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School-vouchersAs an excellent essay in this morning’s edition of Raleigh’s News & Observer by veteran education policy expert Greg Malhoit makes clear, North Carolina is on the verge of commencing a long, slow-motion disaster with its wrongheaded plunge into the world of school vouchers.

As Malhoit explains in some detail, two of the Wake County schools likely to receive significant public funds if the program goes ahead — Victory Christian Center and  the Al Iman School — make no pretense of offering a secular education. These are explicitly religious schools with specific missions of teaching and indoctrinating students into very specific religious belief systems. Moreover, as he notes: Read More

This morning’s Charlotte Observer has an excellent editorial on Judge Robert Hobgood’s recent decision that at least partially strikes down the counter-productive law passed last year that would end teacher career status:

“Last week we urged lawmakers to ditch this law during their short session that’s under way. We repeat that today. Time and tax dollars are being wasted in litigation.

If the past is an indicator, lawmakers are likely to appeal, as they’ve done with other court rulings on controversial laws they passed last year. But it is wrong to string this matter out with more legal action. The law was a wrongheaded move – and an unnecessary one.

Proponents contended that the new law, set to go into effect in 2018, was needed to ensure that bad teachers could be removed from the classroom. They argued that the current system protected poor performers.

Hogwash. Bad teachers could be fired before this law. The current system, in place since 1971, only guaranteed educators a hearing.

Hobgood’s ruling now reiterates that fact.

Unfortunately, this injunction applies only to teachers who already have career status. Teachers without such status – which is granted to those who made it beyond the first four years of a probationary period – are not covered.

Lawmakers should give up this fight. But if they won’t, they should suspend the process for teachers not covered by this injunction until litigation is done.

A two-tiered system where some teachers have hearing rights that others do not would compound the bad legislative decision a judge has now rightly upended.”

Read the entire editorial by clicking here.

Last week, the U.S. Department of Justice and U.S. Department of Education issued new guidelines that outline the legal responsibility of schools to enroll all students, regardless of a child’s or parent’s immigration status. It’s an important step in ensuring the right of every child to a public education, and fortunately is one that will be carried out here in North Carolina as well.

On May 12, State Superintendent June Atkinson sent a letter to all North Carolina school districts, reminding them of the policies that prohibit the schools from denying or delaying enrollment for students.

The letter reads:

School districts, whether through registration, student information verification, or other data collection, may not require Social Security numbers, may not ask questions regarding or evidence of immigration status, or for any other documentation that is not required in order to register or enroll in school.

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In case you missed it, the Charlotte Observer has a brief but on-the-money editorial this morning on the Berger-Tillis-McCrory plan enacted last year to do away with the right of public school teachers to get a hearing before they’re fired:

“The teacher pay plan McCrory is proposing – if lawmakers approve it – might force a change anyway. In addition to giving teachers an immediate pay boost, his plan calls for replacing the current teacher compensation structure with a plan that raises all pay and offers teachers $3,000 pay increases every three years, plus more based on factors such as willingness to teach high-need subjects, teaching in high-need schools and taking on leadership roles.

Lawmakers should junk this law regardless. It’s unnecessary. Bad teachers could be fired before this law. The system only guaranteed them a hearing.

Last month, a Superior Court judge in Greensboro suspended the law in Guilford and Durham counties where lawsuits were filed. The judge clarified Friday that his injunction does not extend to other counties. Still, school systems statewide overwhelmingly disapprove of the law, with superintendents saying there’s no fair way to designate a top 25 percent when the majority of teachers do good work.

During the short session, lawmakers should ditch this law. It’s wasting taxpayer dollars in litigation.”

Read more here: http://www.charlotteobserver.com/2014/05/11/4899679/teacher-law-not-needed-should.html#.U3Cfl6JB_4s#storylink=cpy

Pat McCrory 4Dan ForestWith yesterday’s mostly predictable election out of the way, state policy debates will actually take center stage in North Carolina for a few weeks. Not surprisingly though, the process will begin today with a rather strange pair of competing press conferences in which the ideological battles that played out in the Republican Party primary between the far right and the ultra-far-right will be renewed. As WRAL.com reported last night:

“Gov. Pat McCrory said Tuesday that he plans to roll out a ‘major education announcement’ in Greensboro on Wednesday that will address long-term issues and focus on rewarding teachers for good work….

The governor plans to join educators, state and local officials and business leaders at North Carolina A&T State University for the 10 a.m. announcement.

Four hours later, Lt. Gov. Dan Forest will join Sen. Jerry Tillman, R-Randolph, chief education budget writer in the Senate, in Raleigh to ‘unveil a new fund to supplement teacher pay in North Carolina public schools.’

Talk about the right hand not keeping up with the left (or, in this case, the right hand not keeping up with the extreme right). Of course, it’s been common knowledge in Raleigh for a long time that Forest is the darling of the Tea Party/religious right crowd and that he has been building a network of supporters to help him run for Governor in 2020 (or maybe even 2016 if McCrory continues to falter). Could it be that the contest between these two will begin today with, ironically enough, competing proposals over teacher pay — a subject over which the GOP has been pummeled for its budget-slashing policies? Stay tuned — it could be that an interesting next chapter in state policy wars is about to begin.