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Carolina Journal Radio No. 915: Returning students to in-person schooling presents urgent challenge

Carolina Journal Radio / Donna Martinez and Mitch Kokai
The Truth Network Radio
November 30, 2020 8:00 am

Carolina Journal Radio No. 915: Returning students to in-person schooling presents urgent challenge

Carolina Journal Radio / Donna Martinez and Mitch Kokai

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November 30, 2020 8:00 am

There’s an urgent need to return N.C. public school students to in-person instruction. That’s the message Terry Stoops hopes to send. The John Locke Foundation’s vice president for research and director of education studies explains why the science and data suggest that school kids face much more danger of long-lasting negative effects if they remain stuck in forced online learning. Republicans will maintain control of both chambers of the N.C. General Assembly in 2021. After winning key elections this month, state Senate leader Phil Berger, R-Rockingham, and House Speaker Tim Moore, R-Cleveland, offered their reactions to voters’ decisions. Berger and Moore also discussed key issues likely to crop up in next year’s legislative session. COVID-19 has created challenges for everyone, including leaders of the University of North Carolina System. President Peter Hans recently briefed his Board of Governors on budget and access issues linked to the pandemic. The coronavirus has caused headaches for groups working to help military veterans find jobs in the civilian world. During a recent online presentation hosted by the John Locke Foundation, Kimberly Williams of the group North Carolina for Military Employment, NC4ME, discussed COVID-19’s impact on her group’s operations. Some national Democrats are pushing for presumptive President-elect Joe Biden to push a plan for packing the U.S. Supreme Court with new liberal justices. Brenée Goforth of the John Locke Foundation discusses the history of the court-packing debate. She explains why the idea is just as bad now as it was when President Franklin Delano Roosevelt proposed a similar scheme in the 1930s.

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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. Welcome to Carolina Journal Radio, I'm Mitch Kocke. During the next hour, Donna Martinez and I will explore some major issues affecting our state.

Republicans will run North Carolina's General Assembly again in the new year. Leaders in both the Statehouse and Senate share their thoughts about the recent election, along with their future plans. The COVID-19 pandemic means both budget and access challenges for the University of North Carolina. The University's President recently addressed those issues.

You'll hear what he said. Coronavirus also has affected military veterans returning to the civilian world. You'll hear from the head of a North Carolina group working to plug veterans into civilian jobs. And we'll examine the controversial history of court packing proposals in Washington, DC.

Those topics are just ahead. First, Donna Martinez joins us with the Carolina Journal headline. The urgency of resuming in-person instruction for North Carolina school kids cannot be overstated. That is the message from our next guest, Dr. Terry Stoops, a message conveyed in his recent column posted at Terry is the John Locke Foundation's education expert. He joins us now to talk about what we are facing in our state. Terry, welcome back to the program.

Thank you. You've had a number of months now, of course, of mandated remote learning. Some districts have kids completely remote. Others have some sort of a hybrid situation. And you have big concerns about all of this.

What bothers you most? Well, it appears that the consensus in the scientific community is that schools are safe to reopen, that school buildings are safe to reopen. And yet there seems to be hesitancy across the state through school boards, teachers, county commissions, other elected officials that are reluctant to open schools, that don't feel that it's safe, even though that the scientific community, the Department of Health and Human Services, and many others are saying that yes, not only is it safe to open schools, but schools should be considered an essential service, that they're opening and allowing students to come back in person is absolutely essential. In the same way, for example, that grocery stores were deemed essential business by the governor.

That's exactly right. And they should be considered as such. And you think about all the things that schools do. Of course, they're engaged in education, but they allow adults, working adults to be able to go to work, which of course, if remote learning is happening, makes it very difficult for parents to be able to do so. They address the mental health needs of students, the academic needs of students, and sometimes even the nutritional needs of students by providing meals for those children. So we look at all the different things that schools do.

We look at the fact that the scientific consensus tells us that they're safe to reopen. And yet not all of our schools are opening across North Carolina. You mentioned something really fascinating on the one hand and tragic on the other, and that is the mental health issues that are associated with mandated remote learning.

Talk a little bit more about that. Well, we don't really have a good handle on just how widespread and whether it is affecting some populations more than others. But the initial research that we're seeing right now tells us that our children are suffering from mental health problems, depression.

They're frustrated working from home. They don't get to see their friends. They don't get that daily interaction with their peers that allows them to self-regulate and helps them to in their development, in their social development. So this is really the worry here. And we don't have good data, like I said, about how widespread the social or the mental health problems are in North Carolina. But if some of the data that we're receiving from initial studies is any indication, then we should be very worried about the mental state of our students. Not only should we be worried about that, but Terry, moving ahead, what can we tell at this point, if anything, about the academic rigor that is or isn't associated with remote learning and what that means for kids in terms of the progress that we would be expecting them to make over a school year?

Again, this is one of the frustrating things about North Carolina is we don't really have a good handle on that from our state. We don't have the kind of data that would be necessary for us to tell us whether students are progressing or regressing. That would require a whole battery of beginning of the year tests that would then be compared to tests that students took in the past.

We just don't have that right now. But what we do have is we have testing that's taken place in other places. And we have research that's been done on remote learning. And I can tell you that the research that's been done on remote learning tells us that remote learning for most students is inferior to traditional in-person instruction. Students just don't get as much content through remote learning as they would if they're sitting in a classroom.

There's a lot of reasons why this might be the case. Teachers aren't used to using remote learning. It's not something that they have experience with. And teachers, in a classroom, it's a very interactive environment. A teacher can tell when a student doesn't understand something. They can always tell with me.

I know that. And so they can review that right there in class. With remote learning, that's just very difficult to do. So even the tiniest interactions between student and teacher, when those are missing, can really have long-term damaging consequences on the academic progress for children. And as far as the test scores, we have to rely on places like Dallas to really understand what's going on. Tell us more about Dallas.

You write about Dallas in the column that you posted recently at Well, Dallas did an initial examination of test scores. They did a beginning-of-the-year test, and they compared that to testing that occurred before. And the results were not really unexpected but horrifying in the words of one school board member seeing students in math and reading regressing significantly compared to their last test scores. This is really the worrisome part, especially in math, where I believe around 50 percent of the students were actually doing worse than they would have had they come back for conventional in-person instruction. This is extremely worrisome because not only did they regress in math, but they're going to continue regressing as long as students are out of the classroom, and that adds up.

It's not something that's easily made up for in the course of a couple months. It takes years to be able to fill that gap between what a student knows and what they should know at this point in their academic career. Math was a tough one for me when I was going to school, and these days we hear so much, Terry, about reading science and math being critical for careers of the future. So should we be looking ahead and saying, oh my gosh, not only is this just a problem because everyone needs to understand the basics and some advanced concepts in mathematics, but it could affect a career down the road.

Absolutely. It will definitely affect the career earnings of those children when they come out of high school and go into the workforce with fewer skills. It will affect the economy, North Carolina's economy, the United States' economy, seeing a loss in GDP for having a generation of kids that are entering the workforce with fewer skills. So there's a lot of things to worry about, and you look at some of the long-term projections of what this may cost the United States' economy, we're looking at trillions in lost GDP over the course of their life, of these students' life. And this is really the worrisome part is that we look at what some of the short-term consequences of this are for students' mental health, for their academic career, and then you look at some of the long-term consequences for students' earning ability, their ability to graduate from college, to be prepared for college, and then what that means for our long-term economic prospects, and you realize just how much this crisis is going to have lasting effects for our nation. And Terry, despite all of the challenges and concerns that we're discussing here today, you actually write that you are optimistic about 2021.

Why? We know that we have a problem that faces us. We understand the problem, and I think we have the people in place now that will be focused on addressing the problem. Dr. Terry Stoops is the Vice President for Research, the Director of Education Studies at the John Locke Foundation. Terry, thank you.

Thank you. Stay with us. We'll have the Carolina Journal radio to come in just a moment. Tired of fake news?

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Welcome back to Carolina Journal Radio, I'm Mitch Kocak. Republicans will control North Carolina's General Assembly again in 2021. Once that result became clear on election night, legislative leaders responded.

Bill Burger of Rockingham County has led the state Senate ever since the GOP won control of that chamber ten years ago. For the sixth consecutive election, voters made a clear choice in support of the Republican platform of low taxes, expanded school choice, and large investments in education and teacher pay. Those are policies that are broadly popular even among groups that traditionally don't support Republicans. Our record for the last decade is clear. A booming economy that we intend to rebuild, low taxes, and giving parents, even parents from lower income households, the same opportunities for the children's education that the wealthy have. The Senate Republican majority will continue to deliver on those promises. I hope the next two years we see a departure from the divisive partisan lawsuits that have hamstrung attempts at good faith negotiations between Republicans and Democrats in the legislature and the executive branch. Winning the 2020 election gives Republicans control over redrawing state election maps.

Burger addressed that issue. For the second time in ten years, Senate Republicans won under maps approved by and drawn by Democrats. The districts we won in were created by the Democratic Party's expert mapmaker.

They were chosen at random by a lottery ball machine. They were amended, amended exclusively on amendments from the Democrats. Republicans still won a clear majority. I hope this puts an end to the decade-long saga of redistricting lawsuits.

We're all back at work. You should expect to see the same policies that voters convincingly supported. State House Speaker Tim Moore contrasted the election night reality with the pre-election projections. Much of the news coverage leading up to this was talking about how we were going to lose the majority in the House, and so obviously that didn't happen. Not only did we maintain the majority, we actually added four seats. What I was seeing a lot, I would talk to folks who would say, the polls are saying this, the polls are saying that, and what I was seeing consistently out there, the energy around this state was a lot of enthusiasm for Republicans up and down the ticket. North Carolina voters know that Republicans really stand for safety and security around the state.

They know the policies that we've put forward are working. The fact that North Carolina, despite COVID-19, is still in really good financial shape, and we have some sectors that are going to need some help, and we're all prepared to go back to work and make sure that we get that done. What I'll also say, there's going to be some partisan flavor to the next few weeks, but at some point in the near future, we have to eventually put aside being Republicans, being Democrats, libertarians, whatever else, and realize and recognize the fact that we're all Americans. I, like so many, have seen some of the things that have happened where things have turned violent, where there's been property destruction, and I'll tell you, I've talked to folks of all political stripes back home and around the state, and people are saying enough is enough. So the one thing that I definitely want to make sure to get out there is that for these folks who want to go out and try to tear these cities up and cause all this problem, is that the people of North Carolina do not stand with that, and they do not want that to happen. But where do we go from here?

I want to see us continue to build on examples, for example, the way we did the COVID project. We came through with legislation that passed almost unanimously, really build to try to get those coalitions, because we know that our best days are those that we can always work together and try to find joint solutions. The House Speaker noted a large influx of campaign money from outside of North Carolina, targeting the state's legislative elections. There's never been this much money brought from outside the state of North Carolina to try to flip a state legislature.

I don't know if it's ever happened. I've been told that numbers like 80% of the money that came in was from out of state, but you know what that proves? The fact we maintained a majority, it proves that you just can't buy elections on these legislative races. People are going to vote for folks they know and trust in those local legislative districts, and I think that may be a lesson to those out of state groups, that they don't need to try to come to North Carolina and buy these legislative elections. What about working again in the new year with Democratic Governor Roy Cooper? He's blocked Republican priorities on more than one occasion during the past four years. Senate Leader Phil Berger has a response. I'll just offer my congratulations to Governor Cooper on his re-election, look forward to working with him, hopeful that we will have an opportunity to get some more things done in the next two years than we were able to get done in the last two years. Just because top legislative leaders are willing to work with Governor Roy Cooper, that doesn't mean they will endorse his priorities. That includes Medicaid expansion.

Phil Berger. In all of the contested legislative races, that was an issue in those races as well. The Democratic candidate in each race ran as a proponent of Medicaid expansion. In each of those contested races, the Democratic candidate was rejected. It is my belief that Governor Cooper won his race, clearly won, but I don't believe it was because of his position on Medicaid expansion.

Berger and Moore went to court to block the State Board of Elections from rewriting state election rules while votes were being cast. The House Speaker discussed that issue. I do believe that the law that we passed that was bipartisan, as mentioned, signed by the governor should be followed.

I don't believe courts, I don't believe administrative bodies should be just arbitrarily extending statutes or, frankly, violating statutes. The voters want certainty of the elections. They want to know who received the most votes, get that certified, and move on. Any time you start having delay and dragging things out, all you do is you create concerns and worries of uncertainty and, was something done wrong in the minds of those voters? You can look out there and you can see that, frankly, from both sides of the political aisle, folks saying that we need to get on and follow the law and make sure that we count the ballots on the day they're supposed to be there, make sure you count the ones that we're in.

Because any time you start doing things different, it raises questions. We're here in Pennsylvania, I guess in Michigan as well, and so I hope that the U.S. Supreme Court will finally weigh in on this and give clarity. At the end of the day, it's about do legislative bodies that pass validly adopted laws, do those mean something or can just unelected bureaucrats or can judges just willy-nilly pull things out of the sky and create it?

That is a very dangerous thing. We don't need that happening in North Carolina or anywhere else. Senate Leader Phil Berger chimed in. Especially when the changes are things that were considered by the legislature and rejected, to have an unelected administrative body to then, notwithstanding that rejection by the legislature, go ahead and make those changes anyway.

I think that's a perversion of the rule of law. The discussion returned to redistricting, which will take place in 2021 with new census data. Does Senate Leader Phil Berger expect a repeat of the process that produced the current state election maps? I would say on the Senate side, that's going to be the point we would start from is the way we handle things in 2019.

We'll see if if that's a way for us to do it. House Speaker Tim Moore has his own thoughts about redistricting in 2021. I like the way that we did the the open process where everything happened.

I think that was a great model. It was, of course, there we were changing existing districts. When it comes to really to the 2020, you're going to have to have you've got a census. You're going to have new districts based on population. So you're going to have major shifts.

That's going to be a difference. I don't I don't know that folks have fully realized the extent of shifts. You're going to see more districts concentrated in your urban and suburban areas as opposed to the rural areas just because of the shift in population.

So you're as opposed to a lot of the trimming around around the edges like you saw this last time. You're going to start with a blank slate and go from there for legislative races, congressional races and everything. But look, I've been very proud of the way we have done redistricting. This year, we were elected with a majority with maps that largely were dictated by what a Democratic map drawer had done. So there ought to be the end of this talk about gerrymandering and all that.

That's why Republicans are in charge, because we have now through these cycles proven that is not the case. The reality is the voters of this state, the voters of this state chose to have a Republican majority in the state Senate and in the state house. That's House Speaker Tim Moore. You also heard from Senate Leader Phil Berger, they're addressing key issues for the General Assembly in the year ahead.

Once again, Republicans will lead both legislative chambers. 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, it's one stop shopping for North Carolina's freedom movement. At North Carolina, you'll find links to John Locke Foundation blogs on the day's news, 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. That's right, all in one place, That's North Carolina spelled out,

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Welcome back to Carolina Journal Radio, I'm Mitch Kokay. The COVID-19 pandemic continues to impact the way the University of North Carolina goes about its business. During a recent meeting of UNC's Board of Governors, President Peter Hans discussed likely impacts on the university budget. What we do know for certain is that the year ahead will bring deep financial and operational challenges. We laid out a state budget request for the university that recognizes reality while protecting our core academic mission.

In addition to our effort to establish unified budgets throughout the system, we're taking a disciplined approach with a tightly focused explanation of our priorities. We're not asking for new projects or new initiatives. Our lawmakers have hard choices ahead, given the state of the economy. We owe them a concise report of our core needs, including to fully fund enrollment growth, since we're one of the few universities in the country to add students this year. Continued support of NC Promise, which has dramatically lowered tuition and expanded opportunity at UNC Pembroke, Elizabeth City State and Western Carolina, shoring up our building reserves so we can properly operate the public assets under our care.

This is not a moment for sweeping plans. This is a moment for keeping our most important promises to the students and the citizens of North Carolina, including identifying potential savings that can be carried forward into the next fiscal year. Even as UNC looks to tighten its belt, Hans offered a warning about the needs of current and prospective students. The same economic conditions stressing the state budget will also create an unprecedented need for access to our institutions. Hundreds of thousands of North Carolinians will be seeking new careers and new opportunities. We know from past experience that many of them will choose to start MedSearch at our state's community colleges. We've talked for years about creating a seamless path to transfer from community colleges to four-year institutions, and for that matter, from one UNC school to another.

And I'm determined, along with you, to see that happen. There's an obvious economic case for it, but I believe we have a moral obligation in this time of deep need for North Carolina to put more options on the table for people seeking better opportunity, and to never let administrative burdens come between students and the education they need to succeed. When we fail to provide good options, flexible options, those students wind up in places where they're more likely to leave with a lot of debt and little to show for it, or get discouraged and don't pursue further education at all. That's University of North Carolina System President Peter Hans. He's discussing some of the university's current budget challenges and access priorities. We'll return with more Carolina Journal-Radio in a moment. We're doubling down on freedom.

At Carolina Journal-Radio, we're proud to bring you stories that impact your life and your wallet. And now, get twice as much freedom when you also listen to our podcast, Head Lock, available on iTunes and at slash podcast. Now Head Lock is a little bit different.

It's a no-holds-barred discussion that challenges soft-headed ideas from the left and the right. But like Carolina Journal-Radio, Head Lock is smart and timely. But with Head Lock, you'll hear more about the culture wars, and you'll get some more humor as well. We guarantee great information and a good time. Double down with us, listen to Carolina Journal-Radio each week, and listen to Head Lock, too.

Remember, you can listen to Head Lock at slash podcast, or subscribe or download each week at iTunes, Carolina Journal-Radio, and Head Lock, just what you need to 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 Kokai. COVID-19 has created job-related challenges across the board in North Carolina. One group that's seen new challenges, military veterans returning to the civilian workforce. Kimberly Williams is CEO of the group North Carolina for Military Employment, also known as NC4ME.

Williams discussed COVID-19's impact on her work during an online forum sponsored by the John Locke Foundation. This is obviously a huge change in our nation. Our goal is to make sure that our transition service members, our veterans and our Guard and Reservists have jobs here in North Carolina. The number one driver for economic development is talent. And we know that and we want to keep our talent here in North Carolina in order to drive economic development. We have 20,000 transitioning service members that come off our bases every year because we are the fourth largest Department of Defense presence.

So I want you to think about that. If we have 20,000 folks exiting our bases that are high performing employees, me as an HR professional, I want to get my hands on them. But our biggest challenge with NC4ME over the last five, six years that we've been in existence is really educating employers on the value, that it's a value proposition to hire our service members because they have an extreme, you know, they have demonstrated high performance.

And we all, you know, always tell everybody, people tell me hire a vet, it's the right thing to do. And I thought about all my experience in human resources in corporate America and I've never hired anyone because it's the right thing to do. We hire people that are performers that are going to drive bottom line results. So we educate employers on the value. And I will tell you, what's made it more difficult now is before competing against people in the private sector existed, and we did get to educate people on the value, but when the unemployment rate was around 3%, just, you know, a few months ago, right before COVID, the lowest it's been in 16 years, it was easy for us to convince of the value, right? Because our unemployment rate at 3.2%, I believe it is, and about 3% of the nation's population is unemployable. So basically we had a 0% unemployment rate and our employers were hungry for talent. And so it was so much easier to convince them of the value of hiring our service members.

Now with the unemployment rate, that's exceedingly high. It is difficult for us to make sure our employers across the state are looking at our transitioning service members as a value add, because there are so many people in that unemployment market right now. So for us, it's definitely changing our focus on how we move forward and educate our employers on the value. And of course, making sure we connect them with our talent supply.

That's number one, leaving the basis. Number two, that our veterans already in the workforce that are looking for jobs because maybe they're underemployed and certainly our guard and reservists. If you look at that pool of those three different areas of people with military talent, you're looking at well over 70,000 people. So we want to make sure that our service members stay on the front burner when we go through these unemployment challenges. Williams highlights a key challenge for members of the military moving into the civilian world. It's a perception issue. And you know, so many, there's only 1% of the nation's population that's in the military and the other 99% are people like me that don't really understand what people in the military do. We assume they're driving tanks or they're shooting guns. We don't realize that 80% of the MOS, which is military occupational specialties, have a civilian counterpart like lawyers, financial accountants, people that handle human resources like me or food service or travel or transportation.

So for the military, it's a perception issue and trying to get them in the door is difficult. That's Kimberly Williams, CEO of North Carolina for Military Employment. She's speaking during a recent John Locke Foundation online forum. Williams says COVID-19 has helped force her group toward one positive change. I will say COVID-19 has actually helped us believe it or not. We connect companies across the state and actually really companies across the nation that may be based in this state like Cisco and MetLife are two of our biggest sponsors and partners because obviously we can give them high performing talent, but they also are national and international. But the reality is that this perception of some of those individuals that are looking for jobs become a barrier, but COVID-19 has actually helped us with the networking piece because we make our connection between our talent supply, the military talent, and it could be any talent really, and with the companies through what we call hiring events. These are not job fairs. Job fairs have a very small success rate, about 2% across the nation. These are hiring events where we actually schedule interviews and we have over 50% success rate. But the reality is we could only pull those off probably every month.

We did 10 to 12 a year because you get a venue, you have to put out breakfast and lunch, you have to pull everyone together, people drive from all over different places in the state. The reality is now, because we were thinking about moving to a virtual platform, but we weren't sure how we were going to go about that, and now we've been forced to and we actually purchased a virtual platform, we're having our hiring events, so we're making the best of a bad situation, right? And we can now push these hiring events out much quicker. We're much more nimble and flexible, and we're able to get people in front of the employers much faster. And when you're working with technology companies and others, where with energy, technology, biochem, I mean, we're doing every industry can possibly imagine, it's actually helped us. We've had some of the issues with COVID-19 and how it's changed how we all work and how we view the workforce and how we demonstrate our success and how we develop networks, right, or our networking groups. I think if you kind of get on the edge of that, look at it as a positive, it actually helps drive your business.

It certainly has for us. Williams points to survey results from military members reentering the civilian world. Their number one concern when leaving the military is employment. And it's interesting, we talk about state licensure and or certifications.

You can drive a giant Humvee or truck in the military, but you can't literally come out and get your CDL in the state. So we're working on that and the state's working on that at several levels. But the reality is, I'm listening to the conversation and it's interesting because I often get asked why I do this work. And I always say I'm saving lives because of the number one concern from our veterans is that they can't find employment, right? So they're used to being in an environment that's very safe. They're used to working in groups on teams and feeling very valuable.

So as soon as they exit, where is that? I don't feel like I'm contributing. I don't feel like I'm adding value. I'm not receiving a paycheck, so I can't make my car payment.

I can't make my mortgage payment. It does lead to a high level of divorce, particularly after they exit the military. And it's interesting to me because you're talking about people with an exceptional amount of experience in jobs that we know exist across our careers, we know exist across the state and the nation. So our veteran suicide rate is ridiculously high based on the fact that many of our service members get out are not able to secure employment. And so that is why we focus on that at NC for me. And obviously, we're hearing that in all different areas of the workforce, not just the veterans. So yeah, I think I think it's adding the value and having that connect, having that network of people that that all of a sudden no longer exists.

And how do you deal with that? You might be surprised to learn about the biggest fears of people who've spent years, sometimes decades, facing the prospect that they might have to ship off to a war zone and face enemy fire. When I talk to some of our transitioning service members now, we're talking about people that have been in 20, 25, 30 years. These are some very confident, strong individuals with a lot of talent, right, and particularly demonstrated a lot of leadership capability.

And they each and every single one of them that I have spoken with, without exception, the scariest moment in their life wasn't the 10 deployments where they received maybe a gunshot wound. It was looking for a job and coming into the civilian sector, if you can believe that. That's Kimberly Williams, CEO of the group North Carolina for Military Employment, also known as NC4ME. She discussed military employment challenges during a recent online forum for the John Locke Foundation. We'll return with more Carolina Journal radio in a moment. Real influence.

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Welcome back to Carolina Journal Radio. I'm Donna Martinez, packing the U.S. Supreme Court. Now, before election 2020, bring up that phrase.

And we'd all pretty much think of the FDR administration and the New Deal programs. But once again, in 2020 America, we are hearing some progressives call very loudly to add seats to the United States Supreme Court. Brene Goforth is with the John Locke Foundation. She wrote a fascinating column recently for about the history of packing the court. She joins us now. Brene, welcome to the show. Thank you for having me. In the piece you wrote at, you call packing the court an underhanded practice.

Why? So court packing has been used even back when it was originally, you know, kind of brought out in the FDR administration, it was used to get things passed that you wanted passed, right? So if you can get it through the legislature and then you can get it signed by the president, then the only thing that's standing in your way of being able to keep that law long term is the United States Supreme Court. And the United States Supreme Court is meant to decide whether things are constitutional or unconstitutional, not whether they like them or not, right? This measure would fill the court with essentially yes men for, you know, progressive legislation so that they wouldn't face any real true judicial review, which would be an issue because instead of deciding whether or not things are constitutional or not, they would create a facade of legal review that would allow for essentially any legislation that they put out to just go unchecked, which essentially, that's what FDR tried to do in the New Deal era.

Absolutely. And so that's obviously an issue because the buck has to stop somewhere. And if it can't stop with the Supreme Court, where is it going to stop? We've been hearing more and more about this pretty much in relation to the fact that President Trump had three appointments to the U.S. Supreme Court during his first term. And tell us a little bit more about some of the calls today and what's going on and why.

Right. So after Ruth Bader Ginsburg passed and Justice Amy Coney Barrett was appointed, that renewed calls for court packing because many people saw the court as too conservative now that it has this 6-3 conservative lean or whatever you'd like to call it. And so people don't like that because they're worried that it's going to sway the country in a certain direction or maintain some sort of conservative status quo. But the reality is that these justices are all people who are highly commendable, highly respectable and whose job, once again, is not to legislate from the bench, but is to decide whether things are constitutional or unconstitutional. And so once we saw the appointment of Amy Coney Barrett, it renewed calls for, you know, court packing to be able to what people would say is balance the court, but appears to be a measure to protect any sort of legislation that they currently don't think they can get through with a constitutional determination. It brings up all sorts of questions about the checks on power and the separation of the branches. And I think your point's a good one about people who are thinking, well, if I can't get it done at the legislative level, here's my chance at the judicial level if I can just get the, quote, right people to be sitting on the court, we'll just add seats until we get the ones we want.

Absolutely. And under FDR, it would have been as many as 15. So it's a lot that people are, you know, willing to do to get the court to have a particular makeup. You mentioned the late Ruth Bader Ginsburg, evidently, she made some comments about this issue. Yes, she did. So Ruth Bader Ginsburg was not a fan of court packing, because the Supreme Court is supposed to be an apolitical institution, it's supposed to really just decide constitutional or unconstitutional. And she said that if anything would make the court look partisan, it would be court packing, some legislature, you know, leaning one way and then deciding to fill the court with justices of their particular lean. And you know, that says something because a lot of people have been saying that, you know, we should listen to what Ruth Bader Ginsburg had to say before she passed to, you know, give us guidance on what to do with the Supreme Court now. And it seems like if anything, she would be very against this measure. Interesting because she was a well known progressive.

And yet it is people who are like minded today who are now calling for the very thing that she warned against. So one of those ironies that we're seeing one of the things I really thought was so interesting about the piece you wrote for is that you looked back at the FDR era and looked for some historical references here in North Carolina. What was the the commentary like in North Carolina when this was going on?

Yes. So North Carolina has been traditionally more of a conservative state. So even when FDR went back and proposed it, even though he had large amounts of public support, we got quite a bit of criticism on court packing. And you could see nationwide quite a bit of criticism. Political cartoons would depict FDR as a ventriloquist and all of these, you know, potential appointees to the Supreme Court as wooden puppets. And people were very skeptical then as well as we'd hope they would be now of packing the court with as many justices as you can get in your favor. And so one of the things that one of the commentaries in North Carolina newspapers said was Mr. Roosevelt's court packing initiative did greater violence to trust in American institutions than anything other than the Civil War.

Oh my. It's very strong. It's a very bold statement, but it tells you just how much people really opposed to this measure and the threat it could do to public trust in our institutions. You know, Brene, when I look at what happened during the FDR era and fast forward to today, and it seems like we are so off track now, you are of a younger generation than I am. I'd be interested in your perspective on this. It feels like we've reached a point now where when someone is nominated to the U.S. Supreme Court or even another federal bench, we now don't seem to agree on what it means to be qualified to actually be a judge.

Where do we go as a country when we can't even agree on that? It's very true. I mean, these things, you know, court appointments back, you know, way back were not these political things. They were people who were well respected, being appointed to a bench because they were good at what they do and they're qualified in that they know the law, they know the Constitution. As time has passed, they have gotten increasingly more political. And it seems now that when you speak about Supreme Court justice appointments in particular, but even other court appointments, it really is a measure of politics.

And, you know, presidents will say that they've done a wonderful job if they can get as many, you know, justices on the bench as possible. It's unfortunate that we – it seems that we can't separate politics from this process because it really is meant to be an apolitical one. And if we want to, again, you know, sustain trust in our institutions, then we're really going to need to depoliticize this process once again. There was a time, of course, when folks who were nominated to sit on the U.S. Supreme Court would be approved by wide, wide, wide margins. And now it just seems to be whoever is in control of the U.S. Senate. And we have these battles going on in these public hearings and it's not a good place to be.

No, not at all. It's a really interesting piece that Brené has written at about court packing and the history of that. I'd encourage everyone to take a look at that. Brené, thanks for joining us. Thank you for having me. That's all the time we have for Carolina Journal Radio this week.

Thank you for listening. On behalf of Mitch Kokai, I'm Donna Martinez. Hope you'll join us again next week for another edition of 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 e-mail to development at or call 1-866-JLF-INFO.

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Whisper: medium.en / 2024-01-20 22:59:57 / 2024-01-20 23:18:16 / 18

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