- Associated Press - Thursday, October 30, 2014

Recent editorials from North Carolina newspapers:

Oct. 28

Fayetteville (North Carolina) Observer on state’s audit overload:

The General Assembly has asked six state departments to conduct audits that will provide legislators with more details, potentially saving taxpayers money during the budgeting process.

But Gov. Pat McCrory’s new budget director, Lee Roberts, said the agencies in question were already audited a combined 501 times in the last year, at a cost of more than $17 million.

Lawmakers want to save money and need information to do that. The budget director wants to save money by not repeatedly paying to gather information.

Each side has valid points and should be able to negotiate an arrangement that’s better for taxpayers in every way.

At some point, too many audits become excessive; it appears we’ve passed that point. Fixing this will require communication, but it’s not hard to imagine each department being audited a minimal number of times annually with what’s wanted for budgeting purposes included.

There’s a very good chance that we can reduce the overall number of audits and improve their efficiency at the same time.

We might save taxpayers money on both ends while working miracles for the stress levels of frazzled government staffers.

Online:

https://www.fayobserver.com

____

Oct. 24

News and Observer, Raleigh, North Carolina, on gay marriage:

Phil Berger, Republican president pro tem of the state Senate and an attorney by trade, knows the law and the constitution and presumably understands that rulings in high courts stand, period.

When states have attempted to defend laws or amendments banning same-sex unions, federal appeals courts have struck them down. The U.S. Supreme Court has in fact bolstered the rights of same-sex couples in its own refusal to hear appeals of those lower court rulings that bans on same-sex unions are unconstitutional. These recent rulings have in effect ended the legal debate.

So why would Berger - who along with House Speaker Thom Tillis and other Republican leaders in the General Assembly orchestrated the successful campaign for a state constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage - keep up a losing fight?

But it appears that’s exactly what he’s aiming to do. The senator said this week he would attempt to find a way to allow magistrates and registers of deeds to refuse to help gay couples who want to marry. Magistrates conduct ceremonies, and registers of deeds are charged with issuing marriage licenses.

This is an utterly preposterous idea that would surely be rejected by courts on the same constitutional grounds that have been cited in overturning laws banning same-sex marriage. So why is Berger wasting his time and possibly taxpayer money?

The man who is in effect the chief lawmaker in the state knows this effort would be a tilt at a windmill. So that leaves only one conclusion: He’s pandering to his party’s right-wing base by continuing to keep the issue of a ban on gay marriage alive when it’s clear the courts have declared it deceased.

Republicans such as Berger may believe the gay marriage ban remains a “good issue” for them to use in campaigns, but they’re showing, frankly, that they’re falling out of touch with the coming generations of voters. Younger people are not nearly as preoccupied with the gay marriage issue as are the politicians a generation or two ahead of them.

And now the courts have spoken clearly. The debate is over. Berger and other conservative ideologues need to let this issue go and move on to something else. And they will find a good issue to use to fire up their ideological allies. They always do.

Online:

https://www.newsobserver.com

____

Oct. 26

The Herald-Sun, Durham, North Carolina, on dethroning the SAT:

Some eyebrows may have been raised by plans for a pilot program at N. C. Central University and two other historically black campuses in the UNC system to admit students with SAT scores below the minimum standard. Instead, the schools will place more emphasis on high school grade-point average in admitting up to 100 students a year.

The move might conjure suspicions of lowering standards and undermining education’s.

If you’re inclined to that worry, realize that rising doubt of the validity of the Scholastic Aptitude Test is transforming admissions policy at many colleges and universities. The pilot program at NCCU, Fayetteville State University and Elizabeth City State University is far less sweeping, for example than changes at Wake Forest University. That school a few years ago became the first top-30 national university in U.S. News and World Report’s widely watched rankings to make SAT scores optional in an admissions application.

For a generation or more, critics have worried the SAT not only poorly predicts college success, but demonstrably tilts the playing field its meritocracy-focused champions claimed it leveled.

Todd Balf, in a lengthy look at the SAT - and plans by its new CEO, David Coleman, to overhaul it - in the New York Times Magazine last March summed up the criticisms:

“Students despised the SAT not just because of the intense anxiety it caused - it was one of the biggest barriers to entry to the colleges they dreamed of attending - but also because they didn’t know what to expect from the exam and felt that it played clever tricks, asking the kinds of questions they rarely encountered in their high-school courses. Teachers, too, felt the test wasn’t based on what they were doing in class.”

And then Balf zeroed in on concerns that help explain the importance of NCCU’s pilot program:

“An even more serious charge leveled at the test was that it put students whose families had money at a distinct advantage, because their parents could afford expensive test-prep classes and tutors.” Or, as Wake Forest University sociology professor Joseph A. Soares, who has extensively studied the SAT’s impact, put it to Balf, “The test highly correlates with family income. High school grades do not.”

Wake Forest’s experience is instructive. After the SAT became optional, incoming freshman averaged significantly higher high school grade-point averages. The student body’s diversity broadened.

NCCU Chancellor Debra Saunders-White championed the pilot program after realizing that several hundred applicants whose grade-point averages suggested they would be successful missed the SAT cutoff.

“This is very consistent with North Carolina Central as being the ‘gateway to opportunity,” she said last week. That gateway has just become more broadly available to those who need it most.

Online:

https://www.heraldsun.com

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