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NC Budget and Tax Center, Poverty and Policy Matters

Durham Public Schools (DPS) is expected to adopt a breakfast program at no cost to students and families, a recent Herald Sun articles reports. Under the program, all DPS students could eat breakfast at school at no cost, regardless of their family’s financial status.

In order to combat the stigma associated with receiving free or reduced breakfast, DPS plans to use a catchy slogan, “Breakfast is on us.”

By eliminating the stigma associated with the existing free and reduced meal programs offered only to students from low- and moderate-income families, students are more likely to participate in school meal programs, which can have a positive impact on their ability to succeed academically. The Herald Sun article 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.

Many schools across North Carolina have the option to offer breakfast and lunch programs at no cost to students and families this upcoming school year. Nearly 300,000 students in high-poverty schools across North Carolina could potentially benefit from an initiative, known as Community Eligibility, which ensures every child in these schools receives two nutritious meals each day so that they are ready to learn all day. Read More

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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.

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It’s not a new argument from North Carolina conservatives; we’ve been hearing from the so-called “free market think tanks” for years. Still it was a bit of an eye opener to read the following letter from State Senator Warren Daniel to a North Carolinian who expressed concerns about the state’s abysmal teacher salaries (as first posted at the site Pay Our Teachers First):

“Ms. Greene,

Do teachers teach because they love teaching, & they love children, or
because they are paid at some national average? Are you considering that
in addition to the State salary, teachers also make approximately 14
thousand dollars in taxpayer paid benefits, and most counties have salary
supplements? In addition, compared to similarly situated state
employees, a teacher’s work year is approximately two months shorter.
While a department of corrections employee or a highway patrolman may
have to work on Christmas and Thanksgiving, teachers receive vacations
for every major holiday and are with their families. Read More

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Common coreYet another prominent voice has weighed in against the move advanced by some conservatives in the General Assembly to abandon North Carolina’s adoption of the Common Core education standards for math and English (an issue we explored in some depth yesterday). This is from this morning’s Fayetteville Observer:

“Those with fringe views invariably claim they represent many similar-minded folks, but such support can be measured more in volume than numbers.

Unfortunately, some of those with an extreme education agenda have won seats in our General Assembly and are pushing to erode the Common Core curriculum standards that educators worked so hard to put in place…. Read More

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Common coreThis morning’s edition of the Weekly Briefing attempts to explain why the debate over the education standards known as Common Core are distracting us from larger and more important issues in public schools. Though the standards and the process surrounding their development are certainly flawed, repealing them isn’t the answer. That said, it’s important not to oversell the new standards either:

“For all of its imperfections, simply repealing Common Core is probably not the answer. For some percentage of children, broad-based higher standards will probably help.

By the same token, however, it’s also important not to kid ourselves. For the vast majority of children not currently achieving at desired levels, it will take lots more than just tougher standards [i.e. significantly larger public investments] to lift them up. Let’s hope the current debate isn’t just the latest in a long series of illusory solutions that have repeatedly served to distract Americans from this hard reality.”

It’s also important not to get carried away with criticism as continues to occur on the far right. This morning’s article on Talking Points Memo (“The Vast Network of Common Core Conspiracies”) explains just how loony that talk has gotten — with talk of pornography, Agenda 21 and Muslim conspiracies.

The bottom line: Common Core isn’t as bad or as good as the opponents or proponents allege. Let’s get on with implementing the standards carefully and skeptically and move on to bigger and more important matters.