Recent editorials from North Carolina newspapers:
The Asheville Citizen-Times on Opportunity Scholarships:
North Carolina has embarked on education reform with a program that offers low-income parents as much as $4,200 a year for private school tuition.
The three-year-old program, dubbed Opportunity Scholarships, is being dramatically expanded by the General Assembly, with $69 million budgeted for 2016-17. Around 400 schools currently participate in the program, a number certain to grow along with its budget, on track for $145 million by 2027-28.
And as with so many other bills passed by this legislature, it’s also on track for a collision course with federal courts.
It’s already made an appearance before the N.C. Supreme Court, where the court shot down challenges to the measure on the grounds that public dollars shouldn’t be spent on private schools and if it was discriminatory on the basis of religion.
With recent reporting from the Charlotte Observer showing that Opportunity funding is going to at least four schools in Mecklenburg County that refuse admission to LBGT students, it’s almost certain to wind up before federal judges.
The handbook for one school states “Moral misconduct includes, but is not limited to, promiscuity, homosexual behavior, sexual orientation other than heterosexual, transgender identity, or any other violation of the unique roles of male and female.” For another, “The school reserves the right, within its sole discretion, to refuse admission of an applicant or to discontinue enrollment of a current student. This includes, but is not limited to, living in, condoning or supporting any form of sexual immorality (or) practicing or promoting a homosexual lifestyle or alternative gender identity.”
North Carolina’s anti-discrimination law doesn’t include sexual orientation, which means the sort of discrimination in question is legal — under state law. On the federal level there’s a push to add gender identity to Title IX protections.
If recent comments are any indication, the state’s argument isn’t going to hold up well. The sponsor of the state’s voucher legislation, Apex Republican Rep. Paul Stam, said “Parents choose where to send children. And parents are free to choose whatever school they want within the hundreds of possibilities.”
That completely ignores rural areas where, if a parent wants to remove a child from the local public school, the sole or few options available might be engaged in discriminatory practices. It also smacks of the old “separate but equal” argument, which did not fare well in the courts.
Since 2011, legislative leaders have been billed for more than $9 million for legal services defending ill-considered legislation. Look for that total to rise.
Opportunity Scholarships were pushed as giving parents a choice for a better education for their children.
That choice is evidently not an opportunity for all.
In short, some schools are happy to take your tax dollars.
Your child? Well, in North Carolina, that might be quite another matter.
And that’s just plain wrong.
The Winston-Salem Journal on the state GOP and early voting:
The chairman of the state GOP has encouraged Republicans on county elections boards to “make party line changes to early voting” by limiting the number of hours and keeping polling sites closed on Sundays during the November elections, the News & Observer of Raleigh reported last week. This isn’t the kind of cooperation with the courts or encouragement to vote that we’d prefer from any state party leader.
Late last month, the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals firmly rejected the state legislature’s 2013 voter restrictions, including limits to early voting, concluding that they targeted African Americans — who generally vote heavily Democratic — “with almost surgical precision.”
NCGOP Executive Director Dallas Woodhouse’s response to the appeals court’s decision was to urge Republican-led elections boards to limit early voting to 10 days with no voting on Sunday, according to his email obtained by the Raleigh paper through a public-records request.
Without the 2013 legislation, the law reverts to 2012 standards, which allows county boards to impose limits to voting hours. But the intent of the appeals court is clear: Let the people have more opportunities to vote.
As justification for his request, Woodhouse’s email once again alludes to the myth of voter fraud. In a state that not only fails to produce any evidence of widespread voter fraud, but also has a majority of Republicans in the state legislature, as well as in many other offices, that excuse is running exceedingly thin. For whom were these phantom fraudsters voting?
When questioned about his email, Woodhouse told the N&O: “I’m an unabashed partisan, and we have dozens and dozens of Democracy N.C. and NAACP and other people flooding these meetings asking for partisan considerations. Our members have a duty, I believe, to act within the law to at least consider the Republican point of view. That’s all we ask them to do.”
But those organizations want more voting opportunities. Woodhouse is asking for fewer voting opportunities.
While early voting is used heavily by blacks, it’s not used exclusively by blacks. As Bob Hall of Democracy North Carolina suggested to the N&O, enthusiastic supporters of Donald Trump might be eager to head to the polls on the first days of early voting.
Hall also said that Woodhouse’s request to Republican board members is “terribly irresponsible.”
“Fortunately, many Republican board members have more respect for their oath … to serve all voters than they are beholden to Dallas Woodhouse,” Hall told the N&O.
Several elections boards have voted for plans that include sufficient early-voting periods. Forsyth County, with 15 early voting days and no Sunday voting, is not perfect, but it’s a lot better than many other counties. For example, last Monday, the Mecklenburg County elections board voted to cut the overall number of early voting hours from the 2012 election by 238.
The GOP should insist that its leaders play fair.
The News & Observer of Raleigh on NCSU students who participated in the 2015 bone-marrow registry:
Their hearts pump red in more ways than one, these youngsters from N.C. State University. And so much for all this talk about millennials being self-absorbed and without much concern for anything beyond the reach of their electronic devices.
As evidence to the contrary, consider the students at NCSU who participated in a 2015 bone-marrow registry organized by the university’s Park Scholars program and a nonprofit group, DKMS, which promotes bone-marrow drives among students. Five of the students who participated in the drive had samples that matched people in need and were able to later donate bone marrow or blood save the lives of five people around the world they don’t even know.
Bone-marrow donations are a treatment for people with blood cancers, and 170,000 Americans are diagnosed with such diseases each year. Matching a donor to a recipient is a 400 to 1 shot, but the N.C. State drive produced a remarkable five matches out of 403 registered donors.
Donating isn’t easy. It can take up to eight hours. But NCSU donor Jordan Cousins, a senior, was philosophical about the balance of what he gave: “A little bit of discomfort possibly to save a life, so it wasn’t much of a decision.”
Now there are people going about their daily work and activities and playing with their children and grandchildren who might otherwise have been lost. But now, as the song goes, they are found – thanks to the amazing grace of these N.C. State students.