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School-vouchersThe N.C. Court of Appeals ruled today that the 1,878 students who have already been granted school vouchers can now use those taxpayer dollars at private schools while the fate of the program is decided.

Students enrolled at private schools this fall expecting to have the vouchers, worth $4,200 annually, in hand – but an August ruling by Superior Court Judge Robert H. Hobgood found the school voucher law to be unconstitutional, halting a program that, as Judge Hobgood said, “appropriates taxpayer funds to educational institutions that have no standards, curriculum and requirements for teachers and principals to be certified.”

As a result, voucher recipients either returned to public schools or paid the full cost of attendance at private schools. Some private schools also indicated they would temporarily subsidize voucher students with the hope that the final court ruling would turn out in their favor.

While the Court of Appeals’ ruling obligates the state to disburse taxpayer funds to the private schools of those students who were awarded vouchers no later than August 21, 2014, it also blocks the state from awarding any additional vouchers until the final merits of the case are decided. Read More

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CommonCore_NC1Senate leader Phil Berger (R-Rockingham) is the first to publicly announce his appointments to a legislative commission that will review and make recommendations for modifying the Common Core State Standards. Berger’s appointments include a retired math professor recommended by the John Locke Foundation and a Winston-Salem/Forsyth school board member who has a “self-guided education in curriculum standards.”

House Speaker Thom Tillis, Governor Pat McCrory, State Board of Education Chair Bill Cobey and Senator Berger each must make appointments to the Academic Standards Review Commission, which has the authority to recommend to the State Board of Education that they replace none, some, or all of the much-debated Common Core standards.

The review commission is required by law to meet before September 1, 2014 — although no meeting has been scheduled as of August 29.

Berger’s spokesperson, Shelly Carver, told N.C. Policy Watch that the Senate leader made his appointments on August 20. They are as follows:

  • Ann Clark, deputy superintendent, Charlotte-Mecklenberg Schools
  • Dr. Laurie McCollum, assistant principal, Western Rockingham Middle School
  • Jeannie Metcalf, member, Winston-Salem/Forsyth Board of Education
  • Dr. John T. Scheick, retired math professor, UNC Chapel Hill, Duke University, The Ohio State University

Dr. Scheick, a retired math professor who lives in North Raleigh, told N.C. Policy Watch by phone that he became interested in the Common Core standards just a few weeks ago, when he read an August 5 Wall Street Journal article by a UC-Berkeley mathematician who skewered the math standards.

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The battle over school vouchers in North Carolina is now before the state Supreme Court, thanks to an emergency motion filed late Monday by attorneys on behalf of Speaker Thom Tillis, Senate leader Phil Berger and parents to allow the taxpayer-funded vouchers, ruled unconstitutional by a Superior Court judge last week, to be disbursed to private schools immediately while the fate of the program is decided.

Plaintiffs challenging the school voucher program — parents, educators, community members and school boards represented by the N.C. Justice Center, the North Carolina Association of Educators, and the N.C. School Boards Association – filed a response Tuesday morning to the motion now before the state’s highest court.

“[The defendants] implore the Court to put millions of taxpayer dollars at risk by turning on the spigot of public funds almost a month before the SEAA’s long-planned disbursement schedule, nullifying a decision by a senior trial judge entered after months of discovery and consideration of hundreds of pages of evidence and briefs,” said the plaintiffs’ response. Read More

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It looks like Governor McCrory’s role in the big tax cut debate between House and Senate leaders might be merely to market what the legislative leaders come up with.

Here’s what House Speaker Thom Tillis told the News & Observer about McCrory’s role in the discussion about a tax deal.

We need the governor fully on board so he can communicate it and get people to understand it.

That’s a bit of an odd take from Tillis. He didn’t say they need to work with the governor because he is running the state or because he is the top elected official of their own political party or heaven forbid, because he might have some policy ideas and strongly held views of his own about taxes.

No, they need the governor on board only to sell the package that Berger and Tillis decide on. It is pretty clear legislative leaders believe they are in charge in Raleigh these days. McCrory? He is their PR guy.

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The state budget is still front and center on Jones Street in Raleigh, but some of the battles of weeks past are making their way back into the legislature.

The GOP leader in the state, Phil Berger Jr., said in this morning’s weekly press conference that he expects to see a conference committee report out soon about charter schools, one of the many contentious pieces of legislation this session.

The bill, Senate Bill 8, included initial language that would allow charters greater access to public funds and move oversight outside of the N.C. Department of Public Instruction.

But in the end, it looks as if the bill will limit itself to liftingthe 100-school cap the state has on public charter schools.

“I suspect that it will be more lifting the cap and less of some of the other things,” Berger said.

That will surely come as a relief to the many opponents of this session’s charter school legislation, who warned that the existing language  in Senate Bill 8 and the companion bill in the House could eventually defund the state’s public schools and creating a separate, elite educational system.