Commentary

UNCThree UNC system schools will now be able to admit students with lower SAT scores if their grade point average (GPA) is higher than required. The three year pilot program, approved by the UNC Board of Governors on Friday, will allow North Carolina Central, Elizabeth City State and Fayetteville State Universities to admit students on a sliding scale where the lowest admissions requirement would be an SAT score of 750 and a GPA of 3.0.

The schools selected for the program are all historically black colleges and all suffered enrollment declines when the UNC system raised minimum SAT (and GPA) requirements from 700 to 750 in 2011 and then again to 800 in 2013.

According to data released earlier this month by the National Center for Fair and Open Testing, African American high school seniors scored lower on the SATs than any other race. This is consistent with African American students performance on the SATs for the past twenty years. Yet, historically black colleges tend to always require SAT scores whereas many predominately white universities have made it optional.

One factor that can affect SAT scores is a family’s economic status. Read More

Commentary

People fear the unfamiliar. It’s human nature. When a new threat emerges, our minds often race about it — even when the same old threats are far more worrisome.

This is one reason a healthy (heh) number of my friends are anxious about the Ebola virus. Maybe yours are, too. Heck, maybe you are. Well, here’s the good news: while certainly a frightening disease, Ebola is unlikely to be a widespread public health threat in this country.

There’s bad news, however. Another, less flashy threat to public health is far more dangerous to people in North Carolina and states like it. (The additional bad news: it’s also deeply troubling that Americans are more concerned about a disease killing one person inside our borders than the nearly 5,000 Ebola has killed in Africa so far. That’s a topic for another day.)

The real public health threat is the failure of some American states, including the Old North State, to expand Medicaid.

Medicaid expansion would help more of our neighbors get health insurance, which is vital in preventing the advance of disease — and the early deaths that come with that disease. Here in North Carolina alone, about half a million people lack health insurance that would have been covered had we made the choice to expand Medicaid.

What does that mean? It means more preventable deaths every year. A team of researchers for Harvard found that failure to expand Medicaid could mean as many as 1,145 more deaths in North Carolina every year.

Based on those numbers, that’s about three more preventable deaths in North Carolina every day. Think about the math of that. Read More

News

Same-sex marriages may be happening in North Carolina — thanks to the U.S. Supreme Court’s refusal to review the Fourth Circuit’s Bostic decision, allowing such marriages — but one day soon that might change, Lieutenant Gov. Dan Forest suggests in a recent blog post on his website.

In the article (written under his signature but posted by Kami Mueller), the lieutenant governor defends his position that the states, and not the federal government, have the sole constitutional authority to make decisions about marriage.

A majority of justices have said as much, Forest adds, pointing to language from Justice Anthony Kennedy in the high court’s 2013 U.S. v. Windsor decision and agreed to by the court’s liberal justices (Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan):

The recognition of civil marriages is central to state domestic relations law applicable to its residents and citizens. The definition of marriage is the foundation of the State’s broader authority to regulate the subject of domestic relations with respect to the “[p]rotection of offspring, property interests, and the enforcement of marital responsibilities.”

Consistent with this allocation of authority, the Federal Government, through our history, has deferred to state-law policy decisions with respect to domestic relations. . ..

With those words, Forest offers hope that the high court may yet take up a marriage equality case and reverse the tide of same-sex marriages now sweeping the country.

But Forest apparently overlooked Kennedy’s words immediately preceding the quote above, in which the justice points out as a given that state marriage laws must respect a person’s constitutional rights:

In order to assess the validity of that intervention it is necessary to discuss the extent of the state power and authority over marriage as a matter of history and tradition. State laws defining and regulating marriage, of course, must respect the constitutional rights of persons, see, e.g., Loving v. Virginia . . . 
And the lieutenant governor may have also forgotten this:  Only four justices need to agree to take a case. If those on the court’s conservative wing (Chief Justice John Roberts, Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito) were intent on taking up the marriage equality issue and perhaps tipping their hats to states’ rights, they could have done so in Bostic.
Commentary

James O'Keefe mugshotAccording to some reports, serial right-wing troublemaker and convicted breaker and enterer James O’Keefe (that’s him on the left in his federal government mugshot) is back in North Carolina and looking to pull off another one of his dishonest stunts.

O’Keefe, as you will recall, is a friend of the Pope groups who plead guilty back in 2010 to entering federal property under false pretenses and was sentenced to three years probation and 100 hours of community service and ordered to pay a fine.

Now, credible rumor has it, this disturbed scalawag is back in North Carolina — perhaps even in costume, pretending to be a college student volunteer and looking to lure genuine progressive activists into “gotcha” conversations during the run-up to the election. Feel free to spread the word and his mugshot.

Commentary
Photo: NC State AFL-CIO

Photo: NC State AFL-CIO

Don’t you just love it when the business lobby and their toadies in the far right think tanks get all misty-eyed about the fate of those poor, poor workers who will supposedly be so much worse off if the minimum wage rises substantially?

You know the rap:

“Hey, it would be great if workers could make much higher wages in industries like fast food, but if they did, the employers would all go out of business and all those workers would be out of jobs. See, it’s those poor, minority kids we really care about. We’re fighting to keep the minimum wage low and maybe even do away with it for their sake.”

The next time someone lays this yarn on you, tell them to check out this article in yesterday’s New York Times about life as a fast food worker in Denmark.  As reporters Liz Alderman and Steve Greenhouse discovered, decent wages and the fast food industry are not at all mutually exclusive:

“On a recent afternoon, Hampus Elofsson ended his 40-hour workweek at a Burger King and prepared for a movie and beer with friends. He had paid his rent and all his bills, stashed away some savings, yet still had money for nights out.

That is because he earns the equivalent of $20 an hour — the base wage for fast-food workers throughout Denmark and two and a half times what many fast-food workers earn in the United States.

‘You can make a decent living here working in fast food,’ said Mr. Elofsson, 24. ‘You don’t have to struggle to get by.’”

Read More