State Legislative building, Raleigh, NC.

Questions That Need Answers

Nelda Holder Photo: Tim Barnwell
Nelda Holder Photo: Tim Barnwell
Legislative News by Nelda Holder –

As the so-called “short” session of the NC General Assembly gets underway this month (convening May 16), here are just a few of the questions that seem to need answers.

GenX

The unregulated chemical compound (used in non-stick cooking pans) has been released into the water stream by NC commercial operations since 2009 (specifically the Chemours plant near Wilmington). NC Department of Environmental Quality’s map of rainwater collections now cite GenX in the rainwater near Chemours (near Fayetteville). Indeed, the chemical has also been found contaminating air, honey, fruits, vegetables, and wild game. The state’s Science Advisory Board has yet to issue recommendations on enforceable health standards.

Hurricane relief

Although the state has received some $400 million in federal community development grants (Hurricane Matthew) relief, so far it has passed along only some $40,000 to victims of the hurricane. The storm hit the Carolinas on October 8, 2016. This column is being published in May, 2018.

Judicial redistricting

The wrangling goes on over the proposal to redraw judicial districts across the state. Redistricting and reform proposals are anticipated to see action during this short session, but to what end?

Legislative redistricting

This gnarly ball of yarn is still waiting to be unraveled, with lawsuits and appeals reaching up to the U.S. Supreme Court and back again. A February decision at the U.S. Supreme Court blocked action on part of a decision that had invalidated the state’s legislative maps (based on racial gerrymandering) while legislators appeal the merits of the lower court’s opinion. At the moment, this decision seems to belong to the courts; the legislature’s involvement may be limited to leadership’s appeal of decisions.

Voter ID

In 2017, the U.S. Supreme Court refused to resuscitate a North Carolina law requiring voter ID that had been struck down by a federal appeals court, yet there is talk of another try at this requirement for voting in the state.

Asheville City Council districts

The General Assembly passed legislation in 2017 requiring the City of Asheville to amend its charter to accommodate future selection of city council members by district. The city’s own voter referendum subsequently reflected residents’ displeasure with district selection. The GA will now, ostensibly, draw such districts itself. If you would like to comment on this proposal, you may do so at the NCGA website: www.ncleg.net.

Unable to vouch for this legislative action

The League of Women Voters of North Carolina has just released curriculum examination results of the legislatively established NC Opportunity Scholarship Program (2013), which provides government-funded vouchers for students to attend private schools. The nonprofit LWV-NC found that a high percentage (76.7%) of the schools receiving those vouchers teach “with a literal biblical worldview that affects all areas of the curriculum.”

The price tag for the 15-year voucher program from state government—or more specifically, state taxpayers—is calculated to be $1.3 billion, of which $997.1 million (at the current rate) will be spent on schools with curriculum that, according to the study’s conclusions, does not fulfill the “fundamental purpose of our educational system which is to prepare students for 21st-century colleges and careers.”

As the study further points out, an examination by of other aspects of the voucher program by the Children’s Law Clinic at the Duke School of Law found that “there is no requirement that the participating private schools meet any threshold of academic quality.”

The LWV is recommending that the governor or the University of North Carolina (which administers the voucher program) appoint a commission to review curriculum and determine whether it satisfies academic rigor requirements by NC and other colleges, and to “make recommendations for curriculum requirements for schools receiving tax-payer funding through Opportunity Scholarships.”

The League study focused on the predominantly used Abeka curriculum textbooks published by Pensacola Christian College, and utilized assessment of professional educators in evaluating the books. The assessment of those educators was that the “Science, History, Government and Literature textbooks in the Abeka curriculum did not meet state preparation standards for students. The LWV-NC white paper is titled NC Private Schools Receiving Vouchers: A Study of the Curriculum; it can be read in full at www.LWVNC.org.

 


Nelda Holder is the author of The Thirteenth Juror – Ferguson: A Personal Look at the Grand Jury Transcripts. Read Holder’s blog, www.politicallypurplenc.com

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