In a hearing yesterday of the Joint Legislative Task Force on Education Finance Reform, the chief financial officer of the Department of Public Instruction pleaded with lawmakers that, while some improvements can be made to the state’s school funding formula, it doesn’t need a wholesale overhaul. The Republicans who make up the bulk of that task force were not impressed.

  • “State lawmakers could overhaul the way $9.4 billion in public school dollars are spent annually, affecting the way that North Carolina’s 1.6 million public school students are educated. Legislators are looking at changing how the state funds K-12 education following a highly critical legislative staff report that recommended reforming or overhauling the school funding system. Adam Levinson, chief financial officer at the state Department of Public Instruction, urged lawmakers to show caution before making any major changes, but some legislators say an overhaul is needed.”
  • What that overhaul would look like isn’t entirely clear at the moment. But based on Republicans’ prior statements, it’s likely that the overhaul would route more money to charter schools and away from urban school districts.
  • “A November 2016 report from the General Assembly’s Program Evaluation Division (PED) found multiple issues with the allotment system, including charging that it’s illogical, overly complex, not transparent and favored wealthy counties.”
  • The task force is not looking at whether the state is funding education sufficiently.

WHAT IT MEANS: The N&O’s piece noted that one of the issues the PED identified was “how all charter schools receive funding for transportation but only 49 percent of schools provide the service.” This is a complaint you often hear from local school systems, who always provide transportation. But this doesn’t strike me as the kind of thing NCGA Republicans are going to want to fix. If anything, you’ll more money dedicated to charters. And you’ll see more funds going to rural areas—where Republicans are politically strong—than urban school districts, which already regularly raise property taxes to supplement the state’s piss-poor teacher pay. The details of what this plan would look like are forthcoming, but expect them to come next year, when Republicans still have the supermajorities they need to override Governor Cooper’s inevitable veto.



The Washington Post had a hell of a story yesterday on Trump’s refusal to accept the intelligence community’s assessment of Russian interference in the 2016 election, more or less because doing so would sting his ego. ICYMI, some highlights:

  • “Holding impromptu interventions in Trump’s 26th-floor corner office at Trump Tower, advisers … prodded the president-elect to accept the findings that the nation’s spy chiefs had personally presented to him on Jan. 6. They sought to convince Trump that he could affirm the validity of the intelligence without diminishing his electoral win, according to three officials involved in the sessions. More important, they said that doing so was the only way to put the matter behind him politically and free him to pursue his goal of closer ties with Russian President Vladi­mir Putin. … But as aides persisted, Trump became agitated. He railed that the intelligence couldn’t be trusted and scoffed at the suggestion that his candidacy had been propelled by forces other than his own strategy, message and charisma.”
  • “Nearly a year into his presidency, Trump continues to reject the evidence that Russia waged an assault on a pillar of American democracy and supported his run for the White House. The result is without obvious parallel in U.S. history, a situation in which the personal insecurities of the president—and his refusal to accept what even many in his administration regard as objective reality—have impaired the government’s response to a national security threat. The repercussions radiate across the government. Rather than search for ways to deter Kremlin attacks or safeguard U.S. elections, Trump has waged his own campaign to discredit the case that Russia poses any threat and he has resisted or attempted to roll back efforts to hold Moscow to account.”
  • “Trump has never convened a Cabinet-level meeting on Russian interference or what to do about it, administration officials said. Although the issue has been discussed at lower levels at the National Security Council, one former high-ranking Trump administration official said there is an unspoken understanding within the NSC that to raise the matter is to acknowledge its validity, which the president would see as an affront.”
  • “Russia-related intelligence that might draw Trump’s ire is in some cases included only in the written assessment and not raised orally, said a former senior intelligence official familiar with the matter. In other cases, Trump’s main briefer—a veteran CIA analyst—adjusts the order of his presentation and text, aiming to soften the impact. ‘If you talk about Russia, meddling, interference—that takes the PDB off the rails,’ said a second former senior U.S. intelligence official.”
  • “‘Who are the three guys in the world he most admires? President Xi [Jinping] of China, [Turkish President Recep Tayyip] Erdogan and Putin,’ one Trump adviser said. ‘They’re all the same guy.’”
  • “Trump’s frustration had been building as the measure [enacting sanctions on Russia] approached a final vote. He saw the bill as validation of the case that Russia had interfered, as an encroachment on his executive authority and as a potentially fatal blow to his aspirations for friendship with Putin, according to his advisers. In the final days before passage, Trump watched MSNBC’s Morning Joe program and stewed as hosts Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski declared that the bill would be a slap in the face to the president. ‘He was raging,’ one adviser said. ‘He was raging mad.’ After final passage, Trump was ‘apoplectic,’ the adviser recalled. It took four days for aides to persuade him to sign the bill, arguing that if he vetoed it and Congress overturned that veto, his standing would be permanently weakened.”
  • “The allegations of collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign, which the president has denied categorically, also contribute to his resistance to endorse the intelligence, another senior White House official said. Acknowledging Russian interference, Trump believes, would give ammunition to his critics. Still others close to Trump explain his aversion to the intelligence findings in more psychological terms. The president, who burns with resentment over perceived disrespect from the Washington establishment, sees the Russia inquiry as a conspiracy to undermine his election accomplishment—‘a witch hunt,’ as he often calls it. ‘If you say Russian interference, to him it’s all about him,’ said a senior Republican strategist who has discussed the matter with Trump’s confidants. ‘He judges everything as about him.’”

WHAT IT MEANS: If you buy into the theory that there was some level of collusion between the Trump campaign in Russia last year, a lot of this makes sense: Trump wants his election to be seen as legitimate and wants to make illegitimate anything that questions that, including a collaboration with a geopolitical foe. (It would also explain his firing of James Comey.) But even if you accept the administration’s argument that Trump frequently sides with Putin because he believes doing so is key to solving problems, or if you believe that this Russia hype is overblown, WaPo’s story is nonetheless troubling, as it reveals a president so narcissistic that he simply refuses to accept reality if that reality doesn’t paint him in the absolute best light.

Related: Special counsel Robert Meuller is seeking emails from Trump’s campaign data firm. The head of that firm had asked Wikileaks to share its stolen emails with him. Julian Assange has said he declined that request.

Related: In a phone call yesterday, Trump thanked Putin for praising Trump’s handling of the American economy and discussed North Korea.

Related:Majorities of Americans believe Trump is trying to obstruct the Russia investigation and his campaign did something illegal or unethical with Russia in 2016.

This post was excerpted from the INDY’s morning newsletter, Primer. To read this morning’s edition in full, click here. To get all the day’s local and national headlines and insights delivered straight to your inbox, sign up here.