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The Charlotte Observer:

In striking down the state’s new school voucher law on Thursday, N.C. Superior Court Judge Robert Hobgood laid out a cogent, compelling constitutional case against the bad law. “Beyond a reasonable doubt…,” he said from the bench, “the Opportunity Scholarship program funds a system of private schools from taxpayer dollars as an alternative to the public school system in direct contravention of the North Carolina Constitution….”

Voucher advocates say they will appeal, noting that parents need choices other than traditional public schools. But Hobgood correctly notes that the state is constitutionally obligated to provide a sound, basic education to N.C. students, and lawmakers can’t delegate that obligation to “unregulated” and “unaccountable” private schools.

The Greensboro News & Record:

Superior Court Judge Robert Hobgood’s opinion of the state’s Opportunity Scholarship Program was blunt.

“The General Assembly fails the children of North Carolina when they are sent with public taxpayer money to private schools that have no legal obligation to teach them anything,” he said Thursday in ordering an immediate halt to the voucher plan.

That was not a political statement. Hobgood, a veteran judge holding court in Wake County, cited several provisions of the state constitution violated by the voucher program….

Attorney General Roy Cooper said his office will appeal to higher courts, but Hobgood’s interpretation of the state constitution seems sound.

It was the legislature that went off track in enacting a program that diverts millions of dollars from public schools and contradicts good judgment. At a time when more accountability is demanded of public schools and educators, this program asks almost nothing of participating private schools. It just sends them money.

Bad idea. And, according to the judge, it violates the state constitution.

NC Budget and Tax Center, Poverty and Policy Matters

With a new school year approaching, many local school boards across North Carolina will join an effort to help end childhood hunger. For the 2014-15 school year the nation-wide Community Eligibility Program (CEP) allows high-poverty North Carolina schools to eliminate collecting school meal applications and offer breakfast and lunch to all of their students at no charge.

One in five American schoolchildren can’t count on getting enough nutritious food at home, which can have a negative impact on a student’s academic performance and development. Ensuring that children show up in classrooms each day fed and ready to learn increases the chances of students being more focused, attentive, and engaged.

At least 36 school systems across North Carolina have confirmed their plans to adopt CEP for the upcoming school year. (See map below) Some local school boards plan to adopt CEP district-wide while others will offer a universal meal program in selected schools within their district.

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A big kudos goes to these school systems that will adopt CEP next year. This serves as a positive step in helping ensure that all North Carolina students are afforded a high-quality, enriching education.

A listing of all North Carolina school districts and individual schools that are eligible for community eligibility for the 2014-15 school year can be found via the NC Department of Public Instruction website.

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ICYMI, the editorial page of the Greensboro News & Record pulled no punches this weekend in an editorial excoriating state senators for their last minute proposal to hamstring local governments when it comes to use of the sales tax for public services and structures at the local level. Here’s an excerpt from “Oddest idea yet”:

Republican state senators canceled a floor vote on a confusing sales-tax bill Thursday until they could get their stories straight. Which means it might not return.

Of all the heavy-handed directives the legislature has pushed down on local governments in the past couple of years — airport and water system takeovers, de-annexations, local redistrictings, elimination of privilege licenses — this one might be the most illogical.

The measure, which originated in the Senate Finance Committee without notice Wednesday, was presented as a means of giving counties additional tax flexibility. With voters’ approval, they could add to the local sales tax, designating revenue to schools or transportation projects.

But the strings attached tied everything in knots.

The legislation put restrictions on how new revenue could be spent — for education or for transportation, but not for both. It put a cap on the local sales-tax rate. And, perhaps most baffling, it required that if a county raised the sales-tax rate, it would have to raise it all the way to the cap….

The half-baked sales-tax bill, which also includes unrelated provisions boosting economic development efforts, was yanked from the calendar before the Senate adjourned for the weekend. Senators will return to Raleigh Monday, but the wacky sales-tax proposals ought to vanish as quickly as they appeared.

For more information on the proposal in question, click here for succinct summary.

Uncategorized

Common Core picAn editorial in this morning’s Greensboro News & Record offers some important insights on the legislation — soon to be law — that “repeals” North Carolina’s adherence to Common Core education standards (i.e. the standards we’ve already spent tens of millions of dollars on to implement).

The movement led by some Republicans to withdraw North Carolina from the national academic standards was prompted by an irrational fear of a “federal takeover” of education.

Common Core was no such thing. Initiated by the bipartisan National Governors Association, the movement recognized a need for all American students to follow similar academic guidelines. When it was embraced by the Obama administration, however, opposition intensified.

Yet, Republican Gov. Pat McCrory supported Common Core. So did the N.C. Chamber of Commerce and other business groups. They recognized the necessity of aligning North Carolina curricula with those used in other states.

Partisan politics and distrust of President Obama won out. The legislature Wednesday approved a bill that will replace Common Core with yet-to-be-written North Carolina standards. McCrory will sign it. But he knows its secret: At its core, there may not be much difference.

Despite use of Tea Party-type rhetoric in the bill, the end result could be something that closely resembles Common Core — which apparently would be OK as long as it’s not called that….

North Carolina can call these standards whatever it wants as long as our students keep up.

Read the entire editorial by clicking here.

NC Budget and Tax Center

Twenty-two (22) days remain for eligible local schools in North Carolina to confirm whether they will adopt a universal school meal program for the 2014-15 school year.

One in five American schoolchildren can’t count on getting enough nutritious food at home. North Carolina can improve this bleak fact by encouraging eligible schools to sign up now for the newly available community eligibility initiative, joining in a proven model already helping to end childhood hunger.

Students in high-poverty schools across North Carolina could potentially benefit from this initiative, which ensures every child in these schools receives two nutritious meals each day so that they are ready to learn all day. Ensuring that children show up in classrooms each day fed and ready to learn means students are inclined to be more focused and attentive, less distracted, and more engaged.

A recent Herald Sun article highlighting Durham Public Schools’ (DPS) universal breakfast program notes that national data show that school districts that provide universal breakfast programs at no cost to students have higher test scores, fewer disciplinary problems and more focused students. In schools that DPS piloted its universal breakfast program, an additional 64,971 breakfast meals were served from the start of school through March 3, compared to the same period the previous school year. DPS’s universal breakfast program also resulted in increased federal and state reimbursement funding. Schools in other states that have adopted universal school meal programs have experienced similar outcomes.

Some local school boards have confirmed their intention to adopt community eligibility for the 2014-15 school year: Jones County Schools, Cherokee County Schools, Hickory City Schools, Hoke County Schools, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools, Halifax County Schools, Scotland County Schools, Hertford County Schools, and Northampton County Schools are among local schools systems that plan to adopt community eligibility. This is a positive step and it is important that other eligible schools across the Tar Heel state join this initiative that ensures that children are fed and ready to learn.

A listing of all North Carolina school districts and individual schools that are eligible for community eligibility for the 2014-15 school year can be found via the NC Department of Public Instruction website.