News

North Carolina law currently requires only kindergarteners to get physicals in order to enroll in public schools — but a bill moving through the General Assembly could soon require health assessments for all newly enrolled students in grades K-12, and failure to do so could mean some kids miss out on classroom instruction.

Rep. John Torbett (R-Gaston) introduced the bill, HB 13, to Senators in a health committee Tuesday, explaining that the most common feedback he received from constituents about requiring physicals for all students was “you mean we’re not already doing that?”

There’s a presumption that other states also require their students to get physicals when they enter kindergarten, said Torbett, perhaps serving as a rationale for why the state doesn’t currently require health assessments from new students entering higher grades.

If students don’t get physicals within sixty days of the first day of school, the proposed law would bar students from going to school until fulfilling the proposed requirement. Language in the original proposal left the door open for those absences to count as suspensions on a student’s record, but House lawmakers amended the bill to avoid that scenario, including language that would allow students to make up coursework and tests during their time away from the classroom.

Senator Gladys Robinson (D-Guilford) questioned what processes would be put into place to work with parents who may have trouble understanding the proposed law.

“In some cases, parents are illiterate,” said Sen. Robinson. “What is in place in the school system to get out to that parent to make sure…that parent can read it and understand and then follow up?”

Legislative staff said there are currently a number of opportunities for follow-up with parents of kindergarteners who fail to comply with the proposed law, but did not identify ways in which the state works with those who are illiterate or non-English speaking.

Approved by the Senate Health committee, the bill will next be considered by members of the  Senate Education/Higher Education committee.

 

NC Budget and Tax Center

North Carolina is losing ground on key economic indicators such as child poverty and family economic security. A new report from NC Child  paints a bleak picture of how children are suffering from the fallout of an economy that is downright broken for many North Carolina families, as well as state lawmakers’ recent policy decisions. Genuine progress is within the state’s reach if lawmakers make smart investments and enact better policy choices.

More than a half of a million children belong to families that are living in poverty and struggling to pay the bills, even though the state just entered into the sixth year of the official economic recovery. In fact, child poverty is higher now than it was when the recession hit: 1 in 4 children currently live in poverty compared to 1 in 5 children in 2008. And, poverty has the fiercest grip on children of color and children under age five here and across the United States.

Previous research shows that three-quarters of these children have at least one parent that works, but low wages and unstable employment keep families in the economic struggle. This economic reality is further confirmed in the NC Child report, which finds that nearly 1 in 3 children live in families that lack secure employment, an increase since the recession hit. Read More

News

Note: This post has been updated from the original to include a response from Gov. McCrory’s office.

The N.C. Justice Center, along with a number of media and non-profit coalition partners, filed a lawsuit against Gov. Pat McCrory today, accusing his office and administration of not fully complying with the state’s public records law.

The lawsuit was filed in Wake County Superior Court.

The N.C. Justice Center, an anti-poverty non-profit, filed the lawsuit because of issues N.C. Policy Watch, a project of the Justice Center, faced in obtaining public records from McCrory’s office and the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services.

Other plaintiffs in the lawsuit include Capitol Broadcasting Company, the parent company of WRAL; the News & Observer; the Alamance News; the Southern Environmental Law Center; the Durham-based alternative weekly Indy Week; and Media General Operations, which owns WNCN-TV in Raleigh and WNCT-TV in Greenville.

The lawsuit is seeking release of the various requested records, as well as policies that would prevent excessive fees to access public records and require prompt responses to future public records requests.

McCrory’s office issued a statement Tuesday night about the lawsuit, saying that the governor’s administration has been “a champion of transparency and fair and legitimate news gathering.”

But some media members and advocacy groups have abused the spirit of the public records law by filing overly broad and time-consuming requests, McCrory’s office wrote in a statement.

“Like the requests themselves, this lawsuit is an attempt to tie up state personnel and resources that should be spent serving the people of North Carolina,” the statement read.

(Click here to read the entirety of McCrory’s press statement.)

lawsuitmccrorypublicrecords.pdf by NC Policy Watch

News

Three weeks in to the new fiscal year and House and Senate leaders appear to be no closer to announcing a final budget compromise.

NCAE Vice President Mark Jewell says the lack of a deal and the quickly approaching new school year has educators feeling especially nervous.

“It’s a lot of pressure, in fact I’ve talked to superintendents across the state over the last couple weeks and they are very concerned,” explained Jewell.

Of particular concern is the teaching assistants, who are helping get classrooms ready for the returning students this summer, but may find themselves out of a job in a few short weeks.

Burke County Public Schools recently announced 24 teacher assistants could expect pink slips if state funding is reduced in the new budget.

Jewell talked about the problems of budget procrastination over the weekend on NC Policy Watch’s News & Views with Chris Fitzsimon. Click below for an excerpt from that interview, or here for the full podcast.

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Commentary

It’s an admittedly crowded field of competitors, but by any fair assessment, the Koch Brother-funded group, Americans for Prosperity North Carolina may just have posted its most dishonest and ridiculous claim yet about renewable energy. As you can see in the tweet below and by following the link it contains, the group claims that North Carolina’s Renewable Energy Portfolio Standard (a modest law that moves the state in the direction of producing more sustainable energy and that will actually save consumers lots of money over time) “strangles” the “entire North Carolina economy.”

This is, simply put, a blatant and outrageous lie. Even if one conceded that the REPS somehow raises consumer electric bills in any significant way — something that is simply not true — North Carolina’s electric rates are currently below the national average.  This is true in all categories — residential, commercial industrial, transportation and overall.  Heck, North Carolina residential consumers pay less for electricity than Texans! North Carolina commercial and industrial consumers pay less than West Virginia businesses! Click here to review the latest data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration. How could such rates be “strangling” the economy?

The bottom line: It’s no surprise that fossil fuel barons like the Kochs would put their paid mouthpieces to work to promote policies that pad their gigantic profits, but when the lies get this big, they really need to be called out. Let’s hope this dishonest effort to undermine renewables continues to fall flat.