News

Members of the House Judiciary Committee, who will be discussing legislation today to increase the financial accountability of North Carolina’s charter schools, might want to revisit what happened to the students of a recently shuttered school in Columbus County.

As WECT-TV reported last week, SEGS Academy in Delco, NC gave parents just two days notice this month before closing its doors. That sent many students back to their public school district, without any funding:

segs“…the influx of students means some teachers have larger classes and little time to prepare the newcomers for end-of-grade tests, even though their scores will count toward Acme-Delco’s letter grade.

“We don’t have very much time to find out where they are, what they need and how we can make the very most of the last few days of this school year,” Hedrick said.

Because the former SEGS students are transferring so late, Columbus County Schools won’t get any state money for educating them through the end of the school year, according to Superintendent Alan Faulk.

“We’re going to teach them no matter what. It would have been nice had some funding come with them, but there is no funding and that’s not going to affect the way that we teach the children,” Faulk said. “We’re helping out in a situation that went bad, and we’ll do everything we can to help the students.”

Faulk said Tuesday his schools had enrolled approximately 25 former SEGS students, but he expected more to follow because 61 students who live in Columbus County’s district attended the charter school in March.”

House Bill 96, up for consideration this afternoon in Judiciary I, would addresses debt collection from personally liable individuals following the dissolution of a charter school.

The bill would also require the Department of Public Instruction’s Office of Charter Schools to maintain a database of individuals with the authority to expend funds on behalf of charter schools.

A favorable vote today and the bill will head to Regulatory Reform.

You can read more about SEGS’ recent decision to voluntarily close its doors here.

News

The U.S. Supreme Court sent the North Carolina redistricting case back to the state Supreme Court this morning for further review in light of the high court’s recent decision in a similar Alabama case.

The North Carolina groups and individuals who initially sued lawmakers in state court — contending that the state’s 2011 plan constituted an unlawful racial gerrymander — filed papers in January asking the justices to review the state Supreme Court’s 2014 decision upholding the plan.

Then in late March, the nation’s highest court decided the Alabama case — applying a different analysis than that used by our state justices and sending that state’s plan back to the trial court for further review. (For more on the relationship between the Alabama and the North Carolina cases read here.)

The Court ruled that race predominated in an Alabama redistricting plan which moved black voters into majority-minority districts in order to prevent the percentage of minority voters from declining, and that such race-based redistricting must be strictly scrutinized.

Five days later, the court likewise sent a case raising similar issues regarding Virginia’s 3rd Congressional District, Cantor v. Personhuballah, back down for further review.

The challengers of the North Carolina plan — relying in part upon the analysis in the Alabama decision — argued in papers recently filed with the Supreme Court that our state maps should also be strictly scrutinized and rejected as race-based gerrymanders.

With today’s order, the state Supreme Court will now have to review the 2011 redistricting plan using those parameters.

Here’s the order:

Dickson GVR

 

Commentary

Nicole and LindaTomorrow is Women’s Advocacy Day at the North Carolina General Assembly and there are a lot of good reasons for caring women (and men) to attend. The one at the top of my list will be Medicaid expansion – the long-neglected plan to extend decent, affordable health coverage to hundreds of thousands of North Carolinians.

As has been explained repeatedly in countless places in recent months, North Carolina would benefit greatly from Medicaid expansion. The numbers of lives that would be saved and the amount of money that would flow to the state are both huge and more than reason enough for state leaders to act. As a group that has long endured lower pay and benefits, women would also benefit disproportionately from expansion.

For me, however, the motivation for speaking out goes well beyond the numbers. It’s also about speaking out on behalf of people who I know and care about – people like my friend, Linda Dunn (that’s us on the left at the General Assembly last month).

I met Linda back in December at a community forum in Kinston at which Sen. Don Davis, Lenoir County Sheriff Ronnie Ingram and several other community leaders expressed concern about the failure to expand Medicaid and the fact that, in Lenoir County alone, expansion would cover 2,270 residents and create more than 350 desperately needed jobs.

Linda attended the forum along with her adult daughter. I met them just before the discussion was set to begin. She was terribly concerned about her daughter’s lack of access to insurance and medical care.

In fact, she was so concerned that she was later inspired to travel to Raleigh to share her family’s story during last month’s Medicaid Expansion Advocacy Day. Linda held onto the podium in the Legislative Building press room while some in the audience held back tears as she spoke like only a mother could about the devastating impacts of suffering from chronic health conditions without insurance. Read More

Commentary

The list of counter-productive proposals on Jones Street has been expanding rapidly in recent days and both the Charlotte Observer and Greensboro News & Record have new essays blasting one that’s already been approved by the state House: the idea of partisan elections for judges (and even school board members!).

Here’s the N&R in an editorial entitled “No need for parties”:

“No matter the motives, North Carolina made a wise move in 2004 [when they made judicial elections non-partisan]. Nonpartisan elections, and officially nonpartisan courts, really do reduce the kind of hyper-partisanship that we have in state and federal legislative bodies. Judges should not line up with their political parties when deciding cases. Voters may perceive partisan differences on the courts, and rulings may break along party lines sometimes. For the most part, however, partisan distinctions aren’t apparent on our state’s highest courts.”

And here’s veteran Republican attorney John Wester writing in the Observer in an op-ed entitled “Don’t further politicize judiciary”: Read More

Commentary, News

1. Lawmakers move bill that would make it a felony offense for a student to assault a teacher

Students who assault teachers could soon face felony charges in North Carolina, according to a bill that was green-lighted by a Senate committee on Wednesday—despite concerns raised that under the proposed law, even minor infractions could result in a lifetime of lost opportunities for some of the state’s youth. “We’re having more serious [Continue Reading…]

2. The revealing 2015 Tax Day

Tax Day 2015 didn’t exactly turn out like state legislative leaders had planned. Instead of a flurry of news stories featuring people thrilled to find out that they are paying less in state taxes thanks to the alleged tax cuts passed by the General Assembly in 2013, many of the reports included comments from [Continue Reading…]

3.Audit found Medicaid owed $350 million, while DHHS officials said program had surplus

Lawmakers heard Monday that the state’s massive Medicaid program was in the hole at the end of last year’s fiscal year, despite prior statements by state health officials that the program finished that year with a surplus. The Medicaid program had $350 million in liabilities for 2013-14, not the surplus of $63.4 million [Continue Reading…]

4. Who asked for this?
Lawmakers disregard public opinion and the common good with anti-consumer bills

The process of crafting new laws in a state legislature can be a mysterious and confusing process a lot of the time—especially to average citizens who don’t have the time or capacity to follow along closely. Even for activists, it can often be difficult to keep up with the various players—much less their arguments and true motivations.[Continue Reading…]

5. Q&A with James Ford, 2014 NC Teacher of the Year

Garinger High School history teacher and North Carolina 2014 Teacher of the Year James Ford took a circuitous path to the teaching profession. He started out with the intention of becoming a journalist, then served as a truancy intervention specialist and then a director of a teen center. His love for working with [Continue Reading…]