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DinosaurNorth Carolina’s Lt. Governor Dan Forest is no longer on the board of the group he helped found a few years back known as Faith Driven Consumer, but the group remains enmeshed in controversial issues with important political implications.

The group’s most recent crusade is to make sure that that the bosses at Paramount Studios, which is producing a multimillion dollar movie based on the Biblical figure Noah and the mythological story in which he saves all the creatures of the world from a flood, doesn’t allow the film to include any deviation from the what the group considers to be the literal truth. As Fox News reports, the group, which claims to speak for 46 million Christian consumers, released survey results showing that that “98 percent of faith-driven consumers are ‘unsatisfied with (the) Bible-themed movie which strays from Biblical message.’ The report suggested that ‘Noah’ could thus face ‘commercial challenges.’”

Such a scenario is in keeping with the past efforts of the Faith Driven Consumer to inject a conservative Christian worldview into modern American commerce. As reported here previously, the group has gone so far in past years as to dispense low marks to retailers (like the department store chain Sears) that feature lingerie models in their catalogs.

In the “Noah” example, the Faith Driven Consumer group has made it plain to Paramount that it doesn’t care for the notion that the film might attempt to superimpose modern, non-literal interpretations on the flood story. This is from an appeal on the group’s website: Read More

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School-vouchersIf you haven’t already done so, check out today’s edition of the Fitzsimon File in which Chris highlights the most recent cynical efforts of anti-government crusaders to cloak their efforts to dismantle public education behind a protective phalanx of poor kids and their families. As Chris notes in discussing yesterday’s efforts by voucher supporters to resist a broad-based lawsuit against the state’s new “Opportunity Scholarships” program:

“It’s an understandable strategic decision voucher supporters are making, claiming that their only concern is improving the education of poor kids. They’d rather not talk about their anti-government ideology that’s behind their crusade to dismantle public education, one of the last government institutions that enjoys widespread support. Read More

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Fifty-four school boards in North Carolina have now signed on to be plaintiffs in the NC School Board Association’s school voucher lawsuit, which calls into question the constitutionality of providing families with $4,200 annual taxpayer-funded scholarships to use at private schools. (See the end of this post for the full list.)

The North Carolina Association of Educators along with the North Carolina Justice Center also filed a lawsuit late last year seeking to block the school voucher legislation.

On February 1, the NC State Education Assistance Authority began accepting applications for school vouchers. Award notification will begin in March, unless an injunction filed by the NCAE is successful at halting the implementation of the program.

The NCAE has also filed a complaint against the new teacher contract system, which eliminates tenure in exchange for temporary contracts.

With this new system that was put into law last summer, local school districts will award the top 25 percent of teachers with 4-year contracts that may come with $500 bonuses for each of those four years—as long as those teachers give up their tenure prior to 2018, when all teachers will lose it.

According to NCAE President Rodney Ellis, nine school districts have adopted resolutions rejecting the teacher contract system, including Durham, Caswell, Pitt, New Hanover, Cleveland, Alexander, Surry, Mt. Airy, and Iredell/Statesville.

This past weekend, Guilford County came close to adopting a resolution to opt out of the teacher contract system, but tabled that vote for Feb 11, at which time all members of the local school board would be present for a full vote.

It’s unclear what consequences local school districts face if they fail to comply with state law and participate in the teacher contract system.

Plaintiffs that have signed on to join NCSBA’s school voucher lawsuit:

  1. Alamance-Burlington Board of Education
  2. Alexander County Board of Education
  3. Asheboro City Board of Education
  4. Camden County Board of Education
  5. Catawba County Board of Education
  6. Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Board of Education
  7. Chatham County Board of Education
  8. Cleveland County Board of Education
  9. Columbus County Board of Education
  10. Craven County Board of Education
  11. Currituck County Board of Education
  12. Davidson County Board of Education
  13. Durham Public Schools Board of Education
  14. Edenton-Chowan Board of Education
  15. Edgecombe County Board of Education
  16. Elizabeth City-Pasquotank Board of Education
  17. Gates County Board of Education
  18. Graham County Board of Education
  19. Halifax County Board of Education
  20. Harnett County Board of Education
  21. Hertford County Board of Education
  22. Hoke County Board of Education
  23. Hyde County Board of Education
  24. Jackson County Board of Education
  25. Jones County Board of Education
  26. Kannapolis City Board of Education
  27. Lee County Board of Education
  28. Lenoir County Board of Education
  29. Lexington City Board of Education
  30. Macon County Board of Education
  31. Martin County Board of Education
  32. Moore County Board of Education
  33. Mount Airy City Board of Education
  34. Nash-Rocky Mount Board of Education
  35. Newton-Conover City Board of Education
  36. Northampton County Board of Education
  37. Onslow County Board of Education
  38. Orange County Board of Education
  39. Pamlico County Board of Education
  40. Person County Board of Education
  41. Pitt County Board of Education
  42. Polk County Board of Education
  43. Roanoke Rapids Board of Education
  44. Rockingham County Board of Education
  45. Rutherford County Board of Education
  46. Scotland County Board of Education
  47. Stanly County Board of Education
  48. Surry County Board of Education
  49. Transylvania County Board of Education
  50. Vance County Board of Education
  51. Warren County Board of Education
  52. Washington County Board of Education
  53. Whiteville City Board of Education
  54. Yancey County Board of Education
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Each day it seems that there are more stories in the news about teaching assistants being cut loose under the new state budget or seasoned teachers leaving the profession over low-pay.

So, what really happened in the 2013 legislative session, and how will it impact classrooms this fall?

Check out Chris Fitzsimon’s radio interview from last weekend with education reporter Lindsay Wagner and policy analyst Matt Ellinwood as they discuss the state budget, school vouchers, and Governor Pat McCrory’s latest education initiative.

To download a podcast of full 15-minute segment with Wagner and and Ellinwood, visit the radio interview section of the NC Policy Watch website:
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One of the things people rightfully dislike about their government is when they are not told the truth. Sadly, in the ongoing debate about North Carolina’s new school voucher plan many politicians have been doing just that.

In an apparent effort to lessen the controversy, some legislators have been claiming that that it is “essentially a pilot program.” It is not. The “Opportunity Scholarship Act” is a full-blown government program similar to ones that have failed miserably in several jurisdictions. It has no expiration date and its sponsors have made plain their intention to expand it.

In explaining the education budget, one state senator wrote:

In regards to the Opportunity Scholarship Act, this is a pilot program for low income families.  Many children in low income families are forced to attend low-performing schools because they do not have the opportunity that wealthier families have to move to better schools.  We simply want to make sure that everybody has the same opportunity to succeed; it is by no means a sign that lawmakers lack confidence in our public schools.

At least four obvious responses deserve mention: Read More