TWISTING THE TRUTH WON'T MAKE PRIVATE SCHOOL VOUCHER PROGRAM ACCOUNTABLE: The twisted logic and fractured use of facts is worthy of the work of Cold War-era Soviet propaganda operations. Under a chilling headline, “Senate Democrats File Bill to Cut Funding for Opportunity Scholarships,” the release warns that legislation will “siphon money” away from scholarship for poor students to attend private schools. Instead, the money will go to the “largest and wealthiest school districts” in the state. Here is the truth. No one in North Carolina – not a single child -- who qualified for the so-called “Opportunity Scholarship” private school vouchers, has been denied a dime. In fact, in the current school year, of the $54.84 million available for the vouchers, $35.56 million has been obligated. More than a third of the money won’t get used to help educate anyone.
NC SHOULD BE WARY OF ARIZONA CHARTER OPERATOR: North Carolina’s charter school program has grown increasingly ripe for financial exploitation since Republican lawmakers lifted the state’s 100-school charter cap. North Carolina now has 184 charter schools with 15 more approved to open this fall. According to the Public School Forum, a group that supports traditional public schools, 20% of North Carolina’s charter schools are operated by for-profit companies, most of them based outside of the state. This week, the N.C. Charter Schools Advisory Board recommended taking that trend even further. It asked for state approval of Wake Preparatory Academy, a K-12 charter school that wants to open in Wake Forest in 2020. The school would be the first in North Carolina for Glenn Way, founder of the American Leadership Academy charter school chain in Arizona. Through ALA and its related companies, Way made about $37 million by building and operating Arizona charter schools, according to The Arizona Republic.
TEACHERS' RALLY WILL VOICE CONCERNS LEGISLATORS NEED TO HEED: Don’t let the partisan political fog machines cloud things like April’s pollen. North Carolina’s public school teachers aren’t coming to Raleigh for a holiday. They are not “far left” crazies. They don’t care who properly funds our public school system just so someone does. They are coming because the current legislative majority enacted a series of devastating cuts to our public schools in 2011 and 2013. Our education system has yet to recover. Educators want the legislature to follow the North Carolina Constitution’s mandate to provide a “sound basic education” along with the funding to meet court rulings so every student has “equal opportunities” no matter where they live. North Carolina courts continue to say the General Assembly has failed to live up to its constitutional duty. Teachers are coming to Raleigh to get the General Assembly to do its job.
APPLY COAL ASH STANDARDS TO WATER IN CAPE FEAR RIVER BASIN: “We did a thorough analysis of the six sites and it wasn’t a decision that was made by other reasons than the science,” the secretary of the Department of Environmental Quality said in an interview with The Associated Press. “We’re making these decisions so that they are most protective of public health and the environment.” If that’s the way DEQ is doing business henceforth, then we can reasonably expect that some of the same standards will be applied to the water in the Cape Fear River Basin, which suffers from pollution from many sources, some known and others unknown. Science tells us that the river carries some dangerous ingredients. We’re all familiar by now with the threats posed to human health by the GenX and related chemicals in the river. All those per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances — known collectively as PFAS — have caused considerable alarm and sparked expensive action in communities downstream from the Chemours Fayetteville Works, which is adjacent to the river, near the Cumberland-Bladen county line.
TRUMP AND THE ANNIHILATION OF SHAME: In days bygone, the prescribed method for avoiding shame was behaving well. Or, if it couldn’t be avoided, feeling deep remorse and performing some sort of penance. By contrast, the Trumpian method for avoiding shame is not giving a damn. Spurious bone-spur draft deferment? Shrug. Fraudulent business and charitable practices? Snigger. Outrageous personal invective? Sneer. Inhumane treatment of children at the border? Snarl. Hush-money payoffs to porn-star and centerfold mistresses? Stud! The annihilation of shame requires two things. First, nerve: Whatever else might be said about Trump, it takes immense brass to lie as frequently and flagrantly as he does without apparently triggering any kind of internal emotional crisis. Ordinary mortals tend to blush when caught out in some kind of mischief. Trump smirks. But it also takes public acquiescence. It was once the useful role of conservatives to resist these sorts of trends — to stand athwart declining moral standards, yelling Stop. They lost whatever right they had to play that role when they got behind Trump, not only acquiescing in the culture of shamelessness but also savoring its fruits. Among them: Never being beholden to what they said or wrote yesterday. Never holding themselves to the standards they demand of others. Never having to say they are sorry.
LETTERS TO THE EDITOR
MARIAN LEWIN: WE NEED TO FUND BETTER ELECTION SECURITY: While much attention has been focused on absentee ballot fraud in the 9th Congressional District, little attention has been paid to improving the accuracy of our state’s voter rolls to curtail other types of election irregularities. These election security problems cannot be addressed with Voter ID. The Electronic Records Information Center (ERIC) is a nonprofit, state-controlled membership organization that would allow North Carolina to identify inaccuracies and improve integrity of our voting systems while improving security. In Virginia, South Carolina and West Virginia, ERIC identified more moved, deceased and duplicate voter records than those states achieved alone using their own records. The League of Women Voters urges the N.C. General Assembly to provide funds to allow North Carolina to join ERIC, as well as to provide necessary technology upgrades and election processes. By making these investments, the General Assembly can truly be the impetus for improving the accuracy and security of our voting systems and regain voters’ trust in our elections.
BEN BAGBY: PARSING THE LOADED LANGUAGE OF THE GUN DEBATE: Staunch supporters of the Second Amendment often refer to the founders’ original intent when invoking their right to buy the guns they want. “The right of the people to bear arms will not be infringed” seems to be the key sentence in that belief. So the NRA is “up in arms” about the recent federal ban on bump stocks as well as the effort to ban the AR 15 rifle. They claim that these bans violate their Second Amendment rights. If the dictionary definition of arms is used they have a point: “weapons and ammunition; armaments.” Using that argument why shouldn’t anyone be able to buy any “arm” as part of that constitutional right? The reason lies in what Antonin Scalia wrote in the court opinion in the “Heller” case: “Like most rights, the right secured by the Second Amendment is NOT UNLIMITED. From Blackstone through the 19th-century cases, commentators and courts routinely explained that the right was not a right to keep and carry ANY weapon whatsoever in ANY manner whatsoever and for whatever purpose.” That argument alone justifies laws banning weapons such as bump stocks, bazookas and grenade launchers. The same argument should be used in the effort to ban the AR-15. In the effort to stem the tide of mass shootings, that would be a sensible approach to honor the Second Amendment while allowing Americans to continue to own guns for protection, hunting and sport shooting.
EMBER PENNEY: CLEAN UP THE HAW RIVER: I live right on the Haw River in Pittsboro. Unfortunately, it is one of the most endangered rivers in the country. The No. 1 pollutant in the river is sediment that comes from a multitude of sources, including developments and clear-cutting. It runs off and combines with fertilizers and sewage to form a polluted runoff. The phosphorus and nitrogen that come into the water create algal blooms, and this algae takes all the dissolved oxygen out of the water, killing the fish. The Haw River runs through six counties: Alamance, Forsyth, Rockingham, Guilford, Orange and Chatham. If you live in any of these, chances are your drinking water is affected by the Haw. I encourage all to ask your state senators to reinstate the Jordan Lake Rules. It’s our water, let’s make sure it’s clean and liveable.