Commentary

School-vouchersThis morning’s editorial in the Fayetteville Observer takes a rather charitable view toward parents who signed their children up for North Carolina’s new school voucher plan and then found themselves without the subsidy once Judge Robert Hobgood rightfully struck down the program as blatantly unconstitutional. The paper is okay with last week’s Court of Appeals ruling that the state should go ahead and disburse the money to the private schools in which the parents enrolled their kids.

Reasonable minds can differ on this generous take; after all, it’s the private schools (which knew the risks) that are really out the money. But the paper is right that, assuming this is a one-time deal, the damage will be minimal. The remainder of editorial is largely spot on, however, with its take on the voucher program more generally and going forward:

In his earlier ruling against the program, Superior Court Judge Robert Hobgood said it not only gave tax dollars to non-public schools, but established no standards for the schools to which the money would go.

Friday’s decision wisely allows the children already enrolled to continue through this school year. There’s no point in penalizing families who believed they were part of a legitimate state program.

But lawmakers should stop hoping for a court to read the constitution crossed-eyed and discern something that isn’t there. The General Assembly should prepare for the rejection of Opportunity Scholarships.

Hobgood’s ruling also spelled out the way legislators can fix this: “The expenditure of public funds raised by tax action to finance the operation of privately operated, managed and controlled schools … would require a constitutional amendment approved by the vote of the citizens of North Carolina.”

To preserve Opportunity Scholarships, stop pretending and begin the amendment process. And also include standards to hold participating private schools accountable.

Read the rest of the editorial by clicking here.

News

CommonCore_NC1At the first meeting of the Academic Standards Review Commission, which is tasked with reviewing and potentially replacing the Common Core State Standards, co-chair and Gov. Pat McCrory appointee Andre Peek told N.C. Policy Watch upon the meeting’s conclusion Monday afternoon that he is a supporter of Common Core and has been “since its inception.”

Peek, an executive at IBM, said “I do realize it’s [Common Core] a divisive issue for our state, though. But I don’t know the details of why…so through the efforts of this commission we’ll get to the facts…and how to change it to be more effective for our state,” adding that any changes made will be based on fact and not just a feeling of “we don’t like it.”

Peek will co-chair the Academic Standards Review Commission along with Jeannie Metcalf, who sits on the Winston-Salem/Forsyth State Board of Education.

Metcalf, who is an appointee of Senate leader Phil Berger and has no background in teaching, told N.C. Policy Watch last month about her qualifications to serve: “I’ve read lots of magazines and I go to lots of meetings…and so I got myself a self-guided education in curriculum standards in North Carolina and how they’ve changed over the years.”

For a full run down of the first meeting of the Academic Standards Review Commission, look for my story tomorrow morning over at www.ncpolicywatch.com

Commentary
Climate march

Photo: www.peoplesclimate.org

In case you were out basking in the summer-like weather yesterday and missed it (and as a follow-up to the post immediately below), more than 300,000 of your fellow world citizens converged on the streets of New York City and several other major cities around the globe yesterday to speak out and speak up on the global climate crisis. The crowd included several busloads full of North Carolinians.

As the New York Times reports:

Legions of demonstrators frustrated by international inaction on global warming descended on New York City on Sunday, marching through the heart of Manhattan with a message of alarm for world leaders set to gather this week at the United Nations for a summit meeting on climate change. Read More

Commentary

Sea-level rise 2Tempting as it may be to deny the hard reality of global warming and rising sea levels, the data continue to slap us in the face like so many crashing whitecaps on a rough day on the Outer Banks.

Many of those data are highlighted in a new, “must read” investigative report from the news service Reuters entitled “Water’s edge: The crisis of rising sea levels.” This report finds that: a) the data are overwhelming and, perhaps even more disturbingly, b) public officials are doing little-to-nothing about the problem except pouring more and more money down a very big drain — even when the impacted area is federal land:

For this article, Reuters analyzed millions of data entries and spent months reporting from affected communities to show that, while government at all levels remains largely unable or unwilling to address the issue, coastal flooding on much of the densely populated Eastern Seaboard has surged in recent years as sea levels have risen.

These findings, first reported July 10, aren’t derived from computer simulations like those used to model future climate patterns, which have been attacked as unreliable by skeptics of climate change research. The analysis is built on a time-tested measuring technology – tide gauges – that has been used for more than a century to help guide seafarers into port. Read More

Commentary

Inhabitants of the “nonpartisan” conservative think tanks are clearly growing desperate that North Carolinians have not fallen for the education funding shell game they helped legislative leaders and the Governor engineer during this past session of the General Assembly. With public opinion titling increasingly against them (both on the issue of education itself and the U.S. Senate race that’s turning, in some respects, into a referendum on the issue), these groups have been cranking out missive after missive in an attempt to prove that down is up.

Fortunately, the truth keeps shining through. Take for example, Ned Barnett’s excellent essay in Sunday’s edition of Raleigh’s News & Observer.  As Barnett patiently explains in the piece, the claims in recent political ads that spending state education spending has increased by “a billion dollars” doesn’t hold water:

The $1 billion increase Wilburn refers to is deeply misleading. Most of that spending includes state contributions to pension and health funds and salary adjustments. It’s not in any real world sense spending for the education of North Carolina’s public school students.

In the real world, spending for education is down. Wilburn could have learned that by going to the financial officer for her own school district. There has been a slight increase in special education funding, but the overall funding for the 5,400-student Yadkin County school district is down.

Denise Bullin, the executive director of finance for Yadkin County schools, has been in the job for two years. In regard to state funding, she says, “We have experienced a reduction in both years.” As for Wilburn’s televised statements, Bullin said, “I don’t agree with that.”

The state’s funding for Yadkin County schools fell from $30.8 million in 2012-13 to $28.3 million in 2013-14. In the same period, its per pupil funding dropped from $5,371 to $5,040.

The piece goes on to explain the statewide picture:

Read More