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school-bus-stop-armIf there’s one giant mistake that both Democrats and Republicans have made down through the years when it comes to improving North Carolina’s public schools it’s the repeated attempts to impose gimmicks and quick fixes. Rather than simply giving the experts the resources they need, standing back and pointing in the desired direction, politicians of both parties have displayed a never-ending affinity for cutesy programs with politically-motivated names and tactics.

One of the most recent and worst examples of this unfortunate fixation for politicians is the new and fatally simplistic plan (thanks, Senator Berger!) to affix letter grades on public schools to characterize their supposed performance levels. A new editorial in the Charlotte Observer succinctly explains why the whole plan should be consigned to the circular file:

The N.C. legislature, in a budget Gov. Pat McCrory signed last week, has delayed until after Jan.15 the issuance of new report cards with A-F grades for academic quality at each public school in the state. Instead of a delay, lawmakers should take this pause in implementation as an opportunity to ditch the idea entirely. It’s unwise and problematic. Read More

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Voices of concern are growing louder as more and more individuals and institutions directly impacted by the new state budget signed by Gov. McCrory yesterday come to grasp what is actually in the 260 page document. As reported in the post immediately below and in this story by Sarah Ovaska on Wednesday, the list of changes buried in the fine print is long and full of significant policy decisions.

And as this story in today’s Charlotte Observer details, one of the most important and worrisome changes involves how the state funds public education:

A provision of the state budget that changes how schools are funded will put Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools at a disadvantage in recruiting talented teachers and make planning much more difficult, Superintendent Heath Morrison said.

As part of the budget signed by Gov. Pat McCrory on Thursday, the state legislature will no longer automatically fund growth in public school enrollment. Districts had long used that assumption to plan their staffing ahead of the North Carolina budget debate each summer. Now, they will have to wait until after the legislature adjourns, or later, to learn how much money they’ll receive.

“We view it as a very radical change,” Morrison said Thursday.

Charlotte-Meck isn’t the only system worried. This is from Sarah Ovaska’s story: Read More

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MedicaidNorth Carolina doctors pulled no punches in their review of the Medicaid “reform” (i.e. privatization) plan adopted by the state Senate today. This is the official statement from the NC Medical Society:

“Today the Senate had a clear choice between the health of our state’s most vulnerable citizens and the health of Wall Street corporations, and they chose the corporations. Despite strong alternative proposals from the North Carolina House, Governor McCrory and the health care community on the best way to improve patient care and quality and provide budget predictability, Senators voted against this consensus. These outside managed care companies have a dismal history of success (see the examples below). The Medical Society would like to recognize and appreciates the bipartisan support for the consensus plan of the health care community, the House and the Governor today on the Senate floor. It appears that the 28 senators who voted for managed care are not aware or don’t care about the negative history of managed care and are welcoming them to North Carolina.”

For instance,

• Kentucky moved 550,000 of its Medicaid patients to three national managed care corporations in 2011. Since then, a 2012 evaluation by the Urban Institute found that patients faced delays in getting care, and there was an adversarial relationship between the managed care plans and the medical community. State legislators continue to be flooded with complaints and passed a bill to set up an appeals process at the Department of Insurance to mediate disputes between the medical community and the plans. One of the managed care plans pulled out of the state last year, suing the state saying it lost money and forcing 125,000 patients into the other two plans.
• In Illinois, a federal judge awarded over $334 million in a fraud lawsuit against the Medicaid HMO Amerigroup Illinois and its parent company, Amerigroup Corporation, for systematic and extensive fraud for discriminating against pregnant women and those with expensive medical conditions.
• In Georgia, their Medicaid program was fined $3.7 million for consistently refusing to pay for authorized care.

 

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In case you missed it over the weekend, the Wilmington StarNews had another good editorial concerning the efforts of some of the state’s public charter schools to keep the salaries they pay secret and en effort by lawmakers to approve of the secrecy.

“The public has a right to know who works for its government agencies and institutions, how much they are paid and other important details of their employment. North Carolina’s General Statutes make that clear.

But after news organizations including the StarNews sought salary information for charter schools, a Charlotte-area state representative introduced an amendment that allows charter schools to redact the names of employees from salary lists. The House foolishly passed the amendment on Thursday; the Senate should opt for full disclosure.

At best, this amendment sets a bad precedent by shielding some public employees from full disclosure when others – including teachers in the state’s traditional public schools – do not enjoy that same protection. At worst, the amendment could go a long way toward confirming what charter school critics have been saying all along: that these schools are effectively private schools paid for with taxpayers’ money.”

The editorial goes on to provide more updates on the efforts of a charter school chain in the Wilmington area run by right-wing funder and activist Baker Mitchell

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School-vouchersThe North Carolina House voted yesterday to amend the state charter schools law to bar discrimination against children “with respect to any category protected under the United State Constitution or under federal law applicable to the states.” While the language was drawn hastily in the aftermath of Rep. Paul Stam’s embarrassing homophobic rant of the other day and would appear to include some potential wiggle room for creative bigots, it’s certainly a step forward.

That said, the House’s action (which still needs to be approved by the Senate and the Governor) serves to highlight another glaring problem in state education law — namely, the fact that the state’s new school voucher system not only allows such discrimination; it is based upon it.

As Raleigh’s News & Observer notes in an editorial this morning: Read More