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Such a Sad Reality For These Young People

JLF’s Terry Stoops reports here on the sad fact that huge percentages of incoming freshmen to North Carolina’s community colleges don’t possess basic skills and, thus, enroll in remedial classes.

While the NCCCS should be congratulated for their efforts, they ultimately have little control over the underlying cause of the problem — recent graduates from North Carolina high schools that lack basic literacy and math skills. Ultimately, the remediation rate is a reflection of the quality of a broad and vital segment of the state’s high school graduates. And taxpayers should be troubled by the fact that over 14,000 of them enrolled in one or more remedial courses in a North Carolina community college during the 2013-2014 academic year. NCCCS officials report that their colleges set aside approximately 10 percent of their respective budgets for remedial courses.

Finally, the remediation rate should call into question another indicator of student performance, the graduation rate. Last year, the N.C. Department of Public Instruction announced that the statewide graduation rate was 83.9 percent, the highest recorded rate in the state’s history. Fortunately, there is broad consensus among lawmakers, state education officials, and taxpayers that our public schools must focus on increasing the quantity and quality of high school graduates. The vitality of our state’s economy depends on it.

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JLF Promotes Kory Swanson as 25th Anniversary Approaches

News from the John Locke Foundation.

As the John Locke Foundation prepares to celebrate its 25th anniversary with new programs and initiatives, the free-market think tank is also announcing the promotion of Executive Vice President Kory Swanson to the post of president and CEO.

Longtime president John Hood is taking a new job as president of the John William Pope Foundation, a Raleigh-based grantmaker, but will remain chairman of the JLF board of directors. Hood helped found JLF and has served as president for most of the organization’s nearly 25-year history.

More details here.

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Federal Employees Petition For 4-Day Christmas Weekend

How much time does your employer give you at Christmas? Scads of federal employees say they don’t get enough. In fact, More than 92,000 people signed a petition to give federal workers a 4-day Christmas weekend, according to Federal News Radio.

The petition on the “We the People” section of WhiteHouse.gov called for President Barack Obama to make Dec. 26 a federal holiday this year. Christmas Day falls on a Thursday, so making the following day a holiday would give feds a long weekend.

For all petitions on “We the People,” the President promises to take action if the petition receives at least 100,000 signatures within 30 days. The petition for Dec. 26 off needed 100,000 signatures by Wednesday.

A federal employee from Oklahoma launched the petition in October. The employee said an extra day off would boost feds’ morale, especially given pay freezes and furloughs in recent years.

As you might suspect, the story says a lot of people think this is a great idea. There are some, however, who aren’t tone deaf.

“Those Feds whining about not having the day off after Christmas give other Feds a bad name. Just use your annual leave and stop complaining,” chicagoman wrote.

So how much vacation time do federal employees receive? Check out this data from the GAO website:

Vacation / Leave
For the first 3 years of government service, employees earn 13 days of vacation each year. For 3 to 15 years of federal service, employees earn 20 days of vacation each year, and after 15 years of federal service, employees earn 26 days of vacation each year. Thirty days of annual leave may be carried over to the next leave year.

Sick Leave
Regardless of the length of service, employees earn 13 days of sick leave a year. The amount of sick leave that may be accumulated is not limited.

Other Leave
There are provisions for paid or unpaid leave to cover absences for maternity leave, military obligations, jury duty, and voting. GAO is covered by the provisions in the Family and Medical Leave Act and the Federal Employees Family Friendly Leave Act.

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“an increasing amount of the demands for censorship are coming from students”

Count me among those concerned about the politically correct views and values being drilled into college students these days. Of particular concern is the lack of respect for free speech — all cloaked in the politically correct haze of not wanting anyone to be offended. One of the people who fights the censorship trend on campuses is Robert Shibley of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE). Shibley recently spoke with Carolina Journal Radio’s Mitch Kokai about the disturbing trend toward crushing speech on campuses.

Kokai: Most of us who are listening today don’t spend much time on college campuses these days, but why should this concern everyone?

Shibley: Unfortunately, what we’re seeing is that this attitude, this jaundiced attitude, this crimped attitude toward free speech that is being inculcated on campus, not just through, you know, what professors might be teaching, but really just through the idea that you’re living in this authoritarian sort of Orwellian universe — you get used to these kinds of restrictions on speech. You start to think they’re normal. You start to think they’re good, and you’re being told they’re good in many cases and that good people would want to silence offensive opinions. And those people are leaving campus, and they’re taking that attitude off campus with them, and it’s starting to crimp the idea of free speech in this country.

You know, America is unique in our respect for free speech. But, unfortunately, it’s becoming less so with each passing year. We saw the “disinvitation season” phenomenon this year with Condoleezza Rice, with Ayaan Hirsi Ali, with [International Monetary Fund] head Christine Lagarde — all of whom either backed out or [were] uninvited from giving speeches, simply because the universities didn’t want the controversy or disagreed with them, or they wanted to give in to people who were demanding that they be silenced. And, you know, these are big-name people. If it’s gotten to the point where these really accomplished people, and women in this case, and many others, are being told they can’t speak on campus, who can?

Kokai: It’s very much a concern. All of the examples we’ve been talking about so far have been in other states. Some people might hear this and say, “Too bad for them, but things are fine here in North Carolina.” Are things fine in North Carolina?

Shibley: I think when it comes to the free speech, they are a little bit better than average. I think part of that is because of the historical significance of the UNC-Chapel Hill speaker ban, from decades ago, as sort of … North Carolina got an early lesson on: How do we want to regulate who’s able to speak on campus? So North Carolina had an early lesson that was thankfully decided in favor of free speech there. And so I think there’s a legacy of that.

Also, North Carolina’s universities, thankfully, their speech codes are generally less severe than those in many other states. I think Illinois is one of the worst. North Carolina is doing pretty well. Virginia is among the best when it comes to respecting free speech on campus.

And North Carolina also has — not a free-speech issue, but they have the right to counsel on college campuses. And so, … administrators know now that if you are dragged in front of a campus tribunal for something like this, you’re going to have an attorney with you, or you may have an attorney with you who can make the argument, saying, “Hey, you know what? The First Amendment prohibits what you’re trying to do here.” So it’s an important safeguard, too.

So we’re lucky to live in North Carolina for that reason. There’s a lot of improvement that can take place and that should take place, and that’s something I want to work on as a North Carolinian here. But we are fortunate to live in a state that’s better than average when it comes to that.

Kokai: Our time is running short, but when you look over the recent history of these types of cases, are things about the same as they had been in recent years, or are they getting worse or maybe even getting a little better?

Shibley: The disturbing thing that we’re seeing is an increasing amount of the demands for censorship are coming from students, rather than faculty or administrators. And it’s sad to see students have been miseducated in the K-12 system, and they’re taking that with them to the college system, which is also not educating them properly, to teach them the value of free speech. That said, you know, six years ago, 79 percent of public colleges had laughably unconstitutional speech codes. Now it’s down to 58 percent, so that’s a big improvement, but it should be zero. The law requires that it be zero, so that’s why we’ve launched our lawsuit effort.

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It’s Over: John Alexander Wins Wake County Senate District 15 Race

Democrat Tom Bradshaw was unable to overtake Republican John Alexander in the recount of the Senate District 15 race in Wake County. Alexander is now the official winner, replacing Republican Neal Hunt.

 

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The Face Of Unfairness: The People Who Won’t Be Hired Because Of Obamacare

Carolina Journal’s Dan Way reports here on the reality of Obamacare that faces medium-sized businesses, which will be subject to the mandate in about a year.

Already socked with rising premium costs due to Obamacare, Southern Elevator has delayed planned growth and job creation as it contemplates up to $800,000 in added annual health insurance costs a year from now, when employer mandates for medium-size businesses kick in.

“Our health care insurance agent is estimating that we will have a 10 percent increase this year that is currently being priced,” said Rodney Pitts, owner of Greensboro-based Southern Elevator.

That is on top of increases totaling 44 percent since 2012. The company now pays up to $20,000 annually for each employee with spouse and dependent coverage, which is about $9,000 more than it paid a few years ago.

“If we had to comply with the employer mandate, which would put again more Obamacare plan features in it that do not improve the coverages for our employees at all, we estimate that our increase would be 38 percent,” Pitts said.

“We’re talking about annual increases on the order of $100,000 to $300,000 a year — and that is a direct hit to the bottom line of a business that operates on very tight margins — just with what we’ve got now,” Pitts said. “If the employer mandate went in, those numbers would be more like $600,000 to $800,000.”

Now we wait to see if the conservative reformers in the U.S. House and U.S. Senate will begin to dismantle this oppressive government mandate. We must turn to a consumer-driven model that offers a menu of insurance options to meet the varying needs of the populace. 

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Why Do We Want More Reform? Simple.

The News & Observer’s Rob Christensen reviews a new book by proud liberal James Leutze, who is unhappy by actions taken by North Carolina reformers. I suspect he’s also befuddled with voters who just days ago returned many of the reformers to the General Assembly. Let me take this opportunity to explain why I, unlike Leutze, am quite pleased with the course our state has taken since 2011.

The reform agenda has led to a historic transformation of our state, reversing decades of ill-conceived progressive policies. Government programs are being evaluated, spending and borrowing are being reined in, and taxpayers are being shown more respect. No longer is government growth accepted as natural and unavoidable. This change of course has ushered in an era of economic growth highlighted by job creation, lower unemployment, and expanding opportunity.

Rest assured, as the new year approaches, the John Locke Foundation is preparing to build on this hard-earned progress. We will seize the momentum in favor of policies that enhance freedom, embrace fiscal responsibility, and support limiting government to core services. Our education efforts will ensure that state legislators and the governor don’t given in to pressure from liberals to roll back reforms, and that they allow the state’s historic tax reform ample time to reset the flow and timing of revenues to the treasury.

You can expect to hear more from JLF in the coming weeks on fiscal reform, regulatory reform, energy reform, education reform, and health care reform.

 

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Why should parents have to “plead” about where their kids attend school?

The headline in the Raleigh News & Observer telegraphs what occurs when parents are at the mercy of a one-size-fits-all traditional education system.

Wake County parents plead for changes to student assignment proposal

 

Here’s the reality of not being able to decide for yourself:

Jennifer Covington, a Haddon Hall parent, complained that families felt like they were “pieces in a chess match.”

“In southwest Wake County, we don’t want neighborhood schools because we hate diversity or we’re afraid of diversity,” she said. “We love our community. We love our neighborhoods and we love our children. We’re asking for some stability.”

Some speakers from Holly Springs High School balked at being reassigned out of their town to the new Apex Friendship High School.

“You really affect kids when you move them from a school they’re already in,” said Chris Deshazor, a parent at Holly Springs High.

It doesn’t have to be this way. Funding should follow the student, putting the student and his/her parents in the driver’s seat and able to select the best schools for their individual needs. It could be that location is key for some parents. For others, it could be a particular specialty curriculum. Still others may be looking for a school that provides religious education. The point is that needs vary from student to student and family to family. What a shame it is that many are now subjected to decisions that are best for the system, not for them.

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The Instructions Alone Are 60 Pages Long

State government is a gigantic enterprise, and the more it grows the more complex it gets. Budgeting is a major undertaking on its own, as JLF’s Sarah Curry explains here.

Each biennium begins with a set of budget instructions, which vary slightly to meet the objectives of the current administration while still adhering to the State Budget Act.

The budget instructions for 2015-17 ask agencies to prioritize their requests to focus on gaps and unmet needs for critical services. Agencies also have been asked to identify efficiencies and other ways to save in their budget requests. If an agency wishes to increase spending, it also must offer reductions in other areas for a net 2 percent reduction overall.

So, how much will the next biennium’s budget be, and will there be a surplus or deficit? Only time will tell. According to the budget timetable, the Office of State Budget and Management begins meeting with agencies this month to share the governor’s draft budget recommendations. Agencies will then have time to provide feedback on the recommendations.

The governor is scheduled to finalize his 2015-17 budget recommendations by the end of February with updated enrollment and revenue figures. He is scheduled to release his budget to the public and the legislature in March 2015.

About those instructions Sarah references and links to in her piece: they’re 60 pages long. Yikes.

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It’s About The Principle Of Separation Of Powers

JLF’s Becki Gray does a nice job of adding context to the discussion of the lawsuit filed by Gov. McCrory and former Govs. Hunt and Martin over legislative boards and commission appointments and accountability. Some forget there are three distinct and separate branches of government and it’s important to keep their roles and responsibilities clearly defined. Some in the media may want to further the narrative that this is about Republicans fighting Republicans. Wrong. 

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