AP NEWS
Related topics

North Carolina editorial roundup

August 8, 2018

Recent editorials from North Carolina newspapers:

___

Aug. 3

The Charlotte Observer on the state’s licensing exam for teachers:

The numbers are troubling and on the edge of embarrassing — 2,386 North Carolina elementary school teachers have failed the math portion of their licensing exam since 2013. So says a report presented to the state Board of Education last week, the Observer’s Ann Doss Helms reported.

The failure rate on those math tests is getting worse as N.C. schools struggle to find teachers to fill classrooms, Helms reports. Only 54.5 percent of teachers passed the exam in 2016-17, down from 65 percent three years earlier. Equally as concerning is the anecdotal report that at least some teachers are taking the test three to four times before passing — meaning they had ample time to reacquaint themselves with the math they’d been taught in high school or college, yet still failed.

The results have apparently alarmed state officials, who’ve named a committee of experts to review the test, which is administered by British-owned company Pearson. We hope and expect that examination will answer and raise some critical questions about the tests and the teachers who take them.

Here are three to start:

? How did N.C. teachers do on the Pearson test relative to other states? In a statement to the Observer, Pearson said that North Carolina officials determine the grade teachers need to pass the licensing exam, which suggests that the bar might be higher or lower than other states. At least two other states — Florida and Indiana — also have seen mass failures when their states adopted the Pearson tests, Helms reports.

If North Carolina’s standard is higher than other states, then officials should examine why that is and if there is a sweet spot that lowers the standard without sacrificing quality instruction in N.C. classrooms. If, on the other hand, our teachers are simply performing worse than teachers elsewhere, the state has some larger questions to ask, including:

? How much math does an elementary school teacher need to know? This is a trickier one. It may be fair to argue, as some N.C. teachers have, that a kindergarten math teacher shouldn’t be tested on higher-level math knowledge. But studies, including one from the Harvard Graduate School of Education, show that elementary math teachers who have a deeper understanding of math concepts provide richer learning opportunities for students, including better mathematical explanations and models of mathematical processes.

Simply put, the more math you know, the better you can translate that knowledge to your elementary school students. Which leads to perhaps the most important question that N.C. education officials — and N.C. legislators — should ask:

? Is N.C. doing enough to get the best quality teachers for our children? The states we know of that also have struggled with Pearson failures (Florida and Indiana) share something with North Carolina: All three are in the bottom half of the United States in median salary for school teachers. North Carolina was the worst of the three at 46th.

That pay is improving, but not quickly enough. Are elementary teachers’ math failures a reflection of that? It’s a question that N.C. officials at least should ask.

Online: https://www.charlotteobserver.com/

___

Aug. 2

Winston-Salem Journal on recent health care developments:

It’s unexpectedly good news that Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina wants to lower some of its premium rates for 2019, as the Journal’s Richard Craver reported Wednesday. This is the first rate decrease in Blue Cross of North Carolina’s history since it entered the current individual market in 1993.

But rates could be much, much lower, had President Trump and Republicans in Congress not been fooling around and undermining health care.

To flesh this out a little: Blue Cross, which will offer plans in all 100 N.C. counties next year, requested permission from the N.C. Department of Insurance to lower premium rates by an average 4.1 percent for individuals signing up for 2019 coverage on the federal health-insurance exchange, aka Obamacare. Premiums would be increased in some areas, reduced in others.

But the rate-reduction request could have been for 15 percent or more.

“We’re moving in the right direction, but even with a lower rate, premiums are still too high — particularly for those who don’t get a subsidy,” Dr. Patrick Conway, Blue Cross Blue Shield’s president and chief executive, said in a statement earlier this week. “With more certainty from Washington, rates would be 15 percent or more lower. We must address both market instability and the rising price of health care.”

The lack of certainty and stability comes because Trump and Republicans in Congress, having failed to “repeal and replace” Obamacare, have been subjecting it to death by a thousand cuts.

They’ve drastically cut funds for navigators — community health centers, nonprofits and private companies that help people access Obamacare. In North Carolina, the drop is from $3.4 million for the 2018 sign-up period to $500,000 for 2019, even though we had the fourth-highest overall enrollment in 2018, the Journal reported.

They’ve also cut funds to advertise Obamacare — to make people aware of available options — by 90 percent for the 2018 enrollment period.

Also on Wednesday, the Trump administration finalized rules that allow short-term, limited-duration insurance plans that cover far fewer services than Obamacare and fail to ensure coverage for pre-existing conditions. Their lower costs are likely to attract healthier people who will pay more out of pocket if they become sick.

Congress also eliminated penalties to enforce the individual mandate beginning in 2019.

All of these moves will reduce Obamacare enrollment, thus increasing prices. None of this is close to the “beautiful,” ″terrific,” ″unbelievable” health care plans President Trump promised as he campaigned for office.

On top of all this, our state legislature still refuses to expand Medicaid to cover an additional 500,000 North Carolinians, using its flimsy excuse that the federal government might not pay its share.

We understand that many Republican legislators despise Obamacare. But even while controlling government on many levels, they’ve not been able to create anything better.

Blue Cross stands to draw more customers by lowering premiums, but it’s probably not going to be willing to go much further without assurance of an advantageous path forward. And that’s not likely to happen with Republicans working hard to decrease access to health care rather than increase it.

On Monday, an analysis produced by the conservative George Mason University-based Mercatus Center reported the surprising — perhaps accidental — conclusion that a “Medicare for All” program could insure 30 million more Americans, eliminating out-of-pocket expenses, while saving Americans $2 trillion over 10 years, The Associated Press reported. That’s a direction worth exploring.

Health care in America is complicated, as even Trump acknowledged after taking office. Yet ours is the only advanced nation that has not figured out how to provide decent, affordable health care for all. It looks more and more as if that won’t happen until Republicans put their neighbors’ health care ahead of their party and vote accordingly.

Online: https://www.journalnow.com

___

Aug. 2

The News & Record of Greensboro says political candidates shouldn’t let money speak for them:

Increasingly to be a candidate for public office — particularly nationally — grabbing dollars has become more imperative than grabbing hands of voters or headlines to sell positive ideas.

That was apparent in 2016, when newcomer candidate Ted Budd emerged from a Kentucky Derby-sized field to be elected in North Carolina’s then-new 13th Congressional District, largely because a national political action committee liked his ideas and his smile and gave him a large donation that went far in introducing him to voters in the five counties of that district.

You may also recall that the same year the U.S. Senate race between incumbent Republican Richard Burr and Deborah Ross was one of the most expensive Senate races in the country, as special influencers sought to drop their dollars to ensure a purple state continued to tilt red.

Now that trend appears to be the norm. Taft Wireback reported Sunday in the News & Record that the two congressional races affecting Guilford County — the Sixth District is the other — have generated more than $4.2 million for the top candidates, and Wireback quotes election strategist Sheila Krumholz as saying that the 13th District candidates typically could expect another 50 percent before election day on Nov. 6.

Budd’s primary challenger is Democrat Kathy Manning, another political newcomer, who dominates the dollars race with more than $1.93 million, less than 10 percent of which came from PACs. Budd also has surpassed his total from 2016, collecting more than $1.16 million, and nearly half of that is from PACs. That is no small change to be spent in the nation’s No. 50 TV market.

But that’s not necessarily a good thing. You could make an argument that the Supreme Court’s 5-4 ruling in 2010 — yes, retiring Justice Anthony Kennedy was the swing vote, perhaps his most influential — in the Citizens United case, which established that dollars in political donations equaled free speech, has been the deciding factor in many elections since.

You may recall that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell gloated about the court’s decision because of how it connected with the First Amendment and allowed aggressive fundraising that could bring to Congress more friends than foes.

But the Citizens United ruling had much more significant impact than putting pretty faces in incessant campaign ads. It brought influence from extremes in our political philosophies and underwrote a megaphone for voices and ideas that sometimes do not match what the greater public wants to consider.

You expect that on the national scale. The presidential election is a forum for all ideas, and those who have the deepest pockets control the message. And, let’s face it, most candidates since Abraham Lincoln didn’t rise from the poverty of a dirt-floor cabin in central Kentucky. They had the dollars and education to gain purchase in races that often separated the haves from the have-nots.

But the time of Honest Abe, when the great debates truly were what we now know metaphorically as stump speeches, consisted of ideas and arguments delivered from the heart and lungs of the candidate.

Shouldn’t that be the way that it is? Don’t you want to know what each candidate in these two congressional races thinks about so many critical issues facing all of us? And don’t you want them to tell you without someone else’s dollars and influence flavoring the words in their mouths?

Online: https://www.greensboro.com/

AP RADIO
Update hourly