Another editorial: State must address teacher shortage, comply with Leandro school funding mandate

In case you missed it, the Winston-Salem Journal/Greensboro News & Record twins published another important and on-the-mark editorial this week highlighting the funding shortfall in North Carolina’s K-12 education system that has precipitated a potentially disastrous teacher shortage.

As the editorial observed:

There is a critical shortage of teachers in North Carolina.

This should not come as a revelation. We’ve seen the trend for some time.

During the last school year, more than 1,800 teachers in North Carolina schools were not fully certified, meaning they were emergency fill-ins who were finishing their licensing requirements while on the job.

Schools are feeling the staffing pinch more and more, even those in the state’s wealthier districts.

“We have some of the same challenges that the other 114 districts across the state experience,” Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools Superintendent Nyah Hamlett told WUNC.

For the state’s rural schools, it’s worse.

“We’re gonna potentially find ourselves August 29 with classrooms that are empty; there is no teacher to put there,” Michael Sasscer, superintendent of Edenton-Chowan Schools, said.

As the editorial also notes, there’s no particular mystery as to why this is the case. Between years of lousy pay, the pandemic, and persistent “gratuitous nastiness” from crabby parents and politicians, it’s no surprise that enrollment in schools of education has plummeted at the same time that many veteran teachers are bailing on the profession.

And while there is no magic, overnight solution to this deeply problematic situation, the editorial identifies some obvious places to start. As it notes in conclusion:

If there is any justice, the courts ultimately will rule that the state must remedy the under-funding of schools. The N.C. Supreme Court will soon hear the Leandro case, a 30-year-old lawsuit that rightly contends North Carolina has failed its constitutional mandate to provide a sound, basic education for all of its students. A judge already has ordered the state to fulfill that obligation but the legislature contends, essentially, that when it comes to funding, a judge can’t tell it what to do.

Meanwhile, the rest of should do our part by supporting and appreciating teachers.

As sorely as they deserve better pay and more resources, they also probably wouldn’t mind hearing two simple but powerful words a little more often: Thank you.

Click here to read and share the editorial the full editorial.

A heartbreaking loss for North Carolina

The late Rev. T. Anthony Spearman

As many North Carolinians are now sadly aware, our state lost a fine man and leader this week when the Rev. T. Anthony Spearman passed away suddenly and unexpectedly. As his hometown newspaper, the Greensboro News & Record reported, the former state NAACP leader’s death leaves a hole in the state’s movement for justice and civil rights.

Spearman’s predecessor at the NAACP, Rev. William Barber put it aptly this way:

“I have lost a true brother in the struggle. North Carolina and the nation have lost a champion of justice and a beloved public servant. We have all lost a freedom fighter, a man deeply committed to justice, and a man of true faith. We have lost a scholar, a preacher, a voting rights defender, an advocate for prison reform and for the wrongfully accused and a stalwart soldier in the cause of love and justice for all humankind. …. He fought the good fight and his course has been finished. But his legacy of service and works will follow him. We are certain of that. Let all people of conscience say, ‘Amen.’

The following tribute was written by Jennifer Copeland, Executive Director, North Carolina Council of Churches, and Isaac Villegas, Governing Board President of that organization and published on the Council’s website yesterday:

By now most of us have heard the hard news that the Rev. Dr. T. Anthony Spearman died Tuesday evening. Our hearts are breaking for his family, his friends, and his countless allies in the work of God’s justice. As his friends and justice allies at the North Carolina Council of Churches, we are in mourning.

While acknowledging our grief, it is his life of passion and progress that we want to lift up. He was President of our Governing Board just prior to the pandemic. The pandemic has changed our lives in so many ways that it’s hard to remember what was going on in the years just before. Indeed, those were the years just after the Emmanuel AME terrorist attack in Charleston, S.C., an event that portended much of the racial violence and gun violence that has swept our country in recent months. As a new Executive Director in those days, Dr. Spearman’s counsel was invaluable to me in helping steer the position of the Council.

I came to learn that this was his modus operandi. He offered consistent and wise counsel across a plethora of justice issues. He was a champion for the LGBTQ community, a critic of the criminal justice discrepancies plaguing our nation, and a strategist for change. He didn’t just talk about what needed to happen. He helped make it happen and he did all of this with just the right touch of challenge and compassion.

Those of us who worked with him are better for watching his style. Those of us who knew him are better for the benefit of his counsel. Those who never worked with him or knew him are also better because he put forth great energy and passion to make the world around us a better place. We have all benefited from the gift of T. Anthony Spearman’s life, calling us to be the best we can be. His life of ministry in the church and on the streets was a testimony to God’s love for this world.

Thanks be to God for T. Anthony Spearman. May the peace of Christ rest upon all his family and friends.

Prof. Gene Nichol: Supreme Court right-wingers should spare us their claims of “originalism”

Prof. Gene Nichol

If you are a subscriber or can get past the pay wall, be sure to check out the op-ed that Prof. Gene Nichol of the UNC School of Law contributed to Raleigh’s News & Observer this morning.

In “Republicans on the Supreme Court are ‘originalist’ until they don’t want to be,” Nichol skillfully exposes the nonsense found in the claim of the U.S. Supreme Court’s right wing that they are defenders of constitutional “originalism” — the idea that they are somehow engaged in doing the business of implementing the desires of the nation’s founders.

As Nichol rightfully points out, despite the claim of these same justices (per Justice Clarence Thomas) that their philosophy is “rooted in the text of the Constitution, as informed by history,” the truth is that they have authored or signed on to numerous opinions that fly in the face of such a concept.

In particular, Nichol holds up the infamous Citizens United ruling, in which the Court’s right wing hatched the destructive notion that corporations have a constitutional right to spend whatever they want to purchase our elections. As Nichol puts it:

The framers didn’t think of money as speech or corporations as people.

Thomas Jefferson notably declared: “I hope we shall crush in its birth the aristocracy of our moneyed corporations, which dare already to challenge our government to a trial of strength and bid defiance to our laws.”

But today’s Republican justices are committed to cash register politics because it’s in the interest of rich people. That’s all that mattered in Citizens United. Never mind “original meaning.”

Nichol highlights similar sophistry in the disastrous Court rulings that struck down gun control laws, affirmative action by the federal government, an important part of the the Affordable Care Act. and protections offered by the Voting Rights Act. As he notes, “These measures were ruled unconstitutional because Republicans don’t like them. And only because Republicans don’t like them.”

Nichol’s on-the-mark bottom line:

There are a lot of problems with originalism. The biggest one, though, is we don’t actually have any originalists. Not Thomas, not Alito, not Roberts, not the new Trump folks. Just judges trying to enforce their preferences on everyone else; who then dress up their opinions with transparent theoretical lies.

Click here to explore the entire essay.

The best editorial of the weekend

Image; AdobeStock

If you get a chance, be sure to check out this weekend’s lead editorial in the Winston-Salem Journal/Greensboro News & Record twins.

In “Another serious threat to American democracy,” the authors explain in painful detail just how serious all Americans should take a case brought by North Carolina Republican legislators (Moore v. Harper) that the U.S. Supreme Court has placed on its docket for this fall.

As you’re probably aware by now, in Moore, the lawmakers espouse the remarkable and frightening argument that state courts have essentially no authority to sit in judgment of the actions of state legislatures when it comes to federal elections.

This is from the editorial:

…a favorable decision would have far-reaching implications.

“The theory would disable state courts from protecting voting rights in federal elections by eliminating state constitutional protections in those elections,” legal experts Leah Litman, Kate Shaw and Carolyn Shapiro wrote in The Washington Post earlier this month.

Former federal Judge J. Michael Luttig, a preeminent conservative jurist, has warned that those who promote this debunked theory would also seek to apply it to presidential elections.

In practical terms, that means that state legislators could not only gerrymander to their twisted hearts’ content, but in 2024, they could assign their Electoral College votes to whomever they please — even if their decision differs from that of the majority of voters in their states.

The editorial goes on to advance multiple ideas for responding to this brazen power grab — from ending the filibuster and passing federal legislation like the John Lewis Voting Rights Act to simply voting the state’s GOP legislative majority out of power — solutions it concedes are “unlikely.”

It concludes this way:

But in this era in which so many of our traditional institutions have been denigrated, if we don’t find a way to turn from this trajectory, we’ll instead find ourselves being ruled by partisans who won’t hesitate to take more and more power from the people and impose their own will — no matter the consequences.

That’s not a democracy. And no, it’s not a republic, either. If the state legislature wins this case, all 50 state legislatures will be allowed to override their states’ constitutions, governors, courts — and any principle of fairness to voters. Our freedom to govern ourselves is on the line. This could not be more serious.

Click here to read the entire editorial.