NCGA

Taxpayer-funded mediocrity: Virtual charters get thumbs-up

Despite their questionable performance in other states:

Both schools received unanimous endorsements from an interviewing committee that included representatives from the State Board of Education, its charter school advisory board, state education staff, and an outside evaluator. Some on the panel had to think hard about approving K12, and the company was asked to respond to questions about its performance in other states.

Tennessee’s education commissioner last year threatened to close Tennessee Virtual Academy, managed by K12, unless student performance showed significant improvement. Students in the Tennessee online charter had minimal learning growth. The board of trustees for the K12 school in Pennsylvania decided not to renew its management contract with the company, though it will continue to use its curriculum.

Where are the all-of-a-sudden-interested-in-education legislators who vehemently attacked the Common Core? Where's Lieutenant Dan? Taxpayer dollars going to fund an out-of-state education program, and a poor-performing one at that? Crickets. Proving it's not about the outcomes, it's about the method of delivery. And when that method generates private-sector profits for somebody, all other sins are forgiven

Coal Ash Wednesday: "It's out of our hands."

Duke energy will no longer be responsible for ash dumped in Lee and Chatham Counties:

In most cases, the landowner would be legally liable for such damages. But the owner of the abandoned brick mine is not Duke Energy; it's Green Meadow LLC, a new corporation led by the president of Charah Inc., a Kentucky ash disposal company contracting with Duke on the coal ash project.

Once Charah takes possession of the ash, Duke may not be responsible for the waste, legal experts say, a contingency that may be part of Duke's private contract with Charah. And if Green Meadow or Charah does not have the money to pay damages emanating from a lawsuit, then county governments and the state—not Duke Energy—may be ultimately forced to pay, legal experts say.

This won't be the first time Duke Energy has absolved itself of the responsibility for it's toxic coal ash, but it should be the last. Even the "business-friendly" GOP-led Legislature should recognize that dumping the cost onto taxpayers is wrong. Then again, they haven't shown much compassion for the 99% since they've been at the wheel, so I don't hold out much hope they'll take steps to stop this shifting of responsibility.

Tuesday Twitter roundup

Bringing less than nothing to the table:

Definitely following in Richard Burr's footsteps. Self-styled "defender of veterans" or some other flag-waving label, Tillis will cut their benefits and chicken-hawk them into as many global conflicts as he can, and then take a shower in campaign cash to make him feel better.

Will the "police body camera" bill ever make it to the NCGA floor?

The Magic 8-Ball sez, "Don't hold your breath."

Members of the Legislative Black Caucus said Wednesday that they expect a bill to be filed when the General Assembly reconvenes in January that would require some, if not all, law enforcement officers in North Carolina to wear body cameras on duty.

The Legislative Black Caucus also plans to file anti-profiling legislation next year, said Rep. Rodney Moore, D-Mecklenburg.

Two major challenges to getting such legislation enacted: 1) Many GOP Legislators refuse to believe racial profiling even occurs, and 2) Most of those who would acknowledge it's happening believe it's not just okay, it's good police work. As such, the anti-profiling bill is dead on arrival, destined to collect dust in one committee or another, and the police body camera bill will probably do likewise, until some Republican writes a different one that merely "studies" the practice, possibly choosing as a test case some Mayberry-ish town with a one-bullet deputy sporting a camera. Prove me wrong, please.

Coal Ash Wednesday: Duke Energy's stubborn refusal to admit wrongdoing in Dan River spill

The term "negligence" never seems to come up in these discussions:

But Lesley Stahl of CBS, who anchored the hard-hitting segment, noted that Duke had been warned after repeated independent inspections in the past to keep a close watch on the stormwater pipe that ended up collapsing and rupturing under a pond, dumping an unimaginable 39,000 tons of the black filth into the Dan River.

Lynn Good, the current chief executive of Duke Energy, who was on the job only seven months at the time of the spill, put the best face she could on the situation. “It was an accident,” Good said. “It didn’t work the way it should have worked. It didn’t meet our standards or expectations.”

No, after several warnings spread over an equal number of years, it no longer meets the criteria of an "accident." It was an incident, and an avoidable one at that. And your continued efforts to shy away from taking complete responsibility seriously calls into question Duke Energy's ability to be a trustworthy partner in the effort to make the remaining coal ash impoundments safe and secure. If the General Assembly and the Coal Ash Commission don't understand that, the "negligence" will leak over to them, too.

GOP higher ed reform: Pay more for tuition

Keeping these ideologues in office is very costly:

The basic cost to attend UNCG probably will go up by $261 — about 4 percent — next year. UNCG trustees will vote on a two-year package of tuition and fee hikes this morning. The proposal then goes to the UNC Board of Governors, which will set costs for the next two academic years at its February meeting.

UNCG wants to raise required student fees by $64 next year — about 2.5 percent — and $90 the year after. Next year’s fees will go largely to a new green fund to support campus environmental programs, improve the campus wireless network and offer more on-campus activities for students. In 2016-17, the entire $90 increase will cover expenses related to the opening of a new student recreation center.

And in the process of paying for these nice things, UNCG is pricing out some of their students from the lower end of the economic scale. Meaning, they won't be there to enjoy those things, or continue their education. I'm not blaming UNCG for this; state government funding cuts will naturally shift costs somewhere else. But it's not fair, and it's not sustainable:

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