All posts by Renee Sekel

A Last Word on the Last Day

Well, here we are.  Election Day eve.  To the millions of North Carolinians who have already voted, congratulations and thank you!  If you haven’t already voted, I would like to lead you with a few closing thoughts:

This Democracy thing; it’s hard.  It’s a system of government that demands a lot of its citizens.  We need to research candidates, analyze issues, sift through the rhetoric to find the nuggets of truth, and make decisions, then make sure we are registered to vote and have the time and ability to get to the correct polling place.

And after the election, the work doesn’t stop.  We need to be aware of what is happening in our town halls, our board chambers, our state houses, and in the federal government.   We need to hold those former candidates to the promises they made.  We need to know what our representatives are doing, while also making sure that they know what we want them to do and why it’s important.  And before you know it, there’s another election and it’s time to start all over.

Democracy isn’t easy.  But when it works well, it’s an amazing thing.  Just think:  you, yes you, have the ability to change your world.  You can have an idea on how your town, or your county, or your school or your state should be run, and you can actually make that happen.  You can ask your representatives for help.  And if they don’t, you can run for office yourself, or support candidates that will listen to you.  You can convince other people to support your idea, and suddenly you have a movement.

If you’ve ever thought that you and your voice don’t matter, please believe that they do.   This system of ours doesn’t work perfectly all of the time, and we’ve made some pretty egregious errors in our two and a half centuries as a country.  But every day, and with every election, we have a chance to ameliorate the mistakes of the past and to ensure a better future.

So go out there and vote tomorrow.  Add your voice to the millions who have already voted, and make a difference.  I’ll see you at the polls.

Unsafe

A child died today in North Carolina, shot at his own school.

As of right now, I do not know the circumstances surrounding the shooting, and it would be irresponsible for me to speculate.  But I can say, with certainty, that it is a tragedy that a child — any child — had access to a gun with which to shoot another child.  And that the roughly 2,000 children at that school have now, unwillingly, been inducted into a club that already had almost 200,000 members — kids who have also survived shootings at school in recent years.  Will they ever feel safe again?

Will any of us?  I know that in the years since the horrifying shooting in Newtown, Ct., it has become almost a reflex for me to survey my children’s classrooms at Meet the Teacher, noting the places they could hide or escape if necessary.  I breathed a small sigh of relief this year when my 4th grader moved back into the building after spending 3rd grade in a trailer; I’m almost certain that those thin metal structures aren’t capable of stopping bullets.

Our schools are doing the best that they can to keep our children safe, but as usual the needs are great and the resources scarce.  Statewide, we have $8 billion in unmet school construction needs (those trailers aren’t going away anytime soon).  We know that adequate numbers of school counselors, psychologists and social workers can help, but so far we haven’t funded those professionals at sufficient ratios.  And it appears that we as a society can’t even have a real discussion about the thing that could help the most — making guns much harder to access.

Our schools need our help.  There is no real possibility that they can keep every kid safe all of the time, but there is more that can be done.  As you go to vote, think about what your candidates are saying about school safety and what they’re willing to do to support our schools.

Voting For Education

Early voting is in full swing, so I’m taking a break from the Amendments (Nix all Six!) to talk a little bit about how to spot pro-public education candidates, from state level legislators down to school board.

Nobody (well, almost nobody) ever comes out and says “I do not support public education.”  So in general, you need to dig a little deeper.  Here’s what you’re looking for:

  1.  Specificity

Ponder the following statement, found on one candidate’s  website:

[Redacted]’s background as a Clinical Assistant Professor at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill has led her to a great understanding of North Carolina’s education system.

 She is passionate about her work in the Senate for improving early childhood and K-20 public education. 

Not very specific, is it?  The candidate claims she is passionate about improving K-20 (what grade is 20th?) education, but provides absolutely no actual information on what she means by that.  There is a chance she might be a public schools advocate, but she certainly doesn’t think education is an important enough issue to merit any kind of specific policy positions. 

Compare and contrast with this candidate:

As a long time public school advocate and PTA leader, I know that every child deserves a world class education, right here in North Carolina. From pre-K through high school, education should be free to students and well-funded by the state. For our state to compete economically and for all individuals to live fulfilled lives, a quality education is crucial.

Our state government needs to restore the respect of our teachers and administrators, respect that has been damaged under the current leadership in our General Assembly.  We need to increase teacher pay, restore pay scales that reward teachers for advanced degrees and experience and end pay incentives based on test scores.  We also need to support ALL students through increased per pupil spending and investment in their school buildings.  We need to provide students the resources to support their social-emotional learning through increased funding for school counselors, social workers and nurses.

As the mother of magnet school children, I understand the decisions parents make every year when it to comes to deciding where their child goes to school. But I also believe that all publically funded schools should be on a level playing field. For years, the current majority in the General Assembly has allowed our tax dollars to flow to unaccountable charter schools and voucher programs. That’s not right. If a school wants to receive public funding, then they need to be completely transparent and provide the same resources that every North Carolina public school provides – like transportation, lunch programs, and additional resources for students.

This is much more informative.  Note how the candidate not only makes explicit her support for public education, but also lists several concrete policies she would like to enact.

2.  Meaningless or misleading claims

Here’s my number one tip for reading a candidate’s website:  If they make any version of the claim “we’re spending more on education than ever before!,” do not vote for them.  Just don’t.  I’ve written before on why this is such a meaningless claim, and anyone making it hopes you just won’t notice.  The same thing goes with “we gave teachers/principals/workers raises.”  Well, that may be true, but did those raises keep up with inflation?  Were other aspects of teachers’ pay decreased correspondingly, making their “raises” illusory?  Did all teachers get a raise, or only some?  (and that doesn’t even touch the principal pay claim, which is such a big issue that it merits its own blog post at a later date.  For now, suffice to say that our most experienced principals face massive (as in up to 30%) pay cuts under the NCGA’s current pay scheme).

3.  Explicit Support for  public schools

Take a look at this candidate’s website:

The 2015, 2016, 2017 and 2018 state budgets passed during [Redacted]’s tenure all substantially increased teacher pay and overall K-12 education spending in North Carolina.

At long-last, starting teacher pay was increased to $35,000 and average teacher pay to $50,000 thanks to [Redacted]’s commitment to increasing compensation for educators.

The North Carolina House also passed pay raises for principals, assistant principals and other state employees who work in education administration in 2017.

North Carolina has developed a dynamic education system under [Redacted]’s leadership, expanding options for parents through significant charter school enrollment growth, more Opportunity Scholarships for low-income students and pilot-programs like Achievement School Districts to improve low-performing schools.

This candidate supports some schools, all right, but they’re definitely not public schools.  Note his enthusiastic mention of both charter schools and public funding for private schools.  And he throws in a reference to the opposite-of-choice “Achievement School Districts,” an outdated term for a program that seizes high-poverty schools from school districts and turns them over to private managers.  Add in some meaningless/misleading claims, and you’ve got yourself a candidate that deserves to lose.

4.  A clear understanding of their job

A few days ago, I read a quote from a school board candidate that thought the board to which he hoped to be elected should be spending much more money on school safety than it currently is.  I daresay any current member of that board would agree with him.  But school boards cannot raise money; they can only spend what they are given by the various jurisdictions with taxing authority (federal, state and county).  And it wasn’t at all clear that this candidate understood this fact (there is a chance he meant that the school board should cut spending elsewhere to free up funds, but it didn’t sound like that’s what he meant).  You and I could be forgiven for not knowing exactly who is responsible for funding schools, but one would hope a candidate for a seat on any governing body would at least have a basic grasp on its powers.

On that note, a quick primer:  in NC, the state has a Constitutional responsibility to provide a sound, basic education to every child.  That means providing the money to run the public schools.  Traditionally, counties have been responsible for building schools, and many also kick in additional operating funds though they are under no obligation to do so.  School boards have absolutely no taxing authority at all; they must make do with whatever funds the state, county and (to a lesser extent) the federal governments provide.

Armed with this info, get out there and vote!  Bring friends.  Or, better yet, come vote with friends at our “Parents to the Polls” even this coming Sunday, October 28.  Find more info here.

Messing with the Judiciary

Wow, this past week really flew!  And now I’m finally getting around to the post I teased last week, about one of the amendments on the ballot that inspired all living former NC governors and all living former chief justices of the NC Supreme Court to oppose it:  the judicial appointments amendment.

First, a quick refresher on separation of powers.  We all learned in school about the three branches of government: the legislative, who makes the laws, the executive, which enforces the laws, and the judicial, which interprets.  Each branch is meant to act as a check and balance for each of the others so that no one branch becomes too powerful.  Perhaps one of the most vivid examples of Federal separation of powers has been on display in the last two months — judicial nomination.   The President nominates a judge to fill a vacancy, subject to the advice and consent of the legislature.

Imagine, instead, that the legislature had the power both to nominate and to confirm those judges, with no input from the executive branch.  This is what the NCGA is asking us to grant it with the Judicial Nominations Amendment.

The ballot language reads:

Constitutional amendment to change the process for filling judicial vacancies that occur between judicial elections from a process in which the  Governor has sole appointment power to a process in which the people of the State nominate individuals to fill vacancies by way of a commission comprised of appointees made by the judicial, executive, and legislative branches charged with making
recommendations to the legislature as to which nominees are deemed qualified; then the legislature will recommend at least two nominees to the Governor via legislative action
not subject to gubernatorial veto; and the Governor will appoint judges from among these nominees.”

Proponents of the Amendment contend  that we must restructure our Separation of Powers because it’s that it’s unfair for the governor to be allowed to fill judicial vacancies.  They claim that this Amendment will allow “the people” to be involved in the process.  But a close look at the language of the Amendment reveals the sham of this claimed “process.”  In reality, the Amendment simply takes a power currently held by the Governor and transfers it completely to the NCGA for no reason other than the NCGA wants that power for itself.

Let’s take a look:

Under the Amendment’s appointment scheme, the Governor still, nominally, has the power to appoint justices.  However, he or she cannot actually choose any nominee.  Instead, he/she is Constitutionally required to appoint a nominee selected by the NCGA.   In effect, the Governor’s judgement — for which he/she, was elected by the People to use — has been excised from the process.  The NCGA gets sole appointment authority, with a little Gubernatorial window dressing.

The Amendment’s proponents make much of the fact that anyone can nominate a potential judge, but in reality that nomination process is meaningless.   For one thing, “the people” appears to include members of the NCGA or their agents, so in effect the NCGA has the power to nominate potential judges to this new Commission.

And about that Commission — The Amendment makes the Commission sound remarkably fancy and inclusive, with members selected by NCGA, the Chief Justice and the Governor, but that Commission may only make a determination of whether a nominee is “qualified.” That term is, of course, left undefined, presumably so that the NCGA can fill in the blank later.  The point is, this Commission has no discretionary role; it’s acting only as a limited background check for potential judges.

So here’s how this process can go:  A vacancy opens on the Supreme Court.  Phil Berger decides that he’d like one of his wealthy donors to hold that seat, so he submits to the Commission a list of folks that he’d like to reward for their loyalty.  The Commission uses a metric that has been determined by the NCGA to deem those nominees “qualified,” and good ol’ Phil muscles his subjects in the NCGA into approving them (and we’ve seen ample evidence that this group of legislators does not and will not deny anything Berger wants).  The list then goes to Governor Cooper, who literally has no choice but to appoint one of Berger’s buddies to the court.

I feel better about the legitimacy of the Court already, don’t you?

Sarcasm aside, this is the exact process that the NCGA has asked us, the voters, to approve, despite any kind of rational justification for it.  And so we are left with the question, “why?”  Why is it better for the legislature, rather than the governor, to appoint judges?  Why should the legislature get yet more power, in the very same year in which its leadership has openly joked that they didn’t realize the governor had any power left at all?  Simply put, this proposed Amendment has absolutely no benefit for the people of North Carolina, but it does have some big downsides.

For example, there is the very real threat that this Amendment, if passed, will allow the General Assembly to overturn to express will of the people and to stack the NC Supreme Court with its own hand-picked candidates.  Here’s how:

In the normal course, the members of the NC Supreme Court are elected by popular vote.  That Court can have up to 9 members on it (there are currently 7).  The NCGA has the power to expand the court by two seats, and if the Amendment passes, it could use that power in combination with their new appointment power to stack the court with judges of their own choosing.  And while some Republican legislators have claimed that doing so isn’t their intention, they also expressly rejected pleas to change the language of the proposed Amendment to make such a scenario impossible (by making the Legislative appointment power inapplicable to newly-created seats on the bench).

In short, the Legislature is asking us to give it more power, for no good reason, and is also asking us to trust that they won’t abuse that power, while at the same time rejecting any safeguards that would prevent that abuse.  Nothing in the majority’s conduct these past few years justifies our putting any trust in their restraint, so this Amendment must fail.

Separation of Powers? What’s That?

Folks, tonight’s post is just a teaser — we moved last week and I just unearthed my computer today, so I won’t have a real post up until tomorrow.

But for tonight, I want you to ponder what potential Constitutional changes could be so bad that it inspired all of the living former NC governors, from both parties, to come together and speak out in opposition.

Mission Creep, part 3 — Hunting and Fishing

Today, we’re talking about one of the more head-scratching amendments up for a vote in November: the Hunting and Fishing Amendment.  If the amendment is approved, it will add the following language to the Constitution:

“The right of the people to hunt, fish, and harvest wildlife is a valued part of the State’s heritage and shall be forever preserved for the public good. The people have a right, including the right to use traditional methods, to hunt, fish, and harvest wildlife, subject only to laws enacted by the General Assembly and rules adopted pursuant to authority granted by the General Assembly to (i) promote wildlife conservation and management and (ii) preserve the future of hunting and fishing. Public hunting and fishing shall be a preferred means of managing and controlling wildlife. Nothing herein shall be construed to modify any provision of law relating to trespass, property rights, or eminent domain.”

I have no quibble with folks who hunt and fish being able to do so, but the first question this proposed Amendment brings to mind is “why?”  Hunting and fishing are already allowed in North Carolina and I can find no evidence that they are under any sort of threat.  So, why do we need to alter our Constitution to protect a right that (a) already exists and (b) isn’t being threatened?  I can’t seem to find any good answer to that question.  And without any compelling reason to change our Constitution, there doesn’t seem to be any excuse to vote in favor of the Amendment.

I also  want to point out one aspect of the Amendment’s proposed language that concerns me.  Currently, NC’s municipalities have some say in hunting and fishing within their town limits.  So, for example, when the State decided to allow alligator hunting in NC, certain municipalities declined to relax their own rules, so that hunting alligators was still prohibited in those towns (see http://www.jdnews.com/news/20180405/no-nc-towns-have-taken-bait-to-allow-alligator-hunting )

But the language the Amendment would insert into the Constitution says that the rights to hunt and fish should be subject only to laws made by or with authority granted by the NCGA.   If I’m reading that correctly, it means that if the NCGA ever decides that it wants to strip municipalities of their authority to control hunting or fishing within their borders, it will have a Constitutional right to do so.  And there has been ample evidence that this NCGA, in particular, is very willing to exercise its power over municipalities, no matter what the people in those towns may want.

That provision, in my opinion, takes the Hunting and Fishing Amendment from merely useless to openly dangerous. It, like the rest of the Amendments, seems to provide an already-overpowered General Assembly with yet more power.  For that reason, I urge you to vote “No.”

Mission Creep, part 2 — Voter ID

If you read my post last week, you know that there are six Consitutional amendments on the NC ballot in November, and that I believe we should vote all of them down.  Today, I’ll tackle one of the most controversial and sticky ones:  the Voter ID Amendment.

Voters will be asked to approve adding the following language to the NC Constitution:  “Voters offering to vote in person shall present photographic identification before voting. The General Assembly shall enact general laws governing the requirements of such photographic identification, which may include exceptions.”

The proposed Amendment poses many problems:

The Voter ID Amendment is not narrowly tailored to a compelling  state interest.

Voting is a fundamental right guaranteed by the United States Constitution.  When governments pass laws that impose burdens on fundamental rights, those laws must be narrowly tailored — that is, written carefully and specifically — to solve a compelling problem.  It’s kind of a balancing act — big problems may warrant more restrictive laws, but the general goal is that States should find solutions that restrict rights in the narrowest reasonable way that solves the problem.

The Voter ID amendment fails on this point.  There is no compelling government interest on display here: in the 2016 election, there was one single case of in-person voter fraud (the only kind a Voter ID law can prevent) out of almost 5 million votes cast.  There simply isn’t a problem with in-person voter fraud in North Carolina.

Unsurprisingly, proponents of Voter ID argue that a lack of actual voter fraud is irrelevant to this discussion because Voter ID laws make people feel like the voting system is secure.  This is, in a word, poppycock.  The argument treats NC’s citizens like toddlers afraid of the dark, with the NCGA as the parent wielding a bottle of homemade “monster spray.”  Everybody knows that monsters aren’t real, but the spray gives the child a (false) sense of security, so what’s the harm? But of course, there is harm.

The Voter ID Amendment Would Impose a Significant Burden on Voting Rights

According to one recent state study, NC has about 300,000 registered voters who lack an ID issued by the DMV.  Assuming that the NCGA decides that a DMV-issued ID is required to vote (more on this later) Each and every one of those folks would immediately become unable to vote if we pass Voter ID.  That’s 300,000 people whose ability to vote would be gone in the blink of an eye, to “solve” a 1-in-5-million problem.   And that number doesn’t even count the folks who aren’t yet registered and might never bother because they know they don’t have the right ID.  I guarantee you that number isn’t 0.

Voter ID proponents argue that this isn’t a big deal, that most of those 300,000 people can simply mosey on over to the DMV and get themselves an ID (oddly, this argument often goes hand in hand with the declaration that “If people want to vote badly enough, they’ll show it by getting an ID”  To this, I can only point out that fundamental rights need not be earned.)  But anyone who’s been reading the reports of day-long lines at NC DMV offices knows it isn’t that simple, it isn’t cheap, and it isn’t easy.  (and at the risk of being snarky, may I point out that most of the strongest proponents of Voter ID laws already have ID?  It’s awfully easy to decide that a burden isn’t too heavy when you’ll never be the one carrying it).

And, by the by, the burden of obtaining ID isn’t limited to the actual time one spends in line at the DMV (and the travel time, fees and lost wages that doing so can require).  Many, many people, particularly the poor or elderly, don’t even have access to the background documents that would allow them to get a driver’s license or other ID card.  Birth records get lost, people change names, clerks make spelling errors, and all of these things take money and time to cure.  Getting ID is sometimes so difficult and so burdensome that there is actually an entire non-profit set up to help people obtain this precious documentation — I urge you all to check out Spread The Vote to get a taste of how much money and effort can go into obtaining ID.

So, we have an imaginary problem, and the “monster spray” fix proposed by the NCGA comes at the low, low price of disenfranchising 300,000 people unless and until they can spend enough money and time to prove they really want to vote.

The Amendment Wouldn’t Actually Solve Voter Fraud, Even if There Were Any

I mentioned above that in-person voter impersonation is the only kind of voter fraud that Voter ID can fix.  That’s because, if you look closely at its language, you can see that the Voter ID requirement applies only to in-person voting.  Why?  Beats me.  There were exactly as many cases of absentee voter impersonation fraud in 2016 as there were cases of in-person voter impersonation fraud (one of each), but only in-person voting is restricted.  This inconsistency renders the Voter ID amendment, so overly broad in every other respect, too narrow to accomplish its alleged purpose. (Yes, I am aware that you voters must provide some proof of name/address when requesting an absentee ballot, but no photo is required.)

We Already Have Mechanisms In Place to Detect, Deter and Punish Voter Fraud

Proponents of the Voter ID Amendment often make it seem as if Voter ID is the only possible way to make our elections secure, as if until the first Voter ID law passed, American elections were a free-for-all of fraud and abuse with absolutely no way that poor, beleaguered States could stop it.  But of course, this isn’t true.

When you register to vote (or the first time you vote after registering), you provide the State with your name, address, and proof that you are you and that you live where you say you live.  You attest, under penalty of perjury, that you are a U.S. citizen, eligible to vote, and that the information you have provided is true.  And when you show up to vote, you verify your name, address and eligibility to vote.  It’s against the law to commit voter fraud, and as we’ve seen, the State has mechanisms to identify and to prosecute people who break that law.  And it does all of that without preventing hundreds of thousands of citizens from exercising their right to vote.  Without any evidence that this system is broken, the “fix” is unnecessary at best, and harmful at worst.

And while we’re on the subject, proponents of Voter ID often point to the fact that there were of alleged cases of either non-citizens or felons voting in the 2016 election as proof that Voter ID is needed.  But again, there are already laws in place to address those situations and it’s not at all clear how (or if) Voter ID requirements would help.

The Amendment Gives the NCGA a Blank Check

Finally, we come to one of the reasons that this Amendment — not just Voter ID in general — is a bad idea:  we have absolutely no idea what a Voter ID regime would actually look like in NC if the Amendment passes.  The text of the Amendment didn’t come with any implementing legislation, only the promise that the NCGA would write a law to enforce our new Constitutional restriction.  And that’s a problem.

First, as a matter of policy, it’s a bad idea to vote for something when you have no information about what you’re actually voting for.  For example, the text of the Amendment says that the NCGA may include exceptions to Voter ID requirements.  We may hope that this means the NCGA will make allowances for people who lack the basic documents I mentioned earlier, such as birth certificates or proof of citizenship, but we cannot guarantee it.  Is that a risk you’re willing to take?

We also don’t know what kinds of IDs might be accepted for voting purposes, because the Amendment doesn’t say.  We do know that, when crafting their first stab at a Voter ID law, our NCGA asked researchers for data about how Black people in North Carolina voted and excluded the documents most likely to be held by Black people from the list of acceptable IDs.  A disgusted Federal Court struck down that law, noting that it targeted Black voters with almost surgical precision.  Who’s to say that, if given the chance, the NCGA won’t do the exact same thing again, only this time be smart enough to cover up the “smoking guns” that contributed to the previous law’s downfall?

We also know that the General Assembly’s Republicans, fearful that the voters may strip them of their veto-proof majority in the November election, has already scheduled a special session for November, so that its probable lame-duck members can cram through a Voter ID law without input from Democratic legislators (due in party to their illegal Gerrymandering, it is highly likely that the GOP will maintain a majority in the legislature next year, but if they lose the supermajority, they will be forced to craft legislation that can at least survive a gubernatorial veto and they really don’t want that).

In light of the deliberately vague nature of the Amendment, the NCGA’s past history of bad behavior on this topic, and their transparent plan to pass voting restrictions during a lame duck session, one can only assume that the GOP has skulduggery, not election integrity, on its mind when it proposed this Constitutional amendment.  Even if no other portion of this post is persuasive, that fact alone should give every North Carolinian reason to vote “NO.”

 

Education Roundup, 9/14/2018

First off, I hope everyone here in NC is weathering this storm ok, especially our friends at the coast and in the eastern part of the state.  Here in Cary, we have wind and rain, but thankfully, power (for now).

As we get deeper into election season, there are lots of claims going around about education, and funding it specifically. This week, Kris Nordstrom took on one of Phil Berger’s education claims and explains why it’s less than honest: http://www.ncpolicywatch.com/2018/09/10/legislative-leaders-latest-claims-about-nc-education-funding-are-bogus/

One of North Carolina’s own teachers, NaShonda Cooke, was featured in Time Magazine this week, as part of a report on what it means to be a teacher in the United States:

http://www.time.com/longform/teaching-in-america/

In national news, a Federal Court struck down the U.S. Department of Education’s efforts to delay implementation of rules designed to protect students defrauded by for-profit colleges.  https://www.npr.org/2018/09/13/647367937/student-borrowers-and-advocates-win-court-case-against-devos

And this week, Stu Egan wrote about Mark Johnson’s spiffy new  website, which apparently went live at the same time that the state-run DPI websites were taken down because of the hurricane:  https://caffeinatedrage.com/2018/09/14/literally-using-hurricane-florence-to-launch-a-personal-campaign-website-mark-johnsons-www-ncsuperintendent-com/

That’s all for now.  Time to get my kids to settle down in the camp they’ve built in the living room. Stay safe, y’all.

Mission Creep

Sometimes I struggle with the fact that this is an education-focused blog, because our state (and our country) are facing so many issues that seem inextricably intertwined with educational issues, and to focus strictly on education means telling only part of the story.  This is particularly true in the case of the upcoming election, where North Carolinians are being asked to restructure our state constitution in some significant ways.  There are six amendments on the ballot this election, and according to the News & Observer, many of us aren’t even really aware that those amendments exist, much less the very high stakes involved in the changes we’re being asked to make.

So, with your indulgence, for my next several posts, I’ll be writing about each of the amendments and about why I think all six of them should be voted down.  But first, I’d like to take the opportunity today to set out where I’m coming from on the NC Constitution and why I think it shouldn’t be messed with. [Fair warning — of necessity, these next several blog posts will mention the fact that these amendments are being driven by the actions of the current NCGA majority party, which happens to be the Republicans.  I will have to ask you to trust me that if the same actions were being undertaken by Democrats, I’d be just as angry.]

I understand that Constitutions are living documents — their framers, both on a federal on state level, were human beings subject to the same foibles and failings as any other human beings.  So it’s a good thing that we can change these documents when it becomes clear that such change is necessary: to right wrongs, to make explicit human rights that had been merely implied; to deal with circumstances unforeseen by the framers.

That said, Constitutions are (or should be) serious documents, and changes to them should be undertaken with exquisite care.  When we use amendments to affect the fundamental rights of others, or to provide a short-term political boost to one party over another, we demean not only the document, but ourselves as citizens.   And when we seek, as is the case this year, to undertake a radical restructuring of the balance of power on which our entire government rests, then we must do it darned carefully.

Which brings me to my first objection to this set of amendments:  the process by which they were placed on the ballot was rushed, opaque, and marked with dishonesty and political skulduggery.  The laws putting them on the ballot were introduced mere days before they were voted on; no meaningful hearings were held, and members of the minority party — the party that represents millions of North Carolina voters — were excluded completely from the process.  The amendment language itself is, in most cases, both misleading and confusing, and the NCGA held a special session to make sure that the bipartisan board that could have provided clearer captions for each amendment would no longer be allowed to do so.   The unmistakable conclusion is that this General Assembly wants North Carolinans to be confused.  They want us not to know exactly what we’re voting for.  And that is unconscionable.

Tune in tomorrow, when we’ll be talking about separation of powers and how two of the amendments would alter that separation significantly.  But if you can’t wait until then and want more info now, please check out www.nixallsix.com.  There’s a bunch of information there, too.

 

Education Roundup, 9/7/18

Hey all,

The biggest education news in NC this week has been the state’s newest round of test scores and school grades.

Here’s one overview.

Adrian at Tales of an Educated Debutante has been knocking it out of the park all week.  I particularly liked her post on Read to Achieve.  Since I can’t seem to isolate the link to just one post, head over and check out her whole page.  It’s worth it.

We also learned this week that many NC voters aren’t yet well-informed about the six constitutional amendments on the ballot in November.  While all of the amendments, IMO, should be rejected, the tax cap amendment is particularly harmful to education, and to the continued financial well-being of our state.  Here are a few articles explaining why:

http://pulse.ncpolicywatch.org/2018/06/21/artificial-income-tax-cap-would-permanently-hamstring-our-public-schools/

http://www.ncpolicywatch.com/2018/06/28/bad-for-north-carolinas-bottom-line/