The Follies

The Follies

- in Fitzsimon File


McCrory snubbed again by legislative leaders

An interesting moment in the political world in Raleigh came in between this week’s two bouts of winter weather. The Republican leaders of the General Assembly once again ignored the wishes of Governor Pat McCrory.

McCrory has spent the last several weeks appearing at news conferences across the state urging lawmakers to restore the state historic tax credit program that they allowed to expire last year in the name of tax reform. McCrory has pledged to make the credit part of the budget proposal he will submit to the General Assembly in the next few days.

The credit has helped revitalize downtowns and created thousands of jobs and it’s supported by developers and environmentalists alike. McCrory and Susan Klutz, his Secretary of Cultural Resources, have been making the case almost daily that restoration of the credit is crucial to the state’s economic development efforts.

When House leaders released their long-awaited economic development legislation this week, the historic tax credit was not part of the bill, a startling rejection of a key priority of the governor of the same political party as the House leadership.

Maybe just as telling was the lack of attention the snub of McCrory garnered in media, with most stories about the incentive legislation only briefly mentioning that the historic tax was not part of the package.

Apparently, legislative leaders openly rejecting the governor’s ideas is not considered much of a story in Raleigh any more.

Puzzling comments about the winter storm and the budget

Speaking of Governor McCrory, he said this week that the recent winter storms will force him to do “some reassessment” of how the inclement weather will affect the state’s long-term budget, pointing to the loss of sales tax revenue when people are unable to leave their homes.

That’s an odd take on the state’s budget picture. There are winter storms every year, as McCrory’s numerous weather storm news conferences always remind us.

Last year, ice and snow cancelled school days and limited travel and shopping across the state several times.

Surely McCrory is not suggesting the bad weather is a reason to adjust the state’s long term budget outlook. That wouldn’t make any sense.

More likely is that McCrory’s budget is still not ready despite earlier claims from his office that the proposal was going to be released by the end of February.

Key Senate Republican questions voucher program

The same week the N.C. Supreme Court was hearing arguments in a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the school voucher scheme, an important question about the program came from an unlikely source, Senate Education Chair Jerry Tillman.

Tillman told Lindsay Wagner of NC Policy Watch that he doesn’t believe in sending taxpayer dollars to private schools because “they are not regulated and we don’t know what they teach.”

Tillman is right of course. The private and religious schools receiving vouchers are almost entirely unaccountable. They are not even required to run criminal background checks on teachers. He’s also right that we don’t know what they teach because they the schools do not have to follow any curriculum guidelines at all.

We do know what many of the schools teach though, based on the fundamentalist textbooks they use that claim that dinosaurs and humans inhabited the earth at the same time and that most slaves were treated well by their owners.

Too bad Tillman wasn’t more outspoken about his concerns with the voucher program when it was stuffed into the budget in 2013. He needs to use his influence now to at least demand some accountability from the program if for some reason the N.C. Supreme Court allows it to continue.

A preview of the virtual charter problems coming to North Carolina

And if Tillman is worried about what North Carolina students are learning, he ought to share a new report about a California virtual charter school with his colleagues in the General Assembly.

The report from the Washington group In the Public Interest find a series of problems with the California Virtual Academy run by K12, Inc., a for profit company recently approved to open a similar online charter in North Carolina.

The report found the school had a high dropout rate and low student achievement. It also found that some students were only logged in online for less than a minute some days but that was enough to count as daily attendance and guarantee the company its revenue.

Thanks to another secret provision snuck into the budget approved by the General Assembly last session, all that is coming to North Carolina.