Commentary, News

The Week’s Top Five on NC Policy Watch

Old textbooks sit next to a tablet in teacher Charles Elliot's language arts classroom. Photo by Ricky Leung / NC Policy Watch.1. Experts to Gov. Cooper’s education commission: NC school funding is near nation’s lowest

North Carolina’s public school system is one of the lowest funded in the nation when adjusted for cost of living, a K-12 researcher told members of a key state school panel Tuesday.

It was just one of many data points hammered home, as school experts and administrators warned a key K-12 task force convened by Gov. Roy Cooper of troubling funding patterns, teacher shortages and yawning local spending gaps in North Carolina.

Karen Hawley Miles is president and executive director of Massachusetts-based Education Resource Strategies, a national nonprofit that advises states on school finances.

Miles’ report, which analyzed both state and national public school spending trends, pointed to numerous shortfalls in the state’s school finance structure, including that North Carolina has the fifth lowest average teacher salary in the nation when adjusted for cost-of-living, and that the state’s teachers earn only about 67 percent of the pay given to “similarly-educated, non-teachers.” [Read more…]

2.Signs of hope amidst the horror
Cracks are forming in the NRA’s death grip on American politics

At some point, it’s going to happen.

At some point in the not-too-distant future, shifting attitudes in the American body politic will reach a tipping point and the death grip that the gun lobby has on our government will begin to ease and, perhaps, even collapse. It’s not likely to happen right away or be pretty or pleasant – thousands more children, women and men will have to die unnecessarily and prematurely – but, it’s definitely going to happen.

The signs of this gradual change have been visible for some time and are garnering renewed attention in the aftermath of last week’s latest mass school shooting in Parkland, Florida.

Here are five that stand out: [Read more…]

3. Dreamers’ lives hang in the balance as Supreme Court reviews Trump’s attempt to end DACA

Any protection the courts offer Dreamers is temporary, but all eyes are on the U.S. Supreme Court to decide whether it will take on the Trump administration’s decision to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.

There have been numerous lawsuits filed since the Sept. 5, 2017 announcement that the government would end DACA, but the federal government made a rare move in mid-January by petitioning the highest court to weigh in on its decision before a review by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.

The request was made after Judge William Alsup of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California issued a preliminary injunction requiring the federal government to maintain DACA nationwide except in few cases.[Read more...]

4. As GenX concerns grow, House lawmakers grapple with how to win Senate support

The good news is that the levels of GenX in Wilmington’s drinking water is testing consistently below the state’s provisional health goal. The bad news is that GenX has been detected in the sediment of the Cape Fear River and in rain water at a UNC Wilmington weather station 70 miles from Chemours, a known source of the chemical.

The good news is House members are enchanted with their version of House Bill 189, which would provide funding for the NC Department of Environmental Quality to address GenX and emerging contaminants. The bad news is, as Rep. Bob Steinburg, a Republican representing the Outer Banks, said, “the Senate spurned us.”

And so vacillated the emotional temperature of the House River Quality Committee yesterday, which met for more than four hours on a sprawl of topics, ranging from an EPA presentation on mass spectrometers, to a DEQ report on enforcement against Chemours, to an impassioned discussion of House Bill 189. [Read more…]

5. A tollway’s toll: Human, environmental impact of I-540 expansion loom large in southern Wake County

Carol Hinske rocked in her porch swing, allowing the sun to toast her skin on an oddly hot winter afternoon. “It feels good on my bones,” she said, smiling, her eyes closed.

Hinske, who is 73, has lived in Blue Skies Mobile Home Park off Rhodes Road near Apex for nearly half of her adult life. She has nurtured gardenias and azaleas, coddled hyacinths and daffodils, as well as raised a crepe myrtle tree from “when it was just a baby.”

But now Hinske is preparing — mentally, anyway — to uproot herself, her cat, Bandit, and her mobile home to make way for a toll road.

If built according to the current plan, the Complete 540 project will connect to the existing toll road at Highways 55 and 540, then traverse 28 miles through southern Wake County before joining I-440 and US 64 near Knightdale. [Read more…]

*** Upcoming Crucial Conversation on Wednesday:  The Hyde Amendment at age 41: The path forward in the fight for reproductive freedom for low-income women.

The Hyde Amendment was first introduced by an anti-abortion congressman in 1976 as a way to explicitly bar low-income people from accessing abortion care, and it’s been a provision tacked onto the federal budget ever since. For 41 years, legal and safe abortion has been the only type of health care stigmatized and politically targeted in this way. Register today.

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