lawmaker to sign on as a co-sponsor was Republican Walter Jones, who died late last year. The new version features 56 co-sponsors (38 Democrats and 18 Republicans) in the House and nine (five Republicans and four Democrats in the Senate, but none from North Carolina.

As Turner reported, this week’s hearing represented an historic event:

[Karen O’Keefe, director of state policies at the Marijuana Policy Project] says that comprehensive reform is needed, but until then, she says, the proposed federal STATES Act would be “far better than nothing.”

Even holding a congressional hearing on the issue is “a huge, huge step forward,” O’Keefe said. “It’s wonderful that Congress is finally taking a serious look at how unequally marijuana laws have been enforced, including that prohibition was borne out of racism. It’s great to hear members of Congress on both sides of the aisle looking for a path forward that doesn’t criminalize people for using a substance that’s safer than alcohol.”

Though subcommittee members disagreed over the details, they voiced a rare degree of partisan unity over the general call for federal marijuana reform.

Though none of of the 15 members of North Carolina’s congressional delegation is a co-sponsor of the STATES Act, the Cannabis Voter Project reports that all three of the state’s Democratic members — Representatives Alma Adams, G.K. Butterfield and David Price — have  previously taken stands in favor of liberalizing marijuana laws.

Education, News

Two charter schools opposed by Wake County Board of Education are moving toward 2020 opening date

The State Board of Education (SBE) on Thursday gave final approval to two controversial charter schools opposed by the state’s largest school district.

Despite opposition by the Wake County Public School System (WCPSS), the SBE approved 2020 openings for Wake County Preparatory Academy and North Raleigh Charter Academy on separate 7-3 votes.

The Wake Prep charter was approved with the provision that the school only enroll 915 students the first year instead of the planned 1,605. In the second year, the enrollment is projected at 1,420 the second year and 1,620 the third.

The school will operate as a K-10 school the first year before expanding to a k-12 school the second year.

Meanwhile, North Raleigh will operate as a K-6 and add grades 7-9 over the next two years. The school will project an enrollment of 615 students but can accommodate 765.

Both schools will conduct a weighted lottery as a strategy to increase diversity. One big criticism of charters schools is that they lead to school segregation.

SBE Chairman Eric Davis and board members JB Buxton and Jill Camnitz cast the three votes against approving the school’s charter applications.

Before the vote, Buxton asked if the schools plan to offer “quality” programs not offered by existing schools in the area.

He said the schools’ program offerings don’t appear to be innovative.

“That feels like something I’d find in schools, not only in that community but across the state,” Buxton said. “This is why I grappling with these two. It doesn’t feel like they’re adding quality seats to the community. I believe they’re adding options, but relative to the education being offered, they don’t seem to be bringing anything different.”

Dave Machado, director of the state Office of Charter Schools, disagreed, pointing out that Wake Prep’s management firm Charter One has a long record of success in Arizona bring innovation to school settings.

He noted that Charter One requires service projects, participation in learning communities and an entrepreneurial course that high school students must take.

“I think they’re very innovative in the things they’re doing outside of the regular curriculum North Carolina requires,” Machado said.

Turning to North Raleigh, Machado noted the school’s Board of Directors also oversee Cardinal Charter Academy, which carries a perennial “B” state performance grade.

Last month, in what amounted to an impact statement, leaders of the WCPSS urged the SBE to not approve the schools’ charters.

“In all these applications, it is not difficult to see how the proposed charters would increase de facto segregation, decrease efficient utilization of public facilities and add no significant variety or innovative instructional programs in a county where parents already understand and strongly support traditional schools,” Wake County Board of Education Chairman Jim Martin and Wake County Superintendent Cathy Moore wrote in a June 3 letter to the SBE. “Charter saturation is an appropriate way to describe this situation.”

Martin and Moore noted that there are 10 schools within five miles of the sites in northeastern Wake County that are proposed for Wake Prep. And five of the 10 schools are charters, which enroll a combined 4,000 pupils.

Wake Prep officials make a case for the school on its website.

They contend WCPSS has more than 20 schools with capped enrollments, more than 19,000 students in trailers, 9,000 students on charter school waitlists and more than 3,000 students on Wake Prep’s interest list.

Last month, members of the Charter School Advisory Board (CSAB) pushed back against WCPSS officials, contending their concerns reflect “philosophical” differences about the value of charters, rather than fear of school re-segregation or charter saturation.

The CSAB recommended the SBE approve the two schools.

Steven Walker, vice chairman of the CSAB, said at the time Wake officials have taken the position that if “parents aren’t making the choice we like, maybe we shouldn’t let them have the choice.”

The impact of charter schools is being felt throughout the state. The number of charters in North Carolina has swelled to nearly 200 since state lawmakers lifted the 100-school cap in 2011.