News

An investigation by the Wisconsin State Journal has found that Wisconsin’s taxpayers have lost $139 million dollars over the past ten years to private schools that have received funds from the state’s voucher program but were ultimately excluded from participating, thanks to their failure to meet standards relating to finances, accreditation, student safety and auditing.

From the State Journal:

More than two-thirds of the 50 schools terminated from the state’s voucher system since 2004 — all in Milwaukee — had stayed open for five years or less, according to the data provided by the state Department of Public Instruction.

Northside High School, for example, received $1.7 million in state vouchers for low-income students attending the private school before being terminated from the program in its first year in 2006 for failing to provide an adequate curriculum.

Recouping money sent to shuttered schools isn’t a feasible option, since the money is gone, Bender and Olsen said. [Bender is president of School Choice Wisconsin and Olsen (R-Ripon) is the Senate Education Committee Chairman]

Unlike North Carolina’s school voucher program, which is currently in the infancy stage and may or may not survive a court battle in which it has already been declared unconstitutional by a Superior Court judge, Wisconsin’s voucher program has a (relatively) robust set of accountability standards.

To participate in Wisconsin’s school voucher program, schools must do the following, according to the State Journal:

Currently, schools wishing to participate in the program must meet requirements for the training of their staff, obtain academic accreditation, present a complete budget and submit information to DPI about their governing body or policies and contract with a third-party service to handle payroll taxes.

Private schools participating in North Carolina’s voucher program are not required to do any of the things that Wisconsin schools must demonstrate.

Instead,the North Carolina’s private schools are free to hire untrained people to teach, are not required to be accredited or meet any curricular requirements and do not have to share details of their budget or governing body with the state or public. Among the very few requirements they must meet include administering a standardized test annually, complying with health and safety standards and conducting a criminal background check for only the head of the school.

While the courts decide if our state’s voucher program should survive, North Carolina has already disbursed more than a million dollars in taxpayer-funded vouchers to private schools across the state — including $90,300 to Greensboro Islamic Academy, which an N.C. Policy Watch report found to be experiencing significant financial troubles just last year.

Read the full story on Wisconsin’s voucher program here.

 

Commentary

NCVCEFrom the good people at N.C. Voters for Clean Elections:

Fed up with our broken political system?

Estimates suggest about $4 billion will be spent to sway voters during this year’s election, and about $700 million of that will come from dark money groups that don’t disclose their donors.

Does all this spending have you fed up? Now’s your chance to do something about it.

Come to a public forum featuring FEC Commissioner Ellen Weintraub, State Representative Mary Price “Pricey” Harrison (D – 57th), and Chris Kromm, Director of the Institute for Southern Studies. This is a unique opportunity to speak directly to a representative of the Federal Election Commission (FEC), the agency charged with protecting the integrity of our elections.

The event will be held on Thursday, October 16 from 6pm to 7:30pm at North Carolina State University (Winston 029) in Raleigh, North Carolina. [Click here to RSVP.]

Commissioner Weintraub, Representative Harrison, and Mr. Kromm look forward to hearing from you. In particular, how can we promote greater disclosure by dark money groups? How can we ensure that elected officials are responsive to average voters and not just multimillionaires? And how can we combat corruption in government?

For more information contact Melissa Price Kromm at melissa@ncvce.org or call at (919) 371-VOTE

Commentary

Dan ForestNorth Carolina’s Lieutenant Governor Dan Forest appears to be emerging as the most visible and outspoken opponent of LGBT equality in North Carolina. Forest, who has long been closely associated with the religious hard right, issued a formal statement over the weekend in which he castigated the decision of U.S. District Court Judge Max Cogburn striking down North Carolina’s marriage discrimination law as a case of “an unelected federal judge violat[ing] the foundational principles of this great nation.”

Forest’s statement goes on to give voice to some of the extreme, anti-federal government language that should be familiar to those who have studied the efforts of the mid-20th Century “state’s rights” movement and that has, in more recent times, come to be associated with fringe Tea Party groups that question the basic legitimacy of the present-day federal government:

“The courts have essentially stated that a man ‘marrying’ another man, or a woman another woman, is rooted in our nation’s traditions and history, inferring that states have no interest in the preservation of marriage as an exclusive union between a man and a woman. This strains credulity.

Our people will either submit themselves fully to a federal oligarchy of unelected judges or stand up and proclaim that federalism is alive and well. I hope that you will join me in standing against judicial tyranny, and fight to restore the balance of power intended in the Constitution of the United States.”

Meanwhile, Gov. Pat McCrory issued a statement that said the following:

“The administration is moving forward with the execution of the court’s ruling and will continue to do so unless otherwise notified by the courts. Each agency will work through the implications of the court’s ruling regarding its operations.”
News

After last night’s historic ruling legalizing same-sex marriages in North Carolina, one county register of deeds says the McCrory administration unnecessarily delayed releasing gender-neutral marriage license forms.

Wake Register of Deeds Laura Riddick (photo from Riddick's office)

Wake Register of Deeds Laura Riddick (Photo from Riddick’s office)

Laura Riddick, a Republican first elected to county office in 1996, released a statement Friday saying that the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services refused her earlier requests for a copy of an existing gender-neural marriage license. DHHS is led by Aldona Wos, a Greensboro physician and wealthy Republican fundraiser appointed by Gov. Pat McCrory in January 2013.

Riddick kept her office open until after 9 p.m. Friday evening to issue marriage licenses after U.S. District Court Judge Max Cogburn Jr.’s order at around 5:30 p.m. that night declaring North Carolina’s ban on gay marriages unconstitutional.

Some of the first legal gay couples to marry in the state did outside Riddick’s office, including Wake County Sheriff Department employees Chad Briggs and Chris Creech who exchanged their vows as local news stations broadcast the union on live television.

Riddick, along with other Registers of Deeds across the state, hoped to have her department’s computer systems updated and ready when the expected federal court order legalizing same-sex marriages came down. (Click here for background on issue.)

DHHS withholding the form was “neither justified nor professional,” Riddick said in a statement.

Read More

Commentary

Gay marriage 3Same-sex couple are marrying tonight in the Old North State. And what a marvelous triumph it is for the forces of love, tolerance and progress over those of hate, discrimination and backwardness. Hallelujah!

It’s also a moment in which it’s hard not to take note of the fact that with this momentous change, a prediction of one of the chief architects and defenders of the old, discriminatory law, North Carolina House Speaker Thom Tillis, came true — just a little early.

As you will recall it was in the spring of 2012 — just weeks before Amendment One was passed by voters during a primary election and while he was campaigning for it — that House Speaker Tillis predicted the Amendment’s ultimate demise:

“If it passes, I think it will be repealed within 20 years,” Tillis said.

As it turned out the repeal came in just 29 months and Tillis, who always seemed weirdly unconvincing in his support of the Amendment (perhaps even as he was cynically trying to stand in the courthouse door to block same-sex couples from gaining equality this week) is left to consider the ruins of one of his signature “accomplishments” as a state leader.

In a way, it’s seems somewhat fitting that things happened this way and at this moment in time in the state’s political history. A long, dark era in state history came crashing down today. Perhaps it will be just the start of several dramatic turnarounds for the state as supporters of change and modernity finally take note of their own power and move rapidly to send the purveyors of fear and reaction into forced retirement.