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Today’s editorial in the Wilmington Star News speaks the truth about the controversy manufactured by some on the Right about the AP history course taught in our high schools. Here’s the excellent conclusion:

“Students learn from the time they are in grade school that America is special, that it is a force for good in the world, that its people cherish the “inalienable rights” with which their creator endowed them. But history is not an exercise in black and white. It involves many shades of gray, and complex, often conflicted human beings. The struggles that our nation went through over its 238 years are an important part of that story, and the story of how the nation grappled with and addressed those problems collectively represent the pluck and “American exceptionalism” the state law emphasizes.

AP History is not taught in a vacuum. Most students who take the course should be familiar with the basics; some concepts are covered or reinforced in other courses, such as civics and world history. Most advanced-placement teachers are among the best in their school; their students are among the best and brightest. At this level students should be considering a variety of perspectives on a single event and shaping their own conclusions based on the facts and opinions presented.

If the state board believes the course doesn’t spend enough time on the founding principles, it could mandate American History I as a prerequisite, although that would require eating into other electives that also enrich students’ education and could be redundant. But neither the board nor the General Assembly should seek to dilute a college-level course that is designed to promote critical thinking, a skill important not only in job seeking but in being an informed United States citizen and well-rounded adult.

Before meddling with a well-respected history course, perhaps legislators should go back to school and sit in on a few AP History lessons. It could be a good refresher.

Amen. Read the entire editorial by clicking here.

 

Commentary

charterschoolsIt’s funny and sad how humans have to constantly relearn basic lessons of history. The latest exhibit here in North Carolina comes from the world of education where, once again, we’ve been reminded of just why it is that our forebears established a uniform system of public education.

It’s not that children didn’t receive education prior to the construction of a statewide public system that featured uniform rules, standards and oversight. The “genius of the market” assured that some kids did very well.

The problem, of course, is that “market failures” and parental “choice” also assured that huge numbers of children got very little education. To make matters worse, no one was ultimately responsible for the failure and, not surprisingly, North Carolina was a poor and backward state with a handful of “haves” and boatload of “have nots.”

We were reminded of these simple truths about the past again this morning by this story on the Charlotte Observer documenting the latest outrage from the world of barely-regulated charter schools. As the Observer reports: Read More

News

Comedian John Oliver took on (and sunk) the idea that state lotteries responsibly and effectively fund public education, when he focused on state lotteries this weekend on his HBO show, “Last Week Tonight.”

North Carolina’s education lottery got a substantial mention (at the 11:30 minute mark) when Oliver pointed out North Carolina spends less per pupil today then it did when the lottery started in 2006.

Take a look here.

 

And if you’d like to walk down memory lane with some of the reporting N.C Policy Watch has done on the state lottery, you can click here to read a 2012 report about how per capita lottery sales spike in some of the state’s poorest counties.

NC Budget and Tax Center

Voters in Mecklenburg, Guilford, and Rockingham counties each rejected a ballot initiative to increase its local sales tax by one-quarter cent. Under these referendums, consumers would have paid 25 cents in additional sales tax per $100 spent on goods and services subject to sales tax. The sales tax increase was expected to generate around $32 million for Mecklenburg County, $14 million for Guilford County, and $1.5 million for Rockingham County in additional local revenue each year.

This rejection of a sales tax increase highlights the tenuous reality of funding for public education in North Carolina. Last year, state lawmakers passed a tax plan that significantly reduced revenue available for public schools and other important public services. The tax plan has proven to be more costly than state policymakers’ initial estimate and the implications of this self-imposed revenue crisis will reverberate across the state in the years ahead. Meanwhile, some local governments are bracing for the revenue losses associated with the elimination of the local privilege license tax, which goes into effect next July.

Of the three counties rejecting a proposed sales tax increase, Mecklenburg County has experienced significant growth in its student population in recent years. Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools (CMS) is the second largest, and one of the fastest growing school systems in the state. For the most recent 2013-14 school year, more than 144,000 students were enrolled in CMS, with nearly 10,000 additional students entering CMS classrooms since 2008. Guilford County has experienced modest growth in its student population (1,326 additional students) while the student population for Rockingham County has declined (990 fewer students) since 2008. Read More

Commentary

School-vouchersICYMI, be sure to check out education reporter Lindsay Wagner’s story this morning over on the main Policy Watch site: “School vouchers: A second look at fraud and abuse.”

As Wagner reports, the disturbing stories from Arizona, Wisconsin and Louisiana — where standards for vouchers are actually tougher in many instances than North Carolina’s — are all-too-common.

For instance:

Arizona implemented a private school tuition tax credit program in 1997. That program was designed to aid low-income families to take advantage of private schools.

A report by the national advocacy group People for the American Way found that over a three-year period, the Arizona scheme has cost the state more than $55 million in funds that have gone largely to subsidize private and religious education for middle- and upper-income families.

And then there’s this:

An investigation by the Wisconsin State Journal has found that Wisconsin’s taxpayers have lost $139 million dollars over the past ten years to private schools that have received funds from the state’s voucher program but were ultimately excluded from participating, thanks to their failure to meet standards relating to finances, accreditation, student safety and auditing.

Read the entire story by clicking here.