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School-vouchersThe N.C. Court of Appeals ruled today that the 1,878 students who have already been granted school vouchers can now use those taxpayer dollars at private schools while the fate of the program is decided.

Students enrolled at private schools this fall expecting to have the vouchers, worth $4,200 annually, in hand – but an August ruling by Superior Court Judge Robert H. Hobgood found the school voucher law to be unconstitutional, halting a program that, as Judge Hobgood said, “appropriates taxpayer funds to educational institutions that have no standards, curriculum and requirements for teachers and principals to be certified.”

As a result, voucher recipients either returned to public schools or paid the full cost of attendance at private schools. Some private schools also indicated they would temporarily subsidize voucher students with the hope that the final court ruling would turn out in their favor.

While the Court of Appeals’ ruling obligates the state to disburse taxpayer funds to the private schools of those students who were awarded vouchers no later than August 21, 2014, it also blocks the state from awarding any additional vouchers until the final merits of the case are decided. Read More

Commentary

As expected health care played a major role in the first debate between Sen. Hagan and Speaker Tillis.

Tillis took two major lines of attack against Sen. Hagan on health care: he chastised Hagan for saying that people could keep the insurance plan they like, and he criticized the policy of setting minimum standards for insurance plans. He also mentioned at the end of the debate that people will pay 11 percent more for insurance next year but that was a strange sidebar claim with no evidence to support it. Insurance policies are not yet posted and have not even completed regulatory review.

On the first point Tillis chose his words carefully. Koch brother groups in North Carolina keep claiming that thousands of people in the state lost their insurance. The Tillis camp apparently realizes that this is a ridiculous assertion. So Tillis said that thousands of people received cancellation notices from their insurance company. This thrust was parried by Hagan when she pointed out that the plans were continued when she and other members of Congress pressured the Obama Administration to keep the policies in place. She also noted that insurers continued selling non-compliant insurance plans to consumers after the Affordable Care Act was signed without adequately explaining that the policies would have to change after 2014.

On the second point Tillis argued that people should be able to purchase any insurance plan they want without regulations on what is covered. The Affordable Care Act imposes some standards on insurance policies. Hagan didn’t spent much time responding to this charge, although she could have noted that his push for mandating that insurance cover Autism treatments directly contradicts his criticism of health reform. The problem with deregulating insurance is twofold. Read More

Uncategorized

The battle over school vouchers in North Carolina is now before the state Supreme Court, thanks to an emergency motion filed late Monday by attorneys on behalf of Speaker Thom Tillis, Senate leader Phil Berger and parents to allow the taxpayer-funded vouchers, ruled unconstitutional by a Superior Court judge last week, to be disbursed to private schools immediately while the fate of the program is decided.

Plaintiffs challenging the school voucher program — parents, educators, community members and school boards represented by the N.C. Justice Center, the North Carolina Association of Educators, and the N.C. School Boards Association – filed a response Tuesday morning to the motion now before the state’s highest court.

“[The defendants] implore the Court to put millions of taxpayer dollars at risk by turning on the spigot of public funds almost a month before the SEAA’s long-planned disbursement schedule, nullifying a decision by a senior trial judge entered after months of discovery and consideration of hundreds of pages of evidence and briefs,” said the plaintiffs’ response. Read More

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House Speaker Thom Tillis may have more name recognition than many of the other candidates in Republican U.S. Senate primary, but that has not translated into more support among voters.

New numbers released this week by Public Policy Polling find that Tillis leads the GOP field for the upcoming May 6th primary with 18% of the support among potential voters. That compares with 15% for Greg Brannon, 11% for Mark Harris, 7% for Heather Grant, 6% for Ted Alexander, 5% for Alex Bradshaw, 2% for Jim Snyder, and 1% for Edward Kryn.

And while 34% of voters remain undecided, PPP suggests Tillis would need to win most of them to reach the 40% mark and avoid a summer runoff.

Dr. Andy Taylor, a political science professor at N.C. State University, says Tillis has failed to breakaway from his Republican challengers, struggling to portray himself as the best candidate to unseat incumbent Democratic Sen. Hagan in November.

Taylor joins us this weekend on News & Views with Chris Fitzsimon to handicap the Senate race and discuss the role of big money in the political process.
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For those wanting to hear more from the candidates, Time Warner Cable News will broadcast an  hour-long debate April 22 at Davidson College featuring  all eight of the Republican challengers hoping for a chance to unseat Sen. Hagan.

Early voting for the May primary begins April 24th.

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Former state Rep. Stephen LaRoque  has apparently fired Joe Cheshire, the Raleigh attorney that represented him during a trial last year that ended in convictions for the former lawmaker.

LaRoque, a Kinston Republican who stepped down from the legislature after his federal indictment, was convicted in June of stealing funds from two federally-funded economic development groups he ran. He asked for a new trial after a juror admitted doing outside research during verdict deliberations. Read More