Month: June 2017

Children’s Law Clinic- School Voucher Policy Brief

Last March, the Duke Children’s Law Clinic released their report on the North Carolina Opportunity Scholarship Program entitled ” School Vouchers in North Carolina: The First Three Years.” The report provides an academic and financial analysis of the program from its commencement.

As part of Policy Bridge’s new policy brief template project, our team connected with Jane Wettach, Director of the Children’s Law Clinic, to collaborate on compiling key points from the report into a policy brief.

A Few Key Takeaways from the Policy Brief: 

  1. Accountability measures for North Carolina private schools receiving vouchers are limited and among the weakest in the country.
  2. Based on limited and early data, the majority of the students using vouchers are performing below average on nationally-standardized reading, language, and math tests.
  3. The North Carolina voucher program is well designed to promote parental choice, especially for parents who prefer religious education. It is poorly designed, however, to promote better academic outcomes for children and is unlikely to do so.
  4. Because private schools receiving vouchers are not required to administer state tests nor publish detailed achievement data, the public will be unable to develop valid conclusions about the success of the program.
  5. The state should consider amendments to the program that will improve both its accountability to the public and its potential for providing better education.

Policy Recommendations from the Law Clinic: 

  • Require all participating schools to offer a curriculum that is at least equivalent to the curriculum used in the North Carolina public schools: providing instruction in English language arts, mathematics, social studies, science, physical education, arts education, foreign languages, and technology skills. Alternatively, the state should design an accreditation system that holds schools to strong academic standards.
  • Require all participating schools to set reasonable qualifications for teachers.
  • Require that students receiving vouchers participate in the state End-of-Grade testing program, and that the schools receiving voucher support publicly report data in the same manner as is required of public schools.
  • Require all participating schools to offer at least the same number of hours and days of education as are offered by the public schools.
  • Require limited financial reviews of all schools, with more extensive reviews for schools receiving more than $50,000 in voucher support.
  • Prohibit all forms of discrimination in schools accepting voucher support.
  • Strengthen the oversight role of the SEAA and/or the Division of Non-Public Education such that schools that consistently fail to provide an adequate education are denied continued voucher payments.

The policy brief can be accessed below. To read the full report, please visit the Children’s Law Clinic website.

Download the PDF file .



Jonathan Wiener’s Climate Policy Essay

The Chaire Economie du Climat in Paris invited Duke Law Professor Jonathan Wiener to write an essay for a European audience on the current status and possible future of US climate policies. Weiner is a member of the CEC and has done scholarly and professional work with other environmental organizations.

His essay is available online under the CEC’s web uploads. A later revised version of this essay will appear in the journal Economics and Policy of Energy and the Environment .

Here’s an excerpt from a CEC interview with Wiener on US Climate Policy.

  • Do we know when the American withdrawal of the Paris agreement will take place?On June 1st, President Trump announced his decision to withdraw the US from the Paris Agreement.  But the Paris Agreement itself requires 3 years after it entered into force (on 4 November 2016), plus another year of notice, before a country may withdraw.  So a US withdrawal would not be legally effective until 4 November 2020 at the earliest.  (Under US law, withdrawal from this type of international agreement is largely up to the President, so it is unlikely that Congress or the courts could change the decision to withdraw.)  Meanwhile, the announced withdrawal is a signal that the Trump administration is also seeking to change US domestic policy, by relaxing regulations on sources of greenhouse gases such as coal-fired electric power plants and gasoline (petrol) burning vehicles.
  • Can the role of the EPA in the regulation of greenhouse gas emissions evolve under Trump administration?The policies of the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) can change under a new presidential administration, as they have after past elections.  The President appoints the EPA Administrator, and the White House oversees EPA’s budget and regulatory policies.   But such policy changes may be limited by legal rules.   Rescinding or revising a past agency rule requires going through the administrative process again, which can take several years and can be challenged in court.  Generally, under US administrative law, a federal agency cannot simply change a past regulation, but must give good reasons for a significant change.   Moreover, the US Supreme Court held in 2007 that the Clean Air Act does cover greenhouse gases, so even if EPA now rescinds its Clean Power Plan (issued in 2015, but currently tied up in litigation), EPA will still be obligated to address greenhouse gases under some other provision of the Clean Air Act (this too could take several years) — unless Congress amends the Clean Air Act to prevent such regulation.
  • Is the question of a federal carbon tax definitively buried?A US carbon tax may be gaining some support, but its success is still a large challenge.  In 2010, the Waxman-Markey bill (proposing a cap-and-trade system) passed the US House, but failed to reach a vote in the US Senate.  After that, and following a 2007 Supreme Court decision, the Obama administration used executive action by federal agencies notably EPA (acting under the Clean Air Act and other laws) to try to reduce emissions.  Now, some Republican former officials are proposing a swap, in which Congress would enact a federal carbon tax while also undoing EPA’s climate regulations.  But it’s difficult to say how likely the enactment of such a law might be.




Shelia Patek’s Hill Visit Makes Science Podcast

Undiscovered: a Podcast about the Backstories of Science featured the work of Shelia Patek last week. Patek is an Associate Professor in Biology who studies the dynamics of physics and evoluntionary processes. Part of this research is done on mantis shrimp. Most people may recall Patek’s shrimp research being featured in the news this past year as part of the federally funded projects listed in Senator Jeff Flake’s Wastebook. Her Capitol Hill presentation was precipitated by that media incident. She speaks about her journey to DC on the podcast episode entitled “Wastebook.”

Professor Patek’s science engagement story is framed by the question of “what are you doing for the world?” Her mantis shrimp research may hold significant revelations on how to improve our human engineering capabilities. In December 2015, this insight was absent from Senator Flake’s team when they constructed their Wastebook describing Patek’s research as a shrimp fight club and waste of government money. The wastebook portrayed her National Science Foundation funded study as a waste of 707,000 tax payer dollars. The actual cost of her study is only a couple thousands of dollars after research overhead and facility management is taken away.


The fight club description was in reference a study led by one of Sheila’s grad students. Mantis shrimp use their hammer claw to crack snail shells and defend their territory from other mantis shrimp. The strike from their claw has been compared to a strike from a lethal weapon,  the equivalent (if not more so) than a bullet coming out of a gun. The sea creatures also sport a strong armored tail plate that endures many of these strikes. Considering the force of these offense mechanisms, there are many questions concerning how the tail plate endures that many hits without being compromised. These questions were the inspiration for the study.


Patek knew that her placement in the Wastebook represented a misunderstanding of science and the purpose of her research. She quickly posted an article refuting Flake’s placement of her study in his wastebook. Subsequently, next spring, she was invited to present her research with other scientists whose work had been placed in various wastebooks made by other senators.

She accepted and defended her research communicating why her mantis shrimp research matters with broader goal of communicating why science is important to the world. The shrimp’s hammer acceleration out paces missiles and race cars. The fact that they are able to achieve this in water may also signify great advancements from the research findings generated on these anthropods. These developments could hold critical implications for military and aviation engineering advancements .

Patek believes the knowledge that scientists generate in the lab is important and from that we’ve been able to say new things about the world. Patek’s story has also been featured in Duke Magazine, PBS, and TEDx presenations.

Listen to the full June 13th Undiscovered podcast here:

DGHI’s Diana Harvey Took Part in Capitol Hill Briefing

On June 7th, Diana Harvey, Director of Communications at the Duke Global Health Institute (DGHI), took part in a round table discussion with Washington D.C officials, staff, and global health practitioners.

The roundtable discussion was influenced by DGHI’s recent project with the Triangle Global Health Consortium. DGHI along with several other global health institutions partnered with the consortium on composing a report on global health’s vital importance to North Carolina’s economy. The report highlights the $1.2 billion per year health research funding brings to the state and the 26,000 jobs supported by the global health industry. Effectively, according to the report, “global health work in North Carolina contributed about $3.7 billion in gross state product” in 2015 alone.

Two days before the D.C. round table, Duke Professor and US Representative David Price led a panel of the report’s experts discussing global health’s role in North Carolina’s economy.

The full report can accessed at the link below.

The Global Health Sector’s Contributions to the Economy of North Carolina 

Sanford Featured in Bipartisan Policy Center Report

Durham Connects is a home-vising program for infants and new mothers that strives to increase early childhood well-being through in-home health assessments for new families. They achieve this by recruiting and training nurses to perform these early visits. The program is a collaborative effort between the Duke Center for Child and Family Policy (CCFP) and several local partners and was highlighted in the Bipartisan Policy Center’s latest “Early Childhood Learning and Development” report.

The Bipartisan Policy Center partnered with Sanford School of Public Policy to assemble a Durham round table of researchers, policy officials, and practitioners in the area to explore best practices and policy ideas that promote early childhood development. The round table took place Fall 2016.

This partnership was part of a two-year Early Childhood Initiative taken on by the Bipartisan Policy Center. The organization is known for its efforts the bridge the partisan divide to solve the great social and political issues of our time.

The aforementioned report includes more than 85 interviews with experts, government officials, and policy makers across the political spectrum who are committed to early childhood education and development.

We have embedded a copy of the report below.

Download the PDF file .




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