MARK JOHNSON CONTINUES ACCUSATIONS ABOUT 3RD GRADERS BEING PROMOTED WRONGLY: State Superintendent Mark Johnson charged Wednesday that thousands of third-grade grade students have been improperly promoted to the fourth grade when they aren’t proficient in their reading skills. But local school leaders argued against making policy changes that would force them to hold children back. State Board of Education members asked local superintendents and teachers in attendance Wednesday to describe how they implement the program. They argued they’re following the law while taking advantage of its flexibility to decide whether to promote students. “You have to have both flexibility and accountability,” Wake County Superintendent Cathy Moore told state board members. “If you have one without the other, then you’re losing the impact of the ability to actually make a difference individually with children. So you need to find a way to do both.”
GOVERNOR COOPER ANNOUNCES $56 MILLION IN FEDERAL GRANTS FOR EARLY CHILDHOOD EDUCATION: North Carolina will get up to $56 million from the federal government over the next seven years in new early childhood development grants, Gov. Roy Cooper announced Thursday, saying it's one of the largest infusions the system has seen in recent years. The money will come from grants to the state's Department of Health and Human Services: $40.2 million in Preschool Development Grants from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and up $16 million grant from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. "The science is just overwhelming as to how much of a difference early childhood education makes in whether a child is going to succeed in school and in life," Cooper said in announcing the grant at Bright Beginnings Child Development Center in Cary. "We're working very hard to make sure we provide those investments so that our children can grow up better educated and healthier and more prosperous." The money will also help families as their children transition to kindergarten and expand pre-kindergarten and day care programs for infants and toddlers, Cooper's office said.
TRUMP USES BASNIGHT BRIDGE AS AN EXCUSE TO GUT ENVIRONMENTAL REVIEWS: President Donald Trump announced proposed environmental rules Thursday, citing the Bonner Bridge replacement on the Outer Banks to explain why reviews of construction projects should be shorter. The proposals would change how the 50-year-old National Environmental Policy Act is used to evaluate the impact of major federal projects, including bridges and highways. The Trump administration has used the Bonner Bridge replacement as a reason, since at least 2018, for rewriting federal rules on major projects. Construction projects get bogged down in “regulatory nightmares,” Trump said in a news conference Thursday. Southern Environmental Law Center senior attorney Kym Hunter said the proposed changes would limit public input and “dramatically limit the number of projects to be reviewed.” The proposed rules would also eliminate consideration of cumulative impacts, said Hunter in an interview, which is how to account for multiple sources of water pollution.
ANTI-WAR PROTESTERS MARCH IN RALEIGH: Despite not having a permit to do so, nearly 200 protesters gathered Thursday at the Bicentennial Mall in downtown Raleigh to rally against war with Iran. Those behind the protest said they filled out the paperwork for the permit on Tuesday, but Department of Public Safety said it takes about three days to get approval or a denial. The group said they couldn't wait and had to have the protest Thursday evening. "We have the right to stand for what we believe, and I think it is important to do that, wheather we have the right documentation or not," said Elizabeth Norval, who was at Thursday's protest. The people showed up, some carrying flags and signs opposing war while others made it clear their voices needed to be heard. "I think America is really complicit with what is going on," said protester Candace Sims. "We need to take back control on what's happening with our government, and it is their future we are talking." While the talking continued, police stood at a distance at the corner. When the crowd moved, the officers moved, stopping traffic so the protesters could march.
CONGRESS VOTES TO LIMIT TRUMP'S WAR POWERS ON IRAN: The 224-to-194 vote, which came a day after the administration’s senior national security officials briefed lawmakers about the strike that killed a top Iranian commander, fell largely along party lines, with three Republicans and a Republican-turned-independent endorsing the resolution. Eight Democrats opposed the measure, which instructs Trump “to terminate the use of United States Armed Forces to engage in hostilities in or against Iran or any part of its government or military” unless Congress declares war or there is “an imminent armed attack upon the United States.” The administration, with the help of most Republicans, has argued forcefully against the effort, asserting that Trump, as commander in chief, had undisputed legal justification to kill Qasem Soleimani in Baghdad without Congress’s prior approval. But Democrats and a handful of Republicans were so frustrated by the administration’s resistance to fully involving Congress that the belated effort to engage Capitol Hill largely backfired — fueling momentum for Thursday’s vote. But the critical forum is the Senate, where Democrats are in the minority and will need the help of at least four Republicans to pass a similar war powers resolution. Put forward by Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.), the measure could come up for a vote as early as next week.