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The week’s top stories on Policy Watch

1. Mark Johnson, state schools superintendent, finds comedy in one troubled school system’s tragedy   (Commentary)

And what North Carolina Republicans, if they truly support public education, should do about it

If North Carolina Republicans are confounded by the notion that every last one of them disdains public education—and, surely, not all of them do—they should tune into Mark Johnson’s bro huddle with right-wing talk show host KC O’Dea last Friday to see where a North Carolinian might get such a notion.

Amidst the self-pity, the self-congratulation, the media-bashing and the repetition (I would go back and attempt to count the number of times Johnson spits the word “bureaucrat” like a slur, but really, honestly, this conversation is too much of a chore) our superintendent of public schools squeezes in an unmistakably hearty laugh at one county school system’s budget troubles. [Read more…]

2. Regulator, experts: State lawmaker’s explanation for incomplete ethics filing falls short

Law “is clear” Rep. Holly Grange should have reported on businesses owned by her husband even if they were inactive

Last week, Policy Watch reported that state Rep. Holly Grange (R-New Hanover) failed to disclose a business owned and operated by her husband on Statement of Economic Interest (SEI) forms for several years.

This week, as the North Carolina lawmaker offered a defense experts said is incompatible with the law, Policy Watch reviewed two more undisclosed Grange family businesses. [Read more…]

3. Surveys, interviews: Responses of Chemours and DHHS to Gen X and PFAS pollution falling short

Last summer, Chemours sent contractors to the Cumberland County home of Katrina Rubiera and tested her drinking water. Shortly afterward, the first shipment of bottled water arrived.

“Our well water tested positive for, well, I’m not sure, because I still don’t have my test results,” Rubiera told Policy Watch last week via email.

Although Chemours has regularly sent bottled water to her home since then, she still doesn’t know what contaminants are in her drinking water and at what concentrations.

The public mistrust of state officials and the alarming lack of information about toxic GenX and PFAS — perfluorinated compounds — in drinking water, fish and food were borne out in a community survey conducted by the NC Department of Health and Human Services; DHHS released the results Tuesday. [Read more…]

4. Environmental groups, scientists say DEQ’s air monitoring program fails the sniff test


Because DEQ limited air monitor sites to meet EPA criteria, they were too far from hog farms to accurately measure their emissions
.

When state environmental officials agreed to a historic civil rights settlement two years ago, neighbors of industrial hog operations hoped that their misery — detailed in court under oath but discounted by the pork industry, their lawyers and several legislators — would be further confirmed by data.

The settlement required the N.C. Department of Environmental Quality to conduct a temporary air monitoring study to measure three pollutants — ammonia, hydrogen sulfide and fine particulate matter, known as PM 2.5 — in and around Duplin County. These are among the contaminants surfing on the wafts of stench emanating from open-pit lagoons and spray fields teeming with feces and urine.

Depending on the study results, the Division of Air Quality (DAQ) could continue to monitor the air and potentially enforce regulations on offending farms or other violators. [Read more…]

5. Governor’s commission adopts recommendations to improve state’s public schools

The Governor’s Commission on Access to Sound Basic Education approved recommendations Thursday it hopes will help guide defendants and plaintiffs in the long-running Leandro case as they develop a plan to improve North Carolina’s public schools.

The recommendations came two days after Superior Court Judge David Lee signed a consent order in which attorneys for the defendants and plaintiffs agreed to work together to bring the state into compliance with the Leandro ruling. The ruling reaffirmed North Carolina’s constitutional duty to ensure all children have an opportunity to receive a sound basic education.

Lee gave litigants 60 days to submit a plan spelling out how they will meet short-terms goals in the WestEd report, which offers specific recommendations about how to bring North Carolina into compliance with the ruling.[Read more…]

6. At long last, a plan to comply with Leandro education mandate takes shape

More than two decades after a landmark state Supreme Court ruling, NC moves a step closer to assuring every child access to a “sound, basic education”

A North Carolina judge seemed to agree with an independent consultant’s report that says North Carolina needs to spend $8 billion over the next eight years to meet its constitutional obligation to provide a “sound, basic education.”

That is one takeaway after Superior Court Judge David Lee signed a consent order Tuesday in which defendants and plaintiffs in the long-running Leandro case agreed to work “expeditiously and without delay” to create and implement a plan.[Read more…]

Bonus read: There’s movement in the Leandro case. Attorneys for defendants, plaintiffs agree to work to improve K-12 education

7. Five important reminders for a crucial year in American history (Commentary)


And just like that, another critical election year is upon us – maybe the most important election year in modern American history.

For caring and thinking people who find themselves aghast at the greed, dishonesty, violence, phobias, and contempt for the common good and planetary wellbeing that are the hallmarks of the Trump cult, it sometimes feels as if the very soul and long-term prospects of the human species are on the line.

And for those less inclined to harbor such apocalyptic assessments, it must still be conceded that there is a hell of a lot at stake this year – especially in states like North Carolina where essentially every important office, save for Richard Burr’s Senate seat and a handful of high-level state courts seats – is on the ballot. [Read more…]

8. Weekly Podcasts and Commentaries:


Click here for the latest interviews and commentaries with host Rob Schofield 

9. Weekly Editorial Cartoon:

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