The Locker Room

March 29, 2007

Free enterprise fun

Posted by Mitch Kokai at 4:31 PM

The Helms Center plans to expand a key program. 

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Re: School Days in August

Posted by Hal Young at 3:55 PM

One step closer, Mitch. WPTF just reported "educators gave a standing ovation" to the Education Committee, which approved the measure this afternoon and sent it to the full House.

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Gordon Wood in North Carolina

Posted by Jonathan Murray at 3:51 PM

On Tuesday, Dr. Gordon S. Wood gave a talk on his recent book Revolutionary Characters: What Made the Founders Different at a luncheon hosted by the North Carolina History Project. Dr. Wood, who teaches at Brown University, is a titan among historians--he is perhaps the leading scholar on the history of the American Revolution.

In his NCHP lecture, Dr. Wood focused on the cultural environment that produced the Founders. While the United States could not have been born without the Founders' democratic zeal, the Founders were characterized also by aristocratic gentlemanliness.

Dr. Wood compared the greatest Founders--Washington, Jefferson, Madison, Hamilton, and Paine--to the lesser Aaron Burr.

Videos of an interview conducted by NCHP staff can be found here.

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Government Purchasing Property

Posted by Chad Adams at 2:15 PM

There's just something wrong with the state purchasing land for the sake of purchasing land.   Currently NC is in the process of trying to purchase 1 million acres for preservation (in addition to the hundreds of thousands they already own and in addition to the 11% of NC that the Federal government owns).

But even more confusing is that farmers and enviros are teaming up thinking this is a good thing.  The real question is, how does the government "protect farmland" if the market doesn't buy the products produced on the land?  Are we supposed to pay farmers to act like their farming? 

Political movement (from the Citizen-Times)

Although North Carolina hasn’t fully funded its conservation plan, voters are starting to make protecting land a priority.

In Jackson County this year, commissioners put a stop to new subdivisions to give the government time to craft development laws. The board was able to approve the controversial six-month moratorium because its majority won election last year on a controlled growth platform.

Other counties are considering subdivision regulations.

And that mirrors voters nationally, the Trust for Public Land reports. Since 1996, more than 1,500 of almost 2,000 conservation ballot measures have passed across the country, and they have been just as popular in states with Republican majorities as those that lean Democratic.

Development in rural areas and the prediction of 4 million new state residents over the next 25 years has allied farmers and environmentalists. The new political partnership could mean more money for preservation here and in other states. Easley has already responded with more money set aside for farmland protection.

“Chimney Rocks are critical and wonderful, but if we are going to save what’s special in Western North Carolina it is these beautiful valley farms,” said Paul Carlson, the director of the Land Trust for the Little Tennessee, of those big types of deals. The Franklin-based group conserves land in the upper Little Tennessee and Hiwassee River valleys.

Carlson says this political trend might have already meant more funding in Raleigh.

“There is no greater constituency for the land than farmland owners,” he said.

In 2006, North Carolina spent $2 million on farmland preservation.

In 2007, it was $7 million. And two WNC lawmakers want a big jump in funding for 2008. Rep. Phil Haire, D-Sylva, and Sen. John Snow, D-Murphy, have asked for $10 million for farmland preservation, Carlson said.

He said he believes for each million spent on farmland preservation, the state could protect 10 million acres.

“I think that, more than anything else, will increase land conservation across this state at the rhythm we need,” he said.


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School days could soon return in August

Posted by Mitch Kokai at 1:50 PM

A House committee is ready to scrap the law that forbids public school systems from scheduling classes before August 25. 

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Ross moves from Reynolds Foundation to Davidson

Posted by Mitch Kokai at 1:48 PM

The head of the Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation will take over the top job at Davidson. 

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Middle Ages help desk

Posted by Jon Ham at 1:34 PM

No matter the era, there are always inept users of a new technology.

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Battle over college accreditation in Washington

Posted by George Leef at 1:24 PM

In recent weeks there has been a battle in Washington over that most soporific of topics, college accreditation. The Department of Education has decided that the accreditation associations (which are private organizations, but need to be officially "recognized" by the Department if their accreditation is to have the consequence of making schools eligible to receive federal financial aid) should be compelled to do more to ensure that the schools they oversee are doing a good enough job of educating students.

In a perhaps surprising twist, the one accreditor that has attempted to promote the traditional liberal arts vision of higher education has been targeted for "derecognition" because it doesn't pretend to enforce quantifiable learning standards.

In today's Clarion Call an official of the threatened group -- the American Academy of Liberal Education -- argues that the Department's new tack is unjustified and will accomplish nothing educationally.

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Debating HB-1012

Posted by Becki Gray at 1:17 PM

Live from the Legislature

In the House Ways and Means Committee, HB-1012 is being considered. If signed into law, this bill would repeal the State Property Commission, which was charged with evaluating and selling surplus property.

They have done nothing in two years.

Several representatives from the Governor's office are in the audience.
The Commission is currently funded with non-recurring money. If the commission is disbanded, about $133,000 would revert back to the general fund.

The bill passes committee and will probably be on the calendar Monday night.

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The desire to do something

Posted by Hal Young at 12:04 AM

It's hard to fault Representative Ty Harrell (D-Wake) for wanting to do something about (or to)adults who provide alcohol to teenagers, particularly with the highly publicized underage drinking tragedies in his own county.

I don't think the connection between teenagers' beer and grown-up's driver's licenses is clear enough, though. Let the punishment fit the crime, it seems to me; maybe the enabling adult should pay for the teenager's auto insurance for the next five years.

As father of a couple of teenagers, I guarantee that would hurt.


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HB265: Establishing High Risk Insurance Pool

Posted by Becki Gray at 10:16 AM

Live from the Legislature

This bill is being considered in the House Finance Committee. As JLF has argued, the high-risk pool is a good idea. The controversy is in the funding mechanism. The bill would impose an assessment on insurance companies of up to two dollars per member, per month, which of course would be passed on to the consumer.

Rep. Skip Stam (R-Wake) proposed amending the bill to allow for funding out of the General Fund.

Amendment fails: 15 no; 13 yes, along party lines.

Perri Morgan, lobbyist for NC100 was allowed to speak in opposition to the bill, based on the funding source, but at the close of debate and for only a few minutes.

Committee substitute bill received a favorable report and will go to the Appropriations Committee.

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You can get statistics to show anything you want

Posted by Dr. Terry Stoops at 08:00 AM

The Winston-Salem chapter of the NAACP is fuming over the results of a UNC doctoral dissertation on school choice in Forsyth County. The dissertation showed that the school system's choice plan had no significant effect on test scores.

The NAACP has long been a critic of the district's choice plan, which they say increases racial inequalities and widens the achievement gap between white and black students. They have claimed that the choice plan would lead to dramatic decreases in test scores for black students, but the dissertation found that race was not a significant predictor of student performance.

Having no evidence to actually mount an informed response, representatives of the NAACP cried foul. One member said, "But I used to work for the police department and one thing we used to say is you can get statistics to show anything you want."

Wow, forget the education statistics. Someone needs to do a study of the police department statistics.

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