News

Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe signed into law last Thursday a bill that repeals the state’s A-F school grading system – an accountability mechanism similar to North Carolina’s own new model that grades public schools largely on the basis of how students perform on standardized tests.

A Republican Senator, Virginia Rep. Richard Black, introduced the bill to repeal A-F school grades late last year because, he said, public schools receiving F grades would be unfairly stigmatized and such schools would find recruiting new teachers very difficult, according to Education Week.

Virginia’s A-F school grading system was enacted in 2013 by then-Gov. Bob McDonnell, but never put into place thanks to a two-year delay ordered by lawmakers.

In North Carolina the A-F school grading system, which has been assailed by critics as nothing more than a proxy for which schools serve high poverty student populations, now awards letter grades to every public school beginning with data from the 2013-14 school year. Read More

Commentary

Tara Culp-Ressler at Think Progress has one very impressive list:

More than 16 million people have gained insurance.

According to the most recent data from the Obama administration, about 16.4 previously uninsured Americans have gotten coverage under the law, either by purchasing private plans on the new state-level marketplaces or by gaining public insurance through the Medicaid expansion. That translates to a 35 percent reduction in the national uninsured rate, which is the largest drop in the number of Americans going without health care over the past four decades.

You don’t have to take the Obama administration’s word for it. In addition to the federal government’s data, multiple outside surveys have confirmed dramatic drops in the uninsured rate thanks to Obamacare.

Health reform is costing less than expected.

Earlier this month, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) announced that implementing Obamacare over the next ten years will cost $142 billion less than the nonpartisan agency had previously predicted. That represents an 11 percent reduction from an earlier CBO projection released at the beginning of this year — and stands in sharp contrast to Obamacare opponents’ dire predictions about how the law was going to cripple the economy.

CBO officials have repeatedly slashed their cost projections for the law, largely because of a historic slowdown in national health care spending over the past several years that’s resulted in slower premium growth. There are multiple factors contributing to the dramatic slowdown in annual medical costs, and it’s unclear exactly how big of a role the Affordable Care Act has played. But the cost saving provisions included in Obamacare certainly haven’t hurt.

Employers aren’t cutting their workers’ benefits. Read More

News

The Greensboro News & Record reported this weekend that the Houston Independent School District, which is led by former Guilford County schools chief Terry Grier, held another job fair for teachers at a hotel on Saturday.

Houston is offering starting teachers with no experience $49,100 — a far cry from North Carolina’s current base starting salary of $33,000 (some local districts offer salary supplements).

Depending on experience, Houston’s salaries could top $80,000 for some teachers. In North Carolina, base teacher salaries max out at $50,000.

“The bottom line is we have to provide for our families and provide for ourselves,” Jeff Roberts, a Thomasville teacher told media at a news conference to discuss concerns about teacher pay in North Carolina.

The lure of higher pay is pulling teachers away from North Carolina, harming the state’s future, Democratic leaders said at that news conference held outside the DoubleTree Hotel by Hilton.

Houston held job fairs for teachers twice in 2014, in Raleigh, Greensboro and Charlotte.

The National Education Association estimates that North Carolina will rank 42nd in teacher pay in 2015 — that’s with the average 7 percent pay raise lawmakers enacted last year and well below Senate leader Phil Berger’s estimation that the pay bump would bring North Carolina up in the rankings to 32nd.

Read more about the Houston job fair for teachers over at the News & Record.

Commentary
Gene Nichol

Prof. Gene Nichol

John Drescher, the executive editor of Raleigh’s News & Observer, had an odd and flawed column over the weekend regarding UNC Law School professor Gene Nichol entitled “Gene Nichol doesn’t regret column about Pat McCrory.” (Full disclosure: Nichol used to serve on the Board of the NC Justice Center, NC Policy Watch’s parent organization).

It was odd because it awkwardly combined what was, by all appearances, a brief news report/interview with Nichol along with Drescher’s own take on Nichol’s falling out with the state powers that be  — some of which stemmed from some columns Nichol has authored for the N&O. Drescher quoted Nichol as saying he had no regrets in likening Governor McCrory to reactionary conservative governors from the Civil Rights era. As Nichol told Drescher:

“I said he was a successor to them.I do think it’s fair. I think it’s accurate. I’m not saying he’s exactly the same.”

But then Drescher went on to tack a commentary of his own into the last few sentences of the column in which he rejected Nichol’s explanation. According to Drescher:

“By going after McCrory in a personal way, Nichol made it easy for his opponents to focus on Nichol and ignore his broader, more significant message.

Professors ought to be able to write in The N&O (or anywhere else) without fear of retribution from politicians or their appointees. But they should inform us through research and lead us though debate at a high level that is focused on ideas and aspirations. In that regard, Nichol came up short.”

Hmm – let me get this straight, John. Are you really saying that “professors” should never issue “personal” barbs and only “inform us through research”? Really? Why? Indeed, what the heck does that even mean? And how do you define “research”? What was Nichol supposed to do — insert footnotes in his columns? Read More

Commentary
FF-TeachingFellows-400

Photo: NC Public School Forum

In case you missed last week’s Fitzsimon File on the ridiculous and partisan demise of the state teaching fellows program, click here to read it on the website of Raleigh’s News & Observer where it is — even at the height of March Madness — the #1 trending story.

Seems safe to say that the column has touched a nerve with North Carolinians. Now, if only the troubled souls running our state would pay attention for a change.