Archives

Commentary

State lawmakers made up for a sluggish (and, at times, even moderately encouraging) start to the 2015 session last night by passing a raft of dreadful and regressive bills that will continue North Carolina’s slide back into the pack of old confederate states that it once sought to lead.

Here are just a few of the lowlights of yesterday’s House and Senate sessions:

#1 – A bill that seeks to severely weaken the state’s Environmental Protection Act by dramatically reducing the number of public projects that will be subjected to an environmental review. This was the response of the watchdogs at the Sierra Club:

“We regret the disservice this legislation does to North Carolina’s environment and taxpayers alike. What’s troubling is that the House pushed this legislation through without any study or review of the impacts on the use of public funds and public lands.

There is no good reason to strike this historic environmental protection law. North Carolinians are looking for more transparency and accountability from leaders on the use of public funds – not less.”

#2- A bill to jump start executions by, among other things,  removing the requirement that physicians be present and shrouding in secrecy the drug cocktail that will be used to kill the condemned.

#3- A bill that would require teaching public school history students a list of so-called “founding principles” that are really just part of a the political agenda of a Koch Brothers-funded group.

#4 – A bill to weaken the state’s renewable energy requirement for electricity generators. According to WRAL.com:

“The proposal introduced Wednesday night as an amendment to House Bill 760, a regulatory reform measure, would cap the REPS requirement at 6 percent permanently and would allow a utility to claim energy-efficiency savings for up to half of that requirement. Power companies could seek reimbursement from ratepayers for any investments or contracts they’ve already entered into in order to meet the higher renewables requirements that the proposal repeals.

The measure would also repeal an 80 percent property tax break that solar farms and facilities currently receive.”

#5 – A Senate bill to make felons out of kids 16 or older who commit assaults on teachers or school volunteers. The bill passed despite the passionate opposition of Senator Erica Smith-Ingram who told an emotional and personal story of a confrontation she had with a student while teaching high school and how keeping the student out of the criminal system had, in effect, saved his life.

There were many other counter-productive bills advanced yesterday (and a few promising ones — most notably the proposal to partially rein in the misclassification of workers by bad actor employers). Stay tuned for more updates throughout the day as we sift through the “Crossover Day” results.

Commentary
Todd Chasteen

State Board of Education nominee Todd Chasteen sits with book challenger Chastity Lesesne at hearing on Isabel Allende’s The House of the Spirits. (Photo credit: Lonnie Webster)

It’s a crazy busy week at the General Assembly, so a lot of folks may have already lost sight of Gov. McCrory’s recent bizarre nomination of Samaritan’s Purse lawyer Todd Chasteen to serve on the state Board of Education. Fortunately, however, some rational people are speaking out about why the nomination is a very troubling development.

Here, for instance, is veteran journalist Andrea Krewson in a post on her blog this week, Global Vue, entitled “Todd Chasteen is the wrong nominee for the N.C. Board of Education”:

“Gov. Pat McCrory’s latest nominee for the N.C. Board of Education, J. Todd Chasteen of Samaritan’s Purse, fought to ban a book from honors English classes at Watauga High School in 2014.

Nominees for the board go through the N.C. General Assembly, and given its track record, it’s likely Chasteen’s nomination could go through. But it’s another example of the many troubling moves that hand leadership in North Carolina to extremists that don’t represent the values of many of the people in the state. The General Assembly should think twice before letting this nomination sail through….

His involvement in trying to keep a book away from other students should be enough to disqualify him from the N.C. Board of Education. Taken in the context of McCrory’s nominees over time, it’s clear that his nomination is just another step stifling the voices of many consumers of public schools.”

Meanwhile, the Charlotte Observer published the following excellent letter by Alan Crighton of Apex this morning: Read More

Commentary

[This post has been updated] No, that headline is not a typo. The Senate Education Committee passed a bill this afternoon with less than two minutes of discussion that would require the following items to be taught in American history classes in the state:

  • Constitutional limitations on government power to tax and spend and prompt payment of public debt.
  • Money with intrinsic value.
  • Strong defense and supremacy of civil authority over military.
  • Peace, commerce, and honest friendship with all nations, entangling alliances with none.
  • Eternal vigilance by “We the People.”

And after this, look a for a proposal to require students to be taught the 800 number for investing in Glenn Beck’s latest gold scam.

That 800 number might also be useful for deciphering what in the heck such a bizarre set of requirements even means.

Commentary

When Charlotte native and veteran teacher Scott Yamanashi saw NC Policy Watch reporter Lindsay Wagner’s recent news story (“Lawmakers move bill that would make it a felony offense for a student to assault a teacher”), he felt compelled to speak out. It turns out that Mr. Yamanashi has extensive direct experience in the area. Not only has he spent several years as the de facto disciplinarian at multiple schools, he has also seen from his own family’s experience how a felony conviction acquired as a teen can seriously damage a person’s life.

Making felons of troubled teens is not the answer
By Scott Yamanashi

State senators in Raleigh are currently pushing a proposal (Senate Bill 343) that would make it a felony for a student to assault a teacher. As a 12-year veteran teacher and Charlotte native currently enrolled full-time as a graduate student in Educational Administration in order to become a principal, I certainly appreciate the intentions of the sponsors. Unfortunately, the proposal would ultimately cause many more problems than it would solve.

First, it should be acknowledged that violence is a genuine problem in our schools. Often, “tough love” is needed to address the decline in attentive parenting and two-parent homes and the lack of academic and behavioral integrity these trends help breed within our student populations.

I should also add that I have never been attacked and only threatened a couple of times in my career. But I am also six feet five inches tall, almost three hundred pounds, and have been a part-time bouncer for twenty-four years. Needless to say, students don’t even try it with me, and they know I will defend myself and my colleagues with any and all necessary WWE moves I have at my disposal to end the threat in the safest manner possible.

That said, through my years of experience as a “go to” school peacemaker it’s become clear to me that the best and safest campuses are those in which the school administration and teaching core work to effectively instill a school-wide set of effective and consistent discipline policies and procedures, as well as adequate counseling.

These kinds of policies, programs and structures (and the budgetary resources to make them possible) are what our schools desperately need from state leaders more than anything else in order to handle violent, misguided students. Turning more young people into convicted felons won’t help.

On this latter point I speak from direct experience. Read More

Commentary

sexeducationIn the barrage of bad bills introduced at the legislature in recent days, there is one that would result in great harm to sexual health education but that has thus far drawn little attention. House Bill 596 would rewrite the current requirements for sex education in schools, making an already flawed law even worse. The current law requires students to be taught mostly about abstinence but at least includes some discussion of contraception methods and safe sex practices. However, the new law, if passed, would forbid schools from teaching students about emergency contraceptive measures like Plan B, commonly known as the morning-after-pill.

Plan B and other methods of emergency contraception allow women to take a pill within five days of unprotected sex in order to prevent pregnancy. Based on approval by the FDA, these pills are currently available at pharmacies over-the-counter. Easier access to the pill has resulted in a lower rate of teenage pregnancy in the state (not to mention, been vital in cases of rape). Currently, all FDA-approved contraceptive methods in preventing pregnancy can be taught in the classroom.

Representative Chris Whitmire, sponsor of HB 596, however, believes that the schools should not be teaching students about such products, even if they are FDA-approved. According to Whitmire’s logic, which doesn’t appear to be based on medical training of any kind, Plan B can cause spontaneous abortions and, therefore, schools should not teach students about it. However, according to doctors with actual medical training, Plan B “works like other birth control pills to prevent pregnancy. The drug acts primarily by stopping the release of an egg from the ovary.” In fact, Plan B does not even have the ability to cause an abortion. In cases where the fertilized egg has been implanted, the drug is ineffective and the pregnancy proceeds as normal.

Read More