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Carolina Journal Radio No. 742: N.C. State researchers say school silenced their solar views

Carolina Journal Radio / Donna Martinez and Mitch Kokai
The Truth Network Radio
August 7, 2017 12:00 am

Carolina Journal Radio No. 742: N.C. State researchers say school silenced their solar views

Carolina Journal Radio / Donna Martinez and Mitch Kokai

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August 7, 2017 12:00 am

Two N.C. State University researchers say the university has silenced them because they’ve raised concerns about potential negative impacts from utility-scale solar energy projects in North Carolina. In a Carolina Journal exclusive, Associate Editor Dan Way has documented evidence of the university’s efforts to downplay the researchers’ work. North Carolina has attracted national attention in recent years because of the positive effects of its tax reforms. Joseph Henchman, executive vice president of the Tax Foundation, explains why North Carolina’s reforms offer a good example for other states across the country. Henchman also discusses other reforms state officials could pursue in the future. North Carolinians pay about $10 billion a year in property taxes. Julie Tisdale, the John Locke Foundation’s city and county policy analyst, has examined how local governments use that tax revenue across the state. She recently shared her findings during a presentation for the John Locke Foundation’s Shaftesbury Society. North Carolina’s unemployment rate has dropped by more than one full percentage point during the past year, dropping most recently to 4.2 percent. But that headline rate masks wide variations among the 100 counties. N.C. State University economist Michael Walden has examined county-by-county rates. He explains why some counties are seeing excellent employment news while others continue to struggle years after the Great Recession. Home schools educated more than 127,000 North Carolina students in the last academic year, while private school enrollment topped 100,000 for the first time. This growth prompted Terry Stoops, the John Locke Foundation’s vice president for research, to recommend that North Carolina adopt a new nickname: The School Choice State. Stoops examines the enrollment trends and explains why more parents are seeking alternatives to traditional public district schools.

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From Cherokee to current attack from the largest city to the smallest and from the statehouse into the schoolhouse Carolina Journal radio your weekly news magazine discussing North Carolina's most public policy events and issues welcome to Carolina Journal radio live Ashoka during the next hour, Donna Martinez and I will explore some major issues affecting our state. North Carolina has attracted national attention for its recent tax reforms, a top executive from the Washington-based tax foundation explains why the Tar Heel state stands out from the crowd. North Carolinians pay $10 billion a year in property taxes you'll hear an analysis of where that money goes, the state unemployment rate has dipped to 4.2%, but not every county is doing that well in NC State University expert explains some of the reasons for wide variations in employment trends, statewide will examine the latest enrollment numbers for private schools and for home schools in North Carolina. Those topics are just ahead. First, Donna Martinez joins us with the Carolina Journal headline to NC State University researchers say that the University silenced them in response to pressure from the solar energy industry in North Carolina.

These researchers say that they were actually removed from government-sponsored forums when they question the effects of large solar facilities on North Carolina farmland danwei is associate editor at Carolina Journal, he wrote the story were talking about, he's here to explain the details.

Dan welcome back is pretty amazing that let's start first with these two who are making the allegations. Who are they will Dr. run Heidegger as a crop and soil sciences at the Vernon James resurgent extension center in Plymouth North Carolina and her pecker Lynn is emeritus Prof. with the college of engineering at NC State who actually started the source and throughout their help to create the most, sustainable energy Association.

Both of them say that they support solar energy but want to have more research into some implications of the industrial North Carolina.

How did things go awry for them well. They had been doing a series of consultations with counties across the state where his big solar projects are coming in. Obviously the local communities don't have some simpler resources at the big energy lobbies do so, they were looking for experts to help them understand what implications might be for local communities with the solar explosions so they started meeting with counties and out of that grew this interest in having them appear to cooperative extension offices around the state to take the message to farmers where people were asking a lot of information about the impact on the agricultural community that sounds perfectly appropriate. It sounds like they were engaging in helping people understand more about what was happening in the state in information and education campaign so what generated what they say is a silencing effect from their university will come.

Melton, who oversees a cooperative extension service says they received complaints from some of the extension agents in the counties Ackerman and Heninger dispute that they said they were welcomed and greeted with a lot of enthusiasm because there's a lot of people who want to know more about this industry so they University also says of the received some complaints from some folks in the solar industry, and from the North China clean energy technology center which is on the University campus solicit as a result of that, and the feeling that this was an educational forum being presented, and that wasn't under the auspices of the University that they want to shut down where they visited, so to speak, by any particular person or did they receive any communications in writing saying stop what you're doing yet interestingly enough, Dr. Heidegger on his way to the very first meeting in Fayetteville got a phone call from Mr. Melton saying you can't do this. Well that point was too late. Meeting was about to take place. So they held a meeting from all accounts it was very successful. Very well received by the community and there was one more meeting. After that, in Halifax, after which they were ordered not to participate anymore and the county extension agents were told not to allow them to have these two guys on their panels. Do we know who specifically told them that they cannot do this anymore. Well, it was Mr. Melton.

Does he have the support or do we know if he has the support of the higher-ups at the University so to speak. All questions that I try to get some answers from the Chancellor and everyone I talked with her refer me to Mr. Melton as a spokesperson.

The point person on this issue so I can only assume that yeah he's got the support from others.

What's been the reaction from these two gentlemen then will there distressed as I mentioned earlier. Neither of them are components of solar energy. They want to have more study done more research so people can understand the full effect decommissioning issues. There are soil issues or runoff issues. Lots of things that people will know more about even the citing where these places will be sore relations go.

These are massive so and there's a lot of farmland in North Carolina that down. The owners have chosen to lease their land out to solar companies. So it's not as if this is somehow an issue that really has no relationship to North Carolina. They didn't kinda pull us out of left field, so to speak. This is happening a lot in our state exactly that's where the concerns of Dr. Heidegger has is that as prime farmland is being gobbled up by these installations could ultimately if left unchecked, and best practices are implemented that the agriculture infrastructure could disappear, causing the entire agricultural community to implode on agriculture being the number one industry. Carolina now. Some folks tell him that's worst case scenario and he says it probably so. But we see this in other instances, as in the dairy industry once or somebody else in that industry from the government and are never recovered in eastern North Carolina and other places. So he's these fears that long-term same kind of things you have of agriculture Dan there has been a response from at least two state legislators to this tell us who they are and what they're doing and maybe more. I don't know but I do know for sure that University told me that they had received inquiries from legislators plural. I do know from talking to Jimmy Dixon, who represents counties Republican and Billy Richardson, who represents Cumberland County as a Democrat both said they were concerned that there might be some issues of academic freedom. Here the may be some issues of University taking one-sided approach to this so they raise questions with University do we know if they've received a response from the still waiting to hear back from them unless I talked to the two lawmakers I have marked Tom Bell says that he feels everyone was got satisfactory answers from them.

Interestingly, these two researchers have that IBC agreed to be interviewed by you for your Carolina Journal story out what is what is on their mind now. I mean, are they just kind of going about their business and accepting the fact that their university is told him they can't go out and talk to people about this. I think both feel sad maybe somewhat betrayed by the University.

Tom run.

Heidegger said that the material he's been using in these presentations was vetted peer-reviewed by the folks in his department. No one disagreed with them. Her back early and has been greatly honored and recognized individual in his field and so they kind of hurt the other been portrayed as out of touch and ill-informed and I said at the top that down.

There seems to be at least stem the feeling by sound that this is happening because of the very powerful lobby to solar energy lobby in North Carolina any evidence of that in will they say that the have never tried to shut down a meeting did asked him directly if you late made complaint statement and answer that question, but clearly that the Messiah clean energy technology center at NC State has a lot of interplay with North China same sustainable energy Association and some folks say that are joined at the hip actually may make references to Jean Nichols poverty center in the same breath, no comparing that to what's going on to tech center. While clearly the story is not over, and I know you're going be following any of further developments and essence happen you'll write about and I'm sure we been talking with Dan way he is an associate editor with Carolina Journal and thanks very much. Thank you Don and look forward to an expanded version in our print publication coming out statement is much more Carolina Journal radio to come in just a moment government plays a key role in your life affecting your paycheck the way you educate your kids the way you do business.

How can you tell if government is doing a good job making the right choices. Spending tax dollars wisely. Carolina tackles those questions every day. The John Locke foundation publishes Carolina Journal imprint each month and on the web each day at Carolina. you'll find exclusive investigative reports on topics. No one else is covering what else a rundown of the best new stories, editorials and opinion columns in North Carolina.

John Hood's daily Journal news stories and important public and the voices of the newsmakers themselves at Carolina Journal radio imprint on the air and on the web. You can find the information you welcome back to Carolina Journal radio I Michiko guy North Carolina has seen significant tax reform at the state level in recent years, policy experts and politicians outside the state are taking note joining us now to help place North Carolina's tax reforms in perspective, is Joseph henchman's vice president of legal and state projects.

The tax foundation. Thanks for joining us great to be back with you. First of all remind us what is it about North Carolina's tax reforms in recent years that really is noteworthy sure.

Well if I can put it in one word it will be structure lots of other states cut taxes left for the states raise taxes. But what made North Carolina's reform so so special and so important is that it was a structural reform of the state really hadn't updated its tax code for decades and course economies changed the people changed the direction state was going to change the tax code had just not kept up and the reform tackled all areas of taxes and attempt to reorient the tax system toward what makes a stay competitive in today's economy and why is such a structural change. More important than just cutting taxes while they're both important but I think structure is important because it make sure that your geared up for the economy of the future any really the economy of the present. In fact, so North Carolina's tax system before the change was very much oriented around a textile manufacturing economy which worked for for the state at the when the economy actually looked that way but now the state much more about losers still remain important sectors of the economy pate.

There's also the service sector. There is the healthcare sector. There's the financial services sector and all those gorgeous, left out of the tax code and why that matters is because if your tax code is geared towards an economy that doesn't exist anymore then there's a danger that your harming additional investment additional job creation in those new sectors. The worst example that was his Michigan was and is Michigan which essentially designed to tax code around the automobile industry, so it was very punitive to all other types of business and all other types of economic activity in order to benefit the that industry and ensure that it stated Michigan lease from a tax perspective. But when other economic factors led to the outcome led to that industry's decline and collapse.

Michigan is really left with nothing and we want to make sure North Carolina wasn't in that type of situation of the tax foundation looks at the state tax systems across the country ranks them and North Carolina has actually seen some tangible benefits from these changes as yeah and it's a it's ranking we do annually in our state business tax climate index not perfect but it's an attempt to gauge how competitive the state's tax system is we look at over hundred different variables in all the different types of taxes and compare them against each other before the reforms North Carolina was in the bottom 10 of states and that just represents a historical punitive tax system on investment on on wealth of that just went along with a lot of North Carolina's neighbors back in the day after the reforms North Carolina's jump significantly on earned X and this year is in 11th Pl. Also, some from 44th up to 11 switches. The biggest jump we actually seen in the history of our report in the 15 years we've been doing. We are chatting with Joseph henchman. He is vice president of legal and state projects at the tax foundation. We of course in North Carolina have been talking about this quite a bit in recent years are other states talking at all about what's happening in North Carolina they are and I think it goes into major tax. One is the pressure for competitiveness North Carolina course is not the only state that's worried about its competitive environment. Were we may or may not have a big debate at the national level about how competitive our tax code is later this year when proposals for reforming the federal tax code come up in different states how well everything everybody's all will worry about taxes and people moving the taxes and business going taxes on it certainly was a motivating factor in North Carolina.

Also we see a lot of states around Texas talking about what they can do now. It's tough to match taxes on abolishing your income tax.

Usually income taxes raise a lot of money for central services so you can get rid of that completely not with a lot of hard work, but other ways to make sure that well if you can't match taxes on income tax. What can you be competitive on what can you do to build on the strengths in the state or at least overcome a weakness to make sure that people aren't fleeing the state for tax purposes. So, for instance, Tennessee is tackling a old tax on dividends and investment.

They have called whole toxic and face out over time. Mississippi is looking at repealing franchise taxes which are literal taxes on investment. So if there's not if you think there's not a lot of investment in capital formation going on in Mississippi discuss lately tax taxa pretty heavily.

Louisiana's looking out structural reform will see what direction to go in the there right now at a path and they can go for the better for the worse and see what they do and even Georgia which is a state that's been pretty happy with the tax code that hasn't changed for several decades is looking at some significant changes so we are seeing a lot of activity all over the country and to to some extent are some of these people saying will look at the success North Carolina has had.

Let's try to emulate that or find our own way to get there. I think so so that the two big increases on our report, which again is attempt to try to look at how states improve their tax systems or worsen their tax systems over time have been North Carolina and Indiana, and both of them. No skill in Indian are different in that different from other states and that they have all of the major taxes you have property taxes, income tax or sales taxes, corporate contracts, not like Wyoming, which just about taxes. You see, you have them all in North Carolina, but the role broad-based and low, the goal being to try to get them to apply to as many people as possible server but is pitching in. But at a lower rate is possible so that you're not picking winners and losers to the tax code. Instead people were just paying what they owe and Indiana follows the same constructs. I think a lot of states are looking at that type of structural change in order improve their system and what's also important about North Carolina is how broad-based the reform was for different types of people. Course taxes matter for individuals a lot to not only because individuals what they buy and sell subject to tax, but also a lot of businesses pay under the individual code untucked the vast majority of businesses don't pay corporate income tax they pay to the individual code so the reforms on the individual's I would North Carolina and Indiana have done quite a bit of mental lot for small businesses.

How do taxpayers not only North Carolina, but across the country benefit when these various states are looking at ways to make their tax codes better. Well, let's look at the record on North Carolina just as one example. So the the overall tax change was a net revenue reduction so who's good that the state was in a position to be able to do that because it meant everybody ended up better off now. Some people like a higher middle income family maybe was only better off by a couple of dollars but everybody ended up being better off from the low income to listed to the high income scale. The benefit for that is that it's a little bit easier to pass. In some states are just not in a revenue situation like that and they have to make theirs to be revenue neutral or revenue positive, in which case you do have to make some hard choices old saying that a poker even a poker game is revenue neutral. But that doesn't mean there are winners and losers at the table so some interests that get us a particular tax credit or particular tax benefit will lose a lot and not hyper perform. So it's a lot harder to do our time remaining a short but is there one particular thing you see in North Carolina's tax code he would say this is what you should tackle next well know, still has a franchise tax home similar to the one I mentioned about Mississippi which is a literal tax on investment. Now it's not as big as it is in Mississippi so relatively like tax think maybe tackling that might be a good thing.

North Carolina is one of only about a dozen states still has that tax one person is going to be watching closely as North Carolina and other states deal with all of these tax issues is Joseph henchman's vice president think you will have more on Carolina journal radio just are you looking to make North Carolina more free the John Mott foundation is in here are three things you can do today to help us make it happen. First, know the facts visit John Mott data work for data analysis, interviews, and more and read Carolina to learn what government is doing with your money. Second, influence the debate invest in the John Locke foundation's work with a tax-deductible donation you can get it done in and third make North Carolina more free by sharing the message of freedom. It's easy when you visit John Click on shareable's download past messages to freedom. Dear friends, print the messages and mail them, or if your savvy computer user share the message of freedom on Facebook and Twitter know the facts influence the debate and share the message three things you can do today to help us make North Carolina more free. Get started North Carolina is changing not just day-to-day but outward to our minute to minute and 2nd to 2nd, how can you keep up with the changes, especially the ones that affect you, your family, your home, your job, make the John Locke foundation and Carolina journal part of your social media diet on Facebook like the John Locke foundation like Carolina. Journal follow us on Twitter at John Locke in C and at Carolina journal news, insights and analysis you'll find nowhere else.

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Don't wait for the morning newspaper. Don't wait for the evening news if it's happening now it's happening here the John Locke foundation and Carolina journal. Have you covered with up to the second information like us on Facebook the John Locke foundation and Carolina journal follow us on Twitter at John lock in C and at Carolina journal did you know you can now advance freedom and free markets just by shopping with Amazon it's true online shopping is now a great way to support the John Locke foundation just shot using the Amazon smile program and designate the work foundation to receive a portion of your purchase amount that's right you shop and Amazon donates money to ask the John Locke foundation is how it works long time to Amazon smile. It's the same Amazon you know same products same prices is much better. Amazon donates .5% of the price of your eligible purchases to pass the John Locke foundation to try and be sure to designate the Locke foundation is a nonprofit, you want to support.

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So now not only will you enjoy what you buy will also support freedom. Don't forget log on to today by something nice and help defend freedom, help support the John Locke foundation will go back Carolina journal radio I Michiko got North Carolinians pay about $10 billion a year in property taxes. That number stands out for Julie Tisdale.

She's the John Locke foundation's city and County policy analyst urban areas clearly are collecting more rural areas. Laugh all this works out to about thousand dollars per person per taxpayer per person per year in North Carolina that were paying property tax and everything pain that you're paying that if you own a home. Obviously our business paying rent on it affects your rental rate is the property owners can have to pay that tax and you been on my list of ways to spend $1000 getting it to the local government is very high. Tickets to Aruba way above that were all given $1000 a year or so in property taxes plus all the others.

Therefore, it's really important. Many things are they spending it for things that are actually important things that we value method and the answer to that often is no one questionable area of local government spending, convention centers, Tisdale referenced a recent newspaper headline Raleigh convention center director wants to double its size, the prize being a little bit heard indicated that the convention center was losing money is wrong, maybe a convention center actually doing really well.

Doing really well at making money needs to grow a little bit. I was right. Actually the center last year. Revenue from the Herald about $6 million. Expenses with about $8 million. That's a whole accounting in that group together. The convention center and the performing arts Center look at the whole complex of the whole. Maybe the pictures better, but it's not user charges were $14 million and expenses were 17 million whole complex last year when $25 million. Just last year for debt service on that building. We are deeply deeply in the whole supply does Raleigh want a larger convention center and are busy there almost every weekend of the year and often during the week that were subsidizing financing fine put in about $20 million last year. That's finding that comes from occupancy taxes prepared for taxes every time he got to a meal you're contributing to the convention center fine. That's Julie Tisdale of the John Locke foundation highlighting just one example of questionable local government spending on the convention center. More Carolina journal radio with about are you tired of fake news. Well you won't find it here at Carolina Journal.

We don't make things happen and we don't presume or assign motives. There's no simpler way to put it then that were proud to say that honest, factual, rigorous journalism is the Carolina journal way I reporting team is focused on accountability in government and policymaking. No matter which political party is in power, and regardless of the person taken to task in the story, Carolina journal where the holding to the truth and to transparency. Unlike fake news lies, innuendo, questionable sourcing all meant to create controversy not inform the debate. So the next time you're confronted with fake news log onto Carolina or pick up the latest print edition you'll find compelling news reporting from a team that knows what it means to be real journalists committed to truth Carolina you can count on us for the facts. Look back Carolina journal radio I Michiko got North Carolina's official unemployment rate has hovered around 5% for the past year so sometimes higher, sometimes lower, but that average statewide rate doesn't tell the story of wide variation within North Carolina. Our next guest has been looking at Kelly by county data he's been looking for reasons why some counties have unemployment rates of less than 4% while others face double digit unemployment Dr. Michael Walden is an economist and Reynolds distinguished Prof. at North Carolina State University. Thanks for joining us? So if we look at 4.74.9 percent unemployment across North Carolina think it looks pretty good that doesn't tell us the whole story doesn't it is not in anyone's been in North Carolina long enough knows that we do have a lot of variation in all economic numbers, especially unemployment and this is been examined many times in other states, but I took a fresh look at accrual for North Carolina and I found several things that people probably would shake your head and say I understand that a couple things I did not think the people would shake their head and say yeah that makes sense is number one is counties that have a higher proportion of their workers with college degrees have lower employment rates, and I think that's because economy is changing.

Businesses are are changing economic sectors are changing and given a college degree helps you get a wider variety of jobs. Secondly, I found that counties that have grown faster just in terms of raw population have had lower unemployment rates are right there you what you could get a good picture why, for example, the Charlotte Metro area in the Raleigh Metro triangle eventually have lower unemployment rates than say the Northeast counties of the south-central counties.

Now the couple factors that I looked at and this is based on on on the research that perhaps surprising people is looking up the characteristics of the workforce, particularly in terms of characteristics that might cause employers to say you know I'd rather not go to that county.

Because may be some issues in two things, I looked at were obesity rates and measure the try to capture the prevalence of drug use by individuals in the county and I found for both of those and this is in a statistically significant sense that they did impact County unemployment rates. It is the say the higher the obesity rate in the county and the higher the rate of drug use, though.

The higher the unemployment rate and I think what the explanation for that would simply be is that certainly would drug use that makes perhaps individuals working less reliable in some issues there and I think there's some evidence that obesity rates may be related to higher healthcare costs and of course many businesses bear those costs so that tells me that policies that try to reduce obesity and drug use. All are not just social policies but their economic policies, and you mentioned that this is statistically significant, so that we are looking at the correct cause and effect.

It's not. It's not the people have no job so they become more likely to use drugs or get get more obese. Well, that's a very interesting question will actually dress in the report.

You could argue that the causality lease for those the obesity drug use does the other way. It is the Savior in a county where there are a lot of jobs that may cause people to become despondent and may cause them to engage in activities that in the long run aren't necessarily good for them. There is a statistical way to test for that and the conclusion about statistical tests is that the causation indeed goes from counties with higher obesity rates in our drug use adversely affecting the employment possibilities. Now statistical tests or statistical tests. They don't approve necessarily anything but it looks like that's the way the causality run. So again, if we have policies to try to reduce obesity and reduce drug use that should have a positive influence on getting unemployment rates down. We are chatting with Dr. Michael Walden economist and Reynolds distinguished Prof. at North Carolina State University.

We know that our general assembly here in North Carolina has been focusing for a number of years on what sometimes called the urban rural divide were trying to help the counties that as you describe it still still dealing with double digit unemployment work much higher rates than the areas that have been succeeding. Doesn't look as if we do need some sort of policies that will particularly target these counties or something that we can address by statewide efforts that are going to help lift all boats been here almost 4 years at NC State and this is been an issue for every here. I've been here and II think what the state can do what locals can do and reduce this urban rural divide is is very small because it's really based on on big forces that we can control. For example, the demise of the textile furniture and tobacco industries which were big employers and rural counties. That's not those are going come back necessarily the fact that now employers and employees want to be in urban counties with a lot of amenities.

That's where the universities are. That's where the 21st century sectors like tech and pharmaceuticals are so I don't think state policies are going to erase this anytime soon. For example, to elevate educational attainment accounting. That's how pixel long time.

It's not something you can do overnight. I do think there are some possibilities and I don't.

This is beyond what I've addressed this report address. Now there is some possibilities for rural counties. For example, agribusiness the world is changing eating more meat were very good at producing meat. If we can solve those environmental problems that may be something that rural counties can expand upon those manufacturing manufacturers who need a lot of space which they typically duplicate an auto assembly plant North Carolina that would likely go to rural area and I think that 11 strategy. A lot of people think this is economic element really is is attracting retirees retirees are on the move in the nation have money to spend. They don't have kids educate they bring their pensions and Social Security and are moving south, North Carolina's always been very good at tracking if we can bring retirees into rural counties. We have beautiful rural counties with small towns. I think that should be considered an economic development strategy, and it also sounds as if the policies on a statewide or perhaps on a regional basis that deal with obesity and drug use might have some marginal benefits for these counties that are struggling but tried and I think if there's one new thing that my report illustrated is that that impact I seen anything particular, North Carolina. Let's look at the impact of those two characteristics on unemployment rates are actually right. If we can do that are local basis a statewide basis. However, to convince leaders and businesses.

Hey, if you want to have a better economic environment in the county that you're struggling. Those are two things drug use obesity if we can get those under control. That certainly helpful beyond the policy implications going back to the start of the interview.

Basically, it sounds as if one of the things we ought to keep in mind though is as were looking at the unemployment rate we need to remember that that one rate doesn't tell the whole story North Carolina and we have to look beyond that headline to look at what's happening in different areas not just what's happening in the trial of Charlotte Wells what's happening in Gates County or Ashe County are all these other places absolutely, and any other thing I might mention is of course people are surprisingly says federal government which is the source of all the unemployment data puts out six different unemployment rates for the state, not quite six Raleigh counties and the one that we typically quote has very strict standard of unemployment. You have to be without a job on a job and of actively look for work leave a lot of counties were people just given up their able-bodied they could work.

They just given up working they don't count in the employment statistics I estimate about 200,000 people like that in North Carolina and this is not a specific issue it's it's nationwide. So we always always want to understand what that unemployment rate is measuring and those who you met you are in that category are they more likely to be in the counties that have high official unemployment rates to. I haven't looked at that but not by suspect so and I think also an issue with those 200,000 folks is they just don't have the skills. One of the people keeps track of all of this information and provides interesting analysis of it is Dr. Michael Walden economist at Reynolds distinguished Prof. at North Carolina State University. Thanks so much for joining Lattimore on Carolina jewelry. If you love freedom we got great news to share with you now. You can find the latest news, views, and research from conservative groups all across the state. All in one place North Carolina one-stop shopping for North Carolina St. movement North Carolina You'll find links to John Locke foundation blogs on the days news Carolina reporting and quick takes Carolina journal radio interviews TV interviews featuring CJ reporters and Locke foundation analyst plus opinion pieces and reports on higher education.

All of that from the Pope Center for higher education policy commentary and polling data from the civil Thomas Institute and news and views from the North Carolina family policy Council. That's right, all of that, all in one place North Carolina that's North Carolina spelled out North Carolina

Log on today. Welcome back to Carolina journal radio I'm Donna Martinez is been a banner year for school choice in North Carolina. Data recently released for the 2016, 17 school year shows that more North Carolina parents are opting to educate their kids in an environment outside the traditional public school classroom Dr. Terry stoops is analyze the numbers. He's here to share them with us. He is, of course, vice president for research director of education studies for the John Locke foundation. Welcome back. Thank you, actually written that you can change the name of North Carolina to the school choice estate one. Well it has been claimed yet.

So why not make ourselves a school choice estate.

Well, this was a remarkable year for school choice in North Carolina.

Not only did we see homeschool numbers reach close to 128,000 students, but we exceeded 100,000 students in our private schools for the first time and this fall will have over 100,000 charter school students. Not only that we even passed a new school choice program so I would say this year rivals those years that we try that we passed other school choice programs in the past. This is been really really remarkable year for school choice before we get into the numbers in a little bit more about each category's growth to give some context on this so there are hundreds of thousands of kids across North Carolina who are school-aged, perhaps more than that. What percentage really are now being educated outside of that traditional school. What were looking around 17% in the and that is mainly just in estimates, there are some homeschool groups that believe that there's even a larger homeschool community. That's not being counted so possibly as high as 20% of individuals school-aged children. The state are being educated in the home private or charter school and know it also is important to remember that there are school districts that offer school choices such as magnet schools or other choice programs like they have in Winston-Salem for site so the actual number of students that are taking advantage of choices is much larger than just the 17 of 20% that are in home private or charter school. That's a really interesting point. It just seems like more and more people. Terry seem to be understanding that they do have choices. If they've decided that that tech traditional classroom doesn't work for them. Why is it people seem to be a understanding there's choice and be taking a manage we have more choices then it's important to note that the opportunity scholarship for low income kids in the disability grant for special needs students didn't exist six or seven years ago.

So we are more opportunities for parents to go to private schools we increase. We we lifted the cap on charter schools, increasing the number significantly.

So we are having more seats in charter schools available than ever before. And homeschooling is a better option now for a lot of parents now that the online communities have such a rich storehouse of materials and assistance for homeschoolers. It makes a lot easier to homeschool these days than it did before the Internet existed or these co-ops that many communities have were formed.

Let's talk more about that charter schools folks may not realize those are public schools charters but there little bit different from the traditional district schoolhouse out whether free from any of the regulations that are imposed on district schools. Now they still have to give state tests.

That's an important parts and they still have to meet certain requirements, but there free from some of the regulations regarding teacher certification and some of the other things that many district schools feel is an impediment to providing high-quality education just five years ago we had half the number of charter school students than we do today, which is absolutely remarkable and real testament to the general assembly and government quarry not only lifting the cap on charter schools but allowing more seats in existing charter schools be offered to students.

Because demand remains strong one and one estimate there are 30,000 students that would like to go to a charter school and cannot help us understand how it is you enroll a child in a charter school. Well, it's just as easy as filling out paperwork to go to a charter school, and any parents can apply to go to a charter school, and they'll get a seat in a charter school unless number of applicants exceeds the number of seats and then they have to use a random method such as a lottery to determine who gets in and so there's no screaming of students.

There's no picking and choosing. In most charter schools because demand is so strong they have to use a lottery to choose who gets in homeschooling I find really fascinating Terry because it turns out that there seems to be a close knit tightknit community of homeschool parents in our state and there's at least one probably more organizations that help them find resources and things like that. There was a time when homeschooling was set primarily for folks who want a religious education for their kids but that is far from what it is today, that's for sure were saying a lot of parents that are left of center ideologically or politically go to homeschooling it.

People homeschool for many different reasons that original homeschool community really dislike the secular curriculum that was being taught in district schools. But now parents are pulling their kids into homeschools for any number of reasons, safety reasons. Sometimes proximity sometimes are just tired, especially these larger counties of seeing their child assigned to schools year after year moving around so much. It takes real toll on parents and kids so there's any number of reasons why they chose to homeschool, and the fact that the economy is great in North Carolina means more mothers and fathers can stay home actually homeschool so that's another positive is that possibly the reason they were also seeing an uptick in the private school enrollment.

I deftly think that's part of it, the economy being strong and more parents being up to afford private school tuition we seen an increase in the number of private schools that's going to increase the number of students, but I think that the opportunity scholarship program and the disabilities grant are really pushing those numbers up and I would say that that is the reason why we have seen the private school numbers exceed 100,000 students for the first time minutes ago you mentioned that there is a new choice. North Carolina has what is these are education savings accounts and these are basically accounts that parents can take a set amount of money $9000 and distributed to any number of education or service provider.

So let's say that you have a special needs student and it is only for special needs kids at this point and they need therapy couple times of week. You can use this education savings account to pay the tuition or private school pay for the therapy and then pay for any sort of instructional materials that the parent would think that that child needs to be successful in school.

So in other words, rather than just being able to pay for tuition. They can pay for any number of qualifying expenses. This program somehow relate to the disability grant program are they separate their separate right now and I think eventually will see the disability grant be folded into the education savings account and were not going to see the education savings account until 2018, 19, so they can do some planning for the first year because it does require some oversight, you have all these expenses being paid for by the state so they can set it up for the first year and then will be ready in the second year, and lastly Terry we know we got a lot of public charter schools in the pipeline that are in the process of getting ready to open. So does that really portend even higher numbers.

It really does.

The hundred thousand student estimate were seeing for this year is really just the tip of the iceberg.

Once additional schools come online next year working to see another 10 or 15,000 students added to the role, Dr. Terry, Steve, John, my foundation. Next time we have for the program this week. Thank you for listening on behalf of my cohost 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 to learn more about the John Locke foundation donations that support programs like Carolina Journal radio send email to development John Locke call 66 GLM info 166534636 Journal radio nation airline is running all opinions expressed on this program nearly mentioned about the show or other foundation.

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