Education

Next fix for legislators to address – the nurse-to-student ratio in NC’s public schools

Legislators headed home Tuesday, wrapping-up the special session with a controversial fix to the unfunded class-size mandate. And with that issue off the front burner for now, lawmakers might want to revisit a recent legislative study that found the state would need to spend up to $79 million a year to meet the recommended school nurse-to-student ratio.

Currently only 46 of the state’s 115 Local Education Agencies (LEAs) meet the ratio of one school nurse for every 750 students.

More often than not, the average school nurse in North Carolina covers two to three schools, with the ratio of one nurse for every 1,086 students.

Add to that the challenge of keeping up with a growing number of students with asthma, diabetes, food allergies and other chronic health conditions.

If you missed it over the weekend, take time to listen to Rob Schofield’s interview with Liz Newlin of the School Nurse Association of North Carolina as they discusses the growing demands on these professionals and how the lack of resources impacts classroom instruction:

Read the Final Report: Meeting Current Standards for School Nurses Statewide May Cost Up to $79 Million Annually

Commentary

Editorial: Why is Senator Berger ignoring a serious public-safety concern?

The StarNews Editorial Board bluntly asks in its Tuesday paper: Does Berger even care about GenX?

The newspaper that first broke the story of the emerging contaminant in the Cape Fear last year notes that it is long past due for Senate leadership to act.

Here’s an excerpt from the paper:

With voter outcry growing and crossing traditional partisan lines (a toxic chemical in your drinking water has a way of doing that), the House recently passed a bill that provides a much-needed boost to DEQ, enabling the overburdened and underfunded agency to respond more effectively to the GenX contamination, which has widened in both scope and geography.

But [Senate leader Phil ] Berger — the state’s most powerful political leader — is having none of it. We don’t know what his motives are, but we suspect they are simply political, related to the larger effort to make our traditionally moderate state a testing ground for laissez-faire government and faith that the invisible hand of the market will balance any corporate excesses like, say, contaminating the drinking water of a good chunk of the state’s population with a toxic chemical that, by design, pretty much never decomposes.

The good news is, the House now seems committed to better funding for DEQ, at least for the GenX response. In the Senate, Berger rules with an iron fist. So we have no doubt that he could turn the switch in an instant and have the chamber take up the House bill, quickly get it approved, and give DEQ the resources it needs to do its job.

Meanwhile, we are thinking about the folks we see with shopping carts full of nothing but bottled water; the kids who come over to play with our children, instructed not to drink the water; those affected by the economic uncertainty GenX has caused, including possible lost job opportunities after new companies nixed Wilmington as a location, or existing businesses opted not to expand here.

We are thinking, too, about those who now can’t help but look back at cancers and other illnesses — even deaths — with new questions; there’s no proof of any connection with little-studied GenX, we know; but we understand the questions and the fear.

What we don’t understand is Berger’s callous response to the very legitimate concerns of the good people of Southeastern North Carolina. Come down here and meet some of them, Sen. Berger. Maybe that would persuade you to act.

For now, we guess we’re supposed to believe Berger and Chemours have got our backs.

We have, however, spotted the “invisible hand” that’s supposed to help protect us. It’s flying high in Raleigh — symbolically, of course — directed toward Southeastern North Carolina, and with a certain finger extended upward.

Without a change of heart by Senator Berger, the earliest the General Assembly might revisit the GenX issue would be mid-May when they reconvene.

Read the Star News full editorial here.

Trump Administration

Trump unlikely to extend DACA deadline

The White House is showing no signs of extending a deadline for the end of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.

The Washington Post reports:

White House Chief of Staff John F. Kelly said Tuesday that President Trump is not expected to extend a March 5 deadline for when legal protection and work permits begin to expire for young immigrants known as “dreamers” — raising the stakes for lawmakers struggling to reach a solution.

“I doubt very much” Trump would extend the program, Kelly told reporters during an impromptu interview at the U.S. Capitol.

Kelly’s comments come as lawmakers are trying to come up with a plan to grant permanent legal protections to dreamers and resolve other aspects of the immigration system. Kelly also said he would recommend against Trump accepting a short-term extension of the program legislative patch.

NC Policy Watch spoke to NC Justice Center immigration attorney Raul Pinto last week about Trump’s immigration proposals and the fate of thousands of immigrants currently protected by DACA. (Click below to watch an excerpt of that interview or listen to the full podcast.)

Roughly 28,000 individuals in North Carolina are protected by DACA, with another 13,000 covered by a Temporary Protected Status (TPS) designation.

Defending Democracy, Education, Environment, News

The Week’s Top Five on Policy Watch

1. The state of NC’s redistricting battles: A litigation cheat sheet for those trying to keep track

North Carolina’s redistricting plans have drawn major court involvement over the last few years, and it’s not looking promising that trend will change in 2018.

There are five pending redistricting cases, four of which have had some action in the past month and it’s not easy to keep them straight. They involve legislative and congressional maps, partisan and racial gerrymandering and state and federal courts.

The state is so deep in litigation over its maps that it’s not even clear what the elections later this year will look like for certain voting districts. Policy Watch has put together a helpful guide on where things currently stand and in which court. [Read more…]

*** Bonus reads:


2. Four GOP senators send puzzling letter to EPA asking for audit of DEQ

While its House counterpart was holding hearings and hammering out legislation, the Senate Select Committee on River Quality has met one time. It has proposed not a single bill. Since Oct. 3, the committee has essentially disappeared.

Senate River Quality members, along with the rest of their Senate colleagues, then bailed on a vote to study the problem of GenX and emerging contaminants and to fund DEQ to do the work.

Now, four of the Senate committee members  — Trudy Wade, Andy Wells, Bill Rabon and Michael Lee — have sent a letter to the EPA Region 4 administrator asking that the federal government audit DEQ.

The senators requested that the EPA review environmental officials’ handling of the NPDES program — federal wastewater discharge permits whose authority are delegated to the states. Under the guise of “assistance to North Carolina” the subtext of the two-page letter is that DEQ has independently decided, through rules and procedures, not to protect human health and the environment. [Read more…]

*** Bonus read:

3. A rare chance to make trickledown economics work
Why regulators should order utilities and insurance companies to pass along their federal tax windfalls

When Congress and the Trump administration enacted their massive tax cuts for profitable corporations and wealthy individuals at the end of 2017, they (and the corporate special interests behind the scheme) promised – as they always do – that benefits of the cuts would “trickle down” through the economy to average Americans.

You know how this conservative mantra goes:

We’re going to put more money in the pockets of entrepreneurs and innovators so they’ll have the freedom to create new growth and opportunities that will trickle down throughout the American economy!” [Read more…]

4. School administrators report: Benefits of school funding overhaul “ambiguous”
The benefits of a comprehensive overhaul for North Carolina’s school funding system are “at best, ambiguous,” says a new report from the state’s top lobbying outfit for public school administrators.

Officials with the N.C. Association of School Administrators (NCASA) turned over their weighty report to state lawmakers Wednesday, with legislators on a joint task force still gathering feedback on a possible K-12 funding model facelift in the coming months.

NCASA leaders said they consulted superintendents, finance chiefs and experts from across North Carolina in developing their recommendations, which, above all, emphasized that legislators’ policy and overall funding decisions are of greater import than the type of funding model they ultimately choose.[Read more…]

***  Bonus read:

5. Ideological battles at UNC continue as board considers equal opportunity, diversity and inclusion report

Last week the UNC Board of Governors received a report summarizing Equal Opportunity and Diversity & Inclusion services at the system’s 17 schools and whether they could be consolidated and centralized for cost savings.

The short answer, according to the report: Consolidation is possible, but isn’t likely to save much money. Also, doing so could hurt the good work being done across the system to conform to federal equal opportunity rules and create more diverse and inclusive campus communities.

In a committee meeting ahead of last week’s full board meeting, some of the more conservative members of the almost entirely Republican board questioned the “return on investment” of the diversity programs and personnel and criticized how the work is done. [Read more…]

Upcoming event:

Join us for a very special Crucial Conversation luncheon:

Prof. Peter Edelman discusses his new book, Not a Crime to be Poor: The Criminalization of Poverty in America

Friday, February 16, 2018 at noon

Learn more and register today.