Civitas Review

Details Emerging on NC Commerce Dep't Changes

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Dec
13

Per the N&O, NC Commerce Dep't Secretary Sharon Decker has provided a few details of the new administration's plans to shift some functions of the Commerce Dep't to a newly formed "private" non-profit organization.

State Commerce Secretary Sharon Decker confirmed this week that the pending move of the Commerce Department’s business recruiting and marketing functions to a private nonprofit is expected to affect 61 state workers, and could cost the state as much as $1.8 million in severance payments.

……

Although five divisions are expected to be moved to the nonprofit starting in early 2014, the number of affected employees represents a small percentage of the roughly 2,000 Commerce employees in state government. The  divisions are: Business Development; Marketing; Small Business and Entrepreneurship; International Trade and Investment; Travel & Tourism (not including Welcome Center operations), Film and Sports Development. Business Development and Marketing would be the first areas to move to the private side.

I place the word "private" in quotes because this new organization would not truly be a private organization. It would still be funded by taxpayer dollars and run by political appointees. A truly private business recruiting organization would be funded through private, voluntary contributions and be devoid of direct political influence.

NCAE seeks to limit educational opportunity

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Dec
12

Scales

“Schools without standards, without accountability, are not worthy of a $4,200 check." Those are the words of North Carolina Association of Educators (NCAE) president Rodney Ellis. Yesterday Ellis, NCAE, and representatives from 24 other groups filed suit calling the state’s new voucher program unconstitutional and asking that the court stop payment of potentially up to $10 million in voucher payments.

While I'm not surprised by the lawsuit, the legal argument and Ellis' comments are surprising. The lawsuit contends that the state constitution requires public money that is earmarked for education to be spent “exclusively” on public schools. What "exclusively" means needs to be legally defined and that is an issue the courts will settle. Still, the money for the voucher bill was part of the State budget bill. It's hard to conceive if and when any of the $20.6 billion appropriation bill was specifically earmarked for education.

North Carolina has been providing funds to students to attend private schools for years. Millions in voucher payments have been provided to students who attend private pre-K programs, first under More at Four and more recently under NC Pre-K. North Carolina also provides millions in tuition assistance for students to attend private colleges. It's hard to ignore  NCAE's selective indignation. NCAE hasn't said a peep about these programs which have been operating for years and with budgets many times the size of the Opportunity Scholarship program.

Rodney Ellis says private schools are "schools without standards and schools without accountability." It's an assertion that lacks evidence.  Shall we state the obvious: every private school has standards.  Show me one that doesn't. As far as accountability, voucher schools are required to meet numerous accountability requirements. Each school is required to furnish a scholarship student's parent with an explanation of  student progress.  Voucher schools must administer a nationally standardized test to scholarship students  enrolled in grades three or higher. Schools that enroll more than 25 scholarship grant students must report test performance results in the aggregate to state officials.  Finally, schools that receive more than $300,000 in  scholarship grants are required to contract with a CPA firm to perform a financial review.

Do voucher schools lack accountability?  If private schools don’t perform; parents are dissatisfied and students leave. When parents; leave students leave and the all important tuition revenue leaves with the departing student.

Ellis implies that private schools lack public school accountability. If a public school underperforms,  a team of turnaround experts descends on the school with additional resources and expectations of improving performance. This may take years. In the meantime the school stays open. If a private school doesn't perform, parents will be dissatisfied, students leave along with the revenue they bring to help run the school. When this happens on a large scale, the school is shut down. Since tuition is such a high percentage of operating revenue for private schools, private schools must be especially sensitive to the needs of the people they serve; parents and students. Accountability?  You tell me which type of school has better accountability?

Calling All Twentysomethings

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Dec
11

As a conservative “twentysomething,” I took great pride in helping NC go red in the last presidential election. The President’s approval rating is not only dropping overall, but he is also losing steam with the 18-24 age group. But, if support for a liberal president is sliding among young people,  it’s not because they are fleeing to conservatism.

According to a recent Harvard University poll, there are signs young people's enthusiasm for  liberalism may be cooling. For instance, support for the Democratic Party has been steadily dropping among 18-24-year-olds since 2009, with a 5 percent point drop in the last seven months alone.  Only 31 percent of college-aged young people now identify as Democrats, and 25 percent now identify as Republicans. College students’ approval of the job Obama is doing is also down significantly from 51 percent earlier this year to 39 percent. Across the entire 18-29 age spectrum, 37 percent of respondents identified as conservative versus the 33 percent who self-identified as liberal.

This comes in the wake of strong showings by young conservatives in both Virginia for gubernatorial candidate Ken Cuccinelli and in New Jersey for Gov. Chris Christie.

Conservatives shouldn’t be quick to claim the twentysomethings just yet, however. Consider party identification as one indication of seeing the liberal/conservative balance. While fewer college students identify as Democrat, they aren’t necessarily running to the Republican Party. The percentage of college students that identify as Republican has remained roughly unchanged.  In April, 39 percent of young Americans called themselves Democrats. Now, 38 percent consider themselves Democrats. Then, 23 percent of young Americans claimed to be Republicans. Now, 22 percent say they’re Republicans.  

These numbers tell me that twentysomethings are growing frustrated with both sides of the aisle or they are simply losing interest in politics. If conservatives want to grow their twentysomething pool, they need to continue to transition to the 21st century. They are taking this problem more seriously by doing away with the dry press releases and reaching for the BuzzFeed, Instagram style and humorous tumblrs. Conservative organizations such as non-profit Generation Opportunity are reaching out in what better way than a tailgate party. There’s nothing better than reaching out to twentysomethings than in their own environment.

I love seeing this move toward pulling in the twentysomethings. When in full force, this age group can do great things. They love being the boots-on-the-group type of people and they are willing to give their all to a cause they truly believe in. I am excited to see where this movement goes and my hope is that the conservative movement will do more to pull in us twentysomethings.