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Carolina Journal Radio No. 911: Voters should pay attention to important down-ballot races

Carolina Journal Radio / Donna Martinez and Mitch Kokai
The Truth Network Radio
November 2, 2020 8:00 am

Carolina Journal Radio No. 911: Voters should pay attention to important down-ballot races

Carolina Journal Radio / Donna Martinez and Mitch Kokai

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November 2, 2020 8:00 am

The races for president, governor, and U.S. Senate have been dominating N.C. headlines. But voters are making other important decisions in the next week. Rick Henderson, Carolina Journal editor-in-chief, assesses recent developments in races for offices such as lieutenant governor, superintendent of public instruction, state treasurer, and labor commissioner. North Carolina’s popular Opportunity Scholarship program faces a new legal challenge. Plaintiffs challenging the scholarships are tied to the N.C. Association of Educators teachers union. Corey DeAngelis, director of school choice at the libertarian Reason Foundation, analyzed the suit during a recent online forum. North Carolina’s junior U.S. senator secured a national audience during the recent confirmation hearings for a new Supreme Court justice. You’ll hear highlights from Sen. Thom Tillis’ opening remarks in the hearing for Judge Amy Coney Barrett. The COVID-19 pandemic continues to cause complications for businesses in North Carolina, especially businesses like private bars that have been prohibited from reopening. Zack Medford, founder and president of the N.C. Bar and Tavern Association, recently discussed COVID-19 challenges during an online presentation for the John Locke Foundation. The same online audience also heard a broader perspective on coronavirus-related business uncertainty from Gary Salamido, president and CEO of the NC Chamber. The pandemic also has negative effects on students’ ability to learn material in school. Terry Stoops, John Locke Foundation vice president for research and director of education studies, explores the learning loss linked to COVID-19 school shutdowns.

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From Cherokee to Kuretuk, from the largest city to the smallest town, and from the statehouse to the schoolhouse, it's Carolina Journal Radio, your weekly news magazine discussing North Carolina's most important public policy events and issues. North Carolina's junior U.S. senator gained a national audience during recent Supreme Court confirmation hearings.

You'll hear his message about the high court's proper role. The COVID-19 pandemic continues to have a major impact on the state's businesses. You'll hear from a representative of bars and taverns in North Carolina, along with the head of a statewide business group.

Plus, we'll explore learning loss among students affected by public school shutdowns during this pandemic. Those topics are just ahead. First, Donna Martinez joins us. She has the Carolina Journal headline. Election Day is Tuesday, and even with massive numbers of North Carolina voters having already cast ballots either by mail or through in-person early voting, massive numbers of people are expected at the polls as well. Now, several key statewide races are expected to be pretty darn close, and Carolina Journal is following those races. Rick Henderson is editor-in-chief.

He joins me now. Rick, welcome back. Thanks, Donna. Finally, we're going to make it through the election, so this will be interesting. We've been talking for a very long time about this. Don't get ahead of ourselves here.

That's right. The lawyers are hovering, right. We've talked several times about the race for governor. That's had a lot of media attention, but lieutenant governor is sort of under the radar. Tell us about the two major candidates. Mark Robinson and Yvonne Hawley are the two major candidates.

Yvonne Hawley is stepping down from General Assembly to run on the Democratic side. Mark Robinson is a motivational speaker and Second Amendment advocate from Greensboro. Whoever wins will be the first African-American lieutenant governor in North Carolina history, and so that's an important race in that regard.

Nothing has the race fairly even with Robinson, perhaps a slight lead. Part of it has to do with the fact that the lieutenant governor's office is really not crucially important for setting state policy, and so a lot of people don't know much about either candidate, and so that's sort of set forward. Mark Robinson has some pretty controversial things he's said in the past, that he's walked away from some and not from others, and Yvonne Hawley really hasn't run a very visible campaign at all, and so it's an important office, but it's one that hasn't drawn a lot of attention. But as you said, historic no matter how the race turns out, so we'll be watching that one on election night, and we'll also be watching the race for superintendent of public instruction. Education is always front and center in North Carolina just because it's so important.

So much state money and federal and local money also spent on this, but this year because of the pandemic, education has been front and center to people, whether you have kids or don't have kids. We have a Democrat and a Republican, Jen Mangrum, the Democrat. Kathryn Truitt is the Republican.

How do you see that one? Again, another very close race, two contrasting candidates very much on issues dealing especially with school choice, with how soon students should return to the classroom, either in person full-time or part-time. Jen Mangrum has been very much towing the line of North Carolina Association of Educators of keeping kids out of school as long as possible until the pandemic is over. Kathryn Truitt, who is the chancellor of Western Governors University North Carolina branch, has been one to say kids need to get back in school as soon as possible, as soon as it's safe. She supports the Opportunity Scholarship Program. She supports charter schools. She got the endorsement recently of the State Employees Association of North Carolina, which was a fairly big surprise. It was a big surprise that that happened. But yeah, for one thing, in addition to the local educators who say might be members of the NCAA, there are an awful lot of support staff in schools, and they're all state employees or are part of the state retirement plan and the like. There may be local employees and local governments, but they said that Kathryn Truitt has been much more responsive to their needs, and she's looked after more than classroom teachers, basically, is what they've said.

Very interesting. So it was a surprising endorsement. I'm sure one that she appreciates, but again, should be a very close race. Polling neck and neck on that one as well. Yes. The state treasurer, Dale Falwell, is the incumbent, and you've got Ronnie Chatterjee, who is the Democratic Party's nominee.

Right. Dale Falwell, the incumbent, has been someone, again, very closely aligned with the State Employees Association of North Carolina for the work he's done to maintain the stability of the state pension fund during some very rocky times in financial markets, working to improve the finances of the state health plan, to try to drive down the costs of the state health plan, both for members and taxpayers. Ronnie Chatterjee is somebody who basically has been serving as the public voice of the hospital association. He's gotten money from all of the big players, lobbyists in the state who are working on these financial issues, and it's very interesting in that typically you think of a Republican as a candidate of the big business and the Democrats as a candidate of the little guy. In this case, it's exactly the opposite, that Dale Falwell has gotten the support of the grassroots and Chatterjee has gotten the support of the big guys. Falwell has done a lot to try to bring control of the investments in-house in the treasurer's office is to have the treasurer's people handle management of the funds and not farm it out so much to a third party investors as his predecessor Janet Cowell did.

Chatterjee has been saying basically that he's going to turn it all back over to the big investment firms. There's a huge contrast there and Democrats especially really want to knock off Dale Falwell because they think that he really poses a threat to some of their very valued interest groups. And that one is really fascinating, sort of flipping the typical political dynamics on its head really between those two candidates. All right, we also have three seats for the North Carolina Supreme Court that are on the ballot, and it is a seven-seat court. People may not even realize that we do elect members of our state Supreme Court, unlike at the federal level, of course, where they're nominated and voted on in the US Senate.

Three seats up. Tell us about why this is considered such an important year. Well, this is an important year because since 2016, the balance of the court has shifted. These are partisan races for one thing. The balance of the court has shifted from a 4-3 Republican majority to now a 6-1 Democratic majority. And the three seats that are up could, depending on the outcome, bring it back to a 4-3 Democratic majority or a 7-0 Democratic majority. And if that indeed happens, it will have a huge impact on all sorts of policymaking issues. The courts, generally speaking, Republican judges on state courts have tended to be more critical of some of the moves that Governor Roy Cooper has made in emergency management and the like.

Democrats have been more willing to let him – to give him a lot more slack in his leash, if you will, as he's been working on the pandemic. And so if there are concerns that separation of powers in the state will be very much shifted toward the governor's office, the executive branch, if Democrats even hold serve, let alone take all seven seats. And so – And these are partisan races. So folks can find out which of the candidates are Republicans, which are Democrats, and factor that piece of information into all the stuff that goes into how we make our decisions as to who we're going to vote for. But it's key races hoping that everyone remembers to vote for the North Carolina Supreme Court seats.

All right. As we close out, Rick, our last chat before the election, Dan Forest and Roy Cooper. For the longest time, Roy Cooper held a substantial lead in pretty much every poll, but recently it's closed a bit.

Yeah, it has. Governor Cooper was around eight or nine point, fairly safe lead. It now looks like in the polling it's more like about a four or five point race. One thing that may well happen is how voters respond to continuing action toward the pandemic.

Do they think that keeping emergency orders in effect literally forever is something that they're willing to do, continue doing? Because Dan Forest has said he would reopen businesses faster than the governor would. Rick Henderson is editor in chief of Carolina Journal. Be sure to check in several times a day at, also on Facebook, on Twitter. Rick, thank you very much.

Thank you. Stay with us. Much more Carolina Journal radio to come in just a moment. Tired of fake news?

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I'm Mitch Kokay. A lawsuit challenging North Carolina's Opportunity Scholarships is attracting national attention. Cory DeAngelis is director of school choice for the National Libertarian Reason Foundation.

He discussed the suit during a recent online forum. DeAngelis started by rebutting key claims in the lawsuit. The reason for anyone to prevent families from choosing schools for their children is to protect a monopoly system. They want to keep these low income families in schools that are not adequately meeting their needs.

So that's the reason for this. And I just want to hit a couple of the, quote unquote, the constitutional arguments against this are just bogus. They don't discriminate. The program doesn't discriminate on the basis of religion. You can get a scholarship regardless of your religious background or sexual orientation. So it doesn't discriminate based on religious religion, just like Pell Grants don't discriminate based on religion.

You can take Pell Grants to religious or non-religious private or public universities if you're choosing. Children can still choose to remain in their public schools, even with this program. The public money going to serving a public benefit argument is absolutely ridiculous here. Obviously, getting a better education serves a public benefit. And imagine that people were arguing, like the teachers unions are arguing in North Carolina, that public dollars must go to public institutions with a lot of other programs like Pell Grants. First of all, like I already mentioned, they can be used at private institutions. Pre-K programs, those dollars go to families and families can pick public or private providers of pre-K services.

Food stamps, you can use those at a whole host of different private providers of groceries like Walmart, Whole Foods, Trader Joe's. So this whole public dollars, public schools thing is just a pretty ridiculous argument if you think about it for more than two seconds, especially when the private schools are doing a better job at providing a good education. This whole accountability argument, private schools are directly accountable to the families. If they aren't, families can vote with their feet and take their money elsewhere, unlike the traditional public schools. Why are so many families, 12,000 families in North Carolina, leaving the public schools if the public schools are quote unquote more accountable than the private schools?

The reality is that they're not because they're a monopoly and monopolies aren't accountable to individual families. DeAngelis says North Carolina is not alone in facing challenges to school choice. There's so much of this going on in other states as well. It's not the same kind of attacks that we're seeing here in North Carolina. I think it's especially egregious here to attack a program targeted to the least advantaged students in North Carolina.

So this is kind of worse than usual. But we are also seeing things in the charter school sector as well in places like Pennsylvania and California and Oregon. The teachers unions actually lobbied to prevent families from having their education dollars follow them to charter schools, which in any other year would have been fine that you could have enrolled, you could have enrolled in the charter school sector. So in California, for example, since the money is not following the child as a result of Senate Bill 98 out there that they just passed, one one charter school in particular reported that they had to put 500 already admitted students back on the wait list.

So there's, you know, there's a court case coming out in California in support of the families. Oregon teachers union did the same thing, lobbied to make it illegal to enroll in virtual charter schools. Pennsylvania, the Pennsylvania Association for School Administrators explicitly mentioned that they were lobbying to do the same thing because they were fearful of losing money.

So we're seeing this everywhere. We're seeing teachers unions protesting. The main problem is that we're funding the system and not the students. If we funded if we gave the money to the families like we did, like you're doing in North Carolina with the Opportunity Scholarship Program, it wouldn't really matter if the school reopened or not, if a particular school reopened or not, because then you could take your children's education dollars elsewhere.

If a Walmart doesn't reopen, you can take your grocery money elsewhere. That's Cory DeAngelis, director of School Choice for the Reason Foundation. He's speaking at a recent online forum. It focused on a lawsuit challenging North Carolina's Opportunity Scholarship school vouchers. DeAngelis challenged a popular argument against vouchers. It involves accountability for private schools. It's just baffling for someone to try to come out and make the argument that the schools that everybody's fighting really hard to leave to exit and the schools that are fighting to prevent families, particularly low income families, from leaving. Those are the somehow the more accountable ones.

Like, just come on, give me a break. That just doesn't make any sense. I mean, the private schools are the ones that families are seeking out. They're obviously more accountable to the needs of the individual families.

So I think it's I mean, it's just it's just weird confusion with top down regulations, with quote unquote accountability. Just, you know, having a certain regulation in place and checking a box doesn't mean you're actually producing good educational outcomes for students. And it doesn't mean that families are satisfied with the education or lack thereof of education being provided to to families and their students.

Families are very satisfied with the North Carolina Opportunity Scholarship Program. That's why over 12000 families are using it. And that's why they're opting out of their government run school voluntarily and knowing that they're only getting about 40 percent of the funding that they would have gotten for their children in the traditional public school system. So how how is the school system that people are leaving and leaving six thousand dollars behind somehow more accountable to these families that are voluntarily leaving?

It's just I just got to point out, it's just a ridiculous argument. DeAngelis addressed a particular claim in a lawsuit challenging North Carolina's opportunity scholarships. One parent argues that her only private school options are religious schools. She doesn't have a non-religious private school in her area, but that's akin to saying that Pell Grants are unconstitutional overall, just because one particular family may live in a community where there isn't a non-religious private university that most people would think that would be absolutely ridiculous to say that the overall Pell Grant program is unconstitutional and discriminates on the basis of religion, which in reality it doesn't because you can get a Pell Grant regardless of your religious background or your gender identity. But just because there's one family that lives in an area in a small town that doesn't have a non-religious private school, that obviously wouldn't make Pell Grants overall unconstitutional.

Similarly, the North Carolina Opportunity Scholarship isn't unconstitutional overall just because of this one situation in a particular town. Should the federal government play any role in this process? The answer from a libertarian policy analyst shouldn't surprise you. Look, I don't think the federal government has a role in education, but also I also understand that we currently have federal government involved in education. So given the situation we have with, you know, 8% of funding coming from the federal government in K-12 education, I think a step in the right direction would be to have that funding go to individual families instead of government institutions. So you can still be a libertarian and support a move at the federal level, which would empower more families to have educational options.

So I'm looking at you, Rand Paul, U.S. Senator from Kentucky, who just introduced recently the School Act, which would take nearly all federal existing dollars in the school system, which happens to be around $60 to $70 billion on an annual basis and would allow those dollars to follow children instead of government institutions. The families would still have the choice to stay in the public school system, so the dollars still could remain in the public school system if the public school is actually providing a meaningful education. But in his bill, it would also allow these families to use the money at a private school or even a homeschool option as well.

So it's essentially an education savings account. And I think that is a step in the right direction towards funding students instead of systems. And I just got to point out again, like there's almost no other taxpayer initiative, funded initiative that I can think of that sets up funding the way that we set up funding in the K-12 education system. In the K-12 education system, the norm is that the money goes to the building and the system regardless of the choice of the family. But with food stamps, Pell grants, pre-K programs, Section 8 housing vouchers, Medicaid, Social Security dollars even, if you're going to have that taxpayer funding for those initiatives, the funding goes to the person.

And we should do the same thing in K-12 education. It's just completely bonkers that the money is somehow owed to the institution rather than the individual. The money is supposed to be meant for educating the child. It should follow the child to wherever they're getting an education, just like with these other programs. That's Corey DeAngelis, Director of School Choice at the Libertarian Reason Foundation.

He's speaking at a recent online forum. It focused on issues related to a lawsuit. It challenges Opportunity Scholarship School vouchers in North Carolina. We'll return with more Carolina Journal radio in a moment.

If you love freedom, we've got great news to share with you. Now you can find the latest news, views, and research from conservative groups across North Carolina all in one place. North Carolina conservative dot com. It's one stop shopping for North Carolina's freedom movement. At North Carolina conservative dot com, you'll find links to John Locke Foundation blogs on the day's news. Carolina journal dot com reporting and quick takes. Carolina Journal radio interviews, TV interviews featuring CJ reporters and Locke Foundation analysts, opinion pieces and reports on higher education from the James G. Martin Center for Academic Renewal, commentary and polling data from the Civitas Institute and news and views from the North Carolina Family Policy Council.

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I'm Mitch Kocai. In the thick of a re-election battle, North Carolina Senator Thom Tillis still took part in the confirmation hearing for a new U.S. Supreme Court justice. Tillis' opening statement highlighted the confirmation's importance. This nomination's important because it's going to have a lasting impact on our republic. A justice service on the bench involves every important issue facing our constitutional republic. What are the limits of abusive and intrusive government power?

What's the proper role of each branch of government? And what are the fundamental protections that our Constitution grants all Americans? These are foundational questions for the Supreme Court and they consider them every single term. But it's not the rights enshrined in the Constitution that's most important. It's the structure of the document itself that ensures our freedom.

Justice Scalia understood this. He was fond of saying, every dictator in the world, every president for life has a bill of rights. That's not what makes us free. What makes us free is our Constitution. Think of the word Constitution.

It means structure. Justice Scalia went on to note the genius of our founding generation is that it dispersed power across multiple departments. The real danger to our constitutional republic is centralization of power in any one part of government.

When that happens, liberty dies and tyranny reigns. That's why it's critical that Supreme Court justices maintain the proper role. They decide cases. They don't make policy. In recent decades, the court has drifted towards a trend where it decides majority disputes over policy rather than reserving those decisions for the American people through acting through their elected representatives, people like those of us in the U.S. Senate.

Article three judges cannot and should not be policymakers. What about the nominee herself? Appeals Court Judge Amy Coney Barrett.

Tell us gives her a positive review. My review of Judge Barrett's record convinces me she's not only one of the most qualified individuals ever to be nominated, but she also understands the proper role of the Article three branch. She reaches conclusions dictated by the law, not by personal preference.

That's the right thing to do. Judge Barrett's rulings aren't meant to be for or against a particular policy outcome. She's not a legislator.

That's our job. However, when the minority can't get their bad policies passed in Congress, they turn to the courts to demand that judges interpret the law not as written, but as they prefer. Her opinions simply order the outcome the law dictates. As passed by Congress, a simply accountable branch, nothing more and nothing less. My Democratic colleagues claim they care about the First Amendment, the Fifth Amendment, the Fourteenth Amendment. If they care about our constitutional liberties, then they should care about confirming a judge who understands the proper role of the Supreme Court. Rights granted by nine can just as easily be ended by nine.

That's U.S. Senator Thom Tillis discussing the nine members of the U.S. Supreme Court and their proper role in our system of federal government. We'll return with more Carolina Journal Radio in a moment. Thank you. Stay informed and stay entertained.

Both brought to you in the name of freedom by the John Locke Foundation. Welcome back to Carolina Journal Radio. I'm Mitch Kogai. Shutdowns tied to COVID-19 have hit plenty of North Carolina businesses hard among the hardest hit private bars that do not operate as restaurants. Zach Medford is founder and president of the North Carolina Bar and Tavern Association.

He recently discussed his industry's challenges during an online presentation for the John Locke Foundation. The big issue we face is that North Carolina's private bars have been mandated to be closed since March 17th. We figure we would be included in the phase two reopening that happened in May. But at the 11th hour, we were informed that while restaurants with bars in them could reopen, if you are a private bar, you are not allowed to open. We went through the entire summer. This happening right on March 17th, that was the beginning of the bar season, our high season.

We do the March through the end of the summer is really a big time for bars. And then you go when you get into colder months than the weather, people stay home more often. That's when you're stockpiling the money made in the summer to help pay your bills for the winter.

Well, this time we paid our bills for the winter and we never got the revenue to come in from the spring. So we're already behind the eight ball. On top of it, it's that insult to injury. My bars are right next to restaurants. And every night, I see lines out the door at all these restaurants. I see giant crowds gathering out on the sidewalk waiting to get into these restaurants so they can go out and have some drinks and listen to live music or you name it, go sing karaoke. Many restaurants that weren't really bars before have pivoted to become bars because it's profitable for them.

And they're seeing record revenue in certain places. Many small restaurants are definitely struggling, but some of these larger places across Raleigh and Charlotte are just crushing sales right now at our expense. But for some reason, it's not dangerous for folks to go to these restaurants and have a drink. But you know, have forbid they step aside one of our bars and do the same thing. The governor finally after seven months, allow bars to open their outdoor space at 30% capacity. We're still not allowed to have anybody indoors.

Many bars in North Carolina don't have any outdoor space. It's just there's no end in sight. It really doesn't feel like anybody's doing anything to help us make it through this. From a policy standpoint, we've got to come up with some better solutions than just saying, Oh, well, bars aren't safe. Let them go bankrupt.

And we'll have new bars, you know, once the pandemic is over, somebody else can come in and reopen their bars for them. Midford takes issue with government decisions that don't seem tied to a coherent plan. The uneven rollout that we have seen, I mean, it's just the state has just taken half measure after half measure. We're not any better off than we were before. This thing is not under control. And even with all of the lockdowns and keeping bars shut, we're now in one of these we're now a red zone in North Carolina.

The cases are going up. But the same thing that's happening in the states that had looser restrictions and actually worked with the small businesses to help them stay afloat. So I don't think that we've really set ourselves apart by all these lockdowns aside from the amount of businesses that we make go bankrupt.

If getting the pandemic under control requires a full lockdown, then do a full lockdown with a limited time period. Picking and choosing winners by saying, Oh, well, Lowe's and Home Depot are essential. But the little hardware store on the block that's much smaller that can't be open, it's too small, they can't do it safely.

It's completely wrongheaded. And it's causing devastating impacts, of course, in the bar industry, but across all small businesses in our state. And for me, especially with bars, if you do keep bars closed, that's not going to stop people from going out and gathering together. I've seen more parties in my neighborhood and around town this summer than I ever saw. And that's because people have nowhere else to go.

So they just rent out an Airbnb house and go party there. So we're not really stopping the spread. We're just moving people away from a heavily regulated space like my bar where I employ security guards and I have bartenders and people that can help enforce the mask mandates and social distancing. I can actually control my crowd when they're partying at their house or in their garage or whatever.

I mean, it's no hold barred. And that's why I think you're seeing a lot of extra problems. That's Zach Medford, founder and president of the North Carolina Bar and Tavern Association. He's discussing his industry's challenges during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Medford discussed the toll shutdowns are taking on bar owners across the state. It's extremely hard when the world feels halfway normal for everybody else. But for you, you've lost through no fault of your own. You've lost your entire livelihood. And what do we do? I have all this money and time invested in my businesses.

Now I can't operate them. I can't just drop it and go get another job or start something new. I'm just stuck here at home. Like I said, watching the lines outside the restaurants get bigger and bigger every weekend while my bar stays dark and I'm writing checks to pay the bills.

I'm trying to negotiate with my landlord to keep us in place just long enough so that when we get back up and I can start paying them back for the background. It's depressing. It's dark days. It's hard to get excited when you get up in the morning and there's nothing for you to do. I mean, I'm blessed. I've got three healthy sons that keep my life pretty entertaining so I can spend time with them.

And that has been a benefit of this. But ultimately, how am I going to provide for their future if I lose everything that I've spent 12 years of my life building? Medford says government officials who shut down businesses need to find a way to make up for the lost business.

If ultimately, if you say it is not safe for bars to be open, they've got to stay closed until next spring. OK. They need to find a way to help me both pay my bills, but also feed my family. Programs like PPP didn't provide any money for me to pay myself. I was able to put my employees back on the payroll and give them money, but we weren't open, so I didn't have anything for them to do.

And that money was gone in eight weeks. I still couldn't pay it myself because as an owner, we pay ourselves dividends. So we've got to come up with a way to protect entrepreneurs like me. Nobody's asking to be made rich or to receive the kind of pay that they could.

They were hoping to get out of the money. We need it. We need some kind of support to help keep us on our feet. So when the time does come to return to normalcy, we're still around. And it just doesn't feel like that helps coming.

So I'm really hoping once we get the stress of the election season off our chest and we can get a plan written down, stop moving these goalposts. People are cynical. I talk to bar owners every day now that say I've been paying my taxes. I've been doing this the right way for 20 years. And I always figured the government was going to turn around and help me out when I needed it. Well, now that when we need it most, we're not getting anything. I think you're going to lose a lot of trust from people like me going forward. It's hard not to become cynical. So I really hope that that problem is recognized and addressed as soon as possible.

Looking beyond the situation for bars and taverns, the John Lott Foundation also welcomed Gary Salamito, president and CEO of the statewide NC Chamber. He boiled down business's goal to one word certainty. I think closing out 2020 to have a plan, to have some ideas about what they can watch, what they can monitor, what they can see going forward that is going to help them plan for 2021 certainty. And I think also in 2021, they're going to take it, you know, instead of doing annual budgets now, for example, or they're doing quarterly ones. So they're going to be looking quarter to quarter. They're going to not do, you know, five year strat plans.

They're not going to do three year strat plans. They're going to they're going to do a one year plan and maybe a quarter to quarter plan, maybe half a year, because there's so much uncertainty out there. And I think also 2021, you'll see caution. You'll continue to see, you know, am I going to make this investment and get it and it gets shut down again because the combination of flu season and COVID causes someone to, you know, to determine that we need to perhaps even go backwards in some of where we are. They're also saying, you know, we know a lot more now.

They're just going to take it slow and they're going to be cautious because it's uncertain. That's Gary Salamito of the NC Chamber. You also heard from Zach Medford of the North Carolina Bar and Tavern Association. Both took part in a recent online forum for the John Locke Foundation. It focused on the business impact of the COVID-19 pandemic in North Carolina. We'll return with more Carolina Journal Radio in a moment. Real influence.

You either have it or you don't. And at the John Locke Foundation, we have it. You'll find our guiding principles in many of the freedom forward reforms of the past decade here in North Carolina. So while others talk or complain or name call, we provide research solutions and hope. Our team analyzes the pressing issues of the day, jobs, health care, education and more. We look for effective ways to give you more freedom, more options, more control over your life. Our goal is to transform North Carolina into a growing, thriving economic powerhouse, the envy of every other state. Our research has helped policymakers make decisions that ensure you keep more of what you earn, expand your choice of schools for your kids, widen your job opportunities, improve your access to doctors. The recipe for stability and a bright future for truth, for freedom, for the future of North Carolina. We are the John Locke Foundation. Welcome back to Carolina Journal Radio.

I'm Donna Martinez. North Carolina school kids have finished up the first quarter of the school year, some 100 percent virtual, some a hybrid of virtual and in-person learning. The question now is what comes next for the kids, for the teachers, for the faculty, for the parents? Well, Dr. Terry Stoops is the John Locke Foundation's vice president for research, also the director of education studies. He's been looking at this question, writing that parents should really be alarmed by some of the decisions that are continuing to keep their kids out of the classroom. He joins us now with a look at why. Terry, welcome back.

Thank you. Give us your sense of the science and the health risk when it comes to kids and COVID-19. The health risk is really minimal to kids and the staff that work in public schools, so long as they take reasonable measures to ensure that they have a clean environment in their schools. We have seen, for example, schools that have initiated in-person learning for months now have very few cases of COVID-19, no fatalities, and have been able to manage the in-person classroom, the adjustment to in-person classroom in the age of COVID without any risk to the students or the staff. And so, as we learn more about COVID-19, I think we understand that schools aren't the super spreaders that everyone thought they would be this summer, and that it really is safe for kids to go back into the classroom. In fact, you write in your new piece that folks can read at that people should be very concerned if their kids aren't either back in school in the classroom or moving rapidly towards that.

Tell us why. Yeah. Well, we're fortunate that more schools, more public schools in particular, are starting to move back into in-person instruction, even though that there's around a quarter that are still insisting on having remote learning for the remainder of the calendar year and sometimes even beyond. But the learning loss that's produced, the longer that the students stay out, is really what I focus on in this piece. Students who are participating in remote learning plans learn less than they would in an in-person environment. There's a tremendous amount of research that backs up the fact that a remote learning plan is inferior to in-person instruction, and therefore there is learning that's lost in between them. So if you think about the fact that students started remote learning in March and some continue in remote learning environments through the beginning of the start of the school year, that's a tremendous amount of time and a tremendous amount of loss in what they could have learned had they been in the classroom, and there are long-term fiscal and economic implications for that learning loss. What does it mean for those kids if they're simply not learning because the environment just can't support what they need? Education is cumulative. So the further they fall behind, the fewer skills they're able to acquire. The fewer skills that they're able to acquire means that they'll have a more difficult time getting through school and may drop out, therefore depriving them of a necessary credential, or they'll go into the workforce with a minimal amount of skills and not be successful, and this will have a significant effect on their earnings. There was one estimate that a student, if they fall further enough behind, will lose up to a year's worth of salary through their lifetime if they have to endure continued learning loss due to COVID-19's remote learning push. So this is the real concern is that students, especially those that can ill afford it, these are mostly low-income and minority students that have this level of learning loss can be a significant detriment throughout their career. That's so fascinating because in your paper that we're talking about right now available at, it's really the first time that I have read some in-depth analysis of the long-term implications. We're so focused on right now what does it mean for how do you take care of your kids when they're learning in the home, et cetera, but you're talking about a lifetime of implications here.

Terry, is there any way to avoid this or to make up the ground that's been lost? Well, the first step is to get these kids back into the classroom and as much as possible resume the typical type of in-person instruction that really benefits these kids. The ways that we make up for these learning losses will mean that we have to radically rethink the way that we provide education, especially to low-income and ethnic and racial minority students is that we may need to add time to the school year and the school day. We might have to institute some intensive tutoring and take other measures to ensure that these students catch up. This is not really something that our system is very good at, of being able to adjust to a different environment and providing supplemental services for students who need them the most. That's why I think that there are ways that we can provide these services using school choice mechanisms such as ESAs or vouchers to provide these supplemental services to children, something that other states are actively exploring right now.

Essentially the money following the child and then the parents can decide what that child needs and that's going to be different from child to child. Absolutely, and we will know what the student needs once we start getting back into standardized testing because another disturbing part of this whole story is that we don't know how far behind students are because we suspended testing at the end of last year and we don't have active state testing going on right now and we may not, depending on the outcome of the elections, have standardized testing required for the current school year. We don't really have a very good sense of where our students stand, but I think there's a great deal of expectation and the research that's been done tries to model the learning loss, the expectation that students can be anywhere between a half a year behind to more than a year behind in school and it just gets worse the longer they're out of school. Terry, we've been talking about the North Carolina public school system here. How are private schools handling this?

Are they facing the same challenges and following the same course? It varies, of course, from private school to private school, but there are some private schools that have been in in-person learning since late summer. Thales Academies in North Carolina, a chain of private schools, has been conducting in-person instruction since July. I know that the Catholic Diocese of North Carolina, the two diocese, are conducting in-person instruction in many of their schools and they're doing social distancing and hand sanitizer and masks and there have been no evidence that these schools are perpetuating or spreading COVID-19 even if there are a regular number of students in the classroom or a typical class size. There's no evidence that there's any harm to the students or the teachers. So we know what private schools are doing. We have evidence that they're doing in-person instruction successfully and that there are very few clusters associated with in-person instruction. And yet the difference in policy and procedure and activities between the private schools you've described and the North Carolina public schools is stark.

Why? Well, the private schools don't have to listen to the governor and the public schools do. And so the governor is basically creating a situation where school districts are waiting on him to decide what they can and can't do.

Private schools don't have to do that. And I think they've really benefited from not being restricted by the governor's executive orders and being able to make the best decisions for the kids in those schools. Terry, thank you. And thank you for joining us on this edition of Carolina Journal Radio.

On behalf of my cohost, Mitch Kokai, I'm Donna Martinez. Hope you'll join us again next week for more Carolina Journal Radio. Carolina Journal Radio is a program of the John Locke Foundation. To learn more about the John Locke Foundation, including donations that support programs like Carolina Journal Radio, send email to development at or call 1-866-JLF-INFO.

That's 1-866-553-4636. Carolina Journal Radio is a co-production of the John Locke Foundation, North Carolina's free market think tank, and Carolina Broadcasting System, Incorporated. All opinions expressed on this program are solely those of the participants and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of advertisers or the station. For more information about the show or other programs and services of the John Locke Foundation, visit or call us toll free at 1-866-JLF-INFO. We'd like to thank our wonderful radio affiliates across North Carolina and our sponsors. From all of us at Carolina Journal Radio, thank you for listening and please join us again next week.
Whisper: medium.en / 2024-01-30 21:41:55 / 2024-01-30 21:59:25 / 18

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