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Archive for December, 2013

Greg Hardy dominates everything

Amusing bit from a column from the Charlotte Observer’s Tom Sorensen, on Carolina Panther defensive end Greg Hardy, who had four sacks against the Atlanta Falcons yesterday:

Somebody Hardy didn’t know asks him if he had ever dominated the way he did Sunday.

“Man, I dominated breakfast when I woke up so I don’t know what you’re talking about,” Hardy says. “I dominate everything I do. Silly question. Next question.”

When a guy says next question, the next question has to be good. Fortunately, I had one.

What did you have for breakfast?

“Cereal,” Hardy says. “I killed it. No spoon.”

Gotta love the Kraken.

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Court: ‘Objective’ Reasons Needed To Deny K-12 Tenure

I’ve got an article for Carolina Journal out on a public school tenure case that made it all the way up to the state’s second-highest court. The article in full:

RALEIGH — North Carolina K-12 public school teachers currently enjoy enhanced job security after completing four years on the job. A new ruling by the state’s second-highest court highlights the need for school boards to follow proper procedures in deciding whether to grant tenure, or “career status,” to teachers.

Vanessa Joyner began working as a teacher in the Perquimans County schools in August 2008. She spent her first two years teaching first grade and then moved to a position teaching exceptional children for the next two years.

In May 2012, she and 12 other teachers went before the Perquimans County Board of Education seeking career status. Teachers gaining tenure enjoy enhanced job protections for the remainder of their teaching careers. If a school seeks to fire a tenured teacher, the teacher can request a formal hearing, and if the superintendent decides to uphold the firing, the teacher can ask the entire school board to reconsider the dismissal.

Teachers who are not awarded tenure after four years on the job are dismissed immediately.

The school system’s superintendent, along with the current and former principals of the school where Joyner taught, recommended that she be awarded tenure. The school board, however, voted against granting Joyner career status.

At a closed-door session, school board member Ralph Hollowell stated that “he had heard from teachers, teacher assistants, parents, and grandparents questionable information about [Joyner],” and that “from the accounts he had heard, he was not sure if [exceptional] students … were getting what they needed.”

Hollowell said that he observed Joyner during three days in which he “substituted” at her school and “questioned the quality of services the students were receiving in such a short length of time.” Hollowell did not elaborate on why he felt Joyner’s performance was unsatisfactory, nor did he share his observations with anyone at the school at the time.

When Joyner learned that she had been rejected for tenure, she requested a hearing before the school board. At the hearing, she stressed the positive reviews and recommendations she had received. She also questioned Hollowell’s motives in opposing her tenure status; Hollowell’s wife was a teacher at Joyner’s school, and Joyner had reported Hollowell’s wife for administering a test improperly just before Hollowell “substituted” at the school. Hollowell was not present at the hearing.

The courts weigh in

After the school board again voted to deny Joyner tenure, she sought judicial review of the decision. In a Nov. 16, 2012 ruling, Superior Court Judge William Pittman ordered Joyner to be granted tenure. Pittman found that Hollowell’s status as a member of the school board constituted a conflict of interest. The judge also said that Hollowell was biased against Joyner, and that his bias influenced the school board’s decision not to award Joyner tenure.

The school system challenged Pittman’s ruling before the Court of Appeals, which upheld the trial court’s order.

“Upon careful examination of the whole record, we are unable to discern a rational basis in the evidence for the board’s decision,” wrote Judge Chris Dillon for the appeals court.

Dillon noted that the record before the school board of Joyner’s ability as a teacher was very favorable. The only real negative item was Hollowell’s concerns, which were vague and not substantiated.

The Perquimans school district also contended that the school board had offered an adequate explanation for Joyner’s dismissal in its written decision. The written decision simply states: “The board has concerns about [Joyner’s] performance,” and “The board can and should find a teacher to do a better job than [Joyner].”

The appeals court flatly rejected this argument.

“To accept the board’s ‘findings’ as explaining a valid basis for its decision — or, put another way, as indicative of the standard for attaining tenure status, without being accompanied by an articulation of a specific concern supported by substantial evidence in the record — would be to grant the board unfettered discretion to act arbitrarily toward a particular candidate, as there will always be some candidate, somewhere, who could ‘do a better job,’” wrote Dillon.

“This case is a window into the absurdities of teacher tenure decisions,” said Terry Stoops, director of research and education studies at the John Locke Foundation. “Public school advocates depict the teacher tenure process as a meritocracy designed to award unparalleled job security to the best and brightest teachers in the district. But after reading the details of this case, it’s no wonder that Republicans passed legislation that will replace tenure with a performance-based contract system.”

Stoops added, “One wonders how many other school boards made tenure decisions based on the personal whims of members or the superintendents that they employ, rather than on the teacher’s competence in the classroom.”

The case is Joyner v. Perquimans County Board of Education, (13-446).

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American Airlines to go back to banked hubs

In the American Airlines/US Airways merger, most of the senior management comes from US Airways. Which is to say that in the future, the combined carrier’s operations will often look more like what US Airways does now than American’s current practices. Case in point: How the airline will operate its hubs.

There are two basic hub operation models:

• Banked hub. The idea is that a bunch of planes arrive all arrive around the same time, allowing for the maximum of connection possibilities. The downside: You need more gates, people and planes to make such an operation work. The lower aircraft usage comes from longer turn times at the hub airport and the need for some airplanes to wait at outstations so that they arrive with the bank of planes and not too early. There’s also a greater potential for things to go very wrong at the hub airport with a banked operation, resulting in big delays.

• Rolling hub. Flights are spread out more evenly during the day. Less flights coming and going at any given time means there’s less congestion, and an airline needs fewer gates, people, and planes. The downside: While rolling hubs minimize airline costs, they also will reduce airline revenue. Passengers generally want to get to their final destination sooner rather than later, and there’s a lot of later involved in a rolling hub, exactly because flights are spread out during the day. People aren’t willing to pay as much for such longer itineraries.

American Airlines has rolling hubs at Dallas/Ft. Worth, Chicago O’Hare, and Miami. US Airways, Delta, and United prefer banked hubs whenever possible (slot-constrained or gate-constrained airports are the obvious exception). That will change sooner however, as American’s new bosses have said that AA will go make to having banked hubs.

From the Dallas Morning News:

“Instead of being scheduled to maximize connections, [a rolling hub] was scheduled to lower costs. And it does lower costs — better asset utilization, better pilot and flight attendant utilization. It is lower cost,” [president Scott Kirby] Kirby told pilots.

“But you give up some of the revenues,” Kirby said, because there are fewer flights during a time window to offer connecting passengers. “You lose all that revenue, and it overwhelms the cost savings.”

Kirby said every airline experimented with rolling hubs during the post-Sept. 11 downturn, “but in just a few months, every airline with the exception of American went back to flying a banked schedule.”

Now, he said, “We’re going to go back to a banked schedule.”

Charlotte impact: How does this impact CLT you ask, as US Airways’ operation here are already banked? If it takes more planes to operate the combined airlines’ Dallas/Ft. Worth and Chicago O’Hare operations, that leaves less aircraft available for future growth here in Charlotte.

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Private college price cuts

Many of the big issues facing American higher education today come from the misdefinition of university and college quality. The Associated Press, with additional reporting from the Charlotte Observer, showcases one aspect of the problem:

For decades, most private college pricing has reflected the Chivas Regal effect – the notion that, whether in a Scotch or a school, a higher price indicates higher quality.

“Schools wanted a high tuition on the assumption that families would say that if they’re charging that high tuition, they must be right up there with the Ivies,” said David L. Warren, president of the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities. “So schools would set a high tuition, then discount it. But when the schools in your peer group all have discounts, it becomes an untenable competition for students, with everyone having to increase their discounts.”

In other words, pricing at many private schools was a lie. There was a high stickler price that very few students actually paid. Those that did were the spawn of well-to-do families that either absolutely loved the place or were happy to get in because it represented the best school that would accept them. Everyone else got a discount, often a big discount, to bring the outrageously high sticker price down to a level that a middle-class family count (somewhat) afford. The problem is that the high sticker price drives many potential applicants away.

Now comes word that several school, including Converse College in Spartanburg and Belmont Abbey College, are reducing their nominal tuition amount substantially, without a drop in the amount of money they actually take in. Other schools are fixing the price students pay per year for their time there.

Roger Williams University in Rhode Island turned to fixed-rate tuition after some market research.

“When I got here in June 2011, there were so few people paying full price that one wondered why we bothered,” said Donald Farish, the university’s president. “If everybody’s getting a discount, the notion that there is a full price is almost meaningless. It’s a model that makes no sense and makes you feel like you’re in a Middle Eastern souk bargaining with the tourists who just arrived.”

Such pricing changes are most welcome and a step towards a more rational higher education system.

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US Airways switches to larger Airbus A350 model

US Airways has 22 of Airbus’ next generation of widebody jet, the A350, on order for delivery between 2017 and 2019. The specific model break down had been 18 A350-800 and 4 A350-900 but as Flight Global reports this has just been changed to the 22 -900. What’s the difference between the two models? About 39 seats. Per Flight Global:

The -900 seats 315 passengers in a typical two-class configuration compared to 276 passengers in the -800, according to the European airframer.

Why this matters: The bar to transatlantic air service is going up. US Airways currently operates 204-seat Boeing 767-200ERs on many of its routes from Charlotte to Europe and Brazil. Those planes will be retired sooner rather than later. The replacements are going to have significantly more seats, making it more difficult for the merged American Airlines/US Airways to justify adding additional destinations from Charlotte to Europe or South America. Or even to maintain service to some of the destinations currently being served.

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Does the convention business still matter?

The answer, accord to the Charlotte Observer, is “not so much.” Some highlights:

Mecklenburg County hotels are on pace to sell about 5.8 million hotel room nights for 2013, according to data from Smith Travel Research. That would be the most hotel rooms ever sold in the county. It also would be a 3 percent increase over 2012, which was a strong year due to the DNC.

Despite not having the DNC this year, the average daily rate charged for county hotel rooms is $94.37 through October. That’s down only slightly from the same period in 2012, when the daily rate was $94.65.

The county’s occupancy rate is the highest it has been since 2007, and hotels are on pace to produce more in revenue in 2013 than for any other year.

and also:

With Mecklenburg hoteliers selling 5.8 million rooms, the share of the convention business will be about 2.6 percent of all rooms sold in 2013. The center had a 4.6 percent share of the county’s hotel business in 1996.

And a convention bump from the DNC? None apparent — which isn’t really a surprise if you look the experiences of other cities that have hosted political national conventions. And as a case in point, the Charlotte Regional Visitors Authority wants to book at least 150,000 hotel room-nights of convention business a year. So far they signed up under 60,000 room-nights for 2015.

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Boeing isn’t coming to CLT

Surprised? You really shouldn’t be. Forget the incentive issue, which is a complete red herring. Why would Boeing put an aircraft manufacturing plant at the world’s 7th busiest airport by takeoff and landings? Got me.

Bonus observation: Note the focus on incentives by economic development types like Ronnie Bryant of the Charlotte Regional Partnership. It’s all about the elephant hunt to them, all the time. Industry basics don’t much matter. Critical thinking skills are rather optional too.

Special bonus observation: Note that the Charlotte Observer also missed Charlotte’s core weakness. Shameful.

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Odd Panthers stat of the moment

In their previous 18 seasons, the Carolina Panthers never finished with 10-6 or 9-7 a record. They won’t this year either, as they now have 11 wins and will make the make the playoffs for the fifth time. Go Panthers!

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We’re Not Buying The Lemon

JLF head John Hood has a column out today on North Carolina’s rejection on a Medicaid expansion. A highlight:

As the costly implementation of the perversely named Affordable Care Act continues to baffle, disappoint, and enrage the public, a collection of government vendors and left-wing groups has settled on a brilliant political strategy: castigate North Carolina for failing to do enough to implement the Affordable Care Act.

Among other things, they say Gov. Pat McCrory and the legislature should have accepted Obamacare’s offer to expand Medicaid to all poor and near-poor individuals. Hospitals say it because, after all, they’d get most of the money. Liberals say it because, after all, their ultimate goal is Medicare/Medicaid for all, not the preservation of private, competitive markets for health care finance and delivery.

North Carolina’s leaders have said no. That’s because they can see beyond the ends of their noses — and beyond the flimsy promises of the used-car salesmen in Washington who are trying to pass Obamacare off as something other than the lemon it is.

You can read the rest of John’s column here.

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Appeals Court Rejects Monopoly For Bail Agent Training

Got a piece out for Carolina Journal on the N.C> Court of Appeals rejecting the General Assembly’s attempt to award a monopoly on bail agent training in North Carolina. The article in full:

RALEIGH — The state’s second highest court has rejected an attempt by the General Assembly to specify the sole organization that can provide the training that’s required of bail bondsmen. In its ruling, the N.C. Court of Appeals held that the 2012 law ran afoul of a provision in the state constitution prohibiting monopolies.

State law requires bail bondsmen to obtain a license from the government. The requirements for obtaining this certification include 12 hours of classwork. In addition, bail agents must take three hours of continuing education classes each year to keep their license current. In recent years, two different groups have provided this mandated training: the for-profit North Carolina Bail Academy, which is owned by the Rockford-Cohen Group, and the nonprofit North Carolina Bail Agents Association.

As Carolina Journal documented in a January 2013 article, the relationship between these two organizations is strained at best. During the waning days of the 2012 legislative session, the General Assembly passed a law declaring that only the Bail Agents Association could provide bail bondsmen training. The exact origin of the provision is uncertain, though two senior legislative leaders one are closely linked to the association. Sen. Tom Apodaca, R-Henderson, owns a bail bonding company and is former president of the N.C. Bail Agents Association. Rep. Justin Burr, R-Stanly, is a bail bondsman and his father is the association’s current president.

In response to the change in law that would put them out of the bail bondsmen training business, the Rockford-Cohen Group went to court seeking to bar enforcement of the provision. Superior Court Judge Donald Stephens issued a preliminary injunction on Oct. 1, 2012, doing just that.

“This court cannot find any factual, logical or reasonable basis that [the law] serves any other purpose other than to eliminate all current and future competition for the benefit of a private corporation or association in violation of the North Carolina Constitution,” he wrote.

The Bail Agents Association then proceeded to challenge Stephens’ determination and brought the matter before the Court of Appeals, where the constitutionality of the provision was again the central issue.

Article I, Section 34 of the North Carolina Constitution states, “perpetuities and monopolies are contrary to the genius of a free state and shall not be allowed.”

The N.C. Supreme Court has addressed what constitutes a monopoly in a 1940 case, State v. Harris. The high court noted that, “monopoly, as originally defined, consisted in a grant by the sovereign of an exclusive privilege to do something which had theretofore been a matter of common right.”

“The exclusion of others from such common right is still considered a prominent feature of monopoly, and the consequent loss to those excluded of opportunity to earn a livelihood for themselves and their dependents … has been considered the prime reason for the public policy then adopted into the Constitution.”

Upon appeal, the Bail Agents Association contended that the “opportunity to provide state-mandated training to bail bondsmen is not a common right.”

The Court of Appeals flatly rejected this argument.

“Defendant misconstrues the common right at issue,” wrote Judge Linda McGee for the court in upholding the injunction.

“The General Assembly created the right to apply to provide creditable bail bondsmen training in the previous version of this statute. … Then, the General Assembly amended the statute to exclude all others from being considered by the Commissioner of Insurance to provide creditable bail bondsmen training.

“Thus, the common right that has been lost is the right to be considered by the Commissioner of Insurance for approval to provide creditable bail bondsmen training. By excluding all others, the General Assembly deprived all others of the opportunity ‘to earn a livelihood for themselves and their dependents. …’”

Court of Appeals decisions are binding interpretations of North Carolina law unless overruled by the state Supreme Court. Because the three-judge panel made a unanimous ruling, the high court is not required to hear the case if the Bail Agents Association decides to appeal.

The case is Rockford-Cohen Group., LLC v. N.C. Department of Insurance, (13-124).

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