NC Senate Bill 817 quietly redefines term limits and elections.

The NCGA has been busy in that building– writing budgets that will pay the bills with money generated from lottery revenue,

 Sorry mortgage company, we can’t pay this month because of an unexpected shortage in lottery revenue.  Hopefully we can catch back up after powerball!

and passing new fracking laws. Hey, at least we won’t have a drilling accident like the Derweze (DARVAZA) Gas Crater in Turkmenistan– burning since 1971.  That’s comforting.

 Photo credit: Tormod Sandtorv CC BY-SA 2.0

Photo Credit: Tormod Sandtorv CC BY-SA 2.0

The rewriting of common core standards. Sigh. 

Another bill, one without much attention at all.  One that, given the future implications, might be worse than all of the rest.

May I introduce Senate Bill 817, a proposed constitutional amendment that would create 4-Year Terms for GA/Limit Consecutive Terms?

Bill 817 comes to us from the offices of Senators Daniel, Tarte, Rabin (Primary Sponsors); Hunt and Sanderson (all republican) and proposes another amendment to the state constitution.  This amendment will change term limits from 3 years to 4 years.


I glanced at this one on May 21, but skipped reading it in favor of the proposed bill to rewrite educational standards and the regulatory reform act.

I came back to it though, and started to feel a little sorry for the Bill.  Here’s a proposed amendment to the state constitution and it’s getting almost no attention at all!

What does it say about the confidence I don’t have in my elected officials that my second response was one of narrow-eyed suspicion?

Why be suspicious of the new term limits?

And speaking of elections, in addition to extended term limits, they also (necessarily) change the election cycles from 2 to 4 years, aligned with national (read, presidential) elections.

“The Senate shall be composed of 50 Senators, biennially quadrennially chosen by ballot.”


“The House of Representatives shall be composed of 120 Representatives, biennially quadrennially chosen by ballot.”


“Sec. 8. Elections

The election for members of the General Assembly shall be held for the respective districts in 1972 2016 and every two four years thereafter, at the places and on the day prescribed by law.”


“The amendments made by Part I of this act become effective with the members elected in 2016. The amendment made by Part II of this act becomes effective January 1, 2017.”


What about those winning reelection campaigns in 2016?  They’ll already get an extra 2 years, but are they then eligible for the extra 4th term?

Take a minute– feel your stomach doing that thing?  Yeah, me too.  Part of me sees the benefit of 4-year election cycles– it certainly gives them more time to “get stuff done”.   Of course, that’s also why I’m terrified.

Then there are the governor appointees for vacancies from “death, resignation, or other cause.”  

Here’s how I read this proposed amendment with regard to filling vacancies:
I elect my democratic representative in 2016 and, in February 2017, he/she trips and falls into the path of an oncoming Amtrak train carrying freight cars filled with fracking chemicals.

At best, this amendment will see a republican governor appointing a (likely not democratic) replacement. At worst, my appointed representative could look like Governor McCrory’s recent appointment of Charlton Allen.

Now, switch every instance of democrat for republican in the above example and imagine the implications to your own political ideology.

A democratic governor could appoint someone like… me.  I promise my time in office would be well spent.  I would work really hard on medicaid expansion, common sense gun laws, environmental protections, and increasing revenue from sources other than powerball.

We have elections and term limits for a reason, and while the idea seems like a good one on the surface, I am wary of the nuanced, unclear wording in many sections. Think about that when (if) this shows up on the 2014 ballot.

Constitutional amendments making the term of members of the General Assembly four years beginning with members elected in 2016, limiting members to four consecutive terms in the Senate or House of Representatives, and making conforming amendments concerning the election of other officers and the filling of vacancies.






NC’s Common Core Standards

North Carolina’s House Education Committee voted to move forward with passing a bill (House Bill 1061) designed to replace Common Core standards with those more appropriate for North Carolina Public education.

Insert pause for the jokes about what defines appropriate NC standards.

Does Common Core fail?  Let’s first start with answering the question, “What is Common Core.”

Common Core is a set of standards.  Standards being something along the lines of “all first graders should be able to identify words like “see, jump, what” by the end of 1st grade.

Before common core, under the rules of No Child Left Behind (NCLB), each state set their own standards.  Maybe NC standards note that kindergartners should be able to reason out that replacing the letter a in the word cat with the letter u makes the word cut* while Kansas is satisfied with them reading cat.

Or maybe North Carolina wanted kindergartners to count to 100 by ones and tens* and Oklahoma doesn’t think kindergartners should do any counting over 50.

*These are examples of two kindergarten common core standards, which can be found in this reference guide.

Different states with such a wide variety of grade-level education standards?  What could possibly go wrong—it’s not as if families ever move to a different state.

Where do I buy my Common Core, First Grade Math book?

You don’t.  Because common core is a set of standards and not a curriculum.

A curriculum is the planned interaction of pupils with instructional content, materials, and used to deliver information.  For example, Wake County uses the Letterland curriculum to teach letter/phonemic awareness to K-2 grade; Cumberland County does not.   Children in both counties would meet the common core standard if they leave kindergarten able to recognize and name all of the letters in the alphabet.

Edited to add: A photograph of a piece of my 1st grader’s schoolwork that came home yesterday.  He fixed the sentence structure (an error in the curriculum) before demonstrating he understood the concept (common core standard).

A picture demonstrating a grammatically incorrect sentence on a first grader's school work.

Click to enlarge.

You can’t throw stone into the google pond without hitting pages of experts agreeing, or not agreeing, with common core standards and the dismal quality of United States education. At the beginning of the year I was a CC hater too, especially with the math.  Show your work two ways with math mountains and number partners—what a waste of time and effort, I thought.  This way of teaching this is stttupppiiddd, I whispered to myself.

I was wrong.

Listen, I have been reading LIKE IT’S MY JOB for 35 of my almost 38 years.   I still encounter words I cannot pronounce, thank you animal kingdom naming conventions.  However, because of a long relationship with the rules of language, I can often muddle out a pronunciation. Or how I work through compound words with an early reader—breaking a large word into recognizable pieces.   This decoding method has existed for reading since back in the ancient times of my own 1st grade favorite– Buffy and Mack.

That concept of decoding words rather than insisting on rote memorization has been extended to teaching mathematical concepts.  How can teaching children multiple methods of finding solutions be a bad thing?

Do I think there is a point where a child should stop having to show his work for 5+5?  Yeah, but that would be true with or without a set of common standards.

Back to Common Core– sort of.  Part of the issue with replacing Common Core with NC’s own shiny set of standards is the 400 million dollars we accepted as recipients of the Race to the Top award (part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act).

Some of the funds were designated to stimulate and strengthen states’ efforts with their lowest achieving schools.  Turn around NC’s lowest achieving schools (TALAS) identified 188 Priority 1 schools in the bottom 5%– defined as those with performance composites or graduation rates at less than 60%.

That’s 188 elementary (E), middle (M), and high (H) schools, in 36 counties (or LEAs–local education agencies) performing at less than 60%.  A listing of these lowest achieving schools can be found here.

NC accepted a bunch of money in partnership with a federal grant, a large chunk of which was distributed to failing schools in historically poor counties and, like, agreed to do this thing, but now ha-ha, take backs.  But don’t worry, y’all winky-winky I heard on the news they’ll be sure not to mess up and lose the money they already spent.

I cannot deny that the testing– the EOGs, the assessments, the tests, the– have I mentioned tests?– are excessive to the point of projectile vomiting.  I cannot understand why these kids have to be tested– oh, wait.  I DO understand.  The development and grading of those tests cost money.  Money earned by companies that do that sort of thing. The same companies that design the text books.  The same companies  (Pearson) that make oodles of money with a poorly designed and edited product.

I’d be okay with tossing Common Core if I thought they were going to use Finland’s education model— but we all know that’s not going to happen.  Instead I assume they are going to continue down the path of virtual learning and teacher reduction and charter school creation, both of which are for-profit entities receiving public school tax dollars.

So, using those critical thinking skills I learned IN NC PUBLIC SCHOOLS– naw, just kidding– I got ’em in college, this is dummy legislation that can’t actually go anywhere beyond a neatly filled in circle for a candidate on a voting form.  Brilliant.

Let’s give a shout out to the members of the House trying to tear down a whole building because they suddenly decided that they preferred a taupe, not griege, carpet.

Primary sponsors:

Bryan HollowayLarry PittmanMichael Speciale

Then the sidekicks:

John BellMark BrodyJimmy DixonJeffrey ElmoreCarl FordJon HardisterKelly HastingsPat HurleyFrank IlerBert JonesChris MaloneSusan MartinPat McElraftTim MooreMichelle PresnellDennis RiddellPaul StamBob SteinburgMichael StoneHarry WarrenChris WhitmireRoger Younts


Women’s Empowerment and the NCAA Tournament

In North Carolina (and other states too, I guess) there’s a thing that happens in March.  We call it March Madness, aka 4 weeks of watching college basketball.   Then the tournament starts, the lines on blank brackets marked up with predictions.  As the tournament advances, major upsets shred brackets into tiny pieces.

I have always said that during the tournament it’s the want, not the inflated talent, that creates winners

In my fancy heels and skirt,  I listened to a panel of women, guests of Action NC breakfast, discuss what empowering women looks like in practice, and as I tweeted the quotable moments, I couldn’t help thinking:

Women’s empowerment looks a lot like those Cinderella teams on the bracket.  You know, the Team Who? from the No-Name University in Tiny Town, Generic State. The players aren’t salivated over during the McDonald’s All-American Game; they aren’t graduates of exclusive preparatory schools.  No-Name University’s alumni can’t make donations in the triple zero and far beyond range.

And yet.  Here comes Team Who playing like this game is their only chance– because it is. Then Team Who upsets Team Blue Blood (think UNC, Duke, Kentucky, UConn) and just like that, none of the piles of money, or pre-professional players, or big school recruiting advantages matters anymore.

Team Who’s players didn’t choose that college to increase their draft pick stock; they don’t plan to get the glory and dribble off to the NBA as a One-&-Done.  No, most of Team Who’s players will exchange their jerseys for the uniform of a regular job.

But that night, that one night, Team Who’s players, with their years of practicing and playing together, that beautiful synergy of working for the group and not the self, created winners. Despite the odds not ever being in their favor, they overcame all of that big money and privilege, and they win.

I went to the first Moral Monday of this summer legislative session feeling overwhelmed with how many Really Important things need immediate attention from a General Assembly whose current majority prefers condescension over consideration.

It’s really hard to continue a conversation after watching your audience put on a set of noise-cancelling headphones.

I entered this morning’s breakfast an individual, I left this afternoon a player for Team Who.  A team whose heart and hard work will, eventually, upset Team Blue Blood (much to even their surprise), busting their political bracket

Don’t believe me?  It’s your bracket, fill the names in as you will. History– and heart– is on my side.


Defender of Justice y’all

NC Momsrising was one of two grassroots organizations honored at the North Carolina Justice Center’s 16th annual Defenders of Justice (DOJ) awards.

North Carolina Justice






Defender of Justice?  Phone booth? Cape?  We do have matching shirts.


The official definition, however:

Defenders of Justice (DOJ) Awards are given by the Justice Center to honor individuals or organizations who are making significant contributions in the following areas: Litigation; Research and Policy Development; Public Policy Advocacy and Grassroots Empowerment/Community Capacity Building.


Maintaining a forward momentum for social change feels like pushing a very large boulder up an even larger mountain.  Nationally, American citizens struggle through congressional battles that fall along party lines with most of the shrapnel hitting everywhere but DC.  The addition of localized political wars serve to further disenfranchise state citizens.

North Carolina’s “In The Name of Regression” legislative practices makes it difficult to maintain my citizen due diligence.  You see, it hurts my logic receptors to hear how the state doesn’t have any money to increase teacher pay followed by a bill that suggests we should scrap the Common Core curriculum and, you know, write our own!  The 400 million dollars worth of federal grant money we might lose?   Well.     

Or the entirety of the Duke Coal Ash thing

As I said, being an advocate can feel demoralizing.  Or hearing an elected official (hiya, Thom Goolsby) demonstrate their professionalism by referring to participants in constitutionally-protected free speech as “morons” and “loonies”.

It’s enough to make a girl want to check out of the political game entirely, choosing instead to stay home watching baby hedgehog videos.

Then you go to something like this; you sit in a room full of NC citizens that continue to check in– loudly– every day. I found myself remembering how I felt after marching at HKonJ.  Listening to how these groups started, not with million dollar political fundraisers, but seeded at kitchen table conversations, or behind fast food counters; concerned voters that continue to push back against policies that roll NC backward.

At some point during the ceremony I got something in my eye.  A piece of dust, or a microscopic knife-wielding GOP ninja–  something.   Whatever the object, it was small enough that the ophthalmologist didn’t find it the next morning.  Yet despite that, this tiny bit of dust (or ninja) managed to shallowly scrape most of my right cornea. No pain medicine available beyond standard ibuprofen and the advice to “keep my eye closed as much as possible”.  After a couple of days of eye-patched insanity, forcing me to reschedule most of my plans for the week,  the wound healing progressed from generalized pain to the itch of a thousand mosquito bites.

True healing involves an exponential increase in overall discomfort.

What I relearned from the unlikely source of my scratched cornea is that sometimes the tiniest presence can be strong enough to ruin an entire agenda.

NC social advocates aren’t exactly tiny, and their collective eyes remain focused on healing.

Read about goal of momsrising, and consider joining the national movement.   Or, if you are NC local– consider joining with us, here.

If you’d like to see more pictures of other Defender’s of Justice, please check out the North Carolina Justice Center’s photo stream of the event.