Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Just two CMS schools make Newsweek's best

Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools again made the Newsweek list of America's Best High Schools. But the school system continues to slide further down the list. And with only two schools making the grade this year, CMS could be headed off it entirely.

Twenty-one North Carolina high schools made Newsweek’s revamped list of “America’s Best High Schools,” with four making the top 100. Those four included two schools from Greensboro - The Early College at Guilford and Weaver Academy, the North Carolina School for Science and Math in Durham, and High Point's Penn-Griffin School for the Arts.

CMS's Providence High broke through in the second 100 best, ranking No. 186; Myers Park, the only other CMS school listed among the 500, came in at No. 439. Greensboro had the most N.C. schools on the list, with six. No other N.C. school came close to that number. Chapel Hill had three on the list. Raleigh and Chapel Hill had two on the list.

Newsweek has been ranking the top public high schools in America for more than a decade but this year used a new formula that considered six components: graduation rate (25%), college matriculation rate (25%), AP tests taken per graduate (25%), average SAT/ACT scores (10%), average AP/IB/AICE scores (10%), and AP courses offered (5%). Several experts helped develop the new formula including Wendy Kopp of Teach For America, Tom Vander Ark of Open Education Solutions (formerly executive director for education at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation), and Linda Darling-Hammond, Stanford professor of education and founder of the School Redesign Network.

That new formula might account for several CMS schools dropping off the list. Last year, CMS had 13 schools on the list: Myers Park, Providence, Olympic Math, Engineering and Science High, North Mecklenburg High, East Mecklenburg, Harding University, Northwest School of the Arts, Olympic Biotechnology, Health and Public Service, Ardrey Kell, Mallard Creek, Butler, Olympic Renaissance and Olympic School of International Studies and Global Economics. Myers Park led Charlotte-area schools in the rankings last year, coming in at 66th. In 2007, Myers Park was No. 31 on the list. Now, it's all the way down to 439.

CMS might want to pay some attention to what Greensboro is doing. Its high rankings come mostly because of high graduation rates (100 percent at two schools and nearly that at others), high college-attendance rates (100 percent or nearly so) and high SAT/ACT scores. For a complete listing of schools on Newsweek's list, click here.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Jerry Reese threatens another suit on baseball

Charlotte attorney Jerry Reese, who has filed five lawsuits trying to stop the Charlotte Knights from building an uptown baseball stadium, plans to threaten another one tonight.

Reese expects to address Mecklenburg County commissioners tonight as they consider giving the Triple A team another year to pull together money for the project.

"I intend to use three means to nullify any action of this board that does not terminate the Knights' lease as of September 5, 2011," Reese says in his prepared remarks.

One of those: Challenging any lease extension in court. "This board, the Knights and anyone who might consider being involved with this ill-advised project is hereby forewarned and put on notice."

We're guessing that that will prompt one big group eye-roll from the dais. It's true that Reese's previous suits slowed things down long enough for the economy to tank and put the Knights' move on hold. But Reese is 0-for-5 in the courts on this issue and very well could move to 0-for-6 with this effort. Even an unsuccessful legal challenge might not slow things down, since county commissioners are poised to give the Knights another year to sort things out anyway.

Reese also plans to repeat his contention that Charlotte is a major-league town, not a minor-league one. He will tell commissioners that he intends to pursue building a major league stadium in Cabarrus or York counties.

For what purpose is anyone's guess. Reese told commissioners previously that he hasn't spoken with major league teams about a Charlotte move, and the idea of one moving here any time soon is far-fetched. Commissioners would probably welcome the news that Reese plans to take his quixotic quest somewhere else.

-- Posted by the Observer editorial board

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Scott Stone's campaign letter riddled with errors

Charlotte mayoral candidate Scott Stone is sending out a fundraising letter filled with inaccuracies.

Stone, a Republican who hopes to face Mayor Anthony Foxx in November, sent a letter to some Charlotte property owners whose home values went up in this year's revaluation. It plays on people's emotions and drags Foxx into a fight that has little to do with him. And it does so with multiple untruths. Let us count the mistakes in his one-page letter:

-- Stone says: "Your property has been reassessed above market value so that the county and Anthony Foxx can get more taxes out of you."

The truth: Your property has been reassessed because state law requires reassessments at least every eight years. Foxx does not get more taxes out of you, because the city on Monday passed a revenue-neutral budget.

-- Stone says: "In the worst recession in our city's history..."

The truth: Guess Stone forgot about that little bump in the road called the Great Depression.

-- Stone says: "Your value went up [amount]. That is a [number] percent increase!"

The truth: In the letter we saw, the percentage increase was wrong by about 20 points.

-- Stone says commissioners' chairman Jennifer Roberts refused to re-do the revaluation as he proposed. "She used the excuse that it was outside North Carolina law. So I went to Raleigh and got the Speaker of the House ... to agree to change the law. And yet, the revaluation will not change."

The truth: That silly Jennifer Roberts, using that flimsy excuse of it being against the law. What is she thinking? The revaluation will not change because it is still against the law, whatever the House speaker may have told Stone.

-- Stone says: "Next year, [your] household will pay around [amount] more in local property taxes."

The truth: In the letter we saw, Stone overstates the amount of the tax-bill increase.

-- Stone says: "What is Anthony Foxx doing? He encouraged the county to raise your taxes and has said nothing about the revaluation. Anthony Foxx is OK with you paying [amount] next year - because the city is getting its piece of your increase."

The truth: Foxx did not encourage the county to raise your taxes. What he said about revaluation was that the city should cut its tax rate to revenue neutral to cushion any blow that residents might feel from any county tax increase. The city is not getting a piece of your increase; it set its tax rate to bring in about the same amount of property tax revenue as it did last year.

-- Stone says: "Together, we will win this election!"

The truth: Well, you be the judge.

-- Posted by the Observer editorial board

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Cutting education while others boost it

How do North Carolina's cuts to education compare with other Southern states?

Senate Minority Leader Martin Nesbitt this afternoon sent around a new report from the Southern Regional Education Board. It suggests that most Southern states are increasing spending on education, not cutting it, and that North Carolina is cutting at all levels of education more deeply than other states.

Nesbitt says the education cuts in the legislature's budget would put North Carolina 49th in per-pupil spending.

“How can North Carolina compete with the world if we can’t even compete with our neighbors?” he asks.

Nesbitt is right that the legislature is cutting education more deeply than it needed to. Preserving even part of an expiring one-cent sales tax could have provided hundreds of millions of dollars for schools.

What Nesbitt and the SREB don't say, however, is that the General Assembly's budget provides almost as much for education as Democratic Gov. Bev Perdue requested. So the numbers in the chart above wouldn't look much different even if legislators had given Perdue what she wanted.

Click on the chart above to make it more legible.

-- Posted by the Observer editorial board

Friday, June 3, 2011

It's Obama's fault N.C. is laying off teachers?

We know many conservatives don't like President Barack Obama, and far too many have settled into the habit of blaming him for everything that's wrong or going wrong in the country. But we were really taken aback by the John Locke Foundation's Terry Stoops, who in an article http://www.carolinajournal.com/jhdailyjournal/index.html blamed Obama for teacher layoffs in North Carolina.

Here's Stoops' reasoning: In 2009, President Obama signed the $814 billion American Recovery and Reinvestment Act into law, which provided $100 billion for education, including more than $1.3 billion for North Carolina public schools over for two years. If N.C. school systems hadn't used that money to keep some teachers from being laid off over the last two years, the school districts wouldn't be in the position of having to lay them off now.

Go ahead. Scratch your head over that one.

Stoops, director of Education Studies for the Locke Foundation, noted that the Observer editorial board was part of the state and local media "in denial" about placing the blame on Obama: "A recent editorial in the Charlotte Observer explained, 'Actually, the federal government isn’t cutting funds. That money was a one-time boost to help struggling states during the recession. Policymakers knew those federal dollars would end after two years.' Observer editors echo the education establishment in North Carolina. Neither appears willing to fault the Obama administration for forcing school districts to eliminate hundreds of teachers and support staff positions.'

That's because it isn't at fault. It's clear that without the federal funds, the N.C. districts would have had to lay those teachers off anyway - and earlier. The federal funds were used to stave off the layoffs - layoffs due to state and local education budget cuts over that same period. And now, with N.C. lawmakers - primarily Republicans - proposing deeper education cuts for next school year, more layoffs are in the offing.

There's blame to go around for the economic forces that put the state in such dire financial condition. But layoffs - or not - of N.C. teachers? The blame lies with policymakers in North Carolina.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Perdue puts on budget boxing gloves

Gov. Bev Perdue is on a tear about the Republican dominated legislature's budget proposals. Perdue has been scooting all around the state with her "Education Works" tours to call attention to education cuts.

This week she got really riled up about the Senate Republicans budget plan, calling it a "charade" several times in a late afternoon press briefing Tuesday. In a new budget plan released Tuesday, Republican leaders presented a plan that deletes deep cuts to teacher assistants and keeps more money to hire 1,100 teachers for grades 1-3. The plan which has the backing of at least five Democrats was billed as one to withstand a possible Perdue veto.

Perdue said the plan, which Democrats say cuts $1billion from education, passes on huge costs to local school districts. It's just a "shuffling around of money," an attempt to "paper over the devastation to education and other important programs," she said.

She was joined in that assessment by Senate Democratic Leader Martin Nesbitt who called the plan "a direct assault on public school education." On top of that, he said the N.C. Department of Public Instruction says the cuts would eliminate 9,300 public school jobs, including teachers, teacher assistants and principals. It would also drop North Carolina to 49th in per pupil funding, below - gasp! - South Carolina and Mississippi.

Perdue wasn't done. On Thursday, she fired off a letter to GOP Speaker of the House Thom Tillis with some tart words about "budget gimmicks" such as passing on costs to local school districts by requiring the districts to make deeper cuts in their budgets. She also urged again maintaining three-fourths of a one-cent sales tax that is set to expire this year in order to avoid "endanger[ing] the education, health, and public safety for our citizens."

To buttress her point about the harm to school districts, she e-mailed news organizations her assessment of the impact of Senate budget. Mecklenburg County would have to make $39.8 million in state cuts next year, she said. Cabarrus County would face $8.4 million, Gaston County, $9 million and Union County, $11.5 million. Guilford County (Greensboro) would face $20.8 million in cuts, Forsyth County (Winston-Salem) $15.3 and Wake County, $42.3 million.