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ICYMI, Brunswick County Public Schools official Jessica Swencki has a great essay in this morning’s edition of Raleigh’s News & Observer in which she explains what’s really driving a large and growing segment of the charter school movement: private, for-profit companies out to milk the public coffers.

“In North Carolina, charter schools are operated by ‘nonprofit’ corporations, which are not subject to the same laws that demand public accountability for state and local tax dollars. These ‘nonprofit’ corporations can be subsidiaries of larger for-profit corporations – all the nonprofit corporation needs is a ‘board’ of purportedly earnest, well-intentioned people during the application process. Once the charter is granted, there is very little to stop the potential exploitation of our state’s limited public education resources.

In fact, one doesn’t have to look any further than the Eastern part of the state for a case study in how savvy companies use this loosely regulated system to pocket millions of taxpayer dollars.

Click here to read the rest of Swencki’s explanation of how this scam works.

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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.

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Another day, another utterly absurd, “you can’t make this stuff up” release from the Pope-Civitas Institute. Today’s ridiculously obtuse entry: An attack on a Raleigh businesswoman tabbed by a group of business leaders to help lead their efforts to support public education because — shudder the thought! — she volunteered at one point to help the Great Schools in Wake organization that fought the re-segreation of Wake County schools.

It’s hard to know what measures higher on the insipidness meter: Read More

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Rob ChristensenRob Christensen of Raleigh’s News & Observer – someone who’s been the target of occasional barbs over here at The Pulse – deserves some kudos this morning for a straightforward and important column in today’s paper entitled “NC’s kids are doing better than you think.”

As Christensen notes, it’s become almost an article of faith in many circles these days that our public schools and students are failing:

“That North Carolina’s schools are failing is a widely shared assumption in certain circles. It is repeated in the echo chamber of talk radio. It is confirmed every time you come across some store clerk who can’t make change, or you hear from an employer who can’t find somebody to operate some piece of technology.

It is given credence by news stories of struggling school systems in poor areas, of racial disparities and of confusing reports about test scores being down because the tests are more difficult.”

But as he goes on to explain, this narrative is actually badly flawed. Read More

NC Budget and Tax Center

A majority of North Carolinians oppose tax cuts that put at risk the state’s investment in public education, a recent Public Policy Polling (PPP) survey shows. When presented with cutting funding for public schools in order to provide taxpayers a tax cut, 68% of North Carolinians oppose such a move.

The tax plan signed by Governor McCrory earlier this year reduced available revenue by $525 million over the next two years and revenue in future years is reduced even further. Benefits from tax cuts in the tax plan will largely flow to the wealthy and profitable corporations, which represent less than 10 percent of all businesses in North Carolina. Under the tax plan, the wealthiest taxpayers will see their taxes cut on average by more than $9,000, with top 1 percent of income earners getting 65 percent of the total net tax cut.

Opposition to cutting investments in public education to provide such tax cuts extends across ideology and political affiliation. Read More