Commentary, News

ACLU calls on Charlotte police to release video footage of Keith Lamont Scott shooting

Just in from the good folks at the ACLU of North Carolina:

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of North Carolina today called on the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department to release any body or dash cam footage that captured yesterday’s police shooting of Keith Lamont Scott, the 194th Black person killed by U.S. police this year. Police say Mr. Scott was shot and killed while officers were trying to execute an arrest warrant for a different person.

A new North Carolina law, HB 972, will prevent law enforcement agencies from releasing body camera footage in the public interest without a court order, but the law does not take effect until October 1. All Charlotte-Mecklenburg police officers are supposed to be equipped with body cameras while on patrol and the cameras should be in use any time an arrest is made, according to department policy.

Karen Anderson, Executive Director of the ACLU of North Carolina, released the following statement:

“We join the people in Charlotte and across the nation in sending our deepest condolences to Mr. Scott’s family. We demand a full investigation into why yet another Black person in the United States has died at the hands of a police officer. The public and Mr. Scott’s family deserve answers, and we urge the State Bureau of Investigation and Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department to conduct a thorough and transparent investigation.

“In the interest of transparency and accountability, and particularly in light of conflicting accounts about the shooting, the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department should quickly release any and all footage it has of the events leading up to the shooting, as well as the shooting itself. The department should also explain why the officer who shot Mr. Scott was not wearing a body camera.

“HB972, the disgraceful law passed by the North Carolina General Assembly and signed by Gov. Pat McCrory that prevents law enforcement agencies from releasing body camera footage without a court order, does not take effect until October 1. As we seen elsewhere, video footage of police shootings can provide crucial evidence of what took place – especially when there are conflicting accounts from police and community members. Charlotte should set an example for North Carolina by releasing footage of the shooting promptly before the obstacles imposed by the new state law take effect.

“What we already know is that far too many people of color are victims of wrongful targeting and excessive use of force by law enforcement officers across the country, and last night we were once again harshly reminded that North Carolina is not immune to that reality.”

Back to School Series, NC Budget and Tax Center

Back to School: Meaningful educational interventions for low-performing schools

This is the fifth installment of a Back to School blog series (see Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, and Part 4) that highlight various issues to be aware of as the 2016-17 school year kicks off.

As North Carolina’s school children and their families settle back into the rhythms of the school year, thousands of these students will attend schools that have been labeled by the state as low performing. These are schools that received a school performance grade of D or F and failed to exceed expected growth based solely on test scores.

The controversial school grading system, which began during the 2013-14 school year, has been rightfully criticized as unnecessarily labeling schools as failures by using a ham-fisted measure that correlates with poverty rather than the educational quality of a given school. But the grading system has had the unexpected benefit of identifying high poverty schools that require additional interventions to help low-income students overcome the educational obstacles commonly found in impoverished communities.

Unfortunately, the vast majority of North Carolina’s low-performing schools do not receive meaningful additional support from the state. The existing program that aims to improve low-performing schools is known as Turning Around North Carolina’s Lowest-Achieving Schools (TALAS). TALAS, enabled initially by federal Race-to-the-Top funding, invests in professional development, school improvement planning, and instructional coaching and mentoring for school leaders. While these services are important, this limited intervention focuses primarily on training school leaders and fails to boost additional support services for students.

Studies on the program have been mixed thus far, and the gains that have been realized are jeopardized by the high level of turnover among the teachers and administrators who have benefited from the enhanced professional development and leadership coaching. Even this modest intervention is only provided in 79 of the 581 schools that were labeled low-performing during the 2015-16 school year. No major legislation has been discussed in recent years to help these schools other than the recent creation of a controversial “Achievement School District” (ASD) that will serve just five schools with a charter school takeover model that has not shown promising results in other states. The ASD debate demonstrated a  belief held by many lawmakers that we simply do not know what educational interventions will help children so we have to try something new even if it is unproven or shows poor initial results.

Thankfully that is not the case. There is a growing body of educational research based on an improved understanding of the way children’s brains develop and a vast body of empirical research on educational programs from across the entire country that point to specific educational interventions that can help make a real difference in a child’s educational development.

At some point, policymakers must recommit to improving the public school system that educates the overwhelming majority of North Carolina’s children through additional state funding and support services. In North Carolina, possible research-based interventions that would immediately help students in low performing schools include 1) increasing access to North Carolina Pre-Kindergarten and other early childhood services, 2) recruiting and retaining high quality teachers, and 3) investing in up-to-date textbooks, instructional materials, school technology, and broadband access.

Less than one in five low performing schools are receiving targeted state interventions designed to help them improve outcomes for students. That has to change now if North Carolina is to prepare its students for postsecondary education and careers that will enable them to support their families and enhance the state’s overall economic well-being

Commentary

Louisiana — yes, Louisiana! — shows NC the way to expand health coverage, save lives

Medicaid expansionIt continues to be one of the grimmer aspects of life in North Carolina under the current reactionary state political leadership that Deep South states that once trailed us by a mile now show us the way in several important categories.

Take the always deeply challenged state of Louisiana. By any number of measures — e.g. poverty, health, education, economic development,  environmental protection — the Bayou State has long trailed North Carolina in dozens of important areas. While not without many important charms and attributes, Louisiana is mostly emblematic of a past that North Carolina has been fortunate to leave behind (at least in many ways) as it has slowly transformed itself into a modern, nationally competitive, forward-looking state.

Unfortunately, this pattern appears to be changing. This is from a story by Associated Press:

“Thousands of people enrolled in Louisiana’s Medicaid expansion program have received preventive services that in some instances have identified cancer, diabetes and other illnesses, state Health Secretary Rebekah Gee said Monday.

More than 305,000 people have signed up for the coverage that began July 1. Gee said nearly 12,000 of them so far have gotten annual exams, cancer screenings, colonoscopies, mammograms and other services through the government-financed insurance program.

‘That’s real people getting real care in real doctors’ offices because of Medicaid expansion,’ the health secretary told the Press Club of Baton Rouge.”

And this is from a news release from the Louisiana Department of Health:

“Nearly 12,000 adults, newly enrolled in Medicaid, have received preventative health care services since Medicaid eligibility was expanded on July 1. In addition, more than 305,000 new members have enrolled in the program.

Early data shows new members have received the following health care services since July 1

  • Over 1,000 women have completed important screening and diagnostic breast imaging such as mammograms, MRI’s and ultrasounds. Of those women, 24 have been able to begin treatment for breast cancer.
  • Nearly 700 adults have completed colonoscopies and over 100 patients had polyps, a precursor to cancer, removed.
  • Nearly 12,000 adults have received preventative services.
  • Treatment has begun for 160 adults newly diagnosed with diabetes.

Providing access to these types of preventive screenings and primary care treatment for adults through Healthy Louisiana has been the vision of the expanded Medicaid program. The program has a goal of covering 375,000 adults by next June. The state has reached more than 80 percent of its coverage target in the first 80 days.

‘Today more than 300,000 individuals have access to quality healthcare that they did not have just three months ago,’ said Governor John Bel Edwards. ‘While that is an achievement in itself, the real achievement is the working poor in our state will be healthier than ever before. This is just the beginning, and we are already seeing the type of outcomes that we know will save lives. Medicaid expansion was right for Louisiana to make our state healthier, but also to save taxpayer dollars, and I couldn’t be happier with how successful this program has been in the first three months.’”

Meanwhile, of course, a half-million North Carolinians go without health insurance and hundreds die prematurely each year as a result of the stubborn and disastrous refusal of Governor McCrory and state lawmakers to close the Medicaid gap here.

What a remarkable waste!

Commentary

Editorial: Supreme Court Justice Newby is out of line with public support of HB2

Justice Paul Newby

Justice Paul Newby

In case you missed it the other day, North Carolina Supreme Court Justice Paul Newby (he of the controversial banjo ad from a few years back) appeared at a conservative Christian political rally recently that was quite arguably an inappropriate venue for sitting judge to appear, much less speak.

This morning’s lead editorial in the Fayettteville Observer rightfully criticizes Newby’s actions. This is from the editorial:

“We hear a lot about judicial activism these days, but we don’t often see it. In most cases, judges on the appellate level hear arguments, interpret the law and issue a ruling. They do their job, deciding how the Constitution and law apply to situations our Founders couldn’t possibly foresee….

But last week, we saw a rare deviation from that norm, a surprising revelation by a North Carolina Supreme Court judge who attended a Fayetteville rally supporting controversial House Bill 2, nicknamed the ‘bathroom bill.’

Justice Paul Newby was a guest speaker at the rally – ‘Heart & Soul: A Night of Prayer and Worship.’ What he had to say may haunt him in future cases before his court. While the 61-year-old justice, who is in his second term, didn’t specifically endorse HB2, he alluded to it, recounting meetings with pastors from California and Maine who said they are praying for North Carolina to uphold the law. He added: ‘Let me tell you as a judge, our religious liberties are hanging by a thread.’

The state Code of Judicial Conduct says judges ‘should abstain from public comment about the merits of a pending proceeding in any state or federal court dealing with a case or controversy arising in North Carolina.’ HB2 is subject of several cases and Newby’s comments came as a three-judge panel of the federal 4th Circuit Court of Appeals was about to release a split decision upholding Rowan County commissioners’ right to open their meetings with a Christian prayer.

Judge Newby just tipped his hand forevermore. There may be some recusal requests and other problems in his future.”

This is not the first time, of course, that Newby has stepped over the line and espoused conservative religious views in a public, political setting. One hopes this editorial will cause him to stop and rethink these kinds of actions, but sadly, that seems unlikely.

News

On HB2, conservatives skittish about the “R” word

Last week the Greensboro News & Record quoted two prominent Triad Republicans – Greensboro City Councilman Tony Wilkins and N.C. State Rep. Jon Hardister – as calling for a special session to repeal or revise HB2.

Wilkins was not for repealing the bill – something the story’s print headline got wrong.  He called for a correction and got it.

But there’s been some skepticism and anger – mostly from the political right – over the quotes in the piece itself.

From the piece:

If the General Assembly repeals the law, Hardister said, it would need to replace it with something that addresses constituents’ worries about privacy and safety in public bathrooms.

“We could address those concerns by strengthening the penalties for sexual harassment, assault and indecent exposure,” he said.

Hardister said he has talked to colleagues in the House and GOP leaders about a special session, but doesn’t know what decision they’ll make.

“Obviously, though, the controversy has our attention,” he said. “Our citizens don’t deserve any of this.”

There’s been some noise over whether Hardister was misquoted, whether he actually used the word “repeal” or his comments were taken out of context.

So, the News & Record has very helpfully posted the audio of their interview with Hardister.

Listen for yourself.