NC EDUCATION "TRANSPARENCY" DASHBOARD MISLEADS, IS FATALLY FLAWED: Johnson uses statewide “average” public school teacher pay (a troublesome number to begin with and we’ll get to that) and then compares it to “median” household income and wages. The figures are then repeated in similarly misleading fashion for every county in the state. So, Johnson wants us to compare 2018-2019 “average” teacher pay of $53,975 with the “median” 2017 household income of $50,320. But, as North Carolina 6th graders are taught, that’s all wrong. The proper comparison would be either between the “average” teacher pay and “average” household income or “median” teacher pay and “median” household income. Here’s the truth. Instead of teacher pay running ahead of household income, it is REALLY running way behind. Johnson’s rosy picture of teacher pay wilts – with a $15,548 deficit (average household income is $70,523).
NC REPUBLICANS SHOW THEIR TRUE COLORS WITH VOUCHER EXPANSION: Senate Bill 609 would allow families that earn more than $70,000 a year to be eligible for the same private school vouchers available now to low-income families. The previous eligibility cap of $63,000 already was above the state’s median household income. Why the expansion? In part it’s because the Opportunity Scholarship Program is having problems giving away all the voucher money it has, and it’s about to get a lot more. The program has $12 million on hand, and last year, Republicans voted to give it an extra $10 million a year through 2026. Republicans say more families would take advantage of the vouchers if the state removed some eligibility obstacles, so SB609 also cuts a cap that limits the number of kindergartners and first-graders eligible. But by offering the scholarships to families making $70,000-plus, Republicans are showing that their aim all along isn’t really helping low-income families, but weakening public schools. Why? Lawmakers know that voucher programs take money from public schools, both directly and indirectly. Now, instead of just attempting to drain struggling schools of low-income families, lawmakers are about to provide middle-class families with a subsidy to attend private schools when perfectly good public schools might be available. That’s money that could and should go to public education.
TRUTH ISN'T PARTISAN. BURR AND TILLIS NEED TO CALL OUT TRUMP'S LIES: It is a milestone worth note, but no point of pride. Last week the Washington Post’s Fact Checker reported President Donald Trump surpassed 10,000 false or misleading claims – about a dozen a day since his inauguration. Concern about all this is not about differences of opinion over policies. It is not about partisan tugs-of-war between Republicans and Democrats. It is about truth – the basic and most critical commodity to a functioning democracy. Policies and billion-dollar decisions are being made based on these false claims and the blind loyalty that too many in Congress. That's particularly true for North Carolina senators Richard Burr and Thom Tillis – who bow to partisan expediency above reason and truth. Burr and Tillis must stand up to Trump’s lies, stand with the Senate and the legislative branch of government. Sacrificing their integrity for momentary expedience is too high a price to pay for the long-term damage of Trump’s dishonesty.
FACT IS, SOME OF US MATTER A LOT LESS THAN OTHER PEOPLE: She screamed all night long and no one came. Jackson was found in her cell cradling her baby six hours and 54 minutes after she first cried out for help. And if you wonder how such a thing could happen, don’t. After all, Jackson is a prisoner, charged with possession of cocaine and drug paraphernalia, trespassing and sleeping on a public street in a nation still using its criminal justice system to treat a public health crisis. She is indigent enough to need a public defender. She lives with schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, according to what her mother told CNN. And, she is black. Maybe you haven’t been paying attention. After all, under the same system of “justice” that allegedly brutalized Jackson, a man who raped a 14-year-old girl was just set free by a judge in upstate New York, while a judge in Georgia showed equal lenience to a man who raped a teenage girl and imprisoned her in a dog cage. And the rape kit backlog — the number of rape evidence kits piling up unopened because nobody has bothered to test them — stands north of 150,000 nationwide. And never forget that billionaire Jeffrey Epstein molested dozens — maybe hundreds — of underage girls and got a 13-month sentence in a private wing of the local jail with 12 hours furlough six days a week.
TRUMP'S TARIFFS ARE A NEW TAX ON AMERICANS: President Trump’s new tariffs on Chinese imports, which took effect at 12:01 a.m. on Friday, are taxes that will be paid by Americans. That is a simple fact, and it remains true no matter how many times Mr. Trump insists the money will come from China. Mr. Trump could make an honest case for this tax increase. He could argue that Americans must endure higher prices because China will suffer too — while China does not bear the direct cost of the tariffs, it is likely to suffer a loss of sales — and the United States needs that leverage as it presses China to change its economic policies. Instead, Mr. Trump continues to repeat the false claim that the money will come from China, even though he has been told repeatedly that this claim has no basis in fact. He is willfully peddling a falsehood for political gain. The cost of a tax is not just the money extracted from the private sector but also the disruption of economic activity. Here, too, the tariffs are proving painful. The second study estimated that tariffs were extracting $3 billion a month from American companies and consumers — and causing an additional $1.4 billion a month in lost economic activity. There are better ways to raise the money. For example, the ill-considered tax cuts for the wealthy that Mr. Trump pushed through Congress in 2017 could be reversed.
LETTERS TO THE EDITOR
CATHERINE ALGUIRE: WE NEED TO HEED THE UN REPORT ON SPECIES: “Former shopping mall near RDU to become office space” (May 7) gets a front-page banner. Yet, hidden back on page 4 is the critically important, “UN report: Humans are accelerating extinction of species,” which notes that over-development and invasive species are causing a “biodiversity crisis.” Time to start connecting the dots. North Carolina’s Piedmont region has a unique and rich natural environmental, hosting northern and southern plants, animals, birds, butterflies and other species. We can continue the developmental practice of clear-cutting a construction site, obliterating native species and putting up one more lifeless new development with ornamental bushes and sprayed/toxic sod lawns. Or, we can help abate the global environmental imbalance through implementing development standards with environmentally renewable buildings and landscapes with native plant species. We can showcase the year-round natural beauty of the Piedmont, and help abate climate change. The UN report is calling for action by all of us – now!
JENIFER ANGYAL: CONTACT YOUR CONGRESSMAN ABOUT CLIMATE CHANGE: Every day we hear about the deep chasms that divide American society. But is it true? In a recent opinion piece in The New York Times, Columbia law professor Tim Wu wrote that “The defining political fact of our time is not polarization. It’s the inability of even large bipartisan majorities to get what they want.” He points out that there is actually widespread agreement on many important issues. One such issue is climate change. A recent study, conducted in December, 2018, by Yale University and George Mason University, reveals that 73 percent of Americans believe that global warming is happening, and 69 percent are worried about it. Nearly half of all Americans believe that they will be personally harmed by climate change. Even if you haven’t read the recent international and U.S. government reports on climate change, you’ve probably noticed for yourself some worrisome trends, from the raging fires in California to the increasing power of hurricanes to the documented increase in the frequency of tornados in the southeast, including North Carolina. So if a majority of Americans are aware of climate change and concerned about it, why is nothing being done? Professor Wu writes that “Entire categories of public policy options are effectively off-limits because of the combined influence of industry groups and donor interests.” It is to be hoped that a concerned American citizenry, working together, can combat these forces and see the implementation of legislation for the common good. So far, the N.C. Congressional delegation has not taken sufficient action on climate change. Please consider contacting your representatives in Congress to express your concern about this pressing issue. Urge them to support HR763, a bill that puts a price on carbon emissions and returns all the fees to American households in the form of a monthly dividend. It is imperative that citizens let their elected representatives know that they are deeply concerned about climate change — and that potential solutions are within reach.
GINA CORNICK: WE DESPERATELY NEED MORE SCHOOL NURSES: On May 8 we celebrate School Nurses Day to recognize nurses and to foster a better understanding of the role. We take our roles as licensed, professional school nurses very seriously. I take on a variety of roles every day and serve multiple schools. For many children, I am the only health professional they may have all year. This becomes even more important as the prevalence of chronic physical, emotional, and mental health problems keep increasing. Teachers must often step in and provide care. Healthier students are better learners. Evidence-based research in fields ranging from neuroscience and child development to epidemiology and public health overwhelmingly supports this argument. We must invest in programs and services that seek to improve the health and well-being outcomes of all children. As our elected officials make funding decisions for next year, I hope their budget reflects the right priorities — ensuring our children have a successful, productive, and healthy future.