In this issue:
1. NC ranks 48th in school funding. Education advocacy group says it’s high time for lawmakers to fix that problem.
North Carolina’s ranking as the best state in the nation to do business doesn’t square with its rank near the bottom of states — 48th — in public school expenditures, Mary Ann Wolf, president and CEO of Public School Forum of North Carolina said Tuesday.
When adjusted for regional cost differences, the Tar Heel state is dead last in school funding effort, Wolf said during the public school advocacy group’s annual “Eggs and Issues Breakfast” in Raleigh. More than 400 educators, lawmakers and public school advocates attended the event.
“North Carolina prides itself in being a state that is known for being business-friendly, but what if we could also take pride in being known for how we value public education,” Wolf said. “We can have both. In fact, the two go hand in hand. Thriving communities attract business investment and high-quality, well-funded, equitable schools are required for communities and businesses to thrive.” [Read more…]
* Bonus read: State teacher vacancies grew by nearly 50% last school year
2. Ida B. Wells Society relocates from UNC-Chapel Hill to Morehouse College
The Ida B. Wells Society for Investigative Journalism will relocate from UNC-Chapel Hill to Morehouse College in Atlanta, Georgia.
The society, named for the pioneering Black investigative journalist, is dedicated to increasing and retaining reporters and editors of color in the field of investigative reporting and promoting diverse voices in news organizations. It has been headquartered at UNC-Chapel Hill since the fall of 2019. It was originally based at City University of New York’s Newmark School of Journalism before shifting to the Shorenstein Center at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government in 2018 and UNC-Chapel Hill a year later.
The move comes after the controversy over the university’s board of trustees denying one of the society’s founders, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Nikole Hannah-Jones, a vote on tenure after the university courted her to join its faculty. [Read more…]
3. After key hearing, NC Supreme Court could roll back voting rights for 56,000 people on parole, probation for a felony.
This article was produced as a collaboration between Bolts and NC Policy Watch.
They packed the courtroom early, filling so many seats that a line stretched out the door of the building in downtown Raleigh that houses the North Carolina Supreme Court. In years past, many of the onlookers had been in handcuffs, jails and prison cells. Now, they wanted access to the ballot box.
Those in line were told the courtroom was full shortly before oral arguments began. The overflow crowd walked down the street to First Baptist Church to watch the hearing streamed live in a basketball gym. Below the projection screen was a sign with a simple demand: “Unlock Our Vote.”
The state Supreme Court on Thursday held a hearing on whether North Carolinians should have the right to vote while on probation or parole. [Read more…]
4. Rehabilitation, solitary confinement, staff vacancies in focus at confirmation hearing for new corrections chief
Senate Judiciary Committee questions Todd Ishee before voting on his appointment later today.
As state senators peppered him with questions gauging whether he should be the secretary of the new Department of Adult Correction, Todd Ishee repeatedly returned to the same point: education and vocational programs are important for many of the roughly 30,000 people held in the state’s prisons, 95% of whom will be released someday.
“We bear a responsibility as a state to produce good neighbors, and transition men and women home that are ready to be successful,” Ishee said. “Education is a very important part of that.”
As much as Ishee plugged rehabilitation for the incarcerated, he also underscored the importance of protecting corrections staff, going so far as to say that the prison system cannot comply with the Mandela Rules on solitary confinement; those rules call for United Nations-member states to prohibit prolonged restrictive housing for more than 15 consecutive days.[Read more…]
* Bonus video: Sec. Todd Ishee discusses needs for NC’s new Department of Adult Correction
5. NC bill requiring schools to out transgender students to parents draws fire
Parents, teachers, and the ACLU of North Carolina criticized a controversial bill moving through the state Senate that would require schools tell parents if their children want to use different names or pronouns at school.
Called the “Parents’ Bill of Rights,” Senate bill 49 mirrors proposed legislation the Senate approved last year, with a few changes. Instruction on gender identity, sexuality, and sexual activity would be prohibited in kindergarten through fourth grade.
Last year’s bill did not get a hearing in the House, but the bill would have an easier time this year overcoming a potential veto.[Read more…]
* Bonus video: NCAE President Tamika Walker Kelly on SB49 “Parents’ Bill of Rights”
6. In appeals court case, a political fight over transgender identity and health care
When a federal District Court judge ruled last year the North Carolina State Health Plan’s exclusion of gender-affirming treatments for transgender people was discriminatory and unconstitutional, the state’s LGBTQ community celebrated victory in a legal fight it had been waging since 2019.
But that decision is being revisited on appeal this month in a political environment in which conservative activists, politicians and lawmakers increasingly portray transgender people as mentally ill, those who support them as a threat to children, and doctors who treat them as “mutilators.”
State Treasurer Dale Folwell, whose office administers the plan, has championed and strongly defended the exclusion of transgender care since taking office in 2017. [Read more…]
7. A moment of hope and light in a dark and violent winter (Commentary)
January has been yet another warm month in North Carolina and across much of the rest of the nation. After a brief and sharp holiday week plunge, temperatures have consistently felt more like mid-March – or, at least, what mid-March used to feel like.
And while a globally warm winter certainly has some temporary advantages – especially for people living on the street and those trying to cope with temporarily inflated home heating costs – it’s hard not to be struck with a profound sense of unease at the rapid change afflicting the Earth’s biosphere.
Most of us attempt to carry on as best we can – either by choosing not to dwell on the existential environmental crises we face or by stubbornly or pigheadedly denying their existence – but the pall cast by the climate emergency and the long list of other crises afflicting our crowded and frequently violent world is undeniable. [Read more…]
8. After years of delay EPA to commence clean-up of Superfund sites in Gastonia, Yadkinville, Charlotte and Jacksonville
The forest lay still, save for the rustling of leaves of bamboo. It was in a clearing on this 15 acres in rural Gastonia that Carl Hendrix, now deceased, scratched out a living. He took in old chemical drums from nearby industry, rinsed them, poured the toxic dregs on the ground, then flattened the metal for sale as scrap.
Over the past 60 years the chemical TCE, found in solvents, has soaked through the earth, meandered through the subsurface rock, inched its way below Hemphill Road and contaminated at least eight private drinking water wells, plus another community well that served an entire neighborhood. TCE entered seeps that fed an unnamed creek where children used to play.
TCE is a known human carcinogen. Exposure can also cause heart malformations in a fetus, especially in the earliest stages of development, before a person knows they are pregnant. [Read more…]
9. Weekly Radio Interviews and Daily Radio Commentaries:
Click here for the latest radio interviews and commentaries with Policy Watch Director Rob Schofield.