Saturday News: Politicizing education


JUDGES RULE IN FAVOR OF LAW SHIFTING POWERS TO MARK JOHNSON: The three judges sided with Superintendent Mark Johnson, ruling the board failed to provide the proof needed to strike down the General Assembly's law last December giving him more control over day-to-day operations. The law in part also let Johnson administer some education funds, oversee charter schools and hire senior-level aides. The law, approved by the GOP-controlled legislature just before Johnson — also a Republican — took office, was the latest pull in a decades-long tug of war over the balance of power between the superintendent and the board, whose voting members are appointed by the governor. Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper also was about to take office when the law was approved.

UNDER THE DOME PODCAST: ARE LAWMAKERS SPENDING TOO MUCH TIME IN RALEIGH? Domecast, The News & Observer’s weekly podcast on government and politics in North Carolina, is ready for the weekend of July 15-16. Despite only being a part-time legislature, lawmakers are still sticking around the General Assembly with special sessions coming up in August and September. Is it time to start calling it a full-time legislature? The panel also discussed a community newspaper’s request for Gov. Roy Cooper to veto a bill that could put the paper out of business; Rev. William J. Barber II challenging a ban that keeps him from the Legislative Building; and what is happening between health care protesters and U.S. Sen. Thom Tillis.

ROWAN COUNTY COMMISSIONERS VIOLATED US CONSTITUTION WITH PRAYERS DURING MEETINGS: The 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a lower court ruling that found the Rowan County Board of Commissioners’ prayer practice to be “unconstitutionally coercive.” The Supreme Court already has ruled that it’s appropriate for local clergy to deliver predominantly Christian prayers and town meetings in New York. The question in the Rowan County case was whether it makes a difference that the prayers were given by the commissioners themselves and whether their invitation for the audience to join them in prayer was coercive. “The principle at stake here may be a profound one, but it is also simple. The Establishment Clause does not permit a seat of government to wrap itself in a single faith,” Judge J. Harvie Wilkinson III wrote in the majority opinion that was joined by nine other judges.

ONE YEAR AFTER COUP ATTEMPT, TURKISH GOVERNMENT STILL PURGING SUSPECTED SYMPATHIZERS: In the aftermath of the coup attempt, Turkey declared a state of emergency that has been in place for a year, which has allowed the government to rule by decrees and dismiss tens of thousands of people. More than 50,000 people have also been arrested for alleged links to U.S.-based cleric Fethullah Gulen, who it blames for orchestrating the failed coup, and other terror groups. Gulen has denied the allegations. The latest decree published Friday evening sacked 7,395 state employees including teachers, academics, military and police officers, bringing the number of dismissed to more than 110,000. The government calls the crackdown necessary to purge state institutions of those linked to Gulen, but critics say the dismissals are arbitrary and paths to recourse severely curtailed.

TONY BLAIR STEPS BACK INTO LIMELIGHT TO ARGUE AGAINST BREXIT: There's a chance Britain won't leave the European Union, former Prime Minister Tony Blair said Saturday, arguing that stopping Brexit is "necessary" to avoid severe economic damage. In an article published by Blair's Institute for Global Change, he wrote that EU leaders might be willing to "reform and meet us half way" to keep the U.K. in the bloc. He said that might include compromise on freedom of movement — a key EU principle that conflicts with Britain's goal of placing limits on immigration. Blair also told Sky News that "every day is bringing us fresh evidence" of Brexit's harm to Britain, with economic growth slowing and the value of the pound down sharply since the June 2016 EU membership referendum. "This is causing us real damage. That's beyond doubt," he said. "I think it's absolutely necessary that it doesn't happen."