Courts & the Law, Defending Democracy, News

Cooper nominates special Superior Court judges for confirmation

Gov. Roy Cooper nominated three people this week to special Superior Court judgeships.

He submitted the names of Chief District Court Judge J. Stanley Carmical, Bryan Beatty and Chief District Court Judge Athena Brooks to the General Assembly for confirmation.

Carmical currently serves Robeson County and Brooks serves Henderson, Polk and Transylvania counties. Beatty has served as a Commissioner for the North Carolina Utilities Commission for nearly a decade and was previously secretary of Crime Control and Public Safety and Director of the State Bureau of Investigation.

“These nominees bring extensive experience in our justice system to these new roles and are highly qualified to serve as Special Superior Court judges,” Cooper said in a news release. “I’m grateful for these individuals’ willingness to assume this important responsibility for the State of North Carolina.”

Special Superior Court judges are not required to live in the district they hold court (they can be sent to anywhere in the state) and they are appointed by the governor to five-year terms. Some special Superior Court judges are also appointed to hear business court cases.

The judges have the same power and authority as a regular Superior Court judge. Their starting salary is also the same, $132,584, according to the N.C. Administrative Office of the Courts.

By state statute, the General Assembly must confirm the special Superior Court nominees by joint resolution of both chambers.

Education, News, Trump Administration

Secretary Betsy DeVos touches off controversy again, says schools can report undocumented students

President Trump and U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos

U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos is under the microscope again.

This time, some are criticizing the wealthy GOP booster after she told members of Congress this week that local schools and communities should decide whether to report undocumented students and families to federal immigration authorities.

DeVos, who was selected for the top education post last year by President Donald Trump, has angered public school advocates before, over topics like teacher strikes, school choice funding, and a remarkably uncomfortable interview with 60 Minutes.

From ABC News:

The head of the Education Department shifted the responsibility of reporting undocumented students to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials to principals and teachers when she said on Tuesday, “it’s a local community decision.”

“I think that is — that is a school decision,” DeVos said during her testimony before the House Education and Workforce Committee after Rep. Adriano Espaillat, D-N.Y., pressed her on the issue of undocumented students. “It’s a local community decision and again I refer to the fact that we have laws and we also are compassionate and I urge this body to do its job and address and clarify where there is confusion around this.”

Espaillat immediately rebuked the secretary’s statement, stressing that immigration policies are defined and executed by the federal government, not by communities.

“Let me just remind Madam Chair that immigration law is federal law,” he said. “It’s not a local law. It’s not governed by a municipality.”

“You cannot have immigration law for one state be different for another state and it applies to everybody across the country,” he added.

This is not the first time the secretary has faced controversy.

During her tenure at the Department of Education, she has faced criticism for comments she’s made on school safety, black history, and other matters.

In March, she said arming teachers “should be an option for states and communities to consider” during an interview after a visit to Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla.

In her highly contentious confirmation hearing, DeVos stirred up vehement objections to her nomination after hedging on an answer about guns and ultimately conceding that guns might be needed in schools in states like Wyoming to defend against “potential grizzlies.”

Her most recent comments are drawing considerable backlash from civil rights groups.

“Let’s be clear: Any school that reports a child to ICE would violate the Constitution. The Supreme Court has made clear that every child in America has a right to a basic education, regardless of immigration status. Secretary DeVos is once again wrong,” Lorella Praeli, director of immigration policy and campaigns at the American Civil Liberties Union, said in a statement.

During the heated exchange with Espaillat, DeVos referenced a Supreme Court decision that ruled that all children — regardless of their immigration status — are entitled to a free public education.

“This was a Supreme Court decision rendered many years ago and so there are undocumented children in K-12 education today that we support and we give education to on a daily basis.”

Critics pointed to that same 1982 decision, Plyler v. Doe, as they sought to poke holes in her testimony.

“The Court determined in 1982 that the Constitution requires all public schools to provide a free public education, from Kindergarten to 12th grade, to every child, regardless of immigration status,” Thomas A. Saenz, president and general counsel of the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, said. “Any public school or school district that denies an education to any undocumented child – whether by refusing to enroll, by limiting access to the programs and benefits provided to other students, or by reporting a child to ICE – has violated the United States Constitution.”

Uncategorized

The Week’s Top Five on NC Policy Watch

1. Democrats: Berger-Moore budget process may quash debate, amendments

When N.C. House Speaker Tim Moore and Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger addressed reporters last week, they boasted that negotiations on the state’s estimated $24 billion budget were “far ahead” of years past.

According to top Democrats who spoke to Policy Watch this week, that may be because Republican lawmakers are considering a maneuver that would dramatically limit debate on the privately negotiated spending plan in the coming days.

State House Democratic Leader Darren Jackson says members of his party believe the GOP may pack the entire budget bill—negotiated by House and Senate leadership behind closed doors—into a conference committee report either late this week or early next week. While such a tactic is not unheard of at the General Assembly, this would be an unprecedented move with respect to the state budget according to several longtime lawmakers and legislative staffers.

Because a conference report is considered the final product of House and Senate negotiations on an already-filed bill, General Assembly procedures would provide only for a “yea” or “nay” v ote with no allowance for amendments.[Read more…]

Bonus read: Ten education policies to watch closely in the 2018 legislative session

2. Coincidence or collusion? NC Oil and Gas Commission receives curious requests to frack.

3. Legislators seek background checks, fingerprinting for election workers

4. NC officials order dozens of campaigns to forfeit illegal PAC contributions from pharma giant

5. One simple, moral and business-friendly step NC lawmakers could take to boost the economy

NC Budget and Tax Center, Trump Administration

Trump administration turning its back on refugees, a moral and economic failure

The Trump administration is following through on its threat to bar America’s doors against people fleeing violence and persecution. Trump’s cruel words are matched with devastating deeds, snuffing out America’s light of liberty in many corners of the world.

A new report from the Fiscal Policy Institute shows how dramatically refugee resettlement has declined on Trump’s watch and provides compelling evidence that we are turning away the very people that have long made America the economic power of the world.

Beyond documenting how dramatically the Trump administration has reversed America’s history offering safe harbor to people facing persecution the world-over, the report shows that these policies will hurt the U.S. economy.

The report’s authors interviewed business owners about their experiences hiring and working with people who arrived in the United States as refugees, and the results show that Trump’s policies are cutting businesses off from precisely the kind of dedicated employees that proprietors love to find. For example:

  • Refugees tend to be more loyal employees: Most business owners reported that, once hired, refugees tend to stay in their jobs longer than other workers. As any employer will tell you, replacing good employees is expensive and challenging, so having reliable refugees as part of a workforce can be an enormous plus.
  • Successful refugee hiring can help employers find more reliable workers: Once companies figure out how to successfully support refugees as they become employees, these businesses often find it easier to recruit more people from refugee communities. Just as with retention, finding skilled and dedicated employees efficiently can be an enormous boon for businesses.

Turning our back on people facing war and torment is wrong, and this moral failing will come with economic ramifications now and into the future.

Commentary

Legislators should reject efforts to extend failed virtual charter school “pilot”

The General Assembly should reject any efforts to extend the authorization of the state’s two virtual charter schools, and should instead focus on winding down the two failing schools.

Since their creation, North Carolina’s two virtual charter schools, North Carolina Virtual Academy and North Carolina Connections Academy, have been among the worst-performing schools in the state. Advocates for these two schools have opposed meaningful accountability or evaluation measures, rushing forward to extend without any evidence that the program is working. The schools are based on a model that has failed spectacularly in several other states, and North Carolina’s laws offer no protections against the failures of other virtual charter schools. Finally, the schools fail to meaningfully expand enrollment options for students, as the state already offers a higher-quality on-line option.

Why is the General Assembly considering an extension?

Virtual charter schools are publicly-funded schools that are governed by an independent board and deliver instruction entirely on-line. The North Carolina General Assembly authorized two such schools to operate beginning the 2015-16 school year. The authorizing language (Section 8.35 of S.L. 2014-100) established the schools as a four-year “pilot program,” requiring additional legislation for the schools to continue operation beyond the 2018-19 school year.

At its May 1, 2018 meeting, the Joint Legislative Education Oversight Committee endorsed draft legislation to allow the two virtual charter schools to continue operating through the 2022-23 school year. The legislation, since introduced as HB 988/SB 731, also delays by two years the first of two required evaluation reports, pushing the reporting date from November 15, 2018 to November 15, 2020.

NC virtual charter laws eschew best practices, reflecting the aggressive lobbying efforts of for-profit corporations

Virtual charter schools came to North Carolina largely via the aggressive lobbying efforts of for-profit operators, particularly K12 Inc. Their efforts led to the authorization of virtual charter schools via a four-year “pilot” program – inserted into the 2014 budget bill to avoid debate and scrutiny.

Prior to the introduction of the authorizing language, the State Board of Education had conducted a study to develop a set of policy recommendations for how best to authorize virtual charter schools in North Carolina. These recommendations were ignored by the General Assembly in favor of language crafted by virtual charter lobbyists. The legislature eschewed the State Board’s recommendations on appropriate funding levels, grade levels served, teacher-student ratios, and allowable dropout rates.

Since authorization, the Fiscal Research Division supplied members of the General Assembly and the State Board of Education with policy options to address 16 weaknesses with the authorizing language included in the 2014 budget bill. The General Assembly has failed to address any of these identified policy weaknesses. The only change to the language so far has been a move to weaken oversight of these schools’ dropout rates, allowing more students to withdraw from virtual charters mid-year without facing state sanctions.

North Carolina’s virtual charter schools are arguably the worst-performing in the state, consistent with national research

North Carolina’s virtual charter schools have performed exceptionally poorly. In their first year of operation, both virtual charter schools ranked dead last in the state for student growth. The following year proved little better. Once again, North Carolina Connections Academy finished dead last in the state for student growth. North Carolina Virtual Academy raised itself off the absolute bottom, but still finished in the bottom one percent of schools on student growth, getting outscored by 2,443 of 2,464 schools with a student growth score. Read more