Education, News

Facing a shortage in school nurses, N.C. lawmakers seek new standards

Following a report that details painful school nurse shortages in North Carolina, a state legislative panel will ask for new standards and programs to address the problem.

Members of the General Assembly’s Joint Legislative Program Evaluation Oversight Committee approved that report and advanced a bill draft Monday that would do several things, but chiefly orders the State Board of Education to ready a new goal for school nurse staffing levels and a plan for meeting those levels by January 2020.

This year’s report from the nonpartisan Program Evaluation Division estimated that it would cost the state between $45 million and $79 million to meet a 1:750 nurse-to-student ratio recommended by the state board in 2004 or the one nurse per school ratio prescribed  by the National Association of School Nurses.

Public school advocates say insufficient nursing levels in schools will spell major problems, particularly for students who lack access to healthcare outside of school.

While the bill draft that advanced out of committee Monday lacks any recommended funding levels, it would direct the state to prepare a plan for combining two school nurse programs—Child and Family Support Teams (CFST) and the School Nurse Funding Initiative (SNFI)—run by the Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of Public Instruction.

Lawmakers are also moving to address Medicaid reimbursement for school nursing services. This month’s PED report pointed out that about 60 percent of medical procedures performed in schools are done by employees who are not nurses. That’s why few local school systems file for Medicaid reimbursement because, under the state’s Medicaid plan, such care must be provided by a registered nurse as directed by a physician or the students’s Individual Education Plan (IEP).

The bill draft would require DHHS to examine rates paid for school-based nursing and craft a plan for establishing Medicaid reimbursement for school nursing services. DHHS would have to report to the legislature by December 2018 on these provisions.

Watch here as Liz Newlin of the School Nurses’ Association of N.C. explains the problem facing North Carolina school systems to Policy Watch’s Rob Schofield.

Courts & the Law, Defending Democracy, News

Cooper appoints new judges to the state bench

Gov. Roy Cooper has appointed six new judges to the state bench — one to Superior Court and five to District Court.

Each of the appointees are replacing judges who retired or who were appointed to other judgeships.

“Superior and District Court judges are so important to our justice system and hear cases critical to their communities every day,” Cooper stated in a news release. “These appointees bring strong experience to the bench and I believe they will serve the people of our state well.”

He appointed Judge William “Bill” Wood to the Superior Court bench in Guilford County to replace Judge Lindsay Davis, who retired earlier this year.

Wood has served as an assistant district attorney in Guilford County for nearly thirty years, where he has specialized in prosecuting violent crimes, according to Cooper’s office.

Cooper appointed Judge Keith Mason to the District Court serving Beaufort, Hyde, Martin, Tyrrell and Washington counties. He is replacing Judge Michael Paul, who retired earlier this year.

Mason served as an attorney in private practice for more than 25 years and previously served as an assistant district attorney in the same counties he was appointed to as a judge.

Judge Sophia Gatewood Crawford was appointed as a district court judge serving Anson, Richmond, Scotland and Hoke counties. She is replacing Judge Lisa Thacker, who retired earlier this year, according to Cooper’s Office.

Gatewood previously served as a trial attorney in private practice for 17 years and as a senior assistant district attorney.

Cooper appointed Marcus Shields as a District Court judge serving Guilford County — he replaces Judge Avery Crump, who retired earlier this year.

Shields served as an attorney in private practice, as an attorney for North Carolina Prisoner Legal Services and as an assistant public defender. He has also served as an adjunct professor of law at Elon University School of Law.

Cooper appointed Faith Fickling as a District Court judge serving Mecklenburg County. She is replacing Judge Donnie Hoover, who was recently appointed to a Superior Court judgeship.

Fickling served as an attorney at Legal Aid of North Carolina for nearly 12 years and previously served as a Peace Corps volunteer in Madagascar.

Roy Wiggins was appointed as a District Court judge in Mecklenburg County. He is replacing Judge Karen Eady-Williams, who was recently appointed to Superior Court judgeship.

Wiggins served as an attorney in private practice for over 20 years and previously as an assistant district attorney.

Commentary, News

The week’s Top Five on NC Policy Watch

1. Teachers demand policy changes, cheer Cooper at unprecedented education rally

“Here for our kids” is the common refrain as 20,000+ marchers overrun downtown Raleigh

On Tuesday, Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger—one of the state’s most powerful Republican politicians—told North Carolina’s teachers they’d soon be receiving their fifth consecutive round of raises.

Emily Rex heard Berger’s promise. But the fifth-year, special education teacher—who lives in Berger’s state Senate district in Guilford County—points out she’s received raises in four of the last five years, not that she could much tell after soaring health premiums took their toll.

Rex said she completed her taxes in April. And over the last five years, her take-home earnings have inched up by about $1,000. “Any increase that we’ve had has been consumed by higher payroll deductions,” she said. [Read more…]

***Bonus: Memorable moments from NC’s #RallyforRespect (audio postcard)

2. Process schmocess: Berger, Moore say 2019 budget changes have already been negotiated | Read more

3. Residents voice passionate opposition to proposed methyl bromide operation; regulators remain tight-lipped | Read more

***Bonus reads:

4. Stealth session? G.A. returns, but the agenda (including plans for judicial redistricting) remains under wraps | Read more

5. Speakers at Durham conference: Criminalization of poverty is big and growing problem in NC | Read more

Courts & the Law, Defending Democracy, News

Poll: North Carolinians prefer to elect their judges over appointment process

Image courtesy of High Point University Survey Research Center

A new poll shows that the majority of North Carolinians prefer to elect their judges over any sort of appointment process.

The High Point University Survey Research Center and Department of Criminal Justice conducted a statewide poll and analysis on residents’ level of awareness and support for potential changes to the way the state appoints judges.

Lawmakers have been considering plans for judicial redistricting and various merit selection plans — either of which would significantly change the way judges are elected. The short session began Wednesday and it is expected such changes could be put up for a vote.

The poll — which surveyed 513 adults between Feb. 19 and 25 — found that 49 percent of participants were unaware that lawmakers were considering changing the way it appoints judges from direct elections to appointment by the governor or the General Assembly.

A total of 47 percent of respondents had some level of awareness, including 11 percent who said they were highly aware, 16 percent moderately aware and 20 percent slightly aware.

A 75 percent majority strongly prefer to directly elect judges, while 8 percent prefer appointment by the governor and 10 percent prefer appointment by the General Assembly.

“We found that almost half of the registered voters we surveyed were aware of the issue,” said Bobby Little, chair of the Department of Criminal Justice. “In our analysis, we didn’t find any similarities in the demographics of those who prefer to keep judge appointments election-based. They represented a wide variety of people across the board.”

Little and Thomas Dearden, assistant professor of criminal justice, analyzed and recently produced a preliminary report about their findings, which they plan to submit for publication.

“This study made sense for our department as judges are an integral part of the criminal justice system,” Little said. “Judges are critical to the outcomes of justice, and we hope these results are of value to the general public who may or may not be familiar with this conversation.”

News

Controversial Farm Bill falls in the U.S. House, divides NC Congressional delegation

Members of the U.S. House on Friday rejected (198-213) the $867 Billion farm bill with members of the Freedom caucus helping Democrats get the votes needed to defeat the bill.

All House Democrats voted against the massive piece of legislation amid concerns it would seriously undercut the Supplemental Nutrition Program, also known as SNAP.

As the Budget & Tax Center’s Brian Kennedy reported on the Progressive Pulse earlier this week, passage of the farm bill would have taken food away from at least 133,000 North Carolinians.  Kennedy also noted that North Carolina is ranked the 10th hungriest state in the nation.

Democrats who spent the week working to defeat the measure ironically were aided by members of the conservative Freedom Caucus, who balked after failing to get deeper spending cuts and concessions on immigration legislation.

As USA Today explained:

Friday’s vote was an embarrassing defeat for [Speaker] Ryan, R-Wis., who had championed the farm bill as a major step toward welfare reform but saw the measure squelched by members of his own Republican conference. Thirty Republicans voted against House leadership bill.

Ryan and other GOP leaders will now have to grapple with the volatile issue of immigration to satisfy arch-conservatives who want the House to vote on a hardline measure that would slash legal immigration and authorize construction of President Trump’s border wall.

Members of the House Freedom Caucus demanded a vote on the immigration proposal before the House voted on the farm bill. Rep. Mark Meadows, R-N.C., said Republican leaders had failed to make good on promises to deal with the immigration issue, and their only point of leverage to get a solution was to hold up the farm bill.

Here’s how the full North Carolina delegation voted:

Nay
Rep. G.K. Butterfield – 1st District
Rep. Walter Jones – 3rd District
Rep. David Price – 4th District
Rep. Mark Meadows – 11th District
Rep. Alma Adams – 12th district
Rep. Ted Budd – 13th District

Yea
Rep. George Holding – 2nd District
Rep. Virginia Foxx – 5th District
Rep. Mark Walker – 6th District
Rep. David Rouzer – 7th District
Rep. Richard Hudson – 8th District
Rep. Robert Pittenger – 9th District
Rep. Patrick McHenry – 10th District