Up & Coming Weekly

January 12, 2021

Up and Coming Weekly is a weekly publication in Fayetteville, NC and Fort Bragg, NC area offering local news, views, arts, entertainment and community event and business information.

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10 UCW JANUARY 13-19, 2021 WWW.UPANDCOMINGWEEKLY.COM NEWS North Carolina won't fully open anytime soon. e governor's curfews and shutdowns will continue for three more weeks. Dr. Mandy Cohen piled on Wednesday, Jan. 6. e head of North Carolina's Department of Health and Human Services enacted a "secretarial directive" warning people to stay home, especially those older than 65. "We're in a very dangerous place," said Cohen during a news briefing. Gov. Roy Cooper, a Democrat, also extended his latest executive order. "e numbers paint a dark and difficult picture," he said. More than 7,000 people in the state have died because of the coronavirus, and 84 of the state's 100 counties are in the critical red zone, in terms of infection. Cooper's latest "modified stay-at-home" order extends a statewide 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. curfew. Bars re- main closed, masks are required, and social gather- ings remain limited. e order, issued Dec. 8, would have expired Jan. 8. In other words, stay home, Cooper says. Double down on taking precautions against COVID-19. Don't leave unless it's for health care, school, work, or groceries. Bars, for instance, have effectively been closed since March. ey can open for limited outdoor seating, but for most staying open isn't economically feasible. Alcohol sales, according to the order, must cease at 9 p.m., a prime time for business. Cooper also recently signed an executive order allowing restaurants, bars, clubs, and hotels to sell sealed to-go containers of mixed alcoholic drinks, months after lawmakers killed a similar provision in a COVID-19 relief bill. It's too little too late, bar owners have said. More than 100 bars and restaurants in the Tri- angle have closed since March, because of the lock- downs and the subsequent lack of business. Zack Medford, a prominent and vocal Raleigh bar owner, on Monday said he has closed Coglin's on Fayetteville Street, which, he wrote on Facebook, fell "victim to insufficient government aid, negligent leadership from elected officials, and inequitable state policies." "Out of money, and out of hope, the bar was forced to lay off over 25 employees and turn the lights off one final time." Lawyers for bar owners have filed two lawsuits challenging the restrictions, although their chance for success is fragile, at best. Restrictions probably won't be lifted until enough people get a vaccine and state residents develop a type of herd immunity. Administration of the vaccine, though, is slow-go- ing, and Cooper has mobilized the National Guard to accelerate the process. e state has received about a half million doses, the Centers for Disease Control reports, and about 137,000 have so far been distributed. Communication, in regard to informing people about vaccine availability, has been generally opaque. e state, in addition to health care work- ers, is focusing on people 75 and older. Cohen referred people to the state's website. "Vaccine supply is limited," she says. It will be a matter of months, she said, before the vaccine is available to all who want it. Senate Leader Phil Berger, R-Rockingham, in a news release last week said Cooper's vaccine distri- bution plan still puts too little emphasis on age and is overly complicated, leading to decreased confi- dence and line-jumping. Many bars and restaurants have closed since March be- cause of lockdowns and the subsequent lack of business. JOHN TRUMP, Carolina Journal News Service. COMMENTS? editor@upandcom- ingweekly.com. 910-484-6200. Reversing learning losses a priority in new legislative session by JULIE HAVLAK It might be a new year, but remote learning isn't over. As the legislature enters a new session, stu- dents are leaving the classroom. Learning is back online in many of the state's major districts. Learn- ing loss is reaching historic highs, and lawmakers want to make sure students aren't left behind. e Republican majority can't reopen classrooms without the votes to override Gov. Roy Cooper. ey have pushed for in-person learning in the past, but the decision remains in the hands of the governor and local districts. But they can target learning loss — and pursue other reforms to school funding, teacher pay and school choice. Remote learning was a disaster. Roughly 19% of students stopped attending classes regularly. State officials expect fewer students to graduate or ad- vance to the next grade. e damage will last years, and experts fear it will ripple out into the economy. "We don't know the severity of the learning loss," said Terry Stoops, John Locke Foundation director of education studies. "But disadvantaged students are more likely to fall behind academically. ey're less likely to graduate and pursue post-secondary educa- tion. ere's long-term harm if they don't reach or exceed grade level in reading and math." e state needs a plan to combat learning loss. Lawmakers should consider extending the school day or school year, as well as offering school choice dollars for tutoring and remedial education, said Stoops. "Many of our educators are doing the best they can, there's no substitute for being in the classroom with kids," said Rep. Ashton Clemmons, D-Guilford. "In this time of limited resources, we want to make sure that we use them effectively." Whatever plan is developed will be competing for scarce dollars. e economy can't support large in- creases in teacher pay, and state revenue is expected to be tight, says Stoops. "It's a big year, with a lot of uncertainty ahead," Stoops said. "Any plan that's developed to address learning loss may come in conflict with the realities of the budget. at's the overarching issue here: the budget is going to dictate what the General Assem- bly can and can't do." Cooper and Republicans will likely continue spar- ring over school choice, teacher pay, and education funding. e latest budget plan was a casualty of the stalemate over teacher pay and Medicaid expansion. Cooper attacked school choice in his August plan. He proposed cutting $85 million from the Opportu- nity Scholarship program but pushed to spend $360 million to give public school teachers a $2,000 bonus. But while the parties fight over how much to spend, researchers hope lawmakers will reform how the money is spent in the first place. e current school funding model is broken. It dates to the Great Depression and is as opaque as it is old. e funding formulas are so confusing it takes administrators two years to understand them. "North Carolina's funding system is a very top- down, restrictive model," said Aaron Smith, Reason Foundation director of education policy. "Now, more than ever, this pandemic has highlighted the need to abandon the antiquated funding model and adopt a model that pushes flexible dollars down to school districts." Lawmakers should make sure the money follows the students, Smith said. He hopes reforming school funding would help districts combat learning loss — and make spending more efficient in tight budget years. "ere's no silver bullet," Smith said. "But if you give them the power to align spending with student needs, at least they'll be more responsive to student needs, and put the power in the hands of educators." Cooper extends curfew as vaccine rollout plods along by JOHN TRUMP JULIE HAVLAK, Carolina Journal News Service. COMMENTS? editor@upandcom- ingweekly.com. 910-484-6200. Any legislative plan to address remote classes learning loss may come in conflict with the realities of a tight budget.

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