Civitas Capitol Connection
NOVEMBER 2013 VOL. 5, NO. 11
Inside Unemployment 2008-2013 — p. 4 —
— p. 8 —
UNC Prof Smears Gov.
Health Plan Shocks NC
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BY JIM TYNEN Shock and outrage continue to grow as promises made about the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) are being broken across North Carolina and the nation. A new Civitas website — Icouldntkeepmyplan.com – is highlighting North Carolinians’ stories about how Obamacare is throwing them out of the health plans they liked, while threatening their finances and ability to control their own lives. Their experiences run contrary to what President Obama and ACA advocates have said many times. “If you like the plan you have, you can keep it!” President Obama made such a promise at least 24 times, New York Magazine reported. CBS News recently estimated that 2 million people have al-
ready lost the insurance they had. Most observers believe that in coming months millions more will be kicked off their plans. The president also promised on at least 19 occasions that the ACA would lower families’ annual premiums by as much as $2,500 a year, according to Breitbart.com. North Carolinians are finding the opposite is true, according to the Charlotte Observer. Blue Cross Blue Shield said about 130,000 North Carolina customers who buy individual policies will face hefty premium hikes.
On Icouldntkeepmyplan. com, the people of North Carolina told us, in their own words, how these promises have been broken: • “Our plan was discontinued and we have been rolled into another plan. … We cannot pay double the premium for less coverage in our budget. This is our grocery money.” • “My wife and I have had continuous coverage with NC BC/BS since 1-1-2004 and believed that we would be able to continue our coverage based on Obama’s 3-2010 statements that anyone who
was already covered would not lose their coverage or doctors. It was a lie. We have been ‘mapped’ from the B tier of Blue Advantage to the Silver 2800 plan. Our deductibles have increased as well as our copays …” • “We first received a booklet from Blue Cross/Blue Shield that said ‘You cannot stay with your current plan, so you have to be switched to a new 2014 plan ….’ Then the next week we received our renewal letter. It said, ‘Due to ACA regulations, your current BCBSNC medical plan CONTINUED on page 6
To read more Affordable Care Act stories or tell us your own, go to www.Icouldntkeepmyplan.com
BY francis de luca & jane shaw In 2011, President Obama called for a more civil discourse. Unfortunately, Gene Nichol, Boyd Tinsley Distinguished Professor — and former dean — at UNC-Chapel Hill’s law school, appears to have no interest in adhering to that advice. His occasional articles in Raleigh’s News & Observer are predictably to the left and sometimes approach being screeds. But Nichol outdid himself last month when he called North Carolina’s new voter ID and election reform law the “most oppressive in the nation.” Furthermore, Nichol wrote that Gov. Pat McCrory’s support for the act makes McCrory “a 21st century successor to Maddox, Wallace and Faubus.” They were Democratic governors infamous for their support of segregation. Lester Maddox became famous in 1964 for keeping three African-Americans out of his Atlanta restaurant. He was elected governor of Georgia two years later. In 1963, Gov. George Wallace stood in front of the University of Alabama in an unsuccessful effort to block black students from entering. Orville Faubus was CONTINUED on page 3
November 2013 Civitas Capitol Connection
Obamacare Flaws Aren’t Just Glitches
BY JIM TYNEN Even as the Obamacare rollout grows more muddled, some issues are becoming clearer — including why North Carolina should be glad it isn’t more entangled in this mess. First, defenders of the Affordable Care Act have been saying that the state-run exchanges are running better, so North Carolina should have run its own exchange. Um, it depends on what you mean by “better.” According to a recent TV report: “A CBS News analysis shows that in many of the 15 state-based health insurance exchanges, more people are enrolling in Medicaid rather than buying private health insurance. And if that trend continues, there’s concern there won’t be enough healthy people buying health insurance for the system to work.” In other words, instead of being signed up for private insurance, more people are being added to Medicaid, which threatens to bankrupt states. In North Carolina, Medicaid has had cost overruns of hundreds of millions of dollars a year. Yet patient health outcomes have grown worse. North Carolina shouldn’t expand Medicaid until it can be truly and thor-
oughly reformed. Which brings us to North Carolina’s refusal to expand Medicaid under the ACA. Another key article (from Reason.com) points out additional problems with expanding Medicaid. First, as we have pointed out in the past and the above report confirms, Medicaid does little or nothing to improve health out-
comes for poor people as a group. Why add thousands and thousands of people to it? Second, as Gov. Pat McCrory and other NC leaders have pointed out, how long will that federal money for Medicaid keep flowing?
the numbers for a 48-yearold in Charlotte, N.C., ineligible for subsidies. According to HealthCare.gov, she would pay $231 a month, but the actual plan on Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina’s website costs $360, more than 50 percent higher.” Remember that when the Obama administration dredges up someone who claims to have gotten a good deal on Obama-
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care. That person may get a shock when the real costs become apparent. And remember that the website is just one part of Obamacare. If the government can’t do that right, how is it going to handle
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frustration and misinformation from the federal government’s health “exchange” website. CBS News found that a new feature may give people a misleading report on how much insurance may cost them: “CBS News ran
health and financial data for every American, while providing affordable, effective health care? Ominously, there are signs other parts of this boondoggle are flopping. Michelle Malkin, who spoke at our Conservative Leadership Conference, has highlighted how the law’s demand that all medical records be put into electronic formats is also wreaking havoc. Instead of concentrating on care, she wrote, doctors face exhausting regulatory battles over the definition of “meaningful use” of technology, skyrocketing costs and unwarranted Big Brother intrusions on the practice of medicine. This is just another fruit of top-down, centralized control, which is the hallmark of Obamacare. Without a doubt, more “glitches” will come to light as time goes on. Obamacare is not just flawed execution; it is a flawed concept. A relative handful of bureaucrats in Washington can’t possibly create and run an effective, affordable health care system that covers every American. Let me repeat: It’s impossible. North Carolina is better off trying not to get entangled in it, and waiting for a chance to make genuine reforms.
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Washington faces a debt of $17 trillion. Congress could decide tomorrow to slash how much it pays for Medicaid, leaving the states holding the bag. Expanding Medicaid could burden North Carolina taxpayers with hundreds of millions of dollars in costs, while doing little for people who truly need help. Meanwhile, those who want to buy private insurance continue to encounter
The HealthCare.gov website’s glitches are just one of the Affordable Care Act’s problems.
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November 2013 Civitas Capitol Connection
UNC Professor Lambastes Gov. McCrory
CONTINUED from page 1
an Arkansas governor who tried in 1957 to stop black students from entering Little Rock Central High School — until President Eisenhower ordered federal troops into Little Rock. It’s hard to imagine a more vicious and false comparison for McCrory. Nichol added about North Carolina: “We now constitute the leading edge of Southern civil rights oppression.” That
is a baseless smear. Every major provision in the election reform law merely puts North Carolina on par with the majority of other states, and in some respects our election laws continue to be less restrictive than those of supposedly liberal states like New York. This nasty attack might be ignored if Gene Nichol were a fringe figure. But he is not. He is a law professor who receives $205,400 per year
SAVE THE DATE!
from North Carolina taxpayers. He is also director of the Center on Poverty, Work and Opportunity, founded in 2005 by disgraced former Sen. John Edwards. Nichol was dean of the UNC-Chapel Hill law school from 1999 to 2005, before a short stint as president of the College of William and Mary. He was also dean of the University of Colorado Law School from 1988 to 1995.
Nichol’s nastiness and in- President Obama and leftcreasingly unhinged partisan- wing progressives want to ship are an embarrassment to see a more civil tone in pubUNC and reflect arrogance lic debate, they should start and radicalism that have by addressing the rhetoric of been building for years. If Gene Nichol. ——————— This article is condensed from a story that originally appeared on the Civitas Institute website. To read the full version, go to: nccivitas.org/academic-freedom-shrill-partisanship ——————— Francis X. De Luca is President of the Civitas Institute and Jane S. Shaw is President of the John W. Pope Center for Higher Education Policy.
Stop ACA Exemptions for Washington Politicians
The essence of our nation is that all people are treated equally. In contradiction of President Obama’s oftrepeated promise, the Affordable Care Act (ACA) is forcing millions of Americans out of health insurance plans they like and into more expensive plans. There should be no special treatment for Washington politicians. As Congress and the President continue to implement the Affordable Care Act, they should abide by the law as written. Tell them to use the same exchanges that they are forcing millions of Americans to use to get their own health insurance, without special subsidies.
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November 2013 Civitas Capitol Connection
Jobs Rebound Sped Up After Jan. 2011 BY lee brett A review of unemployment figures from North Carolina’s 100 counties illustrates the devastating effect of the recent recession in the Tar Heel State. From October 2008 to August 2013, only one county – Chatham County – experienced a decrease in the unemployment rate. That decrease was only one-tenth of 1 percent. Every other county experienced a net
Graham 4.1 Cherokee 1.8
Watauga 3.2 Wilkes Avery 1.3 Mitchell 3.0 2.6 Caldwell Alexander Yancey 0.6 0.2 1.9
A second illustration shows the period from January 2011 (when Republicans took the majority in the legislature) to August 2013. This map shows growth – albeit stuttering growth – in most counties. Dare County and Swain County experienced the greatest decreases in unemployment. Dare County’s unemployment rate fell by
increase in unemployment. Graham County was the hardest-hit in the five-year period, with a 4.1 percent net increase in unemployment. Note the top map. It tracks improvement in unemployment rates from October 2008, right before the presidential election, through August, the most recent month for which data is available.
Henderson Polk 1.1 1.2 Transylvania 2.8
Gaston 1.3 Mecklenburg 1.9
Montgomery 0.8 Stanly 1.1
Changes in Unemployment Unemployment Change Rate October 2008 through August 2013
Person Vance 1.2 Granville 1.9 1.7
Orange Alamance 1.5 Durham 1.1 1.4
11.5 percentage points, while Swain’s unemployment rate dropped by 9 points. These seem like dramatic reversals in economic performance, but it is important to note that the unemployment figures used here were not seasonally adjusted, which might exaggerate or underestimate the magnitude of changes in the employment environment.
Lee 2.0 Moore 1.4
Cumberland 3.1 Hoke 3.2
-0.1 to 0.5 percentage points
2.0 to 2.9
3.0 to 4.1
Camden Currituck 1.9 0.5
Pasquotank 3.6 Perquimans Chowan 2.6 0.9 Washington 3.5
Tyrrell 0.7 Dare 2.1
Beaufort 2.6 Craven 3.0
0.6 to 0.9 1.0 to 1.9
Hertford 3.0 Bertie 3.6
All things considered, it would appear that North Carolina is slowly recovering from job loss in the 20072008 recession. Economic growth has been relatively slow compared to the rest of the country. However, with a more favorable tax climate now in place it seems probable that job growth will continue to accelerate.
Pamlico 2.1 Carteret 1.8
New Hanover 2.5
Alleghany Gates Camden Ashe Northampton Surry -5.7 Vance Warren Stokes Rockingham Caswell Person -2 Currituck -0.5 -4.1 Hertford -1.9 -2.8 -5 -1.3 -2.3 -3.3 -4 -2.9 -2.8 Perquimans -0.5 Watauga Granville Wilkes Halifax -0.7 Pasquotank -1.3 -1.5 Yadkin Forsyth -3.3 -1 -0.4 Avery Orange Franklin Bertie Chowan Guilford -3.9 Mitchell -2 Durham -3.9 -0.8 -1.9 -2.7 -1.2 -1.6 -2.9 Nash Edgecombe -0.9 Davie Alamance Caldwell Alexander Tyrrell Madison Yancey Washington -4.3 Iredell -2.7 Martin -0.6 -2.3 -2.6 -4.5 -6.6 Wake -5.4 -4.7 -0.9 -1.3 -3.3 Davidson Burke -1.4 Randolph Wilson Dare Chatham Catawba Buncombe McDowell -3.6 Rowan -3 Haywood -3.2 -0.8 -11.5 -1.8 -3.2 Pitt -2.2 -3.9 -3.5 -4.1 Swain Johnston Lincoln Greene -1.3 Beaufort Lee Hyde Graham -9 Rutherford Cabarrus -2.5 -3.5 -1.1 Henderson -2.5 Jackson -5.9 Montgomery Harnett Wayne -1.7 -7.1 -4.1 -3.3 Polk ClevelandGaston -2.3 -3.4 Moore Stanly -3.8 -1.8 -0.5 Lenoir Transylvania Cherokee -2.6 Macon Craven -2.8 Mecklenburg -3.2 -2.1 -3.7 Pamlico -1.7 -2.6 -4.4 Clay -4.9 -0.9 -1.8 Cumberland -2.4 -4.6 Jones Richmond Hoke Union 0.2 Sampson Duplin Anson -1.7 -2.5 Carteret -0.2 -2.5 -1.6 Changes in Unemployment Rate Unemployment Change -3.9 -1 -3 Scotland
January 2011 through August 2013
-11.5 to -9.0 percentage points -8.9 to -5.0
-4.9 to -3.0 -2.9 to -1.0 -0.9 to 0.20
New Hanover -1.8 Brunswick -3.5
12.0% 11.0% 10.0% 9.0%
United States North Carolina
Percent Unemployment Seasonally Adjusted
Unemployment: Sept. 2008 -‐ Aug. 2013
*Data is from the North Carolina Department of Commerce Labor and Economic Analysis Division
November 2013 Civitas Capitol Connection
Few in NC Access Obamacare Website BY civitas staff A new Civitas Institute poll indicated that less than 10 percent of registered North Carolina voters have visited the Obamacare/Affordable Care Act’s health insurance exchange website (HealthCare. gov), and only 3 percent of respondents reported signing up for insurance. Of those voters polled, 3 percent tried to access the site but could not get on to it, and 3 percent accessed the site but did not sign up for insurance. The survey of 600 registered North Carolina voters was done Oct. 20-24. The margin of error was plusminus 4 percent. According to government statistics, 1,346,603 people in North Carolina lack health insurance and are eligible for ACA coverage. “Since 90 percent of those polled have not reported interacting with the Obamacare website, it is obvious that the Affordable Care Act is not attracting droves of people to sign up for health insurance,” said Civitas President Francis De Luca. The poll also looked at job approval ratings. President Obama had a 53 percent disapproval/44 percent approval rating. Gov. Pat McCrory’s rating was 46 percent approval/44 percent disapproval. Despite taking a beating from liberal activists this year, Gov. McCrory is statistically at the break-even point. President Obama, on the other hand, is upside down by almost 10 points after the onetwo punch of the federal government shutdown and the Affordable Care Act rollout.
With#the#newly#enacted#federal#health#care#law,#the#federal# government#is#running#a#health#care#exchange#for#individuals# to#purchase#health#insurance.#Have#you#had#any#experience# with#the#health#care#exchange?## Total#<(9%(
I#have#signed#up#<(3%( I#was#unsuccessful#in#accessing#<(3%( I#accessed#but#have#not#signed#up#<(3%(
Now,#please#tell#me#whether#you#approve#or## 0%( 20%( 40%( 60%( 80%( disapprove#of#the#job#that#Pat#McCrory#is#doing## as#Governor#of#North#Carolina.#
50%( 40%( 30%( 20%( 10%( 0%(
Now,#please#tell#me#whether#you#approve#or#disapprove# of#the#job#Barack#Obama#is#doing#as#President#of#the# United#States.# 60%(
55%( 50%( 45%( 40%(
44%( Jan( Feb( Mar( May( Jul( Sept( Nov( Jan( Feb( Mar( May( Oct( '12( '12( '12( '12( '12( '12( '12( '13( '13( '13( '13( '13( Approve(
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November 2013 Civitas Capitol Connection
Beware NC Health News’ Political Agenda BY francis de luca Hidden agendas can be dangerous, particularly when the goal is to influence public opinion with political attacks in the guise of impartial journalism.
Since then, Hoban’s “news” outlet has had considerable success at getting out its message. Mainstream media organizations frequently treat Ho-
to “eviscerate the leadership and weaken their ability to govern.” In order to do that, Blueprint concluded it was necessary to have “operatives with relation-
affiliated with any political party, special interest organization, or activist group.” That’s interesting, because even a cursory Google search
to Blueprint. The blog receives much of its funding from and shares staff with the Raleigh Public Record; Hoban was once the Record’s
NC Health News: An “Independent” Organization? A.J. Fletcher Foundation
Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation $300,000
Raleigh Public Record Funding
Satana Deberry Santana Deberry
“We are serious about our independence and are not affiliated with any political party, special interest organization, or activist group.”
NC Housing Coalition
NC Justice Center/ NC Policy Watch $425,000
Action for Children
“Eviscerate the ...” “Eviscerate the leadership leadership...”
*All dollar amounts were given in 2011
NC Health News is linked to a range of liberal groups and individuals.
Recently, a supposedly “independent, not-for-profit news organization” has stepped into the public arena. North Carolina Health News promises to “provide crucial information about health care in North Carolina,” but few people realize that the organization is just another propaganda outlet for the progressive Left. NC Health News was founded in November 2011 by Rose Hoban, a former radio reporter for WUNC.
ban’s writing as authoritative, but they are willfully ignoring the obvious ideological agenda behind her organization. What is that agenda? Well, it is simple, and readily explained by a strategy memo leaked in February. A liberal organizing network called Blueprint NC distributed a 38-page document that outlined a “collective statewide strategy” to discredit Republicans and conservatives in North Carolina. One of the immediate goals described in the memo was
ships to statewide media … for getting out the message in non-traditional ways.” Enter Rose Hoban and NC Health News. As a former reporter, Hoban had the connections necessary to cozy up to mainstream media outlets. Those outlets, for their part, were more than willing to push NC Health News’ liberal agenda. They did not question the blog’s selfdescription, which reads: “We are serious about our independence and are not
would have turned up evidence to the contrary. Two out of three of the founding board members also serve as officers or board members in Blueprint NC member organizations. Leah Devlin is a board member at Action for Children, while Satana Deberry is the executive director of the NC Housing Coalition. NC Health News may be a spin-off of another liberal mouthpiece with close ties
managing editor. The Record is another “nonprofit news organization” that is heavily propped up by leftist Blueprint bankrollers like the Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation and the A.J. Fletcher Foundation, which is backed by Jim Goodmon, the owner of WRAL. Everyone has an agenda. But NC Health News’ agenda is hidden, and for North Carolinians that can be unhealthy.
Horror Stories: Health Plan Shocks NC CONTINUED from page 1
will no longer be offered for 2014 ... we will transition you to the Blue Advantage Silver 3500 plan.’ Our rate went from $684.00 to $1,117.42. This is for a 70/30, $7,000 deductible plan.” • “I have two kids with chronic, life-threatening illnesses. We are being destroyed by Obamacare.” • “Basically, my premiums are going to nearly double, up 86%! This is affordable?
Well maybe, you see I am getting ‘New or Expanded Coverage’; let’s explore this further. Oh, I see, I also get maternity and newborn care coverage (did I mention I am 50?), I get increased mental health and substance abuse services (I have never drank, smoked or used any drugs in my entire life), I get pediatric services including oral and vision (for the children I have never had).”
• “In summary, our minimum direct increase in cost is $8,227 while in the case of accident or severe illness another INCREASE in out of pocket cost of $8,350 brings our total cost INCREASE and exposure to $16,577.” • “We do not want to go on the government exchange anyway. We hope if we keep our private insurance, no matter how expensive, we might avoid the government inter-
vention in our healthcare decisions. No ‘death panels,’ etc.” • My daughter just received a letter from her health insurance provider, Blue Cross/ Blue Shield of NC, of a premium increase. … This premium is more than their mortgage! …. They don’t want to be on the government dole any more than most folks. ENOUGH!” • “The whole business sector is probably curtailed from
making progress in this insecure environment. If someone wanted to delay American business or crush it, they could not be doing a better job than is being done by this earthquake change (ACA) or example of leadership designed to fail.” The above is just a selection of stories. The fate of the ACA may depend on what the people decide to do about it.
November 2013 Civitas Capitol Connection
Mental Health Gaps Put Public Safety at Risk BY lee brett The day after a mass shooting, there are invariably calls for gun control, or for more security to protect us. The real problem, however, lies with the gap in our
tionalization. Before the 1950s, mentally ill people were treated in state psychiatric hospitals. This was in many ways an effective system: Patients could
in Raleigh. The state handed responsibility for mental health care to local management entities (LMEs), which were supposed to contract with private
provide involuntary treatment. As a result of North Carolina’s mental health reform, the state reduced the number of emergency inpatient beds
providers for mental health services. But many of the private “community services” that were supposed to pick up the slack from the hospitals never materialized. Those services that did emerge were often not directed at the severely mentally ill, since those services were more complicated and costly to provide. The shift to LMEs also created a major legal gap, since local providers could not
available, while making it harder for severely mentally ill people to receive followup outpatient care. In 1992, North Carolina had over 2,800 public inpatient beds. By 2001, that number had fallen to 1,755 beds. In February, North Carolina had only 866 inpatient beds. That number actually exaggerates the resources available: Many beds are taken by dangerous long-
Dorothea Dix Hospital in Raleigh, now closed.
mental health system with regard to the severely mentally ill. Almost unheard of before 1966, mass shootings like the Newtown massacre have become tragically frequent in modern American life. Pundits and politicians alike have been fumbling around to identify the root cause of these atrocities. In the aftermath of Sandy Hook, the Left called for sweeping gun control measures, while the NRA suggested hiring armed guards in schools. Both proposals are far off the mark. They are directed at the symptoms of a much greater problem: untreated severe mental illness. In almost every recent mass shooting, the perpetrator suffered from some sort of untreated or undertreated mental illness or disorder. The Virginia Tech shooter, Seung-Hui Cho, had a long and well-documented history of mental illness. Jared Lee Loughner, who killed six and wounded 13, including Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, had untreated paranoid schizophrenia. So did James Holmes, who murdered 12 people in a Colorado movie theater. And Adam Lanza, the Sandy Hook killer, had been “coded” as someone who might have a mental or developmental issue. It is no coincidence that the spike in mass murders committed by people with severe mental illness coincides with the national trend of deinstitu-
receive treatment and medication in a safe and controlled environment. It was not perfect, however. A number of highprofile abuse cases – like the sort dramatized in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest – sparked outrage about the state hospital system. At the same time, the advent of new and powerful anti-psychotic drugs led some health officials to believe that state hospitals had outlived their usefulness. The result was deinstitutionalization, the decades-long process by which state hospitals were closed and patients moved back into society at large. In many ways, deinstitutionalization was a good thing. It gave a great number of people with more treatable conditions a much greater degree of freedom and dignity. But for people with severe mental illness, deinstitutionalization was an unmitigated disaster. E. Fuller Torrey, one of the nation’s foremost authorities on schizophrenia, calls deinstitutionalization a “psychiatric Titanic” that “[discharged] people from public psychiatric hospitals without ensuring that they received … any psychiatric treatment.” In North Carolina, deinstitutionalization was a gradual process that reached its conclusion in 2001. In that year, Gov. Mike Easley signed legislation that closed many of the last remaining mental hospitals, including Dorothea Dix Hospital
term patients, while others are reserved for insured patients or nonviolent patients. Of course, the severely mentally ill people who used to reside in the state hospitals have not simply gone away. Nor have they recovered. Today, the severely mentally ill increasingly end up homeless or in prison. The gap in the state mental health system has major implications for North Carolinians. Today, there are thousands of people living among us who are not getting the treatment that they gravely need. Some of these people may pose a risk to public safety. So far, North Carolina has largely been spared the tragedy of Newtown and Virginia Tech. But there have been close calls. In 2006, Alvaro Castillo shot and killed his father before driving to Orange High School in Hillsborough. He opened fire, wounding two students before he was subdued and arrested. Castillo suffered from an untreated schizophrenic disorder. The best way to prevent future mass shootings is not to post more guards in schools. It is not to outlaw guns. The best way to prevent mass shootings is to attack the problem at its source: severe mental illness.
Using data from the state Department of Health and Human Services, the above graph shows how quickly and deeply state mental facilities for the severely mentally ill were reduced. From 1992 to 2007, there was steady growth in the number of people served by the state mental health system. The following year, the bottom dropped out: The number of people served dropped from more than 18,000 to about 4,500. That is approximately a 75 percent decrease in the number of people served by the state mental hospitals. Those people didn’t just magically get better – many of the people who might have had access to a state hospital before Gov. Mike Easley’s vaunted “mental health reform” would end up on the street or in jail today. Another interesting thing to note: The resident population of the state hospitals also dropped markedly over the course of “mental health reform.” These are some of the riskiest patients, whose conditions make them unfit to live outside of the mental health system. Until 2001, the resident population remained relatively steady. After “mental health reform,” the resident population was cut by more than half. Those people didn’t magically get better either. This graph illustrates nothing less than a full-blown crisis in how our state takes care of the severely mentally ill.
November 2013 Civitas Capitol Connection
Scandal BY bob luebke Do you want to improve student achievement? The available research suggests that giving students access to a high-quality teacher is one of the best ways to raise student performance. That was the rationale behind legislation approved by the General Assembly earlier this year that gave local education agencies greater authority over the hiring, firing and retaining of teachers. Beginning next year, schools will offer teachers one- to four-year contracts. As a bonus, each teacher who signs on will receive a $500 pay increase for each year of the contract. The legislation sets up the machinery to untie teacher compensation from years of experience and academic credentials and link it to student performance. Many teachers don’t like the proposal. They incorrectly view it as only a means to end teacher tenure. There has been much activity to organize opposition, and a teacher “walk in” is planned for November. I understand how teachers might not like the legislation. There is always room for healthy differences of opinion. However, what has surprised me are recent statements from educators taking issue with merit pay and teacher salaries. In an interview that appeared in the Winston-Salem Journal, Dr. Ed Pruden, Superintendent of Schools in Brunswick County, articulated one of the common arguments against the pay plan when he said:
Schools Grade Students; Why Not Grade Teachers? the best teachers are. Parents do too. Teachers spend months teaching students. They grade assignments, read exams and try to objectively evaluate subjective areas. Is there a reason why a similar evaluation cannot be developed to assess teachers? Teachers do that for students. And in some cases, they even rank students among their peers. We can’t develop a system to rank teachers? The word is not “can’t,” it’s “won’t.” Pruden asked, “How do you account for students of differing abilities and different home environments?” I’d simply ask: Isn’t it possible to take students of differing backgrounds and expect a year’s worth of prog-
“How do you account for a teacher having a classroom of advanced or gifted students and another teacher having a classroom of students with learning difficulties, or students who don’t speak English, or students from poverty who don’t come to school with the advantages of a middle-class child? There is no way to slice the onion that thin and separate teachers by their performance.” While I respect Dr. Pruden and his work in New Brunswick County, I disagree. First, much as people don’t like to hear it, the truth is teaching is no different from other professions. There are good teachers, average teachers and
below-average teachers. Pruden said it’s impossible to objectively distinguish between the best teachers and the rest. Doing so could set up public schools for lawsuits by teachers who were left out of the money. Pruden said, “If a school gives contracts to 132 ‘best’ teachers and can’t distinguish between 132 and 133, how do you say you can’t offer 133 a contract?” That’s a surprising message coming from someone who must work closely with teachers and those (i.e., principals) who are among other things charged with working close with teachers and evaluating them. The truth is, principals and teachers know who
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sional development needs and also identify highly effective teachers. Brunswick County received nearly $2 million in Race to the Top funds. Local education agencies only receive money if they agree to implement the plan. Part of the money Brunswick County received was designated for the development of an evaluation system that integrates student growth into a system of teacher and principal evaluation. Is the system perfect? No. There are many problems with an evaluation system tied to the implementation of Common Core Standards. However, the current system is far from perfect. Too often it pays the same salary to our best, average or
“The truth is, principals and teachers know who the best teachers are. Parents do too.” ress? Addressing that question is already part of our current assessment apparatus. Pruden says it’s not possible to create such a system. He should know better. The development of such a system is part of North Carolina’s Race to the Top Grant. The grant calls for the development of an equitable, reliable and transparent evaluation system that will identify staffing and profes-
below-average teachers. Developing a good evaluation system linking teacher pay to student performance is a big task, but not impossible. Any final system will be imperfect. But it gets us closer to our goals: putting high-quality teachers in the classroom and rewarding good teaching. If there are educators who want to oppose those goals, let them fight.
Scandal is a regular column in Civitas Capitol Connection that will explore public corruption in NC Government. Have a local corruption story? Email email@example.com or call 919.834.2099.