Recent editorials from North Carolina newspapers:

April 1

The Daily Reflector, Greenville, N.C., on Big East boost for East Carolina University:

Last week's announcement that East Carolina has accepted an all-sports invitation from the soon-to-be-renamed Big East Conference resolves the lingering concern over the fate of sports programs other than football and is cause for celebration.

Some critical of ECU's move - into a conference that has seen its largest and most competitive universities leave during a lengthy conference realignment - are correct in saying that the Big East will now more closely resemble Conference USA. But whatever name the conference ends up with, there is no question that its member schools will be much better positioned to compete for national titles and generate significantly more revenue. That financial benefit also should boost academic programs, further raising the university's profile.

A lot has changed since Chancellor Steve Ballard and Athletics Director Terry Holland lobbied for an invitation to the Big East in 2011. After those early efforts seemed to stall, more spinning of the realignment wheel brought a football-only invitation late last year. But the Pirates' acceptance of a football-only position in the Big East in 2014 still left a cloud of uncertainty over the other 18 sports at ECU.

Perhaps it was inevitable that those working to reorganize the conference would eventually see the value of having all of ECU's premiere sports facilities, programs and fan support under the same umbrella. What was clear to anyone here certainly became more apparent elsewhere following stellar seasons for the men's and women's basketball teams.

Both teams had 20-plus win seasons and competed in postseason play. The men made the semifinals of the Tournament and the women finished second in Conference USA, their best ever showing. That success reflects the commitment ECU has made to its students and fans by building facilities and programs worthy of any Division 1 conference.

There are likely to be more growing pains associated with the conference reorganization before ECU officially leaves Conference USA in July 2014, but the future is definitely looking brighter for ECU athletics. And for the Pirate faithful, that's always exciting.



March 31

The Charlotte Observer on 'troubling' state charter school bill:

There are so many troubling things about Senate Bill 337, an N.C. charter school bill unveiled last week, that it's hard to know where to start. But this item stands out like a sore thumb: The bill would remove the requirement that at least half of a charter school's teaching staff be certified, or be college educated.

OK. You thought all the teaching staff at an N.C. public school had to be certified, right? That's only true of traditional public schools. Current law allows varying levels of certification at a charter school: At least 75 percent of teachers must be certified in kindergarten-5th grade; at least 50 percent in grades 6-12.

Additionally, current law requires that all charter school teachers in grades 6-12 who teach the core subjects of mathematics, science, social studies and language arts "shall be college graduates."

Senate Bill 337 removes all those requirements.

Sounds crazy, doesn't it?

It is. Brunswick County Schools Superintendent Ed Pruden asked at last week's Senate Education Committee meeting the question begging to be asked. ...

Bill sponsor, Sen. Jerry Tillman, R-Randolph, reportedly answered with this anecdote: "I have a high school in my district and a pharmacist wanted to teach chemistry there. But he couldn't because he wasn't 'highly qualified.'?" Sigh. Tillman should have checked out the state's lateral entry program and its alternative licensure process instead.

The bill also does this astounding thing. ...

When asked about that potential conflict of interest, Tillman once again pooh-poohed concern, saying essentially, you can trust us.

Yeah. Right.

The bill relegates the state's independently elected school superintendent to the sidelines, giving the superintendent (currently Democrat June Atkinson) a non-voting board role. The state education board could veto any charter action with a three-fourths majority. That's a high threshhold, and with more and more positions being filled by Republicans, getting that majority seems unlikely.

We think charter schools are a valuable asset to the N.C. public school system. Some are excellent and providing models of innovation for traditional public schools. But these changes are an open invitation for charter schools with lax hiring standards and little, if any, commitment to academic excellence to set up shop in North Carolina.

Students in this state deserve better. This bill needs to be retooled or ditched.



March 31

News & Observer of Raleigh on helmet bill

Here's the appropriate cautionary note for members of the General Assembly who are in the process of easing the ban on riding a motorcycle without a helmet in North Carolina: Use your heads. While abandoning the helmet requirement might be attractive for some riders, there are times when a government has to stand up for safety even when those most affected might say it's not government's business to protect them.

Lawmakers already have heard from a WakeMed trauma specialist who estimated that the initial treatment for a brain injury is $250,000. But the bill as it stands would require riders to carry insurance to cover only the first $10,000 of their care. That's nonsensical, and if drivers were uninsured, the costs would fall on everyone else with insurance. The mother of a brain-injured youth told House committee members she has to sleep in her son's room every night to guard against seizures. That presumably will last a lifetime.

The awful consequences of brain injury from motorcycle accidents, for victims and many others, far outweigh the benefits of "freedom" awarded to riders by a repeal of the law. No repeal is necessary.