186,000 SEVENTEEN-YEAR-OLDS CAN CHANGE NC. WILL THEY?: Vote – particularly young people. It is one of the strongest refrains coming from the “March for Our Lives,” the political movement that’s grown out of the tragic Parkland, Fla. high school shootings. Voting makes a difference and prompts change. Not voting leaves it to others. For the hundreds of thousands of young people who’ve taken to the streets to demand change, the challenge is at their feet – quite literally. We’ll be able to see the proof behind the rhetoric. Will they register and will they vote? If the protests are a sign of increased young-voter engagement, it will be a wave that could have a big impact – not just in 2018 but for several years to come. It isn’t hard. Early registration is available at most high schools, state Division of Motor Vehicles branches and many other places. There’s information available on line here. See you at the polling place.
GUNS DON'T MAKE YOUR FAMILY, OR MINE, ANY SAFER: No one, at least no one with any platform or credibility, is trying to take away your hunting rifles. Obama certainly wasn’t. No one is trying to take away the pistol you carry for personal protection. However, while I’m on this point, let me say this: You scare people. I hear over and over again about the “good guy with a gun.” The reality is, the gun you’re carrying does not make the people around you feel safer; it’s quite the opposite, actually. I don’t want your gun in the grocery store, in the bar, at my kids’ schools, anywhere. I don’t want to see your holster if you rear-end my car in traffic and we have to exchange insurance information. Your gun is intimidating. It’s a barrier to friendly human interaction. If you want a gun to protect your home and family from a midnight intruder, I appreciate the impulse. But if you think you’re surrounded by people who intend you harm, and if you think your gun is going to protect you, I would submit that we have a very different view of the people around us and of the physics of a gunfight.
AN ACT OF HEALING AND A PLEA FOR CHANGE: Misuse of drugs, sexual abuse and mental illness often form a trifecta: each element is inseparable from the others, each contributing to a life filled with struggle. But these are not intractable problems. With the right amount of compassion and political will, and with openness to different ways of thinking about them, the United States can make a lot of progress. Cultures can change: tweaking the edges of the legal system, the health care system and the social security system might make the sea-change in national values that we now sense into practical hard-edged improvement in thousands of lives. I weep that more responsive programs were not in place soon enough to save my daughter. We must do better. I think that we can take a policy page out of some many more progressive countries and perhaps decriminalize drug abuse and recognize it as part of a mental disorder that needs medical attention.
CONGRESS HAS TO STEP UP ON REIGNING IN FACEBOOK: The good news is that Congress may have reached the end of its rope when it comes to online privacy scandals. But lawmakers need to stop relying on internet companies to police themselves. And while the Federal Trade Commission has broad authority to crack down on unfair and deceptive privacy practices, the court orders it has obtained against Facebook and other internet companies haven’t stopped the abuses. Internet users should have clear privacy rights under federal law that regulators and the courts can enforce. At a minimum, those should include the right to know what data is being collected about them and to limit its use. In other words, instead of continuing blithely along the path of unfettered data collection and sharing, we need to give internet users more control over the data generated by what they say and do online.
THE TRUTH ABOUT MARTIN LUTHER KING JR MUST BE RECLAIMED: There is a myth some of us cherish, and it goes like this: There used to be racism in this country, a distant and benighted time about which it’s best not to talk and impolite to even recall. Then Martin Luther King organized a boycott, led some marches and gave a speech about a dream. And ever since, equality has reigned. It’s a silly myth because it ignores the reams of evidence and towers of testimony proving that racism continues to stunt, blunt and take the lives of people of color. It’s an offensive myth because it reduces King to an anodyne figure harmless enough to be embraced by conservatives who conveniently forget that while he was here, they stood against everything he stood for. And it’s a dangerous myth because it allows the willfully, woefully gullible to believe we have won the battle for social justice when, in truth, we have yet to seriously engage it.
LETTERS TO THE EDITOR
PATRICIA PILARINOS: WAKE SCHOOLS FALLING BEHIND: Another Wake County budget discussion is underway and it is vital that the Wake County Board of Commissioners increase funding for our schools. The latest report of the NC Public School Forum ranks local counties on their commitment to public schools. Orange County per pupil expenditure is first at $3,731, Durham County is third at $3,147, and Wake County is lagging at 14th, only paying $2,316 per pupil. These figures include the $50M the current board approved in 2014. Disappointingly since this initial increase, a majority of the board has been lackluster about investing in our schools. Durham funds their schools 30 percent more per pupil than Wake. Ranking 14th in the state is not what Wake citizens expect, nor is it the pathway to a world class school system that attracts major corporate headquarters. Wake County commissioners can not rest on past laurels. It is easy to fall behind, but it takes real leadership to aspire to be the best.
DIANE HUBBARD: WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT PRIMARY VOTING: I have been hearing that voters in Randolph County, most frequently Democrats, are being courted by both Republicans and Libertarians to change their political party affiliation to Unaffiliated. The reason for this is so that these Unaffiliateds may vote in either the Republican or Libertarian primary elections for the office of Randolph County sheriff. While a voter’s affiliation is their own choice, I would like to remind Randolph County Democrats that if you change your party affiliation to vote in a different primary you will be locked in to voting on that party’s primary ballot only. You will not be able to cast a vote for your Democratic candidates in the 2018 Sixth District Primary election. There are two candidates in the running for the Sixth District Democratic nomination, Ryan Watts and Gerald Wong. The winner of this Democratic Primary will be running against Republican Rep. Mark Walker in November 2018, which means this is a very important election. We need all our registered Democrats to vote for their preferred Democratic Congressional candidate. I encourage Randolph County Democrats to remain registered Democratic and let the Republicans and Libertarians hash out their own problems.
ANGIE SCIOLI (TEACHER OF THE YEAR) SCHOOLS BARRY PARKER AFTER INSULTING LETTER: Does anyone know Barry Parker from Bear Creek? I've got tests to grade today, but I need to get him a message. Let me take it one sentence at a time:
"Fact is: Teachers in our public school system work 180 days a year . . . Regular businesses require employees to work 254 days yearly."
I did an audit of this year, and I actually will go to my school and work 194 days this year. On the days I work, I rise at 3 a.m. and work until 5 a.m. grading, lesson planning and answering emails. Then I go to work at 6:30 a.m.. I teach actively for five hours of that time and do hall duty and paperwork, contact parents, and leave at about 4:30 p.m. That's a 12-hour day. Every day. I also work at least two hours on weekends. So, 194 X 12 = 2278 hours + 78 weekend hours = 2,356 hours. If you divide that by nine (let's say business employees work 9 hour days if you include those emails after hours), you get 261 days of work. So, I worked 261 days last year. I just did it in 196 days. Now you know why teachers are so exhausted.
"Teachers on the other hand: Fall, Christmas, Spring Breaks, Holidays and Summers Off"
What is Fall Break? Also, I do not get paid in the summer, and my 10 vacation days are scheduled for me. No Disney World during September for me, no sir.
"And then there's their benefits - no major company provides pensions anymore."
Did you know I pay $439 a month to my pension? And I've been paying in for 25 years so far? Not exactly a free benefit.
"With the advancements of technology, in many of the high school classrooms teachers are no more than proctors supervising the students taking online computer courses."
My students do look at curated digital-based exhibits in teams on any given day in my room. The catch is that I have done all the creation of the exhibits and the essential questions and I do all the grading of those responses.
"The lottery has pumped billions into the schools. . . "
Only 30 percent of lottery funds go to the schools. In 2016-17 the lottery produced $98 million for all 115 school districts. That's far from billions. Even if the NC Education lottery gave 100 percent of its revenue to schools, that would only cover about 19 percent of the state's total budget for K-12 public schools (NC Dept. of Public Instruction website). The reason so much state money goes to our schools is that, unlike many northern states, our state Constitution requires that the public schools be administered and funded by the state government. OK, so, back to the test grading (did I mention it's Spring Break?) Thanks!