- Associated Press - Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Recent editorials from North Carolina newspapers:

Jan. 16

The Herald-Sun, Durham, N.C., on a boost for the region:

President Barack Obama’s visit to Raleigh and the Research Triangle Park brought a boost for the region and another illustration of the cutting-edge nature of work at our universities and businesses.

At Vacon’s research and development site in the Durham portion of RTP, Obama got a glimpse of the Finland-based company’s work on AC drives which control the speed of electric motors to maximize energy efficiency.

“That means ultimately, energy savings that we can spread across the entire economy,” Obama said at the plant. “This makes our energy smarter, more efficient.”

Obama visited the Vacon site en route to a speech at N. C. State University where he delivered the major announcement of this trip. The first of three hubs that will partner universities and companies to invent, design and make new products will be based at NCSU. Vacon, Durham-based Cree and 16 other companies will be the business partners. The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill will be among five other universities in the consortium.

The two other hubs are still in the selection process.

Each will be “designed to bridge the gap between applied research and product development, bringing together companies, universities and other academic and training institutions, and federal agencies to co-invest in technology areas that encourage investment and production in the U.S.,” a White House press release said.

The N.C. State-based consortium will do research on and hope to push to the manufacturing stage new semiconductor chips and devices for industrial and consumer devices. It will receive $70 million over five years from the U. S. Energy Department and at least that much from the universities, businesses and the state.

The administration believes that its initiative — admittedly, a partly partisan play that will be featured later this month in the president’s State of the Union message — will create well-paying manufacturing jobs. Sen. Kay Hagan, D-NC, predicted the project will create or sustain 1,000 jobs in its first five years.

In a state where the long decline of traditional textile, tobacco and furniture industries and the crowning blow of the Great Recession have decimated manufacturing jobs, those jobs would be welcome.




Jan. 16

News & Record, Greensboro, N.C., on North Carolinians want health care:

North Carolina’s Republican legislative leaders aim to find out how much harm Obamacare is doing to the state’s economy.

Meanwhile, more than 100,000 North Carolina residents signed up for Obamacare, possibly to avoid economic harm to themselves. Politicians have political agendas; people have personal agendas.

Senate leader Phil Berger and House Speaker Thom Tillis see gains in attacking the Affordable Care Act. Berger’s son, Rockingham County District Attorney Phil Berger Jr., is running for Congress on an anti-Obamacare platform. Tillis himself is running to unseat Democratic U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan, an Obamacare supporter.

Creating a committee to “delve deeply into the problems Obamacare has caused to the health insurance marketplace and to our economy” first indicates they have drawn their conclusions before any study begins, and second means they hope to load more ammunition to use against Democrats.

Yes, the Affordable Care Act rollout has been beset with problems, and many North Carolinians who had private insurance have had their policies canceled because they didn’t meet coverage mandates under the federal law. This has been disruptive, to say the least.

At the same time, many residents who have lived without medical insurance now have the chance to get it. The number signing up through Dec. 31 - 107,778 - ranks fifth-highest in the country. That’s still not as many as proponents hoped for, but the number should draw the attention of naysayers who have turned a blind eye to the plight of people for whom a medical crisis can also mean financial ruin.

Given the intense animosity toward Obamacare, much of it driven for political reasons, it’s almost a wonder anyone has signed up. But necessity may conquer the fear-mongering.

To be certain, the federal plan will be far from perfect. But compared to no plan, which is what the opponents want, it’s worth a try. Maybe problems can be smoothed out over time.

Berger and Tillis don’t want that. The worse it goes for people who want health care insurance, the better for the opposing politicians. They want a campaign hammer with which to pound the Democrats. Polls show it’s an effective weapon so far. But the impact of their blows will soften if more people enroll and find they have decent health coverage they can afford.

For now, the best course for North Carolina leaders should be to work to improve the overall health of our population.

Who is doing that?




Jan. 20

News Observer, Raleigh, N.C., on state should move ahead on national testing linked to Common Core:

Some conservatives see the Common Core State Standards Initiative as a conspiracy to install a one-size-fits-all standard for language and math testing that will somehow change the face of American education and remove all flexibility.

In fact, it’s supposed to better measure students’ basic skills and demonstrate whether they are prepared for higher education. Some 45 states, including North Carolina, have adopted the English and math standards.

But the transition to Common Core testing is a challenge, one reason that North Carolina’s State Board of Education is considering - and apparently leaning toward - not implementing a new round of tests geared to Common Core standards. The national tests connected to Common Core were to begin in the 2014-15 school year.

Some teachers favor a delay because the switch will be highly stressful.

The problem with delay is that it isn’t likely to accomplish much except delay. The hard-core opponents of Common Core in the state legislature aren’t going to warm to it over the next two years. Their opposition will only harden. These days, the General Assembly is not exactly the location of thoughtful debate and compromise. And delay might well strengthen notions held by some Common Core opponents that it’s all wrong and should just be abandoned.

Meanwhile, other states will get a jump on the testing and on what’s likely to demonstrate in some states that more students are not as prepared as they should be. One fear, after all, is that higher standards will produce lower scores or more students not making the grade, so to speak, something state education officials doubtless fear will spur even more criticism of public education and perhaps even stronger arguments for more charter schools and a broader program of vouchers for private schools. …

But this change will be positive in the long term. The standards that the states established were hard-won after much study and discussion. Common Core was not something governors and state education officials came up with over morning coffee.

Common Core was a long time coming, and no state - especially one such as North Carolina with poorly paid teachers and underfunded public schools - should back away from it.





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