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.

How U.S. House Democrats would expand Medicare and Medicaid and lower prescription drug costs

Federal court strikes down NC law that barred farmworkers from seeking union representation via lawsuit settlements

A federal district court judge on Wednesday entered a permanent injunction against a provision from the North Carolina Farm Act of 2017 that invalidated lawsuit settlements in which parties agree to recognize union representation of farmworkers as part of the agreement. The challenged provision was passed by the General Assembly and signed into law by Gov. Roy Cooper in July of 2017 as part of an omnibus 24-page bill.

Farmworkers and civil rights groups announced a federal lawsuit outside the legislature in 2017. (Photo by Carol Brooke)

Advocacy groups filed suit challenging the anti-union provision in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of North Carolina in November of 2017 on behalf of two farmworkers and the state’s only farmworker union, the Farm Labor Organizing Committee (FLOC).

[Note: NC Justice Center, the parent organization of Policy Watch, was among the organizations and law firms representing the plaintiffs in the suit.]

Plaintiffs claimed that FLOC had been deprived by the law of at least one opportunity to “assist members who have potential employment claims to negotiate with their employer for a prefiling settlement of such claims.”

In the complaint, counsel for the plaintiffs argued that the ban on making union representation a part of settlements strips farmworkers from securing settlement terms in their best interest, a right enjoyed by other private sector employees.

In reviewing and approving the decision of the Magistrate Judge to which the case was initially assigned, U.S. District Court Judge Loretta Biggs previously held that the challenged provision violates the First Amendment and first-amendment-related protections of the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution. On Wednesday, she permanently enjoined the state from seeking to enforce it.

The plaintiffs argued that the law not only infringed on workers’ First Amendment rights to form and participate in in unions, but it also violated the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, as most of the state’s farm workers are Latino.

“We continue to believe this law was crafted to block farmworkers from fighting for these rights with the help of the Farm Labor Organizing Committee negotiating on their behalf,” said Julia Solórzano, a staff attorney with the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Immigrant Justice Project representing the plaintiffs, in a press release. “These efforts to undermine the rights of these workers must not stand, and we will fight until they are defeated.”

The suit also challenged another portion of the law that prohibits agricultural producers from entering voluntary enforceable agreements to deduct union dues from farmworkers’ paychecks.

Despite striking down the settlement provision as unconstitutional, Judge Biggs, allowed the dues checkoff ban to remain in place.

As Policy Watch previously reported, many farmworkers in North Carolina are present in the state on a temporary visa for guest workers and don’t have credit cards or access to U.S. bank accounts, hence few other means to pay for union dues other than relying on dues transfer arrangements.

Plaintiffs are appealing the portion of the decision that upheld the dues checkoff provision to the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Va.

“We are confident that the Fourth Circuit will determine that farmworkers are entitled to the same rights as other North Carolina workers to freely choose for themselves whether to have union dues deducted from their paychecks,”  legal director for the ACLU of N.C. Kristi Graunke said in the press release.

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

New national poll: Americans in red and blue states support mask and vaccine mandates

Pollsters at Monmouth University released new national survey results yesterday on American attitudes toward mask and vaccine mandates in response to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. The central finding: support for public mandates continues to grow.

This is from the release that accompanied the poll results:

A majority of Americans support the vaccine mandates announced by President Joe Biden last week amid rising concerns about the chance of catching COVID. According to the Monmouth University Poll, the public also supports instituting guidelines for masking and social distancing in their state as well as requiring people to show proof of vaccination for certain activities, such as boarding an airplane or going to the office. The poll finds majority support for nearly all these measures in both blue states and red states, although a significant number of people – mostly Republicans – remain opposed to getting the COVID vaccine.

Support for instituting, or reinstituting, state-based face mask and social distancing guidelines has increased in the past few months. Currently, 63% support these measures in their state, which is up from 52% in July. This shift has come mostly in blue states, which were experiencing a lull in COVID transmission early in the summer. In Monmouth’s July poll, residents of states that voted for President Joe Biden (49%) were slightly less likely than those in states that voted for former President Donald Trump (54%) to support instituting these guidelines. Now, 66% (+17 points) of blue state residents and 59% (+5 points) of red state residents support these measures. Majority support in both types of states comes even though only 32% of Republicans individually support these measures.

The poll also finds that 66% of Americans support requiring that face masks be worn by students, teachers, and staff in schools. This includes majorities of blue state (68%) and red state (63%) residents….

…Most Americans support vaccine mandates for key groups mentioned in Biden’s announcement last week. This includes requiring COVID vaccines for health care workers (63%), federal employees (58%), and private contractors working for the federal government (55%). The poll also finds majority support (60%) for requiring teachers and school staff to be vaccinated. Half (51%) of the American public supports a vaccine mandate for school students aged 12 and older. The blue state/red state difference in support for any of these mandates is no larger than 5 points (e.g. 65% blue state and 60% red state for health care workers). Both types of states show majority support for all of these mandates except in the case of school children (53% in blue states, but just 48% in red states).

Click here to explore the poll results in more detail.