Civitas Review

Wake County enrollment numbers getting attention



From the “all news is bad news” category, this morning WRAL .com reported that slowing student growth could cost Wake County Public Schools money.  According to the article, since 2011, WCPSS’ portion of students in down 2 percent to charter, private and home schools. Since student population is not expected to meet original enrollment estimates,  school officials are concerned that county and state funding might decline as well.

This is only a negative if you think money should be tied to enrollment as the numbers increase, but not when the numbers decrease.

What’s not stated is that lower enrollments naturally lead to lower budgets and the need for fewer staff. It’s also not stated that LEAs may receive money to help cushion the fluctuations in ADM enrollment (see page 8 of Allotment Policy manual). .

Wake County lost about 1,000 students to charter schools in recent years. Unless WCPSS provides a better education that trend will continue.

Is this bad? No. It shows that WCPSS must be responsive to student concerns and that parents have options for their children. Competition is helping the public schools

Those are three reasons why school choice is good for individuals, schools and the community.

CLF Defeats Government's Motion to Dismiss in Wind Energy Case


In September, the Civitas Institute Center for Law and Freedom (CLF) filed suit against the NC Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) on behalf of a Perquimans County couple. At issue is whether DEQ broke the law when it informed Iberdrola Renewables that its Amazon Wind Farm East would not be subjected to state regulatory standards. Soon after the filing, the Attorney General filed a motion to dismiss and supporting memoranda, to which CLF responded on November 19.

Today, Judge Melissa Owens Lassiter of the Office of Administrative Hearings denied the Attorney General's motion to dismiss, ruling that the case will continue because the petitioners have standing to bring the suit. Barring an appeal of her decision, the case will head to a hearing on the merits in the spring.

Joining CLF on the case is Dr. David Schnare of the DC-based Energy & Environmental Legal Institute, who was admitted on a pro hac vice basis earlier this fall.

Stay tuned for further updates on this and other CLF cases.

New UNC System Report Says 'We Cheat'


By Jay Schalin

The recruitment of athletes with extremely weaker academic skills than the rest of the student population means that the system is knowingly corrupt from the start. Otherwise many athletes in the revenue-producing sports (and a few others such as track and baseball) could not possibly maintain eligibility without skirting the rules. Such is the nature of learning: if you have a lower skill level and less academic aptitude than your fellow students, as do many athletes, then you must spend more time on your coursework to succeed (if you can do so at all). And athletes often must spend 25-40 hours a week on their sports, leaving less time for academics. The only way athletes with poor academic skills maintain eligibility at good schools is with smoke and mirrors.

The University of North Carolina system has especially strong reasons to put an end to this unethical practice, as the protracted athletic scandal has brought considerable shame to the state’s flagship campus at Chapel Hill. In response, the system’s leaders have pledged to clean up their acts.

But it turns out that their high-minded rhetoric was mere happy gas. This year’s UNC athletics report shows, among other problems, a marked increase in the number of athletes granted admissions exceptions. We’re not talking about narrow differences between athletes and the rest of the student body: the cut-off for needing an exception for low SAT scores is a combined 800 (math and reading). This occurs even at schools with very high admissions standards such as Chapel Hill and NC State, where the average student has SAT scores of 1308 and 1248, respectively. The idea that a student with less than 800 SATs and a nearly full-time job as an athlete can compete academically with students with 1200+ SATs and lots of study time is absurd.

One does not smell a rat—rather, it would take an entire rat-farm to produce such a stench.

Jay Schalin is director of policy analysis at the John William Pope Center for Higher Education .

Working Hard or Hardly Working?


By Jay Schalin

University faculty workloads are becoming an important issue in North Carolina and elsewhere. The savings for just slight tweaks in productivity are enormous, in the tens of millions of dollars. (This is primarily about the research schools—the focus at the master’s level schools such as Fayetteville and the liberal arts colleges such as Asheville is already on teaching, so teaching loads are not as much of an issue.)

Critics say teaching requirements are too low; the university system says they are already teaching far beyond what they are required to teach. In fact, in the new University of North Carolina Faculty Teaching Workload 2014 report (scroll down to Education Planning Committee) they claim that the average professor in the entire system is teaching 3.7 courses per semester.

That, however, is a laughable assertion, based on suspect definitions and methodologies. The university system uses the Delaware Study of Instructional Costs and Productivity to compute its faculty teaching loads. Unfortunately, that study inflates teaching loads; for instance, since a “full-time equivalent” professor is defined as any combination of part-time teachers who add up to four classes per semester, then part-time professors always teach an average of four classes per semester. Such circular definition produces a meaningless statistic.

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NCAE refuses to provide membership numbers



How many members does the North Carolina Association of Educators have?

It's a question we've been asking a lot lately.  Why?  The State Legislature said in order for schools to provide dues check off option, NCAE must have at least 40,000 members, 20,000 of whom must be active public school teachers.

Last year, the State Legislature asked the State Auditor to certify those numbers. Yesterday the State Auditor issued a report saying that it couldn't; "[a]fter numerous requests, the NCAE refused to furnish the information."

So what  to make of this?

If NCAE had 40,000 members, don't you think they would be more than happy to tell us? Recent estimates suggest they don't and NCAE has been unwilling to demonstrate that they meet the requirement.

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