NCGA

Berger's Blunder: Read To Achieve has completely failed

But that should come as no surprise to teachers and administrators:

While improving reading outcomes is a worthy goal, it was obvious from the beginning that Read to Achieve lacked the educator’s touch. The initiative attempted to improve reading by increasing the volume of assessments in grades K-3 and ratcheting up the threats of retention, essentially punishing children for not being able to read well enough in early grades. It’s not the approach an effective teacher would take.

DPI warned the General Assembly that the volume of assessments the legislation added to 3rd grade was too high and that the pace and funding of implementation didn’t provide enough professional development for teachers to effectively transition to the new system. The General Assembly had also slashed Pre-K funding 25% from pre-recession levels at the time, and DPI informed legislators that quality early childhood education was one of the most important components of building a foundation for literacy. All of that feedback fell largely on deaf ears.

No big surprise at all. The GOP's operating mantra has been, "My bad policy is greater than even the best policies of other people. And if my policy ends up failing, it can easily be blamed on those other people for not properly supporting it." Just to give you an idea of the consequences of this mandated program, here's an excerpt of the letter sent to parents explaining it:

Tuesday Twitter roundup

Big news on the gerrymandering front:

Filing for Congressional races begins in about five weeks, and Berger sez this session will end this week. Those two things seem to be in conflict...

Food insecurity in Chatham County reaches critical level

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And the food pantries are struggling to keep up:

Chatham County, at the state’s geographical center, is home to 68,778 residents, 7,480 of whom are food insecure, according to data compiled by the Food Bank of Central & Eastern North Carolina.

In Chatham County, roughly one in nine people are struggling with food insecurity, which is slightly less than the statewide average of one in seven. But economic conditions in Chatham and have created an insidious cycle of need in recent years.

If there was ever a strong argument against our Capitalist system, it's this one. There's more than enough food in our state/country to feed everybody; we throw away some 38 million tons of food each year in the United States, and yet 41 million Americans don't get enough to eat. And when government leaders try to make up for their tax cuts by cutting food stamp spending, the absurdity of those numbers gets even worse:

NC GOP's tax cut scam costs state retirees dearly

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And before you say "cognitive dissonance," they know exactly what they're doing:

Just minutes after approving two tax cut bills that will cost the state more than $150 million in the next fiscal year, Senate lawmakers argued the state can't afford to give its retirees a permanent cost-of-living increase.

State retirees haven’t had a substantial cost-of-living adjustment, or COLA, since before the recession, and House Bill 231 wouldn't change that. Instead, it’s a one-time bonus of 0.5 percent this fall and again in 2020. About 216,000 retired workers are in the state's defined retirement system. Their average pension is only about $21,000, so the bonus works out to about $105 each year. The cost of the bonus is about $25.5 million per year.

Both of those numbers are averaged, which means a whole bunch of people make less, and their bonus will also be less. And just so we're clear about the time frame, "before the recession" means 12 years ago. Just looking at inflation alone, what cost $1.00 in 2009 costs $1.20 in 2019. A 20% increase in costs to retirees that Republicans have ignored, while passing multiple tax cuts. They say those tax cuts will (and have) increased revenues, and yet here we are 12 years later with no COLAs for these folks who served our state dutifully. The word "shameful" doesn't cover it.

Petty Tyrants: Tim Moore and the $775,000 per year desk job

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The trick is to hire the people who will hire you:

Reginald “Reggie” Holley, the Republican lobbyist whose nomination was ultimately approved by the House, was asked by Moore to put his name forward and serve on the board, Jackson said — a fact Jackson said he learned from a conversation with Holley.

“How does a lobbyist — someone who depends on leadership for the movement of bills and policy — how do they say no when the Speaker of the House calls them and asks them to serve?” Jackson said. And how does the speaker, who has been rumored for months to be interested in the presidency of the 17-campus UNC system, not recuse himself from choosing the members of the Board of Governors who will ultimately make that decision? Jackson continued.

In a word--Hubris. We're talking about a man who made a joke about taking away powers from the Governor of NC. The term "ethics" is not in his vocabulary, making him the very last person who should be running the UNC System. Unfortunately, these people just don't think along the same lines as the rest of us:

Coal Ash Wednesday: Lead isotope can trace origins of coal ash

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Duke Energy's "naturally occurring" argument just went lame:

Tests show that the tracer can distinguish between the chemical signature of lead that comes from coal ash and lead that comes from other major human or natural sources, including legacy contamination from leaded gasoline and lead paint. "Lead adds to our forensic toolbox and gives us a powerful new method for tracking fly ash contamination in the environment," said Avner Vengosh, professor of geochemistry and water quality at Duke's Nicholas School of the Environment.

The tracer broadens scientists' ability to assess and monitor exposure risks of people who live or work near coal ash ponds and landfills or near sites where coal ash is being spread on soil as fill or reused for other purposes.

As I mentioned above, Duke Energy has played the "naturally occurring" card numerous times when individual toxic elements are discovered, and fossil fuel-friendly lawmakers have parroted those talking points ad nauseum during hearings and debates. I have often been frustrated with government regulators (state and federal) for not upping their scientific game to pierce that ambiguity. But in reality, they are simply not funded well enough to accomplish the R&D work and the regulatory work. Especially since the GOP took over the NC General Assembly and cut DENR's/DEQ's budget by over 40%. That research shortfall was not a coincidence, it was by design. Once again, we are blessed to have Avner and the Nicholas School working toward solutions:

Tuesday Twitter roundup

The deadly cost of conservative ideology:

FWIW, the NC House would have passed it, and there are enough votes in the NC Senate for it to pass, but Phil Berger made this life and death decision to block Medicaid Expansion by himself. You look up the word "Hubris" in the dictionary, and it shows his picture in the margin.

Missing vaccinations: The canary in the rural health care coal mine

This is a systemic failure, not a religious backlash:

Pitt County Schools was forced to suspend a number of students who did not receive vaccines after sending warnings to about 300 as a deadline approached last month, officials said.

State law requires students have standard vaccinations in place 30 days after enrollment unless they have a religious exemption. If students do not have the vaccines, they are suspended until they receive them. The number of suspended students was not available at the meeting. The school system did not respond to subsequent requests to provide the information.

Pitt County is actually in better shape coverage-wise than other regional counties, but when you get outside of Greenville, it doesn't seem that way. The lack of vaccinations signals another troubling issue: A lot of the children are not receiving periodic well-care treatment, and that is unsettling, to say the least:

Duke University hosts town hall on funding of Islamophobic networks

If you're wondering why it's so pervasive, wonder no more:

The Washington-based Council on American-Islamic Relations says in a news release that Dr. Abbas Barzegar is scheduled to speak Saturday at a research-based advocacy town hall hosted by the Duke Graduate & Professional Student Council. The town hall will be held Saturday evening in the Schiciano auditorium of Fitzpatrick building on Duke's campus.

In addition to discussing research on funding of hate groups, Barzegar will highlight CAIR's work on federal-level litigation related to criminal justice and government surveillance.

Just to give you an example of how effective these anti-Muslim propagandists are, CAIR itself has been labeled as a "hate group" by many (even in government) just for defending Islamic citizens who are/were attacked. But the work that Dr. Barzegar and his team have done has exposed something more insidious than just the hateful rhetoric. Much of the funding for these groups has been "laundered" through legitimate mainstream philanthropic funds, which serves to hide the identity of the bigots behind the movement. Since most reading this will not be able to attend the town hall, here are some excerpts from the Report itself:

Pencil-Whipped: Inspector who falsified hog lagoon tests found guilty

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The ethical quagmire in this story stinks worse than the hog lagoons themselves:

After a State Bureau of Investigation probe, Houston pleaded guilty to 28 counts of falsifying records, a Class 2 misdemeanor. Yesterday Superior Court Judge Henry L. Stevens, IV, sentenced Houston to two consecutive sentences of 30 days in jail, which were suspended. Houston is on supervised probation for 12 months, must pay a $500 fine plus court costs, and complete 50 hours of community service.

The judge also prohibited Houston from sampling lagoons or doing bookkeeping in the swine industry other than for his family farm.

First of all...could you not find somebody else for the job who wasn't also a hog farmer? Forget about his side-job for a moment; the dude was regulating his competition. As to that "side-job," he wasn't moonlighting, he was daylighting. Charging people for his work, while also drawing a salary from taxpayers. About that headline ^ above: when I was in the military, we had to document *everything*. Equipment inspections, weapons usage, disciplinary actions, you name it. "Pencil-whipping" is when somebody fails to (or forgets to) do something, but signs off that it was done to cover their ass. Sad story continues:

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