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67,000 Students and Counting

Despite opposition from the Big Education bureaucrats in our state, public charter schools are thriving. Nearly 150 now exist, with more in the pipeline. Sixty-seven thousand students are now being educated in charters. And what is key is that, if these students and their parents believe the school isn’t meeting their needs, they can leave. And if enough students and parents have that view, the school will be forced to close due to lack of demand. If only that were the case with traditional public schools.

So even though there is good news for charters, as the numbers show, there are also real threats. JLF’s Terry Stoops weighs in on whether the threats come from in his weekly newsletter.

First, the Charter School Advisory Board (CSAB) appears to be reluctant to recommend that the N.C. State Board of Education approve charter schools with certain characteristics. Earlier this year, the CSAB approved only 11 of the 71 applications for new charters, a significant drop from a year earlier.

According to some accounts, the motivation for rejecting charter applications had little to do with the quality of the proposals or the competence of those behind them. Rather, the CSAB appeared to reject applicants who planned to contract with charter management companies, which provide instructional, financial, and facilities services to schools that do not have the resources to support these functions on their own.

Second, the courts and public school advocacy groups have slowed the introduction of statewide virtual charter schools. Fortunately, the N.C. General Assembly passed a law this year that requires the State Board of Education to “establish a pilot program to authorize the operation of two virtual charter schools serving students in kindergarten through twelfth grade.”

Two applicants met the deadline, the North Carolina Virtual Academy and the North Carolina Connections Academy. Interestingly, the plain language of the law specifically directs the state to authorize two virtual charters. Barring any shenanigans, both applicants should receive approval from state education officials to begin offering coursework next year.

Third, the issue of charter school transparency has been in the news. Earlier this year, the North Carolina legislature approved language that outlined charter school requirements under the state’s public information law. The law only requires charter schools to provide “personnel records for those employees directly employed by the board of directors of the charter school.”

Yet, in an August 13, 2014 DPI memo, the N.C. Department of Public Instruction, and subsequently media outlets and school districts, requested that charter schools relinquish all financial and personnel records, including all records from management companies contracted by the charter. The latter appears to go a step beyond the requirements of the law as written. Nearly all charter schools complied with the request — with one notable exception. Schools operated under The Roger Bacon Academy have refused to disclose financial information about the management company, prompting the N.C. State Board of Education to place those schools under double secret probation.

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Waiting To Be Offended

Interesting piece by Clark Ross, writing at popecenter.org.

You may recall that students at Smith protested the 2014 graduation invitation to Christine Lagarde, the first female to serve as the Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), seemingly on the premise that the IMF has not done enough for the world’s poor. Kathleen McCartney, the president of Smith College, had to remind us in a piece entitled “Is free speech at risk at our universities?” that free speech is “the foundation of democracy.”

Scripps College refused to permit George Will to speak, even when he was being asked to participate in the Elizabeth Hubert Malott Public Affairs program, whose very mission is to “bring speakers to campus whose political views differ from the majority of students” at the all-women’s college. Thus, in word, but unfortunately not in deed, does Scripps maintain a respect for the intellectual civility practiced in the past.

We now have speech codes that prohibit “offensive speech,” codes that can dampen one’s inclination to speak with a less than “politically correct message.” Codes that restrict any speech that might offend some group puts group satisfaction above the free exchange of ideas.

Have people become less humane?

I think not. Rather, a preoccupation with concern for individual civility has been overshadowed by concern for demographic groups and their identity. I certainly believe that a student body more reflective of the population, whether U.S. or global, has intrinsic merit. Serious academic studies show that diverse groups can, in fact, learn better and solve problems more effectively, although increased diversity alone does not guarantee that.

The problem is that campus leaders sometimes act as though they must make a choice between respect for the individual and respect for a group. They choose the group, as Smith and Scripps did by opposing individuals because they might hurt the feelings of the poor and of women.

There was a time, of course, when the very people who now run colleges and universities denounced group-think and identify politics. Their ideals were shaped by the concept of freedom to speak and behave as they wanted to. Their 180-degree turn is a sad commentary of what occurs when intellectual honesty and respect for debate is cast aside in favor of political correctness.

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“We have 380 to 390 bills sitting on (Senate Majority Leader) Harry Reid’s desk”

So much for the obstructionist U.S. House. From 8th District Rep. Richard Hudson comes the facts about the obstructionist U.S. Senate. 

“I was encouraged by the results election night because I felt like the voters rewarded house Republicans for actually doing work and voters showed their displeasure with senate members who weren’t doing their work,” Hudson said. “We have 380 to 390 bills sitting on (Senate Majority Leader) Harry Reid’s desk and we can’t even get a hearing when there’s a lot of big issues the American people expect us to be addressing. I saw it as a sign that we need to get things done, solve problems, but we also need to change direction.”

Change coming soon.

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What Will Clay Aiken Say To These Folks?

Thanks to Rick Henderson’s research for his Dispatches From the Campaign Trail blog, we know that some Hollywood types who supported Democrat Clay Aiken in his unsuccessful run against Republican Renee Ellmers are upset. Here’s why.

Actor-producer Steven Tyler organized a Los Angeles fundraiser for Aiken’s campaign, and when he found out about the project he sent the singer a letter saying he felt “duped.”

“I am sorry for the loss on your bid for Congress, but apparently you had yourself covered with a reality TV show deal the entire time, just in case you didn’t win,” Tyler wrote. “I cannot speak for the NC Voters or contributors, but I can speak for myself and many of your Los Angeles supporters when I say we feel duped, taken advantage of and lied to.”

Tyler added that “had the LA donors known you would personally benefit from their donations and appearance at the event — they would not have donated to your campaign,” Variety reported.

Uh oh.


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Audit: Lax NCDOT Retread Contracts Cost Taxpayers

Carolina Journal’s Barry Smith delivers $89,000 worth of bad news for taxpayers.

Late last month, State Auditor Beth Wood produced an audit finding that the state Division of Purchase and Contract had lax oversight of retread contracts, letting the contractor raise its prices 30 percent price increase while producing substandard tires that cost taxpayers $89,000. The contract was with White’s Tire Service in Wilson.

The tires provided by White’s did not meet the bid specifications for rubber compounds. In addition, the bid required a minimum tread depth of 24/32 inches. White’s supplied DOT with 65 retreads that had a tread depth of 18/32 inches, 25 percent less than required, according to the audit.

At least there’s this:

In a letter to Wood, Secretary of Administration Bill Daughtridge said the division has restructured completely, replacing 23 of 38 employees, and that training for contract administrators is now in place.

“In summary, the division has corrected the contract administration deficiencies identified in this report,” Daughtridge writes.

Daughtridge added that issues with White’s already have been addressed.


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Monday In Raleigh: Weekly Standard’s Bill Kristol Analyzes Election Results

Join the John Locke Foundation Monday for an analysis of 2014 midterm election results by the Weekly Standard’s Bill Kristol.

Register here.

Renaissance Raleigh North Hills Hotel, 4100 Main at North Hills Street, Raleigh, NC 27609

Price: $40

Join us for a post-election analysis with one of the country’s most influential political analysts and commentators.

Bill Kristol is editor of The Weekly Standard, which, together with Fred Barnes and John Podhoretz, he founded in 1995. Kristol regularly appearances on ABC News “This Week”.

Before starting The Weekly Standard, Kristol led the Project for the Republican Future. Prior to that, Kristol served as chief of staff to Vice President Dan Quayle during the Bush administration and to Secretary of Education William Bennett under President Reagan. Before coming to Washington in 1985, Kristol taught politics at the University of Pennsylvania and Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government.

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They have to be enticed with a “shirtless male model” to vote?

So much for maturity at NC State. 

Attention, students of North Carolina State University: The #CosmoVotes party bus is coming for you.

On Election Day, a bus decked out with snacks, swag, and models (hi, this is Cosmo) will roll up to North Carolina State University, the winner of Cosmopolitan.com’s first-ever party bus contest. The bus will shuttle students back and forth to a nearby polling location so students can vote.

More from the Cosmo contest website:

A party bus that will shuttle students to the polls, stocked with snacks, prizes, shirtless male models, and more. Because voting is important, but that doesn’t mean it has to be boring.

And get out the vote efforts don’t have to pander to the lowest common denominator either.

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Nonsensical Environmentalists: Fido Bad For The Planet

If you’ve ever had a dog you know how much pure emotion they produce in you every time they look into your eyes or get caught snuggled up on the bed when they’re supposed to be on the floor. Well, the Leftist environmental movement has decided that dogs — and the poop they produce — are bad for the environment. Environmentalist Judith Lewis Wernit writes for the LA Times:

And the environmental problems actually start long before a dog even produces a waste stream.

My 55-pound pit bull, for instance, consumes about 500 pounds of meat a year, half of it lamb. The production of one pound of lamb, says the Environmental Working Group, releases 85 pounds of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere , so just feeding my dog loads our warming planet with more than 21 tons of heat-trapping gases. Brenda and Robert Vales, in their controversial 2009 book “Time to Eat the Dog?” claim a dog’s ecological footprint is twice that of the average SUV.

As a conservative, I endorse making reasonable, wise decisions to ensure we don’t waste natural resources or pollute the air and water. But the important word here is “reasonable.” Saying that dogs are a problem to be addressed is nonsensical. My Tony and Johnny are family members, not problems to be addressed so that ultra-Leftists can feel good about themselves.

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“just very far from reality”

Fact of fiction? The Left’s narrative about education funding includes the notion that paring back the budget for the behemoth Department of Public Instruction damages the classroom. Not so, says Dr. Terry Stoops, the John Locke Foundation’s director of research and education studies. Stoops refuted the Left’s often-used attack on legislative fiscal reformers in this recent Carolina Journal Radio interview.


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What To Look For Tuesday Night

JLF’s Becki Gray weighs in today on the midterm election, what’s at stake in terms of legislative action and policy decisions, and what the results could signal.

I believe if Republicans lose no more than eight seats in the House and four in the Senate, they can consider it a green light from voters to continue their momentum.

If Republicans lose their veto-proof majority in either chamber, McCrory will gain negotiating power with the General Assembly. The governor has largely gotten much of what he wants, but there have been some differences.

Without a veto-proof majority, McCrory will become an even bigger player when there’s an impasse. His policies, priorities, and approach to reforms will gain importance.

This referendum on General Assembly policies also will have a huge influence on the selection of the next speaker of the House. Will the caucus choose a leader to continue an aggressive reform agenda, one committed to maintaining the momentum, or someone who wants to let the dust settle a bit?

The direction of the General Assembly depends not only on numbers but also on the ideology of its members. Depending on the election’s outcome, the body could become more conservative, especially if the Republicans pick up new seats. It is less likely it will become more liberal. If the Democratic caucus becomes more conservative, it increases the likelihood of bipartisanship and could pull the body more to the middle.

Tuesday night will be consequential in many ways, most importantly, in which direction the state will head.

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