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School vouchersIn 2012, many of the politicians who now control the North Carolina General Assembly ran on pledges of “fiscal conservatism” and reducing government spending. Indeed, many prominent members of the current majority continue to style themselves as “common-sense fiscal conservatives.”

There’s a disappointing lack of common sense, however, in the proposed “Opportunity Scholarships” program included in the current House budget. The program would provide school vouchers—up to $4,200 each—for K-12 students to attend private schools instead of traditional public schools. The current budget proposal appropriates $10 million for the program in the first year, and jumps to $40 million for the second. In a time of huge cuts to our public school system, there is no common sense in taking much needed resources from our students and teachers and asking them again to somehow do more with less.

Instead of being fiscally conservative, this voucher scheme is fiscally irresponsible, since it will cost the state money every year after the first. In fact, the larger the program becomes, the more money it will lose for North Carolinians. Read More

Reporter David Forbes at Mountain Xpress posted a disturbing story yesterday evening about the controversial move pushed through the General Assembly by Buncombe County state legislators to convert the city of Asheville’s water and sewer system into a regionally-controlled asset. Here is the lead:

“Emails obtained by Xpress reveal that some state legislators have asked city of Asheville representatives to drop their lawsuit contesting a state-mandated transfer of the water system to the Metropolitan Sewerage District. The emails also show legislators discussing the fate of legislation that consolidates Asheville and Buncombe County parks-and-recreation services — a move that could save the city $5 million a year. Further, the candid discussions shine a light on a long-rumored proposal that the state may force Asheville to switch to district-based elections.

Vice Mayor Esther Manheimer says the city is being ‘told to settle the lawsuit or else’ face more unwanted legislation. Read More

NC Policy Watch and the Health Advocacy Team at the North Carolina Justice Center are proud to announce a very special and timely Crucial Conversation luncheon,

The truth about North Carolina’s Medicaid program: Why it’s not “broken” or in need of privatization

featuring one of the nation’s most knowledgeable experts on health care policy: Ron Pollack, Executive Director of the Washington, DC-based research and advocacy organization, Families USA.

Click here to register.

Background: Hardly a day goes by of late in which Gov. McCrory, House Speaker Tillis, Senate President Pro Tem Berger or some other conservative leader doesn’t allege that Medicaid, North Carolina’s health care program for poor people, is “broken.” In speech after speech, event after event, media appearance after media appearance, conservative state leaders repeat the same mantra: To rein in “out-of-control” spending, Medicaid must be fundamentally altered so that it is a program based on “choice,” “efficiency” and “competition.”

Why you should care: Though superficially appealing, there’s one big problem with the conservative talking points: They are demonstrably false. The truth of the matter is that Read More

K12 logoThe Wall Street sharks who want to buy up our public education system do not appear inclined to go away quietly. After being rebuffed by state education officials and failing thus far to get what they want in the courts, K-12, Inc. (the troubled, for-profit, “virtual” charter school company) has turned to what it undoubtedly expects will be a more hospitable  forum — the General Assembly.

As N.C. Policy Watch reporter Sarah Ovaska reported yesterday afternoon, K-12 lobbyists have prevailed upon a state lawmaker to enter legislation that would put the company on the path to open its proposed online charter in North Carolina. For people who care about public schools, this should be a very worrisome development. This is from Ovaska’s report: Read More

Over the weekend, the Wilmington StarNews published a pair of competing op-eds on the subject of Gov. McCrory’s Medicaid privatization plan – one by Adam Linker of the N.C. Health Access Coalition and another by HHS Secretary Aldona Vos.  

Unfortunately, the two pieces serve as a kind of microcosm of the first few months of the McCrory administration’s public performance. Read More