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Archive for January, 2013

Freshman Lawmaker Proposes Letting School Districts Go All-Charter

Carolina Journal’s Barry Smith reports on a proposal that seeks to unleash innovation in K-12 education.

While the Republican leadership is talking education reform — including offering more choices for parents and students — a freshman GOP representative is putting forth a new twist on charter schools.

Rep. Donny Lambeth, R-Forsyth, would like to give entire school districts the option of converting to charter school districts.

Lambeth, who was chairman of the Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Board of Education for 18 years, said that school officials often discussed charter schools and their flexibility.

“It often came up that charter schools have an advantage because they don’t have to follow the same rules and regulations that we follow,” Lambeth said.

He said in his discussion with other educators, the concept evolved that traditional public schools and charter schools should cooperate more.

“Charter schools make public schools better,” Lambeth said. “Competition makes everybody better.”

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Absolute Debacle

From the audit of the state’s Medicaid program, released today by Auditor Beth Wood. Below is the summary. It can be summed up in two words: absolute debacle.

 

This performance audit was requested by the General Assembly. The audit found that administrative spending for the state’s Medicaid program is significantly higher than the average of nine states with similarly sized programs. While those states on average have administrative costs of about 4.5% of the total program cost, North Carolina spends 6.3% on administrative functions. The audit also found that Medicaid uses flawed or incomplete budget forecasting methods. The Division of Medical Assistance, which oversees the Medicaid program, failed to produce budget projections for two spending categories that together had a budget shortfall of $190 million. DMA was potentially non-compliant with directives from the General Assembly. In one case, the Division withheld 131 million dollars in reimbursements owed to the federal government to cover its expenses at the end of the fiscal year, even though the General Assembly had specifically passed a law prohibiting this kind of withholding. In another case, the Division refused to eliminate automatic increases to nursing homes as the General Assembly had required in its budget. That decision cost the state almost $13 million in unplanned spending. The audit also raises questions about whether the nonprofit agency Community Care of North Carolina (CCNC) is providing the level of savings to Medicaid it has promised. In the most recent fiscal year, the company fell $39 million short of its projected $90 million in savings. That shortfall was not made up for with savings from other areas, even though the General Assembly had specifically directed DMA to find savings elsewhere if CCNC missed its target. The audit found structural flaws with the Medicaid program. While DMA is considered the primary agency administering the program, about two-thirds of Medicaid money is spent by agencies other than DMA, giving it very little ability to ultimately control costs. In addition, people in the state’s Office of State Budget and Management and in the General Assembly report that they have a difficult time receiving useful information from DMA that allows them to see when there is a budget problem and attempt to resolve it before the end of the fiscal year.

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How to know when a reporter has his nose out of joint

Picture 1News & Observer reporter John Frank has written a brief story on the N&O‘s website that could be the poster child for petulant, agenda-pushing, and angry journalism, or, pretty much all mainstream journalism today.

Pushed by the N&O‘s main constituency, angry, agenda-pushing, petulant lefties, Frank carried the fringe academic left’s water regarding gender studies at Gov. Pat McCrory’s press conference this morning. The headline, “McCrory won’t apologize, rejects he demeaned liberal arts,” tells you what’s coming:

Gov. Pat McCrory bristled Thursday when asked about his recent inflammatory comments regarding liberal arts courses in higher education.

Something you should know: whenever a reporter writes that someone “bristled,” usually it means it’s the reporter who is the one upset, not the interviewee.

Second, who says McCrory’s comments were “inflammatory”? Was it the infamous “some people” that journalists often paraphrase? Does getting a bunch of liberals’ panties in a bunch automatically make something inflammatory. YES, it does, at least for the mainstream media.

Conservatives can inflame themselves like Buddhist monks in a Saigon street in 1965 and the media will ignore them. But let a few tenured radicals bleat like gored sheep and the media is on the march.

Read the rest of the story for many more instances of bias fueled by a reporter’s having been dissed by a public official. It would be hilarious were it not so embarrassing.

But there’s more. So intent was the N&O on pushing this agenda fueled by fake outrage, they missed the actual news that came from the press conference. You can read it at the John Locke Foundation’s Locker Room blog.

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House Speaker Tillis Files Bill To Term-Limit Legislative Leaders

He’s talked about it, and now he’s done it. North Carolina House Speaker Thom Tillis (R-Mecklenburg) has filed a bill to term-limit the House Speaker and the President Pro Tempore of the Senate. Looks like two terms will be the limit under House Bill 9. If passed, the constitutional amendment would go before voters in November 2014. Kudos to any elected official willing to put a check on his/her power.

 

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“I’m bankrupt. That’s it”

Government regulators are wreaking havoc on New England fishermen.

Minutes after New England fishery managers took a vote that cast doubt on the historic industry’s future, the prospects most clear to Gloucester fishermen Paul Vitale were his own.

“I’m bankrupt. That’s it,” said the 40-year-old father of three. “I’m all done. The boat’s going up for sale.”

The New England Fishery Management Council on Wednesday approved a year-to-year cut of 77 percent on the Gulf of Maine cod limit and 61 percent for Georges Bank cod.

The cuts come on top of a slew of other reductions, ranging from 10 to 71 percent, on the catch of other bottom-dwelling groundfish species, such as haddock and flounder.

Thank goodness, here in North Carolina, regulatory reform is a priority for the legislature and Gov. McCrory.

For a good roadmap to regulatory reform, state leaders should consult JLF” new book, First in Freedom.

A chapter on regulatory reform urges North Carolina to build upon changes made during the past two years. “They have made good progress, but the journey is incomplete,” said Jon Sanders, JLF Director of Regulatory Studies. “The final phase requires restoring transparency and accountability to the rulemaking process and putting the ultimate authority for major policy matters back in the legislature’s hands.”

 

 

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Estimates Say $20 Billion A Year Wasted On Federal IT Systems

Gov. Pat McCrory has discovered early in his tenure that the state’s IT system is a mess. Turns out the same wasteful, inefficient bureaucratic nonsense is going on at the federal level as well.

The common denominator: million, even billions, of wasted taxpayer money.

 

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Legislators Descend On Raleigh Today, So What Should They Do?

Time to get down to business in the state legislature today.

Gavels in both the House and the Senate are set to fall at noon as the General Assembly begins its 2013 session in earnest.

Gone is the ceremonial first day, when lawmakers trekked to the state capital three weeks early to elect their leadership and take care of perfunctory ceremonial duties.

Now, the real work begins, with legislators prepared to tackle a $20 billion general fund budget, reform the tax code, and push through new election laws that are almost certain to include a photo identification requirement to cast a ballot. 

Also expect efforts to reform the state’s educational system in a way that focuses on technical education and more options for parents and local schools. Mix in further regulatory reform and you’ll have a good preview of what to expect out of Raleigh by the time lawmakers adjourn, likely around the middle of the year.

“We’re going to continue to focus on I believe policies that are going to help us grow the economy and hopefully continue a positive path toward economic recovery in the state,” second-term House Speaker Thom Tillis, R-Mecklenburg, said at a Tuesday press conference.

 

The John Locke Foundation has published an excellent roadmap for defenders of liberty and reform-minded legislators to follow, in a new book called First in Freedom.

The key element of JLF’s tax proposal involves abolishing North Carolina’s existing personal and corporate income taxes, sales tax, and estate tax, and replacing them with a single-rate consumed-income tax. It’s dubbed the Unlimited Savings Allowance, or USA, Tax.

Researchers from Suffolk University’s Beacon Hill Institute have studied the likely economic impact. “They estimate that taking this approach to tax reform would increase North Carolina’s gross domestic product by over $11.76 billion in the first year and by almost $13 billion after four years with an immediate first-year increase in employment of 80,500 jobs and an employment increase of 89,000 jobs by 2017,” said Dr. Roy Cordato, JLF Vice President for Research and Resident Scholar.

 

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Wake Teacher Who Followed Catholic Teaching Resigns

Wake County school teacher Patricia Corbino has resigned from her teaching job following her suspension for asking her students not to wear Rosary beads as necklaces in her class. She was accused of violating the right to free expression. Those who aren’t Catholic may not realize that wearing the Rosary as a piece of jewelry is against Church teaching. Corbino, a Catholic, knew that.  To my knowledge, she didn’t force anyone to follow the rule, or punish anyone for not following the rule. She simply asked.

According to the News & Observer, the complaining parent is a Protestant. I don’t fault a Protestant for not understanding Catholic teaching, but based on what I know of this story, there is a misunderstanding of Corbino’s intent. In my view, Corbino was actually defending religious belief when she asked the class to abide by her classroom rule. Regardless, Corbino was suspended and has now left her teaching job. I wish her the best, and I truly appreciate that she practiced her religious belief. We talk a lot about the need to be tolerant and respect diversity. So where was the respect and tolerance for Patricia Corbino?

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The Weekly Standard On Obamacare: “Delay, Repeal, Replace”

If you think Obamacare is a done deal, well, perhaps not. From The Weekly Standard:

Indeed, this is a fight conservatives couldn’t walk away from even if they wanted to, because health policy is absolutely central to the struggle over the size and scope of governmental power. If Obamacare remains on the books, the federal government will become the dominant actor in nearly one-fifth of the American economy, tens of millions more Americans will become dependent on taxpayer support for their health care, the quality of American medicine will decline, and the spending commitments in the law will increase the pressure for ever-higher taxes?—?even as they add to the risk of national insolvency.

So the fight must go on. The only question, at this point, is how to proceed.

The piece then lays out a strategy for delay, repeal, and replace — which would put the issue in play for 2016.

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A Classic Case Of Market Forces At Work

I’ve shopped at JC Penney’s since I was a kid, which is why I’ve been wary of the marketing and pricing plan adopted by fairly new CEO, Ron Johnson. Johnson decided to end sales and coupons — yes, I know, sometimes these things are simply marketing tools, not real reductions — in favor of competitive pricing all the time.

How did customers react? Not well, which, frankly, was predictable if you know the Penney’s customer base.

Despite Johnson’s claim that he would not return to the tried-and-true Penney’s approach, he’s been forced to acknowledge market forces and bring back the sales customers are demanding. 

Moral of this business story: market forces prevail.

 

 

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