Carolina Journal Weekly Report

January 14, 2002

In this issue Feature 1 - Charters May Expand

Ahead of the Curve

Feature 2 - Where is Rail Going?

Capital Quotes

Feature 3 - Encouraging Bad Behavior Coming Up

 

Charters May Expand State board recommends adding 10 schools

The final decision is in, and it came with as much controversy as it started out with five years ago. After two days of urging from Board Chairman Phil Kirk to make a decision, the State Board of Education decided Thursday to recommend that the General Assembly expand the 100-charter school cap to 110 schools in 2003-2004, provided that certain requirements are met.

The requirements include safeguards that charters are financially stable, that a certain percentage of their teachers are certified, and that new schools are given adequate planning time.

Lt. Gov. Beverly Perdue backed the board’s decision. In the board meeting she insisted that expansion should be postponed until charter schools had met all recommended guidelines and laws.

The decision, however, still failed to dispel controversy. Critics would like to see the charter school movement terminated, while advocates hoped for greater expansion.

Expansion will come at a much slower pace than that recommended by the Charter School Advisory Committee. The Advisory Committee unanimously decided in December that the number of charter schools should be expanded by about 10 percent each year, or 10 schools a year. But board members expressed concern over the growth of charters and decided that a onetime expansion was best for the state.

Because of mandated cutbacks during the state’s budget crunch, board members expressed concern that DPI does not have adequate revenue to fund additional charter schools. The Charter School Office found that two to three employees would have to be hired each year to help in a variety of departments if charter schools expanded.

Perdue urged the board Wednesday to consider whether scarce funding should be allocated for expansion. Other board members said they could not recommend hiring additional employees when the state has already asked DPI to cut 25 positions. But Kirk, who has long supported the expansion of charter schools, said that while money was an issue, the board should not use it as an excuse.

Roger Gerber, president of the League of Charter Schools and member of the Charter School Advisory Committee, called the board’s decision “pathetic.”

“The board does not understand the concept of parental choice and market forces,” Gerber said. “It’s fine for the rich people to have a choice, but they don’t want to empower low- and middle-income families.”

Ahead of the Curve

The American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators’ Special Task Force on Identification Security will release recommendations Monday to implement driver’s license and identification reforms. The recommendations will address the issuance of driver license and ID cards; residency and citizenship verification; document security standards; and information technology used in the driver’s license-ID process. The recommendations can be found at aamva.org.

While Congress is out of session, Rep. Robin Hayes is touring his 8th District (newly redrawn, pending court decisions) and explaining his vote to give President George W. Bush trade promotion authority. In Laurinburg Jan. 8, Hayes promoted the president’s signing of the education reform bill. According to a story in the Laurinburg Exchange, Hayes emphasized parts of the bill that allow prayer in schools and require teaching in English. “[We’re] still going to help that student, but [we’re] going to help him in English,” he said.

Also known as a leader who traditionally votes against trade legislation harmful to the textile industry, Hayes defended his vote on trade promotion authority: “There were about 10 policy changes we needed…when all the pieces were in place, I got what I wanted. It was about doing the right thing.”

The bill would give the president wide latitude to negotiate trade agreements with other countries.

Where is Rail Going?

Confusion reigns over Triangle Transit Authority

Weeks after Raleigh’s mayoral campaign ended, confusion over the future of the Triangle Transit Authority threatens to sidetrack plans to implement the system. Newly elected Mayor Charles Meeker and the man he defeated, former Mayor Paul Coble; The News & Observer of Raleigh; former TTA chief Jim Ritchey; and Raleigh City Council member Kieran Shanahan each have expressed divergent views of the system and its future.

The TTA is a regional mass-transit organization developing plans to implement a regional rail service connecting Durham, Chapel Hill, Raleigh, and areas in between. Millions of dollars have been spent on feasibility studies and developing the plan for the rail system.

Coble and Shanahan have criticized the plan for a long time, calling it a potential boondoggle. “I have never been an opponent of this thing, as long as it makes sense,” Coble said.

The latest element that doesn’t make sense to Coble, and other critics like Shanahan, is a recent revelation that the rail service will be delayed several years in reaching North Raleigh. However, there is disagreement over whether a delay was ever implemented, or just a consideration.

“I think it was blown up as an issue, and it really wasn’t one,” Ritchey said. Confusion may have stemmed from a News & Observer article Nov. 26 that trumpeted, “North Raleigh faces rail service delay.” The story’s lead said, “When commuter trains begin running through the Triangle in 2008, they won’t make it to North Raleigh, cutting out thousands of riders in the first years of the new system.”

That wasn’t entirely true, Ritchey said.. Suggestions for a delay came from the authority’s consultant, which recommended that the North Raleigh segment not be built until 2013. However, the News & Observer reported that TTA board members were “troubled” by that idea, and “asked [the consultant] to bring other alternatives to their monthly meeting.” The fact that the board made that request indicates a final decision had not been made on a North Raleigh delay when the article ran.

Ritchey said that at a December meeting, the board decided to open the system, running trains at 15-minute intervals, which would allow the TTA to proceed with opening a North Raleigh segment in Phase I of the plan. However, the assumption that North Raleigh would be delayed provided more fodder for Coble and Shanahan to criticize Meeker, the TTA, and the whole commuter rail service idea. “Now the people who pay the largest portion of it — North Raleigh — aren’t even going to have it,” Shanahan said.

While Ritchey said a delay until after 2010 “was discussed,” the board ultimately decided on a plan that would allow opening rail service to North Raleigh in 2009.

Ritchey said part of the problem was informing political leaders and the public on the process of implementing the entire system. As presently planned, North Raleigh is expected to open toward the end of the Phase I portion. “One of the dilemmas in trying to communicate this issue, is they think this thing should open all on the same day,” Ritchey said. “It’s very normal for major projects like this to open in segments.”

“Every single presentation (about commuter rail) was that they were going to North Raleigh at the same time,” Coble said. “That was the piece that everyone thought was going to open up.” Ritchey has insisted that not opening a North Raleigh leg until 2009 was part of the plan all along.

Capital Quotes

“We’re here for racial equity. We say this is a quota. That’s wrong. There should be no racial or gender quotas in affirmative action programs.”

— Phil Kent, president of the Southeastern Legal Foundation, describing to The Charlotte Observer his group’s involvement in a lawsuit by United Construction of Charlotte against the City of Charlotte. United Construction is the minority-owned firm that was denied a city street contract in October despite being the low bidder. Charlotte contracting regulations call for bidders who use subcontractors to attempt to award at least 6 percent of the value of the contract to minority- or female-owned firms. United proposed using a single subcontractor. The female-owned firm would have been responsible for 1.2 percent of the project’s value.

“With a big county, limited personnel and limited resources, you’re trying to cover a lot of ground, and unfortunately some roads may be missed.”

— Shane Parker, state Department of Transportation’s maintenance engineer for Durham County, explaining to The Herald-Sun of Durham why certain roads were plowed in Chapel Hill two or three days late. Part of the problem stems from Chapel Hill straddling two counties, Orange and Durham, and two DOT operating districts. Secondary roads in Durham County typically get plowed several days later than those in Orange County.

“Thirty is ridiculous.”

— Aaron Schroeder, an expert on intelligent-transportation systems at Virginia Tech, commenting to The Charlotte Observer on DOT’s traffic management system for Interstate 77 in Charlotte. The system, which includes cameras and overhead signs, features a web site where the public can view conditions on the busy interstate. The web site, however, crashes if more than 30 users are on line at once. DOT hopes to have it on an upgraded server soon.

Encouraging Bad Behavior

Immigration activist says limits are needed

Mass immigration, both legal and illegal, doesn’t serve the best interests of the state or nation, said Ron Woodard, director of North Carolinians for Lowering Immigration to Save the Environment Now.

“We think out-of-control growth doesn’t make a lot of sense,” Woodard said at a John Locke Foundation luncheon Jan. 7. “We’re growing our population like a Third World country.”

Woodard, a sales manager for a Fortune 500 company, said he became involved in immigration issues in the late 1980s, when he lived in the Washington, D.C. area. There he met a leader from the Federation for American Immigration Reform, a national nonprofit “organization of concerned citizens who share a common belief that the unforeseen mass immigration that has occurred over the last 30 years should not continue.” NCLISTEN was formed similarly to educate the public at the state level..

Woodard explained how excessive immigration and lax immigration policies weaken the United States economically and politically and threaten the nation’s security. The terrorist attacks of Sept. 11 were an obvious basis for Woodard to criticize America’s handling of immigration.
“We need to know who’s in our country and what they’re doing here,” he said.

Woodard said the average legal immigrant in the United States was checked for only 10 minutes before being allowed in the country. He said 985 visas were granted to Iraqis last year. He also charged that the Immigration and Naturalization Service has lost track of millions of immigrants — estimating there were eight million in America illegally.

“Why would we allow 50,000 students in our schools and not know what they’re studying?” he asked.

On the state level, Woodard said North Carolina “watered down” changes intended to restrict eligibility to obtain a driver’s license, by allowing a taxpayer identification number as a minimal requirement. He said “any worker can get a taxpayer ID number from the IRS, with literally no questions being asked.” He also said Division of Motor Vehicle procedures are still lax, because officials do not run nationwide criminal checks when issuing a license. As far as other requirements, he said, “There’s no evidence that illegal immigrants are keeping their (auto) insurance long term.”

Woodard also attempted to disprove common myths about immigration, saying, “It is often said we are a nation of immigrants. We have also become a nation of taxes, and both are out of balance.”

Citing statistics from the Census Bureau and the Center for Immigration Studies, Woodard argued that immigration policies place a strain on government budgets, and thus taxpayers. He said that in the 1990s both legal and illegal immigration rose above one million entrants per year. Those entering the country illegally are often able to obtain government services and education once they are here, as enabled by law. He said 30 percent of immigrants have no high school diploma; one-third have no health care insurance; and in North Carolina, about 50,000 are enrolled in English as a Second Language programs. All add to taxpayers’ burden, he said.

Woodard also questioned the idea that the United States has a shortage of low-skilled workers. He said that the rate for unemployed Hispanics exceeds the unemployment rate nationally, and that Mexican workers depress wages for the poorest people in the United States, because Mexicans compete with Americans for jobs.

Coming Up

On Jan. 19 the Center for Local Innovation will sponsor “Innovate 2002,” a daylong conference at the Washington Duke Inn on the campus of Duke University in Durham. The conference will begin at 8:30 a.m.. and feature three sessions. Topics include annexation, local government budgets, and terrorism threats. Guests include U.S. Rep. Walter Jones and former Charlotte Mayor Richard Vinroot. The conference will end at 3 p.m.

Syndicated columnist and CNN personality Robert Novak will speak at a John Locke Foundation Headliner luncheon at noon Feb. 11, at the Brownstone Hotel in Raleigh. Novak writes the political column “Inside Report” three times a week, and appears in more than 300 newspapers nationwide. He is perhaps most well-known for cohosting the programs “Crossfire,” “Capital Gang,” and “Novak, Hunt & Shields,” on CNN.

Contact Kory Swanson at (919) 828-3876 or info@johnlocke.org for more information, or to register for either event.

 

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Locke Foundation receives prior notice and appropriate credit is given.

 

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