Editorial calls out state superintendent for uninspired and inadequate education plan

Superintendent of Public Instruction Catherine Truitt

Be sure to check out this morning’s lead Capitol Broadcasting Company editorial on WRAL.com — “Truitt’s schools plan must embrace Leandro remedial order not dodge it” — and its powerful critique of state schools Superintendent Catherine Truitt’s new “Operation Polaris” plan for the state’s K-12 education system.

Truitt’s plan purports to chart a course for recovering from the pandemic and moving the state’s public education system boldly into the future, but as the editorial rightfully observes, it’s mostly a “glossy” “pablum of proposals” and a “gussied-up defense of the status quo” that ignores the elephant in the room: the Leandro court mandate that requires the state to meet its obligation to provide students with access to a sound basic education. This is from the editorial:

Its vision is severely limited and fails to take in the brightest guides so clearly present. There is mere passing reference to the landmark 1997 state Supreme Court decision that declared the state’s Constitution demands a “quality education for every child;” as well as the 2004 high court decision that declared the state had failed to provide adequate resources for “the opportunity for a sound basic education.” That 2004 decision also directed the assignment of a special superior court judge to monitor compliance.

Similarly there’s an isolated mention of “Wested” without any detailed reference to implementation of the consensus court-ordered plan, a comprehensive multi-year program to deliver on the state’s pledge.

Truitt’s vision doesn’t see Leandro. It doesn’t encompass the carefully crafted program top educators and advocates worked to develop. It ignores the quarter of a century that the state has failed to deliver its promise to our children, despite the findings and court orders.

As the editorial notes, Truitt needs to decide if she’s really going to champion change and reform or merely serve as a flack for the legislature’s do-nothing conservative majority. Here’s the conclusion:

Truitt needs to choose.

Is she going to stand with the partisan politicians who neglect public schools and those who work for them?
Is she going to take a strong and courageous stand in support of implementing the 7-year remedial plan that the court has adopted?

That is that plan that should be the map, the guiding light, of any program “navigating students toward a brighter future.”

If Truitt wants to demonstrate her first priority is the children and those who help them learn in public school classrooms, she will:

  • State unequivocally she backs the program Judge Lee has ordered.
  • Call on the General Assembly and the governor to fund it.
  • Revise her “Operation Polaris” plan into her program for implementation and going beyond.

That would be a real blast off for North Carolina education.

Click here to tread the entire editorial.

National philanthropic groups condemn NC’s failure to expand Medicaid as “unconscionable”

Groups call on Congress to act where recalcitrant states are failing

The following statement was issued yesterday by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation on behalf of an array of signatory nonprofits:

Princeton, N.J.—As nonprofit and philanthropic organizations devoted to improving health and health equity, dismantling structural racism, and advancing social justice, we strongly support Congress permanently closing the Medicaid coverage gap in its upcoming budget reconciliation legislation. The Affordable Care Act (ACA) empowered and incentivized states to expand their Medicaid programs, leading to nearly 19 million additional people gaining Medicaid coverage since 2014. Yet 12 states have refused for years to expand their Medicaid programs under the ACA, denying more than 2 million people—disproportionately people of color and with low incomes—access to quality and affordable healthcare coverage. It is crucial that the Medicaid coverage gap gets closed for good.

States that have expanded their Medicaid programs under the ACA have reaped significant benefits: higher rates of health insurance coverage, improved health outcomes, lower incidence of maternal mortality and premature death, and increased economic activity. Officials in states that have refused to do so are neglecting a critical opportunity to save lives and improve the health of their residents. If a pandemic cannot move these states to act, nothing will. Congress has the authority and responsibility to enact a federal solution that ends this injustice.

In a country as wealthy as the United States, it is unconscionable that a person’s access to healthcare often comes down to skin color, gender, income, geography, disability, and employment or immigration status.

It is long past time to achieve universal healthcare coverage in the United States, and the most important step we can take right now toward that goal is to close the Medicaid coverage gap once and for all.

Signatories of this statement:
Robert Wood Johnson Foundation
American Academy of Pediatrics
American Heart Association
California Health Care Foundation
Community Catalyst
Ford Foundation
March of Dimes
Missouri Foundation for Health
National Urban League
The Commonwealth Fund
The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights
W.K. Kellogg Foundation

Expert: It’s not about masks or freedom, it’s about grandstanding and branding for Cawthorn

Professor Chris Cooper

Chris Cooper, a distinguished professor of political science at Western Carolina University, offers a must read assessment of Rep. Madison Cawthorn’s visit to the Johnston County School Board meeting this evening. Professor Cooper rightfully questions why the freshman congressman would travel 300 miles outside of his own district to weigh in on a local school board decision. The answer: political aspirations and cash.

As Cooper explains in today’s column cross-posted from Old North State Politics:

If all goes according to plan, this evening Republican member of Congress Madison Cawthorn will speak at a Johnston County School Board Meeting and ask the board to reverse their decision to require face masks in schools. According to a flier advertising the event, Cawthorn will park at either the fast food parking lot “in front of the outlets” or Becky’s Log Cabin Motel in Smithfield and join a few hundred protestors to fight for “PARENT’S CHOICE on masks, vaccines, and CRT in schools.” Robby Starbuck, a congressional candidate from Tennessee who once produced the official video for the Spongebob Movie will also be offering his advice to the 7 member school board in Johnston County.

Madison Cawthorn addressing Macon County supporters over the summer.

If you’re thinking that this seems a little… geographically puzzling, you’re right. Johnston County is located in the 7th congressional district, whereas Cawthorn represents the 11th congressional district. To get from Smithfield to Cawthorn’s home in Henderson County, head West and in about four and a half hours (assuming you don’t need to stop for gas or a bite to eat), you’d finally enter the friendly confines of Hendersonville, NC. Along the way, you’ll pass through 6 other congressional districts.

So, why would a member of Congress drive hundreds of miles out of his district to join a political novice from Tennessee and a few hundred other protestors to weigh in on a school board decision that doesn’t fall under even the most generous view of congressional power?

Not to sound too meta, but the primary answer is that we’re talking about it. And by “we” I don’t just mean the readers of this blog, but rather everyone who covers, follows, or practices NC politics. Cawthorn’s trip to Johnston County has been covered in media outlets across the state, and has spawned enough Twitter traffic to rival an early season Duke/UNC game. The attention is the point. And it’s working.

If the attention is both the means and the primary end, then fundraising is a secondary goal–and one that will likely be successful. Cawthorn raised over $1.7 million through June 30 of this year—a sum that dwarfs the receipts from established Republican members of Congress like Patrick McHenry and Virginia Foxx. When the fundraising numbers are revealed from September, 2021, I’ll bet you a beer (or ginger ale if that’s more your speed) at any North Carolina brewery that the Johnston County event will spark a pop in Cawthorn’s fundraising—a cash infusion that would come in handy for any candidate, but particularly one with Cawthorn’s burn rate.

It also seems likely that Cawthorn’s political aspirations extend past NC-11, making this out-of-district attention grab a little less confusing that it would be for a member of Congress who has no intention of running in higher office. In four years Cawthorn will be 30 years old and eligible to run for the US Senate, an office that will be up for election in 2026. While the Senate incumbent Thom Tillis’ stature within the Republican Party would stop most Republican members of Congress from seeking the seat, Cawthorn has not been shy about criticizing Republican party leadership and recently called Tillis “a terrible campaigner and a complete RINO” [Republican in Name Only]. It’s not much of a stretch to think that Cawthorn has his eyes on that seat.

Cawthorn’s social media branding also reinforces the notion that a trip to Johnston County, while not helpful to his NC-11 constituents, may play into larger, statewide political aspirations. His Twitter handle is “CawthornforNC,” not “CawthornforNC11” or “CawthornforWNC.” While this might be dismissed as a coincidence or a small detail that should be ignored, Cawthorn’s behavior and decision-making suggests that one thing he is unusually attuned to is branding. After all, he built his team around “comms, not legislation

In the end, Madison Cawthorn’s visit to a school board meeting hours away from his home will not further his legislative goals or move the policy needle for constituents in his district, but it will further his brand as a national political figure who is, in his own words, “probably the furthest, most conservative person in Congress.” And that, is precisely the point.

Chris Cooper is the Madison Distinguished Professor of Political Science and Public Affairs at Western Carolina University. He tweets at @chriscooperwcu

Veteran NC political observer Tom Campbell calls out the John Locke Foundation

Middle-of-the-road columnist and talk show host decries conservative group’s anti-vaccination stance 

[Cross-posted from NC Spin.com]

For years I have read pieces and had dialogue with many people from the John Locke Foundation. I haven’t always agreed with their positions, but I always found them to be open to dialogue, thought-provoking, rational and measured in their responses. That changed at 3:00 p.m. last Friday.

Here’s what arrived in my email inbox:
“No. We won’t comply with Biden’s vaccine mandate, and no one else should either.”

Amy Cooke, the CEO of the John Locke Foundation continued, “That one man – Joe Biden – wants to force free Americans to inject something into their bodies should be abhorrent to everyone. That some think it’s acceptable shows how much our foundational freedoms have eroded. To my profound disappointment, authoritarianism has become mainstream.

“Medical decisions are personal and private. Period. President Biden’s political party often cites Roe v. Wade as their own rationale for such medical freedom, yet in an alarming turn of events, he has turned full-throated authoritarian, announcing he will wield the power of federal labor officials to force private businesses to function as medical doctors for every employee. In short, Joe Biden believes he – not individuals in consultation with a doctor – knows what’s best for every one of us.”

This statement was both shocking and very disappointing on many fronts. Joe Biden is the President, although many on the right (perhaps many in the Locke fold) don’t want to acknowledge it. His duty is to protect and serve ALL people in the country.

Consider the facts:

  • 136,000 people are diagnosed with COVID each week in the US.
  • Vaccines and the wearing of masks are the most effective ESTABLISHED means of combating this virus. Not horse de-wormers or fake tonics.
  • Only 54 percent of our populous is fully vaccinated. 80 million, approximately 25 percent have refused to get a single shot.
  • 1,500 Americans are dying every day from COVID. That number could be dramatically reduced.
  • The unvaccinated are 11 times more likely to die from COVID than those vaccinated.
  • Our hospital emergency rooms are running out of space because of COVID patients. Other people needing medical care are not getting it because of shortages of beds and personnel.
  • 92 percent of those in hospitals for COVID are unvaccinated.
  • Doctors and nurses are worn out from treating COVID patients.

Locke’s response to the President’s plan is that a minority (25 percent) of people can dictate how free the rest of us can live, work and play. They seem to believe 80 million unvaccinated people can essentially overrule the 200 million who have done their duty, gotten their shots and wear masks. It runs against our long-held belief of majority rule.

There are those who want to use bullhorns to shout about their freedoms and personal choices. They ignore the fact Read more

Watch veteran advocate Les Bernal explain the dangers to NC of legalized online sports betting

(Photo illustration by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

If you missed last Thursday’s fascinating and informative NC Policy Watch Crucial Conversation in which veteran national policy expert Les Bernal (at right) of the group Stop Predatory Gambling explained “Why progressives should be working to keep state-sponsored sports gambling out of NC,” don’t despair.

The Zoom recording of the entire hour long conversation, can be viewed by clicking here.