Commentary

Curious about the real cost of vouchers? Check out these two great op-eds from Rev. Dr. Arnetta Beverly and Margaret Arbuckle in the Greensboro News-Record.

Rev. Beverly focuses on why risky vouchers schemes violate the North Carolina constitution:

Article IX, Section 6 of the North Carolina constitution declares that public funds for education “shall be faithfully appropriated and used exclusively for establishing and maintaining a uniform system of free public schools.”

The language could not be clearer: Under our constitution, funds that must be used “exclusively” for the public schools cannot be used to issue private school vouchers.

That’s not all. The constitution requires that taxpayer funds must be spent “for public purposes only.”

Arbuckle’s piece highlights the very real human consequences of this ill-advised program:

Vouchers have horrible consequences, including misuse of public funds, violating separation of church and state and compromising children’s educational outcomes in unaccountable schools. This is a bad idea, wrong in its concept and implementation. The consequences for our public education system will be dire.

Both are well worth your time in advance of tomorrow’s hearing at the North Carolina Supreme Court.

Commentary
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N.C. Commissioner of the Division of Adult Correction and Juvenile Justice, W. David Guice

It’s not the most riveting 20 minutes of TV you’ll ever watch, but if you’d like to see a plainspoken, common sense explanation of why North Carolinians desperately need to invest more in public structures and services and reject the notion that the problems of government can be solved via an unceasing regimen of tax and spending cuts, check out this past weekend’s edition of WRAL’s On the Record news show featuring the McCrory administration’s Commissioner of Prisons and Juvenile Justice David Guice.

As Guice, to his great credit, explains repeatedly, North Carolina desperately needs a lot more money for prisons, guards, mental health treatment and higher employee pay as well as a general philosophical shift in which we reject the “lock ‘em up and throw away the key” approach to corrections that hardline conservatives of both political parties have imposed upon North Carolina in recent decades.

In many ways, Guice’s comments echo the recent pleas of the state’s new Supreme Court Chief Justice Mark Martin who has repeatedly  called for dramatic increases to the state courts budget.

Let’s hope that lawmakers pay attention to Guice’s insightful assessments and that the Guv starts appointing more and more people like him throughout his administration.

News

The state House convenes at 1:00pm today, with the Senate returning for a 4:00pm session. Until then, here are some of the stories trending on Jones Street this Monday:

News

Three-quarters of the faculty members of the University of North Carolina’s School of Law signed a statement late Friday denouncing recommendations from a special committee of the university system’s governing board to cut a poverty-focused academic center.

The Chapel Hill law school’s UNC Center on Poverty, Work and Opportunity, which receives no direct state funding and subsists largely off a $120,000 private grant, is one of three centers facing closure after a months-long review of university centers and institutes.

UNCThe petition, signed by 64 out of the 83 faculty and emeritus professors listed on the law school’s website, asks that the poverty center be kept open and references questions about whether the poverty center was targeted because of criticism its director, Gene Nichol, has lobbed against Republican state leaders. Nichol’s editorials, published in the (Raleigh) News & Observer have accused the state legislature and Gov. Pat McCrory of turning their backs on the needs of the poorest residents of the state.

UNC Board of Governor members receive their appointments from the state legislature, and all 32 currently serving received nominations and approvals from a Republican-dominated legislature.

“Punishing a professor for expressing his views – views always carefully supported by facts and rigorous analysis – chills the free speech that is central to the University’s mission,” the law professors wrote. “Such active suppression of free speech contravenes the very lifeblood of a public university, where dialogue and dissent must be permitted to survive and indeed to flourish if scholars are to fulfill their missions of contributing to the collective knowledge of the commonwealth.”

The UNC Board of Governors are expected to make its final decision Friday about whether to close the three centers at its monthly meeting being held on the UNC-Charlotte campus. (Click here for background on the issue.)

Though not facing closure, the UNC Center for Civil Rights has also faced tough questions from the UNC board of governors, with one conservative member accusing the civil rights center of being politically-motivated and concentrating too much on racial equality cases. Read More

Commentary

2-16-15-NCPW-CARTOONFor my money, the most thoughtful essay to appear in a North Carolina newspaper over the past weekend was authored by Ned Barnett of Raleigh’s News & Observer regarding the senseless triple murder tragedy that rocked Chapel Hill and Carrboro this month. As Barnett highlights in “The hard toll of easy guns,” the saddest part of so many of the stories and commentaries regarding the crime has been the resignation with which we have accepted the notion that the accumulation of weapons caches by mentally disturbed individuals is beyond our ability as a society to address:

“Relatives and friends of the victims are understandably looking for something deeper behind the deaths of their loved ones. And there may well be. But it’s also possible that this was violence without any broader connection, another case of anger, frustration and stress all terribly magnified by a gun.

It’s a haunting idea that we’ve become so inured to gun violence that it must be tied to a larger context to have meaning. Otherwise, it’s just something that happens, like a car accident. No one seems particularly alarmed that Hicks was found to have a dozen firearms in his condominium, including a fully loaded AR-15 Bushmaster, the same military-style rifle used in the Newtown massacre. Maybe if we believe the Chapel Hill shootings involved some sharply focused hatred, we don’t have to think of what might have happened had there been a party with 15 people in a condominium, cars double parked and an angry man at the door with an AR-15.

This is America. Hicks had a right to keep and bear arms, to stockpile arms, to arm himself with rifles designed for combat. He apparently owned the weapons legally. Sane gun laws might prevent the assemblage of these social time bombs. Read More