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DeVos wildly inaccurate on virtual charter schools

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By Chris Fitzsimmon
NC Policy Watch

Saturday, February 4, 2017

New information about the written responses from Education Secretary-nominee Betsy DeVos to questions posed by a Democratic senator should cause more problems for her embattled nomination.

“Education Week” reported Wednesday that DeVos cited wildly misleading numbers about the graduation rates at virtual charter schools in a question about her support for the schools.

DeVos claimed for example that the Ohio Virtual Academy had a 92 percent graduation rate when the Ohio education department says the four-year-rate is actually 53 percent, earning the school a grade of F in the state’s evaluation system.

“Education Week” also reports that DeVos gave wildly inaccurate graduation rates for several other virtual charters around the country and though she didn’t provide a source for the numbers, the publication found one.

“The figures and language cited by DeVos directly mirror those used in a report from K12 Inc., the country’s largest for-profit operator of cyber charter schools, in which DeVos is a former investor.”

The Senate voted along party lines Friday morning to proceed with DeVos’ nomination with a final vote scheduled for Monday. Two Republican Senators, Susan Collins from Maine and Lisa Murkowski from Alaska, have said they will vote against her nomination, which would mean a 50-50 tie, allowing Vice-President Mike Pence to cast the deciding vote in favor of DeVos.

You would think at least one more Republican senator would have second thoughts about a nominee that appears to have deliberately misled the committee about the facts about virtual charter schools, not to mention the myriad of other reasons why she is not qualified to be Secretary of Education.

Sen. Krawiec puzzling bill on the ACA

State Senator Joyce Krawiec, who made headlines recently for tweeting to the women marching to protest against the Trump Administration “if Brains were lard, you couldn’t grease a small skillet,” is back in the news this week for a proposal to address the long term financial issues in the state retiree health care system.

Krawiec is one of two primary sponsors of legislation to study the “unfunded liability of the retiree health benefit,” a recommendation that came from the Program Evaluation Oversight Committee of the legislature.

That might sound like an important but dry policy initiative at the General Assembly until you read what the legislation lists as topics the study committee should take up.

One of them is giving “financial incentives to early retirees to obtain insurance through the health insurance exchange created under the Affordable Care Act.”

In other words, Krawiec has introduced legislation to ask fellow lawmakers to consider giving early retirees money to enroll in Obamacare, the former president’s health care law that Krawiec has called a disaster and that her fellow Republicans in Washington are pushing to repeal.

Krawiec didn’t write the legislation calling for a committee to study relying on the Affordable Care Act to take care of state retirees, but she introduced it.

Either she really doesn’t really believe all the absurd statements she has made about the Affordable Care Act and actually understands its benefits or she still thinks it is a disaster but is willing to considering encouraging early retirees from the state to relay on the program for their health care. Either way she has some explaining to do.

HB2 damage continues

North Carolina continues to be hurt by the sweeping anti-LGBT law HB2 passed by the General Assembly in a special session last March and left in place by another special session just before Christmas that was called to repeal it.

Last week UNC President Margaret Spellings said that HB2 is hurting the university system, making it harder to attract top talent to teach at UNC schools. And Spelling is no liberal crusader. She was education secretary under Republican President George W. Bush and she was picked for the UNC post by a board of governors that was hand selected by Republican legislative leaders.

The Colonial Athletic Association recently voted to move its women’s golf championship from Brunswick County to Virginia because of HB2. Senator Bill Rabon responded by blaming Gov. Roy Cooper for the failure of lawmakers to repeal the law during the special session, echoing claims made by Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger.

But that doesn’t make sense. Republicans enjoy a supermajority in the House and the Senate and don’t need Democratic votes to do anything.

Cooper to his credit keeps pushing for repeal and a group of Democratic senators this week introduced legislation to do it. Berger said recently said he thinks a repeal is unlikely, though there are reports that discussions about it continue behind the scenes.

Meanwhile the damage to North Carolina and the demonization of a group of people in our state continues.

Chris Fitzsimon is executive director of NC Policy Watch

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