- Associated Press - Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Recent editorials from North Carolina newspapers:

April 21

Charlotte Observer on fully disclosing the salaries at charters:

It’s disappointing that officials of some N.C. charter schools are trying to evade full disclosure of who gets paid what at the schools. Charters are “public” schools and should be subject to the same transparency requirements as all other public schools.

Republican State Rep. Charles Jeter and State Sen. Jeff Tarte, both of Mecklenburg County, get that. Said Jeter, who has children at Pine Lake Preparatory charter school: “You can’t pick and choose when it’s convenient (for disclosure). If they (charter schools) want to play in that arena, they need to play by public law.”

Tarte wrote in a newsletter: “When any organization that receives state funds refuses to comply with state laws, their state funding should be withheld…. Paraphrasing Thoreau, civil disobedience has consequences.”

We hope neither backs away from those common sense positions as some charter schools try to carve out spurious exceptions.

That’s what Richard Vinroot, a former Charlotte mayor who is working with Sugar Creek and Lincoln charter schools, and others are doing by selectively deciding how they will disclose salary information. He claims that releasing the information as traditional schools do “would create disruption within (the charter schools)” because charter schools link pay to performance.

That’s a specious argument. Advocates for pay for performance tout it as an admirable incentive to boosting performance. Why hide how it plays out in the workplace? And why would it cause disruption unless its fair application is in question?

In truth, traditional public schools can raise the same argument. Employees are evaluated and paid in some part based on their performance. And N.C. lawmakers approved changes last year ending teacher tenure and instituting steps toward a pay-for-performance plan for all traditional public schools.

So, while it may be uncomfortable for charter schools to release this information - as it is for traditional public schools - it is the law. The employees are public employees, and as such their salaries are open to public scrutiny.




April 21

The Herald-Sun, Durham, N.C., on eroding local control:

We’ve been alarmed at many threads coursing through the General Assembly, but one of the more ironic has been the Republican majority’s efforts to circumscribe and undermine city governments.

The legislative leaders make no secret of their intent to shift the balance of power in many areas more forcibly toward Raleigh - the capital, that is. The city of Raleigh is just as much in the crosshairs as Durham, Asheville, High Point - name pretty much any mid- to major city in the state.

The latest assault emerged in the legislature’s Revenue Laws Study Committee last week. The committee is crafting legislation to severely limit cities’ flexibility in assessing a business privilege tax. While widening the types of businesses covered by the tax, the committee would cap the tax at a flat, almost token $100.

That could cost Durham up to $2.3 million in revenue — and could mean a revenue hit of up to $25 million or more for cities across the state.

The loss in Durham would be relatively light given an overall general fund budget to $178.5 million. But in an annual struggle to meet demands for city services while acknowledging disdain for taxes, that $2.3 million is “real money,” as City Manager Tom Bonfield told The Herald-Sun’s Ray Gronberg last week. “Obviously it’s a concern.”

There are, to be sure, issues with the privilege tax. It is uneven from one city to another, and too many business operations are exempt.

The largest issue at play here is the legislature’s efforts to steamroller traditional local authority. We saw it last session in the legislature’s inexcusable override of the city’s authority in ordering approval of the 751 South development. We’ve seen it in eviscerating annexation authority and billboard regulation. The legislature has wrested control of Charlotte’s airport from that city, and has gone after Asheville’s airport and water system.

These moves are driven by a party that has long argued for keeping big government, whether in Raleigh, or in Washington at bay.

Anthony Foxx, now U.S. secretary of transportation, noted the irony in a BloombergBusinessWeek story last spring when he still was mayor of Charlotte.

“I think the legislature would be concerned if the feds started dictating to them,” he said. “Yet they’re doing to us what they claim they dislike.”

The business privilege tax would be a good place for that trend to stop.




April 21

News and Observer, Raleigh, N.C., on highway patrol:

It is a fear that haunts parents of young drivers. A glance out the door late at night, with members of the state Highway Patrol walking up to the door. Things will never be the same.

And unfortunately, many such visits could be prevented except for youth and inexperience. Young drivers, particularly those 16 and 17 years old are, statistics show, involved in a disproportionate number of fatal crashes.

The enemy often is something called “distracted driving,” which can mean everything from cell phone texting to friends in the car to just not paying attention for an instant. And an instant is all it takes.

Toward the goal of reducing the risks, the state Highway Patrol is conducting “Operation Drive to Live” as proms begin and more youngsters are out on the roads. The special operation is on this week in North Carolina.

The patrol knows all too well about the serious accidents and other collisions that force them to make those calls on parents, or relay ambulances, or call on other households where someone has been injured or killed.

Today, with all the electronics available, distractions are too abundant for drivers, even though the state bars texting while driving. The law should be common sense, but too often isn’t for drivers of all ages. Lessons pertaining to safe driving can and should be taught by parents, and most parents try.

This week, however, patrol members will be in schools with safety programs, and they’ll be focusing on more intense surveillance of roads around schools and issuing more tickets. That won’t be fun for youngsters as the school year begins to wind down and proms are on, but it will be far more important.



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