Commentary, Education

Editorial: Legislative leaders need to stop cherry-picking data, embrace findings in new Leandro report

The highly anticipated WestEd/Leandro report released this week recommends North Carolina increase K-12 spending by $6.8 billion over the next eight years to ensure children have access to a sound, basic education.

While many are still digesting that figure and other findings in the 300+ page report,  some conservative lawmakers are already suggesting that a larger investment may not return better results.

Capitol Broadcasting’s lead editorial Friday plainly states it’s time for leaders of the General Assembly to stop “crowing” about the support they’ve given to public education in recent years, uphold the Constitution and focus on students’ needs.

Here’s more from that editorial:

The rhetoric from legislative leaders is in stark contrast to the findings in a report released this week by State Superior Court Judge David Lee, who oversees implementation of the 1997 state Supreme Court ruling in the Leandro case. The high court ruled the state – particularly the legislature – failed to honor a fundamental right guaranteed in the North Carolina Constitution. That promise is to provide EVERY student with an opportunity for a sound basic education in public schools.

“As North Carolina educators prepare for the 2019-20 school year, the state is further away from meeting its constitutional obligation to provide every child with the opportunity for a sound basic education than it was when the Supreme Court of North Carolina issued the Leandro decisions more than 20 years ago,” according to the report. “there is inadequate funding to meet student needs.” The report was submitted to the judge in June and just released.

It is not about how much. It is about keeping a promise and doing what is required to achieve it.

“The state does not currently provide adequate resources to ensure that all students have the opportunity to meet higher standards and become college and career ready,” the report says.

As much as a statement of fact, it is an indictment of dereliction of duty.

“North Carolina’s per-pupil spending was the sixth-lowest in the nation. When adjusted to 2018 dollars, per-pupil spending in North Carolina had declined overall, about 6%, since 2009-10.”

The report paints a bleak picture of North Carolina’s public education landscape, where resources are diminished, and regulation increased.

“Constraints on local flexibility hinder district ability to align resources with student needs. … In 2010-11, allotments with substantial flexibility represented roughly three-quarters of K-12 state funding. By 2018-19, allotments with substantial flexibility represented only about one-fifth of K-12 funding.”
“School districts lack the funding necessary to meet the educational needs of historically underserved student populations.”
“Funding across districts is inequitable due to differences in local funding, differences in state funding received through Classroom Teacher allotment and differences in regional costs.”

Not only did the legislature, since 2011, cut funding. They made it more difficult for local schools to adjust so they could fit local needs and circumstances.

Berger, House Speaker Tim Moore and Forest — Stop wasting time and creative energy in the quest to cherry-pick data and manipulate statistics to tell an inaccurate and phony political campaign tale of support for public schools. Stop breaking the law and violating the order of the state’s Supreme Court.

Read Judge Lee’s report. You can do that right here. Acknowledge its findings and embrace its recommendations. Fulfill your duty and uphold the state constitution’s promise to its people “to the privilege of education” and the “the duty of the state to guard and maintain that right.”

Read the full editorial here.

Education

STATEMENT: Court-ordered Leandro report charts bold, long-awaited course for NC to fulfill obligation to provide constitutionally-adequate education to all children who attend public schools

Statement from NC Justice Center Executive Director Rick Glazier and Matt Ellinwood, Director of the Education & Law Project

RALEIGH (December 10, 2019) – No doubt exists that over the last decade, North Carolina has been in wholesale retreat from fulfilling its fundamental obligation under our State Constitution ensuring every child has a meaningful opportunity to receive a sound basic education, backed by adequate funding and resources in every public school.

Today marks the beginning of the end of that neglect. The release of the court-ordered report by WestEd, the independent research organization appointed in the landmark Leandro v. State case, gives North Carolina lawmakers, educators, parents and students a clear and comprehensive roadmap for finally providing our children the education they deserve and to which they are constitutionally entitled.

The WestEd report – a collaborative, exhaustive study by some of the nation’s leading experts – affirms what students, parents, teachers and advocates have said for years: North Carolina has consistently failed to give every child in this state access to the education they need and deserve. While the report notes the important progress achieved through the early 2000s, it also documents the devastating impact of the State’s myriad of misguided decisions over the past decade to severely cut crucial investments in our public schools and to then stigmatize those schools as “failing.”

As a result of these actions, our state is farther away from meeting its constitutional obligation to provide every child with the opportunity for a sound basic education than it was when the Supreme Court of North Carolina in Leandro declared our public school system unconstitutional more than 20 years ago. 

North Carolinians understand our state benefits immeasurably when our schools are well-resourced, thriving, and capable of preparing all students for globally-competitive careers and higher education, and that the whole state suffers when children are left behind. They also understand the urgent need for a public school system that unlocks the potential of all children to become flourishing adults, ready to contribute to a healthier, happier, and more prosperous North Carolina.

For this reason, the importance of today’s filing for our children and the vitality of our state’s civic and economic future cannot be overstated. The report offers a once-in-a-generation opportunity for a fundamental course correction in the delivery of public education in our state. It spells out the concrete steps the state must take to ensure every school is led by a strong principal; provides a well-rounded curriculum delivered by trained teachers in every classroom; and has sufficient support staff and interventions to meet the  academic, social and health needs of all children, especially those who come to school every day at risk from poverty, disability, homelessness or other disadvantages.

We know that some will resist this long-overdue call to invest in the critical resources and supports our children desperately need. Over the next weeks and months, it is vital that North Carolinians across our state study and learn about the report’s findings and recommendations. We are confident when they do our fellow residents will join the North Carolina Justice Center in demanding lawmakers perform their constitutional duty and act quickly to remedy the harm documented and to provide all children with the education to which they are constitutionally-entitled.

The time for change has come. The recommendations in the Leandro WestEd report are clear, evidence-based, and readily achievable, and it is crucial that our state elected officials prioritize these reforms in the upcoming 2020 legislative session. Our children deserve no less.

Uncategorized

The week’s top stories on NC Policy Watch

1. An infant‘s gravesite, environmental concerns could put proposed Caswell County mining operation on the rocks


In addition to historic cemeteries and archaeological resources, state is concerned about asbestos, drinking water pollution 

Rubbie Francis Wade entered this world in 1921. She left it eight months later, in the summer of 1922.

A descendant of the enslaved, Rubbie was not considered by whites important enough to document. Neither her birth nor her death were officially lodged with the Caswell County Register of Deeds. But we know from her delicately carved gravestone that she was the daughter of Robert and Norah Wade. [Read more…]

2. Critics vow to combat UNC’s “Silent Sam” deal with Confederate group

Students, faculty and legal experts are all questioning last week’s legal settlement in which the UNC System gave the “Silent Sam” Confederate monument to the Sons of Confederate Veterans – along with $2.5 million.

And some are vowing to fight it.

“We’re doing our best to figure out possibly what legal action we can take,” said Ashton Martin, undergraduate student body president at UNC-Chapel Hill.

“We definitely don’t see this as a satisfactory conclusion and we don’t want it to be the conclusion,” Martin said. “We’re going to do everything we can to make sure this isn’t the final decision.” [Read more…]

3. State court cites time constraints in approving congressional maps that are “not perfect”

North Carolina Republicans officially ran out the clock – at least legally – when they enacted a new Congressional map just weeks before candidate filing.

A three-judge state Superior Court panel ruled unanimously Monday that the map can go forward, setting aside a prior injunction postponing congressional candidate filing.

“As a practical matter, in the court’s view, there is simply not sufficient time to fully evaluate the factual record necessary to decide the constitutional challenges of the congressional districts without significantly delaying the primary elections,” said Judge Paul Ridgeway, who read the panel’s decision. “It is time for the citizens to vote.”

The court declined to take up constitutional issues raised about the new map, and it did not rule on the constitutionality of the 2016 congressional map, which was challenged in the partisan gerrymandering case Harper v. Lewis. [Read more…]

4. After Republicans’ latest gerrymandering low, now is the time for your outrage

It may be difficult to say how you are feeling this morning, two mornings after a Superior Court panel — facing the impending launch of the 2020 election cycle — choked down another GOP-manipulated map for North Carolina congressional districts.

But because there are not, in this moment, 10,000 people on the steps of the Legislative Building frothing over the latest malpractice in Raleigh, it is safe to assume there are many in this state who are not simply angry enough.

Perhaps this reflects that roughly half of North Carolina is willing to acquiesce to gerrymandering as a necessary evil because, in this instance, it favors the candidate or the political party of their choosing. [Read more…]

5. Eight errors and omissions of the 2019 legislative session


Well, that appears to be a wrap.

The 2019 legislative session that commenced way back in January and dragged on in desultory fashion for months past its usual adjournment date finally petered out a couple of weeks back. Now, barring some new and unforeseen holiday season power grab – something that’s always a possibility for legislative leaders who maintain only a passing interest in quaint concepts like notice, public input and process – the honorables have absented themselves from the state capital until mid-January. [Read more…]

6. State Board of Ed examines decline in teacher licensure exam pass rates

The percentage of teachers passing state licensure exams has fallen to 80 percent, leaving some members of the State Board of Education (SBE) to wonder if students are being shortchanged by ill-prepared teachers.

A report shared with SBE members this week showed the passing rate on state teacher exams falling from 96% percent in 2014 to 80.2% in 2018.

“I know there are other pathways to teaching, but if you spent four years at a university in an EPP [Education Preparation Program] and can’t pass the content test and the pedagogy test, then we have a problem and it’s showing up in our test scores, SBE member Amy White said during the board’s monthly meeting this week. [Read more…]

7. Sen. Phil Berger sidesteps an inconvenient truth about NC teacher pay

 

Despite having voted to expand the economics and personal finance curriculum in the state’s high schools, North Carolina Senate leader Phil Berger fails to apply basic principles of these subjects when touting supposed accomplishments in teacher pay in his Nov. 25 op-ed in Raleigh’s News & Observer, “Yes, Republican tax policies are working in North Carolina.”

Perhaps most notably, he conveniently forgets to apply a rather basic concept called “inflation.” Ignoring inflation in GOP efforts to convince North Carolinians that teachers have experienced windfalls under their tenure is an irresponsible representation of the reality of teacher wage growth, or lack thereof. While corporate income taxes have been cut by more than 50%, many teachers are, when one adjusts for inflation, out tens of thousands of dollars in lost wages.

Instead of touting “average” teacher pay (in the op-ed, Berger brags that “Since 2014, average teacher pay shot up by more than $9,000”) let’s look at actual teachers’ pay across the salary schedule. Consider the following real-world examples:[Read more…]

8. Weekly micro-podcasts and newsmaker interviews:

Click here to listen to Rob Schofield’s latest commentaries and podcast interviews.

9. Weekly Editorial Cartoon:

 

News, Trump Administration

University of North Carolina law professor takes center stage at impeachment hearing (video)

UNC constitutional law professor Michael Gerhardt has written six books on impeachment and was front and center at Wednesday’s House Judiciary Committee impeachment inquiry of President Donald Trump.

Two of Gerhardt’s most profound assertions:

If left unchecked, the president will likely continue his pattern of soliciting foreign interference on his behalf in the next election.

And…

If Congress fails to impeach here, then the impeachment process has lost all meaning, and, along with that, our Constitution’s carefully crafted safeguards against the establishment of a king on American soil. No one, not even the president, is beyond the reach of our Constitution and our laws.

Read “The Impeachment Inquiry into President Donald J. Trump: The Constitutional Foundations for President Impeachment” or click below to watch Gerhardt’s full statement to lawmakers.

News, Policing

ICYMI: NC joins the rest of the nation in trying teens as juveniles (podcast)

It was years in the making, but staring this month 16 and 17-year-olds will not automatically be charged as adults for low-level felonies and misdemeanors in North Carolina.

A tremendous amount of work has gone on behind the scenes since the Raise the Age legislation was passed in 2017. And last week, Billy Lassiter, Deputy Secretary of Juvenile Justice for the Department of Public Safety sat down with Policy Watch’s Rob Schofield to discuss the impact of the legislation, efforts to reduce recidivism rates, and what additional fine-tuning the law may need in the future.

Click below to hear our podcast with Lassiter:

Learn more about Raise the Age in this FAQ produced by the UNC School of Government.