Live audio stream of committee meetings can be accessed by clicking the link below:
The above link will direct you to the Legislature’s audio page – which has a few different options.
For today’s 10:00am meeting, select:
Tuesday, November 9th, 2010
By Chris Fitzsimon
If you are wondering how the new Republican majorities in the General Assembly will handle the state’s $3.5 billion shortfall next year, a few statements in the last few days provide some clues.
The leading candidates for House Speaker, Representative Paul Stam and Representative Thom Tillis, appeared this weekend on the WRAL-TV public affairs show On the Record along with NC GOP Chair Tom Fetzer.
The program started with a news story about the potential cuts to services to people with disabilities and included a comment from an official with the ARC of North Carolina, a group that provides services to the disabled and advocates on their behalf. She said that deep cuts on top of the ones made in the last two years would be devastating and pointed out that 7,000 people are currently on the waiting list for help.
A few minutes after the story, host David Crabtree asked Fetzer if it would be a public relations problem for the Republican Party if its legislative leaders followed through on their pledge not to raise any new revenue to address the shortfall and made it up by deeply slashing the state budget and cutting services like the ones featured in the story.
Public relations may have been an odd thing to ask about, but Fetzer’s response was far more troubling. He told Crabtree that “we need people to get in charge and do what’s best for the whole state of North Carolina and if some special interests get trimmed along the way, then so be it.”
The message was clear. People with disabilities are a special interest. Anybody who opposes the Republicans’ efforts to cut 20 percent or more from education and human services must be a special interest too, people with a mental illness, teachers, at-risk kids.
It’s not much different than what the head of the Locke Foundation calls advocates for people who need services or teachers who speak out for smaller classes—he lumps then all together in what he calls the “spending lobby” in Raleigh, people he thinks should be ignored or run over when it comes time to write the budget.
Tillis said shortly after the election last week that the cuts the Republicans plan to make could lead to “legitimate, sad stories about people who may end up suffering,” presumably Fetzer’s “special interests.”
Stam told Crabtree that the university system is likely to suffer severe cuts next year and that may be an understatement. Another staff member of the Locke Foundation, whose right-wing budget proposals are a blueprint for Republicans, told a reporter that some campuses of the UNC system may have to be consolidated or closed.
That was the worst case scenario outlined by outgoing UNC President Erskine Bowles last week at his last meeting with the Board of Governors.
But it’s not a worst case scenario at all to the folks at the Locke Foundation and the Republican leaders with their dogmatic refusal to consider raising new revenue. It’s an opportunity, a chance to dismantle the government they loathe, regardless of the damage and pain it creates. Calling the most vulnerable people in the state a special interest hardly makes it okay to hurt them.
By Chris Fitzsimon
The debate about how to address the state’s anticipated $4 billion budget shortfall has already begun in next year’s General Assembly, two months before the new Republican majorities in the House and Senate are sworn in and elect their leaders.
Republican legislators are repeating their vow to address the massive shortfall with cuts alone and refuse to consider raising any new revenue to protect vital state programs from devastating reductions.
It’s a point reinforced almost daily by the radical right-wing propaganda machine that provided the ideologically-biased polls and anti-government talking points for Republicans throughout the recent campaign.
Slash and burn is the plan, $4 billion worth, from public schools, mental health programs, and health care services for children and the disabled. That’s what coming. You can count on it.
The head of Raleigh’s most well-known right-wing think tank, a place that Republicans routine look to for direction, said Thursday that the new majorities should eliminate both of the state’s national recognized early childhood programs, Smart Start and More at Four because there’s no evidence that they work.
He said the money saved could be used better elsewhere, like to balance the budget. The comments are not surprising. Similar comments have been made in recent months by a long list of Republicans who seem to have very little understanding of what the programs do and how they work.
Ironically, the comments came roughly an hour after a comprehensive study of More at Four from the Frank Porter Graham Child Development Institute at UNC-CH was released at the State Board of Education meeting.
Every legislator should read it. Researchers found that low income children who attended the More at Four pre-k program narrowed the achievement gap with their middle-class counterparts by as much as 40 percent by the third-grade.
That’s exactly what More at Four was designed to do, help at-risk kids catch up in the early grades so they don’t begin school far behind their classmates and become more likely to struggle throughout their school years and eventually drop out.
The report is just the latest confirmation by the Institute that More at Four works. Previous studies have shown that the program provides high-quality classroom learning that leads to high rates of achievement growth, particularly by kids most at risk of failure.
Critics of More at Four, including the right-wing think tanker who dismissed it so cavalierly Thursday, often claim that whatever gains children make from the program fade away as the kids get older.
It’s an odd criticism to make. No one believes that at-risk kids stop being at risk when they leave kindergarten. Many of the factors that caused them to fall behind in the first place are still there. But at least now the kids have a fighting chance and can benefit from additional help to keep them on track.
The claim also ignores compelling evidence from studies that have followed kids from pre-k programs into adulthood and found their lives to be vastly better than at-risk kids who did not have the chance to catch up before kindergarten.
There was plenty of evidence before this latest report was released that pre-k programs like More at Four make an important difference in children’s lives.
The new study that involves a data set of more 200,000 kids ought to remove any doubts, even among members of the new conservative majorities.
All they have to do is open their minds and take an honest look.
BY STEVE FORD – ASSOCIATE EDITOR
As a colleague of mine remarked, Republicans’ motto as they saddle up to take control of North Carolina’s General Assembly could be, “Do less with less.”
We’re about to get an earful of that old conservative anthem celebrating the virtues of limited government and low taxes. And on principle, who’s to disagree? Nobody wants more government than we need, and nobody wants to pay taxes swollen because of bureaucratic inefficiency or bloat.
But that doesn’t mean the philosophical divide between conservatives and liberals (which more or less correlates with the partisan divide between Republicans and Democrats) over the core issue of government’s proper size and mission is a trivial one. It’s all about parsing needs and wants, and then figuring out who should pay how much.
Those in line to pay the most often argue that the state can get by with doing less. Yet when the budget knife starts cutting, who gets hurt? If it’s the young and the vulnerable, the cutters have been too clumsy.
The two sides’ beliefs as to how the public is best served are about to be vigorously tested – perhaps no more so than in the arena of education.
Together, the state’s educational enterprises – public schools, community colleges, universities – swallow the largest share of money routed each year into the General Fund. For example, the budget for July 2009 through June 2010 set aside $7.4 billion for the schools, $1 billion for the community colleges and $2.7 billion for the UNC system. The total budget (this was current operations, not capital): $19 billion.
That budget was prepared under severe duress as state revenues plunged amid the recession. The situation was even worse this year. Helped by federal stimulus funds, legislators and Gov. Beverly Perdue were able to stave off serious cuts in public school expenditures.
For the next budget cycle, however, the immovable object of education costs is about to meet the irresistible force of a monster shortfall that looks to be in the range of $3.5 billion. And then there’s irresistible force No. 2: Republicans’ determination to put the budget in balance, as the state is obligated to do, via spending cuts alone. They’ve as much as said no new taxes except over their dead bodies.
Of course nobody should be eager to raise taxes while jobs are scarce, families are struggling to keep their homes and companies are caught in the recession’s downdraft. But especially when it comes to the state’s investment in our schools, the picture without some kind of revenue infusion can’t help but look grim. So much money will be needed to close the shortfall that it will be hard to avoid whacking into the budget’s largest line item.
The bitter irony is that, as the Public School Forum of North Carolina points out, this has never been a state that shot the moon with its public school outlays.
Now, says the Forum, which has kept a sharp eye on the state’s education scene since the mid-1980s, the budget squeeze could push North Carolina close to the bottom in a ranking of per-pupil expenditures.
How could that happen? The Forum says North Carolina during the last fiscal year ranked 42nd in state and local outlays for school operations – $8,743 per student. The U.S. average was $10,190.
Nobody would suggest that every state toward the top of the list is getting good value in spending more than we do. But what if North Carolina did find itself trailing the pack? That not only would signal real deficiencies in school quality, but also would amount to a failure of our responsibility to the state’s youth. It’s not the sort of thing businesses or families deciding where to locate like to see.
The legislature’s new Republican bosses will be perfectly entitled to look for ways to make state government more cost-effective. They should. And their aversion to taxes should mean a disciplined approach to spending. But just because the Democrats have taken a broader view of the government’s responsibilities, that doesn’t mean they’ve necessarily been undisciplined.
This is the fork in the philosophical road. The belief that investments in public education should be generous – they are, after all, investments with a proven record of success – does not translate into a belief in waste, feather-bedding and inane curriculums.
School systems should be well-enough funded so that every student has a capable teacher in an uncrowded classroom. Right-sizing should not always mean down-sizing and operating on the cheap. And the same applies to other state services such as higher education, mental health, environmental protection and the courts.
Let’s hope that an improving economy takes some of the pressure off the state’s budget-balancers. And if the Republicans can look beyond the self-serving calls for spending and tax cuts echoing from the special interests who propelled their campaigns, perhaps they will be able to reconcile their sincere beliefs in limited government with a budget strategy that can at least come close to meeting the state’s critical needs.
All of the predictions called for the the Republicans to take the Senate. Needless to say, they were were right. But that’s not the end of the story. In a feat not seen in over 100 years, North Carolina Republicans have won an overwhelming majority in both the Senate and the House. Though it seemed like the trend was certainly headed in that direction, the vote count for the Senate and House turned out considerably higher than expected. Although several races were decided by less than 1,000 votes, voters across the state have sent a clear message – and it’s safe to say that there are some serious changes coming.
The unofficial count in the House is 67 Republicans and 52 Democrats. Many incumbent Democrats are listed as having lost. A few surprises include: Doug Yongue, Arthur Williams, Walter Church and Nelson Cole. Many of the incumbents who lost were races too close to call, Holliman, Underhill, Tarelton, Van Braxton, Love, Whilden….. there are three districts with possible recounts and those include Glazier, Parfitt, and Coates, who are leading in the vote count right now, but that could possibly change. All three are Democrats.
The Senate is 31 Republicans and 19 Democrats. The Senate was the first chamber expected to move Republican and the numbers came in higher than expected as well. Some key Democratic members who were too close to call but who lost include: John Snow, Jo Sam Queen, AB Swindell, Margaret Dickson, Tony Foriest, and Steve Goss. Other Seats lost were when incumbents retired and their seats were open for new members.
The key to this election is the House and Senate will draw the new districts based on the 2010 Census and this could have long term implications for the Democrats in North Carolina.
The election results are unofficial and can be seen at the following website: http://www.ncga.state.nc.us/
When the dust settles from the midterm elections, federal lawmakers—the re-elected and losers alike—will head back to Washington for a lame-duck session with a long to-do list that could have broad implications for education policy over the next year.
Congress left town without finishing the U.S. Department of Education’s spending bill for fiscal 2011, which officially began Oct. 1. Right now, all programs in the department are being financed at fiscal 2010 levels through a stopgap measure that expires Dec. 3.
Lawmakers have several options for resolving the looming budget question, including the fate of Obama administration priorities, in a session that could begin as early as mid-November.
Advocates say their game plan may hinge on the outcome of this week’s midterm elections, which were expected to bolster Republican numbers in Congress, and could result in the GOP taking control of one or both houses of Congress, said Reginald M. Felton, the director of federal relations for the Alexandria, Va.-based National School Boards Association.
Over the summer, the Senate Appropriations Committee and a House appropriations subcommittee approved separate versions of an education spending measure for fiscal 2011.
It’s unclear whether Congress will pass the fiscal 2011 education spending bill as a standalone measure, or whether lawmakers will decide to combine it with a number of other appropriations bills in an omnibus spending measure.
And it is not certain that the spending bills will even be completed in the lame-duck session, said Joel Packer, the executive director of the Committee for Education, a lobbying coalition in Washington.
Republicans emboldened by the election results could put pressure on Democrats to hold off on passing bills until January when the GOP could flex new legislative muscle. Congress could also pass a yearlong, stopgap measure, known as a continuing resolution, which would finance most programs at 2010 levels.
Each chamber’s current version of the spending bill would extend for another year the Obama administration’s signature education initiative—the $4.35 billion Race to the Top program—which rewards states for making progress on teacher quality, common academic standards, assessments, and other areas.
The Race to the Top program was initially created under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, which passed last winter and covered just two years.
But while both versions would extend the program, neither would give the administration the $1.35 billion it asked for in its budget request. Released last February, it also sought to open the program up to school districts.
The Senate included $675 million for the program and would allow school districts to be included in the grant competition. The House panel would fund it at $800 million. It is unclear whether the House would also allow districts to participate, since many of the details of that chamber’s bill haven’t been released publicly.
The Senate bill also includes a new $300 million for an Early Learning Challenge Fund to encourage states to improve their early-childhood education programs. Democratic leaders tried to get a much bigger version of that program into a bill to overhaul the student-loan program, but it was stripped out. It is uncertain whether the House bill includes a similar spending item.
It’s also unclear how Congress will cope with a $5.7 billion shortfall in the Pell Grant program, which helps low-income students attend college. The program faces a funding gap in part because more students have been returning to school to boost their skills during the economic downturn. The shortfall could be dealt with through the education bills, if they are passed in the lame-duck session.
Lawmakers may also take up reauthorization of the Child Nutrition Act. The proposed $4.5 billion Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act, sponsored by Sen. Blanche Lincoln, D-Ark., was passed by the Senate in August. The House bill passed out of committee but has not been taken up for a vote by the full chamber. (“Conservative Candidates Take Aim at Federal K-12 Role,” July 14, 2010.)
Some advocates don’t want the Senate measure to pass unchanged because the 10-year bill would offset its proposed spending increases in part by cutting $2.2 billion from food stamps, known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or snap. Both the food-stamp and school meals programs are run by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
The School Nutrition Association, in Oxon Hill, Md., is hoping the House will take up the Senate’s version of the bill.
“Our biggest concern is the longer the [wait], the tighter the financial constraints for Congress and for the program,” said Diane Pratt-Heavner, a spokeswoman for the association.
Congress may also consider a variety of tax-related legislation, including extending the so-called teacher tax deduction, which helps educators purchase supplies for their classrooms, and the Build America Bonds, which was created under the ARRA and which some districts have used to help pay for school facilities.
Lawmakers could also take up the American Opportunity Tax Credit, which helps students cover the cost of college.
But there’s one piece of highly anticipated legislation that Congress almost certainly won’t be taking up in the lame-duck session: the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act.
In March, President Barack Obama called on Congress to reauthorize the law this year, releasing a blueprint for its overhaul, and U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and his staff spent hours reaching out to lawmakers on Capitol Hill to try to get support for the renewal.
Lawmakers in both chambers held hearings on issues including teacher quality, academic standards, and efforts to turn around low-performing schools. But neither the House nor the Senate education committees introduced a bill, and further action isn’t expected until 2011 at the earliest.
The State Board of Education will meet on Wednesday, November 3, 2010 in committees. They will begin with the Globally Competitive Students Committee, 21st Century Professionals Committee, and finish with the Business/Finance and Advocacy Committee. On Thursday, they will meet to vote. Access to the SBE Executive Summaries and related documents are on the SBE website at the following link: http://www.ncpublicschools.org/stateboard/meetings/2010/11
Wednesday, November 3, 2010
Globally Competitive Students Committee (10:00 AM)
Action and Discussion Agenda
Action on First Reading
21st Century Professionals Committee (1:00 PM)
Action and Discussion Agenda
Leadership For Innovation Committee Meeting (1:30 PM)
Action and Discussion Agenda
Business/Finance and Advocacy Committee Meeting (2:10 PM)
Action and Discussion Agenda
Action on First Reading
Update on Contracts
Contracts over $25,000 – 25 contracts
Contracts under $25,000 – 15 contracts
Thursday, November 4, 2010
State Board of Education Meeting, (9:30 AM) Dr. William Harrison, Chairman
Call to Order
Pledge of Allegiance: Mr. Reginald Kenan
Approval of Minutes
Special Recognition-Presidential Awards for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching
Key Initiatives Reports and Discussion
Performance Navigator Update- Mr. Adam Levinson
Globally Competitive Students
State Board of Career and Technical Education
21st Century Professionals
Globally Competitive Students
Business/Finance and Advocacy
Board Meeting and Committee Chair Reports
Action and Discussion Agenda
Gov. Bev Perdue signed Executive Order 65 Monday, establishing the Governor’s Education Transformation Commission which will advise the Governor and provide oversight on the use of the Race to the Top funds and coordinate the use of these funds in order to implement the Career and College: Ready, Set, Go! Initiative across North Carolina.
“Part of my pledge for Ready, Set, Go! is that every student, no matter where he or she lives, will have access to a quality education. The Education Transformation Commission will help to coordinate and streamline efforts toward that goal,” said Perdue.
The Governor appointed Dr. Bill Harrison, chair of the State Board of Education, and the Governor’s Advisor for Education Transformation as the chair of the Commission.