Education, News

New Census figures: Minus charter spending, N.C.’s education spending ranks near the bottom of the nation

North Carolina education spending per-student ranks near the bottom of the nation, according to new U.S. Census figures released this week. 

The data, which do not factor in North Carolina’s growing spending on charters, placed the state at 45th in the nation, not counting Washington, D.C.

Total spending per student, about $8,792, lags the U.S. average of $11,762, according to the Census charts.

The funding levels were for the 2016 fiscal year. Census officials noted they did not include charter holders who were not governmental entities.

North Carolina charters are approved by the State Board of Education but run by private, non-profits. Of course, charter spending is of import in this discussion. Since North Carolina lawmakers lifted the 100-charter cap in 2011, the charter sector has risen to include 173 schools.

A report this year from the National Education Association tallied up the state’s per-pupil spending, including charter funding, to $9,528 per student. According to the NEA, that ranks 39th in the nation, trailing the national average by more than $2,300.

The new Census data arrive about a week after 20,000 to 30,000 teachers and education advocates swarmed Raleigh to rally before the N.C. General Assembly. Among their grievances, teachers complained of insufficient school spending, poor pay, cuts to their retirement benefits, over-testing, and hostility from state leaders.

See below for the state rankings:

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Commentary

Editorial lauds proposed “red flag” gun law

Rep. Marcia Morey

Raleigh’s News & Observer published an excellent editorial this morning that ought to be a “must read” at the Legislative Building. As is pointed out in “NC needs a red-flag law to stem gun violence caused by mental distress,” every time there’s a mass shooting, the NRA and its apologists claim the problem isn’t guns but the people who use them. Now, a smart state legislator and former judge has proposed legislation that responds to that claim by proposing a bill that would allow a judge to issue an order confiscating the guns — at least temporarily — of someone who is found to be a danger to themselves or the community. Here’s the N&O:

“Red-flag laws enable family members or law enforcement to ask a judge to issue a temporary order for the removal of guns from a person who is a danger to himself or others. The measure is similar to restraining orders in domestic violence situations.

If anyone in the legislature knows about the need to allow judges to intervene in volatile situations, it’s Morey. During 18 years as a judge on the Durham district court bench, she presided over many hearings in which such a protective order might have helped prevent a shooting or a suicide….

The bill, Morey said, would allow the courts ‘to remove guns from the hands of people who are on the verge of violence to others or themselves.’

While prompted by recent school shootings, Morey’s bill would also help stem a far more common form of gun violence, suicide. Rep. Grier Martin, D-Wake, and member of the Army Reserves, spoke briefly in support of the proposal as a way to reduce the high level of suicide among veterans.

‘If you ask the experts that actually do the research on this what some of the factors are that go into the increasing number of suicides, one of them is, in fact, access to lethal means,’ Martin said.

Gun rights advocates are wary that red-flag laws could lead to even broader government power to confiscate guns. But no right is absolute, especially when it presents a deadly threat to others. Morey’s bill includes judicial procedures that protect an individual’s constitutional rights even as its prevents the mentally disturbed from harming others or themselves.

Moore should bring this bill forward. Better yet, he should add his name as a co-sponsor. In doing so, the House Speaker wouldn’t be just rescuing a bill from knee-jerk rejection. He could well be rescuing lives.”

Click here to read the entire editorial.

Courts & the Law, Defending Democracy, News

Committee to consider ‘various changes related to election laws’

UPDATE: This committee meeting was cancelled at the last minute.

Rumors about a new voter identification measure have been swirling around the legislature for some time, and if it comes out at any point this session, it will likely be today.

House members on the Elections and Ethics Law Committee are set to meet today at 10:15 a.m. in room 643 of the Legislative Office Building to vote on an elections measure that will replace Senate Bill 486, the Uniform Voting Hours Act.

A proposed committee substitute, titled “An act to make various changes related to election laws” was unveiled late Tuesday night but has not yet been made available online. Committee members were directed in an email to submit any potential amendments to the PCS by the end of business yesterday.

The PCS, posted below, seeks to add several election security measures proposed by the State Board of Elections and Ethics Enforcement, including criminal record checks for current, temporary and prospective employees.

The bill prohibits losing primary election candidates from being on the general election ballot as a candidate for a new political party.

It also sets out some instruction for judicial elections, since the judicial primaries were cancelled this year. Voters will read the following on the ballot before seeing a list of judicial candidates: “No primaries for judicial office were held in 2018. The information listed by each of the following candidates’ names indicates only the candidates’ party affiliation or unaffiliated status on their voter registration at the time they filed to run for office.”

You can see other changes below:

The new SB486 by NC Policy Watch on Scribd

Commentary

NC Policy Watch Policy Prescription #8: addressing North Carolina’s affordable housing need

As the 2018 legislative session gets underway in earnest in this, its first full week, we hope you will continue reading our special series “Policy Prescriptions” researched and written by A. J. Fletcher Foundation Fellow Samone Oates-Bullock. Last week, Prescription #1 addressed food insecurity in North Carolina. Prescription #2 took on the issue of early childhood investments. Prescription #3 analyzed the challenge of funding school adequately and fairly. Policy Prescription #4 called for racial equity in education. Policy Prescription #5 called for tackling the issue of environmental racism in North Carolina. Prescription #6 made the case closing the Medicaid coverage gap. Yesterday, Prescription #7 urged lawmakers to make North Carolina more worker-friendly.

Today, the focus is on tackling the issue of affordable housing. The following is from Policy Prescription #8 – “A place to call home: Addressing North Carolina’s affordable housing need”:

“Having access to affordable housing is a basic human need. Having safe, secure and reasonably priced housing enables people to engage in other basic activities such as employment, obtaining education, and maintaining their physical and mental health. Unfortunately, access to secure and affordable housing is an extreme challenge for many North Carolinians. The lack of affordable housing places a unique burden on individuals by often forcing them to choose between housing and other basic necessities. In order to effectively move the needle on affordable housing, it’s time that housing, just like food and water, be seen as a human right, not a mere commodity”

Click here to read the full report.

Commentary

ICYMI: Business, law enforcement leaders speak out for closing Medicaid coverage gap

In case you missed it, there have been two new and compelling op-eds in recent days from unlikely sources about Medicaid expansion and the ongoing critical need for North Carolina to expand it under the Affordable Care Act.

In “Closing N.C.’s health coverage gap is good for businesses and communities,” Triad businessman Don Flow says the following:

“What if I told you there was a way to add $4 billion a year to the state’s economy, create more than 40,000 jobs and provide health care to approximately 400,000 North Carolinians who don’t have it?

You would say it’s too good to be true, right?

But it is true. If the North Carolina General Assembly will support closing the health care ‘coverage gap’ in this year’s short session, we can fuel economic growth in the health care sector, save some of our rural hospitals and get back some of the tax dollars that we send to Washington.”

After listing the myriad benefits that would inure to the state — saving lives, adding jobs, saving rural hospitals — Flow closes by noting that many Republicans are finally coming around on the issue, including Rep. Donny Lambeth, primesponsor of the so-called “Carolina Cares” legislation, Flow closes like this:

“The time is right to close the coverage gap. Uncertainty over major federal changes to the health care system is now behind us.

The N.C. Medicaid program is stable and its financial predictability will increase with the transition to managed care.

With a proposal on the table, there is a path forward to address this critical issue and strengthen our economy while giving more North Carolinians access to affordable health care. It’s a good deal.”

Flow’s support for closing the Medicaid gap was echoed Monday in Raleigh’s News & Observer by another surprising voice, Nashville, NC police chief, Thomas Bashore. Chief Bashore’s plea is based on his desperate desire to attack the opioid crisis that plagues his community and so many others:

“One in five adults with an opioid use disorder, however, is uninsured. Only 20 percent of uninsured people with opioid use disorders have received outpatient treatment in the past year, barely half the rate of those with insurance. Today, more than 900,000 working-age North Carolinians do not have health insurance.

Law enforcement officers often have to take people with opioid use disorders to jail when what they really need is treatment. Having these individuals in jail instead of in treatment is the wrong use of taxpayer dollars and an inefficient use of limited law enforcement time and resources.

How do we reduce the number of uninsured people and expand access to affordable health care? One thing many states have done is allow people who are in the “coverage gap” (who are uninsured but earn too little to qualify for subsidies to afford insurance on the individual market) to enroll in Medicaid. Thirty-three red and blue states now allow people in the coverage gap to enroll in Medicaid. Closing the coverage gap would give more than 400,000 people access to affordable health insurance, including up to 150,000 with opioid use disorders and other substance use or mental health needs.”

The bottom line: Closing the coverage gap would be a life-saving, economy-boosting move and it remains a tragedy that a handful of ideologues continue to stand in the way.