Driver's edAccording to the folks who run North Carolina government, these are fabulous times in the Old North State. To hear Gov. McCrory, Senate President Pro Tem Berger and House Speake Moore tell it, North Carolina’s economy is soaring and state government is humming along like a finely tuned machine. In other words, it pretty much doesn’t get any better than this.

All of which makes this story from this morning’s Greensboro News & Record all the more striking.

“Hitting the brakes

A few hours behind the wheel stands between 937 local teenagers and a driving eligibility certificate.

They could remain in that holding pattern for a month or more until it is clear how much state funding, if any, Guilford County Schools will get to cover its driver education program.

The state funding for the program expires Tuesday. Starting Wednesday, Guilford’s program is suspended until the General Assembly decides how much money, if any, to spend on the state-mandated program.”

The article goes on to detail how lawmakers continue to seriously consider all kinds of proposals to cut driver’s ed, move it out of K-12 education to community colleges or even eliminate it all together.

You got that? In a state of 10 million people with vast wealth, supposed good times and an obvious and growing need for safer streets and roads, the government of the state cannot even get its act together to maintain something so basic to the health and well-being off the community as a functioning, well-funded driver’s education program.

But, of course, this should come as no surprise. The same people letting the driver’s education program go to seed are the same ones who are bent on transforming the teaching profession itself into temporary, early career option and the public schools into no-frills education factories.

If this is government when times are “good,” one hates to think of what things will look like the next time the the economy turns sour again.


The story broken by NC Policy Watch reporter Lindsay Wagner (i.e. one of the reporters unwelcome at Gov. Pat McCrory events) about the Senate’s secretive plan to cut health insurance benefits for future state retirees is the subject of the lead editorial in this morning’s edition of Raleigh’s News & Observer. Here’s the N&O:

“Now, the state Senate is looking, in a rather secretive way through a provision deep in its budget, to end that health care insurance benefit for those hired by the state after Jan. 1, 2016. Current employees wouldn’t be affected. But don’t think of that as some kind of generosity on the part of Republican senators pushing this idea. If benefits of those under the current plan were ended, legal challenges would ensue.

There’s a reason this idea was buried in the Republican Senate budget, and that was to avoid debate that would generate tremendous and doubtless angry response from tens of thousands of current and former state employees. Perhaps that’s why, asked by a reporter about the proposal, Senate budget writer Sen. Harry Brown just walked away. That is a most discouraging action on the part of an elected official, to decline to explain or defend an action….

As House and Senate negotiators hammer out a final budget, we must hope that cooler heads prevail and that lawmakers who have doubts about targeting an important benefit for state workers will speak up and stop this movement. It smacks of political payback by Republicans who haven’t liked the criticism they’ve occasionally gotten from SEANC and some members. The problem with such payback is that taking away this benefit will hurt state government from top to bottom – and will thus hurt the people government is supposed to serve and often serves well.”
As an aside, it would be ironic if the secret provision was somehow the result of the Senate is being mad at the State Employees Association. When SEANC was headed by its corrupt former leadership, it regularly bestowed honors on Senate GOP leaders — including making Phil Berger its “legislator of the year” at one point.

In case you missed it over the weekend, a middle school teacher from Forsyth County named Stuart Egan had a fine op-ed in the Winston-Salem Journal in which he debunked the myth that flawed teachers are somehow the biggest problem facing our public schools. As Egan explained:

“Earlier this year, The Washington Post published a study by the Southern Education Foundation that found an incredibly high number of students in public schools live in poverty. And in April, the journal Nature Neuroscience published a study that linked poverty to brain structure. All three publications confirm what educators have known for years: Poverty is the biggest obstacle in public education.

Yet many “reformers” and North Carolina legislators want you to believe that bad teachers are at the root of what hurts our public schools. Just this past November, Haley Edwards in Time Magazine published an article titled “Rotten Apples” that suggests that corporate America and its business approaches (Bill Gates, etc.) can remedy our failing public schools by targeting and removing the “rotten apples” (bad teachers) and implementing impersonal corporate practices.

I understand the analogy: bad teachers, rotten apples. However, it is flawed. Removing rotten apples does not restore the orchard. Rather, improving the orchard makes for better apples. Teachers are more like farmers, not apples. Students are what are nurtured. What we need to do is improve the conditions in which schools operate and the environments in which our students are raised; we must address elements that contribute to poverty.”

Egan continues with the farming analogy:

“Another fallacy with the rotten apple analogy is that the end product (singular test scores) is a total reflection of the teacher. Just like with farming, much is out of the hands of the education system. One in five children in North Carolina lives in poverty and many more have other pressing needs that affect the ability to learn. Some students come to school just to be safe and have a meal. But imagine if students came to school physically, emotionally, and mentally prepared to learn. Read More


One out of eight teachers in this country is a bad one—and that’s because teachers have failed to safeguard their profession.

So says the American Enterprise Institute’s Rick Hess, an expert in education policy at the conservative think tank who spoke on Monday to a group of North Carolina school leaders at NC State’s Friday Institute about how to empower teachers and principals.

Hess, who was also in Raleigh to promote his new book, The Cage-Busting Teacher, explained that too many teachers are hiding in a ‘classroom cage’ and are not participating in the governance of their schools in ways to make the environment better.

“Teachers…have not done a good job of safeguarding their profession,” said Hess. “When you survey teachers, they will tell you themselves that five percent of their fellow teachers in their district deserve an F and another eight percent of the teachers in their district deserve a D.”

“That is failing to police your profession,” Hess said. “That’s failing to wield that moral authority.” Read More


When Charlotte native and veteran teacher Scott Yamanashi saw NC Policy Watch reporter Lindsay Wagner’s recent news story (“Lawmakers move bill that would make it a felony offense for a student to assault a teacher”), he felt compelled to speak out. It turns out that Mr. Yamanashi has extensive direct experience in the area. Not only has he spent several years as the de facto disciplinarian at multiple schools, he has also seen from his own family’s experience how a felony conviction acquired as a teen can seriously damage a person’s life.

Making felons of troubled teens is not the answer
By Scott Yamanashi

State senators in Raleigh are currently pushing a proposal (Senate Bill 343) that would make it a felony for a student to assault a teacher. As a 12-year veteran teacher and Charlotte native currently enrolled full-time as a graduate student in Educational Administration in order to become a principal, I certainly appreciate the intentions of the sponsors. Unfortunately, the proposal would ultimately cause many more problems than it would solve.

First, it should be acknowledged that violence is a genuine problem in our schools. Often, “tough love” is needed to address the decline in attentive parenting and two-parent homes and the lack of academic and behavioral integrity these trends help breed within our student populations.

I should also add that I have never been attacked and only threatened a couple of times in my career. But I am also six feet five inches tall, almost three hundred pounds, and have been a part-time bouncer for twenty-four years. Needless to say, students don’t even try it with me, and they know I will defend myself and my colleagues with any and all necessary WWE moves I have at my disposal to end the threat in the safest manner possible.

That said, through my years of experience as a “go to” school peacemaker it’s become clear to me that the best and safest campuses are those in which the school administration and teaching core work to effectively instill a school-wide set of effective and consistent discipline policies and procedures, as well as adequate counseling.

These kinds of policies, programs and structures (and the budgetary resources to make them possible) are what our schools desperately need from state leaders more than anything else in order to handle violent, misguided students. Turning more young people into convicted felons won’t help.

On this latter point I speak from direct experience. Read More