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It’s been  a year of radical and frequently destructive change in the world of public education in North Carolina and Policy Watch reporter Lindsay Wagner has a great summary of nine top stories over on the main site. For example:

1. Tax dollars now can be funneled to unaccountable private (and home) schools.

Lawmakers passed a budget last July that allows parents to send their kids to private schools with annual taxpayer-funded $4,200 vouchers. Dubbed “Opportunity Scholarships,” the program was championed by Rep. Skip Stam, who believes that all parents should be able to send their kids to any school on the taxpayer’s dime—even if that school teaches kids that dinosaurs walked the earth with man or the KKK was just a band of moral-minded folks.

On tap for 2014: We’ll keep you posted on the roll out of the school voucher program, which will begin accepting applications in February in anticipation of its Fall 2014 start date. Stay tuned for developments in the school voucher lawsuit that was just filed by 25 teachers who oppose using taxpayer dollars to fund private education. And read my most recent story about one home school that’s classified as a private school by the state, allowing it to receive vouchers too.

Click here to read the other eight.

An editorial in the Asheville Citizen-Times provides new and damning evidence about the real world impact of the state’s FY 2014 budget for public schools.

As the editorial explains, local PTO’s and PTA’s have resorted to passing the hat in order to fund vital instructional positions in their public schools that Gov. McCrory and the General Assembly left unfunded.  

“Parent-teacher groups are caught between increased demands and reduced resources. The demands will continue to increase as long as the state abdicates its responsibility to fund the public schools properly. Read More

Diane RavitchEducation policy guru Diane Ravitch was putting the finishing touches on her new book (“Reign of Error”) when she visited Raleigh earlier this year to address a couple of hundred people at an NC Policy Watch luncheon.  Now the book is out and from the looks of this excerpt at Salon.com, she pulls no punches in describing the battle in which we are engaged. Here’s the headline Salon chose:

Diane Ravitch: School privatization is a hoax, “reformers” aim to destroy public schools

Our public schools aren’t in decline. And “reformers” with wild promises don’t care about education — just profits

Read the extended excerpt by clicking here.

 

Howard ManningState Superior Court Judge Howard Manning, Jr. spent better than two hours in a Raleigh courtroom this morning listening attentively and asking numerous questions as lawyers for the City of Asheville and the Attorney General’s office debated the constitutionality of legislation passed this spring by the General Assembly to seize the City of Asheville’s municipally-owned and managed water system and turn it over to a newly-formed regional entity.

Though the hearing featured a great deal of give and take between the judge and the lawyers, the argument was clearly dominated by Asheville’s lawyer, Mecklenburg County Senator Dan Clodfelter. Clodfelter, an attorney at the firm of Moore and Van Allen (which is, ironically enough, Governor McCrory’s old employer) offered a lengthy and detailed presentation in which he explained the history of the Asheville system and the almost comically ham-fisted efforts of conservative legislators to remove the system from city control as part of a longstanding partisan battle.

Manning, one of the state’s most experienced and respected jurists, clearly grasped the legal (and political) realities of the case from the outset of the hearing.

At one point, Read More

One of the things people rightfully dislike about their government is when they are not told the truth. Sadly, in the ongoing debate about North Carolina’s new school voucher plan many politicians have been doing just that.

In an apparent effort to lessen the controversy, some legislators have been claiming that that it is “essentially a pilot program.” It is not. The “Opportunity Scholarship Act” is a full-blown government program similar to ones that have failed miserably in several jurisdictions. It has no expiration date and its sponsors have made plain their intention to expand it.

In explaining the education budget, one state senator wrote:

In regards to the Opportunity Scholarship Act, this is a pilot program for low income families.  Many children in low income families are forced to attend low-performing schools because they do not have the opportunity that wealthier families have to move to better schools.  We simply want to make sure that everybody has the same opportunity to succeed; it is by no means a sign that lawmakers lack confidence in our public schools.

At least four obvious responses deserve mention: Read More